Global Mom: Ceiling Talk. . .Munich?

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Continued from last post, “La Grande Gare Centrale”)

**

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flickr

“And what about the smaller apartment in the 17th? Three bedrooms? Fifth floor? Not far from John and Renée? Should I make an appointment and see it? We ready for that?” That was me speaking from where I lay, covers tucked up under my arms, hands crossed thoughtfully on my abdomen, staring at the lights filtering through our drapes. This dialogue was happening nearly every night. It was Ceiling Talk as you know, and this was September 2006, and this was Randall and Melissa considering, as we had done in Norway, to just stay. To settle. To buy. To go native.

Randall was thriving at work and he could call this the end of his career and “coast on out,” as he put it. I was busy volunteering at our children’s two schools, singing in various venues, and seeing to the needs of the teenage girls and their teachers of our church in the greater Parisian area. This meant I was regularly going to Normandy, Chartres, and the small congregations throughout the city. In addition, I was writing small pieces for an international journal and compiling chapters of my own book. I had the application forms on my desk for taking courses at the Sorbonne. We were looking ahead to having Parker graduate and head off to college that June, and Claire was cruising along beautifully at ASP, too, with her locker right under her brother’s, a spatial closeness that symbolized nicely their unusually strong relationship. Dalton and Luc were gathering friends at EAB, fencing, singing in French choirs, collecting marbles, writing screen plays based on the Louvre. And Joey — may my crazy vet be praised — was finally, finally house trained.

So why move?

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Unless the company, in October, approaches with a reorganization that would bump Randall from his position overseeing the French subsidiary to another post in the regional offices based in Munich from where he would oversee his function for all of Europe. Could he move immediately?

“No,” Randall said into the receiver. “We can’t move right now. The school year has just begun, our oldest child is a senior in high school; he has to finish out in this program. But,” he eyed me for the go-ahead nod from across our bedroom where he was receiving the phone call from headquarters, “I can move. I’ll move. Melissa and the kids will finish out the school year and follow to Munich in the summer. That is, if the family follows at all.”

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parisgo

(Come back tomorrow for our last months in Paris…)

Global Mom: Monsieur B., Part II

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Continued from last post, “Monsieur B., Part I”)

. . .[Monsieur B.] heaved a sigh and then, stretching upward his five knobby fingers, twinkled those blue eyes: “I’ve lived through this many wars, an occupation, my bride’s death, changes I could have never imagined would have happened in my lifetime. Capucine will survive, too.” And he smiled that smile.

**

credit: parisperfect

credit: parisperfect

. . .We returned to our apartments Monsieur B. and Madame B., those parallel universes split by a sliver of flooring. Against a backdrop of the Monsieur’s serenity, my native country’s vibrating map of red and blue “moral values” throbbed a garish neon nuisance across my mind—a mind already fuzzy from weeks of breath- holding over teetering politics, months of being on the global political alert.

That night in the Bradford’s cosmos, life felt so slightly perilous and slap-dash, with our six jostling bodies whirring like asteroids, weaving and whipping through what should have been a bedtime routine – our night time orbit — but which felt to me, at least, more like an enactment of chaos theory. Certainly the galaxy was off kilter, the Milky Way curdling, I thought, with our earth stuck in a hiccup rather than expelling her usual steady breaths. How could Monsieur B. just shrug off the recent events as “mere politics” when, as I was convinced, the whole globe was convulsing and reeling toward ruin?

credit: retinacandy

credit: retinacandy

Then, at nine on the dot, the Monsieur’s street shutters rattled their regular racket. Our Grandfather Clock incarnate chimed. A wad of laundry in my arms, I stopped for an instant to absorb the ritual beneath my feet, that common constancy like so many other banal patterns in a day, which, when noted anew, pin infinity in place and set fretting aright. In his cozy retreat from the world, Monsieur must have at least believed he was invulnerable to it, I reflected. And at his age, I thought, what else? Lining the level above his, all our shutters were agape as they always were, allowing our garrulous glow to flood the streets, whatever part of our private lives was not under wraps.

credit: 123rf

credit: 123rf

He’d watched foreigners come and go, Monsieur B. He’d seen the old open market that was once supplied by the boatmen delivering goods on the banks of the Seine one block northward razed to make way for the Senegalese Embassy and the Erik Satie music conservatory. He’d watched an adjacent villa converted into the bland headquarters of the American University in Paris and had heard the choir rehearsals, aerobic classes and karaoke nights through the wide-open stained glass windows of the American Church across the street. He’d heard more and more English-speakers just outside his windows asking for directions to the Eiffel Tower, (two blocks that way) or Napoleons’ tomb (two blocks the other way). He’d witnessed the high-pitched spectacle of four sweat-slippery men cursing in chorus at each other and at their weave of pulleys and cables holding our dangling long table which was to be hoisted through our windows. He’d quietly tolerated restrained ruckus, my occasional high-heeled prancing and Parker’s gym-shoed thudding overhead, and had graciously avoided even the most subtly judgmental political commentary as Franco-American tensions simmered and at times passed the boiling-over point. And he didn’t grow the least bit hysterical when his own French presidential elections kicked up dust in our own neighborhood, where camera crews interviewed candidates, pundits, the local political in crowd. There I was, practically salivating with curiosity at the whole scene, and there was Monsieur B. watching silently from his window, his ascot tucked in his camel blazer, a cup of coffee held in the right hand, the saucer in his left.

