Friday, October 26, 2012

Rage Against My Ignorance

Every now and then I'll share a tidbit from my past with a friend, and I'll get a "wait, what?" look from them.

I have to admit I've had some pretty cool moments in my 42 years on this planet. Of course the top ranking moments would be the births of my sons. And yeah being published in The New York Times by the age of 25 also ranks up there.

But without a doubt, one of the coolest things I ever got to do happened quite accidentally. I wanted to be able to see a rap group from SoCal, Cypress Hill, so I agreed to interview the opening band, some group I'd never heard of.

I wasn't enthused about it at all. The concert, yes. The hoops I had to jump through beforehand, no.

But I was pulling strings. Although I was a co-founder of the newspaper I was representing that night, I had never written one concert/music/A&E/entertainment piece up to that point. It didn't matter. I was getting to go see Cypress Hill for free. I'd suck it up and make sure I came across as semi-prepared for the interview. I read some article discussing the bass guitarist's ability to turn his instrument into a turntable. Scratching with a geetar, and such.

I had the hook I needed to do the interview that I didn't care about. I just had to get it over with, and then I got to go watch a controversial rap group perform songs about things like smoking weed and the like. So edgy!

Sadly, I arrived two hours early for the concert. Because that's what journalists do. I checked in with the media representatives, and they took me to a tour bus parked in front of the Iowa Memorial Union. "Tom is the only one available for an interview. The rest of the group is busy warming up with Cypress Hill."

Despite picking up what the media rep was dropping down, I gladly walked on the bus to meet this guy named Tom. I walked in ready to get this over with quickly. "Hi, you must be Steve," Tom said.

"Yes, I am. Hi Tom," I replied. 

"Tom Morello. Nice to meet you Steve."

The next few hours were a blur. I didn't know who Tom Morello was at this point. And, frankly, neither did he. They were an opening act for Cypress Hill on the college circuit. But Morello, in my interview with him, and his band, Rage Against The Machine, through their subsequent performance, were both about to blow me away.

With eloquence and passion, Morello spent at least 45 minutes telling me the inspiration behind the band, their goals, their mission, and why they woke up every morning. He also apologized that the rest of the group was busy "warming up" with Cypress Hill. He told me about his upper class upbringing in the Chicago suburb of Libertyville, and how he was openly rebelling against that. He mentioned that the world wasn't ready for them. And neither was I.

I headed into the concert as this mostly unknown group took the stage. The smell of marijuana permeated the ballroom at the IMU. Nobody in this crowd was in the mood for anything more than "Insane in the Membrane." And, like me, they all were about to get woken the eff up.

I don't recall the details of the concert review I wrote. I do remember the headline read "Rage Against The Machine Steals the Show from Cypress Hill." And I also remember smiling when I saw it in print for the first time. I stepped out of my normal comfort zone - I usually stuck to politics, editing, signing last minute advertising deals, and the occasional political cartoon to fill in empty space. I wrote a concert review. About a group I'd never heard of.

But, soon,  people across the nation, and even worldwide, would know of them. I had nothing to do with that. But they had something to do with me. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

P.S. - Has anyone heard anything about Cypress Hill lately?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teenage Hateland?

In March, 2010, I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of two of my dearest friends in Iowa City.

It was like any other wedding and reception - the wedding party and guests dressed to the hilt, endured the actual ceremony, so they could enjoy plenty of liquid refreshments while dancing to the standards. 

Like "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, "YMCA" by the Village People, and I think even a chicken dance, but I could be wrong. The highlight of the reception was a rousing karaoke version of Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" by the bride. Well one of the brides. See this wedding had two brides. And no groom.

"Kristy" and "Sarah" were, and still are, an amazing couple. They compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses, and are able to work through the stresses of life better than most married couples I know. And I was proud of my home state when I was able to attend a legal wedding for them thanks to what I still consider to be a very well-thought out ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court. You can disagree with me all you want, I'm proud that Iowa was one of the first states in the union to support gay marriage. 

For me, it is common sense that ANYONE who wants to get married, short of cousins (which is legal in more states, for second cousins, anyway, than it is for any GLBT community members to do), should be allowed to. 

The sarcastic/cynical side of me looks at it this way: everyone deserves the right to live miserably for the rest of your life, until death do you part. I kid. Sort of. But seriously, folks.

