Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Alice!

When I read Heidi's blog post (heidiwrites) encouraging those of us who love Alice Hoffman to join a "blog hop" in honor of her birthday, well, I just knew I had to hop on board.  I am not a seasoned blogger by any means--indeed, I find the whole blogging process stressful, but in a good way.  For Alice, I'll deal with the stress and send my birthday wishes and love to an author who has given me so much to look forward to.

I fell in love with Miss Hoffman back in 1993 when I was given Turtle Moon as a gift.  I had just left a safe life in Nebraska full of family, friends, and security to find something new in Colorado.  I didn't realize how elusive that search would end up being and how much I would miss my Nebraska life.

Enter Lucy Rosen, a character on a search of her own. I couldn't stop reading her story as she desperately searched for answers--to murder, to family, to love.  I'd never read such beautiful words--words like "He truly believed it was possible to reach up and steal the stars right out of the sky.  Now he doesn't even see the stars anymore."  

Turtle Moon got me through the shock of leaving one life and beginning a new one.  Now my bookshelves are home to so many Alice Hoffman novels--novels that I reread time and time again.

My favorites?

Turtle Moon (of course--your first is always the best, right??)


Aquamarine (such a sweet friendship story)

As an English teacher, I am forever drawing on Alice Hoffman novels to use a mentor texts as I help my students discover the writer inside themselves.  

For similes and metaphors, imagery, and magic--
"By now, the mermaid was light as air, dusty and dry as the sand."
"They went in past the whitecaps that shone like stars"
(from Aquamarine)

Esther the White now thought of her decision, such a long time ago, to bury the past in the earth, to forget her own childhood and let the Compound honeysuckle—its odor so strong it had hung over the ice as Esther the White’s fingers cracked with the cold as she buried the jewels—take over everything, even her memory.  And now, as she stood with Cohen by her side, the odor of that same flower filled her, as if memory and pain could both be erased with a flower, with a scent.
(from The Drowning Season)

(These are just a few of my students favorites)

And so, for giving me new friends and words to live by--for allowing me to enter into your magical world--for changing my life--
Happy Birthday, Alice,
from the bottom of my heart!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Two Tickets to Paradise

It's no secret that I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and so I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that he and The E Street Band would be coming to Denver last fall.  I circled the date, November 19, 2012, in bright red on my calendar and set up an alarm on my computer for the date and time that tickets would go on sale.  I wasn't going to miss this!

I didn't even have time to process the fact that I would be seeing Bruce again when I learned that Jackson Browne was also coming to Denver--five days before Bruce!!  Seriously???  These are my two all-time favorite musicians--I just don't go to any other concerts these days.  And they would be within five days of each other???

I didn't even have to think about it--I would be going to both concerts.  I didn't stop to think if my body (or heart!) could recover between the two shows--it simply didn't matter.  Of course, both of them were on school nights (Jackson on a Wednesday, Bruce a Monday),  but for Bruce and Jackson, I was willing to make the sacrifice.  I knew my body (and my students!) would pay the price, but I also knew it would be totally worth it.

And, of course, it was.  

Click on the links to read about the forever-etched-in-my heart memories of Jackson Browne (Jackson blog!) and Bruce Springsteen (Bruce blog!) in Denver 
November, 2012! 

"You get older and a lot of ghosts walk along with you. Which is good." Bruce Springsteen


Tears of bliss, tears of anticipation, tears of enjoyment,  tears of laughter,
 tears from the heart, tears from the soul,  
tears of rapture,  
remembrance tears, goodbye tears, 
tears of sorrow
my-cheeks-hurt-from-smiling tears. 

From the moment Bruce Springsteen walked on stage and said, "It's great to be back in that Rocky Mountain high," (while making jokes about our recently passed Amendment 64!), TEARS welled in my eyes, oftentimes streaming down my cheeks and even splashing into my glass of wine.  I probably shouldn't have been bawling all the way through a concert that I had been anxiously looking forward to for three months, but that's exactly what happened.  

The night started with everyone in high spirits.  Seeing Bruce with my sister Peg and my best friend Eileen was a dream come true.  Our first stop was Racine's, one of Denver's classic restaurants, where we enjoyed dinner and drinks. All three of us were feeling almost giddy. Yet  . . .

As excited I was to be seeing Mr. Springsteen again and being in the company of these two amazing women,  I also had a small sense of dread.  I had been trying not to dwell on the fact that this would be the first time Big Man wouldn't be on stage with the E Street Band.  I wondered how that would be, how empty his spot on stage would seem, and how Bruce would address his absence.  I was especially dreading hearing the song "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," one of my absolute favorites, and I was secretly hoping that they wouldn't do that one.

I did great for the first five or six songs.  I mean, opening with Bob Seger's "Get Out of Denver" had everyone rocking from the beginning--a perfect way to open a concert at the Pepsi Center!  It was when Bruce did "Roll Call" and introduced the band, about thrity minutes into the show, when the tears  were uncontainable, no matter how many times I tried to blink them away.  After he introduced everyone, he said, "Are we missing anyone?  Are you missing anyone?" and a light shone on the empty spot where Big Man usually stands.  I am actually tearing up as I type this--it was a subtle-yet-perfect way to honor Clarence Clemons.  Bruce didn't say his name--he didn't need to--we all knew who was missing.

