Nothing Compares 2 U

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I don’t remember the first time I saw him. I don’t remember the first song I heard. I do remember the music, the electricity he inspired, and the movie that took me somewhere I had never before considered going. I sat in the theater that night as the lights went down and the first keys of Let’s Go Crazy began to play. I was 15 years old, full of hormones and uncertainty, and this symbol of raw sexuality appeared on the screen in a haze of smoke and purple light. He licked his full lips. I was drawn in by his beautiful, soulful eyes. And then he started rocking this iconic song that would mark the music world forever, gyrating his hips and oozing desire. I fell immediately, and completely, in love.

Apollonia would intrigue me as well, how she captured his attention from across a crowded First Avenue. She was beautiful, sexy, and voluptuous. Prince appeared, and slipped his famous sunglasses on and stood mysteriously behind her. I wanted to be the woman standing in front of him. I was never jealous of her, only wanted to copy her style. I wanted to be that girl on the back of his motorcycle. When he put his hands on her in his bedroom and kissed her in that gently hungry way, the heat of him palpable through the screen,  I had never wanted to be someone else more in my entire young life. For two hours I was captivated by this gorgeous man – he was playful with innocent naughtiness; he was intense in his gaze and in his aura, and he inspired a warmth deep in me that I didn’t want to stop feeling. He awakened my sexuality. And, as I grew older, I sought out guys whose voices were soft and deep, who were quiet and possibly mysterious.

Months later I paid $90 – what seemed an awful lot of money for a concert in 1984 – to attend the Purple Rain concert with one of my best friends. We sat in ninth row, on the floor. I can’t find the right words to describe this experience – much the same way one cannot find adequate words to describe the man who transcends definition – he was this close to us and it was astonishing how much larger than life he really was. I was in the same room with this man who would die for Me. It would not have been quite so electric for me, had I been seated any further away. I could see his lips move, those boots, and his eyes, which I swore made contact with mine. My young Gemini self had yet to learn the fine art of the Gemini male – particularly the Purple One – and his ability to make each and every person in his orbit feel like they are the Only One.

I have grown up a lot since then, when his movie poster hung on my wall and dozens of silk flowers hung from my ceiling. I have a decent collection of his vinyl. I now have many more digital albums. I’m remarried – to the boy he would never know he introduced me to in the days following that concert. In many ways, I see him as the force behind what began between us long ago.

He was surely a force to be reckoned with. He never fit into anyone’s box. He fought for creative autonomy – isn’t that what we all want and deserve? Perhaps I was raised this way, but I never saw him as any other color but Purple. He crossed racial lines, gender lines, and sexual lines. I always felt like he was mine. I felt a personal connection to him that I didn’t believe anyone else could possibly feel. And this – my friends – is the gift he had. And, believe it or not, yesterday was the first time in the 32 years I have loved him that I realized it. I listened to Sirius radio as the tears slid down my cheeks, as person after person called in and shared their own personal attachments to him. He had this ability to touch millions, all while making each of them feel like that one in a million.

I have a handful of friends I bantered with on Facebook over him. I never realized how many people really knew how much I loved him. Until yesterday. Several posts to my wall from friends who “immediately thought of [me]” when the news broke. And text messages too. Even my ex husband (who rarely supported any of my interests) texted me about it. I got to deliver the news to Todd – who had been in a day-long meeting. He didn’t believe me. It’s a hoax.

Unfortunately for me – and us all – it’s not.  Prince Rodgers Nelson passed away tragically yesterday morning. The Purple One has gone silent, and my heart is broken. And filled with regret. I missed a concert my mom invited me to back in 2004, (um, I believe this time it was 3rd row) because my ex wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t go to the last minute concert he threw in Baltimore in the weeks following the riots. And, as crazy as it sounds, I will never, ever get to meet him. I was thinking about starting another blog about my efforts to reach him and meet him – if only for 5 minutes, so that I could look into his eyes and know that he saw me. Yeah, I’m crazy. But I thought it would be fun anyway. I guess I have a way better chance of meeting him on the other side anyway. Less security, I imagine.

Todd said to continue to celebrate life and listen to his music – a catalogue unmatched by any other musician I can readily think of. Those who don’t know – he has a vault inside his Paisley Park compound filled with unreleased, never-before-heard music. I can only wish that whoever was blessed with the awesome responsibility for his estate will consider releasing some of it posthumously. For each and every one of us whom he personally sang to.

Good night, Prince.

It’s been so lonely without you here… like a bird without a song.                                                      Nothing can take away these blues, because Nothing Compares 2 U.

 

Being Jewish

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Above photo copyright The Tara Chronicles.

