Today was supposed to be a day of celebration. A mindless ode to the pleasures of materialism, as they surrounded my body, my ego, my soul. I drove my new car off the lot feeling proud, excited, ready for adventure. What I wasn’t ready for, however, was the image in my rear view mirror. Sure, I’d adjusted it correctly. It wasn’t that. It was what I saw staring back at me…Read More
Sometimes life gives you gifts, and sometimes these gifts come wrapped in nice packaging and a neatly tied bow. Other times these gifts come in less than recognizable wrapping. Sometimes you have to go digging for them, and other times they hit you over the head, nearly taking you down, and it’s not until your vision is restored that you recognize it is even a gift at all.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to receive all these forms of gifts. And perhaps the most meaningful was the one that was hardest to accept.Read More
“Life is enriched by difficulty; love is made more acute when it requires exertion.” ― Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
When I think of heroism, it is not a single act, nor is it necessarily an act bathed in praise and recognition. When I think of bravery and character, there are no flapping capes or glistening swords, nor are there epic fights or power struggles. There are simply circumstances of intense adversity, and often deep emotional pain, wherein a person acts out of love instead of fear, overcomes the toughest moments, and comes out stronger on the other side. There are people in the world who do this in major ways, people like the Dalai Lama or even some close personal friends who have been attacked by dishonorable media campaigns, but not all heroic acts have a spotlight. They happen every day, all around us, often unnoticed, but once in a while, a spotlight is just what's necessary to raise us all up a little bit.
I recently met Amber Greenwalt at a convention in Houston, Texas. Actually, I met her at the airport where she recognized me immediately and greeted me with the warmth and enthusiasm of a not-so-distant relative. Her sweetness and positivity were palpable over the weekend too, whether it was visits at my table or the smiling face in the crowd at a panel, I always noticed and enjoyed her joyful presence. At some point over the weekend I learned that on top of being a smart and sweet Basttlestar enthusiast, she was also a mother of three who was facing some incredibly difficult struggles, including a 5-year old with Mitochondrial disease, a rare and (so far) incurable disease with a whole list of heartbreaking side effects. You can read more about her daughter's condition and her progress on the Saving Savannah Facebook page.
Speaking of heroes, Leah Cairns (Racetrack from BSG) is another woman I know with an iron will and infinite resilience when it comes to whatever life might throw at her. So it was no surprise when she emailed me about a joint initiative to help her five-year-old niece, Seattle (who has a similarly debilitating disease) and Savannah get the resources they need to express their true superhero selves. It turns out Seattle and Savannah, though they’ve never met, have a lot in common, and naturally, so do the families who love and support them. Both their stories are truly heartbreaking and inspirational. You can learn about Seattle and her journey on her Facebook page here. I know because after agreeing with ease to help promote their fundraising efforts through social media, I began to feel uneasy that I didn’t know exactly what I was promoting.
It’s painful to watch people struggle, and it’s even more painful to imagine what it would be like if you were in their shoes. It’s easy to think, ‘oh yes, that’s sad,’ and go back to our lives. So I tried to do the not so easy thing, I watched video after video, read articles, and thought about what it might be like to have a child with a life-threatening illness. I laughed, I cried, I thought about how grateful I am for my life, and how grateful I am for theirs, and how grateful I am for our paths intersecting so I could deepen my compassion and sense of what’s important in life. I don’t even claim to have a fraction of an understanding of what it must be like for these little girls and their families, but I do feel like my life is enriched in the attempt. I feel inspired by the will, the strength, the vulnerability and the love I see in Amber, Leah and Lindsay, and I feel hopeful for their efforts to not only improve the quality of their daughters' lives, but of all the lives they touch in the process.
I would encourage you, if you can, to hear their story. If you feel so inclined and are in a position to do so, there are many ways you can help Seattle and Savannah get the funds they need to live the carefree lives any five-year-old should. I don’t typically promote charities, but this is a cause with very real and beautiful results that can only blossom with your help, ones you’ll see in each one of these girls’ smiles. Thank you for your time. And thank you Amber, Leah and Lindsay for your bravery. You are all heroes in my books.
Here's what you can do:
- donate directly to the girls on their gofundme page
- share the above link on your twitter or facebook
- tweet @theellenshow to inspire the Ellen Show to bring Savannah and Seattle together to meet for the first time! what a beautiful christmas gift it would be!
- check out this huffington post article for more info and links
- read about their stories, be inspired + life joyfully!
C'mon, all the cool kids are doing it! Even President Roslyn.
Ps. Stay tuned for a separate campaign so that I, too, can meet these miniature superheroes on The Ellen Show.
I’ve grown accustomed to oddities and surprises at sci-fi conventions, but there was something about walking toward my signing table and seeing a full-on wrestling ring that caught me off guard. On the carpet of the hotel’s chandeliered grand ballroom, about 4 feet off the ground, sat a square, roped off stage—a scene usually contained in the televisions and imaginations of teenaged boys. Its emptiness only made the context seem stranger, yet somehow the costumed men at the tables surrounding it made the spectacle more digestible. Did I say men? There were women too. Tattooed, pierced, and mohawked, some with shiny, bulging muscles, others were small and unassuming, surely revered for their acrobatic skills. I couldn’t help but flash to scenes from The Wrestler. And not just scenes, but all the emotions that went with it—a nauseating cocktail of excitement, sadness, curiosity and pity. Still, like the wrestling ring, part of me knew those feelings didn’t belong there. I spent the first half of the day in observation mode. In my breaks from signing autographs and making small talk with fans, I studied the wrestlers and their wares, their handwritten signs and championship belts, their intense and controlled energy, and their undeniable boredom. As I do with most things, I romanticized the situation to make it more palatable, but once my arrogance became too bitter, I resolved to introduce myself and see them as normal human beings. I petted SnakeMaster Jeff’s albino boa constrictor. He told me about his nineteen pets and I imagined him alone in his house, feeling misunderstood except for the animals who loved him unconditionally. Then I learned he’s been happily married for years. Once again my arrogance wafted heavily in my face. Thankfully, the ice was quickly elbow smashed as all the wrestlers were super fun and friendly, and some were even BSG fans. They invited me to the show later—not that an invitation was necessary, but it was more a matter of, “So, are you coming to the show tonight?” To which I replied with slight hesitation, “Yeah, sure!”
