Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Return of: The Weekend that was

 This weekend wasn't meant to be as busy as it was, but I'm so glad it was actually. There's nothing like a weekend of spontaneity.

 You know, some street art at my subway stop.

 At the Met, this conjures up quite a few things. First, I started singing "Zero To Hero" in the middle of the museum. Second, every time I saw another one, I said, out loud, "One...Grecian urn...Two...Grecian urn..." What can I say? I'm all Hercules and The Music Man at the Met.

The view from a hotel room in Times Square. Kinda amazing. 

 Rebecca and my friendship is based on Starbucks. Luckily for us, going to the Starbucks flagship in Times Square is an interactive adventure.

 Travis joined in on the digital pictures. Gotta love interactive screens and the biggest Starbucks I've ever seen.

Good friends for over a decade and literally from coast to coast.

A true friend...

Sometimes, all it takes to jolt us back into the right rhythm of thinking is the right person at the right moment. I feel that way today especially.
People come in and out of our lives and I think we find ourselves most lucky when we realize that, for some reason, after a long period of time, someone is still a part of our life in a vital way. So much of our time is spent interacting with acquaintances: coworkers, random friends-of-a-friend, people who might matter a lot in the moment but have no real staying power in the long run. But since life is nothing but the people who are in it, it's a real joy to be reminded of the people that matter and why they continue to matter.
I love friendships that last years. I especially love friendships that last years and last over thousands of miles. To me, those are the highest treasures on earth. Money goes away, cars break down, clothes go out of style and apartments become dated. But a friend that weathers both time and distance? There's nothing like it.
I am blessed to have a life full of treasure in that way, and today I was reminded again of the importance of the wonder that is friendship. It's this intangible entity that transcends ideal and conviction and goes deeper than similarity and hobbies.
I think it's because of this intersection today that I've been jolted back to where I've needed to be. The importance of having the conversations that need to be had, talking freely about things that are important and  disagreeing, knowing that the love that's there is strong enough to keep us from tearing apart. It's that reminder of what's important that burns away all the fluff that clutters our view of the world. For me, it shook off everything that needed shaking.
Life can get muddled, and even in the best way, life can get muddled. I take on too much, I clutter my plate with people and things that are all, to me, great things. But it can just become too much and even when I take a break from all those things, the remnants of them remain in my mind and it's all to easy to become burdened by just the thought of them.
Today, a friend of over a decade and thousands of miles was able to snap that back into perspective, clear the clutter and bring my focus back to center. For this, I am both thankful and in his debt. But that's the great thing about true and deep friendship: there's no score to keep.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hate/Love



There's been much to-do about this video about 'Hating religion and loving Jesus.' It's been viewed over 15 million times since the beginning of January and I've seen it posted on almost every single one of my friends' Facebook profiles.
I'm from the Bible Belt. I was raised in a Pentecostal environment, something I don't regret at all. While I might not align myself with everything that was shouted at me from the pulpit when I was growing up, it formed a foundation for me. But, as we get older, it becomes important to be less of a sheep, being herded around and doing whatever the preacher tells you to do, and figure out what all this means to you personally. So many of our churches say their congregations are doing this, but it's really an internal puzzle you've got to put together for yourself.
I remember when I was going to this small Bible school, the people that would shout at us from the pulpit in chapel would talk so badly about other denominations and people who believed differently than they did. That always bugged me and my self-censor-less nature about things got me into some trouble on the topic. They were not a fan that I would defend a Baptist or a Methodist. That trouble became a sort of badge of honor both then and now because I said what other people were too afraid to say.
The face of Christianity has been slowly changing and I know that to a lot of conservatives, it's not changing in a good way. Actually, those are mostly the same people that think any change is bad. But people who believe in Jesus today don't look like they did 50 years ago or 150 years ago. The world is a big place and so many of the social stigmas that were, for lack of a better term, inflicted on society during the formative years of different cultures are dissipating.
When I was in the youth group, it was trendy to talk about "the old law" and the "new covenant" because as pseudo-angsty teens, that's what we used to support our claims that tattoos are awesome and that we had the ability to wear our hair in whatever style of Sun-In blond we wanted. The fact of the matter is, people are still clinging to some of those "old law" topics and stigmas because it's just what they've always known.
So why has this video caused such a storm? Why is CNN reporting on it? Why are imitators making videos to tell this guy he's right or he's wrong? Because he said something that's resonating among a large group of Christians and at the same time, he's lambasting the notion that you need to be in a church to be saved. So many people I know have been so burned by church-goers and church-runners. I'm certainly one of them. I don't hold a grudge, but I also don't want to place myself knowingly in the line of fire either.
Are churches bad? No. They're not. I've been to some great ones. But I think the point this video is making is that Christianity is changing and people are tired of the redundant and mundane mandates of having to play a certain role in a religion. Rather that having to outwardly prove to people (people that believe the same as you do by the way) that you, in fact, also believe what they believe, he's saying it's internal.
With all that Jesus himself said about the Pharisees and their appalling religiosity, this video should make sense to people. The concretized religion of Christianity isn't going anywhere, but there are more and more people who are having less faith in a pastor and more faith in things unseen. I kinda feel like that's the way it's supposed to be.

