Friday, February 3, 2017

You ARE gonna make it after all

She's a rebel
She's a saint
She's salt of the earth
And she's dangerous

~~ “She’s A Rebel” by Green Day

Ken is out with his mentee at a hockey game tonight, so I was on my own for dinner.

I decided to watch a couple of episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on Hulu. With her recent death, I had seen a few clips of the show and remembered how much I enjoyed it. For whatever reason, it was one that I didn’t go back and watch multiple times like “I Love Lucy” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” But I watched it in real time back in the ‘70s, and I even watched the spinoffs, “Rhoda” and “Phyllis.”

I watched the first two episodes of the series and it was like a total wallop of déjà vu. When it originally aired, I was in junior high and high school, sitting around and watching TV after dinner, and with maybe five channels—tops!—it wasn’t difficult for me to be able to persuade my parents to watch a show like MTM. I mean, everyone loved Mary, right?

I was struck by just how engaging MTM was as Mary Richards. Kind, funny, smart, and as Mr. Grant said, “You’ve got spunk! I hate spunk.” Her movements, her body language, her expressions...just perfection. Valerie Harper as Rhoda was brash, self-deprecating, tough, but with a heart of gold. And Cloris Leachman as Phyllis was just brilliant. There was so much implied in what she said and did, and it was so subtle.

As I watched, I realized how much this show probably shaped my attitude about being a woman. Whether in the workplace or at home, married or single, Mary Richards was a role model for so many of us, even if SOME of us (raising hand) didn’t truly realize it until just now.

What really struck me was this exchange in the very first episode of the series. Mary’s ex-boyfriend, a doctor, comes to visit her in Minneapolis. There seems to be the possibility that they might get back together, but she quickly realizes that she broke it off with him for all the right reasons and she had no desire to get back together with him. He asks if she really just told him goodbye and she says yes, I suppose so.

He says: “Take care of yourself.”

She says: “I think I just did.”

Maybe it’s a matter of looking at that from a much older perspective from when I first saw it, and from having been there a few times myself, but HOLY SHIT. Is that one of the most powerful moments for a woman? Yes, it is! I think most of us have been to that point, where we know that it is time to put ourselves first. To come to the realization that you don’t give a fuck about what your parents will think or what anyone else will think, or that some people will completely shun you and be angry with you for your decision. That you are better off on your own. I speak from experience here. It’s better to be happy on your own than to be in a bad relationship.

To say, “Enough. I want to do what is best for me, and that means not having YOU in my life. I’m better off taking care of myself and I am perfectly capable of doing so.”

I was going to write that I’m sure that holds true for plenty of men, too, but you know what? It’s not the same. In 1970, when this show came out, it was still a pretty radical idea that women didn’t need to be married to have a fulfilling life. And when you come from a very conservative, religious family, divorce was still a stigma. When I got a divorce in 1989, I was worried that my parents would be angry with me. At one point, I felt like they were taking sides against me with my ex because for whatever reason they kept in touch with him for a while, and my Dad set me straight about that pretty quickly. He said they loved me totally and my concerns were unfounded. (Pro tip: maintaining relationships with ex whatever-in-laws is usually not a great idea, although there can be mitigating circumstances.)

So for Mary Richards to be a single working woman and to be happy and fulfilled was a big deal at the time. In watching those two episodes tonight, after not having seen any for decades, it made me realize that Mary Richards had an effect on me and I didn’t even realize it.

Here’s to you, Mary Tyler Moore, and here’s to you, Mary Richards. You were both trailblazers and I am grateful.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rock and Roll saved my soul

August she was swinging low
Town of about a thousand-so
Out of school, ready to get out of here
Off to farm, off to State, each going our separate ways
Graduation message still sweet in our ears

~~ “Long Gone Long” by The Rainmakers

A few years ago at a dinner after the funeral of a family member, I was sitting at a table with some of my cousins, my Mom, and my sister Diana. I don’t recall exactly what we were talking about, but my cousin Curt said to me, “Since you’re the token liberal in our family, I’ll ask you this,” and my sister Diana didn’t say anything, but just raised her hand. Curt looked at her and started laughing, then said to my Mom, “What did you DO?!” Mom just kind of laughed and shook her head and said, “I don’t know.”