As the hours wore on and I relished in the quiet of my hotel room, the thought of going back downstairs into a massive crowd to watch grown men (and women) beat each other in the name of entertainment was not exactly the most appealing direction I saw my night heading. But I thought about my new pals, and I imagined greeting them the next morning with a contorted smile after missing the show, and that didn’t feel good either. I also thought about the fact that I was in Miami with the opportunity to witness something I’d never seen before, and whatever discomfort I was experiencing was even more reason to go and face it. So I made the trek, through hallways of wizards and Boba Fett wannabes, and I continued to feel uncomfortable. The hall where I had earlier spent my day casually signing autographs was now filled with excited wrestling fans. Faces in the crowd pointing and whispering, I imagined things like, “Is that Cally from Battlestar Galactica standing over there? Why is she all by herself? She looks lost.” Oh yes, even I am not immune to making shit up to feel more in control of the situation, but I tried to move around and look like I was engaged in the evening’s entertainment. Though I have to admit, what I saw was met with emotional resistance. My attention was continuously drawn to the crowds, studying their faces, trying to understand what they feel and why they’re drawn to such displays of violence.
I didn’t get it. I was trying to, but I just couldn’t grasp grown men pacing around a ring, exchanging powerful blows, and demanding the audience’s complicity through cheering over another’s demise. Still, I’m stubborn enough that not being able to figure out the appeal only motivated me to keep watching. If I had left then, I would have felt as if I’d given up. By that point I’d moseyed on over to a table where a few men were seated. I leaned on the table and did my best to look casual and interested in the match, but not too affected. Lucky for me, I started chatting with the guy next to me, who happened to be friends with the referee. He started telling me what was really going on, the messages passed covertly to signal the next move, the politics of winning, and even some background information on the major players. Suddenly it was like I was watching it through a new lens: a lens that exposed the humanity where before there was none, a lens that allowed the skill and care of each move to come into focus, and a lens that crumbled my judgments and inspired me to just get over myself and see it for what it was: a game of strategy and skill, a performance requiring precision and self-awareness, and a metaphor for our power and celebrity obsessed culture.
The next day I was over-flowing with questions for the wrestlers. How did they get interested in wrestling? What did it mean to them? How did they train? Who were their heroes? What else did they do? How has it affected their personal lives? Did they date other wrestlers? I was especially interested in hearing from the female wrestlers, because the tendency for gratuitous violence seems less natural for women. One woman was kind enough to share quite a bit with me—the joys, the struggles, the successes, the romances, the politics—and I genuinely felt myself becoming some iteration of a fan. But because when I get interested in something, I don’t just like to read about it in a book, I half-jokingly asked if I could be part of the show that night. Which was pretty much all it took—once they realized I was serious—and the next thing I knew I was practicing roundhouse kicks backstage before my big debut!
Well, okay, it didn’t all happen quite so fast. There were several hours where I was stressing out, wanting to come up with a plan, a routine, a character, something! I felt so out of my element and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of thousands of screaming fans. I really wanted to do a good job and justice for them allowing me to participate. But every time I tried to make a suggestion or ask what we were going to do, they were like, don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out. Even though I intellectually understood that this is what they do every weekend and it’s really no big deal and I’m sure it’ll be fine, I was still freaking out inside—but in a fun, excited way. As we approached the start of the event, I finally got together with the other two girls to figure out what we were going to do. The energy backstage reminded me of putting on plays in high school, everyone with their costumes, props, rehearsing and hanging out. Which, again, brought a whole other level of humanity and feeling of community to my understanding of wrestling.
I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say we did what we did to prepare, and then I was left to wait for my big moment. It must seem funny that an actor would be so nervous about something like this, but I really had no idea what it was going to be like, or what I was going to do, or how I was going to feel, once I got in the ring. The level of uncertainty felt exponentially linked to the screaming crowds too, not to mention the men doing backflips into the ring in front of me—very different than the confines of a soundstage or a theater. In any case, I patiently waited for my cue as a ran through the routine in my head. I was to present a gigantic trophy to the winner, Chun Lee, at which point mohawked punk rock girl (the loser) would grab it from Chun Lee’s hands. What happened next exists as a series of stills in my mind, where we clotheslined punk rocker, I climbed the ropes, kicked her in the face (she really ran into my foot!), then I pounced on her for a final count. It was surreal. I was so stunned by the kick, I almost forgot to go pin her down. And once it was all over, I had no clue what to do. The crowd was cheering and suddenly (clearly inspired by my sheer bad-ass-ed-ness) they started yelling “Frak! Frak! Frak!” So I did what I thought any self-respecting wrestler would do and I climbed the ropes and pumped my fist in the air yelling, “Frak! Frak! Frak!” That’s when I had a real out of body moment, watching it all happen happen, almost as if in slow motion, seeing the absurdity, hearing my own disembodied voice, and yet being fully committed to the role and the experience.
I left that evening feeling fuller. Not because I had found my calling as a professional wrestler, or because I got people to cheer in my favor, but because I broke a barrier for myself. I challenged myself in an area I felt resistance, and not only developed an understanding of it, but embraced it. I felt closer to every wrestler and every wrestling fan in that room, and beyond. I felt my curiosity for other things kindled in the realization that avoidance only fuels the discomfort. If we really want to free ourselves from our fears and limited perspectives, if we really want to live in a world where people honor one another, instead of judging and criticizing, then we need to go where we don’t want to go. I can’t say if I’ll ever wrestle again, or if I even think it’s a particularly value-building form of entertainment, but I will say that I feel less afraid of it, less judgmental of the people who do it and adore it, and I feel more human as a result.
As you may have heard, I was at New York Comic-con this past weekend, but cosplaying and causing trouble wasn’t the only thing I got up to that day. I was also playing my new role as host of the Syfy web-series BlastrTV. My childhood dream of becoming an Mtv VJ mixed with my love of sci-fi fandom have collided into a super colossal awesome bomb, and the first episode is now live. It was so difficult to pack all the cool stuff into a 5 minute episode, but we tried. And of course there is a hefty dose of dorkiness injected on my behalf. Going forward our episodes will cover different facets and themes of the sci-fi and fantasy universe. I hope you tune in, and feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, likes, dislikes and all that fun stuff that will help us make the show better and better!
