Happy Bricks

 

 

I had heard it before. But I had never really listened.

 

It was March 1980. Kim Cox was having a birthday party at the Holiday Inn in Griffin, GA. Her step-daddy, Lee, was the manager of the hotel (or was it a motel?) and so Kim got to have her party in one of the conference rooms. It wasn’t a large space and it wasn’t a large gathering. But for poor kids like me, it was a big deal. The Griffin Holiday Inn was the nicest hotel/motel for miles, and I had been invited to a popular girl’s party! There were several varieties of co-colas and several snacks. And there was music. Rock music of the day. Good music, too. In particular, I remember hearing Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and loving it. Kids that we were, there wasn’t much dancing going on. The girls mostly hugged one wall while the boys mostly hugged another. It was innocent. And it was fun.

 

And then it wasn’t fun. Apparently, in a nearby conference room, there was a meeting of men from a local Baptist church. A Southern Baptist church, to boot. (A church that I and most others at the party did not belong to, by the way.) Southern Baptists don’t take kindly to dancing. And the more pompous among them don’t care much for secular music. I guess some asshole from that meeting heard our music from behind a closed door, so he walked right in and went over to the hi-fi and Turned. It. Off. He then threw a brief hissy fit and lectured us kids on how we were sinners and should be ashamed of ourselves for being there in the middle of such corruption. He looked pretty full of himself and was about to head out when Kim’s mama burst into the room.

 

To say Judy was a petite woman is ambitious generosity on my part. She was always impeccably dressed and her hair and make-up were just so. She was lovely, strong and I liked her a lot. Whenever I saw her with her kids, she seemed like a real good mother. She was also a firecracker and woe be unto him who thought he could stand up to that little gal. When Judy came in to find some yahoo trying to shut down her daughter’s birthday party, I actually felt sorry for the guy. She marched over to the stereo, seething, “Turn that music back on!” She then smiled at all us kids, told us to get back to the party and have a good time, and dragged that Southern Baptist S-O-B into the hall. Even over the strains of the music, we could hear Judy yelling from the other side of the door. She told that church guy, in no uncertain terms, that he had crossed a line and that he had better cut out before she really gave him what for. That her daughter’s party was none of his business. I don’t think she swore, as Judy wasn’t like that. And I don’t remember that jerk saying a single word in response. I’m guessing he knew he was in trouble and had best get the hell out of there before Judy switched from verbal to physical attack mode. That guy had upset her daughter and Judy was pissed. After giving a much-deserved lashing in the hall, Judy came back in to make sure the party had again picked up. She was all smiles and if you hadn’t heard her tearing the stuffing out of that church jerk, you’d never have known she’d been riled at all. She was in control and she was grand.

 

But I digress. This post isn’t about the memory of that long-ago party. It’s about the song that was playing when the disruption took place: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall (Part 2)”. When I hear that song now, I am immediately transported to the Griffin, GA Holiday Inn’s conference room – the place where the song’s lyrics first penetrated my brain and took hold. After that night, I couldn’t escape the song. Didn’t want to. I wanted more. I needed to know what was going on in those lyrics and what they meant. At some point, I saved enough lunch money to get the whole record. On cassette. I started studying the compositions, each song, and trying to decipher depth and meaning. I didn’t get far, truth be told, but I also didn’t let go. There was something there, just out of reach.

 

A couple of years later, I was given some clarity when “Pink Floyd – The Wall” was released in theaters. The movie was a freak show and it was fabulous. By the time of its release, I was a pretty messed-up kid. Sucky home life and depression were bearing down. Decent adults weren’t able to help, and there were very few of them in my life anyway. The ones that did reach out (Mrs. Woods at Pike County High School, thank you), well, their good intentions were lost on me. I had been failed by my parents and didn’t trust adults. More than once, so-called grown-ups had proven themselves dangerous and harmful. So when a good person tried to give me a hand, I lumped them in with the others and backed away. I didn’t have the tools to discern decency. And I didn’t have faith in those older than me and my peers.

 

But I did trust music and art. So when the opportunity to go to Atlanta and see “Pink Floyd – The Wall” at the old Fox Theatre presented itself, I took advantage. My small group of friends – all of us searching for something – went to the big city and settled in. The movie was amazing. (Still is.) The music became even more real for me and the accompanying visuals brought new meaning to the lyrics I’d been holding on to since that Holiday Inn party. As much as I wanted to “tear down the wall,” I decided instead that, at that time, I’d be better served by building a wall. And so I began.

