Category: The song remembers when

Who Will Save The Sing Off?

Dear NBC,

When you cancelled The Sing Off, you cancelled one of the best reality shows on TV. Certainly one of the best shows on your network.

I did my part. I watched faithfully all three seasons. I shouted from the treetops about how awesome the show was. Between the kids and I we purchased no less than thirty of the tracks available on iTunes and grumped about the ones not made available (Nicole Sherzinger and Jerry Lawson’s duet from Season two). I liked my favorite groups on Facebook and followed them on Twitter. I JUMPED at the chance to see season three groups perform live. What more could I have done to show you I cared?

Right on the heels on the cancellation announcement, you announced the acquisition of a new singing show from the producer of The Voice. Meh, who cares. It wasn’t the competition that compelled me to watch. It was the talent and the reasonable panel of judges. I have enough stress and drama in my day to day life. I don’t need it in my entertainment. The Sing Off was a show I could sit down and enjoy with my kids. Shows like that are few and far between these days.

My first reaction to the news was shock, followed quickly by anger. I signed the petition in support of bringing the show back, but with the announcement of the replacement, I knew it was a done deal. So to NBC I say ~@#$%!!!!

Sincerely,

Lee Laughlin

So, *dusts off hands* now that NBC has released The Sing Off, who is going to pick it up? C’mon, this isn’t unheard of, there are shows that have struggled on the broadcast networks who have thrived in the land of cable. What about MTV? You know MUSIC Television? Maybe CMT? How about USA Network? TNT?

SOMEONE PLEASE AIR THIS SHOW.

Mama needs her a cappella fix.

A Cappella Palooza

Great music for a great cause

The kids and I are huge fans of the NBC show The Sing Off. I was introduced to a cappella music in college and it is just love what people can do with their voices. The first two seasons were November/December fillers, but last year, NBC ran the show from September through December. I’m not a huge fan of reality shows that thrive on cutting comments or putting contestants down, but the vibe on this show is different.  There’s a real sense of camaraderie and even irreverence.  The Judges still babble on at times, but that’s what my Tivo remote is for.

I was thrilled to hear that some of the top ten contestants would be performing in Boston at A Cappella Pallooza, a fundraiser for the Mass General Hospital Cancer Center.  The kids were over the moon. The downside was the perfomance was on a the last night of April Vacation. But, you know, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, so I bought tickets for the three of us (A-man does not share our passion). It would be Mim’s first concert.

I think the organizers weren’t certain how the show would do, so they only utilized half of the Agganis Arena at Boston University. Much to my delight (and theirs I’m sure), the concert sold out all 4,000 available seats! The show was amazing! It featured B.U.’s own Dear Abby’s as well as a surprise visit from the Tufts Beelzebubs Sing Off Season Two Runner ups. North Shore, Delilah, and The Dartmouth Aires were all fan favorites of The Sing Off Season Three and Pentatonix was the winner. The performances were amazing.  North Shore was on their home turf and the crowd responded. Delilah is actually a compilation of female singers from groups who performed on season one and season two.  I wasn’t a huge fan of theirs on TV, but live they are badass female rockers.  The Dartmouth Aires are just overwhelming, in a good way.  Their choreography is tight, and their arrangements are amazing. They always have the audience eating out of their hands.

Pentatonix is in the process putting together an EP and have been touring ever since the Sing Off wrapped.  Their interpretations of popular songs are incredibly innovative and their performances are energetic. I really hope some talented songwriter will write songs specifically for them.  I think they could be the a cappella group that breaks the barrier and charts an original song. Bobby McFerrin did it with the help of some machines, but I think these five could do it with just their voices.

According to the event organizers, they raised over $200,000 for the Mass General Cancer center.  Scott Griffith, CEO of ZipCar and leader of the event organizing team asked the audience if this should be an annual event.  The result was an overwhelming yes.  I really hope he follows through with that idea. It was a late night but a memorable one for all of us and yes, we’d do it again.

Here are some of my favorite performances from Sing Off Groups.

Born to Run – The Men of the Sing Off Season Three

 

Video Killed the Radio Star – Pentatonix

Someone That I Used to Know – Pentatonix

 

The Song Remembers When: Me and Bobby McGee

I love music. My life is always accompanied by a soundtrack. If the radio isn’t on my iPod is blasting or songs are just roaming through my head as I make my way through the world. There are some songs I associate with specific experiences, events or locations. With this series, I make an attempt to document some of those associations.

