Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

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

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
Music.“
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,
“Yes.“
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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