Tagged: brooklyn

Ever Iowa

Hello dear readers! I’m blogging for every day in June about Slam, a play set near Dubuque, Iowa, about a woman in her early thirties who still believes her plans might work out, with the right adjustments. Here’s the reflections for today.

Why is this play so Iowa?

Better question: why is this play my Iowa?

I’ll be honest with you: I never spent any appreciable time on a farm. My great Aunt Katie had a few acres with not much more than a garden and a small chicken coop. At one point we went to her house and got a little tour. That’s the sum total of my agricultural experience, aside from one summer de-tasseling corn, which is a hugely commercial enterprise and out of context here.

Most of my adulthood has been spent in New York City, living in Brooklyn and frowning on the subway.

So, really? You’re right: I’m off base here, I have no connection.
But, as Slam would say:

Were you ever fucking listening?

The connection is the the clipped, complete, accusatory sentences that issue from the Lamb family. The connection is the quiet observations made by Jonah, a young man firmly rooted to who he is. The connection is Spoon’s broad smile and grand schemes, all just this side of saving the day as well as his pocket book.

The connection is Slam’s vitriol: her arms crossed, her body gone to seed. Slam has hurled away the mantel of what she’s aspired to, but there’s nothing to replace it except failure and, alas, an unwanted pregnancy.

All this against highways established during the Eisenhower years, later perfected and then connected by huge box malls. Today’s Iowa is what I know about myself: quick to adopt a self-mythology that presupposes what others think in order to buffer all prejudices, disappointments, and fears.

My Iowa is about a smile and laugh, followed closely by a biting quip.

Herein a defensive collage, answering a question no one’s asked me. That too is very Midwest: submit your own conclusions before anyone can identify what’s wrong and get you.


Peter Gabriel came to mind.

I have so much music available to me, easily and crazily accessible, that I just put on what comes to mind before deliberating, before any second thoughts that could eat ten minutes of time and result in no satisfactory decision. Peter Gabriel’s Last Temptation of Christ came to mind, the soundtrack. I remember very, very little of the movie. I only came to enjoy the music long after.

Next year, Istanbul. Tonight? Just sleep.

The percussion of Gabriel is able punctuation. The music is set low and I can hear water running through the pipes in this house, this brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I am ready for onward and upward movement. I’m also ready to commit to my blog, to design and shape her.

But not tonight. Tonight just sleep.

This marks the end of a “blogathon,” or 31 posts in as many May days. I have completed this task with a minimum of bother. I’ve got a good view, I’m in great company, my voice is wafting the streams and waves. Tomorrow I go off to DUMBO, for inspiration and emails. Tomorrow I begin the Istanbul list.

Thank you Michelle Rafter!

Shepard in the Park on Sunday

CShepard (c) Beth OBrienCraig Shepard performed today, May 13th, 2012, at the top of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The pedestrian attendees were used to artistic distractions, clearly. Perhaps one person was truly surprised, even confused by a man playing music with so few looking. The majority, however, reacted as most hearty New Yorkers tend to do: stroll and gaze attentively, trudge by with shopping bags, or hustle a quick glance, just a peek, all the while attending to flying, thrilled, winded children.

Craig’s compositions, that day on trumpet and accompanied on melodica by Jack Callahan, blend expertly with frolics, soccer, arguments and sunlight. They are, these delicate notes, a string of aural pearls that lace the air with conjecture, pause and possibility.

Craig knows how to draw a peripheral crowd. The ices cart parked itself about fifteen feet away. Every picnic group, about a half dozen, made the journey to the cart, arcing a respectful distance and throwing a curious glare/keep going frown. A group of tie-wearing soccer players, young men all, took a loud, boastful break on a bank of benches to Craig’s left. And scooter-propelled children always found it necessary to brake with a flash and carefully observe a mostly silent man. A silent man playing a trumpet or holding a trumpet. A silent man with a pink-tipped nose, a porkpie hat and a small notebook from which to read his music. The scooter-pause was never more than 10 to 15 seconds, and then child break her rapt stare, lift her foot and scout the vicinity in search of her grown-ups.

Craig’s concert was a tidy 45 minutes. I knew it was finished only because his shoulders dipped just so, his mouth revealed a slight, feathery smile, and he walked away from the magnificent Manhattan backdrop that Sunset Park provides.

Thank you, Craig Shepard, for creating a musical space that welcomes silence.

Teenage Transit Math

The 2/3 line. Above ground is the Eastern Parkway, a boulevard.

Two girls on the F line, 5pm on a Friday. Both were tall and dressed in jeans and light sweatshirts. They weren’t of the make-up, gum-smacking, handbag, -cell-phone-out variety; they were more of the athletic, long-hair, yell at boys and trail them (avidly) types. My guess is one was Dominican and the second East New York by way of Harlem. They’d deliberately chosen seats across from each other; across and two over, so they’d have to shout and gesticulate in order to be heard. The car wasn’t crowded when they got on; they could’ve sat next to each other. But had they done that, they would have drawn virtually no attention to themselves. If they’d sat next to each other, most of us would have made a quick scan, noted they were just young kids – not drunk, not yet – and gone back to our e-devices.

This is entirely their point.

My girls yesterday were probably fifteen years old . Their conversation was full of lumps. They’d gathered a few recipes for adulthood, but were combining them in ways that just added up to a sticky mess. Tall, strong and physically looking like women, each girl was yet tentative and neither listened to the other. Statements were declared by the first and the second clicked and nodded, but was mostly waiting for her turn to speak. True to high school form, they’d review evidence, make pronouncements and assign pass-fail grades based on dress and appropriate humor. Speaking in still awkward slang, they were in effect running down a list of compatriots and pronouncing each as “pretty.”

That evening I was reminded of a young person’s initial tools of assessment: outward appearance, which, if you are fifteen, is a true North indicator of social and human worth. (And even if it isn’t true, that she’s not really pretty, you can at least relax a little, having united with another using the same ingredients.) These girls may be loud and mumbly, but they know hair, they know pretty, and they know what works in the hallway.

Being still young and reluctant, this is why the girls firmly planted themselves at a distance from each other. They needed to rope in the grown-ups. From such a position, they could draw from our energy, even if it was mostly annoyance, impatience and frustration over not getting to concentrate on solitaire. Triggering grown-ups is the crux of the equation, especially before 10pm. It’s also a safe way to feel protected. When you’re fifteen years old and conducting tests, you still court adult supervision. Not directly, mind you; but nearby enough, just in case something gets burned.