One Step: From 2013 to 2014

Optimism. Focus. Growth. Three ways to approach 2013. Three tools to infuse the way I tell stories, both beyond and of the past. Three ways to embrace the future.

New Year resolutions are tough. As goals for the next 2-300 or so days they are choices of self-determination. Dictates on change. Guidelines for choices you want to make in the year to come.

They are often lofty and almost always fall to the wayside before February.

Last year instead of resolving I sought to qualify. I chose three words that would be a touch point for how I manage inevitable change and tell my stories. Three ways to accept the unpredictable and embrace it.

In this I have been mostly successful. 2013 was a year of personal change which often pulled me away from writing. My focus was directed towards family matters and I made the conscious choice to look for personal growth offline (though it seems my use of Twitter is perhaps on an uptick).

In the last year I’ve written 13 posts here on …this is what comes next. A few were cross-posts from either Fangirl or the Indian American Story. Others included links to reflections on the PreservationNation blog.  Collectively these posts (which are listed below) mark my love with learning through place (this year I traveled to Boston and Paris) and finding ways to teach my new niece an appreciation for the past. Some of my favorites? This interview with a Kristina Downs on Native American Heroines (originally on Fangirl blog), my look at Cloud Atlas, and a two-part post on returning to historical places and the resonance they bring on PreservationNation.

Continue reading “One Step: From 2013 to 2014”

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Twenty-Eleven/Twenty-Twelve

It has been a long, strange, year. On one hand it felt like it disappeared without a fuss, slipping away, month by month, day by day. Winter became Spring, Summer then Fall in a blink of an eye, but so much happened, both in the world and personally that it has its own weight and import.

And now here we are. Over the anticipation and into the 3rd day of the year two thousand and twelve (try saying that three times fast) with resolutions crying to be made, and best of lists flooding the Internet. I’ve had a year of personal triumphs and losses along with professional challenges that forced us to embrace change.

So 2011, Twenty-Eleven 2-0-1-1 I’d like to bid you adieu.

Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY

I am grateful for another year of family. For a wedding that made it grow, and for support when personal losses flew in unexpectedly.

I am grateful for another year of friends. As my thirtieth year on earth begins, having known some of these people for up to ten years has enriched my imagination, my world view, and my heart in the ways that only friends can do.

I am grateful, once again, for a year where I could walk into work and write and talk about something I believe in and love, even when it was hard (and at times, it still is). Change is a funny thing. When you know it is coming it can be frightening, a looming monolith–daunting, but as it sweeps in it can force you to look at old ways of working and push you in new directions. Optimism is my greatest weapon.

I know I haven’t made mention of some of the larger events of the year—of stories that we’ll be talking about as historians for years to come. Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Tornadoes changing the narrative of nations and small towns for decades to come. Believe me those larger events made an impact on how I view the meaning of place and where we came from in a new light. And the death of a friend this summer emphasized that life is fleeting, and that so much of what we have needs to be embraced right here, right now. 

Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ

And then there  are the typical “best of” lists. As always this is a reflection of things I’ve discovered/read/listened/saw this year.

Books : The Help, People of the Book, The Hunger Games Series
History Exhibitions: Maximum India, Taliesin West, Martin Luther King Memorial
Music: Sigh No More (Mumford and Sons), Collapse into Now (REM), We Are Young (Song by Fun. As heard on Glee and Chuck).
Television: Game of Thrones, Downton Abby, The Hour, Doctor Who
Movies: The Help, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Theatre: Les Miserables, Hamlet, The Heir Apparent

Many of the items on this list I wrote about on the blog this year, while others have flown in under the radar (including my recent love for David Tennant and Dr. Who. As a historian, watching a Time Lord fly around space during different historical periods is amusing and at times, surprisingly poignant.) Downton Abby (Season 2 starts January 8, Season 1 is available on streaming via Netflix Instant and PBS.com) and The Hour are two other series that I haven’t talked much about on the blog, the first has been written about in many places—great acting, great drama. The Hour, a six episode series set in England during the 1950s about a one hour news program, has an intensity that surprised me.

Each of these pieces of pop-culture fed my creative soul, made me learn something new about storytelling, and were, above all else, fun to listen to, watch, and see.

