“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things: the shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks; then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV; the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger: your couch, your car, your home; I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets: your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack, feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move, the faster we die. Make no mistake: moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star-crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.”
In which I reminisce about high school. (No, really.)
So, I was reading a post by natface (go follow her, for reals) in which she discussed going back and seeing her old high school choir perform (among other things). Oddly enough, I did something similar tonight, and had somewhat similar thoughts about the experience.
I went to my high school (New Hyde Park Memorial High School) this evening and saw their annual Winter Concert. The tradition at my school is that every Winter Concert ends with the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah — sung by the concert choir and played by the band and orchestra — and the band director calls up alumni from the audience to join them in a grand sing-along. He starts with the school’s first graduating class, way back in 1958, and keeps calling out successive years (or decades, usually), going up all the way to the present. (There’s usually at least one person who graduated in the ’50s, which is neat.) I always thought it was a really cool tradition; my old town, New Hyde Park, is a relatively tightly-knit community, and many of the students’ parents also graduated from the school decades ago. So you usually get a good-sized crowd up near the stage by the time the band director — who graduated in 1973 himself — gets to the current year (which, of course, always has the largest contingent come up to sing).
Singing was a big part of my high school life: I was in the main choir of around 120 students, as well as the Chamber Singers, a select audition-only group with around 40 kids (10 or so each of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass). Chamber Singers rehearsals would be held every Monday night from 7-8:30, and we did a few singing engagements outside of school (like the annual town Christmas tree lighting ceremony). You know those sections of college applications where they ask you to discuss your extracurricular activities? Well, aside from playing Little League baseball through 10th grade, I didn’t really have anything notable to speak of, except for my three-and-a-half-year tenure as a tenor (and later, a bass) in the Chamber Singers. One of the things that initially drew me to Glee was how the show’s Glee Club was a cross-section of high school cliques; it mirrored our Chamber Singers, which comprised a wide variety of folks. You had “uncool” nerds like me; you had athletes; you had some popular “beautiful people”; you had folks who didn’t really fit in anywhere — but we all (well, most of us) could sing.
I look at my years in the Chamber Singers (and the larger concert choir) as some of the group’s best, and our choir director, Mr. McKinnon, said as much when I spoke with him tonight. But then, I think it’s also natural to think of your own time in such a group — i.e., one whose members rotate in and out every so often — as its glory days; hell, my friends and I also thought we were the smartest/best graduating class the school had ever seen and would ever see. (We were wrong.) Still, I found a strange joy in going to subsequent high school concerts and wincing at how flat the tenors were, or how the sopranos couldn’t quite hit the high notes. (And in your mind, your groups were always on point. Always.)
But I’ve been to, I think, three Winter Concerts since I graduated in 2004, and the sense of nostalgia that I always get is the one that Bruce Springsteen sings about in "Glory Days." My high school career was filled with ups and downs (just like anyone else’s, I suppose), but when I think about it, many of my best moments somehow involved choir or Chamber Singers — singing really defined my high school experience. I haven’t taken part in any “organized singing” since I graduated from high school, and sometimes, that really makes me sad (I also feel like I can’t sing now as well as I could back then, though I still enjoy singing in the shower and at karaoke bars and during Rock Band sessions). I mean, there’s more stuff than the singing that makes me feel like things have just been going mostly downhill since high school, but my fond memories of my time in choir and Chamber Singers always come back to the surface when I attend concerts at the school — especially when I’m back up in front of the lights, singing “Hallelujah” just like I did for four years, starting nine years ago. (Man, that makes me feel old.)
“When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I will know that I am growing old.”—
Lady Bird Johnson
Today was one of the few and far between days that I actually liked winter. And now with numb toes and fingers, knees cold and wet from having wiped out while sledding, cheeks red and dog curled up next to me on the couch, exhausted from her cavorting, I am drinking hot chocolate and eating some pound cake. There’s nothing like a snow day.
She died. I get that. And yes, it’s as sad as whenever anyone else in this world dies, particularly at such a young age. But why do so many people suddenly care?
I mean, Michael Jackson, I can understand. He was important and influential. Heath Ledger, I could understand. A lot of people, I could understand. But I tell you, I have seen neither hide nor hair of Ms. Murphy on my dashboard in months, at least. And judging from your posts, the only thing you care about that she’s done is Clueless. Yeah, it’s sad she died, but evidently she’s worth more to most of you in death than she was in life.
Now, I’m trying desperately to be much less critical on Tumblr than I have been, and than I would often like to be, these days. But this bothers me. Thousands of people drop dead everyday at too young an age, and hardly anyone bats an eye. One c-level celebrity who hasn’t even looked remotely healthy in years (no doubt due to Hollywood’s ol’ one-two punch of drugs and surgery) drops dead and suddenly half of you are on the verge of tears? Suddenly, she’s an angel? It creeps me out when we romanticize the dead.
The “Age of Celebrity” isn’t just desensitizing us to certain things, I think it’s also over-sensitizing us to certain other things. (Vague? Yes, I am, thanks.) Again, not trying to dictate what you say and think, but my goodness, it really seems like something’s askew on here.