Friday, January 20, 2012

...and life is like a song

Etta James has died.
It's always sad when someone who is considered a "standard" dies because you feel like part of the history and knowledge of the craft has been lost. But while people are eulogizing the singer for her voice, I can't help but be honest with what my first thought was.
"I can't stand Beyonce. She had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever."
That's what Etta said after Beyonce was asked by then-President-Elect Obama to sing "At Last" at his and Michelle's first dance at the Inaugural Ball. I've never forgot that and I've actually come to associate that quote with my entire perception of Etta. She later said she was only kidding - but we can all agree that she wasn't.
She was bitter that she'd been passed over by a new star. And that's the last real memory the public has of her. She got sick and it was over. No matter the legacy, the last real burst of press she had was bitterness.
I don't want to be like this. I realize that no one knows when their time on Earth will be over, but whenever that happens, I don't want the last impression I leave here to be one of bitterness, hatred or even irritation. I want what I do to matter and to continue to matter after I'm outta here.
Sure, Etta's music will live on, the people at the Grammys in a couple weeks will talk about how amazing she was and how she's a legend, but what does that say about her as a person? As I see it, her life ended on a bitter note. Where some artists are passionate about passing the torch and with that, mentoring new artists, she seemed to live only on her own fame.
I've said it a thousand times. Life is nothing but the people who are in it. No matter what, I want to live a life of purpose, fulfillment and jammed full of people who matter. I hope that Etta had that, despite what we saw in the press. To me, it doesn't matter how great a singer or performer you were. What matters is the life you led.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of working at my current place of employment. I don't suppose that's such a huge deal, but it's my first "real" job since I graduated with my Masters and it's the reason I am able to stay in New York, the city I love. So in that light, it's kinda a big deal I guess.
But as I thought about it, this milestone isn't so much about staying in a specific workplace, but rather about how much has changed for me and in me as a person over the past year.
A year is, at once, both a long and short increment of time. In the scheme of life, it's short but when it's happening, so much can happen and change. 
A year ago, though I'd lived in New York since August really, I still didn't have a real grasp of the city. When you're single, finishing your Masters, trying to find a job and have a small (but meaningful) group of friends, it doesn't lend itself to really going out and engaging with the city. Don't get me wrong, I spent every waking moment in the city, but not really going out and meeting people.
That changed once I had an apartment and I'd found a routine for work and for the magazine. Suddenly, I was going out, meeting people, dating here and there and really starting to find my place.
And that is the biggest difference between today and a year ago. I feel like I've found my footing and my place here. While that's an ever-changing dynamic in the city, I've seen that I've really dug my feet in and found a place where I feel as if I'm finally myself.
This has everything to do with BLEEP. I can credit the magazine for so much in my life. It reinvigorated my creativity, it gave me something to be passionate about, I've met the most fascinating people and it's opened me up to being myself. While I've always been a tell-it-like-it-is person with a basic inability to self-censor, interviewing and being around such creative people have opened me up even more. (I'd put a flower reference here, it's petals opening ever so slowly to reveal a beautiful bloom - but that's lame)
So it's been a year. A year of changing and opening up. While living in New York isn't for everyone, I know better than anyone, if you open yourself up to what this city has to offer and to meeting the people that are so diverse and so incredible, you truly understand why this is the greatest city in the world. You also learn that you don't have to change who you are to fit in here. I'm the same person I was, just a much more open and free version of that person. Perhaps a bit more street-smart, perhaps a bit more learned, but I'm me. And here, being me is enough.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Underwhere...

