Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Please remain seated

This is going to be odd. I'm about to complain about something that I probably shouldn't. It's entirely possible that I come off like Andy Rooney sitting on his front porch yelling at the kids with their cell phones to get off his damn lawn. I apologize in advance.

There are way too many standing ovations given these days. Can you think of the last time you went to a concert where at least half the audience didn't stand at the end? I sure can't. It's just plain gotten out of hand.

It used to be that standing ovations were given for either extremely important people (the emperor enters), or for performances or feats that were so amazing that the audience was moved to rise from their seats and cheer. It took some kind of special performance to get that kind of reaction. I can't even remember the last time I was so impressed with something that I had to get out of my seat. Maybe I'm just lazy, but in my head, standing ovations are meant to be uncommon or even rare events.

These days though, you can't escape the standing ovation. It's almost expected. They're never the Hollywood "audience leaps to its feet as one" thing either. What usually happens is that one person eventually stands, then another, and another until most people are standing. I think the later people stand out of obligation, or maybe because they can't see now that the jerk in front of them stood up.

That kind of ovation just isn't the same. It seems like a combination of obligation, herd mentality, and wanting to be seen to appreciate art.

As a performer, I want to get a standing ovation. I want my performance to be so moving that the audience is compelled to stand when it's done. I don't want the audience to clap for a while, think about it, look around to see if anyone else is standing, then eventually stand because someone else is.

So next time you're at a performance, think before you stand. Maybe even close your eyes. If the performance moved you to, stand right away, no matter if anyone else is. But if you don't feel moved to stand, don't. Applaud as long and as loud as you want, but don't stand just because someone else is. Standing after a performance should say to the performer "you moved me". The performer won't mind not getting a standing ovation, I promise. Really, we're just glad that you came and liked it enough to clap in the first place.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I've become that which I hate

If you don't live in Boston or one of the other old-growth cities with narrow streets, few driveways, and lots of snow, you might be unfamiliar with the tradition of claiming your on street parking spot using a placed object. The traditional things are road cones or folding chairs, but weirder stuff like hockey sticks, kitchen garbage cans, or busts of Jesus are common too.

Actually, the Jesus bust is kind of brilliant. Who's gonna steal a spot from Jesus?

I generally dislike the whole thing. It's a street spot, right? Why do you get to keep it?

Well, now I know why. This is my first winter where I have to use street parking. Previously, I've always had a driveway, but no more. I've quickly learned that it's a different world, and today, I did what I swore I'd never do. I carried a porch chair to the street, pulled out, and gravely, solemnly, placed it in my vacated spot. A single tear rolled down my cheek as I drove away.

What could have driven me to such lengths? Such horror? Such depravity?

Two things. First, I've cleared that spot out many times now. Boston has gotten a metric ass ton of snow this year, and none of it has melted. Every time, I go out and clear the car out whether I plan on driving or not. This is because my fair city ticketed me once for not clearing my car off. It's frankly a pain to clear a street parking spot. You have to remove snow on the car, in front and behind, and then clear out all that compacted snow that the plows left all down the side. That's a special brand of crappy.

Aside from the physical labor, there's another problem that you don't have to deal with when you have a driveway: parking spaces vanish in the winter. If there's an empty spot when the snow hits, that spot is gone forever. Best case scenario, it doesn't get plowed. Either someone will drive into it, turning it into a mess of compacted, icy snow, or the snow will just pile up until someone wants it bad enough to shovel it. Worst case, it gets plowed under. Once a snow plow decides to push a pile of road snow into a space, it's gone forever until the snow all melts.

My street has currently lost about 70% of its available parking spots to mammoth snow drifts. That means that when I drive somewhere, there's a pretty good chance that when I come back, I simply won't have somewhere to park on my street. And since all the streets around are having the same problem, I can't guarantee that I'll be able to park anywhere.

So I save my spot with a chair while I run to the grocery store. It's not for convenience, or some sense of territoriality or ownership. I just want to be able to park somewhere when I get back. If you drive by and see my chair, don't be mad at me. I hate what I've had to resort to. We're both victims of a capricious god and a city that isn't able to handle comprehensive snow removal.

Maybe I should look for a Buddy Christ statue to hold my spot. Then at least my spot will be saved with a smile.