 

The bricks I used were ugly. There were lies and deception, greed and manipulation. And those materials were supplied only by my parents. Time brought more darkness and more bricks. By the time I was a young woman, I had mastered a false smile and a fake aura of happiness. Having been depressed since, well, all my life, I had gotten really good at hiding it. Whenever I felt let-down by anyone – even by myself – I added that brick to my wall. I really didn’t know how else to live.

 

But there was more to me than that. Deep inside, I held out hope. Hope that “happy” was real. Hope that joyful people weren’t faking it, that some people in the world really did love their lives and, at least on occasion, felt good. I never talked about it. I never told anyone how distraught I was, or how long I’d been in that lowly state. I didn’t know how to talk about it. But it was getting worse. I was getting worse. I was somewhere in my late twenties and each day weighed a bit more than the last. Something had to give.

 

It was my brain. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. I can still see the room and the light coming in the window. I remember the phone ringing. And for some reason I answered. I had to crawl to the phone, because I didn’t have the strength to get there otherwise. Thank god I did, as that phone call from a distant friend served as a helping hand. And for the first time in almost thirty years, I trusted the grown-up on the other side of that conversation. I began to tear down the wall.

 

I sought therapy. I worked hard. Some parts of me that weren’t quite right had to be broken down before they could be rebuilt. Others had to be constructed from scratch. So many basic behaviors were unknown to me. I had never been taught how to deal with confrontation or disagreement. (I had been taught, by my parents, that I wasn’t allowed to confront them or to even be angry with them. Swear to god.) There was a lot to learn. A lot to do. And every time I gained the slightest understanding, another brick was removed. Over time, I tore down my wall. I not only gained a greater view and relationship with the world, I also gained a relationship with myself. And I was pretty damned pleased to meet me. Flawed, happy me.

 

So that’s how I moved through life for the last couple of decades. There have been amazing ups and terrifying downs. Through it all, my goal has been to remain honest with myself first, so that I could be honest with those in my little world. And it’s worked. Or at least it did. Right up until this past November, when I fell into a not-unfamiliar dark hole.

 

Before my country was suckered into supporting hate, I hadn’t been depressed for decades. (There’s a difference, for me, between being down and being full-on depressed.) I thought I was just down. I thought I was stronger than my blues. I thought I could ride it out. But sometimes we don’t see ourselves clearly. Maybe we don’t want to. Maybe we’re wearing blinders and don’t know it. Whatever the reason, I didn’t see that I had become clinically depressed. Again. I didn’t see that I was in real trouble and needed outside help.

 

This time, the hand of kindness came in the form of a lovely woman, Robin. Even though we’ve only known each other a short while, she listened to me when I opened up and told her what I was going through. She looked in my eyes, and actually heard me. I told her I had worked so hard to tear down my wall and now I was too exposed, too vulnerable. That’s when Robin gazed into my soul and said that maybe I should rebuild my wall, only this time perhaps I should use Happy Bricks.

 

I don’t know how those words affect you. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. I only know that when Robin suggested I use Happy Bricks to build a self-preserving, self-caring wall, I was thunderstruck. Yes! Of course! Happy Bricks! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

 

Walls aren’t the enemy. Some are certainly downright hurtful and harmful, but that’s no reason to cast all walls in a sour light. Walls hold up my roof. Walls provide privacy and sanctuary in my backyard. Walls hold art and windows, views to life and the world. Walls keep me safe. Good walls always have.

 

And so I find myself mixing mortar, gathering Happy Bricks to build a new wall. 35 people participated in the Womens March in Zebulon, GA (my hometown) – that’s a Happy Brick. A complete stranger saw me crocheting squares for blankets to be donated to local chemo patients and she asked how she could knit to help – that’s a Happy Brick. The Netherlands stepped up to provide healthcare for women around the globe after our government chose to withdraw women’s healthcare support as punishment  for having dared to march en masse – that’s a Happy Brick. It’s true – I’ve lost a lot these past few months. People I once respected are choosing willful ignorance. Relationships have ended or have been damaged. The injury to my country, though only just begun, deepens each day. It’s sad, heartbreaking, and for some, it will no doubt prove deadly. But I can’t give all my energy to those truths. Some of my strength has to go toward pulling myself up from the muck, toward taking those beautiful hands that reach down to lift me skyward. Toward adding another Happy Brick to my wall.

