Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cameras and pictures

A few weeks ago my friend Kris and I were talking, what is the correct term for having a conversation on Facebook?,  about cameras.  We were not swapping info on which SLR to get, we had that discussion at some other point, but rather we talked about the cameras we have had.  It got me thinking of the ones that I remember from my life and the pictures they captured.

My earliest memory is not of a camera I owned but one my Dad had.  It was a Leica and what I remember most about it is how long it took him to take each picture.  You see this was the time when he had a flash that had to be attached to the camera, then he had to adjust the lens and we had to stand there for what seemed like an eternity while he adjusted the lens to get it clear, right.  Through that camera the pictures we captured were of me arriving in the States - me sitting in the middle of my parents in every shot, as if they were going to make sure I was not going anywhere.  It captured  my last days in 5th grade, getting to my surprise the NYC Mayor's Award for Student of the Year, at the assembly with my Mom not able to attend because she had to work and my great aunt there to cheer me on in a language she did not know as she was visiting us. The same great aunt who had without hesitation taken me in when my parents left Romania and asked for nothing except a lot of kisses from me.  The same aunt who I tortured once while she was in NY by running away from her and hiding, until she bought me an ice cream.  That camera captured our travels as a family and the moments when you see my parents no longer together - smile was there but the body language said a whole different story.  It is the camera that captured my father's next few relationships and my reluctant smiles with these women.  The camera and many of his pictures disappeared along with the 2nd wife .. too much drama to recount and I have moved on.

My first camera that I remember was one I begged for - it was a disc camera.  I thought it was a Kodak but it was not it was a Le Clic, in pink.  For most people you will have to look this up.  That camera captured high school trips, lots of hanging out and memories of a time when my biggest decisions ranged from whether to use my allowance money to buy cigarettes or lunch (usually split this with someone else so we had both).  I remember taking that disc to the Genovese and waiting like a week to get it back - never quite sure of how good the pic I took was. It was the camera that captured junior dude ranch moments and a senior ski trip (I do not ski but I lounge very well).

My next camera was a Fiji, there were disposable ones that came around this time - easily bought, developed and gone, with a panoramic feature.  This is the camera that captured my first trips with friends and no chaperones, my trip to the Dominican Republic with a boyfriend in college, the many nights out and parties.  It was the camera along with the disposables that took me and my then friend, now husband, cross country on vacation and then to live in San Francisco.  We took it to Nova Scotia, I still shudder remembering that trip and no stinkin picture makes me like it any better, and I took it to Greece to moments on boats and off them on islands with boys, friends, and lots of celebration drinking ... good thing for pics as there were moments I may have not recalled.  It took the picture of the man my best friend and I dubbed god in oil, as he lay on the beach adding suntan oil on himself, who never noticed us (we were not old enough or rich enough to support him from the look of the women he did talk to). This camera was with me when I fell for someone in Spain and for the weddings of my closest friends.  It took pictures on road trips to Virginia Beach and to Florida to reclaim a friend who needed to leave that state and a relationship that brought her there behind.

My last camera was a better Sony point and shoot type.  This took some of my favorite pictures - for it was the camera I had when I had my first son.  I have mounds of those developed photos, cause some day I will put them all in albums .. eye roll.  It took pictures of him as he sat up, rolled over, and did funny things in his high chair.  It captured his, and mine, first friendships in our town.  This camera was there when my second son came along and took pictures of my older son squeezing his head, saying "I love you" with gritted teeth until I had to put camera down and ensure that love did not hurt.

These days my main camera is my phone.  No more mounds of developed pictures, my mother who reminds me of this regularly, but the ability to share all over the world those moments in my life that give me such joy. It has limitations and I swear I need a "real camera" but it is so easy and so there - capturing more than ever because my phone and I are often together. It has captured my boys many parties, Sunday dinners, holidays, trips abroad and many, many beach times (I say as I sit here frozen and in need of summer...PUHHHLEEZZE).

