Saturday, September 29, 2012

high school newspaper

When I graduated grammar school I didn’t take the test to go to Bronx Science, which would have been a shoe in. Instead I made the mistake of going where people I knew were going. When I got there I found out that Cardinal Spellman catholic school was uptight, airless, controlling disrespectful and condescending. The nuns were verbally abusive, which indicated to me a basic error in its philosophy of learning. Some people liked the place, and I mean you no disrespect here, but I was simply allergic to it’s closed minded suffocating practices. I could almost get the hives thinking about it.

In sophomore year of high school I was kicked out. I was a bright smart student who loved learning, but I dyed my spiky hair and wore black eyeliner in a London ‘77 style, fishnet stockings and black patent stilettos and a leather motorcycle jacket with my hideous blue polyester uniform. The school had a large population of students from organized crime families. Many of the girls were quite beautiful and many dyed their hair and wore tons of make-up and 6 inch Fordham Road pumps to school. We were all doing the same thing, we just had different taste. The problem was that it was ok for them to look that way, but the school had an issue with my choices. That was enough to get me kicked out. I wasn’t actually asked to leave, I was asked to look like everyone else. I left- joyously running through the halls in street clothes on my last day.

Junior year I reported to The McBurney school on Central Park West and 63rd Street. This place was really loose, they took kids from half way houses and took me in my third year with a little scholarship because I had a great grade point average. I helped them they helped me. My new school was light years ahead of where I cam from.
The school had a slew of wealthy kids who were pretty privileged, and probably thought it a drag there, but I was in my element. There were a handful of bright cool students and the faculty was awesome, for the most part. I loved not having strict rules and no uniform. We were supposed to wear a collared shirt, but I would wear thrift store shirts that I cut the cuffs off of, like Patti Smith on the cover of Horses, so it never even felt like a dress requirement. I could pair a collared shirt with combat boots, a plaid skirt, and long underwear, or with tights with colored fishnet stockings pulled up over them haphazardly, a black pencil skirt with lace slip over it and high top sneakers. It was the time in NYC when a lot of people were hanging out at Dancateria and dressing like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. Goth was starting- black hair or white hair, pointy boots white skin and black makeup. The wealthy popular girls in my school wore Guess jeans, skinny to the ankle, with zipper so you could get your foot through the tiny hole (pre-stretch jeans, my friends) and had big-ish hair ala flashdance, curls all tossed to one side. I didn’t talk much to them. I was still rocking a completely different style, but all was good.

The school had a concerned staff that wanted me to get a scholarship to college so they made me the editor of the newspaper so I would have some extra curriculum leadership things to put on my application. I went along with them, not knowing what a gift they were giving me. As it turned out, I did indeed get an NYU scholarship but at the time I just figured I would be newspaper editor, what the hell

Here is the point of this story:

As editor, I changed the format of the paper from the way newspaper stories are usually written, into stories that used the word “I”. “I think” I feel”. I thought that news style writing was ridiculous, making yourself invisible was a lie. All that was written, what people read, was just people opinions, why try to act like it wasn’t? Plus, after all, it wasn’t world news, it was high school stuff.

The school let me do two issues this way and then replaced me saying that our experiment failed. The teacher who supervised us was awesome, but he wanted our newspaper to be a newspaper. It all worked out. I got the scholarship and the paper went back to normal. The end.

Except that the teacher who headed the newspaper was really disappointed in my choices. He cared about news and the formality of the institution of newspapers. At the time, I felt bad about my choices too, like I had been foolish, But looking back I can see that I was so ahead of my times. I was indeed a visionary on the forefront of the new wave of journalism. Or at least I was onto the truth about it. The world had changed since then and many people agree that news stories do indeed reflect someone’s opinion be it Fox or whomever.

But I too have changed and I really do appreciate the attempt to be neutral in reporting. I love the newscasters who share those values. Warren Olny of PRI comes to mind, as a hero of staying neutral and giving all sides a voice. We need more people like Warren. Thank you to the heroes that try to keep that kooky business clean. And thank you all you good folk at McBurney high, who were great staff and teachers and had the students best interest in mind. Education is a process.

Too bad that my sweet high school is now just another NYC co-op apartment building. Ah, the perils of growing up in New York….

Do Your Best
Care about your world, your neighbors, your community, kids
Opt for the best possible outcome for all parties involved
Think win win
Stay open minded and fair
Listen to the other side
Practice empathy.

I write this because I am not good at any of these things, but I am consciously trying to be better.

Friday, September 21, 2012

absolute freedom

Let me tell you a story.

When I was sixteen, I was a teenage anarchist. To me now, this is so silly and cute and brave, but at the time I was DEAD serious. I idealistically believed that people were smart enough to rule themselves, control themselves and live in harmony without idiots interfering. I believed that I personally knew how to live that way and that did not need government to tell me what to do. I thought that absolute freedom was an external thing and eliminating the government would provide that. Little did I know.

[Sounds real conservative, huh? Like keep the government small and keep it out of our lives? The similarities were only in the way that a teenage brain fails to be able to reason out certain things, because it is under developed still. Dissimilar because: the conservative line is to keep the government small but then they want the government in our bedrooms saying who can be married and in our bodies saying that women cannot chose abortion, so really they want the biggest most intimate government of all. Scary. But I digress…]

So as an anarchist, I and my boyfriend, also an anarchist, figured that it was ridiculous to be monogamous because saying I love you did not mean that you were the only person I could laugh with or hold hands with or have fun with. Why would love mean that you had to cut your self off from all of the other people in the world you might have feelings for. You do not need to be an anarchist to feel this way, but for us, at least for me, it was a principle. This is the simple version, as I do not have time or energy to write the whole manifesto, dig?

