Monday, December 22, 2014

Gutless Metropolis. (draft)

you can't have it both ways.

you can't say you live in the best city in the world
strip it of its uniqueness
install a hundred Chipotles
anoint Taylor Swift as God and Muse,
and call it by its former name.

you can't instagram break-dancers on the Q train 
or buy groceries from cash-only storefronts
or purses on canal street 
and lay claim to neighborhoods that were never yours
with no regard for the people you are displacing.
you can't have it both ways.

You can't say that Columbus was an asshole
but gentrification is a mark of progress.

And What About the World Cup?
You were only paying attention
after they ousted the poor
now homeless
in favor of your stadium
for a sport we forgot how to play.

 you cannot broadcast Jimmy Fallon
into a million taxis
our driver used to listen to the news
from our country or his country
or a combination of the two.
Audio melting pot of languages
drowned out by last week's Fallon soundbite and a reminder
to buckle your seatbelt.

You cannot put bodega into a Diet Coke commercial
bodega is not for your advertising pleasure
bodega is a registered trademark of people who don't give a fuck
about eighty-pound pop-stars
or which soda is more popular
as long as the pop pays for itself,
it can stay on the bodega shelf.

You have to stop asking for a gut renovation.
You cannot have a gutless metropolis.

That's just a suburb with too many people.

You can't say that stop-and-frisk is fair
but mistrusting the force is discrimination.

That isn't how it works.

You can't be angry about Rafel Ramos
And not weep for Eric Garner.
and the reverse too, is true.

Empathy is not only for the easy to love

You can't have a neighborhood of only affluent white people
and call it New York City.
or Brooklyn
or Queens.

You can't take away our dream of authenticity
just because you never really wanted to live in a city.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lists so I don't forget.

1.first song I learned to play on the guitar: "House of the Rising Sun"
old folk version, from a book of songs dad gave me.
It's one foot on the platform, one foot on the train

2. First duet "Imagine" by John Lennon
sung at the Presbyterian Church with Dad.
Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try.

3. First Song I Wrote  was at age 13.
It was untitled but included the line,
"And will you climb a tree/barefoot at night/fulfilling your wildest dreams before light."

4. First Paid Gig: A wedding.
The Our Father Prayer.
On Earth, as it is in Heaven. 

5. First Fan: Dad.
he was happy to have me play along.
God gave to you now you give to me, I'd like to know what you've learned.

6. First Fan Who Wasn't Required To Be A Fan: Brendan Irving.
the first person to make me believe I was good.
 Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone. 

7. Last Duet: "Highway to the Moon" by Greg Lloyd
he played with an unsteady hand, but made sure I would remember all of the chords.
and We know we will never be the same, after walking on a highway to the moon. 

8. Last Serenade: "Boots of Spanish Leather" by Bob Dylan.
Sam played guitar, and I sang to him as my dad fell asleep.
Oh I'm going away my own true love.  I'm going away in the morning. 

9. Last Song I Heard: Ripple, The Grateful Dead.
Over and Over and Over and Over and
if i knew the way, I would take you home. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lessons from Dad.

When I think about the lessons I learned from my dad, I am mostly reminded of music.
When I wanted to learn guitar, he handed me some chord charts, an old guitar, and promised that we would jam together once I could stretch my fingers around the neck of a guitar and strum A, C, E, and G chords. Our first gig was playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the Presbyterian Church we attended every Sunday.  As I struggled through shaping my hands so that my guitar would make the proper noises, I often wondered why my talented father never offered to “teach” me how. But, when I finally got the hang of chord transitions, he said, “isn’t it rewarding, teaching yourself to play an instrument?” He was right. I felt like superwoman.
My father taught me that West Side Story’s “Ma-RI-A” is a good example of a tritone in contemporary music.  He taught me that if you raise your soft palette too quickly, you might have to stave off a yawn, so it is best to inhale slowly and pretend your lower lungs are inflating like a balloon. And belting usually sounds best when you use your “mix” voice; a combination of that light, airy head voice and low, gravelly chest voice. All of these snippets of knowledge were shared while leaning over the top of our guitars, after I mastered those elusive A, C, E, and G chords.

Dad and I didn’t always communicate very well, but when we put on those half-shields-- our matching Taylor guitars—we learned how to harmonize, both in our little makeshift band and (usually) in our daily lives.  Although he rarely understood me when I wasn’t singing—he always said that I talked too fast— when we were playing music, we were totally in sync.

He used to tell me that my strong belt and big personality made me a lead singer,  but I always found myself seeking his voice when I felt lost in the flow of sound. Looking back on videos of our performances, I am always watching my father, following his lead and waiting for his head to nod before I took the next steps.
Now, things have changed. Without my dad’s voice as a guide, taking the lead feels intimidating, sad and hollow.
But then I remember; my father didn't create my love of music; he never sought to define who I am.  He planted the seeds for thoughtfulness and creativity, and stood by my side as I became the woman I am today.  He let me learn the chords on my own, and applauded my progress. He was never the architect; he was the gardener, coaxing his seedlings until we set down roots and flourished.

Dad’s absence is a great sadness; for my sisters and me, my niece and nephew, my mother--and so many more. But we are blessed, immeasurably blessed, by the years of love, music, and nurturing provided by Greg Lloyd’s kind, creative soul.