Tag Archives: Vampire Weekend

Life during wartime

5 Apr

My day job is being the director of internal communications for Michigan’s largest health care company. This means that over the past month, my life has become intertwined, 24/7, with the COVID-19 virus.

I am not a physician, nurse, respiratory therapist or other clinician, all of whom are risking their lives and leaving their families to help others survive. I am blessed to be able to do almost all my work remotely, well away from the hospitals that have been redeploying beds, supplies and staff at lightning speed to fight this pandemic. I am in awe of their dedication, and my heart breaks every time I hear about what they have to go through to ensure they have what they need to take care of patients and themselves. They are at war against an invisible enemy on our behalf, and we’re all in their debt.

For the first time in my career, I feel that what I do helps save lives. In one day, I went from taping a CEO video update for our employees to writing a blurb about a change in sanitary wipes – both equally important. To work with my exceptional internal communications teammates, all of whom have been going full tilt to support our care teams, is an honor and a privilege.

The stress is incessant, though. While our schedule has at last gotten to a point where we do not all have to be on call every day, it’s a rare afternoon, evening or weekend when I don’t have to monitor my email or jump back on my laptop to do something that can’t wait. It’s near impossible to unplug, and the evidence of the pandemic is everywhere. Taking a walk or going for a run, I look ahead to see if I need to swerve more than six feet away from an oncoming pedestrian. Watching late night talk show hosts wrestle with poor video conferencing connections and lack of flattering lighting and makeup is diverting until they have Dr. Anthony Fauci or another expert as a guest. I love having all three kids home for dinner, until I start thinking about why they’re here and not at work, or in New York, or at high school getting ready to graduate.

Even though I know – we all know – this will not last forever, everything right now feels like whistling while walking past a graveyard. When we’re out of this, we’re not sure what we’ll be in, and it’s almost foolish to imagine it. It’s better to keep the next hour of the day in front of you and move through that to the next one as best you can.

There are a few songs that have helped me get through moments of frustration, fatigue and fear. The Rolling Stones catalog, particularly from the Mick Taylor period, have a lot of screamy, brassy anthems that help me blow off steam. I am a sucker for horns, so “Bitch” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” are often on repeat.

I also got hooked on “Sympathy,” one of the songs from Father of The Bride, Vampire Weekend’s most recent album, due to its relentless momentum and a great bass solo at its center:

When I need to let a song take over my brain for a bit, “Chicago” from Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois album is a dreamy trip:

But there is one song – my favorite song – that is almost too apt. (It pains me to hear it in a Walmart commercial right now, even though they’re thanking their employees as essential workers.) To me, it represents hope against all odds, no matter how dire the situation. I’m trying to wait to really listen to it until that moment, weeks or months from now, when we can all literally breathe easier.

Here it is, in German, in one of the best uses of the song I’ve seen:

I hope you’ll share the songs that are helping you get through all this. Until then, much love, stay safe, wash your hands, stick to science, and look out for each other.

See you on the flip side …

School of Rock

7 Aug

“The Boston gig has been canceled … I wouldn’t worry about it though, it’s not a big college town.”

My teenage daughter is going to be a senior in high school come September. Next week, I will accompany her up and down the East Coast for her first college tour … or as she sees it, the Bataan Death March of the Soul. As much as she wants to flee parental control, she is leery of jumping into the arms of the academic establishment due to the cost, the pressure, and the likelihood that she’ll have to do her own laundry.

I told her that going to college means one thing for certain: great music. Even dinky campuses get any number of bands traipsing through town to build up their rabid following, one underclassman at a time.  Occasionally, they spring up from the students themselves: Talking Heads at RISD, MGMT at Wesleyan, Vampire Weekend at Columbia.

To prove my point, and perhaps to make it worth her while to set foot in Providence, I looked up the concerts in the New York and Boston areas when we’ve got free nights. And there is NOTHING. No thing. Nada. (There is a Marina and the Diamonds concert in but it’s 18 and over. As her mother, I can’t exactly help her get a fake ID so we can catch a concert.)

Of course,  Bruce Springsteen is playing Fenway Park while we’re in Boston. Call me un-American, but I have absolutely no interest in seeing the Boss in concert.  I wish him no ill. I’m glad he’s in the world, and he is nothing if not sincere. If someone offered me tickets to his show, I’d go. But otherwise, it would be like me going to a Latin mass when I’m only a diffident Protestant: I might recognize some of the melodies and get the gist of what all the fuss is about. Not being a true believer, though, the fervor of the faithful would be dumbfounding. (Maybe if I had gone to Rutgers …)

I was looking forward to catching a show. I saw all of three concerts in the Boston area during the eight years I lived there:

  1. Elvis Costello and his ill-conceived “Spectacular Spinning Songbook”, where he spun a wheel to choose the next song, making the show seem like it went on for days. When 10 p.m. came around and he hadn’t landed on “Alison,” he gave up and just shoved the ticker over.
  2. David Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour at Foxboro Stadium (speaking of ill-conceived).
  3. The Fine Young Cannibals’ only appearance at Great Woods; they performed their three songs respectably then promptly broke up.

Of course, I want to see a show with her for reasons beyond just redeeming my Boston-based concert roster. With the advent of her senior year, it’s hitting me that there aren’t that many more opportunities for my daughter and me to share music together here at home. I’ll start feeling the emotional impact as we head to the airport and I hand her my iPod to select what she wants to hear in the car. It’ll rear up again when we’re packing her turntable in bubble wrap so it’ll arrive on campus safely. And it’ll knock me flat when Airborne Toxic Event comes through Detroit and she’ll be seeing them on another stop on the tour.

There are still Marina and the Diamonds tickets left. Anyone know where in New York I can get my daughter a fake ID?

See you on the flip side …

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