Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh Say Can You Sing

I’ve just been to the gym and concluded there are 2 kinds of people in the world: those that come upon a disabled piece of exercise equipment and move calmly on, and those that whine and complain and feel somehow not just deprived but personally attacked because of the small snag in their daily routine. I generally wonder if these people have children, these self-absorbed, micro-universed ego-damaged creatures, or whether there is a higher concentration of them in Manhattan.

Actually there is maybe a sub-group, here: those that try to fix the broken pulley—not for themselves, but for someone else whose life seems somehow ruined by this equipment failure, whose entire routine and night has been irreparably altered and skewed and derailed. We guiltier-than-thou would-be samaritans who empty our pockets of small bills and change at the slightest sidewalk appeal, when our own kids have found only half-stuffed stockings on the homemade Christmas hearth.

I went up to the Bronx today on the subway--- spring in the air and I found the population laid back and kind; stores happy to see you, none of the competitive shopping bags once you get past Grand Concourse. Teenage mothers with oversized strollers everywhere, young hip-hop couples sharing ipod earphones, 3 and 4 toddlers in tow, parents looking barely legal. Don't these people have jobs? Go to school? They seemed carefree, festive.

At 125th Street on the way back a West Indian drummer--- singing and playing traps which must have been a haul getting the kit downstairs and set up--- but with this golden voice—smooth and authoritatively ‘professional’—talking to the MTA workmen who were grooving away to this guy... not missing a beat, better than any performer at this year’s sad Grammy show which I nominate for a Writerless Much Ado About Nothing Award. Two young dancers doing that robotic thing but in this subtle, graceful incredibly original way —it was breathtaking —amazing... an edgy minimal 22nd century break-dance thing, kissing the filthy floor, defying gravity and their own joints...I was literally mesmerized. The best $1 show I’ve seen in years. And that voice. Where are Jay Zee and Clive Davis? Not on subway platforms. And these guys were free. They didn’t care. They ruled their stage.

So did anyone else notice the unprecedented number of Grammy performers who sang off-key? I mean, we’re all flawed, but with the ear-sets and personal monitors... okay, granted they may have had audio issues, but what happened to ‘singing’? Personally I was disappointed in Katy Perry, felt Otis rolling in his grave during Bruno Mars’ appalling performance, and yes, I used to like Arcade Fire, but they came off like a pretentious bunch of over-enthusiastic high-school geeks in 30-something bodies. Okay...Eminem and Rihanna got a thumbs-up-- that song's been in my head for 6 months. Aretha stayed home. Besides, her footage at the beginning--- the cameo soundbytes---put them all to shame. God, make her well. I hope she didn't watch too much of the show.

I missed Pink. I missed Prince. I liked the Lady Gaga egg better than the performance. I miss James Brown and Michael Jackson. I guess Bob Dylan has poetic license but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh. Mick, you were the only bright spot. Barbara--- nice to see you in that Scarlett O'Hara used-to-be-a-stage-curtain dress thing, but I would have preferred to just imagine your voice. And I'll defend Christina. She's just this year's Britney Spears. Britney has class compared to most of the MTV girls now...and she had talent.

So maybe I’m a cranky old woman now but I don’t want to see Spiderman and humans in silly costumes flying around in a theatre. Wasn’t the film enough for these people? Don’t they get enough cinematographic pyrotechnics with Disney and those crazy warrior movies? What happened to 'the play', acting? Or maybe the possibility of witnessing a fatal accident attracts the New York audience? Can't they buy tickets to the circus? Superman masqueraded as a human. It was amusing. He kissed an actual woman in a reverse-superhero feat. Humans don’t do well trying to play superheroes. We don’t have these talents and all those wires and computers can’t really bring it on. I miss Peter Pan, with the visible wires on Mary Martin. It was conceptual. Broadway is all mixed up--- plays about rock bands, Cirques doing Beatlemania, musicals about music, movies about ballet, musicals about movies....

Give me the singing drummer in the subway— grassroots multitasking. You can get right up there and hear him sing on key without a monitor or a microphone. Sweet and smooth and rhythmic and melodic. Making it up as he went along. And he was nice. Took requests. Asked me if I wanted change when I put my bill in.

I do want change. Or maybe I don’t. I’m still trying to peel off pieces of 2010 that are stuck to me like old wallpaper. 2011 could be the year of democracy. It is also the year of the rabbit, the year of Oprah. All bets are off.

A black suede glove was lying on the north end of the platform like a dying animal. My son asked for North Face gloves for Christmas. He didn’t get them--- he loses a pair a week. But here... one left one... I flipped it over with my foot to see the logo. If you wait long enough, you do get what you wish for... maybe if I picked it up, the mate will be waiting on some sidewalk somewhere, underneath the melted snow, in April when gloves are useless. But as I flipped it over, it seemed to gesture—‘Help’. Gave me the chills. ‘Help’. I watched it now from the wall a few steps away... it was clearly asking me to put some money in it. I watched as one of the hiphop dancers picked it up and turned it into a kind of puppet. Wished I had the other one to put in the red ‘A’s’ cap as he passed it around.

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