 

Working through this new depression won’t be easy. Working for decency and good won’t be easy, either. But that work will still be right, and must be done. I’m up for it. I’ve pulled myself toward happiness once before. I’ve witnesseed Kim Cox’s mama, Judy, standing up to a bully nearly twice her size and I’ve never forgotten seeing that. I’m no Judy. But I’m a mighty fine version of Mikki. And self-righteous yahoos would be wise to steer clear. I’ve got mortar, a sharp trowel and a load of Happy Bricks on my back. And I damn sure know how to use them.

Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns – RIP

 

 

A couple of days ago, on Sunday, Pete Burns – lead singer of “Dead or Alive” – passed away of a massive heart attack. He was 57.

 

For anyone who wasn’t an 80s music freak, Burns’ name or band name may not be ringing any bells. Still, I’m guessing most folks have heard “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” as it was their biggest hit. For me, “Cake and Eat It” was the best. I still love that one. A close second was “Brand New Lover.”

 

I know Pete Burns ended up being known for other things (plastic surgery, “Celebrity Big Brother”), but for me, I’ll always picture him as he was in the 80s: beautiful. And I’ll always love hearing him sing “Cake and Eat It.” Always.

Monkey

 

 

A few nights ago, I attended an event at my women’s club. I was looking forward to it and was ready. But as I drove to the venue, I felt anxious. So I did what I had to do to get to the root of my feelings, and had a conversation with myself. I asked me, “Why the anxiety, kid?” And I immediately answered, “I’ve had a monkey on my back all day, and I’m not sure I can keep it quiet.” Yes – I had a monkey on my back, and its name was Feel Right.

 

If you’ve never heard this song, please know there’s a lot of swearing. (So if you click on the above mother-fucking link, you’re in for it.) The video itself is beyond entertaining. But I wasn’t thinking of the video on that day. I simply had the song’s chorus stuck on auto-play and I wasn’t editing myself, y’all. And it was good. But, you know, ladies. I was concerned that after singing some variation of “Feel Right” for about 4 friggin’ hours, I might not be able to turn it off. Hence my anxiety.

 

As it turned out, I was polite and swore only one time, and that was in reference to politics. (I was forgiven for that.) My public reputation is, for the moment, preserved.

 

I don’t know why Mystikal’s voice got stuck in my head that day. I also don’t know why it flew away by the next morning. I do know it was soon replaced by Angela Lansbury’s voice, singing “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and as of this writing, she’s still in there, dammit.

 

So I guess I’ll see what pops into the old noggin today. I certainly hope it’s something entertaining. If I’m gonna have a monkey on my back, it might as well be a cool-ass monkey. Dig?

I Feel Good

 

 

Yesterday I woke with a smile. There in the dark, completely content to face a Monday, I felt good. And I said as much, right out loud. Only I didn’t say it. I sang it.

 

There’s this musician dude, Freebo, and he’s got a song called “Sometimes It’s For Nothin’.” A lot of folks refer to the song as “I Feel Good” because those words are repeatedly repeated in the chorus. Anyone who’s ever seen Freebo live will tell you how infectious this song can be. The whole audience gets to wailing along with him, and I swear. By the time that song is over, you do feel good.

 

Freebo is a sweet guy and though our paths have not crossed for quite a while, I do think of him fondly from time to time. And almost always, those thoughts are triggered by the lyrics “I feel good.” Yesterday morning was lovely. And I did feel good.

 

I also sent peaceful thoughts to Freebo. I send good thoughts to various people all the time. Sometimes those notions are in the form of prayer. Sometimes not. When I imagine folks receiving my good intentions, I picture them smiling. I don’t insert myself into the scene, though, as there’s no need for friends and loved ones to credit me in any way, shape or form. I don’t need to be part of their joy or happiness. That’s theirs. My only hope in focusing on the well-being of another is that they actually connect with themselves and revel in that moment. Just seeing that in my mind causes me to smile. And maybe that’s the point of well-wishing. Maybe sending kind thoughts to another actually increases kindness within the sender. And if my kindness for myself flares, mightn’t I be more likely to spread that around as I go about my day? And isn’t it possible that I might make someone else’s day, if only in passing? It’s lovely to imagine life that way.

 

So yes. I felt good yesterday. And while Freebo wasn’t the cause of my feelings, his music certainly did reflect my morning joy. I’d say that was plenty good reason to send Freebo excellent vibes. Hope he felt them.

