Archive | May, 2016

Purple Shame

26 May

I watched the Billboard Music Awards last Sunday and was cautiously optimistic the Prince tribute by Madonna would be good and appropriate.  Ugh. As a Minnesotan and long-time Prince fan, what an utter disappointment.

No offense to Madonna, but seriously, what was she and the Billboard folks thinking when they thought she would be the right person for the tribute?  Yeah, they may have been friends and counterparts back in the day, but seriously?!  It would be like asking Debbie Gibson to do a tribute to Michael Jackson because they were both from the 80’s.

Not that Madonna and Prince weren’t friendly, since I have no clue if they’ve communicated since then, but there were far better choices.  This has nothing to do with race or gender.  It has to do with respecting Prince and having a tribute worthy of the artist and person he was.  She does not fit the bill.

With the exception of Stevie Wonder, the segment was a disaster and an embarrassment.  Why didn’t Billboard pick artists that were close to Prince now or in the past like Sheila E or the Revolution?  Artists like Chaka Khan who covered one of his songs? How about picking artists that are in the same league and worthy of being on that stage honoring him?  Stevie Wonder was definitely a good choice.  Madonna, not even close.

Heck, I would’ve been happy with other local artists honoring him than Madonna.  Put a Minnesota twist on the show and honor our own.  Perhaps Minneapolis will step up and put on a tribute that will put Billboard and Madonna’s segment to shame.

My Daughter’s Day at the Salvation Army

18 May

Last Saturday, my daughter joined me and my friend Marv, at the Salvation Army for the theater workshop.  At first, she was a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect.  However, by the end of the day, she learned that homeless doesn’t necessarily mean bad or scary.

She was great, diving right in to introduce herself to the troupe and the participants.  We had performance exercises at the beginning of the session, and she was not shy about participating and had a lot of fun.

After that, we broke up into groups to help the participants work on their pieces they’ll present at the performance this weekend.  She whole-heartedly took on any role she needed to, and liked being a part of the process.

During our break, we went outside to get fresh air, since it was such a beautiful day.  It was a busy scene, folks hanging out and enjoying the weather, items being given away, and music being played to entertain everyone.

We were approached a few times by volunteers who thought we were staying at the shelter, offering clothes, shoes, and something to eat.  She asked me, “Mom, why are they asking me if I need something?”  I told her they think we are staying there. “But Mom, why do they think we’re homeless?  We don’t look like we are.”

When we returned to watch everyone perform their piece, she kept asking who was homeless and who was not.  It was interesting how she couldn’t tell the difference between the participants and the troupe members.  I reminded her how we were offered items outside because volunteers thought we needed it.  The light bulb went off.

It was a great life lesson to realize that just because someone doesn’t have a place to live, it doesn’t make them a “bad” person and they don’t necessarily look any different than you and me.  In fact, there are some of us who are a few steps away from being in their shoes.  We are fortunate that has not happened to us.

She loved being there and working with the participants on their performances.  Everyone embraced her and were happy that she was so excited to help out.  In the end, we all won and had an amazing time.  She and I both look forward to many more sessions of working with these wonderful people who are so courageous to share their stories.


Their Salvation or Mine?

11 May

I recently met up with a Twitter friend I had been following for a couple of years.  It was great to finally meet face-to-face and see who I had been tweeting with this whole time.  We didn’t connect at the usual coffee shop or bar….we met at the Salvation Army in downtown Minneapolis.

He is a member of a theater group that teaches workshops at various homeless shelters in the Twin Cities, including this Salvation Army.  In fact, he had once stayed there for a few months when he moved here from Chicago.  His cousin said he had a place to live, but when my friend arrived, it was a lie and he was stuck on the streets.

This is one of the many ways he gives back to the Salvation Army and the homeless community, being eternally grateful they took him in and gave him a chance to get back on his feet.  Thank goodness there are resources like this when people are in need.

I had never been to a homeless shelter before, and to be honest, I was scared shitless.  We met in the parking lot because I was too scared to get out of my car and walk in alone.  It was like strolling into a Hollywood movie but it was all too real.  Men and women, old and young, walking around or asleep in the corner.  Everywhere I looked, it was jarring and sad, until I walked into the theater room.

Granted, I was still a little uncomfortable and nervous, but this room and group of people were different.  There was a glimmer of hope and ray of sunlight I didn’t see outside.  You could tell these men and women had a story to tell and they wanted a better life for themselves.

One after one, they performed their stories, each one more powerful and shocking than the last.  Many struggled with drug addictions and lost everything.  Some served time and had nothing and no one once they got out.  One man lost his vision after a domestic situation with his partner.  She threw acid in his eyes, forever changing his life and path.

Their performances were depressing, yet inspiring.  I was humbled and pissed at myself for whining about such stupid little things when these folks have been through hell and back.  I admire their courage to share their story and try to move forward and better themselves.  I applauded their bravery.

On the way to my car after rehearsal, I shared with my friend how overwhelmed and saddened I was by all of their stories…I cried all the way home.  However, the tears were soon replaced by hope and the motivation to return next week and continue to work with the group.

Yes, I can help them with their performances and coach them through exercises, but truly they are helping me realize that they are not a bunch of bums on the street.  They are people, with backgrounds and stories to tell, and they deserve to be respected, heard, and given a second chance.

Minnesota Summer Construction-Style

4 May

It’s not even summer yet and the construction woes have reared their ugly head.  We had a mild winter so we survived the “skating rink and snowy roads” months.  Unfortunately, I think we had a two week break before the orange cones started hitting the pavement.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it wasn’t much longer after that.  While we try to understand and be patient that MNDOT only has so long to complete projects due to our “lovely” weather, it still sucks.

You try to dodge the construction but there’s only so far to maneuver without completely altering and adding on to your commute.  I can tolerate going an exit or two out of my way, but not a couple of miles.  It’s also frustrating sitting in traffic forever with everyone else trying to get around this crap.

As I’m sitting at a standstill, I think, “What if this is some sick bribe that the Dakotas, Iowa or Wisconsin paid to MNDOT to say your state blows.  If you lived here, you would have open roads because no one wants to live here.”

I’m kidding (kind of), but you wonder sometimes why they plan road projects the way they do.  Is it really because they only have so much time due to winter or do they just like to torture their tax-paying residents?