1 + 1 = 3: A road trip with Bruce Springsteen

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A while back I went on a road trip with Bruce Springsteen. That’s right, just me and the Boss, rolling down the open road, just how we like it. I was headed to Houston and I had just downloaded Born to Run on Audible. So with Bruce riding shotgun, we rolled out.

As I listened, Bruce unfolded the map of his life, as he alone can do, the stories stretching out like the interstate. The further I drove the more melancholy, the more joyous, the more introspective I became. If you are a Springsteen fan, you already know that he is a magician with words. If you are not, I dare you to see him live or read Born to Run and disagree with me. In many ways, he is America’s Rock & Roll Poet Laureate.

That brings me to this past Sunday. Kent & I were lucky enough to win the ticket lottery and be given the opportunity to see Bruce perform on Broadway. Many of you have been asking for my thoughts about the experience and up until now, I have not been able to come up with anything more than it was transcendent and a once in a lifetime experience. I will attempt to do more than that here.

Back to the open road: Me, Bruce, and Born to Run. Just like his one-man show, the hours I spent listening to Bruce opine were like therapy; helping me to examine my own life and find just a little more meaning. At some point on the ride, I paused the book and began to use the talk to text feature on my phone to dictate what follows. When I got home, I neglected to share it with you. And honestly? I am glad I saved it until now. When I read it to Kent after the show we both cried. Again.

Here it goes. I think it is the best way for you to feel what I was feeling Sunday.

In the process of wearing my many hats, I have not become excellent at any one thing. Politician, poet, motivational speaker, theologian, psychiatrist, nail technician, editor, bartender, party planner, tutor, and short order cook. I can cook but I’m no great chef. I could clean, and I have, but now I am able to pay someone else to do it. I like to build things, but I will never build a great cathedral or be Frank Lloyd Wright. I enjoy writing but will likely never win a Pulitzer or report to you from some faraway land. I may spend time finding one or dong my best to play one to my family, but I’ll never be a doctor. I love to sing, but I will never be Nate Ruess, Springsteen, or even a member of the Go-Go’s. I am an artist but I’m no Van Gogh. I am not a copywriter or designer on Madison Avenue. You won’t hear my jingles or sales pitches and sing them to yourself years from now. I may never again act on the stage and I may never act in a movie – but some days I do feel like somebody just pretending to be who they are.

In the end – I have more job titles than I can name – taxi driver, IT professional, an amateur psychiatrist. My life has not been what I expected it to be, but it is been So. Much. More. I am not excellent at any of the hats that I wear but the symphony of all of them coming together makes me who I am. And I am amazing. Nobody gets to be all the things that I get to be. And I think maybe as time goes on I’ll also be an agent and manager, a driver and a personal assistant, a confidant, cheerleader, coach, and a mom. And I’ll be damned if I won’t use all of these things and everything else in my power to see the dreams of the people I love come true.

And so now as I continue to listen to Bruce describe the magic that he does and the uncertainty and the questioning that go into his trick of making one plus one equal three, I realize that in some way that is exactly what I get to do. Just like Bruce, I make the magic happen in our house. When the chips are down and things need to go our way people look to me to make sure that 1+1 = 3. Sometimes I’m not the greatest mathematician. In fact, you don’t want me keeping your books necessarily or paying your bills. But if you want one plus one to equal three – sometimes when everything is just right –

I’m your girl.

I may cry too much, feel too much, talk too much, be too loud, and be too opinionated. And every now and then I’m going get mired down in the negativity of life but I will never ever give up.

Bruce says at one point in the book that no matter how real the concerts are, no matter how transcendent he makes them, no matter how connected it feels, in the end, – it’s fiction – it’s theater – In reality, life always trumps art. In that way, I have the advantage. I get to wear all these hats and be all these people and in the end for me, it isn’t fiction it is fact. It’s reality. It is life and it is hard but it is also beautiful.

We only get one life. And mine is pretty fucking fantastic.

 
If you are wanting a set list or to have a blow by blow review, you can find that here. 

 

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It is all America.

