Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Things We Do for Love

When our son was a little boy, we took him to New York City's famed FAO Schwartz toy store. We would go there many times over the years until Will's interests turned to gaming and electronics that were scarce at FAO Schwartz. 

On our first trip, we bought him a remote control airplane. He was so excited about it. We took it immediately to Central Park where we planned to fly and fly it until we needed to head back home. As is often the case in life, things didn't go according to plan. On its maiden voyage, the plane flew into an immense evergreen in the park and came firmly to rest in the tree's branches. 

Will was distraught. His beloved plane just sitting up there taunting him. My husband started throwing things up in the air to try and dislodge it, but the plane was really stuck. We came to the conclusion that one of us should climb the tree and try to shake it loose. The tree was one of those good climbing trees with loads of branches evenly spaced. How hard could it be?

I tried helping my husband up to the first limb but he was too heavy. It would have to be me. Me and my black patent leather shoes were going to climb that tree. With my husband's help, I made it easily to the lowest branch. Once inside the giant tree, I actually felt pretty safe. Branches were everywhere, leaves were everywhere. How could I fall?

I shimmied up that tree and shook the branches until the plane was freed and fell to the ground. Well done me, pat on the back -- until I looked down. 

My husband and I are both pretty terrified of heights. We're the people clinging to the inner edge of the Empire State Building Observation deck saying, "I'm good. I don't need to see it."

As I sat there probably three stories up in that tree, I thought the same thing. I'm good. I'll just stay here. But of course, I couldn't. It's a strange thing adrenaline. The overwhelming feeling that pushes you as a parent to do crazy things for your kids. 

I think my husband started to realize what was happening because he was talking to me like a hostage negotiator, calmly yet firmly reminding me that I needed to get down from that tree. Like most things in life related to fear, it's that first step of letting go that's the hardest, like learning to back dive when you're a kid. That's scary stuff. 

I climbed back down that tree by looking up. It's the only way I could make it. I listened to my husband and son on the ground and I climbed back down that tree at the pace of a giant sloth. I felt my way onto branches, stopped frequently and still considered from time to time that possibly the fire department might show up and rescue me.  Dear FDNY can't you hear my silent distress call?

That was really a proud moment for me as a parent. I did it! I climbed that freaking tree.

NB: Much later in life I would agree to go ziplining through the trees in Mexico with a guy named Loco in charge of securing our harnesses. He was missing part of his ear. But that's another story for another day.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Will, You Are Surrounded by Music

If I think about how fast I'm moving through life, not a second to think, not a second to reflect - it really should give me pause. One nice thing about sending my only kid to college is I suddenly have some time to reflect. Of course, I've filled that time with more stuff to do like house painting, weeding, cleaning and laundry. But every once in awhile, something strikes me as being sort of unbelievable, that I never saw a connection when there were so many connections to see. Like the role music has played in Will's life.

Our son Will was born with magnificent hair. Truly, it was a sight to see. Beautiful, thick black hair that his nurse immediately parted to one side. My brother nicknamed him "Tiny Elvis," a name that's stuck with him to this day.  It was a reference of course to Elvis Presley's famous pompadour, but Elvis was also a heckuva singer.

When Will started preschool at this crunchy Raleigh Montessori school, there was a young hippie dude named Chris who would sing and play guitar with the kids. Will loved Chris. One day, Chris pulled Rod and I aside and said, "I think Will has perfect pitch." He meant Will sings in perfect pitch. Only 3 or 4 at the time, I thought, "I think you might be hitting the reefer a little too hard there, Chris." I can tell you that I completely forgot about the conversation until much later in Will's life when when I saw him get up on his middle school stage and sing and play the guitar for the first time in public. 

Really, it was shocking. I tell this story all the time. When Will asked me what I thought about singing by himself in the 9th grade talent show, I honestly thought it would be the equivalent of middle school suicide. I was picturing the absolute worst, my usual MO for pretty much anything that involves change or risk or courage. 

