Monday, May 31, 2010

Gratitude for the Brave

This is my father as a young boy in South Dakota. He was, and is, fiercely patriotic - never discussed during my childhood but implicitly inferred.

Our family explored America in a motorhome called The Voyager. On the back window was just one sticker with an illustration of the American flag and a brief statement: 'Love It Or Leave It.' It made sense to me then, as it does today, which is why I live here.

My father grew up to be a dedicated Navy man, dismantling underwater mines and specializing in explosives. He has often said, "The Navy made a MAN outta me." It also made him the world's tidiest bed maker.

A few years ago, Dad was visiting me here in Denver and I took him to The Fort, a very special place in Morrison. More than just a fancy restaurant, it is also the home of the Tesoro Culture Center, which celebrates Western culture and traditions by keeping them alive in the present day.

As we ate our amazing meal of buffalo and elk chop, an older gentleman employed by The Fort wandered through the restaurant playing an Indian flute, which provided the ideal soundtrack for such a place. The musician came by our table and he and my Dad got to talking. Turns out, they had both served in the Korean War. (The man was in the Army.)

Now, intellectually I had known this, but Dad had never really discussed it with me on an emotional level. As true to his generation, he was very stoic and matter-of-fact about such matters. He did his duty and what's done is done - period.

But suddenly, is in his conversation with this man, I watched my father soften on the topic and he was sharing things I had never heard before. In witnessing the exchange, I kept quiet as a mouse. And then, the musician said to my father:

"I'm going to play something now - I don't play it very often because it makes me sad - but it's a grieving song the Lakota play for fallen warriors. I'm going to play it in honor of our brothers who died in Korea."

His flute suddenly took on a haunting tone quite different from the lighter songs he'd been playing around the restaurant. I couldn't help but note the significance of choosing a song from the Lakota tribe as they are primarily from the Black Hills of South Dakota where my father was born. His grandfather, Adam, even spoke some Lakota.

As the man played, I thought I saw some moisture around his eyes, which were closed, but it was nothing compared to my father, who was openly weeping. Clearly, he'd been carrying that special grief for his fallen brothers around inside him but rarely let it surface.

As the song concluded, my father thanked the man, who said, "No, thank YOU, brother." They shook hands roughly, a bit longer than normal, and the musician went back to his strolling.

My father wiped his face dry with the linen napkin and seemed overwhelmed by his sudden emotion. "Sorry, honey, I just ...don't .... I don't know, I wasn't expecting..." I assured him it was a perfectly natural reaction to such an emotional song and we returned to our dinner.  He talked about other things but every once in awhile, he'd get quiet and shake his head, still in disbelief over what to him was a public outburst.

On the drive home, he blurted: "I'm so embarrassed. I don't normally cry like that in public." (I'd only seen him cry once before, when I was 12 and and he told me that he and my mother were divorcing.) I spent the rest of drive home assuring him that, for gosh sakes, I am his daughter and if you can't cry in front of family than where? (Well, if you're me, than the answer would be anywhere and everywhere.)

He was mostly surprised that he still felt that strongly and deeply about the men he'd served with, what they had fought for and the bond that had formed. "I just haven't thought about them in years," he said, "And yet, when he was playing, it was .... like it was yesterday."


Today is for the honorable fallen, and all the tears - expected and unexpected - that carry them down the river.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Slimming Down...Musically

In an effort to reduce the ridiculous amount of CDs in my possession, I recently came up with a system. Grab 5 CDs a day from my carefully alphabetized arrangement and burn them all into iTunes. Then, extract one for The Box, slated for parts unknown. My collection has now been reduced by one-fifth ... victory!

I took a load yesterday to SecondSpin, a nearby music story that buys/sell CDs, DVDs, albums, whatever ya got. Of the 30+ CDs I brought, they only bought 12. Hmph. If I want this kind of snobbery rejection, I'll go to Buffalo Exhange, thanksverymuch!

Anyhoo, I ultimately opted for store credit instead of cash ('cause you get more $$ and I'm a greedy junkie for more music) and walked away with a 3-disc set: "Led Zeppelin: Remasters" - HELL YES. I'm trying to fill in the embarrassing gaps in my music collection with contains plenty of obscure genuises but lacks some key classics, including Rolling Stones and Beatles. I know, I know - I don't know how it happened either.

Hanging with the girls last night at Angela's new pad, I presented my rejects, which seems so quaint now in a digitized world. To my great delight, each girl walked away with a musical treat. Angela got some Stevie Ray Vaughan ("The Sky is Crying"), Carley got a bootleg copy of a live performance of Stevie Ray Vaughan with Buddy Guy and Amy ended up with Red Hot Chili Peppers classic, "What Hits?!?"

