Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Saying Goodbye

And I still can't seem to find/
A simple way to say goodbye.
I'm not the kind for regret.
Was there something I wanted to forget?”

-       Say Goodbye, by Girlyman

I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye.   And I’m not just talking about the big, meaningful goodbyes (though I’ll get to those in just a second), but also the small everyday goodbyes.  Seriously, have you ever tried to get off the phone with me? Or tried to leave a party when I was there? If you have, you know. The unforgiving timetable of the CTA is the single reason I leave Tait’s in less than 20 minutes from declaration of intent to actually walking out the door. 

So why the difficulty?  With the small ones I think it’s that there’s always so much more I want to say.  I know, you’re all shocked that I would want to talk some more. Still, those little getting off the phone moments always seem to make me remember every single thing that I had filed away to mention to whoever I am talking to, no matter how long we’ve just spoken.  Seeing others leave a social gathering is sad to me because it means it’s just that much closer to being over.  Hey, why not prolong it for a few minutes by drawing the leaver into a conversation? This is my general thinking. 

Time for the obvious: I am a social person.  I don’t like being alone all that much.  I can do it, and I can find the disconnection beneficial sometimes, but that is not my usual state.  I prefer to be around people, connecting with them, learning from them, and hopefully sharing something new with them. You may already know this, but saying goodbye is the end of this type of interaction on the small scale. And so I avoid it if possible.

Big goodbyes are different.  I had a series of big goodbyes when I moved to Chicago two years ago. Some of those were fun filled moments with laughter and memories that make me smile still.  Others were a little uncomfortable as neither of us knew what to say, but knew that it was kind of a big moment and it need to be observed.  And then there were the sad ones, where the enormity of not having this person in your life everyday clutches at your heart and won’t let go.  Interestingly, I had 3 of that last kind, but they were all incredibly different in the expression of the sadness.  One was a conversation perched on the wall down the street from Rojo that seemed to go on for hours, where sentences were interrupted by sobs the whole time.  Another was actually wordless, but all that we were both thinking and feeling were expressed in a hug.  That one surprised me.  I didn’t think I would get so emotional saying goodbye to that particular person.  But once we were there, I didn’t want to let go. Didn’t want to let go of the smiles, tears, memories, history, not any of it.  The third big goodbye that really got me was one where nobody cried but the sad words of goodbye carried the same weight as if it were a funeral. 

With the big goodbyes, there is talk of texting, facebook chat, future visits, and all of that.  And frequently these things happen, even if they don’t happen as often as you’d like.  Some people who were closer than close simply fade away without the proximity.  The ones who are the most important are now gone, and it is hard to know what to do about it.  Things change, people move on, and it is never the same.  Accepting that is hard and hurts so much, but we can’t talk of it because we don’t want to be selfish. 

When saying goodbye is hardest for me is when I feel like there’s more left for the relationship that the change in circumstances will prevent from coming to fruition. That somehow, if only we’d have met years earlier we might have been able to see the friendship all the way to its natural conclusion.  Instead, we are faced with that great void of not knowing what could have been.  I’ve felt this way about boyfriends, casual acquaintances, best friends, family members, all of it.  And that’s where I am today. 

A very good friend is moving to Texas this week.  I’m excited for him because his moving is born of the same need to live his life that made me move to Chicago a couple of years ago.  No matter how much happiness you have around you, sometimes, there’s something else going on inside that requires leaving.  I get that 100%.  But I’m also sad because we’ve only started getting close in the last few months, and now he’ll be gone.  I have had some of the best times of my life in Chicago so far with him, from watching the Drag Race Tour at Roscoe’s to having the best worst trip to Six Flags ever.  But more than that, I will miss talking to him.  And I know, we can still talk, but not in person, not as often.  My friend has as much to say as I do, loves the art of conversation as much as I do. Our conversations are tangent filled, revelatory, funny, poignant, and more than anything…comfortable.  I will miss the ease we’ve had in talking about anything and everything over the last few months.  That kind of thing doesn’t translate to texts or even phone conversations.  So I’ll miss the conversation, the good times, and most of all the friendship that could have been. 

Safe travels, Michael. Chicago will miss you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On Trying to See it All

A common question I’m asked is “How do you like Chicago?” I’ve lived here over two years now and still everyone asks.  I love the question, because I’m certain I light up as I start extolling the virtues of my new hometown.  One of the things I routinely point to is that there’s so much to do.  How many times in Birmingham were there nights where there was not much to do that interested me, so it’d be the same old routine?  Don’t get me wrong, the routine usually involved a lot of beer at Rojo with fabulous people, which ain’t bad.  But frequently I was looking for something…else to do.

Cut to Chicago, where there is a lot happening.  No, I mean a LOT. As in, just perusing the usual sites and keeping up with the very basic entertainment info, I find there is so so SO much more happening at any given time than I could possibly do.  This phenomenon has reached critical mass.  Just to fill you in, here is what’s going on in the next month (that I know about, I’m sure there’s a lot more out there) that I’d like to experience:

Theatre: (Note that these are all either local professional productions or first company tours.  For attempted brevity I did not include the community productions.) 9 to 5, Book of Mormon (I have seen it twice but I want one more…), In the Heights, Mythical Proportions, Next to Normal, Evita, Once, The Normal Heart

Concerts: Shovels and Rope (Tickets purchased!), Avett Brothers, The XX, Radical Face, RiotFest (Too many bands to list.  But it is a KILLER lineup.), Debbie Reynolds (Yes, THAT Debbie Reynolds), The Wood Brothers, Suzanne Vega, Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone, Franz Ferdinand, Audra McDonald

Movies: Parkland, Don Jon, Gravity, Kill Your Darlings, Carrie, 12 Years a Slave, plus pretty much every big summer movie except Iron Man 3 (I saw that one on the cruise).


