Goodbye, Facebook

I don’t like friending. I don’t like following. I don’t like liking. I don’t like the faceless, fake culture of having loads and loads of super duper friends, patting each other on the back and saying how fantastic everyone is. I was on Facebook for a few years and today left. The reason was that I had joined a private list of people in my profession who share music, and I admit I really loved learning from the others and remembering my own favorites, and the cautious opening up that went with that was quite charming. It was almost like walking in on a group of colleagues you admire from afar in someone’s living room.  But relationships online are two-dimensional, or even one-dimensional, and it is all too easy to feel a sense of communality where there isn’t one. The incident: I posted a Jiddish song performed by a German group, and unfortunately a Lebanese member of the group took offense and posted a disturbing video. It was not the first time things I felt a troubling disconnect. People have strange sides that come out in disconcerting ways and sting you when you wear your heart on your sleeve and don’t know how to cover yourself, and I suddenly felt very uncomfortable, vulnerable, out of place. Face-threatening Facebook. Not good for my emotional life. Goodbye, and good riddance.

Now, how to reorganize my online connections with other teaching professionals, my memberships and online services? How to keep up with my extended family, old neighbors, classmates? Onward, and upward.

Origins

I’m having a series of epiphanies as I read my way through the Capital Hill History Project, an oral history of the neighborhood I grew up in for 19 years before coming to Germany. The memories of many of our old neighbors are there, going back to the the 60s, and it’s simply amazing for me to read what they write now, in retrospect, and me looking at it all from this vantage point so far removed from theirs, and to think about how they must have experienced those very same streets I called my home that even today look and feel and smell like home through I hardly know anybody.

I’ve been reading Rosetta Brooks’ story today. She was my second ballet teacher at St Marks, after my first year in the baby classes – I started at two and a half, she came in 1965, so she got me at three and a half, and I stayed until 1969. That’s when I changed schools to go to the German school out in Potomac, Maryland. It meant that I subsequently spent little time in my own neighborhood, and became rather alienated from it. I later did go back to take ballet classes with Rosetta as a teen, around the age of 14.

I now see that St. Marks  was Rosetta’s first job. She says that she began dancing as therapy after having her clubfeet operated on. That she tried studying it at Howard, in the Athletic Department. That is was horribly painful, so she got a business degree instead. But then St. Marks advertised for a teacher. Respect.

The Capitol Hill History Project naturally focusses on how people experienced integration, from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech on the Mall to his assassination and the ensueing riots. Rosetta talks about how in 1968 her soon-to-be husband was the shop manager at Kinneys Shoe Store on H Street – “it was his first store that he actually managed. Like I said, this was a guy who — went from stock boy — was not allowed on the floor, because he was black — to own his first store. It was at 11th and H Street NE.” And she describes how the two of them watched as that store was detroyed, fully stocked with merchandise, by a molotov cocktail. So this was 1968, and I must have been in her classes when it happened.

She has been working at St. Marks ever since, with other jobs, too, on the side, putting her two daughters through college on her own after her husband’s death. She no longer lives on the Hill, having moved out to Vienna, where the public schools are better than in DC, for the sake of her daughters.

Something she says strikes me: She notes how children’s bodies have changed over the last 10 years, saying they’re no longer limber. Limber. That word resonates. She’s till going strong.

Other people I remember so well from my childhood are Chris Calomiris, the Greek grocer at Eastern Market, across from where my mother had her dresshop;  Pat Driscoll, mother of three brothers I was friendly with as a teen, who it turns out was a real actress at one point, though she never talked about it, and her close friend, librarian Joan KeenanBarbara Held (Reich), one of the early realtors working on Capitol Hill as gentrification got under way; she at one point gifted me with her gorgeously flamboyant 60s earrings; historian and project head John Overbeck, who shared his house with Boris, an artist friend of the family’s I learned silkscreening from (who doesn’t get a mention); Peter Powers, a friend of the family whom my mother admired because he had the kind of culture she could place, and who worked at the Smithsonian; and our Irish parish priest, Father Michael O’Sullivan, who came in 1970, injected life into the parish and started rebuilding St. Peters from the run-down school my parents had taken me out of, to create a secular charter school.