If you aren't from New York, the subway is this fun thing that gets you from place to place when you visit the city. It's an inseparable part of the ambiance of the city. When you actually live here, it becomes very commonplace and at times, the bane of your existence.
But I enjoy the train usually, mostly because I'm always so fascinated by the shoes people wear. I spend most of my ride looking up and down the train car I'm in and seeing all the different shoes people are wearing. I'm not sure why I think that's interesting but I do.
Part of the reason tourists like the subway is because of the "interesting" people they see on it. Of course, "interesting" is just a substitute word for "crazy" and it's true, there are crazy people. My favorite this is when seemingly normal people blitz out and become crazy.
Case in point. Last night, I'm headed home from dinner with friends in another part of town. I'm listening to music and staring at shoes when I realize that I can't see this guy's shoes because his pants have dropped to his ankles. Awesome. Turns out, his girlfriend was cold in her tiny skirt so he was taking off his pants so she could wear them and be warm. True story. So as she pulls off her skirt and puts on his pants, he was left standing there in his boxers. Not just any boxers either. He was standing there in his Family Guy boxers someone bought him from Target that has Stewie's giant head on his ass. And as he laughed about it (and let's be honest, I laughed too), I just thought, only in New York would someone do that on public transportation.
So I like the subway, even though it can be obnoxious at times. Last week, I got on the train and there was a particularly pleasant train driver. I mean, he was the happiest individual and he clearly loved his job. He was so clear about what he was saying and pleasant about it. But what got me was, we were waiting inbetween two stops because of "train traffic ahead of us" and he comes on the intercom to make sure we knew what was going on, to let us know what the next stop was, and to give us a gentle (albeit metaphorical) chuck on the chin by telling us "No matter the destination, happiness is the way."
Not only did I smile but so did other people on the train. That was a moment that he gave us. A small reminder to take a moment to remember to be happy and not frustrated.
Just another reason why I love this city. Just when you think things suck so epically because you're stuck between two train stops, you're reminded to be happy...and you become that way.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The cult of TTH

At first, I thought this picture was going to leave me speechless. I mean, I thought for sure there would be nothing I could say about this. 
But I was wrong. There is something that we can learn from this photo. More than being the epitome of the ridiculousness that is the music industry/the current state of "celebrity"/everything about Will Smith's family - this photo represents the cult of TTH. That's right. The cult of Trying Too Hard.
On the surface what we see in this picture is the lil alien that is Willow Smith, pretending not to care about the photographer that is snapping her photo and wearing a borrowed wig from the Nicki Minaj collection as she "casually shops with friends in L.A." But underneath that, what we see in this photo is a misguided girl that has been pimped out by her family, trying desperately to make headlines on the evening entertainment shows and being surrounded by publicity leeches that probably wouldn't go anywhere with anyone wearing that cotton candy on their head...except they were smart enough to know they'd also be in those photographs and their rich producer/lawyer/Jewish parents will be thrilled to see them in US Weekly. 
This is the cult of TTH. Rather than producing music that's solid and allowing that to work for her, she's decided to wear that on her bobble-head and pander for publicity. This shows desperation. This shows need for attention. This shows an utter lack of confidence on who she actually is. 
We all know people who are members of the cult of TTH. It's amazing to me how many people live their life trying to be someone they're not, trying to deny something they shouldn't be denying and ultimately chasing after in-authenticity with all their energy. It's not worth it. It's just not worth it. 
So if you subscribe to the cult of TTH, you're in the same company as Willow Smith. That's not a good thing. Try being you. One day, after she's out of the inevitable rehab stints and therapy from year of her parents whoring her out to the media, she will join you. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012

