What Smalltown Means to Me.

We were stopped by a sign on the door that read “Byrne After Reading Collective”, and a date.

“Shall we go?,” my daughter asked. Without hesitation I said, “YES.”

We went, and nothing has been the same since. 

It’s been an awakening to the good one hopes for, the good you know must be going on somewhere that turns out to be going on right here under your nose.  There was an immediate sense of inclusion, and we found community, companionship, intellectual stimulation, an expanding appreciation of music, and a growing list of activities and events that are thought-provoking , rich and sometimes pure fun.  We found an amazing sense of welcome, creativity, humor, joy, refreshing world view, art, fresh ideas and some of the sweetest, brightest, kindest most talented people you’ll ever find. 

Yesterday I asked my daughter what Smalltown Society meant to her.  She answered with one word, “HOPE.”  That pretty much sums it up for me. Smalltown Society banished a sense of malaise and is evidence that there is every good reason for hope for the future, not in some far off place and time, but right here, right now.

With gratitude,

Sylvia Medeiros (Community member, curator, author, Smalltown blog contributor)

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Songs About Dads -Father of Mine

Song: “Father of Mine” by Everclear

Lyrics: http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/1170/

 

 

 

“Hey, don’t just drink that!” My Dad said as I took a swig of soda from my can.

“Why not?”

“Remember how I told you I used to live in Chicago?  I lived next to all these soda can factories.  They had soda cans stacked all over the place, and-‘

“Cool!”

‘-yea, it was cool, but listen...so, there were all these stacks of soda cans, and what runs on top of soda cans?”

“Hmm...thirsty kids?”

“What?  No.  Rats.  Rats run on top of soda cans. But what do rats drag under them?”

“Uh...their tails?”

“Their tails, but also, their balls.  They drag their balls across the top of those cans.  So you’ve always got to wipe the top of your can before you drink it”

“Whoa...I never thought of that...crap, Dad, I don’t think I wiped this one.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you.’ my Dad took a swig of his soda, ‘rats dragged their balls on that can, bro. I’d toss it out, you’re sucking on rat balls.”

 

Hello!

We’re back with the most requested song of this series, “Father of Mine” by Everclear.

If you don’t know the song, it’s insanely catchy. Art Alexakis, the man behind the hugely successful 90s alt-rock band Everclear, really grabbed a lot of people with this song.  There was a summer when you turned on any Alternative station and you’d hear this it over and over again.

It’s easily the most requested song for this blog. I’ve heard lot of people tell me that this song is their story, or how it’s a song they relate too.   

And, honestly, it’s been haunting me since I started writing these.  I’m certainly not naive enough to think that this subject, “Songs About Dads” is going to all be about Dads who were good influences or who wanted the best for their kids.  Unfortunately, it’s also pretty easy to surmise that a lot of people reading this had crumby Dads themselves. So, honestly, I wanted to get to this song because I wanted to address that elephant in the room.  You can’t talk about Dads without talking about Dads who were terrible, or arguably worse, Dads who simply were not there.

And man...so far as that subject goes, this song really nails it.  It’s a genuine heartbreaker.  Telling the story of Arts relationship with his Dad, it really connected with a lot of people. 

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when it became a huge hit. Besides being insanely catchy (Everclear specialized in this kinda chuggy sound they used on all their songs to tremendous success ), lyrically its so so raw.  If you were someone who even remotely related to this song, it’s going to grab you. Even if you had a Dad who was around but absent emotionally or just not really in your life, the sentiment is still relatable.  To be honest, I’m really surprised that more people have not written another song like it.  Even just to make money, it’s a subject that so many people relate to and feel so deeply you’re bound to write a hit addressing it. (Please don’t take my advice on this and write a song about Dads just to make money).

It also occurred to me that  some readers may not know me or my family.  Going into a song about absent Dads, I ought to point out that I had a great Dad and a great childhood.  My Dad was involved in everything I did.  He coached me in several sports, he helped out at the church youth group, I even worked with him for years.  There was a lot I picked up from my Dad that I do now as a Dad.  For instance, when my kids are in the bathtub, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll swing the door open and scream as loud as I can for the sole purpose of freaking them out.  I may have even done it last night. They may have jumped and screamed in terror.  It may have been hilarious. I may be passing down a long storied family tradition.

I share that I grew up with a really involved Dad to say that I am going into this blog honestly understanding that this song addresses emotions and feelings and hurts that I can very much empathize with, but that I understand I can never truly know or relate to.  I’m going to try and speak to the pain and lend my thoughts as much as I can, but with respect to those who have experiences I haven’t.  The goal is to tell the story about each song with as much honor to the artist and subject as possible.  I’m not going to try to say anything that songs are not saying, I want to be as true to the lyrics and artists intent as possible.

So!  Here we go!