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Over the last several hours I have seen this posted by several friends on my Facebook feed. And as much as I would love it if this were true, it just isn’t. Let’s be clear:

ALL THREE OF THESE IMAGES ARE AMERICA.

It is more important to recognize this fact now more than ever. Yes, the image at the top is beautiful and yes, people of all races, religions, and political persuasions are putting aside their differences to help each other during the crisis unfolding in south Texas. But make no mistake, the events of Charlottesville, Boston, and Berkley from the last couple weeks, as well as Ferguson, Baltimore, and countless others over the last several years, are America too. Unfortunately, our racial divide will not be washed away when the floodwaters subside.

Pretending it will at this point is willful blindness.

Indeed, much like the rebuilding of the great city of Houston, it will take years (not days) of effort, of coming together, of setting aside our pride and really listening to the people who are most affected to see restoration and to make this meme the truth. May we be successful on both counts.

To donate to the Red Cross Houston relief efforts click here.

To donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center click here.

Bruce, Inspiration, and The Wall

As you may have noticed, it has been eerily quiet here on the blog. I have been adrift without inspiration for a spell. And unlike others who push themselves to write until inspiration comes, I can only wait like a traveler on the platform who just missed the last train home. So I waited.

The election came and went and my elusive inspiration was replaced with simmering disillusionment. The past 8 years I have not agreed with everything the Obama administration has done, but overall I felt hope that we were moving in the right direction.
The economy was beginning to turn around, more and more people had health care, my LGBTQ brothers and sisters were free to marry if they chose to and barriers were being broken down for women in many areas.

And then we elected Trump. My inspiration to write seemed to be drowned in an overwhelming sense that if I just ignored it and tried to move on I would wake up and it would be a dream. I mean, hopefully, Trump would move to the middle now that he had been elected like everyone was saying. Surely, he didn’t really mean all those things he said.  Hey, a girl can dream.

Then came the inauguration and the women’s march. I thought I would find inspiration somewhere marching with my daughter and friends among the banners, camaraderie, and history of it all. Nope. Still waiting.

And then it happened. Road trip. Where all the best inspiration happens. (At least for me). There just seems to be something about the open road, a cold drink, a snack and hundreds of miles of asphalt that just seems to hold a bit of magic.

On this trip, I took along a companion. Bruce Springsteen personally read me his new book Born to Run. [So it was on Audible. Let me pretend, okay?]

Listen, I don’t care if you are a fan of Bruce or not, this book is one of the best I have read. It is raw and honest, transcendent and earthy all at the same time. But don’t take my word of it. Download it and let the Boss show you the light. After that get yourself to one of his live shows. He has made more than one convert at his live shows.

So here I am, with Bruce headed south toward Galveston and out of nowhere like a lightning storm in the desert– inspiration!

Bruce. Motherhood. Dreams. Walls.

WALLS.

In the book, he talks about the first time he and the E Street Band played in Berlin and saw the wall. He talked about how it was an affront to humanity and how it changed them forever. The next time they went back was 1988. In his article When Bruce Springsteen Helped Destroy the Berlin Wall, Greg Mitchell writes:

More than 200,000 showed up, twice what Dylan had attracted. Springsteen opened, pointedly, with “Badlands,” but the indisputable highlight was his cover of “Chimes of Freedom,” a Dylan tune that Dylan himself had overlooked. The show, which in typical Springsteen style lasted nearly four hours, was beamed to millions of East Germans via state television. Many middle-aged Germans I interviewed for my book fondly recalled attending the performance or watching it on TV. “It was a nail in the coffin for East Germany,” one fan told theGuardian years later.

In Born to Run, Springsteen recounts a previous visit to East Berlin with bandmate Steve Van Zandt. “You could feel the boot,” he recalls. The wall, in Springsteen’s view, seemed almost “pornographic.” The experience helped shock the then-apolitical Van Zandt into decades of activism. “The power of the wall that split the world in two, its blunt, ugly, mesmerizing realness, couldn’t be underestimated,” Springsteen writes. “It was an offense to humanity.”

Bruce goes on to say in the book that some even came with hand-made American flags. America and our music represented all that was beautiful–freedom, and acceptance, and room for all.