But Will has great courage. He's not afraid of risk. He taught himself a song on his guitar, practiced his vocals, put on jeans and a pressed white shirt, and got on stage. It was silent. And then he played - Crashed by Chris Daughtry. And he was AMAZING! I couldn't believe the kid making that sound was my kid. The crowd went wild. The girls were screaming. It was one of the best moment's of many I've been lucky enough to share with Will and family. 

There were other signs all along of the music that surrounded Will. When he was a baby, we randomly spotted singer Marcia Ball in a Raleigh bagel store and got her to autograph a napkin of all things for him. We framed it and put it in his baby room. 

As a toddler, he was obsessed with singers Patty Griffin and Susan Tedeschi. I would play their music and he would sit in his car seat saying, "Again!" I heard Rock Me Right so many times, I thought I'd never want to hear that song again. Thank goodness it was Susan Tedeschi and Patty Griffin I had to hear over and over. Will sang and sang all the time. It was reassuring as got older and his door was always closed. I could hear him singing and know he was alright.

My dad and his wife took us to New York on several occasions and there we stayed in the swanky Peninsula Hotel. Alanis Morissette was standing in the lobby one time, spotted Will and started making baby talk and waving to him. We had a brush with Natalie Cole there and rode the elevator one time with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. "Aren't you Yo-Yo Ma?" I asked. About Will he said, "I am. But more importantly who is this young man?" And he shook Will's hand. 

Some time after Will left for college, I went through his baby book. In it, I found his horoscope from the day he was born, May 24, 1998. The first line reads, "You have unusual voice, sense of drama, ability to solve problems belonging to others." More signs of music, celestial signs now. 

My mom plays piano. My husband sings, my dad sings, even my brother and I can carry a tune.  My brother's wife, her dad is a big band leader - the Sammy Kaye orchestra. Her sister is a singer. Music is everywhere in Will's life.

I don't know how I missed all these connections to Will and music. Now that's he's studying music at Loyola, it all makes perfect sense. When Will started taking guitar here in Fairfield, his first teacher was this serious guitar player Al Ferrante who had previously played with people like Edgar Winter. He also taught John Mayer as a young man. 

John Mayer's official bios refer to Bridgeport as his hometown and I'm sure that's where he was born because Bridgeport Hospital is very near our home. But he actually grew up on the mean streets of Fairfield, CT where we live now. He studied guitar and went to what is now Warde High School, then music greatness. I'm hoping Will can really make it in music, like John Mayer make it -- with possibly less womanizing. 

Here's Will knocking it out of the park in middle school

NB: I remember what prompted this blog now. I was rummaging around in the basement and I found a woodcut my husband did in design school. It was the image of Wynton Marsalis. Kind of a weird coincidence don't you think? He grew up in North Carolina but decided to do a woodcut of a famous New Orleans musician over 30 years ago and now his son is becoming a musician in New Orleans. Weird. Cool weird. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Disney And Matricide: A Change of Heart?

My husband and I saw Queen of Katwe this past weekend and it's a departure from typical Disney films in a major way - the mother doesn't die, or isn't already dead or missing. As a young mom growing up watching Disney films with my son, I kept wondering why do all the moms die in Disney films? I mean it's everywhere. From Bambi to Finding Nemo -- a story arc that spans decades. 

Queen of Katwe is a Disney formula departure, but it's almost too much. First of all, the lead character Phiona's mother is played by the amazingly beautiful and probably too young to be Phiona's mother, Lupita Nyong’o. Then Nyong’o comes across as an overly tough single mom of four children with little confidence in Phiona's chess game as a way to transform their family. Phiona's chess coach played by David Oyelowo really plays more of a parental figure while her mother's character is focused on the day-to-day survival needs of her children. 

