3

Posted: May 6, 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags:

Today is the third anniversary of the day I discovered my spousal unit shuffled off this mortal coil on purpose. I’m fine. One work disaster mitigated the other, so I’ve not been able to pay attention to my brain overmuch, which is also fine.

I still think of him every single day in some way. Mostly I simply miss sharing my daily life with him. Having someone to talk to with no filters is an absolute necessity and I no longer have that in my life. I suppose then it’s a bonus that I’m very, very good at compartmentalizing without detriment.

I am feeding physically. But intimacy, the true textbook definition of intimacy, is not anywhere on the horizon. The longer I go without it, the more incapable of even entertaining it I become. I chase no one, I am a passive hunter, more like a spider who spins an enticing web and waits for the ideal prey. That’s a self preservation approach because I abhor denial and any way I can avoid being told no, I will do.

The question becomes: how broken am I? If I meet a person, can I unbreak? I circle and examine my core with some regularity to see what’s left. Music making is the one sure place where I can still feel.

I suspect my heart died with him.

TFW…

Posted: November 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

You open your dead husband’s email for a cursory check on your wedding anniversary and find a note from his ex from the 80’s, sent a few months ago.

Subject: I miss you ❤

Why didn’t you tell me?
Why didn’t you reach out?

I’m sorry you were in so much pain and all alone at the end of your life.

I love you and I don’t like being in the world without you in the world.

Can’t blame her really. But wouldn’t it fuck her right up if I wrote back? [insert macabre sense of humor]

Truth is, she really doesn’t want to know the answers to her questions.

Life update Part 3 of…?

Posted: November 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

CW: the explicit business of death and dying; disjointed rambling

I sent texts and made calls from my car as I watched the police and coroner staff do their work. I thought as I saw them finally roll his body out

he’s under there. What’s left of him is in that white bag on the stretcher. This is real. It’s finally happened.

Finally? Did I just think that? Have I on some level always expected this to end this way, or just to end?

And now I have one final cleanup to cop. This will be third time I’ve had to settle an estate and hopefully the last. It’s a shame that as a private citizen, I know exactly which levers to pull and buttons to push. I need no help in that lane.

And then the disbelieving responses began to roll in. Unbeknownst to me, I had activated a support network that I didn’t even realize I had or needed. I am so glad that I do not suffer fools, because now I know I have some of the most equally capable friends on the planet. A longtime colleague was on her way to meet me at the apartment, but I told her no, so she insisted on meeting me at my house later that night, past midnight. She brought a box of tissues, a soothing lavender scented candle to help me sleep, and her wonderful calming presence. She took one look at me when I opened the door and said “oh my god, you’re in shock, your eyes…I’ve never seen you like this”. This is somewhere I’ve never been, I told her. Is this what shock looks like, I asked for both of us?

Laser focused. It felt as if I was moving at a different speed than the rest of the world, but I could not tell you who was moving faster or slower, the world or me. She sat with me and helped me make the list for what I would need to do immediately with input on local resources and I fleshed it out with the rest.

I still have the candle, unburned. I put it on a bookshelf with the tissues in the living room that night and forgot about it completely. It took months before I realized where the soft, soothing scent was coming from that I’d notice whenever I passed out on the couch. It now lives in my bedroom where I’ll occasionally take it down from its high shelf and inhale over it.

The following morning was Sunday, which meant I was scheduled to go to work to sing over the people of god (POG) for a few hours, plus I was on cantor rotation. Off I went, hoping the normalcy of making music would help my brain and heart. The choir is a family of sorts, a few of them knew of and had assisted me with my marital troubles, including the choirmaster. I walked into the poor unsuspecting man’s office and said “I need you to know that if anything looks or sounds weird with me today, it’s because Man Unit shot himself yesterday, so I’m dealing with that.” This stoic, introverted man immediately stood from his desk and wrapped me in his arms, where of course I began to bawl in a restrained fashion.

I went to sit in my seat and apparently I was still wearing the look I had answered the door with the night before because they instantly went all mother hen on me. More tears. Stop it, ladies, I love you, too, but I have work to do here. We can sob later.

I’d spent so many mornings staring into nothing with tears forming but not quite falling as my heart was being broken over and over without me admitting it. These things affect the music making exponentially, especially when your body is the instrument and I know now that he and others must’ve seen.