 

Father of mine/Tell me where have you been/You know I just closed my eyes/My whole world disappeared/Father of mine/Take me back to the day/When I was still your golden boy/Back before you went away

I remember the blue skies/Walking the block/I loved it when you held me high/I loved to hear you talk/You would take me to the movies/You would take me to the beach/You would take me to a place inside/That is so hard to reach

Because this song was such a huge hit in the 90s, I’ve probably heard it several thousand times, but somehow I always missed this first section.  I had always assumed the whole song was about how Arts Dad was never there. But it’s not, it’s actually much worse.  It’s about how Art used to have a Dad who he adored, but his Dad one day up and left him.

And, man, that’s devastating.

Kind of like how Kanye described his Dad as a “champion” despite their being poor and having a tough time growing up, Art is just describing how much he loved just being with his Dad.  Just having them there was special...again, us Dads, we have it so easy!  It has been hitting me as I’ve been writing this blog over the last few weeks, our kids just want to adore us. They just want to love their Dads.  Our relationships with our kids are really ours to ruin.

Like I’ve said above, the chorus is insanely catchy, to the point where I imagine a lot of people found themselves humming it to themselves before they even realized how heavy the lyrics they were humming even were:

My Daddy gave me a name/and he walked away

Art really pulls off the perfect trick of writing a poppy song with dark lyrics, especially because these lyrics are his childhood and a shared experience with millions of people who found that chorus relating perfectly to their lives.  It’s so brutally short and succinct and to the point.  It’s one of those songs start that tells a story thats so personal, and yet, he’s describing a shared situation that so many people can relate to.

I will never be safe/I will never be sane/ I will always be weird inside/I will always be lame

My first instinct is to say that this can’t possibly be true, because it’s hard to hear.  But Art is writing from his experience.  It’s not fair for me to try and deny what he’s saying because its hard to for me to hear. 

His growing up with out a Dad is going to affect him.  His Dad stole something from his childhood.  Art may be able to over come it to become successful in life, but that childhood loss is the kind of wound that will leave a mark. 

And of course he’s right. Kids need Dads. Or if not their Dads they need father figures. Their is a need for this larger than life person be louder and stronger than they can imagine and to carry them and wrestle with them and to be gentle despite their strength and to teach them to throw and to pee outside and to give them advice about not drinking soda cans with rat balls dragged all over them...

Often their are, thank God, wonderful people who can stand in when that is missing.  Step Dads, coaches, uncles,  brothers, grandparents, even strong Moms and Grandmothers (there is a special reward in heaven for single Moms and Grandmothers, I’m convinced there are no stronger people on this earth).  Lord willing, and, depending on circumstances they can help fill in pieces of what is missing and can all be the ones to tell you to not drink rat balls soda. 

Now I am a grown man/with a child of my own/and I swear he’s never going to know/all the pain I have known

The song ends with Art promising he will never be anything like his Dad.

Anything in life is harder to do when you don’t have an example.  But of course, it’s fully possible to be an amazing Dad, even if you didn’t have one growing up. 

And just his determination to be there, that’s what’s going to make him a great Dad.  Look, we all screw up and we all blow it as Dads (trust me, I’ve got plenty of regrets), but we just have to keep showing up, and keep trying, and insisting that we’re in it with our kids. Just don’t give up or leave. It may seem like I’m boiling it down too much, but just being there for our kids is so much of the battle. If we’re determined to do that, then we can keep working on the rest if it, and hopefully we can give our kids a childhood they enjoy.

Finally, I’m not going to force any sort of reconciliation narrative into these songs where it’s not in the lyrics.  Art doesn’t seek one with his Dad in this song and I don’t want to try and speculate that it’s possible or not.  I do have some songs in mind we’ll go through that are seeking reconciliation with their abusive Dad, but most of the songs about crumby Dads are more about the pain and damage the relationship has caused for the kid (in fact, one even brutally mocks the idea of the Dad trying to make things right).  As far as I could find, Art did not reconcile with his Dad.  It didn’t seem to be an option if he even wanted to (I don’t know if he did or didn’t).  I’m hoping he’s found it possible to take care of his kids, though.  He certainly seems to be doing some cool stuff with his life. 

 

Okay!  Next week we’re looking at another strained relationship with a Dad, this time from a daughters perspective. This one is an arguably more famous song (though it’s been awhile since I’ve heard anyone mention it), so I’ll be interested if anyone can guess which one comes next.

And please, if you’ve got comments on this or any blog so far, share them!  I’d love some feedback and/or more suggestions.  Ok!  See you next week!  

 

What Smalltown Means to Me.

The world is abuzz with the idea that we are being brought closer together through technology. Yet, how many of us are facedown in our electronic devices physically isolated, while we swipe and click for likes, hoping to connect with some sense of community? Smalltown Society is becoming a real social switchboard.

