Friday, April 25, 2008

Undercover in '93

Apologies for the sound on this fan recording, but I found this and had to post it. Of the 12 years I went to Cornerstone, and the hundreds of concerts I've seen there, this one from Undercover in '93 ranks easily in the Top 5 (probably surpassed only by Sixpence in '95 and LSU in '94, Over the Rhine in '96, and probably one of the many Rez shows. Iona in '94 was pretty freakin great too, but I think Undercover holds rank, I think even over the Mad at the World show I saw my first year! now I'm just rubbing salt in my friends wounds...). I was practically sitting on the main stage right in front of Gym during this one, whose guitar playing is simply legendary. An incredible concert from one of the all-time greats. (I was finally able to talk my friend Andrew into going to Cstone the following year, during which he exclaimed many times, "I can't believe I almost didn't come to this!")

And I both love and hate whoever posted this video - Love them because this is the only video I think I've ever seen of my very first year at Cstone, including clips of Mad at the World, Out of the Grey (mislabeled as Over the Rhine here), and Margaret Becker... and hate them because, are you freakin' kidding me? you have VIDEO of those concerts and you only post a few seconds of them in clips??!!??

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Remember to love your neighbor as you love yourself...and if you hate yourself, then please...just leave your neighbor alone" (Jon Stewart)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Veronica (Remembering Nanny)

Three years ago, on the Sunday evening of this first weekend of April, My Grandmother passed away. She had been in a hospital or hospice bed for the previous 2-3 weeks, mostly sleeping, mostly out of it, mostly waiting to die. My Grandmother, in one way or another, had been waiting to die for just about the last 10 years of her life. My Grandfather had died in 1986, and shortly thereafter my Grandmother was practically coerced into making a rush decision to move out of her own apartment (where she and my Grandpa had lived for as long as I remember) to come live with one of her children, a decision based mostly in fear, justified or not. When she did that, she left most of her sense of independence and control behind, a decision she regretted for years afterward. She came to live at our house first, and during the years she lived here, I developed an even stronger connection and relationship with her than we had had before (which was always good). After she went to live with my Aunt (and Uncle before he died), I would come to visit with her almost every week. Many times we would have a lot to say, talking about the goings-on in the world, or in my life, or in the family, and many times she would share stories from her life. Many times, we would just sit there, often watching TV, with not much to say. But I knew those visits meant a lot to her, as they also meant a lot to me. I have so many childhood memories of my Grandma and Grandpa (Nanny and Papa to us). They would come over to babysit for us while my parents both went to work to support the life we had. They would bring a can of Franco-American Spaghetti over for my lunch, and we would watch Price is Right, followed by an afternoon of soap operas (All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital, and "as sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives"…). Somewhere in there we would usually find time to play a game of cards, like War, or Go Fish…

That last weekend of her life, I had gone to Grand Rapids for Calvin's Faith & Music Festival. It was a long, good, and tiring weekend, with not much sleep to be had. My Grandmother was in my thoughts the whole time though, wondering if she would still be there when I got back, reminded not only by my thoughts, but also by the passing of the Pope that very same weekend. And she did hold on. She waited for me to get back, waited for me to say goodbye, to be there like I always hoped I could be in that moment. I drove the 3 hours back in the early evening alongside my close friend Carrie, who had driven out there separately for the festival as well. We were talking on the phone, planning on watching another Sopranos DVD that evening after we got back, debating whether we even had the energy to do so. When I was literally 2 miles away from the exit that would take me home, my dad called (with no idea where I was in my journey home) to tell me that they were still at the hospice, my parents and my aunt, that my grandmother was having a pretty bad day. I asked him if I should come over there (the hospice was literally one exit past mine. I was no more than 5 minutes away when he called after being 3 hours away all weekend). He said no, probably not, he'd call me if anything happened. After a moment's weary decision, I called my friend back to tell her I wouldn't be coming over for Sopranos night after all, and I headed for the hospice instead.

I walk into the room in which she lays, and my mother falls into my arms in grief, wracked with tears, watching her mother struggle for breath on her death bed…"Go to her, let her know that you're here. Maybe she'll be ok then…"

On the bed you lay, looking at me, maybe not seeing, but suffering, your breathing quick and rattled. I could already hear it when I walked toward your room. A death rattle has caught in your throat. You are dying before our eyes, your rosary wrapped around your hand. Can you feel it? Do you pray now? Or do you just struggle for an elusive breath? Can you feel my hands holding yours? Can you see me looking deep into your eyes, hoping for a glimpse of your soul? Occasionally you mouth words to me, you seem to be saying "help me". But the only help I can offer is all I am offering right now, just to be here by your side. I will share one more hour with you, and that is all we are given…

I am aware that these are your last moments, and instead of only being there with tears and grief, I remember to smile. and I know that you do see me, for I will never forget the smile you return to me. this is a better way to say goodbye. this is a better moment for both of us to remember...