So….Twenty-Twelve, what can I expect from you?

My resolutions for the year are complicated. They range from the personal (eating habits, work out goals) to the aspirational (write more, dream more). Above all else I see 2012 as the year of getting organized, to continue to live my life in a way that helps others and sends love, peace, and kindness out in the world.

It is certainly going to be an exciting year. The Olympics, the 2012 Presidential Elections (to name two) that are sure to make headlines. There will be stories to be told, and lives that will be changed.

It is also a year of moving the needle, and raising the bar. Challenging myself to take risks and leaps that I have only taken tiny, hesitant steps towards in the past. Figuring out what does come next for me personally, professionally, and creatively. So no matter how we write it 2012, Twenty Twelve, 2-0-1-2, this is the year of living life.

Life is Bigger

I am sure many of you have heard the news. REM is over. After 31 years of working together Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills have decided to move on.

I’ve taken so long to write this post, one because I was traveling (I started this on an airplane and am now finishing it on another trip), but also because I wanted to think about how I felt, especially since reactions elsewhere ran the gamut from surprise, befuddlement, to sadness.

A band born two years before my birth I am quick to admit that my gateway song into REM fandom was the ever popular Losing My Religion. As my musical education grew I found myself being drawn to songs that were a little off the beaten track (by which I mean, not Orange Crush, Stand, Man on the Moon, or Nightswimming). At present my favorite is Walk Unafraid.

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me
High

Say “keep within the boundaries if you want to play”
Say “contradiction only makes it harder”
How can I be
What I want to be?
When all I want to do is strip away
These stilled constraints
And crush this charade
Shred this sad masquerade
I don’t need no persuading
I’ll trip, fall, pick myself up and

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me
High

I’ll also admit that I kind of loved the CD reviled by many (Reveal). Especially She Just Wants To Be.

It’s not that she walked away,
Her world got smaller.
All the usual places,
The same destinations,
Only something’s changed.

It’s not that she wasn’t rewarded
With pomegranate afternoons
And Mingus, Chet Baker and chess.
It’s not the stampeding fortune,
Of prim affectations.
She’s off on her own
But she knows

Now is greater than the whole of the past
Is greater, and now she knows

She just wants to be somewhere
She just wants to be
She just wants to be somewhere
She just wants to be.

Perhaps I can say that my relationship with REM was solidified by seeing them live at the Patriot Center in 2003 where despite floor seats among a largely apathetic crowd I loved Michael Stipe’s dancing and steady vocals in addition to the energy from the whole band.

That being said REM’s last swing through Merriweather Post a few years ago with Modest Mouse and The National remains the best concert I’ve been to. With three fairly well known bands I expected a short set but REM stayed on for over two hours and put the other two to shame.

While I wrote this post I was listening to an old episode of All Songs Considered called “Splitsville: Breaking Up With Your Favorite Band“. I know that many fans out there broke up with REM a long time ago. Perhaps it’s because nothing could really compare to other earlier work, or because they stayed within their musical boundaries, which dated their sound in a world of Lady Gaga and pop music. Whatever the case may be, there is something sad about never hearing another new nonsensical yet soulful lyric.

As my bro in law said when I shared the news:

“You know, everybody hurts but I find that if I surround myself with shiny happy people holding hands, I don’t feel like I’m losing my religion…in fact, I feel like the man in the moon.”

I think what I will miss the most of all is the poetry of REM. The way the lyrics flung me into new visions and played in the background of all of my early attempts to write fiction. Despite their disbanding I look forward to their catalog inspiring me for years to come.

Oh this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes, high alive
Blind to the tide that turns the sea
This storm that came up strong
It shook the trees, and blew away our fear
I couldn’t even hear

…..

Oh this could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away

Songs of the Preservationist

Latest post from PreservationNation.org, based on a discussion from the email list I help run.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell

Music — a bunch of lyrics, poetry put together to a rhythm and a collection of notes that riot our emotions, pull at our heart strings, or soothe the soul. For a preservationist a song can remind us of a place, or a building; an architect or a time long past. They are sounds and words that remind us of home, a nostalgic look back that often isn’t completely rose-colored.

