Current/Recent Reading List

17 October 2009

Living Proof

"Well now on a summer night in a dusky room
Come a little piece of the Lord's undying light
Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon
In his mother's arms it was all the beauty I could take
Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make
In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused
Searching for a little bit of God's mercy
I found living proof"

- Bruce Springsteen, "Living Proof"

Well, o.k., in her mother's arms, and it wasn't a dusky room, but a triage room (click here for the official, if only 99.9% accurate version of the incredible delivery happenings - I don't recall saying "Holy Crap", mainly because I didn't say anything!). In any case, say hello to Holland Elizabeth:

12 October 2009

The Wages of Age

I'm going to be perfectly open and honest, and perhaps not too uplifting today. But, I'm going to guess that if people were closely observing me and my reactions over the past month to questions regarding the impending birth of my daughter (impending as in, due date is Friday!), they would have noticed a certain hesitance in my voice, a certain shift in my gaze, and a dampening in the enthusiasm in my voice. Fact is, the closerwe we get to D-Day, the more nervous and weary I grow in inverse proportion.

Why? Sure, it's my nature, but I also think it really comes down to one factor: I'm eight years older than I once was.

Count out your life eight years at a time, and I bet you'll agree that at each interval you've learned (or will learn) how much more fragile everything is than you thought, how much more dangerous everything is than you thought, how much less control you have than you thought, how much less you know than you thought.

We've been through so many worrisome days and weeks since about late March that you might think these would be the salad days. We got in the new house just in time, and Mom and baby are wonderfully healthy as far as some of the best doctors in the business are concerned. But I can remember, even when taking off the rose-colored glasses of fond recollections, that eight years ago I was much more upbeat, much more enthusiastic, and almost literally had no worries about the Boy's birth. My responsibilities (at least from my earthly perspective) have increased exponentially since then, it seems. The number of hours in the day seem to have dwindled, and I don't sleep enough as it is. Our parents are older and antsier, and fretting. Unlike eight years ago, I now have other people's children to worry over in addition to my own. And like most everyone else, we wonder how secure our jobs are, or at least how much real income we'll have in the coming years. I'm not even going to go down the national security road...

Sorry, little girl. It's not your fault, but Dad's not always a little ball of sunshine.

06 October 2009

The Edge? Yeah, He Can Play!

After almost a decade of not seeing any concerts beyond the NC Symphony's children's series, I've reverted to early-20's form and have now seen (and blown lots of money on) Bruce Springsteen and U2 in the last six months. And, well, they were both more than worth it.

Look, I can get as cynical about celebrities, music stars, etc. as anyone, and the ticket prices are decadent. But for now I just want to gush a little about these guys based on the work they do on stage and in the studio.

The U2 show Saturday was the first outdoor stadium show I've seen since the late 1980's, and what a spectacle it was, with the giant stage-set of doom holding up the giant 360 degree kazillion dollar video screen. These days, the video screens have HD t.v. quality pictures, so they are really hard to take your eyes off of. When I wanted to just concentrate on the stage, I lowered my head and let the bill of my ball cap block out the screen. Just, you know, to verify that I was at a concert and not a movie.

As for the band, they were fantastic, and when there are only four band members (only three of which play instruments the whole time) in the middle of this huge stage, amidst a sea of people, there is really nowhere to hide. Really, this should have been no surprise, but watching U2 live, I realized immediately just how much rides on The Edge's guitar work. He provides every bit of melodic atmosphere that each of their songs has, almost as if his guitar is a stand-in for three or four different instruments at once. Again, no surprise, but that guy is damn good, and how often can you say a performer was better than you thought he would be?

Similarly to Bruce, U2's shows, as with the major thrust of their recording work, are life affirming. Over half the show was comprised of the three most recent albums, and anyone paying attention knows about the spiritual nature of many of these songs. However, in spite of the stage and the religious coloring of the songs, there was never a feeling of overreach on the part of the band or the audience. Instead there was just a sweet affection between the two. When Bono spoke of "issues" (and yes, it would be more than fine with me if "issues" never came up at these concerts), they involved oppression of democracy in Iran and Burma (friend Brad pointed out that Bono sounded positively forceful in defense of democracy compared to certain elected leaders we could name). So, there was minimal damage on the political front. He did give a shout out of thanks to both the Edwards and Helms families for their support of his foundation, but I think the unintended main effect of this was to completely embarrass North Carolinians of all stripes ("Oh, those political figures are/were from our state? Really? Who knew?").

Best moment of the night? There were several terrific moments, but I'll take when Bono pulled a boy, around 10 years old, up on the outer ring of the stage with him and sang "City of Blinding Lights" to him as they strolled about, like a father singing to his son. During the song's intro he found out the boy's name (Brian?), and they even went for a jog together. Imagine being 10, minding your own business, and having tens of thousands of eyes suddenly trained on you. The boy's reward? Bono took off his omnipresent sunglasses, put them on him, and gently sent him back to his parents. I'm an easy sucker for this stuff - anyone who's seen Bruce's shows recently knows he regularly includes kids as well, and it is great fun for me to see big rock stars, who also are quite upfront about how much they love being fathers, letting that side of them show up in performance. Second best moment? "Where The Streets Have No Name" completely blew the place up - I never would have guessed that that would have been the show-stopper, but it was.

The cherry on the top for me came at school yesterday, when a couple of my students from the spring, who remembered I was excited about getting tickets, found me to tell me they were at the show as well. They were positively beaming when I asked them how they liked it, and I remembered (with just a tinge of melancholy), that I was about their age when I first heard, and was mesmerized by, U2. Nice symmetry, huh?