Nice to have the music live on. Now, what should I do with all these cassettes?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coco Rocks the House

I'm a tad tardy in offering this review although it's never too late to state emphatically that Conan O'Brien is an American treasure. Reid won a couple of tix to catch his official 'Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour', which stopped in Denver a few weeks ago.

Of all the American job losses that occurred in the last year, Coco's has to be the most public. That nasty tangle with NBC that pushed him out of his dream job on The Tonight Show left a bad taste in my mouth. I've always liked Jay Leno (even met him twice) but I won't watch the show anymore as long as he is hosting. Talk about a dick move, unbelievable.

So, Conan took his comedy to the only place where it is still (temporarily) legal to do so - the stage. He brought his full brass band (sans Max Weinberg), sidekick Andy Richter and a bunch of other characters we've come to know and love.

Not only was the two-hour show incredibly tight and funny but Team Coco bent over backwards to localize the performance, something I'm sure they are doing at each one of the 30 stops. They shot some crappy commercial for Pete's Kitchen, a local diner that serves bad food to grateful drunk people. Conan also complained loudly about the giant blue horse that greeted him at DIA - a source of much local controversy.

Conan's open wound from his loss of the most coveted job in comedy (sorry, kids, it's not the money) makes for ideal comedic fodder. We watched a hilarious video of Conan the days that followed the controvesy with a full beard, on the floor - surrounded by pizza boxes and beer bottles. A child comes up and sniffs him: "Mommy! Daddy smells like pee!" Then, a giant red rotary phone rings and Conan answers: "Go on tour? Sure!" He rips off the beard and the fat suit, gets on the treadmill and begins his tour training. All for us!

The deal that was ultimately struck with NBC literally prohibits (for a time) Conan from performing comedy on television, radio or the Internet. The only thing he had left was Twitter (he follows just one person, a girl named Sarah he chose at random). Anyway, he spent ZERO money on advertising/marketing to announce the tour. Instead, he sent out one tweet that directed people to his site to buy tix and that was it. Here it is:
"Hey Internet: I'm headed to your town on a half-assed comedy and music tour. I repeat: It's half-assed."
The show was fantastic - not a bit of fat on it. Half comedy, half music, some stand-up performances and a lovely unannounced drop in from The Fray! There were even giant beach balls made to look like Conan thrown into the crowd. One of my favorite lines, "You guys are so smug about your altitude here..."Mr. O'Brien, we've got oxygen back here if you need it.' I DON'T NEED THE OXYGEN TANK, THANKS."

It's so true! 

The opening act was Reggie Watts, probably one of the most unusual performers I have ever seen. His afro is MASSIVE. Seriously. The whole show - and for several days after - Reid kept saying, "I want that hair. I want that hair." Reggie does improvisational comedy with hip-hop and when he began, I couldn't even understand him. By the time he left the stage, I was on my feet, cheering him. Reggie was so brilliant, so unique. He is definitely not your run-of-the-mill comedian which makes him the perfect mind-bending opener for Conan's tour.

Best of all, our brains were buzzing for days. I think Conan being released from network television is the best thing that could have happened to him. When he came onstage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the audience roared their support. "Wow, Denver! You are LOUD," he said. (Of course, he'd played to Boulder the previous night, where everyone was stoned and subdued.) Denver gave him some big love and he gave it right back.

Best of luck to Conan and Friends. I expect serious comedic success at TBS.

(Top Image Credit: The very brilliant Sir Mike of Mitchell. Not sure about the horse but the bottom is from my iPhone.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Unnecessary Discontent

Please enjoy this most hilarious photo of my friend, Hannah Lawler, who is now a poised 13-year-old. However, here she is as an exhausted, over-stimulated child on Xmas Day. It has to be one of the funniest child photos I've ever seen and it sums up my mood as of late.

It also helps me step back and see that - like young Hannah - I am surrounded by riches, despite my frustrations.

I just woke up - in my own bed, finally! - from an 11-hour sleep and feel like a new woman. Maybe all Hannah and I needed was a good nap.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nope, Not Dead

I have horribly neglected this space and it's hard to pinpoint why. I've been in a funk lately - experiencing a restless rootlessness and an unshakable homesickness. At first, I thought it was just my regular personality but I think it is something deeper.

Anyway, I won't go on about it because I can already hear Fang's review,"BORING!"