Like many, I stumbled upon the space after finishing up grocery shopping next door. I saw a hot band playing to what looked like a private party in the space vacated by a former business. As I peered in the window, people inside motioned for me to come in. Unsure, but curious, I crossed the threshold, set down my grocery bags, and stepped into place where stories are shared, memories are made, and people are connected.

I have seen music, art, ideas, and work all be shared in the space Smalltown Society has built.  In a suburban setting where it is too easy to become isolated by busy work and family life, it is a portal to the possible.  Just by being right in our midst, it has begun to grow a crossroads of personal and community connections. In the year it has been here, it has created many opportunities for accidental discoveries and chance meetings that found friendship, and foster new ideas. Here's to many more years!

- Matt Turner (Community advocate and Liaison for County Supervisor Nate Miley)  

Songs About Dads - Still Fighting It

Song: Ben Folds “Still Fighting It”
Lyrics:  https://genius.com/Ben-folds-still-fighting-it-lyrics

 

 

Hello again, fellow Dads!  Or people with Dads!  Or people married to Dads!  Or friends of a Dad, or someone who has met a Dad at some point or another...

 

We’re back!

This week we’re doing another obscure song by a famous artist.  But no fear!  This song is really pretty great.  You may be familiar with Ben Folds, of the Ben Folds 5 fame, and even if you’re not I think you’ll like this song. 

I first discovered Ben Folds in college when rummaging through stacks and stacks of CDs at a used record store (RIP Rasputins on Hesperian!).  I came across some sort of test printing that had this cool doodle of a piano on the cover, and Ben Folds immediately became one of my favorite artists.

Ben Folds specializes in super poppy piano music, but within that super poppy piano music, he’s throwing in biting sarcastic lyrics, he’s recording weird sounds, he’s pounding open handed on the piano keys...honestly, I wish I could have caught them live when they toured in their early days, famously lugging a full grand piano to the bars and underground clubs they were playing in and just beating the living hell out of the poor thing.

This week we’re looking at a more toned down, quieter, Ben Folds song, “Still Fighting It”.  It’s a song that I discovered a little after my son was born, and it just captured so much of what I felt as a new Dad (and feel as a Dad now).

This will be the first in our blog from the perspective of a Dad, and the last, for a bit, that is about/from the perspective of a good Dad.  We’ll be looking at some crumby Dads in the next few blogs, and I’m even going to try and tackle this whole Dad thing from the perspective of a daughter, so........we’ll see if I pull that one off or not. 

I’m also going to break the format with how I’m writing this one as well.  The last two had a lot going on in the lyrics, and while I could have addressed the song from several different angles I just found the one thing that stuck out to me and ran with it.  For this one, we’ll just go through the lyrics and pull out some good moments, and maybe, if you’re a sap like I was when I first heard this song, you’ll find yourself a little teary when you listen to it. 

So, let's go!

 

Good morning son/I am a bird/wearing a brown polyester shirt

First things first, I’m glad this opening line is figurative because if it were literal that would be a terrifying thing to wake up to.

Everybody knows it hurts to grow up/but everybody does, so weird to be back here/and let me tell you what/the years go on and we’re still fighting...we’re still fighting it

The chorus to this song didn’t connect with me when I first heard it.  I think because at the time my kids were really little and everything was pretty cool.  They watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they would climb all over us, they yelled a lot about everything... things were ok!  But as time has gone on, man, growing up is harder than I remembered.

There’s just stuff that I forgot is part of being a kid...figuring out heartbreak over friendships at school, family issues that you’re too young to understand, illness in young bodies, slowly realizing that things just don’t always work out the way you’d hope, stupid piles of homework that hangs over your head...I mean, being a kid and growing up has these unique challenges that just...

...It hurts.  Ben said it right.  In a lot of ways, it hurts to grow up.

And it is weird to be back here with them.  Just watching them trying to figure life out and trying to offer guidance.  And I wish...man, I wish I could just magically turn into a kid and stay with them and maybe even go to school with them, and, I don’t know, punch other kids on the playground for them or something  (And then, be like, “Don’t fight, violence is never the answer”). 

And man, my kids are still in elementary school.  I can’t imagine what it will be like when they’re in High School or even watching your kids go through heartbreak as adults.

As much as I want to, I can’t hover over them and make life perfect.  What I can do is listen to them, talk to them and try to guide them but ultimately, they have to make their own choices, and ultimately, at some points in their lives they’ll be hurt and disappointed and that’s life, and honestly, that just sucks. 

It was pain/sunny days and rain/I knew you’d feel the same things

So...it hurts to grow up.  But it’s good times too, right?  I really think that’s why it’s okay to make traditions like Saturday morning pancakes, or to have family Mario Kart time.  Because if life is sunny days and rain, I want to do my best to guide them through the rainy days, and offset that as much as possible with the sunny days, right?   