If any of that sounds mean-spirited, it wasn’t, not at all. It’s something I still laugh about, and Curt and I have been having interesting and respectful discussions since our college days. We still get a chance to have an occasional chat and I always enjoy them immensely.

It leads to something that I have pondered quite a bit: since I come from a conservative family, in a conservative state, and grew up in a very conservative small town, how the heck did I end up a flamin’ liberal?! Same with my sister Di and with Cousin Shane. This is something I’ve even discussed with Di and Shane, just because I’m curious about how that could happen. What was different about us?

A few things spring to mind.


To continue to use the three of us (me, Diana, and Shane) as examples, we all got into music at an early age. Diana was a Beatlemaniac and I was listening to her 45s and albums from the time I was probably six years old. (She taught me how to do the Monkey.) Shane and I really started getting into music even when we were in grade school and things really took off when we got into junior high and high school. I think it’s fair to say that we were obsessed. We started off mild, with stuff like The Eagles and Journey, but then we discovered bands like Queen and Cheap Trick and Heart and then holy mama, PUNK ROCK hit us like a hurricane! I subscribed to Creem magazine and I think I subscribed to Circus for a while, too. We read about these crazy music scenes in New York and London and pored over lyrics and obsessed about the music as well as the musicians.

I grew up in a fundamentalist religious household and rock music was often seen as something satanic or evil. I was never forbidden to listen to it—that train had already sailed—but there were always sermons at church, or books laying around, about the dangers of rock music. I used to laugh about it at the time, but you know what? I look back at it now and I realize that there really was an inherent danger in the music.

Not that it was satanic or evil or contained occult messages—that’s just silly. But there was definitely a message there about thinking for yourself, questioning authority, being anti-establishment. And there was plenty of stuff about sex. I mean, hey, it’s rock and roll! So yes, that is dangerous to the conservative, religious atmosphere in which I was raised. Even beyond all that, it gave us a glimpse of a lifestyle other than our small-town Midwestern existence. There were big cities where things were happening, people were doing their own thing and being themselves, people were going out at night and just totally rocking out! Music was a taste of other things out there. Things we wanted to experience.

Intellectual curiosity

I was going to make that heading “books,” but I realized that Shane doesn’t read a lot of fiction books. I changed it to what I did because while being a reader means that you are undoubtedly intellectually curious, you can still be intellectually curious without being a reader. (Does that make sense?) Di and I have always been avid readers, both of nonfiction and fiction (and the occasional science textbook for me), but Shane has his own way of being intellectually curious. After a recent trip to Europe, he is currently working on learning some phrases in Polish. Just as with music, reading and continued learning allow us to get a glimpse of other worlds, other cultures, other ways of life. Shane and I also took a lot of German in high school (and I took some in college), and we agree that a second language should be mandatory in high school. It taught us so much about a different culture and really opened our eyes to a bigger world.


When we were kids, we went on a lot of trips with our parents. My family usually split our summer and winter vacations between Minnesota and Florida, respectively. Not a lot of variety there, but on the drives up to Minnesota or down to Florida, we stopped at a lot of places along the way to learn about history. Shane went on a lot of trips with his Dad, to places out East and to the western states. We all still love to travel and we all seem to have that same urge to learn things when we go to places. I always joke about how when I go to someplace new, I end up buying a half a dozen books about it! (I’ve got plenty of books about New Orleans and Las Vegas if you want to borrow some!) This is also related to the above categories because when you travel, you get to meet people and see cultures that you aren’t familiar with. You get to see that there is a lot more to the world than what is in your little local bubble.

Going off to college

This is the only one that applies just to me, and I think I might be the one who needed it the most. (Di and Shane both attended our local Indiana University extension.) I went off to the big city of Muncie, Indiana (haha) to go to Ball State University. Ball State is a good-sized state college, with an enrollment of maybe 20,000 when I was there. I lived in dorms my first three years and then off-campus for my senior year. What an eye-opener that experience was! All of it. I was around people from all over the state and some from other countries. There were party kids, there were studious kids (I tried to dabble at everything!), there were frat boys and sorority girls (we didn’t hang out much with them, although we partied a lot at the “Animal House” type frat), there were rich kids and there were kids like me. Not only did I get to meet all kinds of people I had never met before, it broke me out of that mold that I’d been stuck in when I was in high school: the nerdy bookworm type. I realize now that that isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s your senior year in high school and you don’t get invited to the prom, it’s kind of like, “Well...fuck.”