It’s a good thing I am built to keep my wits about me in times of trouble. The amount of calls I took from others grieving would have beaten a lesser person into utter submission. From the ululating Jew (seriously, she keened in my ear for at least a half hour), to the ranting ex of his (“HE’S SUCH A FUCKING COWARD HOW DARE HE”), to the drunken friend weeping, sobbing, and yelling at me “release your pain, stay in touch”, I had to wrangle them all. Perhaps it gave me something to do to keep me attentive and afloat, but I swear I got tired of what felt like sitting a nonconsensual Shiva.

I walked through some insanely tough situations without coming close to cracking. Arranging a virtual body identification with the crematorium. I could tell the agent was accustomed to dealing with the unglued, so I was pleased to make it easy for him. But how surreal was it that my last view of my husband was a picture on my phone of him in the bag? I saved it, of course. He would have appreciated how well they put his skull back together, there was merely an indentation that looked like an old wound healed, and as if he was only sleeping.

Picking up his cremains (new term I learned!), I met a very surprised staff member who ended up hitting on me after he saw my driver’s license and looked up at me in disbelief about my age. Plus he knew that I was newly single. How is it that things like this happen to me? Ever forward, just get in the car and get him home. They also gave me his final effects, specifically the Timex watch he was wearing, sealed in a plastic bag. I didn’t realize it was soaked in blood until I opened it. The stench of decomp is real, you don’t want to be anywhere near it. He would’ve found that an absolute hoot and it gave me a rare moment of genuine laughter. The damn things really do keep on ticking.

The admin office at the apartment complex was unexpectedly helpful. Like everyone else, they found him to be a warm, considerate, and friendly person, possibly the best tenant ever. Even though we’d just renewed the lease, all they asked was that I clean out the apartment as soon as I could (waiting list) and I was free and clear. I took my criminal court lawyer friend with me because her eyes and brain could handle it. I sent her in first, actually, to tell me if I could do it. I wouldn’t normally do such a thing, but she was there, willing, and insisted. She took longer than I wanted. HURRY UP FFS, I yelled from the front stoop.

It took four to six trips. The first with lawyer friend, another solo in the dark of night to strip the bed and dispose of the blood soaked sheets and others by day to assess what to keep and haul it home, then the last to meet the gotjunk truck and finish. Yes, I warned them that the mattress was a biohazard before they got to it. I figured they got way too many nasty surprises, and I didn’t want to be responsible for one of them. Again, sitting in the car, watching his life roll out and hoping his spirit wouldn’t be too pissed about the disposal of his hoard. I freely admit that I wept as I exited the complex for the last time and thought if I had to visit that particular part of town ever again, it would be too soon.

Months later, the ME’s report came. Perhaps it was just my eyes, but I’ve read many autopsy reports, and I felt I could hear the writer’s admiration of Man Unit’s single perfect shot. Again, he would’ve been pleased because we were macabre like that.

I was able to send a portion of his cremains back to his home state of Michigan with one of his cousins who had come down to visit other family, along with the trove (10+ cube boxes) of his mother’s writing and pictures for the genealogist aunt of his family.

I was asked if he left any note. Not exactly, but in the notebook he’d written in before, there was one single entry. He’d ripped out and discarded everything prior because he didn’t want to remember his darkest, most unhinged and angry days, he told me. It is dated February 26, a few months before he gave in.

So on the day I’d picked for dying, in the mail that evening was were two envelopes. One contained a spiritual solution; the other a financial solution.

My acceptance from TAC.

My window stickers from [the rideshare company].

Well, alright, universe, ok. Both contained 2 different versions of “it’s official” and “you’re in.”

Well damn, universe. Ok.

I’m off on another wild adventure.

Instead of putting a bullet in my head, I put a nail in the wall.

I’d been living on borrowed time since February. On one hand, I wish I’d known. On the other, I don’t think I could have made much of a difference because I was already doing everything in my power to keep him beside me.

I helped…(part 2 of ?)

Posted: November 4, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags:

“I helped…” Many sentences in this story could or will begin with those words. They are the litany of my relationship with Gymdork. Of course, I ask myself, “but did I?” To continue…

I helped him find an affordable apartment. I helped him find movers. I put the rental agreement in my name because he had no job. Now I was sustaining two separate households, which was one of his arguments for us to rejoin. But I believed in him, where he didn’t believe in himself. I believed that he had the capacity and capability to stand back up and take control of his life once more. I believed that when he did, we could come back as a successful unit, and I was clear about that with him.

