Frightened Rabbit

Old Old Fashioned

Frightened Rabbit – Old Old Fashioned

Two weeks ago at this time I was driving my daughter home from a show in New York. A couple of YouTubers from England that she follows were performing at the Beacon Theatre. I bought a single ticket for her to go and figured I could amuse myself for a couple of hours in Manhattan while she was at the show. She didn’t mind going alone and I didn’t see any harm in her sitting by herself. I’d let her go to a similar event closer to home last summer and it had worked out fine so I preferred to save the money and not have to sit through the show myself. She had a great time, I met up with my cousin for dinner and wandered around New York on a gorgeous evening, we were home by midnight – a success.

The next day at school she proudly wore the sweatshirt she’d bought at the show and told her friends all about it. One of them remarked, “I can’t believe your mom let you go to a show, in New York, on a school night!” She just laughed and said, “You don’t know my mom. She is always going down to New York for shows so it would be pretty hypocritical of her to say I couldn’t go.” She is only 14 and I’m her parent so when she asked about the show I could have easily found good reasons to say no, but it’s true that I have no qualms about driving down to New York, or several other places, to go to a show. Even on a school night. I place a lot of value on live performances and being there in person, to soak it all in. If I can make these memories happen for her, I’m happy to do it.

Later that week I took myself down to see Frightened Rabbit. I’d been looking forward to the show ever since tickets went on sale. Not only was it closer to home than the last two shows I’d been to (Boston and New York) but I’ve been wanting to check out this venue for a while. It’s been open for about a year and I’d heard only great things about it. I’ll definitely be back, which is what Scott Hutchison said at the end of the night too.

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I keep looking for concerts that I think I could bring my daughter along to and that she might actually enjoy. There’s one at the end of the month that I have my eye on but I’m not sure she’s sold on the idea. The older she gets the broader her musical tastes have become but she’s still greatly influenced by her friends. Going to see a band she doesn’t know doesn’t sound hugely appealing and she’d prefer to spend her time listening to her own music than something I suggest.

I have friends who have taken a really active role in shaping what their kids listen to but I have had more of a hands-off attitude. Sure, I’d love it if she liked all of my bands but I think it’s important for her to find her own way and create her own path. After all, it was my siblings, much more so than my parents, who prepped me for all the music I would discover on my own and the very act of digging in and finding my music, is something that I have always felt, as the fifth of six kids, helped me forge my identity.

Which is how we found ourselves yesterday at a big chain store (after first checking out my local record store and another independent record store, at my insistence) so that my daughter could buy her first record.* It’s her own money and again, far be it from me to tell her she can’t or shouldn’t spend it on a record. Yes! Please! Buy a record! A double album, even! I wish it hadn’t been Twenty One Pilots and I feel bad that it came from a big corporation’s outlet rather than the guy down the street but I still felt it was a worthwhile purchase. For one thing, buy the music and support the musicians you love so they can keep making music! If I teach her nothing else in this whole musical journey, let it be that. Then the added bonus of having the lyrics sheet and the liner notes to pore over while you listen. New records these days usually come with a digital download too so you can still take your music with you wherever you go.

As she peeled off the shrinkwrap and took one of the records out I did intervene and tell her the proper way to handle the vinyl and to be especially careful when putting it back in the gatefold cover to make sure to have the open side of the inner sleeve at the top so that the record won’t roll out while you’re looking at the inside, and always keep your hands over the opening because otherwise it will crash to the floor and break and you will cry. Why yes, I was speaking from personal experience. Fittingly, my first record was also a double album. Embarrassingly, it was the Grease soundtrack. Give me a break, I was in sixth grade! As I stood in the living room where the stereo was, looking at all of the pictures from the movie, out rolled my brand new record and before I could react it had hit the wooden floor and snapped into several large, black, pointy pieces. Kind of like trying to remove snow from the roof or hood of your car with a shovel, you only make that mistake once.

Our house is very old and creaky and the turntable should only be used when no one is walking around. I had suggested she might just listen to the digital download yesterday and wait to give the record a spin until she got home from school today. I forgot to show her how it all worked though. She called me at my office, having already removed the record I’d left on it (though not following my strict instructions about putting it away properly, ack!) and had hers on but sound wasn’t coming through the speakers. I spent way more time than I thought it would take to walk her through this old fashioned technology. First push the button on the receiver (what’s that?) that says phono (huh?!?). Then find the switch on the turntable that says cue to raise the needle, move it above the edge of the record, close the lid, move the switch back the other way to lower the needle, ta-da! It’s a slow start, but I feel like she’ll get there. If I can do it, so can she.

