Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tienanmen Square in Buffalo, NY

Why is it that humans can always remember where they were in profound moments of sorrow but hardly ever in profound moments of joy?

I can remember ~exactly~ where I was the day John Lennon died, the day my Father died, 9/11, and the day the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up.

Twenty years ago this week, I was standing on the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Sheridan Ave in the middle of a spontaneous show of support for the student protest in Tienanmen Square.

It started like any other day, I guess. We were all on the cusp of graduating High School and I was out with my girlfriends. Kathy's parents had bought her a beater of a car as an early Graduations gift (Freedom!!) and we did what any other teenage girl would do... We went to the Mall. On the way back, we saw a crowd of people gathered on the corner of Nia. Falls & Sheridan hold signs and yelling at the cars as they drove by. Rumor had it during the Cold War that this particular intersection was a "Ground Zero" spot in the event of Nuclear War because it was (and probably still is) the largest intersection in the entire area, making it a logical strike... Want to stop a heart? Cut an artery. To this day, I have no clue how that rumor started but it always scared the crap out of me at night when I'd lie in bed hearing Sting sing "I Hope The Russians Love Their Children Too" through my tinny pocket AM radio. "At least we wouldn't suffer through the aftermath," my Dad would say... Yeah. BIG words of comfort there, Da.

There was something about this crowd that made me beg Kathy to stop the car so we could investigate. Maybe it was the spontaneity of it all... we weren't the only car stopping, but as we got closer, we recognized a few people we knew and we were swept away.

Apparently (I found out years later) a couple college kids smoking bongs in their dorm rooms decided that day that they simply couldn't sit there on their futons and watch their peers (in age if not nationality) die on TV in the name of freedom from oppression without doing ~something~ so they grabbed some cardboard and some markers and drove to the only spot where they knew they could make their thoughts heard to the most traffic.

I remember feeling shy as I approached one of them and asked if I could join in. "Hell yeah!" was the response. I grabbed a sign that probably said "Free China" or "Honk for Tienanmen" or "Liberty and Justice for ALL" and joined in the shouting.... Finally!! Here I was, teetering on the edge of my "adult" life, and I was finally making my own voice heard!

Twenty years ago there were walls coming down all around us. The unnamed, untouchable fears that we grew up with were melting away as the whole world started to realize that we were all one. We all loved our children too and nobody wanted to become a flash-burned shadow on the wall in the wake of a giant mushroom cloud.

The cars drove by and we yelled and they honked back. The Police came to stop us until they read our signs, and told us that we can't ask the cars to honk anymore in case it caused an accident, but that they wouldn't shut us down. Victory!! Score one for the protesters!

Then the newness and excitement of it all wore out for my girlfriends. They were tired and wanted to go home. I told them to go ahead. I'd get a ride later, and that's when I saw them.

A family of five Chinese-Americans came up to me. The father was alive with excitement.

What are you doing?!
We're telling the world that we are with the students in Tienanmen!
Can we tell them too?
Yes! YES! Please!

He turned to his family and they all grabbed signs and started yelling and jumping up and down with the rest of us. Shouting at cars. Waving their arms... Telling the world.

The man turned to me with tears streaming down his face.

Oh, thank you, THANK YOU. I am from China. I... we... we have been watching the news... my friends. My family. We don't know how they are. There is nothing we can do... but this... This...

I don't know. It's hard to describe. I told him not to thank me. I mean, what ~were~ we doing? What did it matter? We were just a bunch of kids. All I know is that none of us felt like we could just watch it on TV anymore with out saying or doing ~something~... no matter how insignificant or meaningless it was.

On the other side of the planet people our age were being slaughtered. We were making a cardboard replica of the replica of the Statue of Liberty that the Chinese students made. They bled in the streets. We ordered a pizza. We couldn't change a thing but oh, how we hoped they could.

Our hearts stopped in unison when "Tankman" stepped out into the street... alone. The grocery bags in his hand could have come from the supermarket down my street in another world. Those students... they could have been us. We could have been them.

In the end, the protest in Tienanmen was crushed... and we went home. To our lives and our futures and our cars and our MTV. Nothing changed and everything changed.

There are over a billion people in China. What we did on that street corner did nothing to affect or change their lives.

But it did do something for the five members of that family...

I guess that will have to be enough.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Way to go...

Dear readers,

I'd like to begin this blog by saying that whoever invented that ultra-suede micro-fiber that adorns most furniture these days needs to be taken out back and shot.

So, I had my 3rd interview today for this job that I ~really~ want. I mean, I want this job badly enough that I actually picked out an outfit the night before! (Yeah, you heard me).

Well, as you could imagine, I did everything a person normally does when getting ready (shower, hair, make up, etc.) but it's sooooo damn humid here today that I toweled off after my shower but I ~still~ wasn't dry (I hate when that happens!) So, before I put on my new tights, I made sure to use a lil extra powder first... works like a charm!

I'd like to think that the interview went well but most of what happened there has left my head because as I stood up to leave, I noticed that I left a ~perfect~ talcum powder ass print on the chair!!!!