Months crept by. As he dealt with rejection after rejection, it became clear that if he’d accepted the help I’d tried to give in previous years, we wouldn’t be where we were. But we were, and I remained committed. He found a work from home gig conducting surveys by phone for a only few months, because while the surveys were legit, the company was a total shit show. For a few brief moments, it seemed like he was oh, so close. As another last resort, I re-investigated a rideshare service because he’d said previously he couldn’t do it unless the car was in his name. That had changed, so we both signed up. I spent roughly 3-4 months hauling ass across several counties in addition to my two other jobs, making targets and sharing the payouts with him. His experience was yet another blow to his soul that takes a little more space to get into.

As a white man born and raised staunchly anti-racist in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan, the places where he’d typically lived and worked were populated by mostly black people. But after decades of hiding from society, he found a decidedly different reception upon his reentry attempts. When he went to the nearest Amazon warehouse for an interview in his khakis, shirt, and tie, the front desk thought he was some C-suite guy from corporate. When he explained he was there for an interview, they literally laughed at him. I am not making this up. Wash, rinse, repeat. When he went shopping for the meager groceries he could afford, two black women passed him, snorted, and said out loud “what is HE doing in OUR store?” As he checked out, the associate threw his items down as she scanned them, and when he went to grab his one last can, she yelled at him, saying he was stealing the food of the customer behind him. So when he’d answer a ping for a rider nearby, he would go. They would take one look at him and cancel the ride right in front of him, silently at best, with raucous blue language at worst. At least once, he was chased and threatened. He gave up trying and I could only sustain the pace of three jobs for so long. Plus at some point he’d had a mini-stroke and was more anxious about driving than ever.

Finally, he found a job cleaning airplanes, third shift. By then, I’d maxed out all the credit cards and no longer knew how I was going to pay all of our bills, but I renewed his lease anyway. He found the same repeated harassment and discrimination on the job. One of the trainers said he should identify as “Cuban or something so they’ll leave you alone”. He was in training for a week, and I cheered him on as best I could, telling him “baby it will all be worth it as the paychecks start coming in, then you can find more or better”. He put his head down and took it, but he was angry and exhausted to his core. He didn’t have any food past what I could give him small amounts of money for whenever I got paid. He’d lost a terrifying amount of weight. I didn’t know his pay schedule, so I asked him if he needed money for food, I’d gladly transfer as much I could to his account, he didn’t reply. I gave him some space after that first week because it seemed like he needed it and wasn’t particularly interested in talking with me when he was awake.

Three days went by, and he didn’t answer his phone, it went straight to voice mail, so I hauled ass down to his apartment to investigate after I got off from work. His car was there, but looked like it hadn’t moved in a few days. I knocked at the door and there was no answer. Fearing the worst, that he’d actually had a full on heart attack, I called the police for a wellness check. I forgot that I had a key, it was still in the welcome envelope they’d given me over a year prior. They identified me as being the main name on the lease and procured a key from the complex’s security guard. They found him in the bedroom, but wouldn’t tell me anything. I’d explained that his ticker was off before they went in, and he may have had a stroke. I was taking notes as things unfolded, and the realization of what actually happened is captured as follows:

Created Saturday, May 5, 2018, 8:52 PM:

Elizabeth from GBI…if an autopsy is needed, they will do it and hold the body until I have a funeral home. I’m beginning to think he shot himself.

My one great love. My last great love, is gone. 

He had one bullet left. I know he saved it on purpose.

I’ve decided to resume telling my story here because there’s no one left in the real world to tell it to. Allow me to me explain.

Gymdork is my spousal unit. He’s been gone from me now for a little over two years as of this writing. Where did he go, you might ask? Let me lay it out for you in excruciating detail.

Man Unit, as he was known, suffered from lifelong chronic clinical depression. He had long spates of good, but in the last 10 years, he slowly receded deeper into his cave of quiet despair. You would have never noticed from his online persona, he was that good with words. I literally did all that I could to save him and us, but in the end, those who need saving must first wish to save themselves. He came from the drug-addled 80’s and was extremely averse to any sort of drug therapy, so we hashed it out as best we could with our marriage counselor. She had faith in us, but eventually suggested that we dig into individual therapy separately to sort out our own unique issues.