It’s been nearly five years since I last laid eyes on it, and yesterday, I had the unique opportunity to wear my BSG costume. Not a replica, not a spare, THE costume I wore on the show. It still carried the correct insignia and was covered in fake dirt, but it had the slight scent of something that had been sitting in a box for months. When I was approached with the idea of dressing up at New York Comic-con, I was thrilled and thought it would be a great gag. What I wasn’t prepared for was the landslide of thoughts and emotions that accompanied the simple act of putting on an outfit. At first it was surreal, seeing my name—Cally’s name—written on the tags of my tank tops, just like my neatly labeled gym clothes in elementary school. When I emerged from the ladies room in full garb, like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s clothes, I couldn’t help but feel a little exposed and out of place. Ironically, a sci-fi convention is the last place to not fit in playing a character from a show, but I knew I didn’t have the same intent as the cosplayers around me. So what was my intent? Initially, it was simple: have fun, interact with people at the convention, and play with whether people would recognize me or not. Within a few minutes of walking around, that objective was met with ease. I even got asked to do an interview about cosplay, which I gracefully declined.
For the show I’m hosting now (more on that later), we filmed a few shots of me getting into character. I saluted and stood stiffly at attention. The memories bubbled up like a hot spring, and along with those memories came a certain pride and recognition of what it meant to be wearing that uniform. It suddenly felt like so much more than just playing dress up. I was representing my character, who she is and was, and I was representing a whole show, a whole piece of history that has impacted people’s lives far and wide. Suddenly there was a certain sacredness and responsibility to wearing my “greens,” dog tags and all. Not one person (that I know of) recognized me as Cally. I was first addressed as Starbuck, which I quickly corrected. I was later complimented on my cosplay and high-fived by fellow BSG’ers.
I mean, I am the first one to admit my highlights and pixie cut provide quite a contrast to the worn fatigues, but I can’t say I wasn’t a little surprised. I haven’t changed THAT much! But the reactions of people when I told them I was actually Cally were priceless. I wish I could communicate the expression on people’s faces. In those moments, the walls that normally separate people seemed to crumble, and all that was left was an appreciation for a story that helped us all connect more deeply to what it means to be human. I might be biased, but I experience a solidarity amongst Battlestar fans, that perhaps extends to sci-fi in general, and is palpable in their desire to express their fandom. Whether it’s in words, in dress, in art, or collections, the Battlestar family is tried and true. Just ask Edward James Olmos, Richard Hatch, or anyone else from the show.
As human beings (even dressed as cylons or storm troopers), all we have are our experiences, and the meaning we ascribe to what matters to us. Wearing a dirty costume may not seem like much, but it presented me an opportunity to reflect on the importance of holding things sacred in my life. My experiences on Battlestar, and all the ones that have come as a result, are truly precious to me. They represent many things: a time of growth, challenge, success, failure, family, expression and introspection. And while I may not always realize it in the moment, my honoring of those things through material and immaterial representations, can be as important as the experiences themselves. I feel like I'm beginning to have an understanding of the appeal of cosplay, of dressing up like a character and learning to appreciate their world, even if it’s only in spirit. Because in the end, our spirit is what carries us through.
When I was younger, I used to think I had the best mom ever. She seemed to offer more than the other moms I'd seen on the market. She always caved to my requests for McDonald's and bought me Guess jeans when it really counted. Despite our relatively tiny living space, my friends always wanted to gather at our place, where we could watch TV, play games and heat up bagel bites at will. As I grew older, I realized I didn't have the best mom because she bought me stuff or let me do things. I realize now it's more about what she didn't do. She didn't try to control me or tell me how to be. She let me discover who I was, for better or for worse, she let me make my own mistakes and express myself in whatever way I saw fit... that day or week. I can only imagine how hard it is to let your child learn her own lessons, to find her own way, and be... different—especially when accompanied by healthy doses of adolescent arrogance. In honor of my mom's birthday (today), I made a short list of all the ways my mom was, and continues to be, an awesome mom, and for which I'm incredibly grateful. Happy birthday and thanks mom!!!
- she let me dye my hair whatever color I wanted, even if it meant getting green food coloring all over the bathroom sink and was immortalized in my 7th grade school photo
- she drove me to hockey practice at 6am before we both had full days of school ahead of us, and never complained, even though i did
- she let my brother and i listen to any music we wanted, even if it included lots of swearing, and muffled her guilt-ridden laughter when we screamed Prince's "you sexy mother fucker!!" out the car window
- she ordered me a whole thin crust cheese pizza every time i recovered from a migraine, which unfortunately happened a lot, and it became our little tradition, which i treasured
- she kept her nails just long enough so she could scratch my back before i went to sleep, but not so long that she looked like a diner waitress
- she'd tell the waiters at restaurants that i was vegetarian before i could even open my mouth, and then she'd apologize when i'd scold her for speaking for me
- she didn't rub it in my face when i went from plugging my ears and singing "la la la la" whenever she played Willie Nelson, to being a superfan
- she dropped off my bass guitar at my school every day i had band so i didn't have to carry it
- she didn't stop correcting my homework even though it nearly always ended in me crying and screaming, "but i want it that way!"
- she never embarrassed me (on purpose) and always respected my privacy
- she encouraged me to laugh—during moments of surprise, happiness, failure, fun, whenever... except in doctors' waiting rooms, that was a no no
- she trusted me to take the bus downtown by myself because she knew that having that freedom meant the world to me
- instead of punishing me for losing or breaking things, she let me feel the effects, like playing a Game Gear with sticky 7up-soaked buttons
- she took my friends and me to concerts because their parents wouldn't let them go otherwise, and she sat at the back while we moshed and crowd-surfed, and she always had a good time
- she worked full time and never said a word about it, even when we complained that we wanted to see her more
- when i was twelve, i asked her to rent me the movie Kids and when she brought it home she said the guy at the video store warned it wasn't age-appropriate, so to let her know if i had any questions
- she took me bra shopping even though i clearly didn't need one
- she let my brother and i hash it out, which i think eventually lead to us being best friends
There are so many things, and if I think about all the things I appreciate about her now, the list just keeps going, but I'm nearly positive I never thanked her when I was a kid, probably for anything.
This is my small way letting you know I noticed, and I still think you're the best—mother and friend!
