Monday, December 26, 2016

Goodbye George... thanks for the faith... RIP George Michael

Club Tropicana and Faith. I had the posted in my bedroom. 
"All we have to do is take these eyes and make them true.
All we have to see is that i don't belong to you and you don't belong to me.
Freedom. Hold onto my freedom..." George Michael Freedom 90.

If there was one singer who embodied the optimism of my youth, it was George Michael.  He was on when we got MTV in 1984.  At first I was repulsed by  "Wake Me Up before You a Go Go." But I  came to love it, reveling in his tacky, campy sound, buying a copy of WHAM's "Fantastic" album, putting the Club Tropicana album poster  on my wall, and learning the words to the "WHAM Rap":

Do you want to work? (no)
Are you gonna have fun? (yeah)
Do you wanna be a jerk? (no)
Are you gonna stay young? (yeah)
Everybody say Wham (Wham)
Say bam (bam) 
Everybody say Wham (Wham)
Say Wham-bam (Wham-bam)

"Young Guns Go For It" was my favorite song on the album.

Well I hadn't seen your face around town awhile,
So I greeted you, with a knowing smile,
When I saw that girl upon your arm,
I knew she won your heart with a fatal charm.

We used to get stoned after school, taking turns rapping along, laughing
all the way.  We listened to WHAM for hours, sitting outside by the pool,
 moments of frivolity long gone by.

And then there was "Faith," his solo album which came out just before my
senior year in high school. That was the album of the year.

Everyone sang along, "You gotta have faith a faith a faith."  We listened
to it at parties, danced, made out to it, and even paid attention to some of the words.

 "Father Figure" pointed to a romantic feeling, a sweet earnestness  deep inside.

So when you remember the ones who have lied
Who said they they care
But then laughed as you cried
Beautiful darling

Don't think of me
Because all I ever wanted
its in your eyes

Those last brooding lines were my favorite.

Its hard to imagine how many make out sessions were inspired by
those lyrics, the whole album really.

I have a lot of memories about that one.

My favorite George Michael song was, of course, Freedom 90,
with its Manchester beat.  That song got me through years in
California, careening across LA, up to San Francisco, dancing at my
wedding in 2001.   George offered a soundtrack of growing up,
smiling, grieving for Freddy, laughing at one's self, thinking
about Christmas, dancing, and getting older. He was able to make
 light of his arrest in a bathroomfor cruising in LA.  Although
he was often quite closeted, he
pointed to an openness with one's self which suggested it was
ok to be who you were.  The contradictions of his life were many.
But when he sang "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" or "Do
You Know Its Christmas?" he still suggested we could have
gravitas, hope and optimism even in the face of
a dark painful world. It was ok to have a little faith.

It was also OK to WHAM Rap.

"Some of my best memories are wham-rapping with you,' wrote my friend Ade
last night on facebook. I think a lot of us felt that way. 

Thank you for offering that  soundtrack to growing George.
RIP George Michael.

George and Andrew horsing about.

Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael. You've found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

End of the year blog – on losses and gratitude

Aunt Judy, Prince, Bowie, Cohen, and Takashi Murakami
For the last month, the first thought at the beginning of each day has been about the Supreme Court and Obama’s inability to move his third nominee to the courts.  Without that seat confirmed under Obama, the Republicans walk in with a huge long term advantage.  

Yes, the year has had lots of losses. Many of us feel like our very sense of decency has eroded. Democracy has endured a profound blow, with the elite classes moving forward, poised to do away with regulations in support of unions, the environment, and a woman’s right to autonomy from the state. Some moments, I'm consumed with sorrow. 

Other days, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for what I have, recognizing that losses are part of elections.  And we have to move forward.

So, as the year winds down, its worthwhile to recognize all the good out there as well as the anguish, the pain, the frustration, the movement of history faster than we can possibly grasp. 

My friend, the historian John D’Emilio, posted a wonderful commentary on facebook, quoting from James Baldwin writing in 1948: (it seems so much a description of the current moment): "In America, life seems to move faster than anywhere else and each generation is promised more than it will get, which creates in each generation a furious bewildered rage, the rage of people who cannot find solid ground beneath their feet."

Reading Baldwin a lot this year has been one of the many pleasures. My friend Lesley Wood asked that we post a few of the things we are grateful for. For me, its so many great moments... Left Forum with you. Reading in Praise of Older Women, biking around sicily, walking the streets of the lower east side, playing frisbe with my kids, battling pipelines and bomb trains, winning a big contract with my union, learning with my students, crying it out with them after the election... praying a Judson memorial, hanging out with Caroline Shepard... so many great moments, so many hikes through places unknown.  Caroline says we are always going to hike, every summer. I look forward to it.  The whole world is next. 

Thinking of 2016, I think of so many of the heros who shuffled off – women such as Gina Quatrochi, my beloved Aunt Judy, Judge Judith Kaye for the rest of New York, the myriad of musicians – from Bowie, who died the morning of Judy’s funeral, to Prince to Leonard Cohen who shuffled off with the news of Trump’s ascent, and George Michael who departed on Christmas. My friend from Judson, David Johnson, who died on our return from Italy. Pat Conroy died earlier in the year. The whole world remembered his stories. 

 The year started off with three very private funerals, some memorial rides and lots of adventures. We fought, danced, tried to battle back pipelines, explored our family roots in Dorchester England, snorkled in Jamaica, hiked around Italy, traveled Westdefended community gardens from developers, and watched democracy break out heart, as the electoral college gave the presidency to the person with 3 million less votes.

I find myself listening to more and more of the music of the icons of 2016, flipping through their CD’s as explored used record stores.Walking through Princeton the other day, we recalled Dad’s days teaching here, his office at Nassau Hall, and then wandered to the record store, and over to the museum, where a couple of pieces seemed to embody all that came and went, the feel of loss of despair and possibility in such moments.

Takashi Murakami's  Tan Tan Bo - In Communication, 2014, offered an image of children coping with catastrophe and creating rainbows in the chaos.

It’s a hopeful image for a world coping with despair.

Walking through the gallery, we found ourselves looking at pictures of police and women screaming at civil rights protesters in 1963.  That’s America, I thought.  I had hoped that reactionary rage was a thing of the past.  Today, it is our destructive soul, the fire that consumes the union.  I fear there will be no union at all if it continues, if we are unable to compromise. But right now, the rage is all so many of us see.  Hopefully, we can listen and learn from each other this year. 

So we walked and horsed around in the museum, celebrating the last few days of 2016, did some skate boarding, smiling and enjoying being alive, even in the wreckage.

The Princeton Museum's collection grew, with contemporary reflections on the celestial.
"This fall’s installation in Marquand Mather Court, the Museum’s gallery of contemporary art, revolves around two important paintings currently on loan to the Museum— Tan Tan Bo – In Communication (2014) by Takashi Murakami and The Little Star Dweller (2006) by Yoshitomo Nara. Although both monumentally scaled works are painted by leading artists of Japan’s Neo Pop movement and feature up-close portraits of their protagonists, they differ greatly in tone, palette, and subject matter. One is bright, chaotic, and post-apocalyptic, while the other is dark, quiet, and ethereal." 

Horsing around as the year comes to an end. 

 In the end, there is a lot to be grateful for.