The Song: Me & Bobby McGee by Janice Joplin

The Location: The living room at the home of the M. family

My parents separated when I was about 3. My Dad moved to Annapolis, Maryland but periodically, he would come pick me up for visits.  Since he didn’t have a local place to stay, we would go visiting. Sometimes we’d go visit my grandmother, but at least a couple times a year, we’d go visit the M’s. Mr. & Mrs. M are old friends of both of my parents.  They have two children, a son N who is a year or two older than I and a daughter A who is a year or so younger. I loved our trips to see the M family. They were always very welcoming and I got along well with both kids. It is from N and A, that I learned what the word eavesdropping meant and how to do it. I also got the chicken pox from them! We played pretend games and would frequently pass the hours outside.

This time, it is late on a winter Saturday afternoon, all six of us are in their living room. The room has beige walls and warm lamp light is battling back the gray of from the outside. There might even be a fire in the fireplace. Mr. M. is wearing faded, blue denim overalls. I thought it was cool that he wore overalls.

Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee is BLASTING on the stereo and we are all dancing around and singing.

I can’t tell you what happened before or after, but I remember the laughter and the joy of belting out that song in that moment in time.

I can’t honestly tell you how often we visited the M’s, but it seems like it was at least a few times a year for a few years. Now that I am a parent with kids of my own, I have a greater understanding of their kindness and I will always be grateful for their hospitality.

I lost touch with the family, but my Dad still talks to Mr. & Mrs. M. Sadly, last week, he called to tell me that Mr. M had passed away at the age of 73. Rest in Peace. Mr. M. I hope your dancing in Heaven.

While scouring YouTube for a the original version of Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee (yes, I know Kris Kristoferson wrote it), I came across this cover by Pink. I can’t say I’m a huge Pink fan, but this definitely does the song justice. Enjoy.

Blog Post Interrupted

Working from home has its challenges, the biggest of which is endless opportunities to waste time. Yesterday’s to do list included two blog posts, paying some bills, a phone call to my Dad and laundry. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy with regards to being productive, but sometimes, productivity isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

Productivity gurus would say write first. I decided to call my Dad instead. I hadn’t spoken to him for a while and while he has lived out West for more than 30 years, he still runs on East coast time. The best time to reach him is in the early, early morning his time.

Dan and a 2 year old me sitting in a lawn chair on Tempo Road
Dad & I Then

My biological father and I have a complicated history. One that involves divorce, distance, alcoholism, sobriety, perfectionism, stubbornness, and uncertainty. My parents split when I was three and I was very fortunate that Dennis stepped into my life when I was six. Dennis wasn’t my dad, but he was. I wasn’t his daughter, but I was. Dennis always encouraged my relationship with my Dad, and for a variety of reasons, some of them circumstance, some of them my fault, some of them my Dad’s, we’ve never been especially close.

A little more than a decade ago, my world was turned upside down and I realized that what I thought I knew for sure, might not have been true after all. I always thought my perspective on things was independent, but the glasses I’d been wearing were shattered and I realized that perhaps, my opinions had been more heavily influenced than I originally thought. Since then, my Dad and I have stayed more in touch and worked to get to know one another. It is a journey we are taking together and I dare say we are enjoying.

I called yesterday to touch base and we ended up talking for quite a while. I knew some things that were helpful to some issues he was dealing with. We said our goodbyes and I moved on to writing. A while later, he called back. He was looking for something and needed my Internet skills.

The conversation focused on one of his interests, classic films.

While he’s a movie buff, I’ve always been more of a music person. During our conversation I revealed the fact that I’ve never seen Breakfast at Tiffanys. To his way of thinking, this is a huge failure in my cultural education. My college roommate was a film person, and given how many other classic films I have seen, it does seem like a bit of a gaping hole.

My father is a fabulous story teller and in his younger days was active in the New York bar scene. Yesterday, he regaled me with more of his exploits as it related to his movie knowledge. It was really fun to help him find what he was looking for and to learn more about what makes him tick. We said our goodbyes and again I turned back to work.