(ps. I know she'll read this because she's also my biggest
stalker fan :))
I’ve been home for as many days as I was away, yet my trip to Houston for Galacticon III was like an eternity contained in a nanosecond. Seeing the cast of BSG again felt like sprinting into my dad’s outstretched arms after he came home from a business trip. Everything was different, yet nothing had changed. Friends have been asking me, “How was your trip?” Amazing, awesome, so much fun. But words really don’t really do it justice. It’s sort of like trying to explain to your parents why Nine Inch Nails getting back together is a big deal. Or, perhaps more universal, what it feels like to run into a familiar face in a foreign country—exciting, comforting and strangely surreal. I’m still smiling as moments flash like a 90’s music video in my mind. In a word, it was epic. Rather than gushing any further, here are the highlights in point form and no particular order:
- Sharing a stage with such an incredibly talented collection of people during the opening ceremonies
- Eddie introducing himself to strangers who recognize him as Carlos Santana
- Mary requesting Texas BBQ for dinner; everyone doing what Mary wants (d’uh!)
- Dancing into my panel with Luciana and Rekha to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” blasting through an amplifier carried by the Super Mario Bros.
- Dreaming up my super hero alter ego with Bob Layton
- Photo-bombing a huge group of BSG fans
- Sharing a car ride with director Ilana Rein and insta-hitting it off, then hitting up Whole Foods for healthy snacks
- Having a staring contest with the parrot from Pirates of the Caribbean
- Selling all my “Oh My Gods! They Killed Cally!!!” t-shirts except 2 and seeing people so excited to wear them
- Making “crabs” jokes for way longer than it was funny after Eddie ordered an inordinate amount of crabs for our table
- Learning about my castmates through the awesome questions asked at panels—from barbie collecting to alchemy and so much more
- Discussing womens’ roles in the military with a man who has actually fought on the front lines with women
- Hanging out with Noah Hathaway only to come home and realize he was Atreyu from the Never Ending Story (no big deal!!!)
- Dirk Benedict announcing I’m the daughter he never had
- Trying to order dinner at a Texas BBQ diner: “What’s holding up the line?” “Nicki’s trying to order.”
- Zipping around in a golf cart through the humid sidewalks of Houston
- Eddie telling the story of what it was like to film Portlandia
- Presenting the award to the kids costume contest winner: a miniature Athena carrying a baby Hera… then texting the picture to Grace (who loved it btw)
- Wading through a law school graduation ceremony going on at the conventions center... or was it a Harry Potter convention?
- Finally getting to hang out with Bear and confirming he’s my brother from another mother
- Having the most awesome assistant I’ve ever had ever—Shakira I would hire you in a heartbeat! But I wouldn’t want to take you away from your Faulkner ;)
- Hazing the Caprica cast… KIDDING!!!
- Attempting to take Kate to a vegan restaurant and ending up in a shady part of town, her refusing to get out of the car
- Making Vine videos on the hotel shuttle with Luciana
- Remembering how funny Trucco is and that he should have his own comedy show
- Getting an email from Rekha about her 6:30 am ride to the airport on Monday morning on a party bus... with a stripper pole... with pictures!
- Feeling all the love from the fans. Honestly, truly, you have no idea what it means for us to share this with you. Thank you!
If you have any highlights to share, I’d love to hear them!
Sometimes searching for an answer is all you have to stop, in order to find one. Sometimes letting go is the only way to have what you really want. Sometimes cliches are true, sometimes they’re cheesy, often they’re both. But words aren’t nearly as powerful as the moments that breed them. The silence between breaths that catches the glint off a soda can on the side of the highway. The light that multiplies as the world sets behind a water glass. I’m not sure if anything really ever changes, but I’m sure nothing ever stays the same. I often find myself comparing the present to the past, or rather an idea in my head I call the past, a fabrication of my current state in colors and shapes. My future self shakes her head, fighting for predictability, crying for vulnerability. Symbiotically, there’s solace in the word, comfort in being heard, freedom in every step toward a brighter unknown.
one of my favorite things about music is how it can transport you to a time + place in no seconds flat. as i've been reflecting on the last year, i've naturally been digging into some of my old playlists. here are some of the songs that kept me company in 2012... my dear friend caspar made me a wonderful playlist for my birthday last year. he truly makes an art of it, meticulous + thoughtful. and because i couldn't figure out the settings on my new smartphone, i ended up strolling the grey streets of vancouver with this song on repeat. it was absolutely perfect. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/6dPIK9Qe7K4?fs=1" vars="ytid=6dPIK9Qe7K4&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1539" /]
though this album is a few years old, i discovered 'the xx' last year and fell in love. their minimal and melodious sounds mixed with some sweet synth riffs are perfect for reading, or writing too. just the right amount of ambience and familiarity to drift off, but enough emotion to engage if you're in the mood. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/UfTfHTUUee4?fs=1" vars="ytid=UfTfHTUUee4&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1120" /]
i can't remember where i first heard this song, but it was way before you could hear it on the radio every five minutes. luckily, it holds its grace and i still can't help but smile + crank up the volume when it's on. i'm really looking forward from these guys. #icelandrocks
[embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/ghb6eDopW8I?fs=1" vars="ytid=ghb6eDopW8I&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep8436" /]
it was an unlikely match when i first met this goth band from virginia. they were headlining a sci-fi convention i was a guest at and my first introduction was an acoustic version of 'earth angel' (during which they clearly courted richard hatch, not me). but once i got to know them, i decided to give them a chance and was completely blown away by their compelling harmonies, dark and emotional lyrics, and just all-round awesome sound. i literally cried when i first heard this song, and i still get chills when andy hits some of those low notes. beautiful stuff. (he also has a solo project called 'the rain within' + another great act as 'brighter fires.')
[embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/sGc7dIjMAb8?fs=1" vars="ytid=sGc7dIjMAb8&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep3118" /]
and now for something completely different. i decided to take hip hop classes last year (something i've done on and off over the years), but this time we actually had a performance at the end of it. oh i'm sorry, a "recital." it was so great, especially since we were followed by clumsy little girls in sequined tutus. probably better that they were backstage for this one anyway ;) but this song remains close to my heart for [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/4JipHEz53sU?fs=1" vars="ytid=4JipHEz53sU&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep8977" /]
getting back on track, here's a little throwback to the nineties. i had the good fortune to attend a screening of a documentary about the drummer from Hole (among other cool bands as well), and after the screening and the q & a, all the members sans Courtney Love got up and played a few songs. it was epic. one of the songs was sebadoh's 'brand new love' and i quickly became re-obsessed with it. i literally made a playlist with as many covers as i could find. here's the original, but the deadsy version is also pretty deadly. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/WUA9fF8RYDI?fs=1" vars="ytid=WUA9fF8RYDI&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep5531" /]
this song is fairly recent, but it totally blew me away when i heard it. i love the way it builds and the sheer drama of it. it's also great for running because it has a steady tempo and crescendos in a beautiful, ethereal way that makes you feel like you're in the middle of your own movie. [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ek0SgwWmF9w?fs=1" vars="ytid=Ek0SgwWmF9w&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep7185" /]
another newer track that continues to haunt me. i just love her voice, something about it sounds other worldly. [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/UznHTBZIa8E?fs=1" vars="ytid=UznHTBZIa8E&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1308" /]
there are so many more, but i don't want to ramble. to close out, here's a beautiful number by first aid kit that's apropos for the occasion. it also happens to have accompanied me on several late, contemplative nights. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/PiZ1sMkspJQ?fs=1" vars="ytid=PiZ1sMkspJQ&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep3641" /]
thanks for listening and hope you enjoyed the assortment of tunes. feel free to share yours + may 2013 be filled with a bestselling soundtrack of your own!