You’ll try and try/and one day/you’ll fly/away, from me

Look, I don’t know who decided it was a good idea for kids to grow up and leave you but that’s stupid.

No...okay, I know it’s for the best.  But I can still kind of hate it in my heart, right?  A little bit?

I do honestly believe that the best thing is to teach them to live without their parents doing everything for them, but man...this whole thing about kids leaving us, that’s a special kind of impending heartbreak. 

So my goal, my big hope, is that I can convince them to still want to hang out with me as adults. 

Good morning son/maybe twenty years from now/we can both sit down and have a few beers...

Man, I love this line.  It’s always stuck with me.  Because I can’t wait!  I honestly can’t wait until I can sit down with my kids over some beers and just talk. 

And we’re kind of getting there now.  I’ve been taking them to Starbucks for years, and in the past they were so young they’d just devour their cake pops in, like, three bites and then look at me like, “What are we still doing here?”  They didn’t really want to savor an espresso and talk politics. 

But! 

It’s gotten a little better now that they’re a little older.  I can sit with them and they’ll tell me about video games they’re playing or a book they’re reading and that’s a lot of fun...but the idea of them wanting to hang out with me and talk when they’re adults, that just seems like the greatest thing ever.

And you’re so much like me/and I’m sorry

The other day my son saw a soda cup in a Wendy’s parking lot and he immediately kicked it into bushes.

“Little Joe!” My wife yelled at him, ‘your Dad always does that!”

Then the other day when I knocked on my daughters door to see if she was ready for school she yelled through it, “You’ll never take me alive!”

“You’re so weird!” I yelled back.

So...my kids are little versions of me.  Which is to say, they’re weird people.  And, in some ways that’s good, because hopefully I can understand them and help them avoid the same pitfalls and mistakes I’ve made, right?  On the other hand...man, I certainly fall into a lot of pits and make a lot of mistakes  and I don’t want that for them.

So, my goal is to be there for them, and listen to them, and hopefully I can help guide them away from bad decisions I’ve made (for instance, don’t convince your friend you can drive when you can’t and then immediately crash their car, that’s a bad decision), and help them make good decisions, (order two bacon McDoubles at McDonalds and you’ll get a good amount of delicious food for under $5, that’s a good decision).  I’m hoping that a good relationship with them now can equal happy kids that grow into happy adults and hopefully, they’ll want to hang out with me when we’re older.

 

So...hell.  This ended up being way more melancholy than I anticipated! 

But that’s okay, sometimes you need a song to remind you of the “sunny days and rain”.  So, for my family, today has been a good day, and I’m about to end writing this and then challenge my kids to some video games (Which is to say I’m going to kick my sons ass on Street Fighter II). 

Let’s do this!  Let's reach out to our kids this week (or you, kids, reach out to your Dads or father figures).  If we’ve got a good situation to be grateful for let’s enjoy it.  Next week we’ll be looking at what is the most requested song for this blog, and what is possibly the most famous song about a terrible Dad I know of.  

 

See you next week

Songs About Dads - Champion

Kanye West “Champion”
Lyrics: https://genius.com/Kanye-west-champion-lyrics

 

 

I remember one of my first memories when I was still a toddler just sitting in the kitchen eating cereal when my Dad came in, groggy, and sat down across from me.

“Hi” I said.

“Hey” he said.

Then he reached out, picked up the bowl in front of him, inspected it, and shook his head and tossed it in the sink. Then he walked over to the cabinet, picked out a large salad bowl, and filled it to the brim and started eating. 

“Oh. My. Gosh.’ I thought, ‘when I’m a Dad, I’m going to eat like that.”

And so I did. 

Hello again, friends! Thanks for coming back! We’re going from a fairly obscure song last week to a song by Kanye West, who is arguably the most famous rapper in the world.  However, the song we’re looking at this week, despite being popular enough to warrant its own video, was never released as a single, so there is a good chance you may not be familiar with it.

The multi-talented Mr. West is a producer as well as a rapper, and as a producer he is known for his surprising, out of left-field samples. This one is a good example of that as he pulls samples from the group Steely Dan, everyone’s favorite 70s jazz-fusion-R/B-rock-band who borrows their name from a sex toy in the William Burrows abstract drug-soaked novel, “The Naked Lunch”, so.........................

...Anyway, Kanye famously talks a lot about his close relationship with his supportive and hard working single Mother throughout his albums (please check out his sweet song, “Hey Mama”), and on “Champions” he talks about his childhood relationship with his Dad.