Leaning back, I wonder how much longer this can go on. How long, oh Lord, will you torture her like this? Have Mercy on her, have Mercy oh Lord. Please have Mercy… It's all I really know how to pray. I lean back because I am tired. I lean back, not knowing how long we will be here with you, wondering how much I can take. I haven't slept for days. None of us here have.

It was only 2 weeks ago that I was praying a very different kind of prayer...after visiting for hours with you by your hospital bed, just sitting there, helplessly watching your withered body lay there uncomprehending and confused and wasting away, old and wrinkled and all the vitality drained away to leave this helpless suffering shell. I went out to my car in tears and I screamed at God in anger and disgust and horror stricken grief...I called him a sick fuck, that this is what he is "pleased" to bring us to after a life too short, that this is what he would bring my grandmother down to in her final days after her lifetime of devotion to him, what the fuck is he trying to prove?...and to this day, I don't know if that was blasphemy, or one of the most honest prayers I could have prayed...

Perhaps in some horrible, twisted way, the suffering of the dying is for the sake of loved ones still alive, so that instead of wondering "how could this be?" at the sudden death in the midst of a healthy life, we accept that "this must be" and we are ready for it to be over. It is a sick slight-of-hand trick on God's part, causing us to accept what should never be accepted...

I am here now, and your daughters are here too. Two daughters that have been with you, by your side, caring for you (for years now), praying for you, keeping vigil all day long. They are here now, and we will share this moment with you. You will not die alone, and for that I am grateful, for the strange perfect timing that brought me here to be with you right now...

I hold your hand, and I don't know what to say to you in this final moment with you, this last chance I will have to tell you anything I have to tell you, to say whatever it is I will wish I had said to you after you are gone. And I don't know what to say. "I love you…put your trust in God now". That's all I know how…

As we sit there with you, a loud growl comes from you suddenly, like you are giving it all to clear out that monster in your throat. And again. And then your chest slows its pace, it stops, but your heart beats on. And then a gasp for air…and still again. Looking off into the distance, do you see anything at all? You are still, and your heart beats on…Another gasp, involuntary, and you are still. The pulse, slows. It will come to a stop. And I wonder, is your mind the last to go, and how could we tell, and would you know?
Goodbye, Grandmother…

Goodbye, Nanny. Goodbye mother and father and sister and brother. Goodbye me. For you are now where one day I will be. You are now where one day all too soon we all will be, gasping for air, struggling, ending our days and our life. Just a few more days. Months, maybe even years, but moments all too soon. Death walks these halls, and though two others die here this very night, it never gets its fill. It looks to me…I'll get to you later. Or maybe not later…and for now, it is gone. For now it is only right here in the room with us…

I have a picture of you that haunts me now. In it, you are less than half my age, and now at more than twice my age, you are gone…

Birthday girl, sweet sixteen. "Come here, my daughter", your mother said to you, lying in a bed in your home like the one you lay in now, "when you come home from school today, I will have a surprise for you…" And when you come back home later that afternoon, you find your mother is dead. And now you, sweet Veronica, must take care of this family of yours…

You leaned out the window weeks ago and called out "please don't go daddy", but he left all the same, unable to deal with your mother's illness…
From a rooftop he fell, and now they are gone. And now, tonight, you join them. Less than 80 years ago, between then and now, and here you are, dead like them like you never dreamed back then you could be. Like I never dreamed I could be one day too.

…And so I look at that picture again, of you and your friends at an all-night dance marathon, at the height of the roaring 20's (what a time to be alive!)…and I realize it wasn't all fun and games for you even then, even dancing the night away. You needed the money they were playing for. You needed to win to do what you could to take care of your home…What I wouldn't give to have known you back then. The 20's. What a time to be alive…what a hard, hard time to be alive…

When Dawn
then Dusk
and Darkened Sky
exchange their hue
for one last time
if all we've said
is just Goodbye
with one last day
to live our lives
I'll hold your hand
gaze in your eyes
and pray
a thousand times
'till all we've left
are tears to dry
at daybreak
on the other side

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Angel Tread

Wow. This brings back some memories. I didn't realize they had made any videos for this album. This Beautiful Mess was such an important part of my life for years back when it came out more than a decade ago. It was literally the soundtrack to my life in the mid-90's (along with a small handfull of others, most notably Over the Rhine and Vigilantes of Love), and I was a total Sixpence None the Richer groupie back then. I had been a fan since the beginning, but when I saw Tess on stage with the group for the first time (just before this CD came out), I knew something special was about to take place. It's so rare for music to just reach in and take ahold of your heart and soul and become such an essential part of your life like this did for me. Out of the 4,000 CDs I own, this one is probably second only to Over the Rhine's Good Dog Bad Dog, and usually sharing the "musical trinity" top spot with Sarah Masen's Dreamlife of Angels. definitely a top-fiver of all-time disc for me. I still think the music they made was incredible and stands the test of time amazingly well. and they're getting back together and playing Cornerstone this year! Hopefully I'll be there...and if Tess is with them, I'll probably pass out after I pee my shorts and scream like a little girl...