Today I flew home from being home. I know, it’s confusing sometimes. Home is where the heart is. Make yourself at home. Home, Sweet, Home. Home is whenever I’m with you. Such a simple, benign, yet loaded word. When I was young, it was common sense that home was the house where I lived—it was the place where my mom tucked me in at night, where I spent sick days watching tv on the couch, where my friends would come over to play, and where there was an infinite supply of toilet paper and Alpha-Bits cereal. Now, it’s not so simple. On nights when I explain where I’m going after a movie, it may mean the place I sleep and keep my stuff, but when I’m asked if I’m going home for Christmas, or “Where’s home?” it’s not so black or white. Today I walked through the Chicago airport, my flight delayed and running on empty, and felt this strange feeling, the kind that occurs when you mix black and white together, turning it into an unidentifiable shade of grey. I felt sad to be leaving home, but at the same time excited to be going home. My awareness sparked another color to enter the mix, a bright and joyful color. I realized that whether I’m in one city or another, one house or another, with family or not, the only consistent thing is me. If it’s familiarity that matters, then certainly the Chicago airport should feel more like home than some of the places I’ve lived, but I really don’t think “home” is a place in the traditional sense. It’s a state of being. It’s a feeling of comfort, of presence, and a complete acceptance of where you are in that moment in time—literally and figuratively.
In the end, it’s much less work to focus on building your internal home than trying to control everything outside, travel long distances, or buy lots of material things, just to get that feeling. Certainly places can inspire nostalgia or make living more comfortable, but if we practice being present and excited about where we are, then why can’t the whole world feel like home? Instead of setting a resolution that’s based on getting a result this year, I’m going to start building the biggest home in the world—so big it encompasses the entire planet (and maybe beyond!), yet is entirely invisible. A home where every person on Earth is welcome, and no room is off limits. A home where the only keys I need are an open mind and an open heart, and an open-door policy for new experiences. That way I’ll never have to worry about whether I’m leaving home or coming home, but simply being.
It was the last shot of the day. We’d been shooting for hours already and were finally turning around to get coverage of my two lines. The words had all but crumbled in my mind, the result of repetition had drained all weight and meaning. It was like running with a backpack to catch a train, arriving, breathless, only to find the contents had escaped, leaving behind an empty, gaping (laughing?) mouth. All the preparation I’d done was inaccessible to me now, I could only trust my instincts, and the momentum of the moving train. I mustered what energy I had, trying not to squint into the newly positioned lights. There were thoughts, when did I eat last? Did I turn my phone off? And action! Cut. I didn’t make any mistakes or mumble my words, but it was far from brilliant. That fist clenching expression that says, “I nailed it!” was a distant echo from some other movie set. The director came over, and after a brief moment of intense contemplation, he said plainly, “We need more Nicki. That’s why you’re here.” I nodded before he had time to finish. Yes, of course, story of my life. “Just be yourself!” “Oh, that’s so you!” “You’d be so perfect for that role.” But what does that even mean? Can someone please spill the beans because it appears to be obvious to everyone but me? Then I chuckled. In actuality, I am the only one who really knows. I’m the only one alone with my thoughts; with my feelings, my fears, my desires, and my memories—true or untrue. All others see are the sparks—the friction between my soul and my smile, dampened only by the shackles of my yearning to be accepted and understood. But within that desire for identity, within the search for self, is the key to better understanding and experiencing this “me” everyone keeps talking about. So while I really had no idea what the director’s vision was, nor the quality of Nicki-ness he was hoping for, I brushed aside the fear and the judgement and did what I do best: absolutely nothing. I just watched myself experience the moment, with no expectation and no fucking idea what was going to happen. Oh, and… I nailed it.
I was surrounded. Freckle-faced, fidgety and uncomfortable in their frilly dresses, they stared with the focus of a predator before attack. I smiled cautiously and sighed in appropriate measure. And for a few seconds, I stared right back, after a not-so-subtle nod from my mother, and said “thank you.” And giggled. When I was a kid, I really didn’t like getting presents. Not because of some innate monk-like tendencies leading me to renounce the world and its material offerings. No, I loved getting shit! Who doesn’t love getting shit? To my still-forming kid brain it meant I was loved and special and deserving of all the wonderful goodies the modern world has to offer. I was just like any other first world brat in that way. But I also happened to be very picky and, let’s say, “specific” about what I liked. My mom might call that an understatement, but she’s not writing this. To the untrained eye (any grown-up), the line between what was cool and acceptable and what was a severe threat to my miniature self-image was a fine one—one oft misunderstood or just flat-out disregarded by others. But that’s not the problem per se. In fact, think it’s very good to know what you like.
The problem was being taught that in order to be “good,” one had to be polite, appreciative, grateful, nice. Okay, still not that big of a deal. I was a really sweet kid despite my temper tantrums when the peas touched the creamed corn. The problem was *drum roll please* that I was also taught to be honest. What? Who? How? Ah! I would say 80% of the gifts I got from other kids (ie. their parents) and relatives (sorry) were total bullshit. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t grateful. I really did appreciate the gesture and I really, really wanted to like them. But what can I say? I wasn’t into Barbies or books about babysitters. And yes, I liked socks, but they had to be the slouchy kind, and bonus points for neon. Parents don’t realize how important these distinctions are. They can mean the difference between being able to trade fruit roll-ups at lunch and having the sticky wrapper of one stuck to the side of your frizzy bangs.
