Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm Drenched. Life is Good!

I took the Metro home tonight and when I got to the top of the escalator, I ran into a crowd of people standing around. Some of them were reading a newspaper or looking around nervously, but most of them were just... standing. They were waiting for the rain to stop.

It was raining pretty heavily, but it's warm outside and 8:00 at night. It's not like these were people on their way to a business meeting or anything. Cleveland Park is not known for its Tuesday nightlife, it is very probable that wherever these people were headed they would be in for the night. I'm making assumptions, but no kidding - there were like 15 people just standing there waiting for the rain to stop so they can go on with their lives. Fifteen umbrellaless soles gathered under the shelter of the Metro entrance - reading a newspaper, checking their watch, all contemplating a big decision. It's raining. What to do?

I can understand not wanting to get rained upon. When my naturally curly hair gets wet I look like Lamont from Sanford & Son. I'm sure this unusually large crowd of people had their own reasons for not wanting to go out in the rain. But to just stand there and wait until it lets up? There was no lightning, no thunder, no wind or severe weather indications. Just heavy drops of rain. I'm really really perplexed at the number of people standing there putting their lives on hold because of rain.

While the huddled masses waited around, I looked up to the sky and challenged the rain to do its worst. I splashed through puddles and let the cool rain drench my entire body and it felt good to be reminded me why I refuse to grow up. At what point in life do people give up the fascination and excitement over the little things? When you're a kid, the only reason you can't go play in the rain is because your parents won't let you. I'm not suggesting adults should go back to splashing mud puddles and having snowball fights every day. It certainly wasn't on my schedule tonight to splash through the rain and walk drenched into my cold, air-conditioned apartment but when life hands you lemons, play in the rain!

I'm baffled by the number of people held at bay by the rain. Grown-ups are boring. The world would be a better place if everyone took the time to play in the rain again. Rake the leaves up into a pile in the yard and them jump in! Take off your shoes and run through the grass until your toenails turn green! Remember what it's like to be a kid! So what if you have to wash your own clothes and wipe your own nose now? Just because you have a mortgage and a career doesn't mean you can't appreciate the little things in life.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don't Stop Til you Get Enough

I started off my morning today as I do most - hitting the snooze button repeatedly with the TV blaring. Unlike most days, the channel was tuned to music videos rather than morning news. I woke up today to the now-ubiquitous sounds of Michael Jackson's greatest hits. This morning, MTV2 ran several hours of Michael Jackson videos, beginning with the Jackson Five performing ABC on American Bandstand in the seventies. Two things struck me immediately as I watched this performance. First, it's remarkable to see Dick Clark - whose appearance showed few signs of aging for thirty years - standing next to Michael Jackson - who became unrecognizable as the young vocalist standing next to the Bandstand host. By all indications, Jackson may have become a different species while Clark appeared to be sleeping in a cryogenic chamber. It's entirely possible that there may have been a supernatural force at work. Something like The Picture of Dorian Gray, but with Dick Clark putting a curse on the pre-pubescent Michael Jackson and stealing his soul to secure his own eternal youth. It may sound outlandish, but the visual evidence supports this possibility.

Other than considering Dick Clark's gypsy curse to seal Michael Jackson's destiny and ward off crows feet for a few years, the other striking element in watching this tribute was the same fascination I have had since Jackson's death. It has been so long since I have associated the name Michael Jackson with his music. Sadly, as much time as I spent listening to the King of Pop as a kid and trying to imitate his dance moves, his talent has been completely eclipsed by his bizarre behavior, lifestyle and appearance. With the shocking news of his passing, I have heard very little from media sources about anything other than rave reviews of his immense talent. In recent years, descriptions of "Wacko Jacko" have included words like "pedophile," "freak," "Criminal," and "rapist." After his death, they have been replaced with the descriptives "genius," "innovator," and "Ground-breaking talent." No one has mentioned Bubbles the Chimp or the Elephant Man's bones lately, but all news sources instead highlight the sequined glove as they count of the number of gold records and Grammys Jackson earned.

Whether speaking of his talent or his outlandish behavior, there is plenty to elaborate on either argument. The man had an abundance of both.

Perhaps this will sound terrible, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Michael Jackson died ten years ago. There is something profane about this love-fest the country is having after the death of Michael Jackson. Clearly, the guy has always had issues but the train wreck that is Michael Jackson has reached a whole new level in recent years. I understand that the Jackson family had a closet full of skeletons but coming of age as a celebrity in the 70s and 80s is nothing compared to today's reality-TV obsessed culture. America loves crazy people and the media loves to exploit celebrities. I make no assumptions about the accusations against MJ. I don't know if he's a child molester or not, but all molestation charges aside, the guy had issues. I can't imagine why anyone would leave their child unsupervised with this guy even before his name became a punchline for jokes about little boys.

If the current media coverage is any indication, Michael Jackson's legacy as a talented musician will supersede his reputation as a child molester and general all-around weirdo. His music and his talent have been praised non-stop since the news of his death and his albums are selling quicker than they can stock the shelves. As fascinating as this person is - in his abundance of talent as well as his disturbing behavior, the thing that disturbs me the most is the media. I suppose it's too easy to simply blame the media, the problem is more deeply embedded within our popular culture. I should not be surprised by the praise and adoration being heaped on someone who is more commonly recognized for his bizarre and allegedly criminal behavior and personal life. It's what we do in this country. At some point in the last 15 to 20 years, watching mental illness and instability under the microscope of celebrity media and paparazzi has become a form of entertainment. Americans can't seem to get enough of watching celebrities whose lives are more screwed up as our own. At the same time, we're not total heathens. We know better than to speak ill of the dead. That's rude.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I should be so much more excited about the Stanley Cup

Tonight is game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and the end of NHL hockey until the fall. I love hockey, but trying to choose between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins is like trying to decide if I'd rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick or poked in the eye with a fork. Either way is painful and makes me cringe.

I haven't written about hockey since the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs. After the Caps were out, that left Detroit against the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh against the Carolina Hurricanes. The only outcome I would have celebrated in the conference finals would have been if Chicago beat the Wings and then beat the Penguins. Knowing that would never happen, hockey became a lot less interesting after the Caps and Bruins were out of the Eastern conference finals.

So that leads me to decide who to cheer for tonight. It has always been my policy to cheer for whoever plays against the Red Wings, but I can't bring myself to cheer for Team Crosby. Penguins? Red Wings? Fork? Sharp stick? Life is full of tough choices. This year I am pulling for Detroit. I never thought the day would come that I would cheer for the Red Wings, but I am doing it for political reasons. Detroit is in bad shape. The entire state of Michigan has suffered from the downturn of the auto industry and unemployment levels are far above the rest of the country. Foreclosure rates are on the rise and the people of Detroit need a reason to celebrate in the streets tonight.

I hope I never have to say this again for the rest of my life, but GO WINGS!!