Monday, November 13, 2017

Dead Flowers at NASA

I was listening to the radio on the way home from picking Linda up at work.  On WMMR, they were playing a block of The Rolling Stones country songs, and of course one of the songs they played was Dead Flowers.

Dead Flowers is a song from Sticky Fingers. I often sing it for karaoke because it's right within my range and it's a lot of fun.  In fact, it's pretty hard to screw that song up- assuming you know the words (and I do!)

Singing Dead Flowers Jan 2014 in New Hope

Whenever I hear or sing that song, it brings me back to an extremely happy memory.  (Yes, believe it or not, I have one or two of those.)  This one is back in June of 2016 when I was invited by Jennifer Finney Boylan to attend her talk down at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland.  I was one of several to answer the invitation.  I drove down with my dear friend Amy, who I've known for several years.  She's from the same support group I attend.

In any case, we drove to NASA in Greenbelt, and arrived a little early.  It was quite the process checking in, as they check your ID, check your invitation, injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff, as I guess would be obvious for a facility where they make satellites and that sort of thing.  We first stopped over to Visitor Center and museum, and we had a lot of fun hanging out there- looking at the exhibits.  Then we went over to the main facility, where we met with Jennifer Finney Boylan and the other people who were guests.  We sat in a very short meeting, and then went to the main Auditorium, which is where Jenny Boylan was speaking.  I sat in the front row, off to her right, and of course I made faces at her during the during the talk.

Our Group.  Amy is in the middle

After the talk we were invited to a picnic.  Yes it appears that we happen to be there on the day of the annual NASA picnic and we were invited.  It was a short drive to their picnic area, which had a basketball court, volleyball, some buildings- that sort of thing.  But the part that really stood out to me was a low porch and on it there was a bunch of people sitting having a "hootenanny." A hootenanny is when a bunch of people get together who know how to play instruments or don't, and sing songs.  Anyone is willing is invited to join, whether or not they have talent. I sat and watched for a while (after eating some wonderful fried chicken) and, after a couple drinks, decided that I may as well exercise my vocal cords.

Cringe in fear.

I asked if they knew Dead Flowers and they gave me knowing smiles.  Of course they knew it!  They started the opening chords and I started singing.  One of the people sang Harmony.  In any case, there was about eight people playing various instruments including one woman playing the brushes on drums, and of course Jenny Boylan playing her Autoharp. I won't say it was the best version of the song that's ever been sung, but I truly enjoyed it.  It was a magic moment for me: singing a song just for the joy of singing it and having no one judge (to my knowledge) my singing ability.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and later that day Jenny Boylan told me I was in "fine voice."

I've never written about this day, I was busy planning my... September event, but now on this very rainy November day, the song came on the radio, and I thought back to that wonderful time.  Many other things happened that day, and that wasn't the only song I sang- I also sang Uncle John's Band by The Grateful Dead. On that one I didn't quite get the words down right, even though I've sung it a zillion times.  At that point I was getting a little tired- I'd been up since four in the morning after all!  In any case, my performance of Dead Flowers was filmed and is up on YouTube.  You can find the link to it HERE if you want.

I enjoy singing and I enjoyed my time on stage.  When I performed in The Vagina Monologues last February, I really enjoyed the reaction when I did my solo piece- the piece that I wrote. It was very affirming that people were applauding something I did- something I added to the whole.

At NASA with Jennifer Finney Boylan

The best part is that while singing at the hootenanny, in front of a bunch of Rocket scientists and a New York Times bestselling author, I didn't feel one bit scared or self-conscious. I was just singing for the fun of it: enjoying myself, and hopefully adding to everyone else's enjoyment.  I let myself go. I was free.  I was singing like no one else was listening.

Maybe this is something I should do more often- not worry about who's clocking me as trans, not work worry about how I'm going to pay the next bill that's due yesterday.  Maybe, just maybe, once in a while I can learn to enjoy myself- to let go.  I think the biggest Legacy of my growing up and hiding all those years is that I don't let go.  I always felt that I had to be in complete control, otherwise my secret would slip.  Yes, I got drunk when I was younger.  Very drunk.  But at that point I was hiding my feminine side so deep that I didn't even consider it.  I knew it wouldn't come out.  I had buried it down in such a deep pit that it would NEVER ever come out.  And we can all see exactly how that worked out.

Buried (November 2017)

Dead Flowers is a wonderful song, and it means a lot to me.  It means more every time I sing it.  I wonder how it feels to Mick and Keith (the ones who wrote it) but, for them, it's one of thousands.  For me it's a part of my life.  A wonderful memory.

Thank you again Jenny, if I haven't thanked you enough for that invitation,  and to those who played with me that day Slainte chugat!

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