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Monday, June 14, 2010

Memorials, monsoons, and Eminem

If there are any of you who came out to last Saturday's Mosey Down Main Street, and are maybe wondering if you walked past my booth without noticing it, never fear.  You'll be pleased to know that I was there for about an hour, during which time the temperature dropped from 87 degrees (heat index: 102) to 73, as the winds picked up, the rain started, and downtown proceeded to get absolutely drenched by a truly impressive thunderstorm.

Winds were reported gusting up to 70 mph, although I'm pretty sure I missed the worst of those; Beloved Husband and I were able to get everything taken down and thrown into the back of the van before the lightning front moved in.  We went to eat and I tried not to yelp too much as my hair dripped cold rain down the back of my neck.

Maybe I'm just a pansy, but there's something about being at an outdoor fair with tornado sirens going off that just – I dunno, just doesn't appeal to me.

***

On Sunday I was told I should consider a career in politics (blargh), because the world needed more honest, straight-talking people to hold office.  This was shortly after, and a direct result of, my standing at a podium and calling an entire roomful of people "lucky bastards".

At a funeral.

Earlier last week we got the news that Dan Lawrence had passed away suddenly.  Dan was an acquaintance of mine, and old friend of The Husband, so we would have attended the memorial anyway; Husband actually ended up being asked to officiate the service.

I don't know if you can ever describe a funeral as "good", but if you could then this service would have been a prime example: the building was packed with people whose lives Dan had touched over the years, a great many of whom opted to speak, impromptu, from the heart about the man they were going to miss.  There were tears, there was laughter, there were a great many references to programming, Rocky Horror, Dr. Who, and various sci-fi and gaming jokes.  This is what happens when nerds die; if you are a nerd, take comfort, and if not, well, you've been warned.)

Dan was described as someone who would do anything for a friend, no questions asked; he was regarded as a brother, mentor, uncle, and good-natured corrupter of college freshmen by probably hundreds of people for nearly three decades.   So the people who had the privilege of knowing Dan so well really are lucky bastards.

It made me wonder what kind of funeral service I'd leave behind when I'm gone, and ask myself when the last time was that I had, as I said at the service, "gotten my head out of my baggage and given so generously".  What would people say about me if I dropped dead tonight?  I'm afraid I'm not too excited about the possibilities just now.

My brain goes strange places sometimes, and it usually comes back with an opinion and the need to share it.  Let's face it, I'm a teacher and storyteller down to the bone, with a little performer thrown in. (Or maybe I'm just self-centered enough to think my opinion is worth sharing with the world, or maybe I'm so desperate for attention that I'm willing to inflict myself on a captive audience.  The jury's still out, depending on who you are and what you think of me in general.)

What I needed to share Sunday was that grief is not about our fear for the deceased's soul.  It is not about our belief that they no longer exist unless they've been "saved" by the religion of your choice. (Well, okay, I also needed to share my irritation at funeral services where the pastor uses the person's death as the basis for a sales pitch for their religion. Feh.)  Grief is about that person inside us that never outgrows the age of about five, the one that yells, "hey, no fair! I wasn't ready! You can't do that!"  I needed to tell an entire roomful of genius-level IQs, people who probably already knew this, that they don't need to feel selfish – and the definitely don't need to feel alone in their grief.

If there's a rule somewhere that says memorial services are required to include a sales pitch, I told the assembled crowd, then let it not be that you-yes-you-can-get-to-heaven-if-you-act-now-and-get-saved. Let it be that you, yes you, can be the kind of person Dan was, and that it isn't even that hard.

All you have to do is give.

***

It's possible that I told the room they were a bunch of lucky bastards because I've been listening to too much Eminem lately.  I mean if you're going to be thoroughly crass while also demonstrating tremendous emotional honesty, I guess he'd be a decent model to pattern yourself after, right?

I was online looking for footage of P!nk's performance of "Glitter In The Air" at this year's Grammy Awards; when I found it, it was immediately followed by a video for the single "Not Afraid", from Eminem's newest album, the yet-to-be-released Recovery.  Which, by the way, is pretty amazing; see above re: emotional honesty, presented in genius lyrics disguised by, well, by the kind of pottymouth I don't usually encounter in my comfy little world.

Well, because I do this, watching one cool video got me curious and I started looking for more of his stuff.  And more.  And more.  (If you recall my recent obsession with Robert Downey, Jr., this behavior might be starting to look familiar. Shush anyway.)

I learned that Eminem and I have exactly four things in common: we're white, we're left-handed, we were born in the same year, and we're raising girls (though I only have the one).  Trust me, we could not possibly be more different in every other aspect of our backgrounds.

But.

I also learned that he's had some collaborations that I wouldn't have thought of as likely – Dido, for one – and, for better or worse, this information sent my brain to its special place again.  This time I came back with the need to come up with the absolute least likely rap collaboration possible on this earth.

Because that is just the way I roll, yo.

The only rule is that this collaboration has to include Eminem.  I'd prefer that it be "Eminem feat. [Insert Artist Here]" because,  while  there are definitely some brain-achingly weird possibilities if you do it the other way around (for instance, "Willie Nelson featuring Eminem"), I think that makes it almost too easy.

Currently I'm not sure which would be more mind-boggling: a collaboration between Eminem and Loreena McKennitt, or an appearance on Sesame Street where he takes on Elmo in a freestyle battle.

I'm not sure how much responsibility I can really claim for the things my mind comes up with, when I'm usually as bewildered and entertained as the rest of you.

We won't discuss the rap I started putting together for no reason whatsoever while I was in the shower this afternoon, although I swear, for once I really wasn't operating in the Land of the Weird.  No, really, I swear – there was stuff in there about Martin Luther King and rising above, and a bunch of other things I'm trying not to remember for fear that I'll embarrass myself even more than I already have just by bringing it up.

We also won't discuss why I would get embarrassed over trying to create rap lyrics, but not over calling mourning friends and family members bastards at the memorial service.

How do you spell "gangsta", my homie?

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