This causes me a lot of stress for many reasons.  For starters, a lot of this happens at the same time, so choices have to be made, and schedules have to be coordinated, Tetris style.  Sorry XX, but I gotta see Shovels and Rope right now.  In case you were wondering, theatre productions in Chicago do not run that long.  I would have thought since it’s such a big city and there are so many people, the shows would run longer than 2 or 3 weeks.  Ha HA! Nope, not even, so trying to find time to catch these incredibly limited engagements becomes a task. 

Also, I do have a job and a dog and a house that should be cleaned more often and a myriad of other grown up responsibilities, so time becomes a more valuable commodity.  Also, I am apparently old.  I can handle one or two things during the week and a few on the weekend. But ya know? Most Tuesday nights I just wanna go home, walk Toby and veg out.  I have friends who are go go go all week and weekend and I just don’t have it in me to be that active every day of my life.

Then there’s the financial factor.  The cheapest thing on this list is one of the movies, and I’m kind of picky about theaters I frequent, so I go to the nicest one in the city. The crappy ones cost $15 too, so why waste my time anywhere but the best? There are no $1 movie theaters anywhere in the area, which, WTF is THAT about? So I go to the one with the loan desk by the box office. I am signed up for all the cheap ticket sites, and I know the rush policies for the bigger shows, but that involves me killing a couple of hours waiting in line, which, thanks to the previous point is not a great idea. I’m certainly not on the brink of financial collapse, but the approximately $2000 it would cost to do all the above in the next month just isn’t in my budget.  Sigh.

And finally, we haven’t even discussed the eleventy billion other things I enjoy spending my free time doing.  I mean, it’s football season, I like to go out to eat, the weather is perfect for a bike ride, and I need to get off my butt and lose 40 pounds. All of these are ways I can spend my time blissfully for hours at a time.

So I have to pick and choose carefully, which sometimes leads to analysis paralysis and I end up doing nothing, missing it all.  It helps to have different groups of friends who want to do different things.  That way I can spread the love and time spent with different people, and maybe get to see some of this cool stuff while I’m at it.  There is a feeling when you’re new to a city that you MUST do it all, but after a while, that changes.  I look forward to the day when I can be not stressed / bummed about missing all the really amazing stuff going on around me.  It starts this weekend, as I say to heck with all the Chicago stuff.  I’m going to Cedar Point.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Girlyman

If you've met me or spoken to me in the last 8 years, you've undoubtedly heard me speak of my favorite band, Girlyman.  I may have made you a CD, directed you to their website or videos online, invited you to a show, or even sang some of their songs for you.  The sound that these three (and later four) people made together was never short of breathtaking.  I was initially drawn to their amazing vocal harmonies and varied instrumentation, but before long I was also moved by their lyrics.  These songs spoke to me in ways I had never experienced before.  Well, today after a year and a half of a hiatus, the band has officially announced the end.  I am so saddened by this news, though not surprised, as I have followed the other projects each of them have been working on and there has been a definite feeling of the end of an era.
To say that Girlyman changed my life is no hyperbole.  I found their music during a good time in my life, but life happens and I went through some tough times.  Sad times.  Times when I lost myself and the man I know myself to be. This group's music helped me explain things that I was unable to put in words and get through these times with a deeper understanding of myself and my life.
During a particularly tough time, I was at a loss for how to feel happy about much of anything.  I went with some very special people to see a Girlyman show on my birthday in 2009, just as they were getting ready to record and release the Everything's Easy album.  During the show they played several of the new songs, some I was aware of and some they had never played publicly before including a song that was like a mirror reflection of what was in my head and my heart.
I am an emotional person under any circumstance, but on this night, I experienced one of the few genuinely cathartic moments of my life.  Wherever You Keep speaks to how it's hard to be around others who may bring you down, and to support them and yourself during difficult times.  When I returned home after the show, this particular song stuck in my head.  I played it over and over when I finally got the CD because it summed up how I was feeling in life. I played the song for my therapist and together we discussed why this song spoke to me and it helped me make a few breakthroughs to get back to myself again.
This is just one example of how much I have been given by finding the music of Girlyman.  The song This is Me is my personal theme; that I can only be who I am and show who I am to everyone.  Somewhere Different Now reminds me that we are all in transition and that's natural.  Everything's Easy is about gratitude and comfort in simple things. I could go on and on here about every song and what it means to me.  Hell, I still might dedicate more posts to talking about the music that has affected me so much.
But it's not all been a huge emo mopey time.  Their live shows were some of the funniest times ever, as the improvised tuning songs (with harmonies!) never failed to amuse, and the banter was better than any stand up set I've ever seen.  The cover songs were clever and fun.  How many other folk/acoustic bands could possibly segue so effortlessly into Christina Aguilera in the middle of a song about unrequited lesbian love?  Voting for which song you wanted to hear (the backwards version of Wild Thing always got my vote) and stomping, clapping and clinking beer mugs to Through to Sunrise were traditions at every show.  And the times I had experiencing the music with friends just cannot be overstated.  So many in jokes (we got a complicated parking!) and good times that were shared in bars across the south and even a few here in Chicago will stay with me forever.
It is a sad time to have final confirmation that this music that I loved so much, so thoroughly, is at an end.  But I can still be so thankful that it existed at all, and that I got to be a part of it.

"A little star of brilliant hope in skies of black we are" - From This is Me.