* She has CDs and other stuff she’s bought on iTunes but this is her first LP.

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Living in Colour

About a week ago, I was absent-mindedly surfing around late one night and got to thinking about my friend Rebecca. We were great friends when we were both living in DC but then we’d both moved on to other places and other things. I’d kept in touch with her sporadically but our paths hadn’t crossed in quite a while.

The last place I’d known her to be wasn’t really all that far away from me and I was thinking that I should get in touch and see if she had time to meet up some weekend afternoon this fall. When I didn’t find her listed among the faculty members of the university I figured she might be on leave or maybe she had taken a position at a different school and did a search for her name.

The search results puzzled me for a second. It was her, but why was it written in the past tense? I clicked into one, then another, and felt the blood rush from my head. These were obituaries. I did another search. Same results. How was this possible?

I must have read those tributes to her a dozen times each, looking for some indication that this wasn’t real. I couldn’t believe it. I was just going to see if she wanted to meet for coffee and now I was reading that she died in July from pancreatic cancer. She was three years younger than me. I swore it hadn’t been that long since I’d last done a search for her and seen her faculty profile and thought, wow, great for her! I’ll have to send her a note and catch up!

Only I never did send that note. I thought about it but then got busy, as you do, with work, the kids, etc. She’d pursued her PhD and followed her passion and was teaching at a great university. My life, married with two kids, living in a small town, seemed so ordinary compared to what I imagined hers was like. I easily talked myself out of contacting her because I thought, she’ll be busy, she has her academic friends and probably won’t have time.

When I read the obituaries, they all told about her contributions in her field and how talented she was and what a gifted teacher and how much students loved her classes. They were wonderful, beautiful portraits of my friend, and while I certainly recognized her qualities and traits, they all more or less began from the point when our paths diverged.

I’ve spent the days since learning of her death thinking about her and how much I admired her perseverance and passion. There are only a handful of people in my life about whom I can say they did what they always set out to do and Rebecca was one of those people.

Rebecca (left) and me in 1993?

Rebecca (left) and me in 1993(?)

I met Rebecca back in the early 90s when she came to DC after graduating college and had an internship at the museum where I worked. The internships were all unpaid so usually our interns either had some scholarship to support themselves or parents who funded their way. But Rebecca was supporting herself so she had taken a job working at the gift shop in the National Air and Space Museum. Have you ever been there? Let me tell you, it takes real dedication to your ideals to spend eight hours a day selling freeze-dried ice cream pouches and pens with the space shuttle floating back and forth to teeming hordes of kids and worn-out parents, so that you can have the opportunity to spend your off days cataloging slides with me in a photographic archive two floors underground.

Rebecca had a great laugh and a beautiful smile. I was always impressed with how well put together she looked. Even though she was just as cash-strapped as I was (more so maybe) she looked much more professional and stylish then I ever will (the picture is proof of this). She was the best whisperer I have ever met. You could be sitting three feet away from her and have no clue that she was carrying on a phone conversation but if you were the person on the other end of the phone, you had no trouble understanding her. Once she moved on to another opportunity at the National Gallery of Art, I didn’t see her as often but we got together outside of work frequently. We had orphans’ Thanksgivings together and we’d meet up for lunch or go grab drinks in the evening. We hung around together often enough that eventually my roommate and one of her roommates started dating.

I remember when she took her first trip to Italy and how excited she was to finally see things she’d only been able to read about. I remember how excited she was for me when I quit my job to go to Europe. A lot of people thought it was a foolish idea but she understood why I felt I had to do it. I went to visit her when she moved on to graduate school at Williams and was struck again by her dedication to her goals. Williams seemed so remote to me but she saw great opportunities and took advantage of everything the program had to offer. But mostly I’ve been thinking about what a great friend she was. I think about her warmth and her support and trust. Once the miles and the months separated us and I saw her less often, we were always able to pick right back up where we left off when we would get together or talk on the phone.

There is never enough time in life for all of the things we want to do. I am so deeply saddened that Rebecca is gone already and that I squandered the chance to see her more often. But as sad as I feel, thinking about her leaves me with a smile on my face. My only consolation, in reading those obituaries, is to know that she really did live her life in color, vibrant color, and that she shared that passion with so many other people. That is how I am going to remember her and I will try to honor her by carrying her spirit of fun and warmth with me and sharing that with others.