We were kind of like Will Smith and his son/in that movie I’m not talking about the rich one

His Dad is described as a dreamer, who doesn’t make a lot of money but who is always trying to figure out the next great idea to strike it rich, “Cause every summer he'll get some/brand new hair-brained scheme to get rich from” 

It sounds like his Dad hustled hard, because while he’d tell Kanye “when you see clothes/close your eyelids”, he seemed to pull out some surprises in the end, “And I don’t know what he did for dough/but every school year he’d send me back with a new wardrobe

But what really gets me about this song, and what we’re going to talk about here is the chorus:

Did you realize/that you were a champion in their eyes?

Because that’s the thing...even though Kanyes Dad never struck it rich, Kanye still saw his Dad as a champion.

Which is an important distinction. This song isn’t about how Kanye grew up poor and it sucked, it’s about how even though they were poor Kanye loved his Dad was still his champion.

And I mean...what if we all knew that?  What if all Dads embraced that?  I think there is a fear we have, “What if my kids think I’m dumb?  What if they know I’m scared?  What if they think I’m a failure?”

Like this song is saying, it can be easy for a Dad to worry that they’re not providing enough for their kids (and that is a good thing to be concerned with), but really kids just want their Dad in their life. 

It’s a good reminder for me.  I can find myself wrapped up in my own stuff, or thinking that just acknowledging my kids or being in the same room is enough, and honestly, it’s not.  My kids look up to me, and working on this blog has been a good reminder of that.  For instance, this morning my kids got up at 6:45 (it’s Saturday, bro...) and it would have been really easy for me to zone out on my phone, (and, I’ll be honest, I did for a minute.  Again, 6:45 am Saturday morning), but I started thinking about this blog, and how they see me as their champion, and I was like, “Well, crap”.  So we did stuff together.  We made some muffins, cleaned up a bit, made some art projects...

It’s such a good reminder, if my kids are going to look up to me and adore me (and mine do and so do yours), then it pushes me to give them something to look up to and be excited about, you know?

I was at the zoo a few summers back with my kids looking at the gorillas when my daughter had me stand next to a diagram showing how tall gorillas were. 

“Dad!’ She cried, eyes giant and wide, ‘you’re bigger than a gorilla!”

Then that was all she could talk about... “Daddy is bigger than a gorilla!” 

It blew her mind!  And thank God she didn’t find some sort of a lever to let them out, because I really think she would have thrown open their cages, and when they stumbled out and began pounding their chests and smashing trash cans and rolling barrels down the street she’d have

just stood there, chin held high and proud, “Go fight them, Dad!  Go beat up those angry gorillas!”

Kids love thinking that their Dads are bigger than life. And honestly, I don’t know if they ever really totally grow out of that.  So it’s such an easy win!  They’re not looking at us to prove that we’re a champion, we already are. 

So use that!  Our kids think we can pummel gorillas with our bare hands!  Let them think that! (Note: This blog is not endorsing you actually attempt to pummel a gorilla with your bare hands.  But, if you do, please YouTube that so we can all see what happens)

Look, kids love their Dads.  Even crumby Dads. They desperately want to look up to us, and even if we haven’t been someone to look up to, they still are hoping we will be. 

Here’s what I think a big reminder about this song is:  your kids want to look up to you.  Even despite your mistakes. It’s not too late.  Our kids want us to be their champions. Let’s go with it!

 

Ps- I’ve gotten some good suggestions for songs (keep them coming!) that I’m excited about exploring here.  I think next week we’ll be looking at one from a Dads point of view whose just trying to do things right.  But after that we’re going to dive into some songs about crumby Dads. The more I’m working on this the more I’m struck by just how complicated relationships with Dads can be.  So, we’ll be coming at the topic from all angles as we explore different songs.  

 

Thanks for reading!  Thanks for the suggestions!  See you next week!  

Artist Highlight: Lili Mikaio

Lili Mikaio and her infectious smile, walk into The Space like a warm summer breeze. The California native recently returned to her roots after some time spent searching her soul in Arizona. While living with her brother, Lili realized that she was good at her management job, but unhappy. She credits her motivation for the recent move as “purely on the fact that I wanted to pursue art full time.”

Two months in, Lili is doing art and, “learning everything first hand,” she says with an authentic laugh that ricochets off the white brick walls.

Lili reflects that although she has always been interested in art such as acting, singing, painting, and 3-D modeling, she lacked the confidence to pursue it head first, and declares, “so I guess I’m giving myself permission to believe in myself.”

Lili admits to being stressed but asserts her happiness. When asked what she is happiest about, she references the overwhelming amount of art she has been able to create in the past two months. Lately, she has been sketching, which is something she never previously had the time to do. Lili has been sketching, inking, and exploring watercolors and states, “I’m not only producing more art but I’m getting to learn more mediums which makes me so happy.” Among the curiosity for new techniques, Lili has also been learning how to market herself better online. Almost all of her art is disseminated through Instagram and Facebook.