Yesterday I attended a Bat Mitzvah. In case you were wondering, I’m not Jewish. Half of my family is – the half I married when I married Todd. Todd is Jewish. He was Jewish when we were 16-17, and it meant absolutely nothing to me. That is, until his mom invited me to Passover. But that’s another story for another time, if I ever heal the scars of having to try to politely eat gefilte fish.

I wish I could tell you that he was Jewish and I was Catholic  – the religious Romeo and Juliet – stereotypical star-crossed lovers whose parents wept at the very thought of us staying together and destroying a family culture deeply rooted in tradition. It would make an exciting and dramatic screenplay. But, alas, we are not those two people, and our parents are not those parents. However, today as 40-somethings, we two are deeply spiritual people who still carry those very basic traditions that were instilled in each of us from childhood – but not so stringent as to separate us. I was born into a Catholic family who left the church and call myself a Christian who believes in Jesus. He is not. And it doesn’t matter to us, because we both believe that all people are children of God and OUR God doesn’t dictate to us who we should be. He loves each and every one of us. Okay – enough said.

So yesterday we drove an hour and a half to attend the Bat Mitzvah of his cousin’s daughter. I was eager to meet more of Todd’s extended family – those I hadn’t yet met from his mom’s side. But, secretly weary, after having attended Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah three years ago. I was going over what to wear, trying to encourage Veruca to wear something appropriate that wasn’t sports leggings and a sweatshirt. I was anticipating “the rules” of this event. At Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah, which was conducted in a Modern Orthodox synagogue, the men and women sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary. As this event took place during Shul, I was initially surprised that people were coming and going throughout the FOUR hours we sat there. As Veruca was just 7 years old (not to mention a Type 1 diabetic), we got up a handful of times for bathroom breaks and boredom busters.

I felt like a fish out of water. And not just a fish out of water – but a fish who just realized he made a wrong turn and ended up at a fish-fry. I tested Veruca’s blood sugar while we were sitting and, as is habit, dug through my purse to write it down on my little notepad. A stern looking woman two seats to my left was making hissing and spitting noises in my direction and I quickly learned I wasn’t “allowed” to be writing in Shul. I felt embarrassed, and a little bit indignant.

Later, at the Kiddush luncheon in the adjacent hall, a woman stopped Todd halfway across the room because he was holding Ava’s scale – and informed him that these video games were not permitted. Todd turned to her and curtly informed her it was a scale for weighing our type one diabetic daughter’s food. I watched her mouth snap shut, but the scathing expression never left her eyes.

So, after this experience, I was prepared for anything yesterday. Turns out – I didn’t have to be. This Bat Mitzvah was in a Reform synagogue, still rooted in the basic principles of Judaism but not Orthodox. The shul was lovely. There was music and singing and a cantor who played guitar and, as we were seated behind the immediate family, we were blessed with the beautiful singing voice of Emily’s oldest sister (who, it turns out, is an accomplished opera singer). The Rabbi was eloquent and humble, easy-going and humorous at times. The two hours went by nearly without notice, except for Veruca’s occasional question as to what time it was. And Emily was flawless and a lovely young lady.

I left feeling a renewed sense of family and community. Everyone was kind, warm, and welcoming. I have nothing against Orthodox – I just really felt like I had no place there and self-consciously (and maybe a bit paranoid) like I wasn’t welcome. Not by the family, not by any means… but by the congregation. Yesterday, it felt exactly the way Emily’s family said it felt to them – like a home.

Miscellaneous Tidbits…

According to Urban Dictionary, shul can be used to describe something cool, in a Jewish way. Those bagels with lox yesterday were totally shul(I think I like this way better than on fleek.)

According to the Talmud, one can be defiled by contact with or exchange of genital fluids and be considered unclean. This is what Todd and I were reading during the end of services. I whispered that I do believe I have been defiled. These fluids include semen and menstrual blood, by the way. A new way of thinking about your sex life, ya’ll.

And while we’re at it, a [married] woman’s right to sexual intercourse is called 0nah. Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. It is his duty to provide her with sex and make sure it is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to decipher that she wants sex and to give it to her without her asking for it. Hot damn! Who’s converting??!

Wait a minute – not so fast! Orthodox women are considered unclean for two weeks surrounding their period, and cleanness is obtained by immersing in a kosher mikvah, otherwise known as a ritual pool. It is a ritual cleansing, rather than a physical one. It is also used in conversion. My mother-in-law (who, for the record, doesn’t do the mikvah) says the women are totally nude for this mikvah. Whoa! That’ll be all, thank you.

