“Love your life because your LIFE
is what you have to GIVE.” ~ Tom Hiddleston
Me in a nutshell…well hamster wheel. Happy Friday Everyone!
Breathless, gasping for air despite his oxygen tank around his shoulder, cranked to the highest setting, the phone rang. He was notified that he would be receiving a new lung. Breathless, aghast at the news, he hurried into his car with his wife as fast as his lungs would allow.
Grateful, he was, at the opportunity to live the rest of his life taking deep breaths of fresh, crisp air without the ensuing cough and exhaustion that had tormented him for 10 years. As he recovered in the hospital, he possessed the most enlivening and inspirational philosophy of life. In his own words, go with the flow.
This gentleman spoke and acted upon these words with such ease, such serenity that it created an atmosphere of restfulness and peace of mind, which certainly aided in his healing process. His behavior and conversation among family, friends and strangers was of kindness, acceptance and gratitude.
What is flow but our daily experience with people and events, hardships, achievements and our reactions to them all? Do we ever know where this “flow” will take us? Why fight it? Why worry to the point of disorder? There is no order with flow; it’s a continual flux, an enduring change. Just as a raft advances down stream and battles new challenges each moment, it follows the current, the flow.
For this gentle soul to accept and be fully aware of his circumstances, to treat those around him with love and kindness and to be appreciative of the seconds that seem like gifts, was the best he could live, the best anyone could live in this perpetual, joyous flux called life.
A hearty welcome to our newest volunteer, Rhymis! Joining us with a love for travel, adventure, and storytelling, Rhymis will be sharing her unique perspective on life. We look forward to her contributions on Minus The Box.
Rhymis is a teacher and writer and spends most of her time looking for fairy dust. She loves to read, listen to, write, and share stories that inspire, encourage, and ignite the human spirit. When she’s not reading or writing, she spends the rest of her time plotting world domination with her cat, Felix.
Poetry first came into my life when I was 3 years-old. Amidst a motley crew of dolls, stuffed bears and dragons, a favorite green chair, and a new beloved baby brother, someone opened and read the first page of Green Eggs and Ham for me. I was hooked. As I’ve grown older, I can appreciate this story more: the first-person narrative, the attentiveness that went into using only fifty words carefully, but beautifully throughout the story, the lesson learned by Sam, even the socio-political implications of the book’s banning in some countries. Above all, the whimsical simplicity of this story truly changed my appreciation for storytelling. It was the first of many kernels which began helping to develop my own voice and imagination. Several years have passed since that page was first opened, and the scope of my love for this form of art has grown, from Poe to Baraka, from the Illiad to The Weary Blues. Of course, a few works always stand out to me, especially Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.
Countless times, Still I Rise has uplifted me through personal challenges. When I first read the poem as a teenager, I was going through a period of fear and grief. Within weeks of starting my first year in high school, my own teenage wasteland, I lost someone I loved to a harsh, debilitating illness. My life was gripped by devastation and sadness that I had never known before, and I did not know how to react. Stunned, I watched as members of my family whose strength kept our lives afloat innumerable times broke down. Throughout this, I was reminded of something a favorite teacher from my past said during a history lesson, “When someone dies, even the strongest and bravest, people cry”. I’d truly believed him, but I’d never seen or felt the depth of such distress until that day.
On the outside, I kept going through the motions of life, trying to keep a visage of calm, of a typical hard-working student/teen. However, inside my feelings and sense of self seemed to dull. Things which would have otherwise excited or bothered me beforehand became insignificant. I pushed people away, even feeling as though I couldn’t relate to some of my greatest friends in the same ways. All of this slowly began to change after an afternoon English class. Sitting in a dim classroom on a rainy day, our teacher began reciting several works of poetry, selecting a few people every so often to continue. I remember Harlem by Langston Hughes (another favorite), and a work from Shel Silverstein being read. Most of the verses seemed muffled, not quite breaking through my forlorn reverie. Then someone began reading Still I Rise.
To be honest, the first two verses went over my head at that point, until I heard my classmate’s voice strengthen and exclaim with stark clarity,
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
I’ll rise. I’ll rise. Those two words echoed in my mind. Captivated by the passion of my classmate’s voice, the honesty of the prose, I began to contemplate this compelling concept. As the reading continued, I began to feel as though Ms. Angelou was in the room, personally imparting her wisdom and experience to us. I related most to the sense of confidence and spirit throughout the work. Although not all of her words reflected my own experience, I was entranced by the ideas of moving past petty words, scorn, fear and loss:
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Of course, each verse also seemed to imply another sense of turmoil—of fearing punishment, pain and danger when opening oneself to change, the unknown. In endeavoring to weave her personal identity, the depth of her pain and struggle began to transform and be overcome with self-fulfillment to a point where there could be healing.
As a grown woman, these words are ever present, ever resonating. Each time I come across this work, I revel in them, greeting them like an old friend, and with each reading, I discover something new within myself.
From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.
Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014
Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.
Several counterculture groups packed into New York’s famous Kitting Factory on Saturday October 4th. From punks in their broken denim jackets to gender-queer persons to hipsters drinking their Shiner Bock and nodding to the music, everyone awaited the entrance of one the underground’s last hopes for punk rock: Screaming Females. This night was the first date of the perpetually on the road band’s late 2014 tour and the diverse group wanted nothing more than to witness their lead singer, whose scream and fierce guitar towers over the audience the way they tower over her stature. However, before the three-person powerhouse was to perform, the audience reveled in two acts well known in their own rights.