Right then I turned off the book and I cried. I cried and  I yelled. At Trump. All alone in my car. Damn you. Damn you and your hate. Damn you and your wall. How could you turn my country — a beacon of hope to the world into such a small and ugly place?  I realized that we have become, this week, the builders of the next fucking wall.

We are the ones who keep people out. We are now the ones who build the walls. The ones who revoke the green cards. The ones who in the name of freedom curtail liberty.The ones who punish the innocent in the name of safety. I am ashamed.

Fuck that. Fuck that wall and all it stands for.

Bring back my country. Bring back the people we used to be who stood behind Reagan and said, “tear down this wall”. And then they did. And then we all did.

Years from now, if we actually build this affront to humanity, people will tell stories like Springsteen’s about US. How incredibly, indescribably sad.

How incredibly, indescribably sad.

Ex-Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev: ‘World Is Preparing for War’

Bruce Springsteen Helped Breach Berlin Wall

Dear Mr. Trump from a Grown-Up Theater Kid

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Dear Mr. Trump,

As every theater kid knows, the theater is a safe and special place. It is probably one of the safest and most accepting places I have ever experienced.

But there is one thing every theater kid knows: we stick up for each other. We are a safe space for the underdog, the awkward kid, the gay kid, the jock who wants to sing and dance and anyone and everyone who will accept us as we are.

But there is a time when we are not a safe space. We are not a safe space for bigotry. We are not a safe space for sexism. We are not a safe space for racism. We are not a safe space for those who want to divide us.

Once the theater helped us find our voices we can no longer be silent. We will use our voices to challenge, to encourage and to expand the hearts and minds of the people.

After all, there is a reason fascists and dictators shut down or seek to control movies and theater when they are in power.

We the theater kids will not sit down and shut up. We will not be silent in the face of the normalization of everything we stand against.

Mr. Trump (and you too Mr. Pence) we theater kids learned a lesson in empathy that you were denied somewhere along the way. But hear us now, even still, we would be happy to share that lesson with you if you are willing to learn.

The theater is big enough for us ALL.

Regards,

A grown-up theater kid

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004777637

Clinton, Dole the myth of the perfect female candidate.

 

 

This whole election cycle people have been telling themselves and others that they would love to see a woman become President — just not THAT woman.

I would love to believe that, but I just don’t.

Would you like to know why?

Elizabeth Dole. That’s why.

Back in 2000 I was a Republican (I know, you’re shocked). In fact up until Obama’s Second term and an ill-advised vote for Ross Perot I always voted straight Republican ticket. Anyways, in 2000 Elizabeth Dole was running for the Republican nomination. She had a very impressive resume:

Duke Undergrad
Oxford Post Graduate studies
Harvard Law

United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2009
20th United States Secretary of Labor
In office
January 25, 1989 – November 23, 1990
8th United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
February 7, 1983 – September 30, 1987
Director of the Office of Public Liaison
In office
January 20, 1981 – February 7, 1983
Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission
In office
December 4, 1973 – March 9, 1979

Ultimately Sen. Dole dropped out of the primaries and the nominee was the much less qualified George W. Bush.

I can still remember people saying that they wouldn’t mind voting for a female candidate, just not this particular female candidate. Ironically people were simultaneously saying the same thing about Hillary Clinton who was running for Senator in New York.

In 1999, when rumors had Dole preparing for a run at the White House and Clinton for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Senate Seat, Margaret Talbot, then a senior fellow at the New American Foundation, wrote in the New York Times Magazine: “Remember the Year of the Woman? Well, it’s beginning to look like 2000 might be the year of the wife.”

Labeling both these female candidacies – one from the right and one from the center — a symptom of political “dynasticism… in which a woman’s own political career is an outgrowth of her husband’s,” Talbot then warned in a burst of regional stereotyping that Dole’s “sugary southern charm will only carry her only so far; who wants a magnolia, even a steel magnolia, for President?”[2] The nation proceeded to elect (or not, depending on which hanging chad you look at) a male southerner, and a dynastic candidate with a far shorter resume and fewer intellectual accomplishments than Dole, George W. Bush.

http://www.publicseminar.org/2016/10/the-woman-who-might-have-been-president/#.WCN_gBIrJDU

Dole herself said,“Women in the Republican Party do not show enough support for a woman candidate. It’s much tougher than being a Democratic female candidate.”

