Friday, November 23, 2007
Elephant Soup: For Once In My Life
What I like about Stevie's up-tempo version of "For Once In My Life" versus the ballad version is a sense of the quicker pace driving home the point that this is a song about love that is freeing. The slow version is beautiful, but the pace is foreboding. It's the version you sing before doing chores together, "for once in my life .... i have someone to do the dishes." The fast version implies a couple in love, but the end result is still about you basking in the sunshine and snapping your fingers and just doing what you want to do. It's a love that you can take for granted. It wants you to take it for granted. That's a trickier love to manage -- for one, it theoretically means free sex with others -- but I do think it's the love we should always be shooting for, and Stevie's version captures the joyful part of that sentiment.
My ex-girlfriend -- and really the only "girlfriend" I've had and known -- is the one who got me into Stevie Wonder. I was always aware of him certainly, but it's sort of like she was in the Stevie Fan Club and then got me to join, and then I eventually became the president, or more appropriately, THE EMPEROR, while she remained a casual fan.
A few summers ago, towards the end of our relationship, and right before I transformed into TAN, I had a part-time dog-walking job during the summer. She was the one who kind of got me into the "industry," and for a little while we were like a little part-time cottage dog-service company. She'd do part-time with a company that ran with dogs. I did part-time with a company that walked them. And then we'd often dog-sit on the weekends as well. We had always discussed getting a dog, but this became the perfect compromise. I recommend it if you have the time and don't want the full dog-commitment. You get your dog fix, get some $ on top of that, and no full-time commitments in either case.
I lived in Spanish Harlem (SpaHa, stand up!) and one of my great discoveries in this neighborhood was Ward's Island. They hold concerts and events out there on occasion, and there's currently a redevelopment project to make it a bigger attraction, but at the time it was mostly just this island/park area that was frequently empty. After a while I never went to Central Park anymore cause this was just as beautiful, without the crowds.
So Ward's Island was perfect for dog walking. Since no one was around you could take the dogs off the leash and it was all grass and woods and all of that to run around. The dogs loved it; whenever we let them off the leash it was a revelation along the lines of discovering Stevie Wonder. These conservative, almost closeted canines would mope along like chained-slaves on the street. But on the island, once we "gave them free," they would light up and their personalities would change instantly. You couldn't help but be caught up in in their bounding exuberance, it was like seeing a child's first xmas.
One particular cockerspaniel named Abbey was a very cute dog, but dysfunctionally timid on walks; afraid of large structures, and crowds, and basically everything NYC streets had to offer. She was a tough walk. Every 5 minutes she'd just plop down and not go anywhere, and if you've been around dogs you're probably familiar with how frustrating this behavior can be when you need to get somewhere. Plus if it's a cute female dog, you can't help but feel she's channeling her inner diva/bitch or something. Yet, it was clear Abbey just had some hang-ups, so you'd eventually sympathize cause she presumably just needed some therapy.
Maybe it was a band-aid solution, but I know Ward's Island was therapeutic for Abbey. Once released she would instantly become the dog "we all knew she could be." Boldly inquisitive, frisky, and smiling ear to ear ... Just happy. And Abbey in particular always made me think of this song. I always imagined a video with her prancing about, shoulders confident, nose held high, uncaring about what was going on around her because nothing would slow her down now. And you'd cut it so that she skipped to the beat a little, like those Meow-Mix Cat-Chow commercials. On those walks it seemed Abbey, for once in her life, had someone who loved her.
I've never really talked about my ex on this blog. For one, while I say some personal, intimate things, I don't do that much detailing of my personal relationships. But I did always have a sense that she was hurt a little by me not writing about her. Soooo, I don't know .... but as my first and thus far only serious girlfriend, suffice to say she means the world to me. And when I hear this song I also think of her and hope that she's walking in the sunshine, being boldly inquisitive and full of joy .... Just happy.
I've always had trouble saying "I love you" (hence the mouthing of the phonetically similar, "elephant soup"), but as I begin exploring some of my dating trials and tribs I want her to know that no girl has meant as much to me still being alive, and ... hopeful.
S, I love you, and I know you might think this is corny, but you're a revelation along the lines of Stevie and Ward's Island. And I kind of hope this song, this love, is soundtracking your life.