Really what was going on was that we were teenagers and we wanted to try it all, (who doesn’t?). But we had a relationship that felt like soul mates and we didn’t know what to do. So we had an “open” relationship. It looked great on paper. For me, the whole thing was a stormy mess, exactly what I was used to and what I felt good with. I felt jealous of every girl my boyfriend was with, but I was happy to be with all the other guys I dated. Our experiment was brilliant and my life was big with experience. And we are still good friends till this day, so there was something to it.

Really, the only problem with our set up was that I judged my jealousy, thought I should be above it, tried to change it and never admitted it- the opposite of absolute freedom. I never admitted that I felt pain, to myself or anyone else, and I stuffed and fixed and judged all of those feelings into fights with my boyfriend. And man did we fight! My inability to be honest and just feel my pain was criminal. I probably would have been equally miserable staying faithful to one guy during that time period, 16-20 years old. Either way, I feel sad that I was trying so hard to be something I wasn’t, or rather to feel differently than I felt. The world would be a better place if we all accepted our selves and our feelings, particularly if they are different from what we wish they were. Then it would be easier to live and let Live. Accepting and respecting others begins with accepting and respecting ourselves which leads to less war, less hate crimes, more peace, inside and thus outside.

Life is an amazing and unexpected journey for me. I am taken to so many surprise places with depths I never imagined, lived so many lifetimes in this one already. I applaud my young self for being so brave, and challenging the rules in a quest for freedom. Really, I was just from a very troubled home and I found comfort on blaming in other institutions. I have come out on the other side of my experiences knowing that absolute freedom is an inside job that very few have mastered, but the beauty of life is in the seeking it.

Life is long and wonderful and I have done all I have needed to do thus far and have few regrets. I probably don’t need to say this but I have no interest in an open relationship these days. True intimacy, where my partner and me are open about what we feel, is still a challenge, but a challenge I confront, not avoid. Don’t fight it, don’t fight it, baby feel it.

I loved Crass. They still sound good. I will always have a soft spot for you…..

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everybody plays the fool

Super Bad

In 1972 I was in 2nd grade. I saw a record advertised on TV called Super Bad and I NEEEEEDED to have it. It was put out by K-Tel label. It must have been really important for me to have because I somehow got my mother to get it for me and that was rare. I did not get a lot of things. I must have worked really hard to make that happen, but I have no memory of  that because it was all eclipsed by getting it.
It was a Funk and Soul collection and the cover was the words Super bad, spray painted on a wall, you dig what they are getting at? The vinyl had James Brown “Get On the Goodfoot” and Isaac Hayes “Shaft”. I was a bit too young to fully appreciate serious funk, but I liked it. I was curious about “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex, a song that struck me as weird at that young age, why did she promise and then not give it, and why is he demanding it?
At the time I felt that the two best songs on the collection were “Band of Gold” which had a pretty great opening and “Everybody Plays the Fool” by the Main Ingredient, which I thought was “Everybody Plays the Flute Sometime” because there is a solo instrument in the intro/riff that sounds like a flute. What did I know? Not a lot, but I really dug that record. I played it all the time. I had passion for music at 4 years old and 5, 6 and 7 and on and on. Make it happen, follow your bliss, go where it is warm, go where your heart leads you. Dig it brothers and sisters.
Love to you all,

Monday, September 10, 2012

nine eleven

Sept 11th
I woke up that day after it had already happened. I lived on 13th street and ave B about a mile from the towers. My sister called to see if I was ok. It took her a while to get through. It was close to 11am when I finally woke from the ringing. I got up to answer the phone. I heard her voice on the other end
Are you OK?
Why wouldn’t I be?
They took down the towers.
Who did?
Osama Bin Laden
Who is that? What towers?
I was still half asleep. It took me a while to understand what she was talking about. When I finally got it I burst crying. I never even visited those towers. I never much cared for them and then I felt like my friend was gone. I could see the plumes of smoke out my window where they used to stand.

There were no cars below 14th street, only ash that looked like snow. It was so quiet on the streets. It was so scary, what the f where we going to do now. How would life ever be the same. What was gonna happen. I would have to pass a barricade of national guardsmen to get onto 14th street to do my laundry. They would look inside my laundry bag before letting me through. I would have to show them again with photo id to get back home. I would try to find the same guy who let me out so I could get back into my block with as little stress as possible. Things were nuts.

The streets were covered with those heartbreaking devastating posters of the missing. People in the street would cry with you, hug you, pray with you. Then people started getting together and having parties. I had a dinner party, Mmy apartment was packed, everyone brought food and sat around and relished the company. We needed each other and we were there for each other. A fighfighter who I had never met before was in my apartment. PEOPLE CAME TOGETHER. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Amazing and Overwhelming with sorrow. We were so openad and felt so much. We supported eachother and we moved through it, better people because of it, but at a great cost.

God bless you all, the victims, the survivors, the cops and firefighter, true heros, and the families and friends. New yorkers. Citizens of the world. All of us. Peace on earth good will towards people.