I know not everything is funny, but Paul Simon has a new album and I heard him in an interview this morning talking about how he moves quickly from serious to funny in his writing. It's just the way his mind works. He naturally sees the absurd in things. I love a writer that can turn a phrase that takes me from sad to at least a snicker.
This seems more important these days, being able to shed a little light on things as we sizzle in this frying pan state of the world. One could despair. One does despair. If one is a parent, one doubly despairs. As Patsy Cline once said, "this old world is in a terrible fix."
Paul Simon sings the soundtrack to one of my earliest memories. I was outside my house on a summer night, it was dusk, I was barefoot. Only my feet were chilled by the cold evening dew on the grass. The rest of me was warm and humming with life. I was playing a game with neighbourhood kids, Red Rover maybe. My parent's radio, always tuned to an AM Top 40 station, was blasting Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson out of our kitchen and outside into the yard.
I did that a lot. We all did. Played outside until it was too dark to see or your parents called you in. Whichever came first. My daughter doesn't get to do this. If we lived in a neighbourhood with more kids I would surely endorse it, but alas the children near us are either wee ones or almost grown. I wish she could run wild with a pack of kids like I did, but she can't.
I feel sad about this. This is a deficit in her world. So I try to make up for it. We hike, we camp, we garden, we swing on the hammock in the summer and read books together. Today we went 'forest bathing', the new whacky term for walking through a forest.
I know she'll be fine. I especially know this now, because the kid surprised me two times this weekend with words that turned my despair around.
First, she used a line from Anne of Green Gables to describe how she felt about bringing clothes in off the clothesline. After I thanked her for bringing the clothes in she said, "I like doing it, 'there's so much scope for the imagination.'"
This was doubly pleasing, that she had so aptly quoted Lucy Maud Montgomery and that I had inadvertently passed on my love for this same task. I knew exactly what she meant! We have several wooden steps we have to climb to reach the clothesline. Then when you're up there, you're really quite high up, the wind blows through your hair, you can see out into the tree tops around the neighbourhood. I get a different perspective. when I'm up there. I imagine things too.
Secondly, I was despairing a wee bit when we finally returned the violin we were renting for her. After a lot of years of lessons, recitals, practicing, not practicing, cajoling and power struggles, I finally let it go.
I was having one last lament as we were leaving the store.
"You can always pick it up again later," I said.
"Mom, I've got musicality, but I'm not a musician. It's like, 'I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier.'"
It's true, the kid is musical and again she hits me with a double entendre. A great original line, backed up by the Killers.
Little victories like that can heal the little everyday wounds. Maybe great songwriters like Paul Simon, can take on the big ones.
A few years ago I was caught on camera being a Skam artist. Not a scam artist, but a Skam artist. In 2012 and 2013, I wrote and performed two short plays in Theatre Skam's Bike Ride, now called Skampede. Skampede is an outdoor theatre festival that runs every summer in Victoria, BC.
The first year I created and inhabited Ranger Betty, a self-important, militant, all knowing park ranger in Nature of the Goose. That production was fun and challenging and taught me a lot. It also gave me a great story.
At the end of Bike Ride 2012, I attended the after party with my partner. A pleasant young man approached us and said he had seen and enjoyed my show that afternoon. He said it was 'entertaining and educational'. At that point, had the beer not been free, I would have offered to buy him one.
As we talked, I found out his partner was in one of the other productions and that he was a Vancouver based musician. We started talking about music and I circled the conversation back to him. He gave me a few more details. Then I asked him what his day job was, assuming any musician I was talking to still had one. He said that he and his band mates were lucky enough to not have day jobs anymore. That's when my partner asked him his name and said, "Oh, I've heard you on CBC! You're doing very well."
Is there any statement in the universe that screams middle-class, middle-aged Canadian more loudly than that one? But how gracious he was. I've since seen Dan Mangan in concert. And like the thousands of others who already know who he is, I am wowed by his talent.
If you are in the neighbourhood this summer, get out and see SKampede 2016. And, in case you are curious, here is a snippet of Ranger Betty from Bike Ride 2012.