Stalking our flat that late autumn night, tidying room after room, I was ashamed that our comparatively super-sized portion of dwelling space was super-imposed, squat, right over the head of this frugal Frenchman. I cringed, feeling personally responsible for the astronomical U.S. deficit. Then I also thought of the thriving terrorist cell, which French intelligence had just exposed and exploded in a northeastern sector of Paris, eight Metro stops from our door.

To what end, shutters? To what end, self-imposed blinds? Was this gracious neighbor, this truly gentle man, what U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld had in mind with his pejorative, “Old Europe”? And did French foreign minister, Michel Barnier have a chance at realizing a “New Day” in Franco-American relations, where an alliance wasn’t always tantamount to absolute allegiance, but where mutual respect reigns, and where, as Monsieur B. once said, “we value one another in a community?”

credit: parisiensalon

credit: parisiensalon

To be sure, in a few hours some version of the next day would break, and I’d be counting on the 8:00 a.m. downbeat from Monsieur B.

(To be continued. . .)

Warsaw, Poland: Wesołego Alleluja!

This week promises a daily post on Global Mom’s week spent traveling with her family in Poland.

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Why travel to Poland at this time of year? There were a number of reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to stand with our two youngest, our two teenaged boys, in the sites made infamous by the Holocaust.  In two posts from now, I’ll return to that part of our journey in detail.

Another guiding reason for choosing wintry Poland over a sunny place to the south, was because Poland, as you might know, is a predominantly Catholic country. And this was Easter. And I’d researched how elaborate yet reverent the Polish Easter celebrations are. This drew me.  So much, actually, that I began practicing the Polish equivalent of “Happy Easter”; Wesołego Alleluja!

But, you ask, isn’t Italy also Catholic?  And warm? Wouldn’t you find an Easter celebration there…or two? With the Pope, maybe?

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Actually, Italy is officially 80% Catholic, while Poland is nearly 90%. But you’re right that Italy is a good 20 degrees warmer than Poland when an unexpected Noreaster sweeps down from the Baltic Sea, shizzes through Poland’s primeval forests, crackles over the northern lowlands, and drops a major snowstorm on Warsaw just as the blossoms and pussy willows are being gathered for the holiday bouquets that worshippers gift each other or bring to their neighborhood cathedral. Poland’s Easter is usually brisk; this year it was glacial.

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Still, I think you’ll see in the following gallery that cold temperatures did little to freeze Polish devotion.  Cathedrals full to overflowing. Easter flowers and offering baskets sold and toted everywhere.  And that one little fragile Babcia (grandma), who, upon leaving St. Anne’s cathedral on Warsaw’s Old Town square, stopped, set her basket on the stone floor, unwrapped the shawl around her chin, and leaned forward to kiss the wooden feet of the Christ statue on the entry cross.

(No, I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – get that shot.)

But I got others. So enjoy, and feel free to share.

**

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

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Standing room only at an evening service in the middle of Easter week.

Standing room only at an evening service early in Easter week.

Every cathedral we visited was like this.

Every cathedral  we visited was like this

Street - as - refrigerator

Street refrigeration

Lazienki Park, or the royal gardens, Warsaw

Lazienki Park, or the royal gardens, Warsaw

Lazienki Park, Warsaw

Lazienki Park

Monument to Polish son, Frederic Chopin, Lazienki Park

Monument to Polish son, Frederic Chopin, Lazienki Park

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Global Mom: Le Chef Makes a Move

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Cont’d from last post: “Our Daughter With The French Name”)

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The head of the moving team, a burly guy you’ll remember from earlier, [in the Foreword of the book], a man I call Le Chef, stood in the middle of Rue du Colonel Combes in Paris’ seventh arrondissement brandishing a huge pair of industrial clippers in his hand ready to perform the ceremonial Cutting of the Lock.

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In theory, our forty-foot moving container had not been opened between locking in the U.S. and lock-cutting in France, so I wasn’t paying too much attention as I leaned out of the second story window, eager to just get this move moving.

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Le Chef cut the lock. One door creaked open a couple of centimeters, and with it, a quick swish of water spilled out of the bed of the container and onto the street. All the moving crew threw quick glances up at me. I was cool. Imperturbable. Blithe-lite.

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The second door creaked open a bit, held back by a man who watched me, not the door. More water. Then two men swung both doors wide open, their eyes squeezed shut, and as those doors swung, a veritable waterfall gushed out onto the road. These men, former fishermen from Brittany, literally hopped out of the way as one mattress after the other, eight in total, slumped out of the back of the trailer. Like enormous slices of pound cake soaked in an ocean of coffee, every bed we owned was moldy and saturated with brine, and fell limply one after the other onto the street. I remained immobile. Blithe-less.

(To be continued. . .)

Blogueuse Relooking

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Which means, roughly, that I’m a female blogger (French: blogueuse), and I’m going to spruce things up (French: re-looking).

I thought it only fair to warn you.  Don’t freak out.  You’ll still recognize me.

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Next time you visit here, you won’t find the lugubrious blue-gray background, the flashy hot yellow-to-vermillion-to-hot yellow strip along the top, the calendar and Goodreads list and other cluttery widgets. Maybe you won’t even find my come-hither grin on the left hand side of the screen, I’m still deliberating.  (Although please, I do sincerely want you to come hither. Or, uh, come here.)

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What I hope you’ll find is a brighter, fresher page – so subtly tucked, so gently stretched, with a lift and a plump and still all the warmth and candor and depth and spirit I hope you have come to expect when you click for a visit.

Why all of a sudden this relooking? Age, quite frankly.  This blog is coming up on One Year Old.  In blog years, I think that’s over the hill.

