Friday, July 24, 2009

An Unexpected Gift

Last Sunday, almost five years after the passing of my father, I received yet another sign that people live on after their deaths. Not that I needed one, of I bet you have, too, I've seen plenty of evidence that this is the case.

Following in the footsteps of his mother, my dad was a visual artist. She -- a late bloomer in this department -- began in her 70s to paint landscapes, still lifes and street scenes, mostly oils but some watercolors. Dad, on the other hand, focused more on inked cartoons and caricatures, and he was pretty good. They were a big hit at our childhood birthday parties -- each child would go home with a really unique party favor (I've often wondered where some of these ended up!). After his retirement, he had the time to apply himself to some more serious work, but evidently he produced nothing he felt compelled to share.

He also liked to collect unusual art, especially antique maps of places he visited. Many of these were hanging on the walls of our home when we were growing up -- puzzlingly, he kept them in cheap plastic box frames that he claimed helped to preserve them. Ugly, but functional.

After our old house was sold (and subsequently demolished to make way for a tasteless McMansion, complete with lawn jockey) and my dad had passed away, my sister couldn't bring herself to get rid of all of those maps, so she stacked them in her basement and pretty much forgot about them. Recently, though, during a renovation, she dusted them off and took another look. Deciding they might look nice on her walls, she took a couple of the best ones downtown to have them properly framed.

As she and the framer removed the first one from its plastic box, they were surprised to find something behind it -- a large detailed pencil sketch of ME. Judging from the hairstyle, it's circa about 1989. No idea how he did it, why he kept it, or why he hid it away behind a yellowed map of Crete. But, as you can probably understand, to me it was a more thrilling discovery than a heretofore unknown Rembrandt.

Did he ever intend for me to see it? I guess I'll never know. One thing is for sure: I'll always be thankful that my sister, five years ago, didn't just toss my father's maps in a dumpster!

All this led me to wonder...what will I leave behind for someone else to find? And what will it mean to the person who finds it?

Whatever it is, it had better be something good.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ignorance is not bliss

An anti-bullying bill presented by North Carolina State Senator Julia Boseman recently passed despite some truly moronic statements by the Minority Leader, Skip Stam. His comments are beyond ridiculous. A few months ago, an eleven year old boy in my part of Massachusetts hanged himself after being bullied in school and called gay. I guess Skippy believes that the kids who bullied him were only doing their civic duty.

Clay Aiken, who is a self proclaimed news junkie, blogged this evening to his fanbase. What I didn't realize is that not only did Skippy make these statements with a straight face (pardon the pun) but he did so in front of Senator Boseman, who is a gay parent. And her son was in the room when this was said.

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out if Skippy is ignorant, stupid, afraid or some combination of all three. I hope the good people of North Carolina don't allow him to spread his personal form of bigotry and intolerance for another term.

Clay's blog was called "Warning"

I'm a little late on this one, but... be careful. Don't breathe in around me!

In debating the School Violence Prevention Act during a legislative session, NC General Assembly Minority Leader Skip Stam (R*-Wake) said that "explicitly protecting gay kids from bullying would lead to pedophilia and gay marriage," The man, who has obviously come unhinged from reality also argued that gay parents are "more dangerous than second-hand smoke."

I hope I haven't caused any health problems for any of you!

What a dumbass!

Do enough of you guys live in southern Wake County to help him lose his job next year?


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Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Recent news stories have reported that several distraught fans of Michael Jackson (mostly overseas) have committed suicide after his death. While I was a big fan of Michael Jackson (before the bizarre years), I can’t imagine taking things to that extreme. Really? Nothing left to live for? Why? He was just a singer.

I can understand feelings of grief. I think I've only felt unusually sad a few times when celebrities have died. Princess Diana, David Bloom, Tim Russert. But it only lasted a day or so.

I remember how I felt in May of 2003, after the AI2 finale had aired. While deep in my heart, I expected the outcome, I still felt defeated, cheated and terribly sad. I remember the next day when I had to attend a conference, I would have rather stayed in bed and grieved. Would I ever see him again? I walked from session to session, feeling like a good friend had died or at least moved far away. I was in a funk, I couldn’t concentrate. And I couldn’t understand it.

He’s just a singer.

A couple of months later, I was at that same venue attending the AI2 concert. I had floor seats and was so excited I hardly slept the night before. I even had a sign (something that would make me roll my eyes now). The sign said “This is the Night for a Platinum Record.” I held up the sign when he stood in front of me. He looked, pointed and laughed with joy. I stood there and all of a sudden, I started to cry. Me. Miss practical, Type A, ESTJ in charge kind of gal. My friend looked at me and said “You’ve got it bad.” I wiped my eyes in disbelief at the emotion that had spontaneously burst forth. What was wrong with me?

He’s just a singer.

I can pick out his voice from another room when my iPod is on shuffle providing background music. I worry when he is far away in dangerous places like Afghanistan or Somalia and I try to educate myself about the horrors of their people after he describes their despair. I pay closer attention to how people treat others with disabilities. I get giddy when he writes a few words of hello. I absorb his writings on serious topics like a sponge, thirsty for more of his well-informed opinions.

I set aside vacation days for when he can entertain me again. I laugh at his comedic timing in concert, television or stage performances. He has become a part of my life, outside of the real bond of family yet closer than a neighbor or an old college friend. I’ve been a fan of many before but this is so different. But why is this so different?

He’s just a singer.

I’ve met friends whom I would trust with my life. Some share different social or political views, yet we can communicate those views in a flurry of noise and emotion that offends no one. One primary common bond draws us together, because to hear the Voice with those friends by your side adds to the vibrations in your soul. We feel the Voice, while a stranger would just hear a song. Because after all,

He’s just a singer.

I’ve learned a lot in the past six years. I’ve learned about the goodness and generosity in people. I've also learned far too much about those that are lost, intolerant, alone or just plain bad, things that I wish I had never learned. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Think of what I would have missed if I had decided six years ago to turn off the TV that night in May with a shrug and decided, eh

He’s just a singer.

He’s not. He never will be.

Sing for me, Clay.

MJ Photo credit Jae C. Hong/AP

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