I promptly went and secured my own therapist, but his road was more complicated, fits and starts. The first therapist he chose had his own meltdown and literally disappeared after a couple of sessions. The second was too far away, which exacerbated his as yet undiagnosed agoraphobic anxiety condition. And so on. It would become evident that with him, speed bumps were Mt. Everest and potholes, the Grand Canyon.

I needed to save myself and us before there was nothing left to save. I went on a choir tour to sing in Prague, Vienna, and Austria for two weeks that September and I spent a great deal of time alone in my head with my earbuds in quietly weeping and considering my next steps. I had to leave and proposed divorce upon my return. He did not agree, because as always, whenever I was away, he’d briefly come to his senses and swear to do better. But he couldn’t do better unless he accepted his health issues and addressed them properly. We agreed that we needed to find ourselves alone, and then we could come back together when we weren’t constantly acting out our issues and hurting one another.

I went and hunkered down in a kind colleague’s basement apartment while he attempted to resurrect his life, but he was starting from less than zero. He’d been off the grid for more than decade, and his fear of dentistry had left him with what looked like meth mouth, so whenever he managed to get job interviews, he was almost immediately dismissed. He begged me to come back, furiously telling me “I’d had my long walk, now come home” but I couldn’t. It would just be more of the same. Remember the definition of insanity?

By December, I found a place to live and officially moved out. I didn’t ask him to help me pack. He’d already shown me how he responded to such things decades previously when we moved and he didn’t want to; he just disappeared into his MMORPG of choice at the time and didn’t lift a finger. This was no different, besides, why would anyone want to do such a thing? He later commented that he wanted out of that house himself because that’s “where my family was murdered”.

Desires

Posted: March 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

I want.

I want to do whatever it is that makes me happy. Inspired. Loved. Appreciated. What would that be?

I am all about music of all shades these days. Just about anything steeped in heart and joy will bring me instantly to tears. I watched Kathleen Turner breaking down talented high school kids as part of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ YoungArts program Masterclass a few weeks ago and I was watching and yelling at it like bros watching a March Madness game at the bar, coaching right along with her and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t right with her in the advice and instruction she gave.

It inspired me. I’m nobody famous, but goddammit, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to performance. One of my best friend’s kid is in her second year as a ballet dancer at a fine arts boarding school hundreds of miles away. As her daughter has advanced in the arts, she turns to me more and more as an experienced voice on matters of the arts that escape her. She invited me to watch a stream of the school’s latest performance and as I watched intently, I saw exactly what her weaknesses were through a musical lens: she’s a beautiful dancer with the ability to make the most breathtaking lines and curves, but her corps work is, to put it bluntly, sloppy as hell. Her youth and a growth spurt (she’s nearly six feet tall in her pointe shoes) are working against her right now, but she’s lucky enough to a) know it and b) be in the right place to get the technique instruction she needs to understand how to become the ensemble instead of an individual member of a group.

I want to do this. I want to give what I know. I can help, I promise. I fly when those I teach and coach fly. I fly when they get something. When I challenge them to be part of a complex relationship with me that embodies both judgment and trust. It’s just another way for me to tell a story.

Perhaps this is also due in part to a run of success at my church gig. We gave a rare concert a few months ago and the solo and trio work I for which I was responsible was not, in my opinion, of my desired oeuvre. I’m a liricio spinto, Puccini/Verdi kind of girl and this was early 17th century Baroque/Renaissance polychoral stuff. But if the choirmaster had faith in me, then so be it. Once I stopped being terrified and became a part of it, the sounds that spun out of me from the loft felt like all kinds of magic. He is still uncharacteristically over the moon about that performance, to the point where he just dropped quartet work from Schütz on me for Easter. I’m still terrified, to the point where I asked him why me and not one of the other voices usually more appropriate for this style. Which gave him the opportunity to be effusive about the previous performance again. I think he has all kinds of new ideas for me. It’s as if after 6 or 7 years, he’s discovered a resource he didn’t know he had. And while this is a huge stylistic challenge for me at this late stage in my vocal development, I have the comfort of knowing that he believes in me.