In Disney's favor, Phiona's mother lives until the end of the film and is paid her due by her children, her daughter's chess coach, and her community. It feels pretty forced but I'll take it over the typical  dead mother storyline Disney has used all too often.  

I'm always a proponent of a girl power film and this is one of them. Getting better Disney. 


Monday, September 26, 2016

Rosé Is the New Kale

Twice this week, rosé has been the wine of choice at events I attended, and it made me think, "How did rosé become the new kale?" There was a time when pink wine was considered laughable, made by Sutter Home or the one in the box. But in 2016, rosé is no laughing matter. 

Take for example, this recent rosé story that appeared in Vanity Fair which claims rosé really took off in in the Hamptons about 3 years ago, where it is now known as "Hamptons Gatorade." Others blame social media for rosé's insane rise to fame. Or Miraval, the winery co-owned by Brangelina -- the former Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt. Whatever the reason, rosé is the toast of the town and according to Forbes, USA Today, and UK's The Guardian its popularity knows no bounds. Here's an interesting quote from a rosé detractor responding to recent news,  
"Or maybe it’s this article from The Guardian that revealed that rosé sales in the UK have doubled, doubled in the last year, mostly through sales of a kind of rosé slushie called frosé. First of all, if a wine trend is driven by slushie sales, that’s a red flag. Also, these are British people—they’re supposed to know better."

The question in my marketer's mind is how does something like a wine varietal or say a common leafy green like kale become the hottest product on the market? It's the concept of The Tipping Point put forth by Malcolm Gladwell in his original bestseller.  Even  Malcolm Gladwell was at one point the darling of the literary world -- the rosé of storytelling for marketers like me. 

This is a subject matter I'm going to be exploring more in depth because I think there's something fascinating about it and most of me thinks it has absolutely nothing to do with marketing skill or dollars. Mostly, it seems to be about blind luck. But I could be wrong. 

Perhaps it was the work of astute rosé winemakers in Provence banding together in a secret pact to push their wines to meteoric fame. Or the brosé movement. Surely you've heard of this?

"Last month, Details magazine observed that more male drinkers were 'pounding pink. Rosé is kind of like online dating,' Sam Daly, an actor, told the magazine. 'What was once a faux pas has become the norm. It's become universally accepted among men and women. It's kind of like the beer of wine.'" 
Like the beer of wine. Now we're getting somewhere. Kale must be the iceberg lettuce of greens. And quinoa is the white rice of weird starch substitutes from the Andes. 

I'll keep you posted. And enjoy a glass of rosé as summer comes to a close. 

NB: A long time ago, I worked in a newsroom with Malcolm Gladwell. He honestly looked like a junior Republican in the making with short cropped hair wearing blue blazers everyday.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Go Pokémon Go

I see them everywhere now. Young people roaming the streets like zombies trying to catch a Pokémon. I had this long conversation with my hair stylist about how you play. She explained PokéStops/Gyms to me and why so many people are wandering around aimlessly waving their phones in the air. Why they stand on street corners turning in circles looking for paw prints. 

I've never played the game, haven't downloaded the app. I like the idea of kids getting outside -- that's almost revolutionary thinking for gaming company Niantic. It feels like an old-school scavenger hunt with virtual creatures overlaid on the real outdoors. 

I know there have already been some stupid and tragic events that resulted from playing Pokémon Go. On the stupid front, two adults broke into the Toledo Zoo in the middle of the night and were later arrested. On the tragic front, Pokémon Go players are being robbed or worse of their expensive phones while out at night playing the game. 

A group of my son's friends have been going out at night in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport to play Pokémon Go. I've been in Mountain Grove on my own during the day, and while beautiful, it's also a bit scary. Like "no one can hear your screams" scary. 

In two weeks, our son leaves for college at Loyola New Orleans. I told him, "Listen Will you need to be careful in New Orleans if you're playing that game. You can get in trouble quickly in a place like New Orleans."