I think back on those cameras, look at those pictures and I always smile.  I do not grieve for the people who are no longer around when I look at them but rather smile at the moments captured on paper.  I sometimes shock myself at how I looked at a certain period, sometimes wondering what was I thinking with that much hair, that much heel, those crazy pants ...but mostly I realize that I lived, really lived often and enjoyed the youth captured in those pictures.  I cannot wait to say "can you take a picture of us" at the next good moment I want to capture ... CHEESE

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Raising sons

    "Did you want boys?" I get this question more than I anticipated from a variety of people.  I wanted healthy kids and really I had no preference.  I know all the sayings, because they have been told to me, about how sons love their mothers until they love someone else.  That there is a closeness that daughters have with their families that does not end once they move out.  I see that in some ways with my own family, I text or call my mom almost every day, my husband maybe once a week with his Mom but that may not be the case for my sons who have a different relationship with me, or maybe it will be and I will just deal.  However, in having a child none of that is what I thought of.  After all there is no guarantee that I would have a close relationship with my daughter and not with my son.  There were the clothes that were cuter for girls but they have some of the coolest things for boys and I have walked by the pinkness of the girls aisles with no issues. 

Raising boys though is a lot of work - much as I am sure raising girls is - and not because they tend to be high energy (all of the girls that my sons are friends with are pretty high energy themselves).  It is a lot of work because there is so much that I want to make sure I pass on to them as they travel toward becoming men.  As boys there are stereotypes and biases that the world will heap upon them.  They are expected to be hyper, they are expected to do well in math, they are expected to be tough, they should not cry when they are hurt, they are likely to hurt each other in play and a host of other biases (conscious or unconscious).  As a mother of boys I have to roll my eyes when my kids are running around because regardless if it happens for a few minutes people will comment on how "hard it is to raise boys" - umm no it is hard to raise kids to be successful for themselves as well for the world around them.  

I have to let them know it is ok to cry - I watched the whole focus on Tom Brady crying as if that is a bad thing.  He should cry when he loses, it is emotional to invest that much time in an activity and then lose.  I know we associate crying with weakness but I refuse to bite - crying is a release and knowing when you need to cry but not crying for every little thing is a balance that is difficult so I would rather teach them that then to not cry at all.  Good for you Tom Brady - so you cried - and I am not even a Patriot fan. 

I have to teach my boys how to be good men to women.  That treating women as equals means opening doors and being courteous to women while knowing that women can think as well, accomplish things as well, succeed as well, be friends as well and be as strong (while crying or not) as men. There is so much pressure for boys to take - to take from girls their bodies rather than to make a joint decision to share what should be a moment of mutual pleasure - to take from others with aggression rather than to learn to reconcile and collaborate - to take emotions and hide them and there is less pressure to give (that falls more on girls still).  I have to battle that in ways that teaches my boys that life really is about give and take.  

I love having boys and the relationship I am fostering with them is not a friendship at this point.  I am their mother who has to make choices that they may see as unfair and teach them how to make those better choices on their own.  I love having them open up to me and know that I will be fair even when I am less than happy with the choices they make.  I love playing, reading, dancing and being a total goofball with them. 

I do not know what parenting girls is like but I do know I want to be the mother of the kind of boys that those mothers are thrilled to have in their girls' lives, the mother whose boys are the friends that parents are glad to have in their own children's lives, and most of all the proud mother of the amazing men I see growing right before me. I want them to be like the ones that I have as friends, the men who are understand that being a father does not end with conception.  I want them to be like the man who made me feel like I was loved and special.  My boys are amazing and I am sure that if I keep encouraging and building they will be all that and more on a personal level and for the world around them.