The music realm of my life is more important to me that ever, because the little ball of fuckery that my day job has become constantly challenges my perceptions of my skills, experience, and talent. It is a complex web of politics and poor management to the point where the extremely talented tiny team of which I am a member is shrinking as fortunate folks find ways to successfully exit, stage left. My previously mentioned friend will be the first to make a permanent exit and I have feelers out to hopefully be the next who frees themselves from this Island of Misfit Toys. It’s like she opened a door we’ve all been pushing against and now we’re all actively and publicly (at least to each other) seeking different opportunities within the organization. We all wailed “TAKE US WITH YOU” right in front of her cube yesterday. The hardest part is we want to be together because we are a fantastic team. We even like hanging out with each other, as evidenced by our post-Christmas shindig that we were finally able to schedule for tonight. We’re all very different from one another demographically and in life experiences, but we mesh happily nonetheless.

I’m in some of the best shape I’ve been in my life since my high school jock days since I’ve been hitting the gym regularly for the past couple of years, I’m delighting in my weight training and boot camp work with my patient and talented trainer and although while I love what my arms have become, guns this size aren’t exactly amenable to everyday business wear! Note to self: need a gig where it won’t matter and folks won’t be taken aback by my athletic form. My final health challenge is to adjust my diet to the point where the cinnamon rolls ’round my middle take a hike.

I want. I long for all the parts of my life to yield joy.

Women and sport. Such a long and conflicted history. But a few things have come to bear of late on which I must rant a wee bit.

When I was in middle school in South Carolina, I had not yet quite figured out how a girl was supposed to act (still haven’t). I was (and still am, for all intents and purposes) a raging tomboy, more likely to climb trees and play football than hold tea parties and play dress up. So the semester when I had the option of choosing between gymnastics and weightlifting, I naturally chose the latter, only to find that I was one of two girls who had chosen so. It didn’t matter to me, all that mattered was that I could out-lift most everyone who had made the same choice. The following semester, we could choose between wrestling and dance. No contest. But oddly enough when the time came, I was routed to dance. Why? Because it wasn’t appropriate for a young lady to have that kind of contact with boys. It was dangerous. Unseemly. Frowned upon. It was the early 1980s.

Yesterday, I read about Maddy Baxter. It is roughly 30 years later. She is 12 and plays as a starting defensive tackle for the sixth grade team of her private christian school in Georgia. Starting. That means she’s better at it than most anyone else on the team. First string. First chair. My 12 year old self is insane with jealousy. “Middle school girls play girls’ sports and middle school boys play boys’ sports,” said the school in a statement. A school official told Maddy’s mother that boys have lustful thoughts and might think of her daughter in an impure way. Maddy has been dismissed from the team.

Boys will have lustful thoughts. They might even have them about Maddy. Girls will also have lustful thoughts. Why do people seem to miss this all the time? You want to try to make some babies, you better hope she has a lustful thought or six. Maybe that’s one reason why there seem to be a great many boys running around making babies. Some girls aren’t wise to what lustful thoughts are, haven’t been schooled. And by the time they know, it’s too late.

The WNBA draft happened in April and as expected, Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame went very high, third in the first round. I was reading an article about her fabulous self in the New York Times the month before because reading sports writing is one of my very favorite things. I was enjoying myself until

Most afternoons, Diggins hung out at the recreation center where [her father] worked and ran through his drills, sometimes for six hours at a time.Then [her mother] would take Diggins shopping, or to get their hair and nails done. She could look pretty and play basketball, her mother said.

This annoyed me. It was a great article and the above quote stopped me cold. Yes, Skylar Diggins is quite pretty. Yes, she’s a monster on the court. And perhaps even yes, she grew up with the girl gene that directs the love/hate relationship that women have with beautification, if you will. I don’t dispute any of that. But what makes me sizzle is the attitude of a mother who wouldn’t see her daughter any other way except in her own image.

On the other hand, the more I learn about the expected first pick of the first round, the more warm fuzzies I get. Brittney Griner. I admit it publicly: I am a fan. I probably made squee noises when I got my ESPN Magazine in the mail with her on the cover, her serpent friend wound ’round her. I’m holding my breath hoping that it doesn’t all zoom to her head and make her fall down. It can happen to anyone and I’m hoping that everything she’s handled will keep this from handling her.

Because everything will certainly try to.