 

Grown up, But Not Fully Grown

I had to go out today because Opac forgot to take his medication. So I drove to the high school with impeccable and completely unplanned timing (since I can never remember his schedule), as he was in the middle of lunch. The office has a window looking out into the cafeteria, so I saw him coming from the other side of the room. His gait was tall and serious, like an FBI agent moving stealthily through a crowded airport. Of course he had no idea why he was being paged to the office, but I can’t imagine he’d be worried given that he’s, like, never in trouble.

He came in and was all business, took his pill and bid me goodbye in a formal way like a boss ending an interview. As I walked out the front doors, I giggled to myself. He’s so different in any school-related environment… cutting an austere figure with his mother in the presence of his peers. I wish I could say he’s trying to be the cool dude, but I don’t really believe he’s trying. I think he’s more just trying not to look like a doofus.

At home where he is relaxed, he is silly, loud, obnoxious, cool, and occasionally emotional and sensitive. He was home sick for 3 days last week and, while he usually is hiding out in his room, he spent most of those days on the couch hanging with me. I absolutely love the moments I can spend one-on-one with him, because they are fewer and farther between. He’s fifteen now. He’s in high school. He’s already anticipating being 16 this year and driving.  A car. In just three short years, my baby boy – the little man who snuggled against me for the first four years of his life, whose big brown eyes and long dark lashes gazed at me with love and wonder – will be looking ahead to college and moving away. I’m sure I’m not the first mother to announce that I’m not ready.

I took the opportunity to finally rent Straight Outta Compton because Veruca was in school and I’m that mom. He’s totally a rap addict, and was looking forward to seeing this since the day it opened in theaters. I bought the other movie he hadn’t seen – Star Wars: The Force Awakens – which he’s been dying to see… one, because he’s been a huge fan since I introduced him to the original trilogy when he was 4, and two, because everybody else has seen it and he’s been unwillingly exposed to a handful of spoilers. I popped that DVD in and periodically watched his face for reactions. When the first shot of the Millennium Falcon appeared, I watched the slow smile spread from his lips to his eyes and it filled me with the exact same joy and heart-rush that I felt every time we watched Star Wars together. It was like watching that four-year-old boy’s thrills, one frame at a time.

I’m glad he likes to share with me. He shares every last detail and thought about the music he listens to, what happened at Death Row Records (not like I wasn’t sitting right next to him watching the movie), how his Biology test went today, how many deadlifts he did in weight training yesterday, and all the God-awful-stoopid videos he finds on You Tube. I don’t want the conversation to stop. I hang on to those moments like I held on to my Todd’s gazes across the gymnasium in high school. He won’t talk to me about girls. I ask occasionally, and he quickly brushes it off like a nagging mosquito. He will still occasionally take my hand, absentmindedly wrapping his fingers around mine, and then just as quickly drop it like he suddenly remembered he’s 15. When he got in the car to go home last weekend, he picked up my makeup bag from his seat and asked what it was. And then he asked me why I wear makeup because I don’t need it. Sigh.

I once wrote about how surreal it is to be hugged by your own flesh and blood that is now larger than you. How he can pick me up. He still hugs me every day. I make him. Well – it started out that way – I told him he has to hug me once a day, every day. He hasn’t forgotten and some days when we’re really busy he will come to me for it before I’ve had a chance to even think about it. And I’m grateful. These are all the things I’m holding on to… hoping they will always overshadow the other 50% of who he is. I’m still getting used to the stubble on his face when I kiss his cheek. I will never get used to him growing up.

Nothing Good Comes of It

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Been absent from the blog for a bit. I haven’t had any inspiration. Not sure I have any today, either. Todd and I had an outing last weekend to support a high school friend who’s fighting cancer. Cancer. What the fuck? When did we get old enough to have peers with cancer?

I drank too much. When we got in the car, with my brother in the back seat, I said I really wasn’t up to drinking. Todd said, great! This means I would be the designated driver for a change. We got there. It was crowded. It took nearly 30 minutes to get our first beers. So, being ever efficient, I ordered two. I hadn’t eaten dinner. You do the digestive math.

Alcohol is evil.  I drank beer, the absolute least innocuous alcoholic beverage I could think of. My girlfriend, hours earlier, had suggested that tequila is a fat-buster, since she was the skinniest she ever was when it was her proprietary drink. I forgot the advice an hour later and started drinking IPA.

I saw a bunch of people from high school I have absolutely no contact with IRL – and, a week later, I know exactly why. Of course there are a handful that I do keep in contact with, but ultimately, it wasn’t worth the time or the ill-timed alcoholic response I had to the others. Nevertheless, I learned a few things. Take a lesson from Tara.

