Archive | February, 2017

Background Music

27 Feb

Hollywood Indians are coming over the hill, blazing arrows precisely aimed & fired at the canvas covers of the wagons that are in a circle at the bottom of the ravine. Just in the nick of time the cavalry comes riding over that same hill & saves the day. The only thing better than flaming arrows, cowboys, Indians, a wagon train in distress & salvation just at the right time is the background music. What would that scene be without it?

We’ve grown up with background music. Movies & early television depended on it to set just the right mood … or tone … of a scene or film. We take it so for granted that, if asked, I’d bet 90% of us couldn’t describe the exact music that was playing during our most favorite episode of The Walking Dead. Well, maybe not The Walking Dead because that background music doesn’t change much, but most shows meld the music so well into the scene we hardly notice that it’s there. What we WOULD notice is if it weren’t. I can’t imagine background music simply not being there. It builds to a blaring crescendo at just the right moment, encouraging our pulse to race in anticipation of what will be at the end of that startling bit of music. We may not notice it, but subliminally we do & it helps push the plot along.

On the other hand, the National News at 6 & 11 has no background music at all but maybe it doesn’t need it. The News is frightening enough without background music scaring us to death along with the narrative.

Did you ever think about our lives & especially our personal drama being enhanced by background music? Would washing dishes & cleaning up the kitchen after a big holiday meal be more easily done with a little soothing background music? And just what type of music would be good for kitchen clean-up … or for bathroom cleaning, for that matter? Music that whips us into a cleaning frenzy or lulls us into methodically doing a really good cleaning job & making sure the porcelain sparkles under that toilet rim?

I’m wondering what type of background music should accompany me frantically searching for my car keys when I’m late for an important appointment, only to find the cat has coughed up a furball on the hardwood floors. The furball has to be cleaned up before I leave the house or it will discolor the hardwood. I imagine a frantic score with lots of drum rolls & maybe cymbals & if I happen to find my lost car keys under the furball yak, I wonder how the music would change.

Standing in the grocery store check-out line waiting for the woman in front of me to whip out, check & give to the clerk no less than 4000 coupons, half of which went out of date in December 2010, I can imagine that ominously audible background music. It includes drums sounding a heartbeat staccato that increases as my blood pressure rises right along with my heart rate. I believe the music would be distracting but it could possibly be a stress reducer by lowering my blood pressure while I’m trying to figure out what the song is & separate it from that annoying, overhead elevator music playing in the grocery store. My ears are exploding!

There definitely would be whole selections of pulse-pounding music to choose from. There would also be, out of necessity, soothing, soft, ‘waves breaking on the shore’ selections to use at our most vulnerable times.

I’d need music to get me through struggling into a pair of support pantyhose only to find a run in the heel after finally getting them situated in just the right position. THAT music should be racy until the heel run is discovered when it should, if it’s good background music worth its salt, slow down to a heartbeat-dropping lullaby that is listed in the “Stroke Prevention” category.

Dealing with children would call for one type of background music while dealing with teenage children would be something else entirely. The possibilities boggle the mind.

I’m betting that in our most intimate moments … off screen … seldom do any of us at the end of that interlude tell our spouse or partner, “Now that would have been 10 times better with a little background music” (we pick our battles ….)

The idea of background music just came to me out of the blue today. Maybe it came because of some subtle background music that was on TV as I was making up the bed or fixing lunch. Whatever got me thinking led me to try to consider what kind of music, playing subtly in the background of my life, would there be at different mundane, exciting, tedious & obviously fascinating moments as I tiptoe through a normal day.

Now I can’t stop thinking about it & trying to consider just what perfect background music would be the defining score for cleaning the litter box.

Since I’ve thought about it & shared it with you I am pleased that there will be several of us thinking about this for days on end & dealing with the accompanying “brain itch,” much like getting an old song stuck in your head whether you like it or not. There’s comfort in numbers.

I’m going to go to the kitchen now to decide what to fix for dinner. I’m sure, like a good phone app, there’s background music for that.

Thank you for reading & have a nice day (Who Let the Dogs Out? … )



In the Company of Astronauts

17 Feb

It was still early but already a small crowd was gathering in the gallery on Main Street. Lovely photographs on canvas adorned all 4 walls; pictures in vivid colors of a snow fence in a field in summer & a second of the same fence on a snowy winter day; a church steeple & many pictures taken from the vantage point of the space shuttle or the International Space Station.

A man stood by holding a picture of himself with 2 other people. One was a woman who had previously autographed the photo & the other was the man the gathering crowd was waiting to see & hear when the program began at 5:30. I assumed that the man with the photo was hoping to get the other side of the picture autographed before the evening ended.

We stood at the front of the crowd. We’d gotten there first & I wasn’t about to lose that front row seat … well, stand, since there was no seating at the event.

I’ve been a part of science fiction for many years; starting a local club 33 years ago that is still going strong & having been to conventions & conferences in numbers too great to remember over the years. My husband & I have even seen & met at least 2 astronauts but tonight was different & so was the astronaut we were about to see.

52-year-old NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin was showing a collection of his photography at the gallery & speaking about his life as part of Black History Month. It was an event that was quietly publicized, which led to fewer than 100 people attending, but that was good.  There was no push of the crowd to get closer so we were comfortable, even though standing, & the event took on a more personal feeling.

Melvin came into the gallery right on time. He was tall & smiling & seemed like someone we’d known for at least a decade.