Lili explains that her primary art is “vector art,” created using Adobe Illustrator. She also creates hand-drawn, painting style pieces. On the subject of exploration, just the other week Lili played around with watercolor pencils; she learns from the school of youtube, and comments, “The internet is my mentor.”
 

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When asked to pin-down her style, Lili replies, “I wish I actually did have a style.” She shifts into talking about how she is a “mixed-media type of person,” and commends the influence Disney artists have had on the style of work she is inclined to create. Lili name drops Glen Keane, who created the “Disney princess look.” She enjoys Keane’s style of art and the influence his work had on The Little Mermaid. She asserts that the legacy of Keane’s style still permeates 3-D movies being released in theaters today.

When it comes to her own art, Lili says, “I want to be good at realism,” and critiques on her own art as looking too “characterized,” at times. Lili plans to invest in a portrait drawing class to focus her attention on refining the “cartoon-y” nature of her sketches.

When it comes to her next job and financial support of this art journey, Lili states that she can literally do anything from warehouse work, to home improvement retail, to reception and management. Although Lili attended some college, she found she lacked focus and chased the desire to “find how to concentrate,” to her brother’s house in Arizona. Like many people, Lili has a tendency to start many things that fall to the wayside. She is working to apply lessons in responsibility to her new life in California as she works to find a creative career.

A current lesson Lili is working on in her art is, “To be okay with disappointment. I think I can be too much of a perfectionist to where I don’t finish things.” She asserts that making peace with
disappointment makes it easier for her to continue working and exploring in her art. She explains, “A lot of the things I finish I don’t feel are great, I don’t feel its perfect enough, but then I get compliments and then I get people saying, ‘Oh you should keep going.’” Lili concludes, “We’re all our own worst critics.”

Lili has a strong desire to hone her skills to the point where she can accurately portray through her art, what is going on in her mind. In the past, Lili has used her art as a form of processing depression, because, “It’s very difficult for me sometimes to express what might be wrong with me.” Lili uses one piece of art in particular to discuss, a struggle she doesn’t often talk about, “The whole suicide attempt thing isn’t something that’s very palatable to just bring up to a lot of people and it’s not something that you want to bring up often. . .I put it out as though it’s discomforting to everyone, it’s also very discomforting to me.” Lili reflects that Instagram felt like the safest platform to use to broach the subject of mental illness, “If I was gonna try to feel safe in anything to present to the world it was gonna be in my art.” After posting the image, Lili got numerous messages of concern from family and friends which forced her to face her fear of letting other people in. Despite the transparency, Lili still finds that she will, “try to cut things down or shut it down before I worry people too much. “ Lili also admits her flaw of actively putting others ahead of her, “If I could fade into the background, I was okay with that, but if someone needed help, I was like let me help you.”

 

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Lili found out about Smalltown Society when she attended “The Lab” in an effort to find other creatives. Lili credits networking with artists as a significant energy source in making new art. Regarding lessons learned from other creatives, Lili reflects on a conversation she had with Cia Gould, a Smalltown artist, and how instrumental that was in, “learning to call myself an artist.” In claiming her artistry, Lili is learning how to maintain the value she gives to her art. She tells stories of being a vendor at comic book conventions where she attempted to sell her art, often times a piece she would price at $20 would dwindle down to $10 and $5 and then free because, “I don’t want you to buy this, I’m not proud of this.” When discussing lack of self-worth in art and life, Lili reflects, “I don’t know what it is, but when it comes to me, I don’t feel like a lot of things are worth much, but good God I will be there to encourage someone else.”

 

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Lili found a shift in her self-worth when she began putting her art “out there” using the Instagram app, “Something clicked from that. I know it did. And it was essentially just people liking stuff.” Lili comments that regardless of the motivation for the “like” it is still encouraging because, “someone saw this and they still hit that ‘like’ button. So it still meant something to me, and I’ve never had that kind of feedback before about my art.” On the subject of gaining good vibes from social media, in February Lili made a “fan art” drawing of the Valley Folk, a YouTube comedy troupe, and tagged them in the image she posted. To her surprise, one of the members of the group re-posted it, “Blew me away, I was like screaming around the house.” The repost also gave Lili new Instagram followers as the members of the Valley Folk liked her page and widened her audience. Lili continues, “Anytime I feel bad I think about that, like you know what somebody noticed me, you can’t let go of that, and you can’t not remember
that feeling. I have butterflies just thinking of it, it makes me so happy.”

Despite the Instagram community, Lili is still working on putting herself out there as an artist, she often lets her art speak for her presence and doesn’t post many photos of herself or her process. Lili has found motivation in the forthcoming March gathering as a way to get more comfortable with being on camera and being front and center in things. Lili is looking forward to experiencing the Smalltown gathering, “As I’ve gotten older, when I’m scared of something, I just throw myself into it, and this was one of those things.”