It's that time. Time for resolutions. I don't really care for resolutions. I prefer to call them determinations. So, I thought about my life, what's missing, what's not missing and where I could go in 2012. I am quite passionate about what I came up with. And really, this could be the last year any of us make resolutions right? I mean, if what they say about 2012 is correct, then these better be some good ones.

I want to finish what I started. That transcends mere weight loss and encompasses the magazine as well. Ever since my father made me finish playing football in seventh grade because of the principle of "finishing what you started," I've been cursed by it. I did well in 2011 to slim down. Really well actually. Now, we finish what we started.

I want to meet someone that changes my life. You can read into that statement all you want, and really, anyway you read it is applicable. I have met people in this past year that have changed my life, perhaps not in a romantic way but in other ways. So this year, I want to meet someone that changes my life.

I want to do something I've never done before. I live in a city of opportunity. Anything can happen here and that's why I love it so much. What I really want to do is something I've never done before. How about something I've never even thought I'd get to do? That would be a fun unknown. I do like the unknown.


I want to do something that involves falling. Whether that means falling in love, falling with a bungee cord or falling on that trapeze thing from Sex and the City, I want to do something that involves falling. I usually don't enjoy falling, so I kinda want to do that.

I want to grow. I know we all want to mature and grow but there are some very specific parts of my life that I would like to see some changes in and I'm going to be working on them. Kinda like how people will isolate certain muscles so they'll look just right? Like that but with life.

I want to become a Taylor Swift fan. You read that correctly. With all the hoopla about her being in the Les Miz film, it's been really fun to watch everyone freak out about it. I don't have anything invested in Les Miz, it didn't really do it for me, so what do I care who sings in it? Plus this has the added element of the fact that she's not a great singer. A great songwriter for sure, but singer? No. So I want her to come out there and prove everyone wrong. I want her to kill it. And if and when she does, I will be a fan. (because you know I'm not currently)

So those are my determinations. Bring on 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1.1.2012.

You know, I was going to write a blog today that recapped my top 11 events from 2011. I was going to talk about Britney, Adele and Florence and the Machine. I was going to talk about The Normal Heart, Follies and Sleep No More. I was going to mention Michael Fassbender, Crazy Stupid Love and The Artist. I was even possibly going to talk about Kelly Clarkson and confess to even liking a Nicki Minaj song. That plan changed today.

I've been watching the marathon of Downton Abbey on PBS all afternoon because I'd heard such great things about it. It took me a bit to get into it but once it hit its stride, I have been really enjoying it. Then, it happened. The thing I love most in life happened. It became real.

"What would be the point of living if we didn't let life change us?" one of the characters asks.
Television became real.
Life changes us. It moves us, shapes us, twirls us and swirls us. Possibly you read that to mean it changes us in a bad way but that wasn't the intention. Life has a way of changing course and refocusing us. You can meet someone or could experience something that can change you in a second and I feel like we should be game for that. Especially creative people. Creative people should take their cues where they unexpectedly find them and embrace the change.

2012 is going to be a great many things. There will be many changes that will occur, there will be love, there will be heartbreak, there will be tough situations. But at the end of the day, I hope all those things add up to something as remarkable as 2011 added up to. I hope there's a feeling of hope in the end. I hope there's a feeling of life in the end. And ultimately, I hope the Mayans were idiots. I think we can all hope for that.

So here's to 2012 and cheers to 2011. It's been a good one and it's going to be another good one. And who knows. Maybe I will like another Nicki Minaj song in the next year, maybe Beyonce will put out an album that's actually marketable and maybe The Artist will win Best Picture at the Oscars. The big unanswered questions of 2012.