Don’t tell that to Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, people were prepared to elect a woman Senator, even one with a prominent political husband. However, as we saw again last night, not enough were or are prepared to elect a female President no matter how qualified.

Many many years ago, Kent asked me who would becomePresident first, a black man or a white woman? I did not hesitate to say a black male. Because women of all races are still seen as less competent for leadership than men — sadly by both men AND women.

Apparently, we are still not ready. Even though Hillary received a majority of the popular vote, it was not by enough to propel her to an electoral college victory. Say whatever you want about Hillary, make whatever excuses about why you want a woman,“just not THAT woman”. But The United States of America just said they prefer a man with ZERO experience in government and ZERO foreign policy experience,  who sexually assaults and degrades women, publically mocks the disabled, will not disclose his taxes, and has 5 children with 3 women, diminished the sacrifice of a POW and a gold star family, and is currently involved in a fraud lawsuit and 3500 other lawsuits over an eminently qualified woman candidate.

As Joy Bahar said this morning, “You know what I learned? I learned that, as usual men can get away with anything and women can get away with nothing. That’s what I learned.”

I will leave you with this from the onion:
WASHINGTON—Political experts are hailing Donald Trump’s historic presidential victory early Wednesday as a resounding declaration that the nation is finally ready to cast off the tyrannical yoke of moderate respect for women that has suffocated the citizens of this country for generations. “Under Trump’s presidency, we can now look ahead to a bold new era in America in which we will no longer suffer under a repressive ideology that demands basic decency and relatively equal treatment toward half the nation’s population,” said Harvard political science professor Gregory Nagle, adding that citizens could now live free from the fear that they would never again be lightly chastised for making derogatory comments about a woman’s appearance or implying that women are less capable or intelligent than men. “For far too long, Americans have been at the mercy of an authoritarian belief system that sometimes presses employers to consider hiring women for high-level positions and, under certain circumstances, allows women to have control over their own bodies. And faced with the unsavory prospect of women receiving fair pay or having their sexual assault claims taken seriously, Americans went to the polls today and made their voices heard loud and clear. This is a bright new day for America.” In a similar finding, political scientists asserted that Trump’s election also represented a decisive move by the people of this country to shake off the brutal fetters of half-hearted attempts at racial tolerance.

P.S. You think it was bad for Dole and Clinton? Have you seen what they have said about Michelle Obama? And she hasn’t even run for office yet.

Racism Didn’t Exist Before Obama: Exercises in Blaming the Victim

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I have heard more than one person say recently that racism didn’t exist before Obama. Yes, you read that right.

At the risk of speaking in a space where there are PoC whose voices should be heard, I will listen to Awesomely Luvvie and do my part to bring equality, reconciliation, education, and justice where I can.

The way I see it is this …

This country was built in large part on the backs of slave labor.

When slaves spoke up/rose up slave owners said, things like this: “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. –John C. Calhoun” They denied there was a problem. They blamed the slaves for causing the problem. 

Racism didn’t exist before them.

Eventually, the abolitionists and slaves were able to win but only after 620,000 people were killed in the Civil War.

When the practice of slavery was finally abolished and slaves were given their freedom and subsequently black men were given the vote in 1872, white folks congratulated themselves on how far they had come and the sacrifices they had made. And when black folks complained about the laws and practices put in place to make it virtually impossible for them to exercise that vote — THEY were blamed for being the ones causing problems.

Racism didn’t exist before them.

After the Reconstruction, we entered the Jim Crow era. Black citizens had more freedom, more access to education and services, and more rights than ever before. But guess what? Still FAR from equal. Separate and NOT EVEN CLOSE to equal. And guess what? When people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the young men from the Woolworth counter, and countless others had the nerve to say “It isn’t enough, we are still not equal”, THEY BLAMED THEM for being the troublemakers.

Racism didn’t exist before them.