Not that that’s anything new on Tumblr, but I digress.
Agreed, 100%. She was pretty cute in Sin City, but I can’t name any other movies she starred in besides Clueless, Just Married, 8 Mile, and…Little Black Book, I guess.
I don’t mean to cheapen the value of life or anything. I mean, is it sad that someone died? Certainly. That sucks. And is it sad that she was so young? Sure. But I don’t know that many people who would say Brittany Murphy brought light into their lives or anything like that, and I haven’t even brought up the whole drug addict thing yet.
The high number of celebrity deaths this year still is rather odd, though.
We’re getting ready for a big snow storm here. December blizzards always remind me of this song.
Every song I post here is a memory; music is my life’s scrapbook, as it is for most people. Some songs have stronger memories attached than others. The obvious ones are tunes that remind me of emotional moments in my life; heartbreak, happiness, milestones. But there are also those songs that, for whatever reason, lodged themselves in my brain, hanging onto a memory that seems rather insignificant in retrospect.
Sultans of Swing is one of those songs. Upon hearing the very first note, I will be immediately transported to:
Winter, 1978. I’m 16 years old. My bedroom is in the front of the house, looking out onto the street. I have a wooden desk – it’s a real classroom desk my uncle brought me from some school he was renovating. There are all kinds of names and designs carved into the wood by many a hand. My desk is right in front of the window. I’m a nosy kid. I like to see what’s going on outside my door, especially if I’ve been forced by my parents to stay in my room because of some perceived wrong I have committed. The windows are covered with Venetian blinds. Not the little, bitty mini-blinds of today, but the old, three inch, comes-in-white-only- aluminum blinds that ended up misshapen from me constantly bending the slats to see what’s going on in the world of the un-grounded.
I’m studying for a social studies exam by copying all of my class notes onto loose leaf paper. It’s the only way I can study and remember the facts -forced repetition. It’s dark out, but not quite night. It’s 6pm-during-winter dark. Tonight I have my blinds closed because it’s snowing and I know that if I start to stare at the falling snow, I will become hypnotized by the way the flakes swirl under the street lights and I really, really need to study for this test.
I can hear them laughing outside. I hear car tires crunching through the fresh, packed snow and then a skritching, which is the sound that winter boots make when being dragged against snow. My friends were skitching*, right outside my window, while I was being held captive by the intricacies of early Greek civilization.
So I turn up the radio to drown out their fun. I’m listening to WNEW FM (102.7), the premiere rock station in the world. Sultans of Swing comes on. I stare morosely at my social studies textbook while singing along. I take a peek or two out the window, bending the blinds back just a bit so no one can see me spying. I watch the snow fall, I watch my next door neighbor grab hold of the bumper of a car, I watch the neighbor’s Christmas lights come on and the whole scene is so winter wonderland, so perfectly choreographed that I, being a sixteen year old female, instantly feel a wave of self pity wash over me. Sultans of Swing plays on and the music itself feels isolating and stark; a perfect match for my sudden bleak mood.
I push the school work aside and drag the Olivetti over and I type out a piece of over-the-top, morbid, morose poetry.
And that is my history with Sultans of Swing; it reminds me of snow, of winter’s beauty, of Greek history and awful teenage poetry. I swear that when I hear this song, I can smell the polish on the desk and hear that skritching sound of boots on snow.
*Skitching is the fine art of grabbing onto the bumper of a car, bus or truck when there is snow or ice on the ground, and riding along with the vehicle until a) it stops (and you better know how to dig your heels into the snow to keep yourself from ending up under the car); b) you fall off (and you hope no other cars are behind you) or c) the driver realizes there is a stupid kid attached to his vehicle and he either yells out the window for you to get the fuck off his car or he starts fishtailing on purpose in which event you start remembering every prayer you ever learned in catechism and you make some kind of deal with god that if he lets you live you will never stick a firecracker up a frog’s butt again.
And then you wait for another car and do it again. Never underestimate the stupidity of youth or the addictive nature of the adrenaline rush.
I always loved this song and “Guitar George,” who knows all the chords.
You ever get followed on Twitter (or here, I guess) by someone “important,” so to speak, and immediately feel almost nervous in a way, like you’re now obligated to spam less or post more insightful/funny commentary or just behave in a different way in general?
Because it’s god damn freezing and windy out there and when you listen to this song, it’s summer and you’re about to catch a wave. Even if you never surfed before, you are the most awesome surfer in the world on the most kick ass beach in existence and the sun is hot and glorious because that’s what the Beach Boys do for you. They create summer where winter exists.
I’m trying to compile a short list of my favorite albums of the decade, one that doesn’t read “the entire QOTSA discography minus the self titled  plus some other stuff.” I put one (surprising, maybe?) choice at the music tumblr.
Amnesiac makes the list even though I didn’t like it when it came out and it didn’t grow on me until a few years into the decade. Now it might be (I said might, these things change often) my favorite Radiohead album.
This particular song is my anti-road rage song. I have it on a playlist of one and go to it when traffic is about to get my blood pressure rising.