Ladies and Gentlemen – Adele

 

 

Over the weekend something magical happened. And its name was Adele. (I don’t want to give anything away to anyone who will be seeing Adele later on this tour, so consider yourself warned, um-kay?)

 

 

Mister and I went with very dear friends. That in itself was beautiful, as we just don’t see those folks as much as we’d like. (Everybody’s busy, don’t you know.) So we were already feeling the love. And once we made it inside Staples Center and found our seats, well, the good feelings multiplied. What you see above was a video loop. Mister and I had an idea as to what might happen once the show started, and we were right. Just as we heard Adele’s voice sing “Hello,” the eyes opened!

 

 

The woman is amazing. She’s utterly professional and at the top of her game. Witnessing someone with such command of her craft was a privilege. And if I let myself dwell on it too much, I’d become really disappointed in other artists who don’t work at their crafts with the same commitment. But screw those folks! I’m talking about Adele here, people!

 

 

She was so personable and funny. Early on, she made a joke about how much she would be talking throughout the show, saying something about how she’d only be singing ten songs and yet we’d be there for two hours. As it happened, it wasn’t much of a joke. That’s pretty much how it went down.

 

 

It was lovely to see the balance between her self-deprecating humor and her ownership of who and where she is in life. If any part of her is diva, I didn’t see it. I just saw a woman who knows what she’s capable of. A confident soul. And I respected the hell out of her. Truly. By the time we’d reached the end of the night, I was inspired and grateful and smiley as could be.

 

 

Adele, to me, is a rare bird. She’s a contemporary artist who can back up her smack. As a songwriter, she’s golden. As a vocalist, she stands alone. As a human, she is beautiful. As I type this and think about her, I can’t help but smile. And giggle. She really is the complete package. I am in awe.

I’ve Got a Tiger By The Tail

 

 

Today is Buck Owens’ birthday (which should explain this post’s title). That alone is something for me to pause and think about. But there’s more! Today is also Mark Knopfler’s birthday, and Kid Creole’s. It’s also Pat Metheny’s birthday, as well as Sir Mix-a-Lot’s. Coincidence? I think not.

 

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be listening to all of those dudes’ music at some point today. And that is gonna be alright.

Ago

 

 

The other day I got an email from someone I’ve not seen in ages. And it couldn’t have stirred sweeter memories.

 

Back in 2001, Mister’s Mama and I went to cooking school in Italy. The horrors of September 11th were only one week behind us, so the whole trip felt shaky. The whole world felt that way really. We didn’t know that until we arrived in Italy and wonderful strangers started telling us how sorry they were for what had happened to America. But I digress… At cooking school, our hostess turned out to be a California gal who had moved her family to Tuscany for her business. She, her husband and their young daughter had upended their world to try something new. Maybe something crazy. They committed fully and went for it.

 

A few years after that, Mister and I were in Italy and we visited the same cooking school for a couple of days. I caught up with the California gal and we had a great time. At one point, the young daughter wanted to hear me sing. I obliged her and then she graced us with a song she’d made up. It was creative, hilarious and smiley. And Mister and I have never forgotten that moment.

 

Cut to a few days ago and that aforementioned email. It was from the California gal, the proprietor of the cooking school in Tuscany. She wrote to tell me her daughter – practically grown now – was writing her own songs, recording and studying the arts. She gave me a link to some of the young lady’s works and I was blown away. She really is a talent to be reckoned with.

 

The other night I was at dinner with a group of talented, strong, brilliant women. At one point we were discussing having an impact on the world. I said that when we set out to do good in life, there’s no telling how we’ll affect others. That sometimes the very thing we think will cause the most ripples turns out to not even be a drop in the pond. And how something small, something trivial, may end up causing the most wonderful waves.

 

Let me be clear here. I in no way take credit for the above-mentioned young Tuscan girl’s dreams and aspirations. (And I certainly have nothing to do with her talent.) But it does make me very happy to know that I got to spend a little time with her, ages ago, sharing music. The fact that her mother reached out to me to mention that musical memory, well, it warms my heart.

 

And to think – that small, trivial moment from all those years ago may have helped to form a ripple or two. Time will tell if waves will follow…

Girls

 

 

Yesterday, as I was treading water for exercise, I was also listening to some classic rock. You know – to pass the time. At some point, a familiar song wobbled through the Los Angeles heat, across the pool’s water and into my memory stores. I started smiling.