A few weeks ago the preservationists on Forum-L compiled a list of songs that seem to “speak” to the field. In the end, I had a list of more than 200 songs, some with obvious preservation connections, others that are more like “save our building” anthems.

Click here to read more and listen to some of the songs.

How Sweet the Sound

For the Chicago review click here.

Where: Fed Ex Field (DC/MD/VA)
Set List:
Breathe,  Magnificent, Get on Your Boots,  Mysterious Ways, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For/Stand By Me (snippet), Elevation, Your Blue Room, Beautiful Day/Blackbird (Beatles snippet), New Years Day, Stuck in A Moment, The Unforgettable Fire, Mofo (snippet)/City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Crazy Tonight/Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough (Michael Jackson snippet), Sunday Bloody Sunday, MLK, Walk On

Encore 1:One/Amazing Grace snippet, Where The Streets Have No Name
Encore 2: Ultra Violet (Light My Way), With or Without You, Moment of Surrender

Blue Claw in DC
Blue Claw in DC

I have to say that the crowd around you often sets the tone of a concert. So I’ll start with my biggest gripe and then move on. I like standing up at concerts, and really see no point to remaining a huddled mass when there is energizing music around me and we are being hit by a fairly chilly breeze.  Anyway, just remember the next time you want to sit at a concert that asking nicely will get you a lot further then a sarcastic “I have a nice view of your back.”

Enough of that. Once again the show was a remarkable splendor of lights, sound and soul. While it took a little coaxing to get most of the stadium to go with his call and response , Bono and the band were in great form. There were a few songs that were not in the last show (Mysterious Ways for one), and two that I didn’t recognize at all (Your Blue Room, Mofo) . Other than that I got some really cool images seen here and a great live video of With or Without You.

There are a few things about Fed Ex that caused befuddlement.

1. Why aren’t camera’s allowed? (I mean clearly we were able to get in with ours but it was strange that the sign AND the security guards were stopping people from bringing them in.)

2. It has really terrible acoustics….so I suppose not really meant for a large rock concert. It was harder to hear what Bono was saying for most of the concert.

3. After being in existence for so long why do they have such a hard time with traffic patterns? I’ve heard about easy rides home, and hard rides home. The metro was a bit crazy but not tooooo insane for me……maybe its part and parcel of the DC driving experience. Who knows.

Orange Claw in DC
Orange Claw in DC

Good Things: Playing Top 5 with S.F. (see below), Running into people I haven’t seen in ages in the Bathroom (random), and of course that opening band which was pleasantly awesome. (Go Muse!)

I thought this time around I’d pick two or three songs and do a rundown about what was going on in the world when the Album came out. Sort of a U2 soundtrack for our lives.

New Year’s Day (War, 1983–this CD also has Sunday Bloody Sunday, 40): Michael Jackson does the Moonwalk, Congress releases a report about Japanese Internment, US invades Grenada, Hello World! Microsoft Word and the Nintendo Entertainment System (in Japan) are first released.

Unforgettable Fire (Unforgettable Fire, 1984–this CD also has Bad, Pride & MLK): Indian troops storm the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Indira Gandhi Assasinated, The first Macintosh, Ronald Reagan reelected.

Mysterious Ways (Achtung Baby, 1991-Even Better than the Real Thing, One, Until the End of the World):  Also in music? Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Freddy Mercury of Queen dies. Operation Desert Storm, Germany formally regains complete independence after the US, France, Soviet Union and UK relinquish rights. Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi is assasinated, Boris Yeltsin elected. Soviet Union disolved.

Mofo (Pop, 1997-Discotheque, Staring at the Sun): Notorious B.I.G. killed, Clinton  inaugurated for his second term, Timothy McVeigh convicted, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first published, Hong Kong goes back to China, Princess Diana killed, Bill Berry leaves R.E.M….and of course Titanic comes to theaters.

Purple Claw in DC
Purple Claw in DC

Earlier I mentioned that I got to go to the concert with one of my music guru’s. S.F. is an old college roommate. She and I spent most of the lead up to the concert listing our top 5 (top five U2, Beatles, REM, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi & The Decemberist songs). So tell me what your top five songs are (U2 or in general). Let’s get this party started.