I immediately went to brush it off by pretending to push my chair back in... but noooooooo... As my wonderful luck would have it, it wouldn't come off.

So now, for all I know, their meeting room chair will hold the visage of my ass for all eternity...

Hee hee! Yeah, not ~quite~ the "impression" I meant to leave... Yay me!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lightness and Air

I have a best friend.
Ok, I know, a lot of people have "best friends" but I really and truly have a best friend.
She fills me with lightness and air.
She saves me from the murky cloudy.
She tells me not what I want to hear, but what I ~need~ to hear.
She shares that she hates me sometimes... and that she loves me all the time.
She makes me laugh
... and scream
... and cry
and think.

Today she told me, among many other things that, "writers write every day."

I don't know what it is that keeps me from writing the ONE thing out there that I do know in my heart of hearts I am supposed to write, but I am going to try to find it now.

... and I think that with my best friend by my side; because I truly feel that she ~must~ be a part of it, I think I will find it.



"Plant the seed and let it run its course..."
~ The Watchmen

Monday, June 16, 2008

Let us stay Forever Now...

1983-84?
I'm 12 going on 13, my sister Andrea has one of those rare (back then) moments where she decides to do something totally cool with me. She buys me a ticket to see the Psychedelic Furs and Talk Talk play at Isle view Park in North Tonawanda! It was part of this three-day festival. Each day featured a different style of music, (Country, Metal and New Wave). The "New Wave" show is the least attended (like I could tell). To me, there was a shitload of people!!

Andrea and I pull up some lawn as we sit through the opening act... Some unknown College band from Jamestown called The 10,000 Maniacs(Go figure!)
Talk Talk comes on and suddenly we're engulfed by people. Everyone stands up and we can barely see over their heads.

Now comes the break before "The Furs." Andrea and I wait till most of the crowd heads to the beer tents and we make a beeline all the way to the front row. When the Furs come out, we are right in front! This was during the "Forever Now" tour so they opened w/"Love my Way." Andrea and I freaked b/c we (like everyone else our age) were die-hard MTV viewers, and knew all the dance moves from the video. Well, I'm sure I was the youngest person in the front row (and if I was 12, I'm sure I was wearing something super-spiffy like my "Smurf" t-shirt)::slaps forehead::: Anyway, we're dancing right along with him step for step, he sees us and he blows us a kiss... We scream!

1886
The "Mirror Moves" tour comes to Darien Lake Amphitheater, which is (at the time) nothing but a stage at the bottom of a grassy hill). My older brother, John, takes me because the girl he likes is going with her friends instead. I was recently busted by my Mom for smoking and the only reason she let me go was because John would've been out the price of the ticket if I didn't.

We get in his car and speed towards the park. Once we get on the Thruway, he asks me if I smoke. I say "No!" thinking that I'm in for a lecture. "Too bad," he says, "Cause I DO!!" He laughs maniacally as he lights a smoke and tosses me the pack. "Oh man! You have NO idea how much shit I get away with because Mom's always looking to bust you! You're the best thing that's ever happened to me!"

He buys me a tin pail of beer. Yeah, they served beer from the tap in these tin pails that cost $6 and held about 4 cups of beer (I still have mine!) I befriend the girl he's crushing on and she decides to date him on my advice. Til Tuesday opens and The Furs were brilliant as always! They add this horn section for "Sleep Comes Down" and I don't know why, but it reminds me of Gunga Din.

1987 - 88?
"Midnight to Midnight" tour - I'm probably in trouble for ~something~ again. All I know is that the local news is doing a live interview with Richard Butler and the opening act is about to take the stage. I leave the dinner table and go sit on the front steps. I don't want anyone to tease me for crying over missing a concert.

My brother comes outside and sees me feverishly trying to brush away my tears. He looks at me, shakes his head in exasperation and says, "Let's go." We make it to Darien Lake in 20 minutes. A record time no one has ever beat to this day.

I run into the same girl my brother used to date while waiting in line for the girls' bathroom but the line's waaaaay too long, so we decide to pee in the boys' bathroom. They don't seem to mind. My brother buys me (another) bucket of beer and a t-shirt that I wear every day for gym class... when I actually go to gym.

They play "Heartbreak Beat" and I am dancing like a mad woman underneath the stars on a beautiful summer night. I am on the cusp of turning 17. I am beautiful and everyone is watching me dance ... I vow to stay this way forever...

2002-03?
I see the Furs one more time in an old theatre in North Tonawanda (ironically). This time; ~I~ buy the tickets for my sister and I.

We walk in. The place is crowded but the first 3 rows are empty. Thinking of my past experiences, we sit in the front row. They take the stage, we all jump up and start dancing... Suddenly, we are being hit w/popcorn. We turn around... everyone is in their seats and they are yelling at us to sit down!!!!