That led into a quiet monologue about ghosts--we all have ghosts who walk beside us.  We've all lost someone or something, but they're with us all the time.  This spiritual side of Bruce got to me as I thought about my dad, of course, but also my grandparents and other family members and friends who have passed.  I truly could feel their presence--it "was good" as Bruce said.  Bruce broke into "Spirit in the Night" appropriately, and, once again, we were all smiles as we sang along.

The thing about a Bruce Springsteen concert is that there is absolutely no down time.  The band goes from one song directly into the next.  There is no buffer time, no wait time for applause--one song turns into the next.  And so, for the next three hours, Bruce and the band played song after song.

I had to "translate" my typing the next day!
8:13 = time Bruce came on stage
11:10 = time he left the stage

You would never know The Boss is 63.  He never stopped--never sat down--never took a break.  And, Bruce doesn't stand at the mic all night and sing slow love songs--he is all over the place.  He's on stage, on a walkway leading into the crowd, on a platform in the middle of the crowd, falling into the crowd and body surfing back to the stage, jumping, sliding, dancing.  For three hours.  

I was exhausted after one!  I did, however, have enough energy to get up and dance to "Dancing in the Dark."  I can't stay seated for that one.  (see short video below--I can't believe I'm posting it, but it really was a labor of love for me to do this.  With the support of my sister and my BFF, I danced the whole song!!!)

The last song of the night, at 11:18 p.m., was indeed "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out."  I had been dreading it, true, but it was during this last song that I could finally let go.  Bruce was out in the midst of the audience again,  singing the familiar words.  When it got to "They made that change uptown and The Big Man joined the band," the music stopped, Bruce froze, and Big Man's face appeared on the Jumbotron.  The cheers from the audience were so loud I thought the floor was going to give out.  A video tribute played for maybe 5 minutes, and yes, I was blubbering.  It "was good" though--I know that Big Man will always be a part of a Bruce concert, and his spirit and music will always be with us.
Big Man's nephew, Jake Clemons, keeps the spirit alive.

The night ended with Bruce putting on a Santa hat that someone from the front threw up to him, and he rewarded us with a verse of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."  He left the stage, leaving me feeling light hearted and so happy (my cheeks hurt from smiling so much!)  The feeling of dread and sadness was long gone, only to be replaced by all those ghosts walking with me, keeping me safe and giving me new reasons to believe.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Various Songs Live in These Guitars" Jackson Browne

I saw Jackson for the first time at Red Rocks during the Running on Empty tour.  That must have been in the late 70's, which means I was in my twenties.  My oh my, how things have changed!  Somehow, though, Jackson has managed to stay pretty much the same.

My date for the night was my gorgeous sister, Kerri, who flew in from Minneapolis--for the concert but also to visit with Mom.  We started the night out with dinner and drinks at D Bar Desserts.  (a MUST for anyone who has never been there!)  After enjoying a delicious dinner and some fancy cocktails, we were ready to enjoy Jackson's beautiful music.

We took advantage of the valet parking at Downtown Denver's historic Paramount Theatre, a perfect venue for an intimate Jackson Browne concert.  In fact, I saw him perform there maybe ten years ago.  Because it seats just under 2000 guests, the setting is intimate.  

When Jackson finally took the stage after Sara Watkins' longer-than-necessary opening act, I felt as if I were seeing an old friend.  His warm greeting to his loyal fans, a simple "hello" with a wave as he walked to his piano, transformed the Paramount into a living room.  The audience immediately mellowed, matching the mood and music that is Jackson Browne.

From that moment on, I was lost in the music as Jackson performed so many of my favorites.  He obviously had a set list in mind, but, as is typical at a JB concert, the audience called out their own song requests, and frequently, Jackson obliged.  He would be getting ready to begin a song, and someone from the audience would call out a request, which would cause him to stop, think for a split second, and then change directions and head over to the piano (or back to his guitar at center stage) and grant one happy audience member a wish.  At times, that got annoying to me--I just wanted to hear Jackson, not the front row yelling out their requests (which oftentimes were not my faves).  But Jackson handled all that with grace and charm, and the resulting setlist included most of everything I wanted.
(I had so much fun taking notes on my iPad during the concert!)
My favorite moment happened when Jackson, who had an entire row of guitars on stage with him, was deciding which guitar to use for a request that wasn't on his setlist.  He picked up one and then immediately changed his mind and grabbed a different one and then a different one still.  We all laughed a little bit, to which Jackson explained, "Various songs live in these guitars" and he selected the one that housed "In the Shape of a Heart."  At that point, MY heart was in excellent shape!
Jackson and his guitars

Jackson played for us for 2 1/2 loved-filled hours.  Kerri and I sang along to our favorites, sipped on a few glasses of wine, and tried to sneak in some pictures.  That wasn't easy, though, since we had this crazy-mean usher who watched us like a guard dog all night.  Never mind that EVERYONE in the front row, directly in front of Jackson no less, was taking pictures AND video.  If we even took out our phones, she was there threatening to have us thrown out.  Towards the end of the night, Kerri was at her "that does it" stage, and she jumped out of her seat, went over to her and gave her a piece of her mind.  We didn't see her again after that!

This concert, like so many Jackson concerts, felt familiar, warm, and comfortable--like a trustworthy friend who never disappoints.  And Jackson NEVER disappoints!