Archive for May 2016

Memorial Day Musings

(Originally posted on Facebook, but cross-posted here - with enhancements - before it sinks beneath the FB wave)

My dad and my grandfather were both veterans, but neither experienced combat, and I rode a college deferment into a beneficent draft lottery number as the Vietnam War wound down. So Memorial Day to me wasn’t at all about death and loss and heroism, it was all about small-town ritual.

My high school band marched in a parade down the main street, my grandfather drove a miniature Monza car in a Shriner group, and we all ended up at the town cemetery. My junior and senior years, I played echo taps on my trumpet, but at that blithe age it was all about getting the notes right. Everyone close to me was alive and well, and Memorial Day mostly meant the end of school and the start of summer, and as soon as I tore that band uniform off, the pool would beckon.

As the years progressed and I began losing people, on my visits home I would head out for a run but go to the cemetery to commune with my relatives interred there.  It wasn’t the “I know you’re happy in Heaven with (blank)” kind of thing, it was just the physical proximity, the solitude and the clearing of mental clutter for a while in order to re-experience them sensually - seeing them, hearing their voices, placing them in a familiar context.

Memorial Day for me is remembering them, their admonishments and compliments, breaking their hearts, reconnecting and coming home again.

(Click to enlarge)

Music Trumps Politics This One Time

I keep harking back to this White House performance, when everything seemed possible.  It’s so euphoric, uncontrived.  I wondered what was going on in the green rooms that evening under the watchful stare of what presidential portraiture.  It seemed that for a night or a weekend, the Obama “hope” meme had been realized.

As musicians, we struggle mightily against the technical and physical challenges of our instruments and confront the limitations of our talent, but if we persevere, and are are lucky enough, we sometimes arrive at a place where the universe aligns with all of those talents and shortcomings and something special happens.  I’m confounded about how Stevie Wonder can do what he does, but he has arrived at one of those moments here.

I watch this White House performance of Superstition, Michelle dreaming of jumping up and joining the backup singers, Barack trying hard to be presidential and not giving Fox News any video fodder, and wonder what the previous 43 White House occupants would think if they walked into that room.