Honky Tonk (W.W. Norton, $50) is a glorious, big book of photographs, so it deserves its own beach towel. Henry Horenstein here collects 40 years of photographs of great country musicians — many of them while performing near his New England home, but many of them at the old Ryman Auditorium or Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville. There are classic portraits of Mother Maybelle Carter, Speck Rhodes, Harmonica Frank Floyd, and other entertainers, but the book also turns the camera toward the audience for a loving and leering look at the Country Music Fan. Some of them have hair that defies all laws of nature. It's a fascinating look at that time and a celebration of the closeness between artist and audience in country music. Great to see some of those faces of the old, traditional country music and contrast them with today's bland, middle-of-the-road country singers. There are still great, authentic country singers today, but few of them reach the sort of audience that the manufactured ones do.
Two weeks ago, my dad called and said that my mom’s brother, uncle Jerry, had experienced a mild heart attack.
“Is he alive?” I asked. We’d been down this road before.
She lost one of her brothers to his umpteenth heart attack in 2008. She lost her father to Parkinson’s. She lost her mother and stepmother to cancer. And now, out of the four children, only the two females have avoided diabetes (so far).
“He’s alive and should make a full recovery. Your mother is at the hospital. You should call her.”
Immediately, I phoned and listened to the sterile details. She maintained composure but I knew it was a facade. I knew that familiar voice all too well—that “I’m holding myself together only because I’m the strongest pillar in the family” voice—as her nieces and nephews sat nearby, hoping for good news.
“Was that his first?” I asked. There is no such thing as a good heart attack, but chances of survival are greatest for the first. “Yeah.” “He needs to switch to a plant-based diet,” I responded before I could filter myself.
The election cycle is gearing up and already I’m experiencing the inevitable: anti-homosexual rhetoric. Politicians are working on getting elected and one of their favorite galvanizing issues is marriage equality. The reason: This subject gets the party base out to vote. The result: LGBT communities are used as pawns — political footballs if you will. Let me explain why this is highly offensive and ultimately hurtful to me, a lesbian, my life partner, and our daughter, who happens to be five years old.
In the last few months, four different incidents, seemingly unrelated, have occurred in my life and the lives of those 3,000 miles away from me. What makes these situations/events mentionable is that they have a common theme: homophobia.
The FCAT is here, that magical standardized test that spreads stress around like frat boys spread venereal warts. Educators, students, and parents have to deal with pressures that could make soldiers in Libya feel nervous. Its everyones least favorite time of year, but like that man you all elected governor, FCAT isnt going away anytime soon.
As a teacher for seven years, I helped students and parents prepare for FCAT with tips that benefit everyone both at home and at school. These should really be part of every familys routine all year, but when Id often suggest it, some parents complained that such work interfered with happy hour.
Moms and dads are the most important key to their childrens success. Heres what you can do to make FCAT time less stressful and more productive.
Make sure your kids get plenty of sleep. Children, preteens and teenagers need at least eight hours of uninterrupted rest each night, and some need more. So bang your drums or wife quietly. If your kids are cranky, crying or missing relatively easy homework questions, try putting them to bed earlier than normal. It works.
Prepare a good breakfast each morning. No sugar-coated cereals or soda. Try eggs with toast or oatmeal with raisins and always include some fruit and orange juice. Coffee is unacceptable for anyone under the age of 18. Kids should discover their jittery, neurotic side like everyone else does in college.
Pack nutritious snacks, like granola bars, yogurt tubes and cheese sticks. Wholesome munchies help maintain energy throughout the school day. Get rid of anything with high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and sodium benzoate. Yes, that includes Ding-Dongs.
April is autism awareness month. In recognition of this I want to say a few words about what it's like to live with autism.
