Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Get shit done.

I woke up this morning to a FB post wherein someone referred to an article and erroneously concluded that because he didn't contribute to society, that was the reason he was single. (By the by, he's a government employee, providing an extremely valuable service.) The article's title piqued my interest (Six Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person), but I was ready to discount it as just another random, unnecessary posting by Cracked, and a waste of my time. Still, I read on.

And damn...for a website that puts out some occasionally snarky and annoying and sometimes funny shit, this was one whopper of an article. I mean, wasn't this once a magazine that sold itself as a second-rate Mad Magazine? From such lowly dregs apparently come gems like this years later.

Here's the gist of this article: You know who gets shit done? People who get shit done. It's all nice and good if you're nice, or if you're talented, or if you're one of the beautiful people, or if you're charismatic, or if you have money, but at the end of the day, that's not what people are interested in. They want to know if you can get shit done. And if you can, awesome.

This was pretty much written from a business perspective, as far as I can tell. You could extrapolate it to many other areas in life, too. But I've learned this a number of times, the hard way, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Years ago, while working as a server at Good Earth in upper-crust Edina, MN, I occasionally interacted with another, more experienced server, who was basically a bitch. Could not stand her. Condescending, mean, brusque, and just not someone I cared to associate with. Also: a stickler for rules. She came in one morning for her shift, and she was scheduled to take over part of my section for lunch. A couple sat down in said part of my section not 45 seconds before her shift started, and despite my being slammed, she refused to help me out and take this couple. So I gritted my teeth and proceeded to do the best I could, all while beginning to nurse one poisonous grudge.
But I soon realized that despite her attitude, she always worked the busiest sections toward the front of the restaurant, never broke a sweat, and regularly pulled in two to three times the tips I did. My take-home: Diners didn't care that she was snippy. They cared that she was efficient and got shit done...and tipped her accordingly. I was much nicer, but somewhat bumbling - and never left the back of the restaurant. Nice is nice, but it won't pay the rent.

Fast forward to chiropractic school. In the mock patient visits, I was always told I had great patient rapport. But I sometimes forgot things here and there: not completing a full neurological exam, forgetting key or confirmatory orthopedic tests, not ordering the correct lab tests...the things that students often miss as they're learning and drinking out of a fire hydrant. But while I was working on those things, it was the students who had lesser bedside manner and didn't care much for niceties who did the right things and got the higher scores.

Years later, I'm still learning this lesson. People always compliment me on how nice I am, or how modest or unassuming I am, whether I'm in a professional setting or simply among friends. But again, that doesn't pay the rent. Being efficient and effective at your job does. And sometimes I fantasize about how great it would be to be an utter bitch who could really give a shit about anything other than getting shit done...and damn people's feelings in the process.

So I responded to this guy. Told him how much I thought the article was dead on. And he countered with a "woe is according to this article, I should kill myself?" I slammed my head against the wall so hard I about gave the wall an aneurysm. And perhaps this isn't a perspective that will work for him. (Apparently, self-destructive hyperbole does work for him, though.) Nor did it for a friend of his, who maintained that love and caring and friendship was enough to make this world go round. Oh well. You can't reach everyone.

I guess I've become immune to the idea that love and flowers and rainbows and glitter is all you need. I mean, I've promised Mr. Man a very belated birthday cake. It was two days ago, and he began last night to gripe about how it hadn't materialized. The fact that I love him doesn't change anything for his expectations. I gotta get this damned cake made. And I'm not gonna enjoy making it...and I may even bitch about it. But he'll have his cake, as promised, and that will mean more to him than a platitude of "I love yous." At the very least, it'll be physical evidence to support my sentiments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley

Leonard Cohen penned this old chestnut back in the '80s, and indulged his nascent love for synthesizers while recording it. The results were moving but still jarring, particularly for people who had always known Cohen as a folkie, and this rendition sounds hopelessly dated now. But, y'know...if Dylan can go electric successfully, why can't Cohen? (Listen to I'm Your Man for what can happen when he gets synthesizers fully right.)

Since that time, gobs of singers have recognized what a stunning piece of work "Hallelujah" is, and have tried their hand at it. Rufus Wainwright and k.d. lang are among the fellow Canadians who have successfully turned it out. I actually heard a country singer attempt it yesterday on our office Muzak, with abysmal results. But honestly, no one - NO ONE - has even come close to Jeff Buckley's crystalline, heartbreaking rendition.

Buckley's voice is a nearly otherworldly instrument...some have even said that his voice sometimes does what no human voice should be able to do. He can sound angelic, soaring above the world like the most pristine of boy's choir voices, then scream like a banshee hellbent on destruction for what feels like minutes on end. Buckley is also not afraid to sound like an possessed fool in the service of a wild old blues song.

But he understands the quiet, serious reverence "Hallelujah" can take, and with spare spidery guitar behind him, he begins nearly in a whisper, commanding attention and wringing out every last bit of emotion from the song as beautifully as possible. The way he adds the slightest of melismas to the chorus is chill-inducing, and damns the likes of Christina Aguilera to musical hell. On the entrance to the bridge, he sings the last "hallelujah" as if he's pushing a paper boat with the slightest of nudges out onto a vast lake, with nothing but that solitary guitar and its sad but sure direction between vast spaces of silence.

And then that ending...oh, my God, that ending. Buckley intones the chorus over and over again, growing ever quieter all the time, drawing you in once again. Then suddenly HALLELUJAH...his voice unexpectedly pierces the cathedralesque quietude like a jagged dagger, and hearts are shattered, tears erupt by the riverful, and worlds fall into despair. But as if to heal the pain, he gently sings hallelujah two last times...once that seems to flow for eternity, offering ethereal balm for all the world's suffering, then again to affirm that perfect healing. And although tears may not dry up, and sadness may continue, the last hallelujah closes the song as completely and gracefully as a pastor closing a Bible.

As far as moving, heartwrenching music goes, Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" is right up there with Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and Henryk Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It's a perfect confluence of one of the century's most brilliant lyricists and songwriters, and a young man with a staggeringly talented voice. Take ten uninterrupted minutes out of your life and listen to it.