Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ugly Came to Town

I have a sad story to tell you.  It started last September right here in my neighborhood, the quintessential American melting pot.  We have homeowners and we have renters. We have families, we have couples, we have singles.  We have African-Americans, we have Irish-Catholics, we have Norwegian-Americans, we have Muslims, we have Jews.  We have retired people, we have business owners, we have white-collar administrators, we have blue-collar workers, we have stay-at-home moms, we have graduate students, we have college students, we have kids.  We have people who have lived here their entire lives, we have people who are living here for a few years until they can find a house to buy, we have people who have lived here for a decade, we have people who will be moving out in a few months. You name it, we got it.

It's not going well.

There's a high level of distrust.  It's not fun.  The ones suffering the most?  The kids.  So last fall, when one set of kids of a certain ethnic group started to taunt another set of kids of another ethnic group (because kids will be kids), things went too far.  Punches were exchanged.  To the credit of the parents, they tried to work it out.

They failed.

The police were called.

In this instance, I was on the sidelines, receiving information after the fact.  That's how these things seem to happen.  I'm rarely a witness to the actual event. Which means I have to rely on those telling me their version of the story to be truthful.  Truth, as we know, is a slippery slope.  Remember Rashomon and its cousin, the Rashomon Effect?

This event bothered me deeply.  Confronting the ugly truth that everyone doesn't get along is, to say the least, unpleasant. When it happens down the street, between people you see every day, the unpleasantness grows. When you know it is unlikely that the participants will agree on anything, hopelessness appears. When hopelessness appears, it all starts to fall apart. Should I get involved?  How involved should I get?  What difference can I really make?

I found a partial solution, at least for the one thing I could manage - my personal feelings.  The solution?

I wrote a song.

Truth be told, I started to write a song, which I then worked on, in fits and starts. In fact, I was berating myself for not getting the song finished when I recalled reading this:

"Actually, 'Hallelujah' had taken him five years.  He drafted dozens of verses and then it was years more before he settled on a final version.  In several writing sessions, he found himself in his underwear, banging his head against a hotel-room floor."

At least I wasn't in my underwear, banging my head against the floor.  Reading this gave me permission to let the song appear as it wanted to appear.  I continued to visit it, usually 20 minutes at a time, sometimes on the train, sometimes in a coffee shop, usually in the morning, usually in my studio.  

Then November 8 happened.  

Suddenly this song seemed even more relevant and even more important. Now I had to finish it.  

I extended the deadline into January, knowing the song and I needed time to work together. Eventually, the song appeared. Not all at once, still in pieces, but in the end it appeared.  As did the perfect (and you know how infrequently I think anything is perfect) place to sing the song in public for the first time.

The song is titled "Ugly Came To Town".  Here are the lyrics:

Ugly came to town
In her tattered, satin gown
Sashaying down the middle of Main Street.

Hate strolled up beside her
Like a big old nasty spider
Beady eyes and a smile oh so sweet.

They held each other's hands
And danced their crazy dance
Their mission here was just about complete.

Ugly takes the throne
Hate grabs the microphone
Time for his first meet and greet.

Now hear Hate's suggestions
As he veers around the questions
Masking his tracks like a pro.

Ugly trains her stare
On the back of his...hair
Dreaming of her glitzy condo.

Don't let it slip away so easily - Oh no.

Ugly's got her throne
Hate's throwing stones
The blind ones lean into their glow.

Their hands to the sky
They don't see those eyes
Cold as deep winter's snow.

There in the distance
Ready for resistance
The ones who always choose to go high.

They refuse to give in
To Hate and Ugly's spin
These citizens will not say good-bye.

Stand up, stay proud
Be the voice in the crowd
That will not be denied.

Put on your gloves
Do the work of Love
Hope will never die.

Don't let it slip away so easily - Oh no.


Ugly made her appearance at a party on January 20, 2017, the night before the Women's March on Washington.  Here's the video:



If that isn't working, look here .

I could think of a myriad of reasons why I SHOULDN'T post this video of this song.  They include:

It's nowhere close to perfect. It's not even any good. I'm afraid of exposing this part of me to the Internet. I might offend someone. It isn't that good.  I'm not sure I'm saying what I want to say. I'm wearing my moccasins.  The video is of poor quality. You get the drift.  I know you do - you think the same thing about your work.

I can also think of a myriad of reasons why I SHOULD post this video. They include:

I can show others how to use your personal creativity to help make sense of a difficult situation, my creativity might make a difference in the world, I feel better because I have expressed my personal feelings,  I don't need to judge my work; I need to put it out there, now is the time to speak up and finally, if not me, then who?

In the end, the Shoulds won.  In this case, that's a good thing. 

I think.