Team Boy for me -- dedicated to the boys who listened to this read out loud, who always encourage my blog and who taught me how to be a more loving and better person - my sons Max and Cole !!!!!!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Then there were none

   I have incredibly fond memories of going to my local record store.  Around the block from my apartment was a shopping area, living in New York, this may not seem like a big deal, there were blocks of apartments and some single family homes (few) and blocks (streets) for commercial space.  One block away from the apartment my parents rented was Steinway Street.  As a kid this was great.  I know I get a lot of questions from people who grew up in the 'burbs or even further removed from a city about how did I feel about not having a backyard, answer is perfectly fine - no one I knew had one, those people that did spent very little time in it and we walked to local parks/stores/movies without needing a lift, or a pool, answer also fine I walked a long way to Astoria pool or went to the beach with my parents, and lastly about playing in the street, we did this very well - parked cars make excellent bases for tag or stickball or kickball - the art of "car's comin'" yelling and dodging excellent for reflexes and the coming on of a streetlight best way to know when you got to go home before you have a watch (ok the ladies up and down the block telling you to go home also helped).

So when I think of growing up in a city borough I see it as a great experience and really do not think I was missing anything.  I also loved the fact that I could walk everywhere, especially the movies, my library and record store.  I liked window shopping and then actual shopping.  I liked the small non-chain stores and the chain ones Genovese and Woolworth.  The record store - I distinctly remember the guys who worked there.  They had music on all the time, often they let you listen to some songs and were good at recommending artists based on what you bought.  I bought a lot of 45s - their B sides sometimes good, often not.  I loved actual record covers but with my allowance often bought the 45s and was glad my Dad many times bought the records, he did not buy Led Zeppelin (too loud) but was ok with Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees.

As I got older I started leaving the neighborhood (let's hear it for the subway system and the cheap option of mobility) and discovered Tower Records - ahhh so large, such selection, tapes and the staff fascinated me - possibly my first view of piercings outside of the earlobe.  I spent much cash and hours in there.  Then I found the smaller stores of the Village - Bleecker Bob's where CDs were imports of from not overly played bands (ok my incredibly amazing I love you still friend Charlie introduced me to them) and another one that old age is making me see clearly with stairs going down but the name eludes me.  In my San Francisco time there was Amoeba - awesome store - for cds... and they sold used ones for budgets like mine.

None of these exist anymore - my kids will never know a B side, being blown over by it and how it may be an amazing song that even surpassed the hit it was on the back of ("Roadhouse Blues" Doors, "Unchained Melody" Righteous Brothers, "Don't Worry Baby" Beach Boys, "Into the Groove" Madonna, "Rock around the clock" Bill Hailey and His Comets, and "How Soon Is Now?" Smiths - among many).  They will never go with a friend and hold up a record across an aisle, or flip through them in a stack.  They will never admire the album artwork or be in a store hear a song, look up and have to have the sales person help you find and buy it, and maybe add a stack more to discover bands like Ramones, Sonic Youth and even Nirvana.  That was magic for me and for so many others.

There are still places you can buy cds but I admit I am guilty I buy my music digitally - with little exception.  Once in a while the appeal of liner notes or a CD gets me to buy it but many times I could download the liner notes -- love liner notes, they also feed my wanna be rock star by providing lyrics.  This is the future and while I write this with a bittersweet note I understand that my kids will probably have the same reaction I do when people ask me about "missing things for growing up in a city" when asked "do you miss not having record stores".. no I did not miss that and no they do not miss them.  It is not the reality they know.  They love music and that works for me .. they will not walk around the corner but they can walk to a park and play by calling on the boy next door... they will wistfully remember iTunes when it has been replaced (and it will be) as they remember playlists.

Thank you record stores for feeding my need for music and with each of these memories of where I bought the albums I remember the moments of my life (my time with my Dad with a shared interest, my independence as I started to buy things I liked, my travels to the City and how much I loved the Village, my venture to San Fran and sharing my love of music with my boys) and the music that ties me to those times.  You may be gone but you will not be forgotten. 

I've been looking through the records, an hour or two
And I've about decided what I've got to do 
I'm gonna get me a guitar and learn to play
I'll serenade my baby night and day 
And I'll play the songs that my baby likes to hear ... "Stack-a-records" Tom Tall 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Orange is the new black but only if you have green

I recently realized there are some themes to the TV shows I like - politics, period pieces, anything forensic pathology (goes back to my Quincy obsession - which I happily can watch again on Netflix) usually fit the bill.  I also realized that I also seem to be attracted to intense, intelligent, slightly off kilter - ok crazy - female characters.  I am sure at some therapy session in the future I will need to discuss my connection - am hoping I start the session with the crazy and end it as a intense woman with passion.