Lili will display her art series of drawings she has developed of different characters representing different genres of music, one being “Future Funk Fay,” she graces the Smalltown Society event flyer for the March gathering. Lili and her art will be at the Smalltown Space on Friday, March 9, 2018.

Artist Highlight: The Onyx

The Onyx is an all black female music ensemble. This collective of women came together to solidify unity among women of color and to provide an artistic outlet for the female voice to be heard. Hailing from and recalling styles of Oakland,  Atlanta, New York and Chicago, this eclectic group brings soul, rock, funk and latin music to an electrifying peak that will have you on your feet!

Songs About Dads - Brooklyn Dodgers

“Brooklyn Dodgers” - I Am The Avalanche
Lyrics: https://genius.com/I-am-the-avalanche-brooklyn-dodgers-lyrics

Hey Dad! Dad! Duck the Fodgers!”

My Dad and I were at my first Giants vs Dodgers game and it was awesome. I loved going to games with my Dad, partially for the ice creams with the wooden spoons, but mostly because I’d get to hang out with my Dad. I especially loved it, however, when it the Giants were playing the Dodgers because the Giants fans lost their minds and screamed threats at the Dodgers and threw beers at the field. I saw a “Duck the Fodgers” shirt for the first time when I was like 8, and I almost fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard.

“Hey...that’s funny but maybe don’t say that around Mom when you get home” So, of course, the minute I got home it was the first thing I did.

Going to those games is something that’s always stuck with me, I love the SF Giants, and honestly, I don’t even really watch baseball anymore, but that orange and black hat makes me nostalgic every time I see it. I spent most my life in the East Bay, and I live near Seattle now, but I was born and lived in San Mateo until I was 9, and my Dad and I would attend a lot of games at Candlestick Park.

All that preface helps lead us into the fact that I honestly had a hard time liking this song simply because it was called, “Brooklyn Dodgers”. I know, it’s silly to react just because it mentions the Dodgers, and especially since it’s about growing up in Brooklyn, and especially since it’s not the dreaded LA Dodgers, but still, Duck the Fodgers, right?! That’s what I learned from going to games with my Dad.

And that’s the point!

This whole song is about what you pick up from your Dad. This may seem like a strange song to start this series with; I Am The Avalanche are a large band for their genre, but they're not particularly well known otherwise. And, this being a blog for a community based in the San Francisco East Bay it seems odd to prominently feature a band that’s proudly from New York...

But!

What I think makes this a perfect first song for this series is how this song is about the singers Dad without explicitly being about his Dad. I didn’t want to start with something that was too obvious. This song is great because it’s all about how his Dad influenced him without resorting to super clunky lyrics like, “I love my Dad and he’s an important figure in my liiiiiiffffeeeeee!!!!!”

“Whatever happened to the Brooklyn Dodgers?/Whatever happened to me?”

The chorus here says it all. The singer, Vinnie Caruana, sees himself as intrinsically linked to the past through the lens of his Dads stories. His family history informs and becomes his history. He sees himself as a part of what’s happened to his family, and, ultimately, New York. He loves the Brooklyn Dodgers because that’s the team his family loved, even though they don’t even exist anymore.

Then there’s my Dad/he jokes about the times/that he had back when he was a hippie”

Ever been around a campfire with your family telling stories? Or a dinner table? What stories stuck with you? What stories did you find yourself trying to decipher in your brain waaaay too young to fully understand later? (“But what does it mean to Duck the Fodgers anyway...”) What stories did you hear and go, “yeah...I’m going to be like that when I’m big!”

Whenever the grown-ups got to talking, I’d always try to hang out around my Dad and his friends or family soaking their stories in. I loved it when they’d forget I was there and talked openly and shared stories that were totally inappropriate for me to hear. I’d do my best to try not to say anything so I wouldn’t get noticed and could keep listening, but eventually I’d decide it was safe and I’d throw my opinion in on something WAY over my head (“Hey, maybe you should stop talking so much and listen to your wife more, Uncle Larry!”) and then, of course, they’d realize I was in the room and my cover was blown and it was back to the kids table for me.

There were also the stories my brothers and I would beg my Dad to tell us, and we were delighted when we could get him to share stories of the times he got in trouble. My kids are the same, I don’t know what wisdom was gleaned from it, but I spent an hour last night telling my kids all about how our pet cat growing up would attack anyone who came near it.

I can think of a lot of stories my Dad shared with me, and even the ones that were not deep but just fun directly affected me. Like Vinnie and his Dad, a lot of the stories from our Dads past help define our futures, because their stories, worldviews, and examples help shape how we see our lives. It’s like, we’re trying to figure this world out, and for better or worse, the examples set and paths charted by our Dads often lead us. We’re all hoping someone knows the way and we’re looking to our Dads to guide us.