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But more salient than the age thing, I’m making a shift.  We have spent two solid months of posting exclusively on my book entitled Grief and Grace: Collected Voices on Loss and Living Onward.  As you know, but as I should probably explain to newcomers, that volume is a manuscript born out of our family’s ongoing experience with catastrophic loss. I’ve written at length here at the blog and elsewhere about the realities of traumatic loss, acute grief and the droning underscore of absence that have been our family’s journey since July 2007.  That was when our eldest, Parker, then 18 years and 5 months old, lost his life while attempting at saving another’s.

While I think a lot and deeply about the experience of loss, (my own and others), and while I’ve researched and written extensively about what major and permanent loss means in our lives, (both intimate and communal), it was the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school that flipped a major switch in me.  I simply had to post on only this topic for a while. I’m certainly not done with it – neither with my own grief and burden of absence, nor with writing about it – but I find it necessary to shift this blog’s focus to other topics for a season.

But first, here is where I want to thank you, my readers.  Some of you have come here loyally without posting comments publicly. Instead, you have written to my private email address.  I need you to know that you have taught me life-altering things in your tender and stark messages.  You’ve confided sacred things in me.  You’ve sent, a few of you, pages of  straight-from-the-gut writing, and I have read them with respect. It is hard to know how to thank you enough.

Others of you have posted comments for all of us, mostly strangers to one another, to sift through. Not easy, especially when the topic singes nerve-endings and cuts right down to the marrow.  I honor your experiences and appreciate your trust in sharing such personal treasure in a public forum.

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As I re-look the blog to something slightly cheerier and hopefully easier on your eyes, I hope the content will follow suit. You know already that my book, Global Mom:A Memoir goes to press. . .GOES TO PRESS?. . .(goes to, gulp, press). . .tomorrow. . .and will be in your neighborhood bookstore (and on Amazon) as of June 1.  Between now and then, I want to return to posting from that manuscript. I will be picking up from where we left off ages ago (does it feel like ages ago to you, too?), in Versailles on our way to Croissy-sur-Seine, a village outside of Paris, where we lived for a while.

Then on to five other addresses/languages/cultures/homes.

Here’s what you can anticipate over the next few months:

-More frequent but shorter posts, mostly excerpts from Global Mom: A Memoir. (I’ll try to post 3x a week)

-Lots of photos from my archives (which, of course, will not be included in the printed book. So you get the exclusive illustrated version!)

-Behind the scene peeks into the process of writing and editing this book; what it’s been like working with an exceptional publishing/design/editing team in a cutting-edge boutique publishing house; you’ll meet some of my online writing/cheerleader friends (so you might meet yourself); and you’ll get an inkling of how my family has been (stupendous!) through this all.

-Glimpses into what’s happening now in the real Global Mom’s world, namely: what does spring in Switzerland really look, smell, sound and taste like?

-And with all that, some extra fun travel in and around central Europe.  I envision a little Poland rather soon, some more Italy, probably some Austria, undoubtedly a whole lot of France. I’ll take plenty of pictures and even video footage.

-Speaking of video footage, I’ll be adding much more of it, and will link to You Tube.  I want you and others that you tell about this blog and the book, to get to know Global Mom on the road.

-And then, of course, anything else that happens to pop up on the journey.

This should be so much of fun! Thanks to each of you for being here and for making my world an abundant place worth living in.  With you, I want to dig into it with both hands,  my head on straight, and my heart wide open.

052

La Tempête de 1999

I have just propped my feet up on my desk and am leaning back in my comfy leather chair before I begin tick-tick-ticking away at my laptop. The moon is still high at 5:30 a.m., the boys are still safe and soundly asleep, the house stone silent, and I know I can get in a good 45 minutes’ uninterrupted work  before they stir and the morning routine begins.  It’s a pregnant moon, I watch for her hidden pulse beneath the mottled ivory skin so ripe, taut, engorged with fecundity, and through my open window I hear the peep-peep from the garden of the first morning birds.  A copper-colored squirrel flits up a tree past leaves that hang gracefully, their changing colors a muted swath of fabric that barely flutters as the night stirs into morning with one stroke of a breeze. No, hardly a breeze, really, more like a breath. I like the window open at this hour just for a brisk shot of chill, and I like that I can close it off, too, and that it’s not yet legitimately cold, and with those dozy thoughts I burrow into old photos to add to the post I am composing about a blissful birth in a cozy château setting almost as silent as the one I am sitting in as I write.  Yes, I recall, circling my neck once to loosen shoulders, that birth was also under a full moon.  Magical.  I take a sip of warm peppermint tea, watch the steam rise from cup, let it soak my face a bit like a momentary sauna.  Dry air today, I think to myself, might need to set up the humidifier and, uh-oh, apply extra hand cream.

On the paired side of the earth:

“Fast, faster, c’mon, faster! Get them up here, faster!!”

The nurse wearing green scrubs and an orange headlamp is yelling, motioning down the lightless corridor on the eighth floor of New York City’s Langone Medical Center, waving frantically to get the team of EMT personnel and a trailing firefighter into the delivery room where Julia Alemany is in the pitch of labor. “Right here, guys!” the nurse yanks them through the door, “Hurry, faster. Who’s got lights?”

Doron, Julia’s husband, is crouching next to his wife, who has had her hands curled over her eyes and against her forehead for two hours now, while Hurricane Sandy pounds demonically on the walls of this building, shaking it, slashing at it with wild whipping vacuum-like winds, hurling branches and metal scraps against the windows, yowling like nature herself is giving birth to the devil. Julia writhes on her side, panting, crying out, “I can’t do his anymore, someone help me, heeelp me. Where’s my doctor? Dor, what’s gonna – ?” and she lets out a low, guttural moan, clenching her belly with both bare arms.