I want time off just to dive in and read all of these stories. This is simply amazing, I haven’t thought about these people in years because I lost touch in 1981, and in fact hadn’t been in touch for all those years before, when I was at the German School, so it’s like that part of my identity has been amputated. Now it’s coming back, emerging from a dense fog.

I love imagining hearing the voices in these dialogues. Longing to belong.

My family isn’t in this picture. Anywhere. Noone mentions them.

There’s a story bubbling up inside.

Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud

We sang my mother-in-law’s favorite song at her funeral: Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud, with a text by Paul Gerhardt (1656) and music by August Harder (1813). Her heaven is full of birds and flowers. Who needs angels when you have nightingales? RIP dear Heidi.

Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud

1. Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud
in dieser lieben Sommerzeit
an deines Gottes Gaben;
schau an der schönen Gärten Zier
und siehe, wie sie mir und dir
sich ausgeschmücket haben,
sich ausgeschmücket haben.

2. Die Bäume stehen voller Laub,
das Erdreich decket seinen Staub
mit einem grünen Kleide;
Narzissus und die Tulipan,
die ziehen sich viel schöner an
als Salomonis Seide,
als Salomonis Seide.

3. Die Lerche schwingt sich in die Luft,
das Täublein fliegt aus seiner Kluft
und macht sich in die Wälder;
die hochbegabte Nachtigall
ergötzt und füllt mit ihrem Schall
Berg, Hügel, Tal und Felder,
Berg, Hügel, Tal und Felder.

8. Ich selber kann und mag nicht ruhn,
des großen Gottes großes Tun
erweckt mir alle Sinnen;
ich singe mit, wenn alles singt,
und lasse, was dem Höchsten klingt,
aus meinem Herzen rinnen,
aus meinem Herzen rinnen.

Also on a new recording: Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Alte deutsche Lieder. Rundfunk-Jugendchor Wernigerode, Dirigent: Peter Habermann

John Prine: Dear Abby

The wonderful singer-songwriter John Prine turned 65 yesterday (thanks Eamonn).
Dear Abby” was an advice column founded in 1956 by Pauline Phillips under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren, and was syndicated in the Washington Post. Or was it in the evening paper, the Evening Star (later the Washington Star)? We got both. I never missed reading her column, and Peanuts. John Prine’s “Dear Abby” was on Sweet Revenge (released 1973), and it was one of the few songs I actually attempted on the guitar, sitting on the front stoop of our house on A street. Prine’s brand of humor, to me, still defines “home”.

  • listen up, buster/kiddo! listen up good! = hey, come on, listen properly!
  • shoot the breeze = chat, engage in idle conversation

Dear Abby, Dear Abby
My feet are too long
My hair’s falling out and my rights are all wrong
My friends, they all tell me that I’ve no friends at all
Won’t you write me a letter, won’t you give me a call?
Signed,
Bewildered

Bewildered, Bewildered
You have no complaint
You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t
So listen up, buster, and listen up good
Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood

Dear Abby, Dear Abby
My fountain pen leaks
My wife hollers at me and my kids are all freaks
Every side I get up on is the wrong side of bed
If it weren’t so expensive I’d wish I were dead
Signed,
Unhappy

Unhappy, Unhappy,
You have no complaint…

Dear Abby, Dear Abby,
You won’t believe this
But my stomach makes noises whenever I kiss
My girlfriend tells me It’s all in my head
But my stomach tells me to write you instead
Signed,
Noise-maker

Noise-maker, Noise-maker
You have no complaint…

Dear Abby, Dear Abby,
Well I never thought
That me and my girlfriend would ever get caught
We were sitting in the back seat, just shooting the breeze
With her hair up in curlers and her pants to her knees
Signed,
Just Married

Just Married, Just Married,
You have no complaint…
…Signed,
Dear Abby

Compare and contrast

Anne at Lago di LedroSteiff bear in Giengen

Thanks Helmut.

There’s a personal story that goes with this, as you can well imagine. My first present from my husband was a…

Blog challenge! Please join in and add two similar but different pictures to your blog!
Brad Patterson
had the nice idea after I’d posted this.
Looking forward to seeing your pictures.
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