I recently read a book called "Orange is the new Black".  The main character makes some bad choices and they come back to haunt her years later and she winds up serving time.  Of all the irrational fears one could have - mine is about being in jail.  I know it is not really irrational because jail is nasty, dangerous and not someplace anyone wants to be in but I actually get afraid and picture myself in the orange jumpsuit, getting shanked (yes I got the lingo), and having to go to the bathroom without doors.  Yes I know, last one seems lame  - but it is my fear and makes me slightly ill to even type this.  

As I started to read the book I first thought about the main character Piper.  I judged - I mean her bad choices are all about a bored, wealthy girl trying on the "dark" side.  Yes it stunk that she carried money only once, yes it sucked that she got dragged into getting convicted 10 years after the fact, no it was not fair that the main drug dealer never actually did any time but his lackeys did.  However, at the end of the day she did not do it because she did not know about other choices, needed the money or even had some sort of drug problem to sustain - she did it because she had led a life of privilege that she knew she could play away from. 

I watched the show even though it differs from the book.  As I watched it I thought both about the book and the tv characters.  These women, for the most part, are victimized from birth.  It is easy to say why did they try meth or crack or heroin when they saw their mother or grandmother or whoever was taking care of them go down hard for the same addiction? It is easy to tsk tsk from a comfortable middle class existence at how they subject their minds, their bodies and their freedom to men who deserve nothing because they give nothing except misery.  Mostly it is easy to judge them in much harsher terms then we judge the Piper character - she made a mistake, they on the other hand made a choice. 

Piper is saved by her money, her circle of acquaintances and yes 15 months in jail is horrid.  Not being able to pee without asking for permission is not something we should ever take for granted, nor eating when we want, showering and sleeping as we need to, or any other basic need that we have the freedom to do without walls, fear, and someone else telling us to do it.  

Piper is saved by her education and her family - she is able to take from this experience what us taxpayers should want for every inmate, particularly those in these minimum security places.  It takes her a while but she accepts her personal responsibility for what she has done.  She is able to make money and be successful from this misery.  She survives her jail time and moves on.  

The women both in the show and in the book do not get these chances - they are not saved because it is not race, or sexual orientation but money or the lack of it that keeps them in the revolving door that is addiction, prison, poverty.  It is insanely expensive to house these inmates and yet there is nothing to help them get out - and I do not mean leave jail.  There are some that find the comfort of institutional life safer and more orderly the world outside of the barbed wire walls.  These women very often have very little support system, live in areas where they have no one to teach them a skill, may learn a skill that no one employs them with a record for.  They get out to a world where there are no real good options or choices.  They may be below, at or above average intelligence but that does not mean at any of those levels that society would not benefit from breaking this cycle as much as they would benefit from it.  

Orange is not the new black - Green is the new, old black.  Dollars should be spent on programs that get dollars back in taxes from inmates who are given options that no longer have to rely on abusive relationships, welfare programs and a never ending parade of children who they do not want to, cannot or have lost interest in taking care of.  Those children would not be in orange - they would be out of the red  - in financial terms it would put our economy in the black.  

I admit I like the show, mostly because I genuinely like many of the characters and find myself wishing to find a way to save their "real" counterparts.  I admit I watch the show but as I watch it and I cannot help wondering as Piper turned her error into her success how many of those inmates who helped her in their own way survive jail does she help in return?  I wonder how we break this cycle for these women because it would be a benefit both morally and economically.  

In one of my all time favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption (prison theme), Red has a very famous line  "hope is a dangerous thing in a place like this" that is the harsh reality for most of the women Piper served time with - and they are all fascinating in many ways - my favorite character is Crazy Eyes because she never ceases to remind those of us watching her that there is more to any of these women then the color of their skin, the color of their jumpsuit and the lack of color in their incarceration.