Life is just less fun being not cool, so why make it harder on yourself? But I digress. I knew what I liked. I knew what I thought was “cool.” And when someone gave me a gift that didn’t fit the bill, I had a major existential crisis. Wow, you must be thinking, way to be dramatic about something that’s not that big of a deal. Just smile, say thanks, and give it to your cousin on her next birthday. And yes, that would make sense, but I just wasn’t that kind of kid. I took things very seriously. I took them to heart. I felt both hurt by people’s inability to see that I had my own unique wants and desires, and paralyzed by my inability to be honest with people and say, “Well, while I don’t like your gift, it’s okay, because I still love you as a person and very much the time and effort you put into buying it.” (By the way, my eight-year-old self speaks like an after-school-special pep talk, always.)
So now that we’ve established I was an intense kid who spent too much time worrying and not enough time getting play-dough under her fingernails, I want to switch gears a little bit. I was contemplating the act of giving the other day as I unwrapped a gift that ignited a similar slightly minor ethical dilemma. Without going into details, it was simply a product I wouldn’t buy for ethical reasons. But as I thought more about the nature of giving, I realized that receiving a gift is SO not about me at all. Giving is about the “giving” (duh). I had had it all backwards. As kids (and grown-ups) often do, I thought it was all about me, and like some sort of circus monkey, I was meant to perform the appropriate “gift-getting” ritual so as to please my humble subjects. But the reality is they already got their show. They got it through the whole process of thinking about the gift, buying or making the gift, imagining how great it is and how the person will love it. At the end of the day, if the person happens to love it, it’s just icing on the cake. The actual handing over of the gift is the final putt two inches from the hole; the joy is playing the game.
I was really nervous to go see her in the hospital. Even though we’d shared so much, spent whole summers at each others' houses, riding our low-rider bikes around town, co-ordinating our outfits, and playing Super Mario Bros on bean bag chairs that spilled their styrofoam guts everywhere. We had gradually grown apart in high school. I resented her unsubtle attempts at fitting in with the “popular” girls. I wasn’t willing to be, what I perceived as, humiliated the way she was. Even if I did want them to like me, I would never have admitted it. She changed the way she dressed, started listening to different music, drinking a lot, and even obeyed their juvenile orders when they said she had to walk 10 feet behind them. I wasn’t sure who I hated more: them for doing it, or her for letting them. Either way, even though she started to hang around with them more and abandoned her social status as a “skater” (a label I’m still not sure I’ve outgrown), I maintained the feeling that she was my friend more than anyone else’s. Maybe because she was my friend first, or maybe because I felt like they didn’t understand her the way I did, or maybe because I just wanted it to be that way. Yet when I visited her in the hospital, I felt like I was visiting a stranger. Words abandoned the part of me that speaks them.
She sat propped up in her bed. A television mumbled from high up in a corner. I remember it being bright, she could see out into the world, but not truly be in it. I can only assume she spent months in that bed, as that’s how long she was gone from school, nearly a year. I remember the fact that her toilet had a bucket in it to catch whatever went in it because she wasn’t trusted to use it responsibly. They measured and regulated everything that went inside and everything that went out. I never asked her what that was like. I never asked her why she did it, or what she was afraid of. I probably just talked about things that were going on at school and asked her about the other girls on her floor. Talking about other people is always easier than talking about oneself, especially when the truth is uncomfortable. But the thing I regret the most is not telling her how much I missed her.
I began to miss her even before went into the hospital. I missed her when she started acting differently, losing weight and dramatically giving away all her food at school. She wasn’t the girl who had tried to drink milk through her eyeball or left fart bombs on my pillow. She wasn’t the friend who would skateboard with me for hours before going inside to eat white bread cucumber sandwiches. She wasn’t the person who did a wicked imitation of her Scottish dad: “Go shite up a trrree ya wee harry!” She was different. She wasn’t just losing weight, she was losing herself, and I was losing a friend.
I didn’t know it then, but I wasn’t a very good friend to her. I didn’t tell her how I felt, I just pretended I didn’t care. Pretending not to care is so much easier than feeling the pain, the loss, the heartbreak, but it limits your ability to love. Thinking back, I realize it was my own petty fears that got in the way of being there for her. For the same reason she stopped eating, I stopped expressing how I felt. What would people think? Will I be rejected? Will they think I’m weird? Get mad? That age comes with a bag of insecurities, and I let mine weigh me down.
It’s incredible to think about how much time we spend creating fears about these things, rather than sharing ourselves with the people we care about most. Or most importantly, just experiencing ourselves, in all our beautiful quirks and imperfections. I may never know what that year was like for my fifteen-year-old friend in the hospital, nor the years that followed when she went to new school and started a whole new life for herself, but I do know that I want to be the type of person who thinks about it. And cares.
Receiving a message from a friend saying, “This article made me think of you!” can be a slightly unnerving experience--at least until you find out what it’s about. Sure, they say it’s the thought that counts, but articles include everything from how to diagnose that pesky rash to in depth analyses of psychopaths. I would hope anyone sending an article with such pretense would be mindful of the implications woven within, but you just never know. Have you ever been having a conversation about liars and blurted suddenly, “Oh by the way, how is so-and-so?” Ooops! Let’s hope they didn’t catch the linear trajectory of that one! Anyway, I digress. Just a little dose of Nicki neuroses (nickoses?) before I share this article my friend sent this morning (that reminded her of me). Quite honestly, it’s nothing new, and I’ve even read articles who articulate it more eloquently, but there’s a certain frankness, like it’s coming from a successful relative who sits you down and says, “Look kid, all you gotta do is this. Stop making it so hard for yourself.” And I appreciate that. Hope you do too!
I particularly like this quote, “As Douglas Pagels wrote, ‘Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.’”
When I lived in LA, I went out with a guy who played college baseball and took me to the batting cages on one of our first dates. Since I grew up playing sports, one of them being softball, I was pretty confident in my ability to hit the round thing with the stick thing, but I quickly realized I was in for more than wasting a couple quarters. First we picked up our baseball bats. Yes, baseball. Then proceeded directly to the cage that read 90mph displayed like the address of that one spooky house on halloween: Enter at own risk. He was adamant that with the right instruction (his), I could easily hop into stance beside the plate and knock ‘em out of the park. Not one to step down from a challenge, I went along with the little experiment with a combination of curiosity, excitement and a healthy dose of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’
We started by just watching the ball. He taught me how to split my focus, watching the ball travel in three parts, slowing it with my mind like a jedi. I stood directly behind the strike zone as stalky testosterone-charged athletes swung at (and often missed) their speeding target. My boyfriend talked to me like a dad coaching his adolescent son, but it was early in the relationship, so I could still find those things endearing. Ever the eager student, I listened and focused. I watched the ball. Once I mastered following it in 3 still frames, it came down to two. Then he taught me how to swing and hold the bat and I was ready to enter the cage. Slightly trepidatious, I was also excited. I waited on deck as he went to bat first (to show me how it was done) and he did pretty well. For every one he missed, he muttered some excuse and what he needed to adjust.
