Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Another Story About Music

We all have good days, and really shitty ones. I've decided that most of us take turns: it's your bad day, or it's mine, or it's hers. Each turn sucks.

Recently, it's B's turn. 
I suppose grief happens in waves and now, it's washed over her. 
Chatty kid, suddenly silent.

She had some set backs when college started two years ago, but she quickly figured it out. She became so involved there and she fell in love there. She loves her small classes and the way it has made her think. Now --- she suffers everyday with Zoom classes or the ones that get cancelled and she misses everything... her boyfriend, cooking by herself, parties, becoming the person she was ready to be.

Grief is strange and measured in new ways now. 

So she takes a music class like I did. 
Turns out her mother gets asked to step into one those Zoom classes.
It turns out my long ago career and/or this hobby of mine matters.

It won't fix her heartbreak.

As we used to say, back in the day, when rekkids were what we did, when music was all we liked:
this isn't the cure for cancer.... It's just rock n' roll.

I guess right now -- rock n' roll is the best we got.
Rock on!

Saturday, April 25, 2020


He was four when this began.  Then he was five.

He was giant then, and he is still now. The GSYO is a full foot bigger than me: sometimes I wonder if I willed this to happen, if my imagination made it real. Then I remember genetics, and the Kid who is super tall and I think, oh yeah... There's that.

He hasn't changed in other ways too: he's very nice.
The first time he had a physical tussle with a friend, he was so bummed: "I hurt him!"
I helped him write a note and soon all was well, but this kid, he's so kind.

He goes to his sisters' games now willingly and with such pride.
He loves what his mom cooks, even during a pandemic.
He is the little brother everyone wants: he's got your back, and it turns out, they have his.

He is that surprise boy, that weird thing I needed to learn. He his smelly and he grows in ways I don't anticipate. He needs to be alone. He needs to hug me. He needs to eat food in amounts that stun me.
He is quiet and loud, grumpy and sweet, kind and mean, aggressive and so perfectly gentle. He is everything a good man will grow up to be.

The GYSO knew all along what he needed: the trampoline in the back yard, the hoops shooting.
This boy will surprise us all.

The GYSO, our sweet and excellent dancer, our clown, our funny friend, our musical curator...
The GYSO throws out the line to anchor our boat --- we're grateful to catch it.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Small Town

I called this place the Small Town because it was a good blind term, and also, it is small... sort of. Small is a subjective measure; your small might be different from mine. So, here's the truth of this Small Town: we are 19,000 people with two roads in and out who exist on a small spit of land with water all around us. Many of us don't have driveways. Most of us consider an 1/8 of acre to be a "decent" backyard. We can hear each other from our kitchens. We can see each other all the time. It's like a tiny campus, cramped with all the kids that fill up a giant school.

Because of this "closeness," we are in equal measure tightly bound and in love with one another and incredibly nasty to each at the same time. We come together when a kid is sick, or the pizza place burns, but most of the time, like most of the world, we pick sides and get snarky. Until it snows. We're the best to each other when it snows!

Thing is: it hasn't snowed lately in a big way, not in two years or so, and I'm not complaining, but yeah. We're all good to one another in a snowstorm.

When it snowed yesterday, a bitchy insult to injury kind of crappy snow, I figured we were all done for. Masked up, smile-less, eyes shifty and standing so far apart, I thought that after five or six weeks of this new life, the levy might break. The pitch forks felt sharpened to me; the nasty typewriters seemed oiled up. 

Today, I took the GSYO to pick up his bike (shuttered in another garage for a month).
The sun was out; the shitty snow was long gone. The sky seemed brighter than normal.

Driving was scary! Dodge this neighbor, dodge that one. 

The streets were lined with beach chairs and coolers, all at the end of their driveways, all shouting across the street, or over the way, across the grass. Responsibly distant each.
The old rules were long gone; booze is now allowed in public, I guess. The Yankee solitude has been replaced by this everyday snowstorm of quarantine I suppose... where we all wave to one another, pitch in, dig out, drink at the end of our driveways after a long exhausting day. The Small Town is cranky at times, too small in ways at other times, but today, it looked like a healthy and happy future. 

As the pollution lifts across the world, as the animals in our absence find their way, so do we, in Rome, in Barcelona, in NYC, or San Fran or ever even here, in this Small Town in the middle of a pandemic surge: masked, separated, together. 

I hope our Small Town is like yours. Brave, new, safe, responsible, but connected still.
Helpful. Kind. Waving and chatting. Shoveling the shit. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020


If the news is bad, or getting worse, adjust.
If the days get long, help someone.
If the news is dark, dance.
If you feel hungry, ask.
If you can, help.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The View From The Window

I've laughed the way I am sure a million others have at the vids of the moms in the cars venting, the toddler debris all over the floor of the tiny apartment, the creative ways parents are making birthday parties for 16 year olds or 21 year olds. I've laughed with them because it feels so human to connect about those things: a need to escape, a mess, a birthday, a milestone -- who can't relate to that?

In so many ways we are exactly the same. We are bonded by our mutual experience of motherhood or fatherhood or siblinghood. Or pain, or shame, or guilt, or insecurity. Anxiety and depression. Joy and love. So many things are common to each of us, in my town, in our state, my region, this country.
Somewhere on this giant planet someone is also all stressed out, or super in love, or really confused about school or the future of school, or what tomorrow's dinner will be.