He nodded his head as if in agreement. Then he said, referring to himself and another friend headed to Tulane as a freshman, "Me and George are going to Pokémon the shit out of New Orleans."

Great.  Another relaxing thought for me as Will heads to Loyola NOLA in the fall. Pikachu that!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sucking Up Is Not A Skill Set

Dear Will,

I know it's been a tough week and you're under a lot of pressure between school work, choir commitments and college applications. I thought your audition of Marc Broussard's It's Almost Christmas song was amazing, especially when you sang it with your original partner Sarah Rexford (It's Almost Christmas - the prequel with Will in his PJs). I thought it was worthy of a featured spot in Warde's Carillon program, but it was not meant to be.

Will, you have an amazing voice. You would've killed it in my opinion. But your choir teacher chose the ensemble of the usuals -- her favorites that you can't seem to infiltrate. Let them sing their song, because they've earned a spot in her inner circle. Just make no mistake, you should've earned a spot too.

As I said to you today, sucking up is a skill set that can get you somewhere -- in work for example or in high school choirs. But it's not a real skill set. Because it's founded on copying the behavior that someone else dictates to you, not following your own heart and thinking for yourself. 

Looking back at what happened this week, I would have given you better advice. First, your teacher made you change your partner because she wasn't in a school sanctioned choir. Second, she partnered you with a substitute not nearly as well suited as your original partner. Third, she pitted you against her choir favorites -- and then chose them.

Knowing what I know now, I would have told you to stick to your guns, stand by your original partner, and know that you probably had no shot because of the politics involved. But also know that high school is high school, and once you leave, merit and talent will be rewarded.  

Not always. Sometimes, the guys who sucks up wins. But the older I get, the less room I have in my life for people with that skill set, and the more room I have for people with actual talent. People like you.


Everything Just Flows

Our son won a music scholarship through a town scholarship committee. It was sort of surreal because our long-time neighbor gave him the award. But she had to act all casual and didn't tell us before hand. So it was a complete surprise. 

As a researcher, I am naturally curious. I looked into the memorial scholarship. It’s a memorial for a young guy who sadly died at age 20 back in 1989. I can’t really figure out what happened — I think because newspapers were not online yet. His name was
David John Nogan.
I did find that he died here in Connecticut, but he was born in Louisiana where Will is going to college. And on his headstone are two carvings, one of a guitar and the other a peace sign -- two symbols I associate with Will. We’ve pledged to go and leave something at his grave site here in Fairfield -- maybe Mardi Gras beads and flowers for
David John Nogan. We want to say thank you for the generous scholarship before Will leaves for Loyola. But how weird is that? From one young man at the end of his life, to another young man just beginning his. From Louisiana to Connecticut and back.

Maybe everything just flows.

This is amazing! In the days after, Will received an email re: the scholarship as follows:

Hi Will,

I am the Vice President of Scholarships for the High School Scholarship Foundation of Fairfield.  My husband and I were having dinner tonight at the Old Post Tavern and we struck up a conversation with a lady dining alone who, it turns out, is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Loyola University New Orleans College of Music and Fine Arts.  She grew up in New England and was visiting her mother who lives in Fairfield.   I mentioned that we had given a scholarship to a Fairfield Warde graduating senior who was going to major in music at Loyola, gave her your name and suggested she look at your performance of Hey, Stranger on YouTube. 

She said you should contact her if you have any questions before you leave for New Orleans and offered to help you adjust when you get there by introducing you to other students in your situation so that you can begin to build your network.  It’s a great city to be a music major!

Just tell her that you are from Fairfield and that you were given her contact information by the lady who ate dinner next to her at Old Post Tavern.  That should jog her memory.  She was very sincere in wanting to help you.

Her contact information is:

Dr Serena Weren
Phone: 508-865-2027
Email:  sweren@loyno.edu
6363 St. Charles Avenue
Campus Box 8
New Orleans, LA 70118

Best of luck in the coming year.

MaryKay Frost