He began by telling us about his life … growing up & some of the hardships he faced as a young black man. He told us about playing football for the local high school & his career as an athlete (he is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space). He showed us pictures, including the cover for his new book that will be released in May; Chasing Space. He charmed us with tales of how he became an astronaut & the many joys of that part of his life. He said he would volunteer in a heartbeat to be part of a Mars mission.

Melvin was serious & nostalgic & he was funny. The hour passed much too quickly.

I had an opportunity to tell him that our science fiction club, through an inordinate amount of fundraising, has sent 9 local middle school kids to Space Camp. This year we will be sending student number 10. He seemed very excited about that, as we are, & said Space Camp is a great beginning for young people who may eventually become the astronauts of tomorrow.

What sets Leland Melvin apart from all the other NASA astronauts that are & have been part of our nation’s space program is that Melvin was born & raised right here at home. He played football at our local high school & went to the same movie theaters, skating rinks & restaurants that we did. He isn’t just a visiting celebrity passing through town, showing his photography at a local gallery & speaking during Black History Month. He is home folks. He is US. And that’s what made this night at the gallery so very special.

After Melvin’s presentation ended, I did see the man with the picture approach Melvin & I saw him autograph it. The picture was of Melvin standing on the left side of the man & on the right side stood a woman who had already autographed the picture. She holds a very special place in our nation’s space history as a recruiter of minorities. Years ago she recruited Sally Ride.

For me it was especially exciting seeing the picture & seeing it to completion. I’d met that special woman on several occasions & understood how important it was to the man to have Leland Melvin complete the picture with his autograph added to that of Nichelle Nichols – Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura. It somehow made the evening more than special.  It made it MAGICAL.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, dog  nichelle

Fifty Shades of Grey(s)

5 Feb

After we made a definite decision to make our house our “forever home;” to do away with any notion we entertained when we were younger of building a home for our retirement on 5 acres of property that we own & that is paid for, I went methodically ahead at planned intervals with adding a new & upgraded master bath, doing a total renovation of our outdated kitchen &, our most recent project, adding a large sunroom. If we were, indeed, going to stay here literally until the end of time … or until the end of OUR time anyway, I wanted to make our home as user friendly as possible while continuing to be the one place in this world I truly preferred to be. As it’s turned out, the sunroom addition in 2014 has become one of my happiest places.

The sunroom is large … big enough for a recumbent bicycle, an elliptical trainer, & an assortment of plants. The room also accommodates a full-sized sofa, 2 leather chairs, an occasional chair & a bar-height dining table & 4 tall chairs. The table & chairs are directly in front of a large expanse of glass & give diners the best seat in the house.

Most days when I’m home & on weekends when we’re both here we have breakfast & lunch in the sunroom. It overlooks the back yard & the woods & we have private stadium-like seating watching wildlife, & especially deer wandering through the yard, unaware of our presence in the grandstand. We have even watched, to my amazement, a family of deer lie down in the snow in the woods on a wintery afternoon.

Watching the seasons change through those sunroom windows while having breakfast has become one of my truest joys. Recently I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast watching the snow fall outside those windows. With no television & no radio in that lovely room, it literally was as quiet as falling snow.

This morning, just 8 days away from Valentine’s Day & a little less than 30 degrees outside, I took my breakfast to the sunroom table & sat in the warmth of the room watching puffy white clouds streaming past the bluest morning sky at the highest window point in the room. No deer this morning, but the yard was alive with squirrels; another section of the wildlife spectrum that charms us, with the possible exception of the 2 years a family of them lived in our attic, defying us daily & all through the night to evict them.

What caught my attention on this brisk & beautiful morning were a couple of grey squirrels balancing on a twig of a branch extending from the limb of a large, leafless poplar tree. Instead of their usual gymnastics, the pair was engaged in a dance ritual as old as time. They were mating … & I was mesmerized.

While it wasn’t entirely the squirrel biology that fascinated me, the unstable logistics of the exercise WAS. There was a lot of scampering & twirling & hang-gliding off that spindly branch &, in turn, a lot of flexing of the bark. The branch seemed to be precariously attached by a thread to the limb & there was a heck of a lot of movement. It boggled the mind just how any creature could carry such an important biological mission to completion under those tentative circumstances. And it was very cold this morning.

So, yes, I DID watch until the grey squirrels had completed their mission, against the many odds of nature on this crisp morning.  It was a lesson in tenacity, determination, danger, possibly love & maybe a rite of early spring.

When I went back into the kitchen, breakfast dishes in hand, Willy asked why I was in the sunroom so long when we were obviously going to be late for church if I didn’t hurry. When I told him about the squirrel play, he accused me of being a “Squirrel Voyeur,” even though I explained it was not the act that kept my attention but the many impediments the squirrels faced in accomplishing it. Ever the romantic, I explained it was sort of like a novel of forbidden love that leads the characters down many twisted arteries & limbs but somehow they manage to consummate the relationship … no matter how weird, aberrant, deviant & against all odds.

Willy just looked at me ……….

He googled, “Grey Squirrel Reproduction” & found out February is one of their most prolific months for “getting it on,” so this morning’s squirrels were right on time & apparently, right on target.

Willy & I have a checkered history with our neighborhood squirrels. We’ve fed them in winter & reluctantly housed them in our attic for 2 years while exterminators came & went, unable to find a humane means of evicting them. They’ve made attic nesting places among the limbs of our artificial Christmas tree to store their nuts & scratched the attic sheet rock to shreds in several places. Now I have witnessed their mating ritual & was blown away … not by the act, but by how, with a little ingenuity, they overcame pretty tremendous odds. My respect for them ebbs & flows …

In the world of the grey squirrels, we’ve witnessed at least 50 Shades of Grey(s) …