I turned up the volume on iTunes to find that the current song was Cracklin’ Rosie by Neil Diamond. On the weekends we did spend together, my Dad and I spend countless hours in the car and Neil Diamond was one of our perennial favorites. Cracklin’ Rosie was a song that ALWAYS made me think of him. I had to call him back to share the serendipity with him. We ended up talking for another 20 minutes sharing memories of some of our adventures.

We can’t change history. In one way or another, we’ve both said we’re sorry. There is still distance and uncertainty between us and yet we are actively taking steps to close that gap. There is no destination on this journey. I have no “goals” for my relatiohship with my Dad other than continuing to share stories and make memories.

I never did get the blog post written, but in the words of Brad Paisley, it was Time Well Wasted.

Dad and I June 2009
Dad and I June, 2009

Photo Credit, David Ryan

The Song Remembers When: Fried Ham

I love music. My life is always accompanied by a soundtrack. If the radio isn’t on my iPod is blasting or songs are just roaming through my head as I make my way through the world. There are some songs I associate with specific experiences, events or locations. With this series, I make an attempt to document some of those associations.

The song: Fried Ham
The artist: The Girls Scouts at Camp Tohikanee
The location: The Dining Hall

A sunny August day at the dining hall at Camp Tohikanee (Tok i khan ee) in Eastern Pennsylvania. The dining hall was one of the more modern buildings at camp. It was V shaped wood and glass structure with large “sheds” at either end. The sheds were filled with gravel and the walls were lined with hooks fit for backpacks and rain gear. There was one side of the V that was used more than the other. For whatever reason, we always ate on the right side. Only occasionally, were there enough campers that would necessitate using a tables on the left side.

Inside, the back wall and high angled ceiling were wood paneled. The left wall (or the inside of the V) was glass from the floor to 3/4 of the way up the wall, with a view of the flag pole. The floor was concrete covered in a shiny, burnt orange finish (built in the 70’s anyone?)

There were two rows of tables. Each table was square and sat 8 people on 4 benches. Which seat you took denoted which job you had at the meal. Each unit was responsible for setting up for a meal a few times each week. Being inside first, meant you missed out on the pre-meal songs and games, but, you had your pick of seats. You could be a runner, a server, a scraper or the drinks person. Other jobs were assigned on an as needed basis. Experienced campers knew to find the seat they wanted and stand behind it to wait for the staff to enter. You worked hard to get your favorite counselor to sit at your table.

Once everyone was in place, grace was said and then everyone was seated at once. The runners were dispatched to pick up the food, drinks were poured and the meal began in earnest. The noise level began to rise as silverware clanked and the pastel hard plastic plates and serving dishes were passed around. You had to wait for everyone at the table to finish. The scraper would scrap the scraps into a bowl and any excess drinks were poured back into the steal pitcher. Once all the plates were cleared, the wiper stayed behind to wipe down the table and benches and the sweeper stayed to sweep the floor. Everyone else scampered outside.

We’d gather around the flag pole as long a it wasn’t raining hard, otherwise, we’d gather in the gravel under one of the sheds and sing camp songs. Perennial favorites, included John, Jacob, Jinglehimer, Schmidt, Mrs. O’leary’s Cow and, Fried Ham.

Fried Ham, Fried Ham, Cheese and Bologna, and after the macaroni we’ll have some onions, and pickles, and peppers, and then we’ll have some more fried ham, fried ham, fried ham…

Second first same as the first British accent makes it a whole lot worse.

We’d go few a few accents (Chinese, Southern, etc.) and then move on. In hindsight, it is politically incorrect, but wicked fun at the time.

I attended Girl Scout camp for at least 4 summers. A one week sports program the first year and the two week barn theater program each of the other years. I have wonderfully fond memories of camp. Mim’s not quite ready to be away from home for a week, but that time is coming and I hope her experiences are as good as mine.

Grief Sucks!

It is amazing to me how grief can sneak up on you and stop you in your tracks, even when you are expecting it.

It was Monday July 21, 2008. I had just dropped the kids off at their summer program and pulled out my cell phone to make a call.

I’d missed a call from Becky. Oh shit. If Becky calls me, something is wrong with Dennis. Something was indeed wrong with Dennis, he’d ruptured his achilles tendon. Ow. Ow OW OW OW!!!

Dennis was my emotional father. My biological father was not really a part of my life until I was well into adulthood. Dennis and I didn’t share genes, but a bond much stronger. Even after he and my mother parted ways on less than pleasant terms, Dennis and I stayed close. For many years, he was one of the few sane people in my life. He was a giver and never a taker and so much of who I am can be directly traced to him and his influence on my life.

