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Month: March 2022

You’re Never Lost when You’re with Your Best Friend

You’re Never Lost when You’re with Your Best Friend

This is one of my favorite pictures of Aileen (one of many favorite pictures of her), taken in a kind of makeshift maze at a Renaissance Faire in Pennsylvania some years ago. She’s peeking playfully at me from behind a maze wall. We’re having fun, even though a maze has danger associated with it. It’s a place where you might get lost. But what does that matter if you are with your best friend? When you’re with the one you are meant to be with, you can’t get lost. You don’t even have anywhere to go.

Aileen and I have been more or less constant companions for years now. It started when we reunited at our 30th year high school reunion. We saw more and more of each other after that, and I relocated to be nearer to her. Then the pandemic came and the circumstances put us even closer together as I moved into her house. It was a test of our relationship – could we stand each other day in and day out for years? Could I fit in with the rest of her family? Turned out we all could. The pandemic was easy on us.

The only thing is, Aileen doesn’t handle sitting around at home all the time quite as well as I do. She needs to have work to do, some project to be doing, or she goes crazy (she’ll tell you she was already crazy). The lockdowns really hurt her industry, which is theatre, and she had to find other work when she could get it. But now that we’re coming out on the other side of the pandemic (maybe) she is deluged with work again. She might be going a little crazy with too much to do! But I know she’s happy for it, and I’m always amazed by her commitment and by how much she can get done. We both keep as busy as we can with multiple projects, like we’re running out of time.

Today is Aileen’s birthday, and I wrote this post to share how much I appreciate her in my life. We’re a couple of old fools getting older together. Ten years ago I never would have thought this is where I’d be in life. But now it only seems natural. We’ve known one another and loved one another since we were crazy kids in high school. We don’t even remember meeting; one of our inside jokes is that we must have known each other forever. Depending on your spiritual perspective, this may well be true.

Happy Birthday to you, Aileen, my dearest friend and my partner in life. Here’s to many, many more years together forever.

Me and My BFF Go to See some High School Musicals

Me and My BFF Go to See some High School Musicals

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that a lot of my posts lately are about going to see high school musicals. What’s up with that?

In some ways, it’s just getting back to normal. Over the past decade or so, my BFF Aileen and I have been going see lots of shows – professional, community theater, and at schools. This was put on hold for a couple of years because of the pandemic. This spring season, theater is back! At most of the productions that we’ve seen lately, the director’s notes in the program or the curtain speech make a point that it’s the first live show in the space since 2020.

But there’s also a particular reason for going to all these high school shows. Starting this year, I am an adjudicator for the Philadelphia Independence Awards. That means that I’m not just watching, I am judging the performances and technical aspects of the shows, and providing constructive feedback. I am very grateful for this opportunity, which I’d like to think I earned through my excellent writing in the past, though I know that mostly I owe it to the recommendation of my friend Aileen.

In the years that I have been going to live theater with Aileen, I have learned that young people are just as capable and talented as adults. Seriously, we have seen some high school productions that were better than stuff we’ve seen on Broadway. As an educator, Aileen has always believed in teaching children that they can do anything they set their minds to, and the kids at the shows we’ve been seeing have certainly proved her point.

Looking forward to more shows in the weeks to come!

Is This TV Show Peak Gen X?

Is This TV Show Peak Gen X?

Lately we’ve been getting into Peaky Blinders (available on Netflix), a very artfully crafted period crime drama set in Birmingham, England in the 1920s. It’s dark and brooding, ruthlessly violent, and bristling with attitude. It has occurred to me while watching it that it exemplifies the qualities of Generation X, and may well reflect the peak of Gen X influence in today’s entertainment world.

Now, I realize that the show is British and therefore not technically Gen X, since that is a name for an American generation. And I realize that the creator, Steven Knight, would be a Boomer if he were American, and that the younger actors on the show would be Millennials – if they were American.

But the principal actors, the ones who make the show so tough and gritty, and so cool, are Gen X. I mean, they would be if they were American. They are superbly skilled and nuanced in their performances (particularly Helen McCrory, God rest her soul), portraying characters that are stylish and brash, with a hard shell of bravado that disguises a vulnerable soul.

The setting is the criminal underworld in an industrial town, just after the First World War. In fact, the older criminal gang leaders are all veterans of the war. In other words, their characters are from a generation that matches Gen X in archetype – hard-hearted survivors in a rough and exploitative social milieu.

The beautiful costumes and sets, and the brilliant cinematography, with everything shot in dark lighting with a gray and grimy color palette, contribute to my judgment that this show is an epitome of the new golden age of dark and harrowing television. On top of that, the show features a soundtrack of modern indie/prog/hard rock. It’s completely anachronistic, but it works, much better than in other shows or films that I’ve seen try the same thing. It just cements the affinity between the Lost Generation characters and the punk Gen Xers who play them, their archetype resounding across a hundred years of history.

That’s why I say Peaky Blinders isn’t just peak TV, it’s peak Gen X.