Later in the song, when Vinnie asks, “Whatever happened to the New York gentlemen?
And his Dads perfect answer is, “Son, you’re looking at one”. Later in the song, Vinnie sings it of himself,
“Whatever happened to the New York gentlemen?/You’re looking at one”.

Be it encouraging or scary to you, in a lot of ways, your kids follow your path. Last night I looked up at my son as he was decimating a bag of Cheetos, and thought about how my Dad and brothers and I left no Dorito safe from being devoured, and all I could think was, “Yea...that’s my kid”.

But that’s a little thing, right? That’s just the genetics. What about the big stuff?

Because if you’re any kind of involved Dad at all it makes you wonder...what am I teaching my kids? What are they going to remember? What stories are they hearing? What am I passing down that's going to shape their worldview?

A lot of it is just stuff they’re going to pick up being around each other. But a lot of it is stuff that you can control, and that we can be careful to ensure they remember. We can be really involved and help leave lasting impressions and memories that are good and impactful.

This last weekend my Daughter told my wife she’d hoped she’d have time to bake with me and teach me some more dance moves she learned at her dance class, so, of course, I made sure we did it. Also, this weekend my son and I got to watch a doubleheader of Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 for his first time, so I hope I’m doing something right there. I hope they remember times like that we’ve had together.

But, of course, you can’t control everything they remember.

Recently, they were bickering and it was getting on my nerves so, like a typical Dad I yelled out, “Hey! Do you know what I hate?”

“Technology!” Answered my son.
“Self-checkout lines!” Answered my daughter.
“Uhm...yes...well, no. I wanted you to say, ‘fighting with each other”

So...kids remember what they remember. I’d really be bummed if at my funeral they’ll say, “And here lies my Dad, who did a lot of stuff but mostly he is remembered for his intense hatred of technology and his eternal loathing of self-checkout lines”.

But that’s what this blog is going to be all about. It’s a fun blog to write, and hopefully to read, and I’m hoping we can all really learn and grow from this. I, for one, am genuinely thinking through what I’m passing down to my kids.

And I really, really hope I won’t only be remembered for how much I don’t like self-checkout lines.

 

-Photo courtesy Museum of City of New York

 

Songs About Dads

I had this idea awhile back: Why not write about songs that are about or refer to dads? That
could be fun, right?

I mean, I’m a Dad, and I like songs, and I like overthinking things and, in particular,
overthinking songs, and wanting to talk about songs, and also I like being a Dad and thinking
about how to be a good Dad and also I love writing so then I thought, “Well shit, let’s put ‘em
all together!”

So I did.

I’m excited about this. I want to look at lyrics to songs at that directly or indirectly address the
artists views of being a father or their father. What can we appreciate from these songs? What
can we learn? What silly jokes and pop culture references can be made?

So, if you’re interested, here we go! We’re going to go through a lot of fun stuff here, and some
sad stuff, and some heavy stuff and I think it’s going to get really interesting.

Here are some thoughts about this project in no particular order:

1. What kind of songs? It’ll mostly be punk or hip-hop. Maybe some indie or alternative. I
have a folk song in mind. Probably no country (well, maybe some Johnny Cash...). I think
it makes sense to do songs that I have a connection with so the blogs will be a little more
personal and heartfelt and thus, hopefully, interesting. Honestly, some of the songs here
will probably not be ones you’re familiar with, and that’s ok, I’m going to keep that in mind
as I write. The goal is for the subject matter to keep it interesting. I’ll include relevant links
as well.

2. Will I have to like the song to read the blog? Nope! I’m going to write them in a way
that’s fun to read and makes sense even if you are not familiar with the song, (say, for
whatever reason, you’re not interested in listening to someone screaming over loud
guitars).

3. Can I request a song? I’d be honored if you did! I’d love feedback as well. I’ll consider
any thing you suggest, but no promises! If I don’t personally connect with the song or find
something I can address in it, it probably won’t work.

4. Wait, are you even a Dad? I am! I’ve got a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl and
they’re amazing and they love hip-hop more than punk, but the other day they told my wife
they love Pentatonix and we honestly feel like we’ve failed as parents.

5. What about songs about Moms? Just like I don’t think John Mayer is qualified to address
Mothers and Daughters on his song, “Daughters”, I also don’t think I’m qualified to address
mothering on this blog. What I think would be even better is if some other fun, talented
Mom wanted to do a similar blog about Moms.

6. Hey! I know! What about “Cats in the Cradle”?!!??!!??!!!!! No. I mean, it’s an
incredible gut punch of a song, but it’s kind of clear what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s a little
too well known. There’s just not much more to say about it that it doesn’t say itself or that
hasn’t been said. Though, did you know Ugly Kid Joe covered it? And it’s not bad?
Anyway, there you go: Everything I planned on saying on “Cats in the Cradle”

Okay! I hope you’ll join me on this! Maybe we can all learn something about Dads!