Mal Blum took to the stage first with her electric, 1950s style Gibson guitar, backup bassist, and drummer. In a navy dress shirt and fitted pants, she cruised through her self-identified “pop-punk” music, never losing her proud yet uncomfortable grin. From just listening to her music, one would never imagine Blum to be anything but a hipster straight out of the world featured in the movie Juno. However, her progressive gender expression mixed with rockabilly flair, singing happy melodies about her depression, made her quite a treat to watch.
Describing her newer music, she called her songs “deceptive,’ never failing to let us forget this fact ahead of each song. Before hopping into “Sitting On The Train,” she joked that the song sounds like a train ride through Manhattan when it’s really about her fear of not loving someone. The audience laughed with her honesty and bounced to her surf rock style strumming and charmingly sincere lyrics. In between each song, she stopped to check in with the audience, out of insecurity or curiosity we won’t know. Halfway through, she asked the audience if they wanted her to perform louder and louder songs, to which they screamed for more. “Wow, I feel like we’re at a punk show,” she laughed and sang on in her nearly Californian singing accent.
She closed her 30-minute set with her bouncy ditty “Brooklyn,” commanding the audience to clap with her. “I know we’re in Brooklyn and you’re too cool to clap, but I live in Brooklyn and I know how tender hearted you are,” she pleaded. The jury is still out on the sincerity of Brooklyn residents, but Mal Blum could certainly be the most tender hearted citizen there is, no matter how much her singing voice sounds like she’s from the Wes Coast. And if there was anything the audience could take from her set, it would be how much Blum and her bassist differ in their opinions of Robert Frost.
After a fifteen-minute break, four guys from Nashville took the stage and, in the best way possible, they beat the instruments hard enough to knock the audience all the way back to Tennessee. Dedicated to ripping through their music, the band Pujol barely took a breath between each song, more than ready to scream-sing about fist fights and lost connections. These lo-fi southerners managed to incorporate every decade since the 1950s into their material: 60s style melodies, 70s style grit, 80s style guitar riffs, and 90s/ska punk style song structure and energy. If Reel Big Fish collaborated with The Germs with the overblown production of Sleigh Bells, you’d have Pujol.
This quartet could be seen as the result of a generation desperate to define their own rebellion and anger, but constantly forced to resemble those of the past. Pujol has all the ingredients of classic hardcore punk rock: Short songs, scream singing, musically expressed testosterone, and a confident yet disinterested look (the drummer adorned a skeleton costume and fake moustache and couldn’t have cared less). However, like many modern punk bands, they did not have a performing style one could label as punk. Despite the inescapable energy, the musicians never moved from their spot on the stage nor did they attempt to animate themselves while playing. Perhaps these are the signs of a band still discovering their stage presence or simply a band that doesn’t concern themselves with these things, but the juxtaposition between rowdy music and complacent performing proved to be somewhat uninspiring to an audience who clearly relished in the music and wanted to express it. However, none of this is to say that Pujol was a disappointment. Anyone looking for the overblown, classic punk rock sound of yesteryear will find themselves unable to remove a smile from their face. All Pujol needs is a more defined stage presence and they’ll surely send their audiences into a frenzy.
After an hour and a half of openers, the main event took the stage to a packed and raucous crowd. While drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist King Mike were dressed as casually as the openers, singer and lead guitarist Marissa Paternoster came out in her iconic long-sleeved black dress, black socks, and black shoes with her face hidden behind her thick and short black hair. And while Paternoster was easily the shortest person in the room, she made it clear from the first song, “Buried In The Nude,” that her height nor her gender hinders her mighty voice and vicious guitar playing.
The very first sound out of her mouth was a piercing scream, jolting even the most prepared of fans and sending the audience right into a mosh pit. Just after the first song, she proved herself worthy of her place on several “greatest guitarists” lists. She shreds through her songs with the fury of other great players like Joan Jett and Lita Ford, but recites her stream of consciousness lyrics like no other. With a wide open mouth as if she were about to devour the microphone, she roars through the band’s confrontational and declarative lyrics such as “I could be the boss of you/Any day” or “I need you to show me what your genius can do/So I can hide.” Similar to their stage presence, Screaming Females command attention but, unlike said lyrics, they show no hesitation or vulnerability. After five acclaimed albums, these new-age punks know their style and offer no apologies for it.
Barely speaking a word between songs, the players exuded a calm excitement for their music, made clear by their common song structure. The majority of their music begins with rousing introductory rhythms and solos, warning the listener/audience of what calculated madness is about to ensue, followed by a set of commanding yet catchy lyrics which make way for seemingly improvised guitar riffs and drum onslaughts. The Screaming Females really showed their chops during these ending jams with gusto that could shake the biggest of venues. Writhing on stage with her fair flailing every which way, Paternoster finds no greater joy than ripping her guitar strings to shreds and what a beautiful shredding it is.
This is a band that has gone from basements of New Brunswick, NJ to receiving recognition from MTV and NPR while also performing with bands like Garbage and Dinosaur Jr. They may not be selling out arenas any time soon, but that doesn’t make a ticket to their show any less sought after.