So I walked in with my converse, yanked up my skinny jeans, and tapped the edge of the plate like I’d seen in the movies. He put the token in for me so I could be ready and the machine began to hum and rumble. The little light appeared and I reminded myself to breathe. The first pitch whizzed by and I barely even swung. It was low anyway, or at least that’s what he said. I practiced my swing and quickly got back into position. Lean back, elbow up, he said. I obeyed despite how awkward it felt. Another pitch came flying out and before I could even register what I was doing, I heard the crack of the bat making contact. Fuck! It felt so good! I quickly learned that if you hit it in just the right place, you don’t even have to swing too fast. I also learned that if you hit it slightly off, you can zing your hands nearly right off your wrists. The impulse to hold the bat tightly makes it even worse, so I followed his counter-intuitive advice and loosened my grip, lifted my elbow and kept my eye on the ball.
The batting cages became a regular thing for us. The people who worked there gave us knowing nods when we arrived and we bought a booklet for tokens that saved us money over time. We even kept batting gloves in the (hehe) glove compartment. I have to admit, beyond the self-satisfaction of being good at something, I sure got a kick out of waltzing in there in my jeans and sneakers, ignoring warnings from baseball burnouts and dudes with their own bats. It got to a point where I could hit every single pitch and sometimes I wouldn’t leave until I got a perfect round.
This morning I went to the local batting cages near my house. It was a beautiful day, I was on my way to the gym, but there’s just something about the energy and focus required to hit the round thing with the stick thing that is very grounding and invigorating. It’s almost like yoga in that it gets you out of your head, forces you to breathe and helps your body release pent up tension. I only did a couple rounds and I didn’t hit every ball, but I hit enough that I had a big-ass grin on my face for most of it. That sound. The perfect connection. There’s nothing quite like it. And all the the times you swing at the air, nearly spin yourself right around, or only catch a stitch of the ball, make that hit that flies past the imaginary short stop’s head that much sweeter.
I was feeling inexplicably joyful as I walked to my seat down my first flight’s narrow aisle, trying to make eye contact with as many people as possible. Call it a habit, a good deed, an impulse, when I’m in a good mood, I like to share it. But before I reached my seat, something caught my attention. There was a person a few rows ahead pulling at her cuffs, fixing her bracelet, shrugging her sweater into place and brushing her hair back just like my friend Esther. Her yellow hair was so similar, and yet I had said goodbye to her the night before with full knowledge that she was leaving on an early flight the next morning and I wouldn’t see her again until the middle of next week. Yet the resemblance was uncanny. I waited. Hoped. And when she looked up and I saw it was her, a rush of excitement charged through my body. An EEG machine probably would have registered Christmas I was so excited! I felt like I had the funniest joke to tell and lacked the patience or self-control to spit it out in any articulate manner. I yelled her name and awaited her shock and excitement. It was there, but nowhere near mine. But then, I actually said, out loud, in front of a plane full of bored and indifferent passengers, “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me!” As the words formed and eventually made their way through my vocal chords and out my mouth, even before I uttered the first sound, I was well aware that this was not, in fact, the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not really even close. But I decided to go with it because, quite honestly, who’s counting? In that moment, in a crowded airplane aisle full of strangers and reluctant travellers anticipating an uneventful and lonely journey, seeing the smiling face of one of my favorite people was the best!
I can’t help but think that in the end, all moments can be this awesome. Why judge and compare, or create hierarchies of awesomeness? All we have and all we know is what is happening right now, so why not let this very moment be the greatest thing that’s ever happened? Seriously, reading this, right now, is the greatest! Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Just enjoy it, no one else cares. So go high-five yourself and have an awesome day!Editor's note: my friend slept the entire way and we barely talked on the other end, but I'm still smiling about it.
Today I decided to squeeze in a yoga class after having lunch with a friend across town. I’d only been to this particular place once before, so I wasn’t really familiar with the facilities, the sign-in process, where you put your shoes ’n shit. I was a little disoriented to find all the rooms empty, but I was still a little early, so decided to get changed and await further instruction. While I was changing, I heard someone else come in who seemed to be greeted by a voice with a hint of authority. I felt reassured, but when I came out, there was no responsible party to be found. The woman who had just arrived, also there for her second class, kindly showed me the ropes as she had just learned them, and I continued to wait around awkwardly reading the bulletins on the walls. Five minutes after the class was supposed to start, there was still only one other woman there, which made three of us. By ten after, I went and knocked on the door at the very end of the hall. Apparently there was some sort of teacher training going on. My knock was received with an abrupt, “WHAT!” Then a laughter-infused, “Come in.” They glare-smiled at me as I opened the door, jokingly upset about the interruption. I’m never quite sure how to take gestures like this because it feels more like a weak attempt to cover up real pissed off-edness with lame sarcasm than any sort of actual joke, but—I digress. A woman came out to help, but only succeeded in confirming the uncertainty of the situation by checking the website (why didn't we think of that? oh wait, we did. thanks) and calling the owner (who had no knowledge of a cancellation).
Fifteen minutes after the class was supposed to start, one woman decided to call it a Sunday, but the other lady and I looked down at our bare feet and figured, when in tights, stretch! So we plopped down our mats and proceeded to breathe deeply and crack our bones. I told her about this cool yoga website I’d been using to practice at home. Quicker than I could say downward facing dog, she had pulled up a video and placed her iPhone between us saying, “Do you mind?” By this point, there was really no decision to be made. I had untied the ropes, placed my foot firmly on the dock and set the boat in motion. Besides, the experience was worth far more than any story of somewhere more productive I could be. Not to mention the pattern completion of actually squeezing in some yoga.
So that’s what we did. In a big empty room with shiny hardwood floors, Indian fabrics lining the walls and statues of goddesses as our audience, we did our yoga practice bowing to a leopard print iPhone (we kicked it over for the standing poses). We also got to know each other a bit and even came up with the genius premise for a comedy where two women get locked in a yoga studio overnight with nothing but yoga props and an iPhone to pass the time. Actually, now that I say that out loud, it sounds a bit different, but I’ll leave that to your own conscience.