My Top 5

U2: Sunday Bloody Sunday, Far Away So Close, Bad, Unforgettable Fire, One and I have a soft spot for Walk On though it often gets swapped out for other classics.

Beatles: Blackbird, Norwegian Wood, Obladi-Obladah, In My Life, Let it Be (But really is it possible to come up with a Top 5 for this band? There are soooo many songs)

R.E.M.: Losing My Religion, Walk Unafraid, Nightswimming, She Just Want’s To Be, Finest Worksong

The Decemberists: Red Right Ankle, Mariner’s Revenge, Sons & Daughters, Chimbly Sweep, O’ Valencia

Thoughts? Don’t forget to Check out the Picasa Album below and the video of With or Without You.

U2 in DC

The roar that lies on the other side of silence

soliderfieldcrowdThe first time I saw U2 was in June of 2001. They had just released All That You Can’t Leave Behind and it seemed like a good first concert. I somehow managed to miss going to any when I was younger, for some reason when everyone my age was going to HFStival I was standing in line for midnight movie showings. The main thing I remember about the concert is that while I knew the standards, the classics, there were clearly some I had never heard. There were the songs everyone wanted to hear (40, Bad, Unforgettable Fire) the songs which people seemed to lose themselves in, the songs that brought excited murmurs, gasps, and upraised arms.

And if the mountain should crumble,
Or disappear into the sea.
Not a tear, no not I stay in this time.
Stay tonight in a light.
Ever after, this love in time.
And if you save it all, save you love.
Dont push me too far tonight.

Then 9/11 happened.

IMG_1916I found myself nearly a month after that day driving up to Baltimore for my second U2 concert. We were late getting to the arena and found out that Garbage canceled because Shirley Manson had gotten sick. It didn’t matter, while it was the same music, the same band–everything felt different.

Not to seem over-dramatic, but only four weeks after the attack the mood in the country remained fervently patriotic, and we were all hurting—and to some extent still uncertain of what would come next; and while U2 is an Irish band they always seemed to have their own special connection to these United States. I’m not sure if it was just the music, or something Bono said, but I think that this is when I realized whenever Bono, the Edge, Adam and Larry came to town I would be there.

Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

IMG_18952005, the band releases How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, a record which had more misses than hits for me. High up in the MCI Center, I stared at an enormous sign urging everyone to Coexist, grinning from ear to ear. It didn’t matter that people around me seemed underwhelmed, it didn’t matter to me that I was one of a few people standing up in my section. Things were good.

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much


IMG_1882

Fast-forward to 2009. I flew to Chicago and found myself high up in Soldier Field staring at an enormous claw (which I later learned is actually supposed to be a spaceship). Why Chicago? I wanted to do something different and decided to go for the first show of the North American tour (don’t worry I am seeing them again at FedEx field in two weeks). So after a six mile run along the lake, a lot of good food (I love Rick Bayliss, but more on that in the next post) we took a cab to my first ever football stadium (big, enormous, cavernous). They started the concert with a new tune, Breathe–which is where the title of the post comes from–and ended with a new tune, Moment of Surrender. In between we got a little Elvis Costello, Beatles, and the ever classic Stand By Me.

Then there was the moment when the amidst the band’s silence thousands of people broke out into song:

IMG_1890

I have climbed the highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls

Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I think the best part, however, was standing next to a little kid who decided that he wanted to be The Edge. Wailing on his air guitar and jumping up and down, up and down, with his oh-so-tall father (he must have been 7 feet tall at least) it was infectious. All the way through City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, Crazy and Sunday, Bloody, Sunday he played and mimicked the passion and love for the music that was floating through the stadium. We were wowed by the lights and the large screens which twirled around to provide close ups of the band, extended to provide their own light show, and watched as bridges moved over the floor crowd’s head to allow for closer access to the rest of the stadium. While I suppose I can excuse certain lyrics about ATM Machines, it was, in the end, a very, very good show.

magicToo late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other

Carry each other
One

For more pictures visit my Picasa album. For the set list and a review go here. Click here to see my video of Stuck in a Moment.

Chicago & U2