Eventually, schools were integrated, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, Affirmative Action was put in place to help correct injustices in hiring and college admission, etc. But guess what? There are still racial inequalities and racial injustice. Is it better than it was? Of course. Are we done? Not even close. And when the oppressed stand up (or sit down, or take a knee) who gets blamed for the racism? THEM.

Racism didn’t exist before them.

Enter Barak Obama, our nation’s first black President. This advance of culture and equality as the many before it causes the latent racism present in our society to bubble to the surface. Because where there is racism, there is fear. Fear of the other and fear of losing privilege. As Reza Aslan said so eloquently when I heard him speak a few weeks ago, if all you know about black people is what you hear on Fox News, of course you’re scared. He also said “fear is impervious to data”, which explains why some people are so deep in their fear that they cannot see the forest for the trees. But go ahead, bring up biased policing or the school to prison pipeline, or the inequities in arrests and sentencing of minorities, or any other racial injustice and watch how quickly you are branded “troublemaker”, “part of the problem”, or “race baiter”. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

Racism didn’t exist before Obama.

Racism didn’t exist before YOU.

Lies. That is all lies. Racism has always existed and likely always will – at least in some dark corners. But what I see here is a pattern of HOPE if we don’t give up. IF we keep speaking, and sitting, and standing, and kneeling, and singing, and legislating, and educating, and marching, and LOVING — if we keep doing these things the world will continue to change for the better. More freedom will come. More equality will come. More love and acceptance and reconciliation will come. That is the legacy of all those who have gone before us. That is what we owe them. That is what we owe our children. That is THE Dream.

Racism existed BEFORE you but it doesn’t have to exist IN you.

 

 

What are the Odds?

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This was the comment I posted with an article from AwesomelyLuvvie on Facebook.  This morning in the stark light of day we find ourselves with not one, but two more dead black men who should still be alive. Rather than write my own post about it, I would like you to read Luvvie’s post.

White people. Yes, you. Even you nice ones. These things that are happening? These horrifying things that are happening to my people? They are because people who look like you, have set up a system of supremacy that flourishes. It is one that says people who look like me are violent, threats. It doesn’t matter if they’re holding books, wallets, bags of skittles. It is one that allows people to be killed by cops while sitting in their cars. It allows people to be killed while they lay on the ground with their hands showing. It allows people to be killed while walking away.

Is she mad? Does she use some strong language? You bet she does and she is. SOmetimes strong language is needed.

If you want to know what you can do, start here:
http://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/

If you want something else to read, start here:

White America, It’s Time to Take a Knee


Now for some talk about refugees and the odds you will be killed by one.

 

If you like Donald Trump Jr. are afraid of refugees and terrorists I would like you to consider this…

These are the odds these things will happen to you in your lifetime:

Killed by a terrorist:     1 in 20,000,000

Being shot to death:    1 in 300

Being raped:                   1 in 5 for women, 1 in 71 for men

It is funny how Republicans and specifically Trump want us to be much more scared of the terrorists (and our Muslim neighbors) than we are of the Brock Turners of this country (and the Judges who slap them on the wrist) and the NRA which are both MUCH more dangerous.


Finally to tie these two issues together and drive home the point…

In The United States of America, you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.

I am not saying this because I believe all police officers to be worse than terrorists (on the contrary, I believe most officers to be people who really just want to protect, serve, and go home to their families). I am simply saying it is much more logical for one to be scared of being shot by a police officer, a toddler, or a licensed gun owner than by a terrorist.


[A parting gift: Last week I went to a lecture by Reza Aslan where he talked about bigotry. He made an excellent point that bigotry is not actually rooted in ignorance (we all know some really intelligent bigots) but rather rooted in FEAR. Fear of the other. Fear of progress. Fear of losing privilege. Fear of _______. Then he dropped this truth bomb, “Fear is impervious to data”. All our talking and posting is good, but what really changes things is the hard work of relationship. Opening oneself up to loving people different from ourselves. To see that we are all connected. That what affects our neighbor whether black, brown, white, Asian, hispanic, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, gay, straight, trans, bi or any other distiction effects us ALL. We are all in this together. We should be about the business of “walking each other home”.]