A fork stuck in the road

December 27, 2009

So here it is another Sunday, the first one after Christmas, and here I am again with my coffee and Green Day resounding through my ear pods. I guess this is going to end up being my “year-end” journal, for better or worse.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as if a lot has changed in the mere two days since Yuletide. Thanks to another extremist willing to die along with (in this case) hundreds of civilians, airports have now had to further tighten their security screening criteria and add even longer wait times to harried, tired travelers. Of course, that’s only the inconvenient, annoying side of it. I’ve been reading comments here and there from those dismissing this incident as simply some yutz failing to set himself on fire (actually, he did accomplish this and setting the plane wall ablaze as well) and how could this bring down a jumbo jet, yada yada yada. Maybe I am getting old, or maybe I am overly sensitive to this issue, but I believe this type of thinking is naïve and dangerous. This guy may not have succeeded in blowing up Flight 253 over Detroit soil, but his intent was clearly there. Sadly, the terror tactic has worked once more and now the rest of us are paying for it, anxiously and fearfully, with the aforementioned stricter measures. And it still may not be enough.

All of this makes me wonder how safe we ultimately really are and my conclusion is that nobody is ever completely safe because we are mortal. So perhaps it might be wise to keep that in the back of our minds in our approach to life and try to enjoy things as much as possible during our allotted time here, take as much care of ourselves and each other as we can and try to do the best we can every day.

This season is tailor made for this sort of thinking, though, isn’t it? Lol.

On a positive note, people like Susan Boyle and the 94 year old artist Carmen Herrera (who sold her first painting 5 years ago and is now, finally, basking in success) are greatly inspiring me to keep plugging away at my scribbling. It’s nice to see this reminder that we are never too old to have our dreams come true, isn’t it?

This coming year, I will make at least one change in my life that has been long overdue. I’ll do the best I can with the hand I have been dealt and try to quit whining over not having better cards. This has been a not great twelve months for many of us; here’s hoping 2010 is a vast improvement for everyone.

Happy New Year.

Cold Sweat

December 27, 2009

I like to collect random stories of Surreal Celebrity Encounters. (Technically I mean that the encounters should be surreal, but oftentimes the celebrity involved is as well, and that’s fine. Even better in some cases, in fact.) To date, my favorite anecdotes include one friend who got drunk with Frank Gorshin (aka The Riddler on the ‘60s TV version of Batman), an acquaintance who chatted briefly with Jimmy Stewart while both were awaiting their cars to be serviced at a Los Angeles garage, and another comrade who danced with Bob Hope at a golf tournament dinner in Alabama. I myself am blessed to have had one such unreal experience in that I once got to shake a figurative leg or two with the legendary James Brown.

This rare opportunity presented itself one bitterly cold January 1987 night in Detroit. The concert was comprised of Mr. Brown and five all-star musical guests, and was being filmed for airing on Cinemax later that year. Unfortunately for me, when I dressed for the evening I did not consider the presence of all the lights utilized for the filming, which, added to the heat generated by the capacity crowd, rendered Club Tabu a virtual furnace. Thus, I found myself in the very first row before the stage clad in gold and black leggings and a heavy black sweater that felt like a woolen sauna after just two songs, but could not be removed lest I give the event an instant R rating. Still, the atmosphere was so exciting and the tuneage so invigorating that I had little trouble bopping around and generally showing much enthusiasm as the director requested of us up in the front. I don’t recall clearly many details of this show, though. All I really remember of The Big Moment that night is this: during the instrumental break of “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, an amazing duet with the late, great Robert Palmer, Mr. Brown suddenly descended the stage steps, approached me and we began to dance. I was so stunned that all I could do was grin stupidly while staring at his teeth. After about 15-20 seconds, he kissed me on the cheek and was off to dance with someone else less dazed, less starstruck and basically less dorky. But I didn’t mind; I had my 20 seconds in the literal spotlight with someone I had seen on TV and in The T.A.M.I. Show and whose records I had been playing with my older brother since childhood. It was worth all the cold sweat, indeed!

Months later when Cinemax aired this show, I taped it and for decades this aging video was the sole memento of my personal Surreal Celebrity Encounter. But recently my significant other found and bought me a DVD copy of “James Brown and Friends”, and last night I finally decided to check it out. This was even more surreal, I think, than actually doing that quick, modified jitterbug with Mr. Brown: getting to see the younger me from my current perspective, the younger, living, breathing, laughing, dancing and, yes, perspiring me. I guess for people with home movies, this is not necessarily such an epiphany, but it was for me. For one thing, if I had it to do over again, I would never have bleached my hair so platinum it was just plain white…nor would I have worn it in that scary hair metal style (I confess to having gone through a thankfully brief such phase during this period). I also would never have owned a pair of metallic gold and black leggings that surely glowed in the dark, lol, much less a heavy black sweater that kept riding up embarrassingly at the most inopportune moments. I imagine that at the time I thought I looked smashing, but now when I see this footage, I kind of wince in pain. I look like a frightening cross between a redneck Wafflehouse waitress and a low-rent Whitesnake groupie, ha. I also stand out like a sore thumb in a crowdful of much more muted-attired fans, but I guess that’s how I managed to catch Mr. Brown’s attention in the first place? As for the Big Moment, it played out against the giant lights so really you can only see our silhouettes, and afterward he apparently didn’t dance with anyone else at all but instead bounded right back onstage to rejoin Robert Palmer. (Either my memory is even worse than I thought or else the other woman wound up on the cutting room floor.) But hey, it happened and now, thanks to L, I have the hard proof, as it were. And the music is every bit as fabulous as it was that January Detroit night.

Now, if I can only get over the trauma of that white Bon Jovi ‘do I so happily sported…ha.