We are devastated. Now we are sitting in the front row... sulking. Richard looks me in the eye. I mouth, "I'm sorry!" He winks and blows me and Andrea another kiss. We stand up and get heckled into sitting back down over and over through the entire show. I feel as if I've broken a vow. The 16 year-old me would have flipped off the entire crowd and danced like nobody was watching. The 30-ish me is self-conscious and astounded that these guys have taken the stage while it's still daylight out and have agreed to play in a place where they only serve beer in the lobby... Plus, they're ~inside!~

PS: They play "Forever Now" as an encore. It's like a spell is broken and suddenly ~everyone~ rushes to the front of the stage. Andrea and I find ourselves getting elbowed to the back. I can't be sure of this part but it seems to me that Richard sings to only us. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My First Love Letter

Ok... Unless you were following me on MySpace back in 05 this story is new to you.

I went to a catholic grade school and my very first crush was a boy in my first-grade class named Joey. Joey was a troublemaker. He was always being sent home with a note pinned to his chest for his Mom, and this made me love him even more! He rolled his sleeves up and slouched in his seat. He ate paste on a dare and would always say “Yeah” during roll call instead of “Present.”

One day, someone stole my crayons from my desk. I immediately started crying because my mother had so meticulously printed my initials on EVERY crayon to prevent such a misfortune. Joey, taking pity on me, offered to share his crayons with me. I was so thrilled, I pretended not to notice the tiny “NM” printed on the paper wrapper of the Cornflower Blue Crayola.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I HAD to profess my love to Joey even if it meant that he might punch me in the stomach as I’d seen him do to other girls. I decided the best way to avoid physical harm was to launch a covert operation. I would write him a love letter!

“A Love letter! Perfect,” I thought to myself, “I can drop it on his desk near the end of the day!” I figured that the end-of-the-day confusion would allow me to place my missive of love on his desk and have plenty of time to get out of the way of any stomach punching.

That night, I spent agonizing hours hunched over the dining room table carefully constructing what was to be my opus of love. To this day, I have no idea what I wrote on that spiral-bound piece of notebook paper with my #2 pencil but I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

Dear Joey,

I love you.

If you love me, check this box.

After slaving over this soul-bearing note, I realized my mistake... I had written it on plain notebook paper! Love notes of this magnitude aren’t supposed to be written on plain notebook paper! What could I do? Re-writing it on stationery was out of the question. I was a lefty and a horrible printer. I was actually supposed to skip first grade but only if I learned to print legibly. Lucky for me, I refused to practice that summer or I never would have met my Joey.

The only viable solution was to make the note look better somehow. It needed a decoration of some kind to convey exactly how much Joey meant to me.

Seeing that my crayons were gone, I decided to remove several of the jagged strips of paper from the spiral in my notebook and tie them around my note, wrapping it up like a present... a small... crumpled up... wad-of-paper-like present.

The next day at school was a blur. I spent the entire day checking the pocket of my cardigan to make sure I hadn’t lost the note. I didn’t even participate in singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” for fear that it would fall from my pocket.

Finally, my moment came. As everyone in my class was getting ready to leave for the day, I executed my plan. I stood up with my trusty #2 pencil and went to the sharpener. This way I could survey Joey for the perfect opportunity (when he wasn’t punching people in the stomach) to make my move. Just as I ground my pencil to a stub, my moment arrived. Our teacher, Mrs. Smock, reprimanded Joey for horsing around and he was now sulking by himself with his head resting on his Evel Knievel backpack.

It was now or never... My palms were sweating profusely as I casually tried to stride past Joey’s desk. I reached in my pocket and deftly palmed my precious note. You couldn’t quite tell that the strips of paper had been tied into neat bows anymore because I had been squeezing the note all day, but I was sure that Joey would understand the painstaking amount of time that I had put into this note all for him.

With all the skill of a superior note-passer, I flipped the note out of my pocket and on to Joey’s desk where it gracefully slid and came to a stop just underneath Joey’s sulking eyes.

I did it!! With the delivery complete, I ran back to my desk so I could watch Joey’s reaction to my very first love letter from a safe distance. My mind’s eye was filled with endless afternoons of building Lego mansions together where our combined families of Fisher Price Little People would live happily ever after.

My reverie was suddenly broken with a shout.

“Hey!” Joey yelled as he stood up from his desk, my note grasped in his hand.

The entire room was suddenly silent. Joey’s outburst commanded everyone’s attention. All eyes were on him as turned, red-faced and angry from the teacher’s scolding, and pointed his finger right at me!!!
“Don’t you throw your trash on my desk... EVER AGAIN!”
With that, Joey took my heartfelt confession of primary school love, wadded it up (as if it could ~be~ any more wadded) and threw it in the waste basket.

I just stood there and looked at my love-letter resting on the top of the wastebasket... looking for all the world like a crumpled up piece of spiral book notepaper and not like a note at all.

The next day, I told Mrs. Smock that Joey had stolen my crayons and that I could prove it because my initials were written on every one. Joey was sent to the Principal's office and had to eat lunch alone for the rest of that week.

Heh, heh... Hell hath no fury like a first grader spurned. ;D