Musings and Mirth
I have been taking my daughter Emma to the movies since she was a tiny baby. I was first employed by the Santa Monica Mirror as their film critic the same year Emma was born, or thereabouts, (I also started OW that year as well).
The way it worked was this. I would drive around in the car in order to time her nap perfectly to the film, for fear of disturbing other movie-goers with her talking or crying. Nowadays, if you go to a movie theater in the valley, you don’t have to worry so much about babies since everyone brings them in and no one cares if they make noise.
Most of the time, I would get to see the movie without incident, just a sleeping baby on my shoulder, or a nursing baby half asleep. The bottom line is that until she was an active toddler in preschool, she accompanied me for my job. She has grown up with movies, naturally. Even still, her movie-going experience has been limited to kid movies. If there is a kid movie opening, I will take her to see it, no matter how bad it is. Usually she likes even the bad ones, like The Last Mimsy. Lately, though, we’ve been watching other movies together. I have shown her the Duck Soup with the Marx Brothers. Titanic, which she has seen three times already. The Departed, The Godfather movies, Pride & Prejudice and a few others. She is at the age (8, almost 9) where she can manage a full length feature and get most of it. I still keep her away from horror movies because, frankly, it’s hard enough getting her to sleep in her own bed.
So last night we watched Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and that was a winner. We’re still laughing about it this morning. Turns out, it was the perfect Emma movie. It was funny as hell and also contained just enough about a monster, Frankenstein, so that she sort of felt like she was dipping her foot in the horror genre, which all kids are drawn to.
There is no one to replace Mel Brooks, I realized last night. Ditto Gene Wilder. Ditto Madeline Kahn. The next movie we’ll watch together will be Blazing Saddles. I’ll have to wait on High Anxiety (my favorite Brooks movie) until I can introduce her to Hitchcock. The education is on.
Breed ’em and Weep has an interesting blog item up today about why people blog. Why do they blog? I have a theory. But first, here is her:
In the early years of blogging, some people referred to the phenomenon as escribitionism. I don’t know how accurate that is. That to me suggests that writing, as one ex- and very brief beau told me, is ultimately a vain activity. I just can’t subscribe to that. That it’s vain until it’s perfection. Until it’s high art. Until it’s Chekhov and Hemingway and Woolf. When it transforms into something else.
If you blog, well‚why do you? If you don’t, well what do you make of it?
And now, a momentary dip into my psyche. I think we blog because we are all over-educated. There, I said it. We are too smart and have too much time on our hands. We have invented and then “found” the internet because it satisfies both the ingrown narcisstic itch and the endless black hole of curiosity we humans have. We are, despite our best efforts to be a community, extremely isolated from one another. Western society, let’s say. That isolation brings on a jones for company. We are finding out communities, our soulmates, and doing our shopping all online. What will become of our regular lives?
This is as good a time as any to write about why I’m doing this personal blog. I already do this one but I have so much to blab about I need a broader arena. This site doesn’t know where it’s going yet. I plan to write about whatever strikes my fancy. If I’m lucky, it will strike your fancy.
I have given myself a challenge when my daughter Emma and I go to Italy this summer to visit her father. I plan to order the weirdest thing on the menu every time. This, in keeping with the idea that we make our brains stronger by learning new tricks. This picture made me think that it might be good to pick the thing you have never tried:
Love and an electric guitar
On a cold morning in 1955, walking to Sunday school, I was drawn to the voice of Little Richard wailing Tutti Frutti from the interior of a local boy’s makeshift clubhouse. So powerful was the connection that I let go of my mother’s hand.
Rock’n’roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the Rolling Stones made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Rock’n’roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from south Jersey to freedom in 1967.
Rock’n’roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied state of grace.
My late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroit’s MC5, was a part of the brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the complexities of existence.
Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counselled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognised for my efforts and, though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed – gracefully – in his name.
Last night I joined REM, the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered? Am I a worthy recipient?
I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him – the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honours. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock’n’roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.
Because its members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The internet is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure. Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented.
Human history abounds with idealistic movements that rise, then fall in disarray. The children of light. The journey to the east. The summer of love. The season of grunge. But just as we seem to repeat our follies, we also abide.
Rock’n’roll drew me from my mother’s hand and led me to experience. In the end it was my neighbours who put everything in perspective. An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta. A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street: “Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us.”
I just smiled, and I noticed I was proud. One for the neighbourhood. My parents. My band. One for Fred. And anybody else who wants to come along.
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