The nurse jumps as something crashes into the closest window, rattling it in its frame, cracking the glass in a splintering thunderbolt pattern she can see when the real lightning outside explodes in one brief smack.  The rain and wind flog and lash, and Doron, normally a calm guy, is thinking how this feels like being trapped in the bottom of a huge electric mixer, nightmarish, impossible. He tells himself he will not lose his cool, he will not lose his cool. “’Kay, babe, we’re going to make it, Jules, we’ll make it hon, just stay with me, we’ll be alright, they say the pain guy’s on his way.”

Doron looks at the nurse, who shakes her head once. No sign of an anesthesiologist anywhere, although she’d called for him on the P.A. system when the power was still up almost an hour ago. “You’re doing great, Julia,” the nurse says, stepping closer, putting her hand on the nape of Julia’s neck and stroking the woman’s sweaty dark hair from where it’s gluey in her collar, “We’re here with you. We’ll figure this one out. Hey, what happened to the firefighter who was supposed to get me some li – “

The firefighter runs in, his red and silver industrial-sized flashlight now cuts a white tunnel through the shadows, and just behind him comes another man wheeling a portable I.V. He’s carrying a small suitcase of equipment, too, and Doron leans closer to Julia, his voice suddenly a register higher, “Okay, Jules, we’re cookin’, doll, he’s here. Pain guy’s in the house, folks, pain guy’s in the house.”

Six glowing cell phones, a red and silver flashlight and four minutes later, the needle is in Julia’s lower back. Doron puts his hand on her forehead. “Epidural will kick in, they say, in about five, six more contractions. They want to know if you can handle being moved? Can you move?”

On a medical sled, the EMT and medical teams carry Julia down eight flights of unlit stairs with Doron, now in his own headlamp and holding three phones aloft, leading the way, looking back up the stairwell with every step, barking at the men to “be careful with my baby men, just be careful.” The firefighter’s shining his flashlight right on the exit where an ambulance is waiting to take them to Mount Sinai. The moment they open the door, sheer force of wind suction yanks at everyone’s shoulders like a riptide yanks at your legs, and the team has to steady itself ­– “Hold on, guys, hold it, slowly,” – as they inch against the gale while someone swings wide the two back doors of the idling vehicle. “Watch the curb!” someone yells, “Keep her flat!” another snaps,  “Jules, are you with me? Can you feel it working now?” Doron’s face is wet with hot perspiration and rain that is not falling, but slicing sideways.

Julia nods, but says nothing.  Her eyes are firmly closed to the pandemonium and the icy gales that rage all around her. She’s saving energy by concentrating on nothing but the thudding of her heart as it ricochets all over inside her ribcage. Doron tucks a blanket up to her chin just as she is hoisted into the ambulance, and climbs in right after her, reaching for her hand as the sirens start whirring.

In spite of the half tree that falls across the hood as the ambulance approaches Mount Sinai, in spite of Hurricane Sandy, in spite of the devil of nature being born in New York City and up and down the eastern seaboard that night, at 12:48 a.m., Micha Alemany-Markus is born to grateful though exhausted parents, Julia and Doron.

And about that same hour, in a distant time zone, I sip on my third cup of peppermint tea while listening to birdsong and stretching my arms to the ceiling before pasting in my last sunny photo of the painless April birth of a little prince in a castle in Versailles, France.

**

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”—Albert Einstein

**

Only once in my life have I experienced anything that could be put in the same genus as Hurricane Sandy.  That storm was called Lothar or La Tempête de 1999, and was equivalent to a category one hurricane, mowing with 80 kilometer winds a path of devastation across northern Europe, plowing right through Versailles, right down our street.   A dramatic event, an historic event, a sorrowful event as fifty-three lives were lost, homes were demolished, historic treasures were ripped out by the root (10,000 rare trees in the Gardens of Versailles) or ripped to shreds (wings of the castle, windows, artifacts), and the equivalent of six billion dollars’ damage.

Still, its effects were miniscule compared with Sandy’s awesome ruin. In fact, I hesitate even printing “Lothar” and “Sandy” on the same screen, they are so far from each other in terms of magnitude of human and economic loss.

Lothar sent us flying from our beds that Christmas Day night, running frantically through our house, gathering our young children into a central and protected place, racing to the windows and battening down shutters to be sure that the old thin glass was not going to rattle itself into shards. There was debris and there were whole chunks of things – trash cans, shingles off roofs, shutters, a child’s bicycle – sailing through the air. I remember an image: the enormous tree in our neighbor’s yard was wrenching and jerking so violently, that its branches, normally a dozen meters from our home, scratched within centimeters of where I stood on the other side of glass.  Death’s claws, I thought. How close they came.

But Lothar lasted a mere two hours.  We actually returned to our beds and fell back asleep.  The next morning, Randall and I kept the shutters locked and let the children, who’d been up those two hours, sleep longer in the still and the darkness, then we awoke them and went about getting ready to go to church.  When we opened our front door, this is what we saw.

That day, we walked to church, as did most of our congregation. If their cars had not been damaged in the maelstrom, they couldn’t drive them for all the downed power lines and tree graveyards that just the evening before had been lovely manicured roads.

