Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair,...
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Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, With Music

Nancy Sundstrom - March 25th, 2004
For writer Helene Stapinski (“Five Finger Discount“), there are a lot of
parallels between being in a relationship and being in a rock band. Hence
the title of her delightful and sometimes heartbreaking new memoir about
band life and marital problems, “Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, With
Stapinski is a good-hearted Jersey girl who loves music and musicians, warts
and all. In this, her latest, she vividly recounts her somewhat wild years
in 1990s New York City as she tried to juggle a freelance journalism career
with drumming in a rock band and trying to stay married to her Daily News
reporter-lover, Martin. Any one of those endeavors would have been a
considerable challenge all on its own, and our narrator seems fearless as
she places her forays into those ventures - some successful and some not -
on a microscope, and does so with a Jersey accent and a steady backbeat.
In the first chapter, Stapinski introduces us to her world, where music and
marital strife seem on an inevitable collision course:

“We lived in Brooklyn on the sixth floor of a building that looked like
something out of a fairy tale. It had red pointed towers, with a slate
spiral staircase running up the outside, and a balcony--a breezeway, the
super called it -- with an ornate, black, wrought-iron railing. It ran the
length of the building, past everyone‘s front door, like the terrace on each
floor of a motel. Our breezeway looked out at the corniced tops of the
brownstones across the way, out at the Statue of Liberty and down at the
metal garbage cans and fire hydrants on the sidewalk, which was cracked and
cleaving from the deep roots of old maple trees.
I worked in that building most days, writing musician interviews, travel
stories, trend pieces, stories about New York, whatever I could scrounge up.
From my back bedroom office, I looked down at the soft tops of the trees in
the courtyard. The only noise, besides the incredible racket of the Tuesday
morning recycling truck and the occasional car alarm, was the nearby
Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, whose hum was so constant it sounded like a
rushing river. Or so I liked to think.
There were better ways to make a living. But there were worse ways, too. I
could be covered in yellow paint, working in the dip room of a pencil
factory, like my mother had when she was young, or sitting inside the little
emergency booth in the Holland Tunnel, watching the cars go by (which had to
be one of the worst jobs ever), or working in a fluorescent-lit office with
no windows, like my husband did most nights as a reporter at a newspaper.
I imagined the newsroom was especially depressing after nine p.m. So most
afternoons, to cheer him up, I packed Martin his dinner in a plastic
shopping bag. Rice and beans or pasta with homemade sauce. A piece of fruit
and a few cookies. Each night, he returned the Tupperware, one of the small
rituals of marriage no one ever tells you about.
We were still newlyweds. Only two years before, Martin had taken me to the
top of New York, to Rockefeller Center, to the Rainbow Room, on the pretense
we were celebrating the fourth anniversary of our first date, and with the
glow of the city lights like votive candles flickering below us, with the
big band playing “Stardust“ in the background, he had proposed to me. He
offered me a ring that his mother--a goldsmith--had forged. It had two thick
braids of gold and a round ruby that changed from stoplight red to
rose-petal pink as my hand shook that night and I hesitantly answered,
I fingered the ring now whenever I was nervous, whenever I had trouble with
an interview subject, whenever I had trouble writing a sentence. These days,
I was trying to get my pen in the door of the women‘s magazines--cash cows
with stories that paid double what my rock star interviews paid. One of my
former professors from graduate school encouraged me to write a pitch to one
of her old friends at Cosmopolitan that autumn, just as the leaves in our
courtyard were starting to turn from green to taxicab gold.“

Like most other kids, Stapinski loved rock ‘n roll early on, and learned to
play the drums by sneaking into her brother‘s room to play on his set. When
he discovered what she was doing, he took the kit apart, but she learned how
to reassemble and dismantle it, along with learning to duplicate the classic
drum solos and the bios of any drummer worth his salt.
Years later, she‘s a working writer, and when she goes to interview Julie,
the leader of a local band, she ends up snaring (no pun intended) a gig as
their drummer and another place for her husband, Martin (also a writer, but
on the graveyard shift), as a bassist. What was once a fairly pleasant and
routine marriage becomes infused with, and then dominated by endless hours
of rehearsal, late-night gigs, and all the drama that accompanies being part
of an aspiring rock band that might actually have a chance of reaching some
level success.
All of that proves to much for Martin but is totally addictive for
Stapinski. They drift apart - she into a world of dingy clubs and growing
camaraderie with her bandmates, and he into an affair with a co-worker. By
the time he confesses to straying, their marriage is all but at a
standstill, though Stapinski feeling completely betrayed, retaliates by
engaging him in violent skirmishes that end with visits from the police and
episodes of drumming that are - to say the least - highly descriptive as she
images her husband‘s face and that of his new love as being “mentally
planted on each drum skin.“
One could find a certain amount of cliches to be reckoned with by equating
married and band life, but
Stapinski ties them together so well and with such conviction that the two
institutions somehow seem to backstop each other. She has a true passion for
music (particularly that of Elvis Costello) that other like-minded
aficionados will identify with and embrace, and even if you haven‘t been a
part of a gigging bar band, Stapinski‘s eye for details and unique voice
make things ring true.
Most of us have to admit that the great relationships of our life - past or
present - have a soundtrack to them, and in “Baby Plays Around,“ we have an
anthem that rings with all the conviction and emotion of the cheesiest and
best power ballads.

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