Queen

We Are the Champions

By Laural Winterwearethechampionsuk

My share of sand kicked in my face

If I had written this post a few months ago it would have had a jubilant tone. I feel more somber now. A rise in hate crimes really has me and many others really worried.  But maybe we all need to tap into our bravado for the next couple years. We need to have a thicker skin and be ready to fight for our beliefs because we are going to have to do a lot of cleanup and rebuilding of bridges when all is said and done.

Back in the early seventies I had no idea what my beliefs were. I thought the world was a magical place. I thought Portland was the world–that the Hollywood neighborhood was THE Hollywood everyone talked about, and that musicians like Queen wrote about our basketball team.

I remember my family driving in our red Chevrolet past the Memorial coliseum. Traffic was moving slowly. The drivers were honking their horns and hooting out their windows. My parents had the radio on and the deejay was yelling the Blazers have won! He was so excited! Then the opening notes of a song rolled out, with the lyrics following up:

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time.

I don’t know if that opening phrase is what charmed me. What charmed me was the absolutism of the phrase We are the champions of the world. I think I liked how melodramatic it was, and still is.

queen

I became a big radio listener.  I would put a transistor radio under my pillow at night. The big coup was getting a clock radio with a timer so I could fall asleep listening. Saturdays was the top forty countdown with Casey Kasem. Then I started buying 45s and winning record albums off the radio: Glass Houses and Do You Wanna Go Party.  I loved the radio because it was a gamble that they’d play your favorite song.

When I lived on my own at eighteen I started buying record albums–goth record albums like the Cure and Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend, Gene loves Jezebel and Cocteau Twins. Friends made me tapes of This Mortal Coil and more Cocteau Twins. Fun times!

We could all go on about the soundtracks of our lives with eloquence and this is just a small part of mine. And I’m not that eloquent.

queen_wearethechampions-373361About two decades ago I decided I needed to own some Queen, Abba, Hall and Oates and Heart.  I bought all of their greatest hits albums. Listened to them non stop on the boom box. And when I heard We Are the Champions again I just fell in love.  I love the cockiness, or the jubilant tone of the song. I loved that the singer went through hard times but was still sassy. I could relate. The word choices or phrases are top notch: it’s been no bed of roses /no pleasure cruise. It’s just poetry to a poet-lovely. Takes schoolyard or athlete’s smack talk to a new level. Love it!

Recently the RNC used We Are the Champions at their convention, without permission of course. Seriously, an anti-LGBTQ GOP used a Queen song! Thoughtless! I think now we’ve got to fight to be champions because our country is coming off as idiot losers.

This song has kept calling my name. Recently I wrote a poem called Bravado Under the Skin. In it I state that I am a champion of the world. Question is are you? I believe we are all champions of the world. Meet me there.

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Queen

Lisa Germano

Singing to the Birds

By Lara Shelton

bird-4

When I was a girl my father was my hero. I think for a lot of little girls it’s the same. He was smart, funny, and handsome. He was the model from which I drew future boyfriends, and none of them measured up.

He worked for the GM plant in the Van Nuys, California, in a job which I now recognize as “middle management,” but which at the time seemed to be connected with the magical alchemy of creating cars. He went to work, and cars came out. And that seemed incredible.

There were other ways in which he was incredible. That gay couple down the street? He was friends with them. He invited them over for barbecue while the other neighbors whispered behind their backs. He regularly shopped at the Iranian-owned market, because they had the best prices on beer. He once gave a ride to a homeless man who was sitting, barefoot, on the curb near the Alpha-Beta supermarket.

These things were just not done by white men in middle management in the early eighties, a period whose rampant, solipsistic selfishness left traces all over its culture. But they were done by my father.

bird
When the GM plant downsized, my father lost his job, like a lot of people. He ended up getting another one, but somehow some elasticity went out of his character. My parents split up. Mr father went through a number of girlfriends, a couple more job changes, and two more marriages. After a while I began to realize that something fundamental about him had changed. I don’t know if it was the loss of the job, or the divorces, or other factors that he didn’t tell me about. He had been stretched out of shape, and would never be the same again.

We remained close, but the closeness became more painful than reassuring. I was at sea. I made a lot of poor choices (see “Hotel California”, on this blog for an example). My father had failed me, and whatever plans I had made, who I was, it was all based on a lie.

Around this time, I discovered this song by Lisa Germano, whose opening line goes:

So what if your heroes change their minds?
And all you thought was right flew out the window?
And all you based your life on wasn’t real?

I listened to this song over and over again–I think it was 1994 or 1995. I used to drive around the city in a beat-up, dirt-brown Toyota Tercel and cry my eyes out. No one could see me except for Lisa, who knew my pain. The song seemed to crystallize everything I had been feeling for the past few years, and bring it to an excruciating, needle-sharp point.

If it sounds agonizing, it was. But I stuck with it, listening to the song over and over again. I did this mostly because Germano offers a kind of hope:

What you gonna do now, so all alone here?
Singing to the birds, singing to the birds.

Bird Feeders
What was left but to sing to the birds? There was still life out there, even if I felt dead inside. A small kindness to a small creature was still possible. And maybe a small kindness to myself, and a small kindness to the people outside myself as well.

This period in my life is very much on my mind these days, because the political rhetoric my father has been spouting lately makes him unrecognizable to me as the man I grew up with, the man who was my hero. When I’m feeling especially bitter I think about him as the man whose vote in this recent election canceled out my own, in the same way that his period of wandering in the wilderness seemed to cancel out my childhood. When I’m feeling a bit more generous I remember how old he is, or I remember that he’s still living in a house filled with memories of his third wife, or that his only companion most nights is Fox News. When I’m feeling particularly desperate I listen to “Singing to the Birds” again:

And what if your hero fades away?
And all the things you thought were orange are gray, now?
Who is it who brings you some new colors?
Singing to the birds….

I had lunch with my father just the other day. If I’m honest with myself, I think I wanted him to say, “I’m sorry.” I’ve wanted him to say “I’m sorry” for a very long time. But what is there to be sorry for, really? Should he be sorry that life has disappointed him? That he couldn’t live up to the enormous expectations I set up for him? So we talked about our lives. I heard about his alimony payments, he heard about my boring job. We avoided the topic of politics.

Just two adults, no hero-worship involved. I suppose it’s much kinder that way.

Lisa Germano’s Wikipedia Page

Lisa Germano