There is no such thing as “just a couple of beers.” A couple of beers on an empty stomach translate as you will be drunk within an hour and have no control over your common sense. I keep forgetting this lesson. It’s a lot easier too, when your little brother with the wooden leg is along for the ride. And, while we’re here, your little brother – unless he’s been expertly trained – cannot be counted on to be your wingman. For the record, I never asked him to be, but still – in retrospect I think had he been taught properly to look out for his big sister, some of the more stupid aspects of my evening might have been avoided.

Being drunk means making bad decisions. I wanted to curse the gods that my bff wasn’t there to reel me back in, or that Todd loves me enough to let me be who am I for whatever it’s worth. But, at 46 years old, I shouldn’t need someone else to beat some sense into me. I should know better. So – I spent some time this week revisiting my embarrassment and also contemplating what drove me to make certain decisions . What did I expect to get out of it? What message did my poor decision, driven by Goose Island IPA, send? And this is where I went terribly wrong. I know my intentions were nothing more than clearing some air that’s been void of oxygen for 20 years. Should’ve left well enough alone.

I’m a nice person. I have an innate desire to BE nice, and also to be perceived as nice. I like to get along with everyone. Including my ex – and we all know how far that gets me before I get burned, like the burgers my brother grilled at last summer’s party. I don’t want people to think I’m a bad person, a bitch, or someone worth avoiding. I enjoy banter with friends – old and new. And I had a good time getting caught up that night with old friends. Yet… I drank too much. Probably said things I shouldn’t have. What’s worse – not knowing what I said. Which is why alcohol is a bad thing.

I am self-destructive.What is it that makes me self-destructive? I do, and say, things sometimes that serve no one, not especially myself. And I’m not sure where this comes from, or why. And it’s not alcohol-driven. It’s a rare thing nowadays, these attempts I unconsciously make at self-sabotage. But I suppose I was overdue, and the alcohol opened the door for insidious behavior.

Forty six. Not the age to throw caution and common sense to the wind and hope your house is still standing when you wake up. I’m feeling terribly fragile by my carelessness. No one is making me feel this way… only me.

 

 

 

Potato, Potahto

Nephtoo has been missing of late. Not missing missing… just missing around here. Admittedly, both Neph and Nephtoo have been missing, and I miss them. Opac and Veruca have been missing them too. We must fix this. Especially if I am to not continue to embarrass myself with my mispronunciations.

Herewith follows a snapshot of a conversation I was not a part of, but was inspired to share secondhand. Mostly because apparently I was accused of being stuffy. More on that later – let’s get down to the dirty details.

Nephtoo – a scholarly young man who knows just as much as he knows not – recently questioned whether the word vase was vah-z or vay-z, and his mother said – and I would have to agree wholeheartedly – that [we] don’t make enough money to own a vahze. So, middle class masses – it is VAYzes for you! Or, if you’re like me, you have amassed a cloudy collection of florist vases from all the flower deliveries ever received since 1989, and have stored them under the kitchen sink.

Still, it does raise the question – how much do we have to make to own a vahze? I need to know this. Today. Because I’m adding it to my bucket list. I will one day buy a vahze. And I will put fresh cut flowers from my gardens in it, and place it on the dining room table. Or maybe on my bedside table. Maybe I’ll carry it from room to room. Or would that be too eccentric? You’re laughing – and it’s not because I would carry my vahze from room to room. If you know me, really really know me, then you are laughing at my gardens. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back in Nephtoo’s world, the conversation segued into how I pronounce “fondant.” Nephtoo asked if I was stuffy for pronouncing it fon-DONt. Stuffy?! Confession – this is a word I’ve always been uncomfortable saying out loud – kind of like the word “sherbet.”

So I Googled the pronunciation of fondant. In English, the proper pronunciation is FON-dunt. I always thought it was fon-DONt. And actually, in French it’s pronounced fo-ndaw. So I was half right. And no one at the restaurant ever corrected me, which is surprising since Andy wastes no time correcting my speech in the kitchen – though he would let me walk around with spinach between my two front teeth all night.

The pronunciation of “ramen” became an endless source of laughter one evening a few months ago at my expense. Apparently I’ve been saying that wrong too. I said RAY-men and Neph thought this enormously funny. The correct pronunciation is as the Japanese say, RAH-men. And now I have to constantly correct Veruca’s pronunciation of it every time she asks for it and, like the diva she is, she refuses to be corrected.

This brings to mind a waiter we had – back in the days where we had to recite the evening’s specials – who insisted on pronouncing basil, baa-zil (baaa, as in sheep) instead of BAY-zil. This was a guy who marched to the beat of his own tackle box, like the night he marched it in from his trunk and over to a table to show them all his fishing gear. Which had absolutely nothing to do with basil.