Hit me with your best shot

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

I had a very unexpected moment of OH YES a few days ago. It’s been kicking around in my head ever since, so I suppose I ought to put fingers to keys on it

First, a bit of background. I’m an ex-jock. My poor mother who expected a girl with tea parties and Barbie dolls got instead a tomboy who wanted nothing more than to climb trees, creek hike, and wrestle, among other things of that ilk. I prided myself on my strength and would go all out to prove that I wasn’t weak and couldn’t be easily overcome. I eventually learned that I needed to compartmentalize these leanings into areas where it would be found acceptable. In middle school we were allowed to choose which sections of phys ed we wanted to take each quarter and without fail, I would choose weightlifting when it was offered. It caused a bit of a ripple, but they allowed me to do so until my last year…when boy hormones finally caught up with the girls. I agree now, as new testosterone and a buxom sexually active girl (often the only one of 2 females in the stuffy room with no windows that had that smell weight rooms no longer have) do not tend to mix well. They weren’t equipped for that risk and frankly, neither was I. So I discovered then that my talent was for volleyball where I could turn my strength into a blazing serve, my persistence to an all-out scramble to keep the ball in play, and my will to remain unbeaten into a vertical leap that stunned opposing attackers. I couldn’t spike for shit, but I could leap like a fool for a block of an oncoming spike and my dinks were legendary. I couldn’t time my own offense, but I could read the shit out of the opposing team’s. I played all four years of high school and a bit of college. An injury slowed me down and I focused on music.

Thursday I was at the office picnic. Did not want to be there. While standing in the food line, I heard the telltale sound of skin hitting ball leather-pmp…pmp…pmp-and I turned my head towards the sound. One of the admins from upstairs who looked like a player (6’2 and lean) was bumping a ball and was shortly joined by a shorter woman who instantly revealed herself to be a setter; she must’ve heard the call, too. I couldn’t stand it. I deserted my colleague in the food line-“I’m sorry, I just have to do this”-and covered the setter from behind, completely freaking her out when she crashed into me as she was backpedaling. I apologized and they widened the space to let me in. I’d forgotten how much I dug the burn of forearms recently ball-smacked.

After lunch and the scheduled team building were finished, a game was begun where the net had been erected.

Oh, man. I still got it.

I’m 42 years old and I schooled punks almost half my age. And I haven’t played in years. I even spiked and that is so not in my repertoire…at least it wasn’t. After a particularly vicious cross-court pound, the kid on the other side of the net looked at me wide-eyed and said “oh, okay..respect due..” I didn’t even front like I wasn’t in the moment and responded with something that communicated YES. BELIEVE THAT. I’ve also apparently developed a jump serve. Who knew? I have no idea if I did that before or not, but I certainly don’t remember it being that way.-stands up to check- No. I didn’t have that before. It seems that I can now track the ball in an offensive fashion. Thoughts on how that’s come to be are for another whole post.

We stopped about 3/4 through the second game (played to 21) because someone went crashing into the ropes and yanked the poles out of the ground on one side. Some still wanted to play, but most of us took that and the lack of water as a sign that it was time to fold. We’d been playing almost an hour in the direct beating sun of Southern summer, plus my thumb which I’d broken several weeks ago is still healing.

It was fantastic. I texted my trainer and with no guilt at all smugly told her I’d been playing in the sun for an hour and wouldn’t be seeing her that evening. I believe she was pleased to have me cancel on her because I’d already worked out. I was still so high that I managed to swim the length of the pool at the end of this morning’s workout; something I haven’t attempted in nearly equally as long.

There just might be something to this whole getting fit thing…

The Anointing

Posted: February 25, 2012 in Family, Music
Tags:

I’m not a huge Whitney Houston fan, but I was curious about what would come of the funeral so I tuned into the web to have a look last Saturday.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared to be instantly transported to the church I grew up in. People got schooled in Black Church 101 whether they liked it or not. The first wide shot took me right back to South Carolina, circa 1975. While I wasn’t raised in the Baptist denomination, in my experience there isn’t a great deal of difference between the experience in a majority of black churches. And as something of a disclaimer, I’ve said before, I’ll say it again: due to my experiences growing up in the church, I consider myself agnostic, yet very attuned to spirituality. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ned Rorem said it best. When asked how he, an unrepentant atheist could pen some of the most amazing tunes set to the psalms of David (which I have sung and adore), he replied “I have faith in the faith of others.”