 

Years and years ago, when we used to buy vinyl (that’s right), I would regularly save my money until I had enough to go to the record store. And I remember going to the Jamestown Mall in North County St. Louis, in full quest mode. I had heard an amazing song on a local college radio station, by a band out of Athens, GA. And I wanted that record for myself. I walked through the store, flipping through a few stacks of vinyl and seeing what was new. After a while, I was ready to make my purchase and go home. So I moseyed to the “R” section and quickly found what I was looking for: Murmur by REM. The funny thing was, there were about 3 dudes close behind me. Apparently, they had the same idea as I and wanted to buy that very album for themselves. But there was only one copy. And I got there first. Being teenage boys, and feeling safety in numbers, they weren’t shy about speaking loud enough to be heard. They said things like, “That girl got the only one!” And, “She won’t buy it. She’s just looking. Girls don’t know anything about music.” They were just over my shoulder, and I could sense them waiting for me to put the record back in its allotted slot. I thought about how those St. Louis dudes probably didn’t even know where Athens, GA was. Hell – they probably didn’t know where the state of Georgia was. I turned to face them, smiling, and walked to the register. They actually followed me to the front of the store, as if I might change my mind. I didn’t. I paid my money, took my record home, listened to it about a jillion times and fell in love with the songs that would never be heard on the radio, college or otherwise.

 

It occurred to me, in that long ago moment, that I could have said something snarky to those boys. I remember thinking I could have made some snide remark about their mothers waiting outside to drive them home, while twirling my car keys on my middle finger. But I didn’t. I didn’t need to. I had gotten what I’d come for. And in that moment, those boys couldn’t believe a girl had bested them, though she truly had. All the way around.

Cum on Feel the Noize

 

I’ve never told y’all this, but the New Pad has an interesting history. Mister and I rarely think of it, because it has nothing to do with us. But once in a while, a former owner’s name comes up and then we share a chuckle. This week, the mail brought a reminder…

 

 

If the name “Rudy Sarzo” doesn’t ring any bells for you, let me shine a light. Rudy was the bassist for Quiet Riot. Later, he played bass in Whitesnake (and all kinds of other bands). And yes – he used to live here, in the ‘80s, the heyday of big hair metal.

 

There are few remaining signs of his tenure in the house. (Speaker wires in a closet are all that come to mind.) But we marvel at all the shit this house must have seen! I for one am super grateful for the massive amounts of chlorine that have gone into the pool over the years. I’m guessing Tawny Kitaen was in that water once or twice, and though she may now be a right proper lady, that chick had to have been exposed to some stuff back in the day. (Who wasn’t? Honestly. But, you know, not all of us were Tawny, so I’m just sayin’.)

 

Anyhoo – Mister and I had ourselves a good laugh about getting some random junk mail addressed to Rudy Sarzo. Weird world.

 

Note: Mister suggested I write this entire post in Quiet Riot fashion, with their sense of spelling and abundant use of vowels. I told him my head ached at the mere thought of such a task. He then said maybe I should just approach a single paragraph a la Quiet Riot. I told him I thought he should quiet his riot and shut the hell up.

Multi-Faceted

 

 

I am blessed to have good friends in my life. And while I may know some folks who are, shall we say, duds, my friends are not among them. My friends are fascinating, multi-faceted people who blow my mind. For example, I know a chef/cooking instructor who is also a brilliant artist. I know an actor who is also an author, a website designer and a photographer. I know a professional lifestyle blogger who is also a corporate flight attendant. And I’m not even going into the editors, preservationists, writers, CEOs, jewelry designers, musicians and wow! I know a lot of interesting people!

 

Earlier this week, I went out to see my friend Tiff at a local club. Not only is she an Emmy-nominated editor, she is also an artist, photographer and a brilliant seamstress. And now she’s a rock star, to boot! I cannot tell you how thrilling it was to watch her work the stage. She was beautiful, powerful and energetic. She sounded great and she owned every second of her performance. And though I’d never seen Tiff perform like that, I wasn’t surprised. I mean, she’s fabulous! Why wouldn’t she be an amazing performer? She would be and she was.

 

I really do know a lot of interesting people. And I’m lucky enough to count several of them as my friends. I’m guessing that you probably know a lot of interesting folks, too. (Think about it.) And if you look at who makes the cut of being called “friend” in your life, well… Aren’t we blessed indeed?