You see, I'm not just a dominatrix, I'm also a soccer mom. (Literally - I wrote parts of this while sitting on the sidelines at my daughter's soccer practice.) And one of my children has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
My son (aka aspie boy) will be eleven in a few months but once upon a time he was a wee lad of three or four years old. And at that tender age he was a dedicated artist, decorating any surface he could reach with any sort of writing or coloring implement he could find. With his determination (and monkey-like climbing skills) he even managed to extend his artworks all the way up to the ceiling in his bedroom.
Arcadia, a small, rural town in south Florida, had some trouble back in 1987. A group of concerned parents gathered together to protest the presence of the Ray children in their elementary school. Richard, Robert and Randy Ray were brothers, hemophiliacs and AIDS patients. By the mid-1980s, most of us knew that AIDS couldnt be transmitted like the common cold, but folks in Arcadia didnt care about all that fancy, scientific, book-learning nonsense. They didnt want the Rays in their school. Period.
Locals harassed and terrorized the Ray family, up to and including the destruction of their home. Finally, the Rays left town and raised their sons, and daughter, in a more progressive community. Sarasota welcomed them with open arms.
And so here we are, over 25 years later, discussing Edgewood, Florida. Just a few hours north of Arcadia, this sleepy Central Florida town is in the news for a different kind of discrimination. Recently, parents gathered to protest the presence of a little girl. This child has a severe peanut allergy, and the parents want her out of their school. Period.
When I cant talk my mother into the gig, I am sometimes called upon to chaperone my childrens field trips. Over the years, adventures have included Lowry Park Zoo, museums and Cracker Country.
For those outside the Sunshine State and Godspeed, seriously Cracker Country is a journey back to the late 1800s/early 1900s, where school groups learn about life in rural Florida, minus all the lynchings and racial slurs.
Walking through the general store, quaint schoolhouse and dignified homes in this old-fashioned village, I met charming volunteers who played different characters. These actors were ancient and weathered, with accents and clothes cracked with age; they didnt have to convince me they were from 1898. I believed them.
When we stepped into the schoolhouse, I picked up a copy of the sample fourth-grade reader, circa 1902, and perused words like reticule, tallow and peruse. Fourth grade? I could almost hear the ghosts of crackers long gone, laughing at me between sips of moonshine.
For several hours, we toured the tiny community, tasting homemade butter and playing with toys that entertained children before electricity and PS3s came along.
It wasnt all enlightenment and old-fashioned goodness. When you take kids from a Jewish day school circa 2010 to hang with a Cracker Country crew who fondly remember when they had to urinate outside, a non-violent clash of cultures is inevitable.
Hearing the audience roar with laughter at The MOMologues on the evening I saw the performance, you might have thought that the play must be brilliantly witty. But youd be wrong: What the (mostly) women watching this Stageworks show were clearly laughing at was the accuracy of its many descriptions of the motherhood experience, from the absurdity of fertility treatments to the shock of bearing twins.
Again and again, in this earnest, honest but not very inventive show, the four women on stage recall some typical mother-moment say, judging strangers at playgrounds, or tricking a garrulous child into shutting its trap and the grateful audience explodes, as if finally someone is admitting that the Hallmark card version of mothering isnt the only story.
As the father of a small son, I too recognized maybe 20 relevant moments out of the 200 or so that The MOMologues presents, but I didnt want to shout when I heard them; I just thought, well, how about that, so my experience is not so unique. But I seemed to be in the minority; the audience I saw the play with lustily cheered each recognizable milestone as if the cat were finally, blessedly out of the bag.
There are certain things I never thought Id do, like forget to shave my legs on a regular basis or curse at my DVR when it stopped working properly. I also never thought Id attend a fair, theme park, or carnival and actually enjoy it. But here I am, getting older, unable to understand modern technology, and who the hell has time to shave every day anyway?
The Florida State Fair has arrived, and Ive come to accept the fact that Im one of those people who attends with her kids and pretends not to be embarrassed when they sing along with Ramblin Man blasting from the loudspeakers. I tell myself that its not so bad; we dont like fried butter or anything.
That should count for something.