Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Response to my mother’s email, “How was Glen Campbell?”

February 24, 2012
It was simultaneously beautiful and awful. He is far more along in the disease than I, or most people, expected. It was very emotional to watch. He looked, and for the most part sounded fantastic, but they had to keep space between songs very short because if he tried to talk, banter, tell stories, he couldn’t get them out correctly nor follow them to conclusion. Being an entertainer, he rolled with the punches very well, but he was clearly confused, although never frustrated or embarrassed.
 
Musically, there were teleprompters all along the stage, but he still got some words mixed up here and there. His voice was still really good and strong, though. Again, he rolled with it. The most interesting thing was when he would play guitar – he could still take these elaborate, intricate, fast guitar solos, much of it improvised, when he wanted. The memory for guitar was amazing to see and I think amazed the audience most. When he wasn’t dealing with words, he gave the impression that no matter how bad the disease gets, he’ll be able to play giutar.
 
His band included 3 of his children, which was also equally sweet and sad (they all seemed to be late 20’s early 30’s). They opened the show and were featured at certain parts. They helped to express what this means to Glen and their family. I’m sure his daughter will be a star in her own right. She was gorgeous and played banjo amazingly and sang well, too. 
 
All in all, it was heavy, but something I’m glad I saw (and am sure I’ll never see again). The audience was appreciative and respectful, not patronizing. It was also full of press people and Boston muckamucks. My seats were incredible. Needlesstosay, Randi and I both needed a drink immediately afterwards. It had you on edge the entire time because you didn’t know how or what he was going to do and you could see everyone and himself really trying their best to keep it smooth.
 
I can’t believe how courageous this guy is. Everyone appreciated the unique effort for something like this and he really did sound great. To be human, and all the strange things we have to deal with, is such a scary and mysterious thing.
 
mwp   

Boston Accents

October 12, 2010

I do not have a Boston accent. I grew up in the suburbs. Only about a 30-minute drive from the city, and also connected by Commuter Rail, there are no accents in Concord. Concord is a very diverse town. I went to school with a mixture of all races and religions – some lived in town and some took the long rush-hour bus rides in as part of the Metco program, and no one had an accent.

 

I had an excuse, as my parents were natives of Maine. If there was any accent that found its way into my speech pattern in my younger days, it was the strange mutated progeny of Old New England, French Canadian and a slow Mountain drawl that is the Maine accent. Even this affectation, often exaggerated by my father’s brothers out of some sort of strange pride and stranger amusement, was called upon at will and usually left only for play. And although most inhabitants of Concord were transplants of some sort, even the natives, and by that I mean the uber-white folks, seemed to have no trace of a Boston accent. It was eerie. All of the children of the surrounding towns had some form of a Boston accent, yet not this anomaly that is Concord.

 

The accent seemed to signify something more working class, something a bit rougher around the edges, and people who moved to Concord with one, usually lost them in less than a year. Playing hockey without a Boston accent was like wearing a sandwich board stating that you could afford new equipment and you were a prime target to be ostracized and assumed to be weak. Unfortunately, at least in my case, that often proved true when singled out for a fight or constant ridicule. The accent became all the more foreign to me and would instill an “other” feeling that I’m sure my neutral speech reciprocated.

 

I always loved this city and would take the train in from age twelve on. I felt a closer connection to Cambridge and Boston than any of its suburbs, affluent or not. Other towns came to represent fights and defending oneself for being defined by where you were raised. The city is for all to enjoy, and traveling in from the suburbs, it is an explosion of culture, people and activities that is nothing short of magic. The familiarity of the historical and colonial elements bind this entire state together and deepens ones pride and understanding of the area. Yet spending my first years as a full-time resident of the city, first in Porter Square, Cambridge, for a few years, followed by Chinatown, the Boston accent still seemed to escape me.

 

In Porter Square, I feel safe in surmising that the lack of accents is very similar to what contributes to this phenomenon in Concord. There are a large number of transplants in Porter, particularly from the suburbs. It is a safer area, with good access to all of the colleges and universities, so many of the inhabitants seem to be students or young professionals. The remaining folks in the area appear to be free from the accent, perhaps because of the scrappy, working-class stigma that it holds, which is in direct defiance of what Cambridge has come to represent over the last two hundred years – education, success and influence? This is merely a theory.

