Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Band Geeks Are Our Future. By Kat Fierce

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Former cheerleaders squeal while reuniting with their disbanded squad. Aging jocks nurse their expanding beer guts by the bar. Suddenly, the record scratches, a gasp cuts through the otherwise silent room, and everyone turns to see the former biggest dork pull up in a sports car more expensive than an Ivy League education. The sci-fi-esque car door swings open and he saunters through the front door with two supermodels on his arm. The idea being he’s used his computer skills or science smarts or some other insanely lucrative talent to score a fancy bank account and the “babes” to match. And every has-been varsity basketball player turned grocery store bag (man?) wishes they had been nicer to Herbert McDweebpants, the now rich and wildly successful multi-gazillionaire.

Some will assume Herbert’s ability to hack the supermodel code tells us we should be nicer to geeks now – as they’re the ones destined for future success and its spoils. However, all I can think is that band “nerds” (note the quotes) must feel horribly left out. It’s always assumed our geek turned chic has made his fortune thanks to his fervent study of traditional academia. But, certainly the years of ridicule band “geeks” endure entitles them to some recognition. Well, today, my musical friends, you get your due.

But I’m not here to lecture some “if you’re not nice to band geeks you’ll be sorry when they’re famous” sermon. Frankly that self-serving argument doesn’t even deserve discussion. But I do wonder – and hope you’ll ponder right along with me – how the face of music today would be different if past generations of students glorified the band like they did their cheerleaders and dance teams. Why is it even considered (albeit, generally) cooler to pick up a tube of lip-gloss than a tuba? Is it the actual music? The polyester plagued outfits? (I’m asking myself this, right along with you) why aren’t we friends with the band?

Band music is music. Music is music. Sure, not everyone has “When the Saints Go Marching In” looping on their MP3 player, but I’ll say it again, music is music. Punk uses the same musical notes as pop, which uses the same notes as rock, hip-hop, electro, country, dance, you get my drift. No genre is mutually exclusive of the other, just as I bet any scroll through our music libraries will show a sonic rainbow of tastes. Maybe people aren’t lining up outside the band room to bootleg the music that leaks out during practice. But our Tuba Chick is just one instrument away from picking up an electric bass. And by that I mean, today’s band “geek” could be tomorrow’s rocker goddess strolling into our high school reunion with two gorgeous admirers on her arm.

But, as I stated earlier, that’s not the point. I’m mostly interested in the time between tuba and bass. It’s during those weeks, months, years, when our heroine will either choose to keep playing, or let the snickers of some popular snob drown out her musical ambitions. You may argue something like “if she really loves music, she won’t listen to what anyone says.” But I say, if we really love music, we’ll support the hell out of her ambitions. The more musicians who play, the more music they’ll create. The more music conceived, the more likely we’ll all benefit – strolling through the future with MP3 players bursting with ten million of our favorite tunes.

We’ll never know what might have been. But who’s to say the future of music can’t start with us? Right now, today, with our bands. If we can make the band feel as good about themselves as we feel about the stuff in our headphones, I’m willing to wager that our generation could be the one that goes down as the greatest in musical history yet. Far fetched? Perhaps. But who knows.  What goes around might come back around on your MP3 player. It’s good karma with a sweet bass line. And it’s worth a shot.

Maybe we can start by being nicer to our band geeks.

That, and give them better outfits.

Gunning From The Top Of The Driveway. By James Sullivan

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Yet it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We loved the primitive first wave of video games. We loved our first portable cassette (cassette!) player. And we really loved the rise of the NBA, led by a generation of superhuman athletes wearing signature lines of Converse hoop shoes.

There had, of course, been some incredible basketball players in the days of the canvas high-top, when virtually every pro player (and virtually every kid) wore Chucks. But the game changed exponentially when Cons went leather in the ‘70s. Suddenly, we all wanted to dunk; we all wanted to drive the length of the court and take off from the top of the key, finishing with a majestic fingertip roll.

By the end of the decade, I was spending countless hours, even on frigid days, imagining outrageous buzzer-beaters and punishing my misses with foul shots. One day my mother’s car was in the way, so I found the keys and backed it down the driveway – with the door open. It took months of foul shots to work off the ugly sound of the door catching the rock wall and crumpling like a tin can.

I played most of my one-on-one against a quiet, distracted kid from the end of the street, a lanky, stork-like guy who was easily six inches taller than me. He was a soft-touch lefty shooter and, against me, anyway, a shot blocker worthy of the nickname Tree. But playing against him forced me to change my game. Over time, I became adept at fallaway jumpers and, my specialty, a quick stop-and-pop from the corner. In my beloved white leather Converse – blue star, blue arrow — I learned to work the angles, to hustle after missed shots and grab position on rebounds. For a few summers, I held my own, until the kid shot past the six-foot mark on his way to the 6’ 7” or so that he ultimately reached.

Later, I played a lot of pickup games with my high school buddies, some of whom were on the team. In college, the regulars from my building included a couple of big guys who’d reached the states with their high school teams. Sometimes I got my clock cleaned. Sometimes, though, I’d surprise everyone by making five or six baskets in a row. Few things in life satisfy as much as the thoop of hitting nothing but net.

Competitive basketball isn’t a lifelong game for a vertically challenged guy who knows that five-ten might be bending the truth. But I still get excited to lace ‘em up, and I’ll never turn down an open shot.

And outside, there’s a nine-year-old boy in his Chucks, gunning from the top of the driveway.

James Sullivan is a Boston-based writer whose most recent book is The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved The Soul Of America. James has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and Learn more about James at

I Once Asked A Woman… By Glide B. Free.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

“What?” she asked, and not as if she hadn’t heard. More like “What? – who would ever ask a question like that.?”

“Has anyone ever proposed to you?” I asked again, this time with a little extra careless savoir-faire to cover up the fact that I knew I shouldn’t have asked. She had just seemed to me like the kind of person who might get proposed to on the first or second date.

It was already kind of a strange date – we had gotten Persian take-out for dinner and were at an arena football game – so while the question was pretty surprising, the threshold of the bizarre was higher than normal. She answered me as simply and honestly as if I had asked about the weather.

“Yes, this clown in Seattle once proposed to me.”

That seemed kind of harsh, I thought. “Why do you call him a clown?’

“He was a clown,” she said. “He was on a street corner down by the market wearing funny pants and big shoes and a red ball on his nose making balloon animals for little kids and I stopped to watch. When the kids left, I stayed there and he told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and then he asked me if I would marry him. What do you have to say about that?”

“Were you flattered?” I asked and put a pizza dipper in my mouth.

“Not really,” she said. “He was a clown.”