I wonder what the view is from that window, if there is one.
I wonder what it looks like.

I will tell you what the view from my window looked like tonight:

The seagulls seemed undone and sorta angry. There we doing this really strange loud yell.
It seemed louder tonight and their posse seemed bigger.
They were diving and flapping their wings in a very aggressive way.

(NOTE: I know nothing about birds or how they act. Like, nothing.)

I've decided that they ganged up to yell about the fact that are no left over french fries on Revere Beach or any dropped chips or you name it here on their peninsula. I have decided that they were having a community meeting. And one of them said, "Phil, you have always been a shitty provider" or maybe it was, "Carl! Buddy! This is what is takes to keep the house feathered!"

Anyway, from my window the seagulls play out stories I make up for them.
What do you see?

Sunday, April 12, 2020


Back in the old days, when we'd get buried in snow, I remember thinking that all the familiar places of my small town looked, overnight, like the surface of the moon. Everything was unsure, and unboundaried and new: where were the sidewalks, or the entrances, or the yellow lines on the road? Who was the masked man shoveling my driveway? I never doubted there was bread or milk or flour (flour?), and I laughed about that often.

In the old days, when the snow used to fall, sometimes I'd bump into friends at the market. "Just here for cilantro," she might say. "Just here for Doritos and brownie mix," I'd reply. "The necessities."
No one talked about toilet paper or Clorox anything. Booze? Milk? (Who drinks that much -- milk?)

In the old days, when the snow buried us for a few days at a time and school was cancelled for the week, we'd all act like Europeans and get homey -- light fires, play board games that made us proud of our parenting. By the second night of an extended snow day, the whole neighborhood was outside -- hello? Hello? Buy the third day, ahh, fuck it! Back to life, back to cars skidding down the road, kids slipping all over the place, back to nowhere to park, back to belated blizzard parties.

Now? There is no snow to communally shovel. There are no plans to walk over in snow pants with a six pack. In fact, if you did, someone might shame you for doing so.

Our tiny town grocery store has aisles that can't allow any kind of social distance. It is the place where I would avoid going to because I didn't want to see anyone that day, because everywhere you looked was a friend, or a neighbor, or some kids' coach, or a teacher, or the guy you know you know but maybe don't know? You say "Hi!" anyway; you might even hug. That stranger you know you know.

Now, that place feels like the face of the moon. Our homemade masks, or better ones, they sometimes ride up over our eyes, or fog up our reading glasses. We can't see the arrows on the floor. We don't know when to wait when someone is choosing avocados or lemons or broccoli. We understand that there may be some around us who are scared. We understand that some around us might be vulnerable. We are not sure who is who, and suddenly, this very basic errand feels like a social pact gone wrong.

In the days, before this, when snow used to fall, I would pick up this ladies dropped can without a thought. Now, we just eyeball each other over crappy masks. I say, "Can I pick it up for you?" and she says, "Yes, thank you,"and then I realize it's not a snow shovel, but it's good enough for now.

I guess you get used to a new street, buried in snow, or a new world, faster than you think.
We adapt more often, and more quickly than we think, and most of us do so with love.

The face of the moon? You got this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Nose, Cameras, Love in Lockdown

I have seen my face more than a woman should ever see her face.
I have become the opposite of the dude in Dorian Gray: everyone I see looks so lovely.
I have to see myself when these new weird moments happen and I look so much older -- than I feel? Than my mirror tells me?

FaceTime and Zoom and OneWay interviews are weird -- do you look at yourself first?
Or do you look at all the people you love, their kind smiling faces -- and your face waving wildly back.... maybe they are as confused as you, as loving this as you are?

Who are you on the other side of the camera? Do you clean up? Do you let your life carry on behind you? Do you get up to pee? Do you tell the true stories of life at home? Do you tell the truth?

Who do you connect with when the world is so apart?
And does that answer make you think about who matters most to you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Empathy in the Time of Corona

"It was inevitable. The scent of rancid socks and cereal bowls always reminded her of the fact of being a mom. She noticed it as soon as she ventured downstairs, the smell of the refugees, distanced, undone, former leaders of the packs of newcomers or the defender of the back line or the hardworking clown in the room. They had been booted from their worlds: their remains lay in their wake."

OK. Let's be totally clear.

My kids' experience, my experience and the Kid's as well...we're fine.
Too much together time, so he misses some milestones, or they do, or their friends?
Yeah, it does break my heart, but I realize how small that is in the measure of this.

This. All of this.
Trouble is, I feel it. Bigly.
Like in my gut and in everything I do.
I am doing all the good things -- self care, positive thinking -- but I feel it.
I want to clap with the people in New York and I want to sing with the people in Italy and Spain.
I want to make a difference.

On Friday, at 7:00pm EST, I will force all these Short Drunk People outside.
No one who matters will hear us, but I still have some authority so we will do it.

They will be dropping of flyers tomorrow.
Because their mom's heart breaks...
And maybe, because their's break as well, they will learn what helps...

Empathy cures what ills us.