There were so many tiny things that the average viewer wouldn’t pick up on if they hadn’t been raised in a church like that. Little tells that they probably either didn’t notice or went “WTF?” if they did. Did you notice how Pastor Winans would stand thisclose to someone who was singing at the lectern? While that would be intrusive and cause to call security in any other setting, here it means “I support you. I admire you. I am testifying with you.” The little speeches that the singers would indulge themselves in prior to letting it fly? Also considered testifying, sharing the message, entreating the congregation to hop in the car and take this ride together.The little ladies turned out in their starched white nurse’s dresses and tiny white caps, standing ever at the ready the entire time in case someone from the family needed assistance because they had become overcome by emotion or the spirit.

When you’re singing in a church and the spirit moves you and everyone within earshot to a place you can’t otherwise reach or even describe, it’s called “the anointing.” You have been anointed in the spirit and have become a mere mouthpiece, a vessel for a message that is no longer your own. I try to sing this way all of the time and sometimes it becomes a detriment to the music and my technique itself, but that doesn’t really matter in the moment because I am no longer myself. I am the message, the story.

There wasn’t a speaker or singer at that pulpit that didn’t at least catch a whiff of that feeling. My heart was so huge, it felt like it was going to burst from my throat when Kevin Costner shared his memories. I don’t particularly care overmuch for Donnie McClurkin’s voice but his rendition of “Stand” was a sermon in and of itself that I couldn’t ignore or diss. That is what the anointing can do. And who knew Tyler Perry could preach? Whatever I may think of the man and his movies, I could not deny that he was truly in the spirit that day. Stevie Wonder just flat out killed. His voice has held up amazingly over the years and this day was no exception. When he transitioned into “Love’s in Need of Love Today”, I was just sitting there with my jaw hanging. Seriously, he sounds even better than he did when he released this on “Songs In The Key of Life” (1976). The other thing that made my jaw hang, literally stopped me in my tracks was when I heard Dionne Warwick announce that R. Kelly was about to share. R. Kelly?? Seriously? But never mind, because he was in the moment, too, had to give him his props. Probably like many in the church itself, I didn’t even notice at first that we hadn’t even made it to the eulogy until hour three of the service. And Pastor Winans hit upon one of the main reasons that I indeed, have become agnostic: “Sometimes, we are believers behaving badly”, he mused. Outside of all of that, I think the most dramatic moment for me was when the bearers hoisted her casket into the air and onto their shoulders. Maybe its just me, but until you know the feeling of it being someone you love in that box, you just can’t know how it blazes through you, the feeling that this is it, this is truly the end.  When the rifles exploded over my father’s grave, I felt the exact same storm inside and the cries from the people in the church echoed that. It is the sound of a heart breaking.

No matter what I think about Whitney Houston, her death brought people the world over together to share in some of the most amazing music I have heard in a very, very long time. I feel like I have much more to say inspired by these feelings, but that will come another day.

Reach out and touch…

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

I spend a bit of time commuting so that’s often when spontaneous rumination occurs. Yesterday on the way to work the topic of my last post started banging around in my head and I think I’ve identified at least part of my problem.

Like kids, I just want contact, to connect. I think it’s why I’m good with teaching kids of that spongy adolescent age, because I completely understand and empathize with that need for personal recognition and acceptance, or to put it succinctly, touch. Whether it’s mental touch or physical touch matters not, there just must be touch. I think we forget that feeling as we grow older. It’s why we reflexively gasp when we hear about boys being allegedly molested and sexually assaulted and wonder how in the hell did it happen, why couldn’t the kid just run? It’s because you don’t remember what it was like to have someone-anyone-see you, really see you and touch you. And by the time the kid realizes that it’s the wrong kind of touch, it’s too late. But that’s a tangent, please excuse me.

I want friends like I had in college. I want to be able to spend hours with someone alternately shooting the shit and puzzling over the latest mind twist no matter the topic (I call for a resurrection of the salon, please. I’ll happily host the inaugural event). I want access to friends the way I am willing to give access. The same kind of access that one usually only grants family or personal assistants: 24/7, you just call out my name and I’ll be there. Damn if James and Carole didn’t have it right. Why am I considered weird or strange for wanting this? Why does this make others want to say to me ‘oh, grow the hell up, you’re not in college anymore’? Why does being a grown up mean you have to stop reaching out and learning?