Sunday, December 14, 2008

what's in a name?

A kinder soul would say that I have a selective memory, but I'm thinking the truth is that I am losing my mind. The realization started with Facebook and my fumbled attempt to reconnect with old friends.

Face and book this: I can't remember who my friends were. I mean I remember Yvette who played the French horn and Fayne who I French kissed. But that's hardly enough information for a Facebook search engine.

Were last names absent from the first three decades of my life or have I lost them in a memory bank that went belly up with Wachovia and all of the other failed banks of this current financial crisis? This is my current crisis.

I have lived in 10 or 11 cities, with a richly textured tapestry of friends in each. But as the years fade, I find that the thread that stitches those times together has frayed. And if measured by the number of my friends on Facebook, I am staring down a narrow path.

So how should one's life be measured?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ode to odetta

If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. Any way you can make it baby, you keep on moving it on... - Odetta

The last time I saw Odetta, she shuffled across the floor, gingerly, with a unflappable determination as if an invisible chord was pulling her to a chair waiting at center stage. And then she opened her soul and started to sing with the same booming voice that I'd heard years before in Philadelphia and before that in Boston and before that in London and before that in's a voice that comes deep from the belly of mother earth. That chord could well be an umbilical chord reaching back to something primal.

Odetta made harmony of discord. She marched with Martin Luther King in Selma. She performed for Kennedy in 1963 at the peak of her career. She didn't mind that people called her a folksinger, but she was so much more than that. She was the reason Bob Dylan sold his electric guitar and picked up an acoustic. She was a music historian who transcended musical form. She moved me.

Odetta wore a crystal at her third eye and had skin the color of chocolate that stretched, unwrinkled, across high cheekbones. She carried herself like royalty, poised and confident. She would sing and tell stories with an intensity only matched by her audience. Where ever I sat in the concert hall, I always had the feeling that I was sitting at the knee of a someone old and wise enough to speak the truth without fear.

Odetta died yesterday at 77 years of age. She'd been hoping to sing at Obama's inauguration. She will be singing in me forever.

If you can't walk, crawl. If you can't crawl, sing (my addition)...Anyway you can make it baby, you keep on moving it on.

Link to Odetta singing House of the Rising Sun