But here’s my point. Because I lost nothing in that storm – no loved ones, no property, no livelihood, not even more than two hours of sleep – to me Lothar was a single event, a story to tell one day in the future with a couple of impressive pictures, almost a titillating narrative, but not a life-changing landmark by any means. I have few vivid memories of that spot in time, in fact, beyond what I have shared here.

Others, though, people very much like me, people I have thought of since, will always consider December 25th 1999 the day their life split, the moment everything stopped. They lost the most precious things – a husband, wife, father, mother, sibling, child – to two unpredicted hours of a freak climate tantrum, and then, in the ruin, had to dig themselves out.

To take that reality one step further, as I sit and type this, not only are people climbing out of Sandy’s wreckage, but others are bracing themselves for it.

And to take that reality one step further, as I finish this paragraph, this one you are reading, someone else, and it could be anyone, and it could be myself, is going to be visited not by a category one hurricane, but by a metaphorical Sandy.  Or a Lothar.  They will get the test results back from their doctor. They’ll answer a phone call at an odd hour. They’ll see a strange, unapproachable look in their spouse’s eyes.  They might be driving or sitting or running or singing in the shower and with no warning, a storm will descend that will rip out all the precious plantings they have cared for so tenderly, counted on so faithfully. That is the forever moment, the instant that divides their life into Before and After.

What does one do with all this? What do we do with one another’s losses? How does another’s desolation impact my life? Who owns a tragedy? Whose loss is it anyway? What will assuming some small part in another’s tragedy bring to me, anyway? Will it weigh me down, drive me to unfiltered paranoia, eat up my private pile of joy?  How do I reconcile the fact that I walked that Aftermath Sunday morning in December 1999 to church in heels – right past, by the way, the neighborhood château where our Luc would be born five months later – that I minced in a skirt around toppled trunks, that I climbed side saddle over enormous root balls, that I escaped the scathe and the scythe while someone else, a victim because of a few chance centimeters, did not? And how does my living evidence this knowledge, that it is often scant centimeters – not worthiness nor predestination nor entitlement nor good fortune nor anyone’s inalienable right – that separates those flattened by tragedy from those who walk over or around or beside it?

**

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” –Andrew Boyd

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cold-Coping-Play-Haven

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

Melissa Dalton-Bradford (MDB):  Dalton, Luc, it’s post-show, the flash and buzz have dimmed a bit, you’re both already deep into a new school year.

But before we get too far away from it all, I want to be sure to nail down your feelings about Coldplay and their concert. I hope I got some good shots and I know Dad got some great iPhone footage.  So, how about we sit and chat about how you two felt about the Coldplay concert. Sound good?

Dalton Haakon Bradford (DHB) and Luc William Bradford (LWB) : (In unison) For the blog, right?

MDB: Well, uh-huh, for the blog, yeah. But for me.  And for you, too. We call this “processing,” sons.

DHB: Okay, fire away.  Process. (He settles into his red beanbag chair, clears his throat, tucks his hands between his knees and stares at me. Intently.)

LWB: (Looking at brother, flops on bed, twiddles a dozen neon-colored rubber wrist band in his fingers.) Go for it.

MDB: Luc, what was your favorite moment of our trip to Copenhagen?

LWB: You mean favorite moment of the last year, maybe, or yeeeeearsss? ‘Cause it was the Coldplay concert, of coursssse. Nothing better than thaaat.

MDB: Dalton, you agree?

DWB: (Eyebrows raised, head cocked forward, hands open with palms flat toward the heavens like, “You serious?”)

MDB: Right. So, can you answer the question, Dalton, Why Coldplay? What’s their magic formula?

DHB: I think that to see a band grow so big that originally — they started way back in 1998, I think — that at first was very meek and intimate-sounding, that’s part of the formula.  You know, the formula isn’t that complex or anything. It’s not a big band, it’s got just these four everyday kinda guys, not a whole team of back up dancers and ten different wardrobe changes in a single concert.

LWB: (Still lying flat on his back on the bed. Arms spread wide and spindly over the edge. Oversized feet making a 90˚ angle out of his profile.) Except they changed out of their sweaty T-shirts a couple of times.

MDB: And thank goodness, is what I’m saying.

DHB: Yeah, but no flashy stuff, right? No synchronized dancers and lip-synching and dresses—

LWB: (He whips his head toward his brother.) They wear dresses?

DHB: I mean, what I was gonna say was no dresses out of raw meat. For instance.

LWB: You getting all this, Mom?

MDB: (Clickety-clickety-clickety. . .) Dalton, continue.

DHB: If you see Coldplay now, as a band — as a unit — they haven’t changed so very much from the start. Maybe Chris Martin has evolved some with a stronger voice and a greater focus in lyric writing. But as a whole they’ve perfected their talents and brought out what they can do best. They’re still with that original one-plus-one-equals-two formula, but they are arguably the biggest, most famous band in the world right now.

LWB: And we went to their coooncert! (Arms flopping all directions, Luc imitates an eighty-five-pound caterpillar being turned on a spit.)

DHB: Luc, seriously. We doin’ bidniss here.

(Just one of the thirteen-thousand random quotes our family seems to interject into every conversation.)

MDB: Dal-ton. Con-tin-ue.

DHB: The Coldplay formula is by and large nothing short of pure raw natural talent.

MDB: Okay, so no raw meat, just raw talent.  And talent for. . .?

DHB: They can play each other’s instruments, for starters, but they still do their own roles really, really well. Will Champion, the drummer, also plays like every last instrument on the planet—

MDB: Lute? Harpischord?

