10 March 2008

And through it all she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection whether I’m right or wrong…

I was a camp counselor in Maine in 1999 when Robbie Williams’ CD The Ego Has Landed landed in my consciousness. I had tossed him aside because of his boy band image (he was in Take That) and had dismissed his music as anything but relevant to me. But there I was at Camp surrounded by what felt like 100’s of miles of woods, lakes, 30 counselors, most of whom were European, and about 120 teenage girls. Somehow amongst all that solitude, JFK Jr’s death, a Great Dane named Bailey, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team making headlines, and no way to escape camp Williams’ song “Millennium” struck a chord, freed us all and became the anthem of the summer. It was on everyone’s mixed tape, everyone knew all the words and through some of the language barriers and different cultures colliding we all cemented our bond through this and several other songs of that Summer.

“We've got stars directing our fate
And we're praying it's not too late
Some say that we are players
Some say that we are pawns
But we've been making money
Since the day that we were born
Got to slow down
'Coz we're low down
Run around in circles
Live a life of solitude
'Till we find ourselves a partner
Someone to relate to
Then we'll slow down
Before we fall down
We've got stars directing our fate
And we're praying it's not too late
'Coz we know we're falling from grace

It was, in so many ways, a magical summer. I met some people, especially my ‘sister’ Suzanne, who would have profound affects on my life. There was an intimacy to being ‘stranded’ as it were on 100 acres of a Camp – no cell phones – no accessible internet – no T.V. and nary a newspaper to be found. There was a sense of community that we rarely encounter in real life. How often do you get to eat all your meals with 150 other people at a time on a daily basis? How often are you huddled on a stormy afternoon under one roof with nowhere to go without getting soaked? How often do you have time to really connect and talk to people at length? How often are all of our problems shared with so many others who actually give a shit? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love everyone I met that summer nor did everyone love me – but the experience was a powerful one that is so undeniably rare.

With no car at my disposal, and one day off each week if I wanted to get off the property I took a run or a long walk to the neighbourhood store, or I snagged a sail boat and went for a sail. It was a very fun summer even though I worked hard in the theatre every night building and painting sets, redoing the light plot or fixing some old piece of equipment. The work was hard, I was underpaid, and I rarely got to speak to anyone in my family since there was only one pay phone for the counselors on which to be reached. Messages were hard to get – and time was scarce but somehow we all muddled through and learned to care about each other despite our differences. When Annette’s mother fell unexpectedly ill we all came together and camped out in the woods her last night before leaving early to get back to London. All of us sent her off and all of us cried for her. That’s what camp was about – we learned – we grew – we ended up appreciating each other and the endless Maine stars.

It was the last summer where everything was normal in my life. It had been 9 years since my grandfather passed away – life had gotten back to ‘normal’ in the family as we had learned to move around his absence. Then it wasn’t. The next January my mother passed away unexpectedly and four months later to the day – Annette’s mother succumbed to her Cancer. The months spent at camp both Annette and I would come to realize turned out to be a reverse salvation – the memories of the summer helped us both to carry through. In addition, a trip up and down the West Coast of California we had planned to take when camp ended had been, understandably, postponed. We would take that trip August of 2000 – doing what both of our mothers had encouraged us to do together. We camped, I drove, we played Robbie Williams, we met some very cool people over the course of the two week trip and we both got to spend time with someone who understood. None of that would have been possible if we hadn’t ended up at camp together.

When camp ended I headed back to Los Angeles and very difficultly tried to assimilate back to City life. The first thing I did was buy Robbie Williams CD. I listened to it nonstop and discovered the rest of what I would come to feel was an amazing album! With “Angels” (today’s title and possibly the most moving song on the CD), “Win Some, Loose Some” (“she touched my face and she called me her lover I never thought I’d need another…”), “Jesus In A Camper Van” (“Jesus in a camper van he said sorry to leave you I’ve done all I can…”), “Strong” (“Every morning when I wake up I feel like Kiss but without the makeup, and that’s a good line to take it to the bridge...”) and the exquisite cover of World Party’s “She’s The One” this is a CD of truly incredible, diverse, sometimes dance-worthy music and well worth another long overdue listen as I am doing today. Or discover it for the first time if you haven’t already. www.robbiewilliams.com

Here’s “Angels”:


This is my friend Joe. He passed away last Tuesday. He was my friend Holly’s dog. Not mine. I don’t have a dog. I won’t ever have a dog until I have a house – but especially since my cat got sick. I wont do that to him. But I had Joe. I walked Joe when Holly went out of town or when she was running late. He loved me. I loved him. Whenever he saw me on the street he would come running. He was 10 and still he ran to me. He was very special. Smart. Sweet. Big Bark. Big Dog. Protective. When he slept over I felt safer. When he kissed me I felt loved. When he smiled at me I felt special. He loved our walks. I loved our walks. I loved the security of hearing his leash jingle as he walked by my apartment every day. I miss that jingle. I miss our walks. I miss ‘the man’ as we called him. Now ‘the man’ is my cat, ‘’Dude’ we call him. He’s also special and I think in his own way he misses Joe, too. We all do. All those that knew him had a sad week last week. He touched everyone he knew and just like with kids – if he liked you – you must have been cool. But he was the cool one. He was unforgettable and now there is one more Angel looking over us all.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next week….CHEERS!! To Joe and all those that will miss him….

1 comment:

Julie Neumark said...

That was beautiful. I am sitting in my cube, wiping the tears from my cheeks, as I just finished reading your blog while listening to "Angels" in my headphones. Joe WAS such a special special guy and he (and we) were so lucky to have someone like you love him so much. You are right - now we all have one more angel looking down on us. God I miss that jingle too....