He was incredibly funny and a gifted writer. He could put anyone at ease, but if you crossed him, he’d let you know with a smile on his face. He was a ‘call ‘em like I see ‘em kind of guy’ and that set me straight more than once. He was not perfect, far from it (he’d be the first to admit it). He was terrible at taking care of himself and eventually, that caught up to him.

He went into the hospital to have surgery to repair the torn tendon. He had type II diabetes and had already survived a kidney transplant and an amputation. To say he was not in great health would be an understatement.

When I saw the voice mail from Becky, I knew it couldn’t be good. I tried to track everyone down to find out what was going on, but was unable to reach anyone. He HATED hospitals and hated having a fuss made over him, so I held out and called his cell phone only as a last resort. He answered sounding awful. I got the details and was able to say “I love you.”, before we hung up.

Through the day I got updates from Becky and his sisters. When the phone rang at Midnight, my first thought was my daughter and her grandparents who were driving across the country, but as I crossed the floor to the phone, I knew it was a call about Dennis. Still, I had to ask the sobbing Becky, “Are you telling me he’s gone”? I knew the answer, but I had to be sure.

Yes, he was gone.

Oh shit. Oh shit OH SHIT!!!!

The surgery to repair the tendon was successful. Becky spoke with him post op, but shortly after that, his heart gave out. If I’m being truthful, it was a better way for him to go. The transplanted kidney was failing and he was facing a grim future. I am sorry he’s gone, but I wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer.

It’s been almost a year. The date isn’t marked on my calendar, but it doesn’t have to be. He died Monday, July 21, 2008 at the age of 59.

I thought the anniversary of day itself would be hard and scheduled myself pretty tightly in an effort to keep the demons at bay. Turns out, this, week, the week before has been brutal. Everywhere I turn, there is a reminder. My iPod and the radio have ganged up on me.

He wouldn’t want this. He would want me to remember the good times, like when he read me Little House on the Prairie, when he tried to teach me to fish, the infamous New Year’s day brunch that went on all day, my wedding day (he walked me down the aisle and we danced to Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion), the Father’s day weekend he came to visit and met my daughter and we hung out in Rockport eating lobsters and drinking beer or the fall weekend he came to meet my son and he and I had third row seats to an amazing concert.

I remember all those times and more, but there have been too many times in the last twelve months where I could only shake my head and think “Dennis would have loved this.” I hate that he’s not here to share those things with

I have no pithy ending. Life will go on and as is customary, the grief will ease with time, but IT WILL ALWAYS SUCK!

This says it all I Still MIss You by Keith Anderson.


The Song Remembers When

I love music. My life is always accompanied by a soundtrack. If the radio isn’t on my iPod is blasting or songs are just roaming through my head as I make my way through the world. There are some songs I associate with specific experiences, events or locations. With this series, I make an attempt to document some of those associations.

The song: All Fired Up

The artist: Pat Benatar

The location: the small eat-in kitchen of my first apartment after college.

It is a warm, sunny day in May of 1991 at about 10:30 in the morning and I’m waking up over a cup of tea. I’m contemplating what needs to be done before I return to work for my 4 PM to 2 AM shift at the student computer center at Boston College. The phone rings breaking me out of my haze. The nice gentleman on the other end of the phone is calling to inform me that I have won a $5,000 scholarship towards my first semester of graduate school. I am stunned and ecstatic. I ask him three times if he’s serious. Three times he laughs and tells me yes he is serious. He tells me a letter with official notification will be mailed and I promise to forward him the contact information for the Boston University’s Bursar’s Office. We hang up.

I am on cloud nine. I deferred graduate school for a year so I could earn money and apply for scholarships and financial aid. With this exception, the scholarships were few and far between, but I was able to secure a few grants and a work-study position. I was planning to make up the difference in loans. A $5,000 scholarship meant that I wouldn’t need any loans until the second semester. I dance into the living room and find my Pat Benetar Greatest Hits CD. I crank the volume and blast my roommate out of bed. She’s angry until she hears the news, then she’s just sleepy.

All fired up

I believe there comes a time when everything just falls in line.

We live and learn from our mistakes the deepest cuts are healed by faith.

All fired up