DHB: Mom. Rockband. So once, there’s this concert when Chris Martin [the lead singer with steal blue eyes and an irrepressibly affable persona and a wife named Gwyneth Paltrow and children named Apple and Moses] says at one point, OK, this is the moment we show you how good our bland really could have been. And so right then, Will Champion takes Jonny’s [Jonny Buckland, their lead guitarist] guitar and he sings a song he wrote.  And it’s really good. He can really sing. Really play.

LWB: You serious? (He’s raised his head.)

DHB: Serious.

LWB: (Groans and flops face first into the pillow.  From the depths of mattress, he mumbles.) Okay, like I only play some piano, some drums and the clarinet.

DHB: Kinda.

LWB: Mom?!!  (Meerkat springs up at full attention, eyeballs protruding like billiard balls, that behold-how-I-have-absorbed-the-villan’s-cosmic-affront look quivering from every muscle.)

MDB: Guys.  The blog. Dalton, what do we say?

DHB: Kay. Sorry.  But kinda.  And still better than me.

MDB: Better than I.

DHB: Mom. The blog.

MDB: Coldplay’s formula, men. How does it work?

DHB: There’s no unnecessary pizzazz, no wacky costumes that fashion designers have thought up to capitalize on this “artist’s” career, kind of like parasites, you know, making their designer career bigger on the back of someone else’s music career. Like Coldplay, think about it, what did they wear?

LWB: Homemade T-shirts.  No logos, even. Mom would have even let us wear that. And they wore baseball caps. Which Mom wouldn’t have let us wear. (Preteen evil eye.)

DHB: Like the band members could have been the audience members themselves, you know?

MDB: Hmm . . . so . . .  do you think that’s a gimmick? A strategy? Trying to stay right on the level of your audience? Play the Jedermann?

LWB: I don’t even think Will Champion plays that one.

MDB: No, that means Everyman. Trying to be your Joe Schmoe off the street.  I mean, these guys are multi-millionares now. Ultrafamous. Scary big. They could wear flashy jumpsuits like Elvis.  They could be Elton John.  Or Lady Gaga.

DHB: Gross. Never.

LWB: Gag!  Gaga. (Writhes and squirms, gripping throat with both hands.)

MDB: Actually, let’s go with this: Why a Coldplay concert over a Lady Gaga concert, guys? She was on all those posters in the middle of Copenhagen. Should we have gotten tickets to her thing instead?

LWB: No way! Coldplay all the way!  (Up on his knees on the bed, now, pounding fists into his thighs with every syllable.) Lady Gaga’s concerts are strange, vulgar, yicky.  They don’t make sense, and all in the wrong way, and she says everywhere that she’s just being unique, but she’s just being a . . . a . . . spectacle.

DHB: Good word, Luc.

MDB: Nice compliment, Dalton.

LWB: But Coldplay has meaning we can relate to.  (Standing on bed, posing oddly and speaking in a girl’s voice), “I’m just so different, so born this way.”  First of all, (one finger extended) no one’s born with horns implanted in their head. Second of all, (two fingers for emphasis), I think she’s just copying Madonna—well, going beyond her.  For some people who are really way, way out there and forgotten by the world, that might feel comforting. I dunno.  Horns and meat dresses, you know. But you can always, always relate to Coldplay.  This music is smart. Lady Gaga’s just . . .not.

MDB: Luc William Bradford, you willing to go on record with that statement?

LWB: Print it, Melissa Dalton-Bradford.

Back row, stage right, Luc’s concert dinner metabolizes into a halo

MDB: Because, well, I think Lady Gaga’s pretty darn smart. She’s sure got something figured out to become a person whose reputation has spread as far as a small village in Switzerland where we who don’t really like her or her music that much, are talking about her.  So she’s unquestionably smart about something. Right? At least about marketing.  You think?

DHB: Then why are we even talking about her?

MDB: Moving on.

DHB: Still can’t beat Will Champion for musical instruments, though.

MDB: Yeah, not going to be seeing any lutes or harpsichords in Lady Gaga’s act soon, either. Bummer.

LWB: (Eyes half closed, pointer finger in warning position like a grandpa hoisting himself out of the sunken marks of his old living room LazyBoy recliner) Ah, but you might. (He releases the pose then flops back down.)

DHB: But see, you could [have lutes and harpsichords] with Coldplay, and it would make sense.  But it wouldn’t be for spectacle.

MDB: Got a point there, genius.

DHB: It would be for the sake of musical inventiveness and to support the lyric.  Because they don’t need spectacle.  Their show augments what is already excellent, excellent within its genre.  Doesn’t depend on the spangley stuff or pyrotechnics.

MDB: Pretty darned good spectacle at this concert, though, I’d have to say. I mean, we were at the same stadium, weren’t we?  Or am I the only one who remembers fireworks, tons of butterfly confetti. . .

. . . Huge helium-inflated glow-in-the-dark orbs being tossed around the audience?. . .

. . . The titanic-sized hot pink graffiti-drenched hearts?. . .

. . . No spectacle? Really?

DHB: Of course there was.  But not to mask weak music or to compensate for mediocre talent.

MDB: Ooooo. Touché! Way to take a stand, Monsieur. Um, speaking of lyrics, what about Coldplay’s?

LWB: I like that they never swear in their songs, I like that a lot.  Most other bands these days do, even if just here and there. Bands that people these day are huge fans of, obviously parents are probably just saying that the swearing’s okay ‘cause their kids’ll hear worse stuff at school, and maybe they think the kids aren’t listening to the words, they’re just there for the beat.  Which isn’t true. You get the language. But Coldplay, you can enjoy without all those swear words.