Anyway, all that changed when I got to college. People liked my weird sense of humor. They liked that I was into music. The guys at the local record shop got to know me and always had suggestions for me. I dated the drummer in a band called The Generics. I went from being an unpopular kid in high school to being voted Resident of the Year on my dorm floor my junior year. (I still don’t get that! I also got the Foulest Mouth award. THAT I understand! Some things never change.) I’m not sure how much anyone other than the professors were interested in my intellectual capacity, but that was okay. I got a good education but I also got the opportunity for people to like me for ME, and to not judge me based on what they had heard from someone else in a tiny school. As a painfully shy kid, I really needed that. I still remember the name of the first boy who told me I was beautiful: L*** V. R*****. Okay, fine, he was drunk...but it was stunning for me to hear that for the first time. So much so that I still remember his name after all these years! Like, “Hey, wait a can be smart AND pretty??”

(Aside: Holy shit! I just looked him up and he’s an accountant in Indianapolis! That’s why I redacted his name. Not cool to put someone’s name on a blog entry, even if it’s for something nice. Cheers to you, sir. Your words are a nice memory for me and made a difference in my life.)

Honorable Mentions to:

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Second City TV, Beyond Our Control (a local show), Saturday Night Live, Fridays, Midnight Special, American Bandstand, Soul Train, and what the hell, even Dance Fever with Deney Terio!

I really don’t know if all of this culminated in me being a liberal in a red state. I do think that much of it had an effect on me. I read something a while back that I found shocking. There are a lot of people in this country who have never left their home state. I wish I could recall the exact percentage, but it was shockingly high to me...maybe 20%? When you are exposed to nothing other than the same influences you have had from your first moment, how can you learn and grow?

I hope this doesn’t come across as “elitist.” Heck, I live in the can I be one of those coastal elites? Ha! And it’s not to say that those who didn’t do any of these things didn’t end up with the same outlook that I have. However, I do feel that my worldview is different from a lot of the people in my area. I don’t know the exact combination of factors that set me on a different path, but I’m glad it’s the one I took. I’m happy with being me.

And even though I never got to go to prom, I had plenty of chances to work it out on the dance floor later!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power

You start wearing the blue and brown
You're working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now

~~ “Clampdown” by The Clash

It’s been a weekend of extremes, as we watched what seems an obviously unconstitutional executive order issued by the Resident followed by spontaneous protests across the country.

Wow, that’s two weekends in a row! That’s gotta be a record, right? Well, I guess there IS something at which you excel!

The protests continue into this evening and I feel heartened by this response. The Yam seems to think that everyone loves him and loves what he is doing. I am pleased that so many of us are ready and willing to disabuse him of that notion.

I’m sure the Flamin’ Cheeto is absolutely fuming about the protests right now, especially because there is a significant one outside the White House. Hey, yobbo, look out the window! Surprise!

Now, I have no idea if this Twitter account is too legit to quit, but they have mentioned a couple of things that made it look like they really do have some inside info and are hearing things at their job. I cannot account for the veracity of this, so keep that in mind. However, after what we’ve seen this week, would you doubt it?

If this is true, I say…


Here’s the deal. These are Americans exercising their constitutional rights to assemble peaceably. I read of no incidents or arrests at the Women’s March last weekend and only one incident this weekend when police had to use pepper spray on a handful of protesters. (I have no further knowledge of that incident so I cannot comment on whether or not it was justified.)

If you really want to see the shit hit the fan, mobilize the National Guard against Americans who are assembling peaceably. Have them bludgeon people, pepper spray them, hit them with water cannons. Please proceed, Governor.

Then you’ll see the true demonstration of power. That power lies not in your efforts to suppress the people of the United States. It lies not in your strong-arm tactics against all those who oppose you. It lies not in your pathetic attempts to be worshiped and adored by everyone, or your clumsy and obvious lies about the size of your crowds or your supposed standing ovations or your vote count or your non-existent mandate. Or the size of your hands, for that matter.

The true power lies in US, the people of the United States. Those of us whose families have been here for decades, if not centuries, and those who have just arrived on our shores, and everyone in between. WE THE PEOPLE will show you who holds the real power in this country.

Count on it.

(Aside: Please note that Mick Jones is wearing brothel creepers in this video!)