I wanted to share because I love little experiences like this. Ones that can so easily be overlooked or passed by, like throwing out an important letter in a pile of bills. I could have decided to go home when the teacher didn’t show without hesitation, but when I came to that fork in the road, for some reason I chose the uncertain path over the familiar one. You never know what’s going to happen, but that’s the beauty of it. You might solve a problem, you may even create a new one; you might make a new friend, or quite possibly an enemy; but in the very least, you will likely end up with a funny story to tell. And that's always worth it.
I watched a film last night that left a deep impression on me. Not only due to the dark and challenging content, but because of something kind of funny that happened while watching it. I went over to a friend’s house, snuggled up with a blanket in front of her high-definition tv, and felt the typical anticipation I feel before I watch a critically acclaimed movie with a-list stars and a difficult premise. I knew We Need to Talk About Kevin was somewhat of an indie flick, but when we started watching it, the “indie-ness” became wildly distracting. As the movie progressed, it continued to feel like someone’s home movie of a community theater production. My enthusiasm turned to disappointment, but more than anything I was confused. I genuinely wanted it to be good and had heard good things, so it didn’t make sense that it would have such poor production quality, especially with technology these days. I even tried, and failed, to reason how the poor quality could be an artistic choice. So despite my initial optimism, the drama, sadly, kept falling flat. In my mind, and also out loud, I criticized the cinematographer, questioned the director, and furrowed my brow in disbelief. I was frustrated that a movie with so much potential, from the concept to the characters to the actors, would cut corners like that. That is, until another friend came over and, upon hearing our commentary and watching us shake our heads, started googling tv settings and resolution. He hypothesized the quality had to do with the different ratio of what the movie was filmed on and the tv settings... or something! He changed some settings as I looked on skeptically (but hopefully). Lo and behold, the color changed to a cool, almost washed out and stylized blue-ish tone, much more polished looking and fitting for the theme. The movie suddenly transformed from a daytime soap opera to something I might actually see in an art house movie theatre.
Still, something about it felt like a first year film school project (no offence film students!). We watched for a little longer and just when we were about three quarters of the way through, my friend made another breakthrough in his research. He had another hypothesis and, despite his uncertainty, I encouraged him to experiment... just to see. (Truth be told, I desperately wanted it to be better. While the others had given up and filed it under weird, I still had hope.) Again, he searched through the controls and finally found one that adjusted the picture speed and turned some fancy function off. Sorry I can’t report any of the technical details. All I can tell you is that with a flick of the menu’s back button, it became a whole different film.
Suddenly, I was emotionally engaged. The music gave me goosebumps. Tilda Swinton’s gaze became captivating. I could see deep into the characters’ souls. And the film developed a dramatic weight that felt like I’d just been thrown a bowling ball. Firstly, I was excited. As I said, I really wanted it to be good and I couldn’t explain why it wasn’t.
But what is even more profound to me is how seemingly simple and “inconsequential” effects can drastically change a film’s quality and potency. To be specific, the speed and the filter changed my whole experience. I finished the film feeling satisfied and moved by the performances. That’s when my mind began to expand on this epiphany. If you look at your life as a film, your surroundings a set in which the drama of your existence is played out, the filters through which we see the world and the pace at which we move through it are incredibly important. They can dramatically change our experience of our selves and our lives - positively and negatively.
Have you ever been in a state where you felt completely on track? As if everything around you was happening on cue and you were standing exactly on your mark? Sometimes I feel this way waiting for a subway train or brushing my teeth; other times, it’s at an amazing concert or lying in shavasana at yoga. The reality is, the time and place is irrelevant. It’s my own internal settings that allow me to experience any moment exactly as it is: perfect. It was a good reminder that next time I’m feeling dissatisfied or critical, rather than blaming or trying to figure out why, all I have to do is mess around with my internal settings. After all, finding the right hue, the right speed and just the right emotional soundtrack can completely change the way you “talk about Kevin.”
"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor E. Frankl
Hearing the news of Adam Yauch’s death hit me in an unexpected way today. Seeing a facebook post that read “RIP MCA” led me to investigate and sure enough the twitter and tumblr-sphere were alive with RIP’s and condolences. I would say my fan cred lies in that grey area between die-hard and clueless, probably just like most people within my age demographic. I know all their hits and most serve as anthems for one life phase or other. The Beasties were a staple of suburban teenage-dom and discovering them was a rite of passage for any white kid trying to make amends with their rebellious streak. I remember thinking the music video for “Sabotage” was brilliant because it was a music video but it also pretended to look like a movie (how clever!), and it was campy, self-aware and bad-ass. I think that was the first video my friends and I recreated once we got our grubby little hands on a video camera, donning hipster moustaches before they were a thing. Anyway, having one of your adolescent idols pass away is inevitable and not all that uncommon. I remember the day Kurt Cobain died. I cried, and for months was scribbling “K.C.R.I.P.” on all my notebooks. The sadness and disillusionment with life came with the teenaged territory and we wallowed in our esteemed rockstars’ woes. Meanwhile we saved our lunch money for concert tickets and used our creative energy to make fashion statements out of safety pins and try not to care too much when our purple hair dye washed out and made it look grey.
So what does this have to do with the Beastie Boys and Adam Yauch’s death? The Beasties were different. They were positive and empowered. They were smart and worldly. Admittedly they had their misguided attempts in the world of role-model-dom, but they weren’t famous for their struggles. They were famous for being fucking rad, knowing how to party and having sick rhymes. And just like they didn’t live for their struggles, Adam didn’t die by his. He died from something that can happen to any of us. He died from something that happens to distant relatives and friends from high school’s parents. Or our heroes.
Obviously I’m not the same age as Adam, but sometimes sharing an imagined identity forms a much stronger connection than how long you’ve been alive. I can relate way more with the Beasties and their frame of mind than I can with a lot of people who share my graduation date or who watched the same after-school specials. I feel deeply saddened by his death. I feel humbled by the reality that no amount of external anything - fame, fortune, friendship or fly beats - can keep us from the inevitable. Adam’s death is a reminder of that; that thing we all know, but conveniently avoid as we put things off or fail to tell our fellow humans we love them. I hope he was able to be with the people he loved during his final days, and reflected on his life believing he’d done alright. I truly believe we all do our best, but allowing ourselves to embrace that truth can be the hardest of all. In the end, we all just gotta fight… for our right… well, you know. Peace and love in the next world Adam.