 

Chinatown was just madness. Obviously, there is a very high Asian population there, but there is just so much general coming-and-going and noise, that the strongest identity I can give it is just a cluster of hard working folks (restauranteurs, delivery drivers, pimps, prostitutes, business men, cabs, bike messengers, lovers, muggers and thieves). The only Boston accents I heard, save the construction worker or bar tender, were from the clubbing kids from Quincy who would search the streets in large groups looking for cold tea spots. The flashes of drawn-out A’s as AH’s, would catch my ears and I would feel like I was back on the ice in Woburn or Chelmsford.

 

It was around this time that I became very familiar with the South Shore. First, I met a girl living in the city who was a native of Rockland and we embarked on a nine-year relationship. After about a year, I met her family and she began to take me around to her childhood haunts in the surrounding towns of Whitman, Hanson and Abington. Family and friends are king in Rockland, the sort of town where everyone knows your name, your family and what you’ve been up to. Countless cookouts and holidays were spent with the neighbors and their ever-growing families. I once again felt self-conscious about my neutral speech, and even more so when I revealed that I hailed from the upper-middle class Northwest suburb of Concord. Yet, I was always made to feel welcome and I realized that my insecurities, while not wholly unfounded, were more brought on by myself. Through the acceptance of this largely Irish population, most of whom were at least second generation Rockland residents, I began to enjoy the sense of community that had often escaped me in the protective, at times judging, environs of Concord.

 

Shortly after we began dating, I started a band with a good friend from Brockton. He, too, also had roots in Whitman, and my knowledge of the area continued to grow. My mother’s family lived in Brockton for many years. My great grandmother was from Chelsea and my great grandfather was from Roxbury. My grandfather was raised in Roxbury and he had a true Horatio Alger story upbringing (as Alger was from Chelsea, the pun is unintentional yet relevant). Fatherless by age nine with a younger brother and a mother who was a piano teacher and seamstress, he worked his way through extreme poverty and into Harvard. He met my grandmother (from Brookline) and moved to Brockton to try his hand at the shoe business. After many years of failed attempts, he found success in Portland, ME and moved the family up there when my mother was eight. Both his and my grandmother’s accents were very New England, in your tomato-tomahto sense, and that would be the closest to an accent that my mother has. My father, being a second generation Mainer, at times reveals particular aspects of the Maine accent.

 

For the next six years I lived in Roslindale. With its easy access to the South Shore, the Boston accent continued its growing presence in my life as it changed shape and began to reveal itself to me as a very powerful, unifying, family-driven force. After a one-year stint in Brighton, I found myself in Chelsea, where I had already been visiting for years. I spent my first year in Chelsea digging up clues from my ancestral past, unearthing Pinansky’s and Wolfson’s, Stones, Kleins, Friedmans, and many other Jewish immigrant roots that first planted themselves in Boston. My accent holds no weight in Chelsea, because whatever thin strands still tie me to this place, English is not the predominant language here, nor are the Jews, Italians or Irish who first built up this city.

 

I have learned what I can about Chelsea for now and have been exploring, learning and welcomed in to the surrounding areas of East Boston, Charlestown, Everett and Revere. The accents are strong in these areas, and the sense of community powerful and beautiful. Despite its close proximity to Boston, there is a very suburban, family feel to many of these areas. The accent here seems to be a signifier, not necessarily a badge of honor as the “Boston Noir” continues to take make Hollywood millions of dollars, but simply one of family pride that happens to be rooted to a particular location.

 

Within the last year there has been a shift in my speech pattern. There are now parts of the Boston accent that have been surfacing. Most interesting to me is that the occasional word that presents itself from my lips in the traditional Boston manner appears to be when I am in my most uninhibited – either while singing, lost in song, or when I have a had a few drinks. It is not so natural an occurrence that I am unaware, but it is out of my mouth before I realize it. This is not something that I am trying to fight, but it is something that I am conscious of, because the Boston accent is a matter of pride and heritage.

 

I respect the accent and do not seek to appropriate it for any points within the community. I am aware of my varied roots, yet this is where I am now. No speech comes effortlessly to me at this point. Neutral patterns feel like too much gum in my mouth – I chew my words and am heedful about how they are going to leave it. After constant exposure for the last ten years, I feel the accent fighting to be my dominant speech pattern. I do not resist it because I am afraid of the hard-working, brawling stigma that it holds, I resist it because I do not want to be insulting or counterfeit to the accented who take pride in their towns and families. I respect my family as much as I respect my city, and this best represents the current struggle that is embodied by my speech. But like the hard work and determination that made Boston great, the accent is proving to be far stronger than this kid from Concord, as it fights everyday to make itself heard.