MDB: But I’ve heard some of today’s music. It’s not just the crass language, but the dumbness. Like ding-dong emptiness — that’s a concern. But what’s worse is the violence and the suggestiveness. Well, not even suggestiveness.  Just pornographic.  And so soul-draining.

DHB:  Coldplay’s completely clean. And intelligent.  Their lyrics aren’t only curse-word-free.  The most suggestive lyric I’ve ever heard is, “Its not easy when she turns you on.” That’s it. Not steamy, They aren’t trying to be controversial. They aren’t trying to prove themselves. They’re doing what they do best.

LWB: And, can I just say, I like “Charlie Brown.”

MDB: Who can not like him? Or that song? You know, they do some tricky things with time signatures in that song, did you notice?

DHB: Really?

MDB: Oh, yeah, shifting back and forth all over the place.  Not simple stuff.

LWB: Personally, I loved the way the wristbands blinked with the exact rhythm of the music . . .

. . . How the animated walking man appeared on screens.  I just felt so incredibly happy in that moment.

. . . Like, okay I’ll say it. Did anyone else feel like they could have cried? Sorta?

DHB: OK, ‘cause I thought you just like “Charlie Brown” because of the lyrics: (Dalton sings):

When they smashed my heart into smithereens

I be a bright red rose come bursting the concrete  (Luc joins him):

Be the cartoon heart, light a fire, light a spark

Light a fire, a flame in my heart.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBGI8-4puV4&feature=related

MDB: And what’s the “deepest” one of their lyrics, do you think?

LWB: “Fix You.”

DHB: “Fix You.”

DMB, MDB, LWB: (We sing it together. Because we have before):

When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you.

MDB: Luc,  what does that one say to you?

LWB: It’s a hard topic everyone can relate to at some point, maybe, I think. About losing something, someone, and wishing so hard you could get that thing or person back, then having someone else try to fix that for you in some way. Or maybe the someone you lose is the one trying to fix you.  With lights.  Maybe they are the lights.  Guiding you home.

DHB: But my favorite song is “Paradise.” Just this morning on the bus ride to school, I was listening to it, and had to conclude right then that it undoubtedly will be one of the greatest songs of the decade.

(Here, Dalton sings a riff.  Then beats a drum phrase on his thigh. Then compares it all to a Beatle’s riff.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGzbeEOWYgc&feature=related

DHB: If you didn’t have the bass riff in “Paradise” for instance, it would be empty.  Unsupported.  You have the full use of strings, synths, right? (He acts out strings and synths.) Then this impossibly huge explosion (he explodes) and this strong, I’d call it forceful melody. (And he launches into full air guitar version of the forceful “Paradise” melody.)

MDB: (Resumes typing.) What do you think of Alex Boyé’s and the Piano Guys’ version of it?

LWB: Ahhhhhwesome!

DHB: They took a great tune and added another dimension to it. All the lyrics are in Swahili. “Pepo-pepo-peponi.” (He begins singing the chorus.  He moves like Boyé. On a mountain top.  Luc starts fake playing a piano from the bed.  I add the cello. )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgovv8jWETM

MDB: But someone, your grandparents, for instance—

LWB: Omi and Opa?

MDB: Omi and Opa might argue that these lyrics are repetitive. Mundane.

DHB: Strong, language, young lady.

MDB: Well?

DHB: Look. You need repetition so the whole stadium of 50,000-plus spectators can sing along. Remember how that was? How incredible?

MDB:  Well, no kidding.  Of course I do.  You bet! Hey, you don’t need to convince me. It’s Omi and Opa — the opera singer  and the music professor, remember ? You have to convince them.

DHB: Right.  See, there are other popular lyrics like “Bay-by, bay-by, bay-by, ooooo”, which are  repetitive,  you could even say “universal”.  But who wants to chant about wanting a Baby, Baby, Baby over wanting Paradise? Case closed.  I’d say there’s a difference.

MDB: Point well taken.  Luc William, your favorite moment in the concert, sir?

LWB: The second our wristbands went on the first time.  WOW.  And when the wristbands blinked in time to Charlie Brown. Then those confetti butterflies.

I don’t know, the whole thing was just an all over big human experience of happiness and togetherness.

MDB: And Dalton Haakon? Favorite moment?

DHB: OK, Hard question. Maybe it was “Warning Sign”, which is not so well known, and Chris Martin even said once he thought it was too boring and “internal” to be marketable.  But that he himself liked it.  They played it at the concert without percussion, pretty naked, musically.  To tell you the truth, it’s the song that won me over first:

Come on in
I’ve gotta tell you what a state I’m in
I’ve gotta tell you in my loudest tones
That I started looking for a warning sign

When the truth is, I miss you
Yeah the truth is, that I miss you so

A warning sign
It came back to haunt me, and I realised
That you were an island and I passed you by
And you were an island to discover

And I’m tired, I should not have let you go
Oooooooo

So I crawl back into your open arms
Yes I crawl back into your open arms
And I crawl back into your open arms
Yes I crawl back into your open arms.

LWB: And what was your favorite part, Mom?

MDB: You interview me now, is that it? Good enough.  I’d say everything you two have just said, but there’s something that’s way above all the rest.  You don’t know this, but I have a kind of particular connection to “Viva la Vida”, and so when they finally came to it in their program, I don’t know, I just wanted to fly out of my seat and run through all the rows, hugging every single last stranger in that whole loud stadium.

LWB: We are so glad you didn’t.

DHB: Yeah, good thing we were packed in in that top row up there, right, Luc?

