Thursday, July 30, 2009

mom who rocks

My daughter went to the Paul Green School of Rock, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt. Until now.

One week from today, mommy goes away to rock camp. That's right. I'm enrolled in the Willie Mae Ladies Rock Camp in Brooklyn, New York. I'm not sure this conjures pleasing images. I know how my own goodbye-goodbyes* flap around when I'm strumming particularly hard. But I want to believe this isn't a pathetic attempt to recapture our youth.

When men have midlife crises, they buy a motorcycle or a new guitar or have an affair. How do women typically handle it? Like Shirley Valentine? But I don't want make fuck with Tom Conti. I want to do what I should have done the first time I heard Suzi Quatro and realized girls can do way better than date a guitarist. They can be one.

But—story of my life—I was impatient. And I never satisfied that guitar jones.

Now, at 47, I'm not content to be a Rocker Mom. I want to be a mom who rocks. My husband asked me the other day which guitar I would be taking. I looked surprised, as if there were any other guitar besides my Gibson Songwriter Deluxe.

"You can't take an acoustic guitar to rock camp!" he insisted.

Perhaps he's right. This isn't singer-songwriter camp, after all. But hey, plenty of people rock the acoustic, and I plan to do just that.

I'll send you a letter from camp.

- - - - - -

*Goodbye-goodbyes are that inch of extra skin under the arms that wave goodbye a second time by themselves. Some call them "flags" because they continue to wave.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the movie that goes to eleven (it's one louder)

It’s hard to convey in words your passion for something. You want to put the –est on the ends to show it’s at the top of all things awesome or great. You think you might capture how you really feel by saying very a few extra times or adding periods between words or using more than one exclamation point.

If you think that’s hard, try to capture someone else’s passion. Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), director of It might get loud, nailed it.

Three guitar gods (and I don’t use the word lightly)—Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White—tell the story not so much of the electric guitar, as the synopsis suggests, but of their love affair with it.

Before you quibble about the selection, remember this: all three have done something extraordinary to guitar that other people had not yet done. They invented a sound—became synonymous with it. And each represents a musical era (the not-yet ghosts of guitar past, present, and future), with tomorrow looking a little tenuous. Think of all the new music you've heard recently, and try to find a virtuosic guitar performance. White has the power to bring it back.

I spent the entire hour and a half grinning from ear to ear, except when I was crying, enrapt, which happened nearly every time Page, Edge, and White jammed together on each other’s songs. You could see it in White’s eyes when one of the others was playing a song; somewhere inside his head, he’s saying, “Holy fuck! I’m watching Jimmy Page play 'In My Time of Dying' right here in this room, right in front of me, with The Edge!” But outside, he’s cool.

Composed of new and old film footage, stills, location shots, and overdubbed interviews with the three guitar legends, the movie is as interesting and intricate to watch as it is to hear. I want to believe this would hold true for everyone, but hard as I try, I can’t imagine my mother, just two years Page’s senior, tolerating this for more than a moment, nor was my daughter’s nine-year-old friend (a keyboard player) unable to control his fidgeting from boredom. But the guitarists and wannabe guitarists in my group (well, the latter would be me) felt the same as I. I caught my husband crying a few times (no feat; he cries at sappy McDonald’s commercials).

My two favorite moments in the movie were when Jack White and Jimmy Page talked about their favorite songs. Page put a Link Wray record on his turntable, and his face glowed as he listened to what so many would have found a simple rockabilly riff, but Page plunked his air-guitar along with the record like the conductor of a technical symphony, explaining how the tremelo increased with every repeat. It looked like ecstasy, and it made me feel ecstatic, too. And when White spoke of his favorite song, “Grinning in Your Face,” by Son House, which was recorded with voice and hand clapping only, you could see White was overcome from what must be a spiritual experience every time he shares that song with someone new.

Perhaps these three aren’t the greatest guitarists of all time; they’d agree. But Edge, Page, and White have mastered the six strings, often times by creating new challenges (like playing on nasty, broken down guitars), and their personalities and passion are the success of this film.

It’s honestly the Very. Very. Awesomest. Movie. Ever!!

So I came home with my life changed and wrote a rockish-blues song. This is our first band practice; my daughter's feeling her way around a lead, and I'm trying to hit the right chords and still read the fresh lyrics from a sheet taped to the microphone. Marty is perfect, as ever, and in his slippers, as ever.