But in reality I've heard all the anti-gay marriage arguments. Such as "gay marriage will devalue straight marriage." Much like a foreclosed house brings down the home values of the neighborhood, I guess? I don't follow this logic. How does Kristy and Sarah being allowed to make a legal commitment to each other  make it any less valuable for Joe and Jane to do the same? 

And then there's the argument that The Bible says gay marriage, or simply being gay, is a sin. Except that there's this notion by our founding fathers that there should be a separation of church and state. Furthermore, most biblical arguments I've seen have taken modern interpretations of a very old document, and twisted the words to support their cause. Sodomy and homosexuality aren't exclusive. At least not the last time I heard.

Perhaps the biggest irony to me is that most people who argue that the equal marriage movement is bad for the country are the same people espousing a belief in limited government when it comes to their wallets. Since we're on the subject of limited government, I wonder if those people are okay with any and all government intrusions into their bedroom or the altar of marriage. Like they're advocating for others.

Just like things we used to culturally accept as a nation: blacks can't vote or sit at the same table as a whites, women can't vote or legally make any decisions for themselves, Americans as a whole are a slow lot to accept social growth as a country. Which makes sense, if you think about it. In the history of humankind, America is still just a teenager. We're not good at learning from our lessons yet.

But that's no damn excuse. It's time to put our collective childish ways behind us. Enough with trying to single out people for being "different" from us. That's middle school crap. Equal rights should apply to everyone, no matter what your color, your gender, your religion, or who you love.

I have faith that we, as a people, will clear the last major hurdle in the movement toward equality for everyone. And I raise a glass in toast to Kristy and Sarah. I just hope I'm around for their 50th wedding anniversary!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Old Words from an Old Voice

Old words from an old voice. 

The old words themselves don't matter, and really neither does the old voice. The only important thing you need to understand is that when old words are spoken from an old voice, sometimes they evoke old emotions. You tell me enough times that I'm a turtle, and by God I'm a mother effing turtle in my mind. 

But tonight it was different. I heard the old words from the old voice, and it set off something. I was ready to piss fire and drink blood. I don't even really know what that means, but it sounds like something Chuck Norris would do, so I went with it.

Whatever you do, do NOT question my intentions or abilities as a parent. I'm not saying I'm perfect. The fact my sons picked out a "This Beer Is Making Me Awesome" t-shirt for me speaks for itself.  But when the "fit hits the shan," I'm there for my sons. It's why I'm here. And by here I mean the tundra. Please review the name of this blog at this time. Prisoner = held against my will. Tundra = Minnesota. Do the math. Unless you're my freshman in high school, in which case you'll say you did the math, when you really didn't, and then I'll get yelled at for it somehow.

And then I'll get yelled at for suggesting I didn't agree that said son needs to be on anti-depressants because of his recent behavior. He's in 9th grade. Going to be 15 in less than 6 months.  I've talked to countless parents who went through this same stage with their sons. I bring this up, and I'm told I'm wrong. I'm just trying to deny that our son needs medication.

I'm not going to wave a white flag on this issue. This boy is an amazingly smart and sensitive lad. I suspect that the sensitive is overruling the smart at the moment. Here's a kid who not only dealt with his parents divorcing, but then dealt later with his mom moving in with her boyfriend, which brought a second family into the mix. During puberty. While changing school districts. This doesn't excuse his behavior. But it starts to explain it.

Assuming he needs meds is the equivalent of saying "I can't swim, so I want him to wear a lifejacket."

Tonight, this kid sat and finished every last bit of outstanding homework he had. He didn't do it because I yelled and threatened him. He didn't do it because I told him he needed to go on meds if he didn't finish it. He finished it because I told him that was the requirement. And he knows that means it's not an option.

And he did it without me hovering over him. Because one thing I've learned in my life is this: if you need to have someone hover over you to get the job done, you aren't going far.

I'm not the perfect dad. But tonight, I'm going to chalk up a victory for me. He did what he should have done weeks ago. But he did it. Without a word. 

So regardless of what the peanut gallery has to say, I'm victorious tonight. Over a 14 year old. who moved in with his mom's boyfriend, changed school districts, started puberty, and well, at this point we might as well predict he will survive armageddon.

Hey old voices, with old words. I don't much care for you. I think it's time you just take leave now. If only it were that easy.