MDB: And when Chris Martin collapsed, remember that? Hello, this is a difficult yoga move, I wanna point that out.

. . . And we had to keep singing the chorus over and over and over to get him off the floor? Remember?

DHB: ‘Course.

LWB: Yuh.

MDB: I really got that moment. I think I might have had — I know I did  have — tears in my eyes, guys . . . So . . . anyway . . . Anything you might not have liked so much about the concert? Anything?

LWB: Ah, well, there was a bit of beer and cigarettes a few rows from us. That’s not so great. But I kept clear of the smoke.

MDB: Did it make you feel uncomfortable, though? You know I’m not a big fan. At all.

DHB: Since Copenhagen is the Carlsberg beer capital of the world, I sort of expected some drinking at a big concert like this.  How do you avoid being around it?  I’m just glad you never get that at Music and the Spoken Word.

LWB: I just focused on the music and all the people around me who weren’t drinking and were still having a great time, singing together and smiling for real and being part of a fantastic, incredible, awesome experience.

MDB: You mean the worst part wasn’t walking home afterwards?  Walking for two hours all the way across town? Without toilets? Without food? Getting home at 2:00 a.m.?

DHB: That was “savor” time. Didn’t mind it. I was in another world the whole way, really.

MDB: And last question, gents: If you were somehow magically granted back stage passes and could talk to Chris Martin and his crew face-to-face, what would you want to tell them?

LWB: I’d say, “Brilliant, it was the best concert I could have imagined—even better than that — and I’m thankful I was one of the people who got to be there. You made me so happy that night.”

DHB: Backstage passes?!! That would be the most surreal scenario.  But if you’re thinking up some plan for the next time you spring a big move on us, then I’d go with it. Seriously, I would want to talk to all the band members at once, by myself, face-to-face, no interruptions, quietly. Like that, alone and private, I’d tell them that my big brother Parker knew them before they released “Viva la Vida” in 2008. And that song came out the year after he passed away. I would say to them, “My big brother loved your music. Before you were ever huge.  Thank you for making such good music so that I could love it, too.  And be right here.”

Let’s Do Blaunch (Blog-Launch)

…Or I could say writes of passages, since I’ve known them in the plural form.  In this blog, I plan to write about them all.

And what more appropriate blog launch than to begin writing of passages exactly where I stand, smack dab at the crossroads of one.  Today I am straddling worlds–hemispheres, (east and west), countries, cultures, cuisines, climates—with the movers arriving in a matter of days. With me at command central, the crew will pack up our equatorial years and ship them off to our alpine ones. We’re leaving balmy Singapore for brisk Switzerland.

I know, I know.  Not too shabby. Indeed, I feel the golden fortune of this, and am grateful way down past my buckling knees.

After 16 international moves, you’re right to guess that I know this whole spiel by heart. I just pull up the Excel spreadsheet and hit auto pilot, right? Could do it with my eyes closed, hands and feet tied behind my back in a yoga contortion, maybe? Kinda. Sorta. But as I’ve learned over 20+ years of globalicity, these crossroads can either be a predictable stroll to the other curb, or they can slam you broadside.  Inevitably, there will be some unavoidable jerks and mini-whiplashes in between, and as a veteran vagablonde, I can safely say something is bound to happen that at least gets me sweating. Heavily.  (And that means something when you’re not in Singapore.) We’ll just wait and see how this one goes.

Speaking of not sweating, just a week ago today I was standing on the shores of Lake Geneva. I actually had on boots and a sweater, which would have liquefied me on the spot in the perpetual 31˚ Celsius and 95% humidity of Singapore. My husband Randall and I were in Geneva for a few days doing the preliminary legwork of hunting for schools for Dalton and Luc, the two youngest of our four children, the lucky ones who will be accompanying us there in August.  Claire, our college senior studying in the States, had come to Singapore to hold down the roost during our week-long absence.

Geneva is a town begging to be fallen in love with: built along the gray-blue expanse of Lake Geneva, and cupped by the Jura mountain range on one side, Alps on the other, it’s a gentle stunner. It has enough Parisian elegance to remind us of that former home (we were there eight years), enough of Olso’s saltiness to remind us of that former home (we were there five years), enough of Munich’s restraint to remind us of that former home (we were there a total of five years), enough of Vienna’s conviviality to remind us of that former home (we were there a total of over two and a half years), and actually little in common with Hong Kong or Singapore, except for all their diversity.

Geneva’s diversity is due to the presence of the U.N., the W.T.O., the W.H.O., the Red Cross, and numerous international entities including bankers, watchmakers, and candlestick makers. (I’m just tossing them in).  For a metropole, it felt compact, though its 200,000 inhabitants pack a multicultural punch. Nearly 50% of these folks are non-Swiss, I learned interrogating the pretty attendant at the hotel desk, and I witnessed proof of that rumor while wandering the vieille ville (old city), where I heard as much Russian, Korean, Mandarin, German, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English as I did French.

Since we’re all for diversity, Randall and I, we’re glad we don’t have to give that up in leaving Singapore.  What these two cities have in common besides diversity, though, is their high quality of life.  But as you probably might guess, that quality doesn’t come for free. The home we’re exiting like the one we’re entering both rank neck-in-neck near the top of the list of World’s Most Expensive Cities to live in.  (So whatever happened to getting transferred to Kathmandu?)

But I’m stumbling all over myself, writing us already into the future. We’ll get there soon enough.  For now, there are two more months remaining in Singapore, and for these weeks ahead, as the passage ramps up in slope and speed, I’ll return to write of it.

**

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012.  This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.