Friday, February 25, 2011

Banded Together

Today an older lady said something to me that’s probably going to haunt me for the foreseeable future of my life.

First, though, I should back up.

I’ll start with last weekend. We were hired to play at the Dance Flurry—this HUGE dance gathering in Saratoga—5000 crazy contradancers crazily contradancing for hours.

We were the Jewish flavor and we were hired as a Family Band.

We did a Yiddish Jug Band, a grand Klezmer Concert, and played 2 huge dances for hundreds of people. Zachary wailed on that Baritone Sax and Aaron held down an amazing and complex rhythm on Keyboard. The whole thing passed like a beatific blur because THE definition of the Yiddish word “nakhes” is playing music with your children.

They got their own hotel room, the big boys. They danced with every pretty girl at the festival. They had ice cream every day and we all hot tubbed and swam. They were ogled and admired and fielded a million texts from those pretty girls on the car ride home.

Oh, the baby twins garnered their usual spectacle and had an enormously good time, too.

So, what’s with the older lady?

So we are doing a concert for her Yiddish group this weekend and she asked about the “kinderlakh” and I joked that by next year the baby twins will be in the band.

Oh, she said, mentioning 2 other Klezmer musicians we all know, “Well if they can exploit their children, I guess you can, too.”

I got me like you can’t believe.

When I was little I HATED playing my violin with my Dad—from whom I got my musical ability, the violin itself, lessons, and too many fiats to stop playing with my friends right now and come in and practice.

We played each year, as a Family Band, at what they used to call an old age home. I hated to practice but as you can imagine, I LOVED being on stage.

Sruli and I have met some family bands in our travels.

It’s a fascination: each kid playing a different instrument, the rivalry between them, the weird Mom/ Dad /Bandleader dynamic and of course the creepy feeling that maybe Mom and Dad ARE using these cuter, younger people to make a living.

Most people though, think its sweet.

Sruli, of course wants to drop everything, buy a circus trailer and travel the country as Hoot ‘n Annie and their Tappin’ Twins.

Meantime we are the Oy Vey Klezmer Family Band.

I asked the big boys if they like doing this with us, if they feel comfortable playing with Mom and Step-Dad, traveling around and shlepping to all these festivals, being on time for sound checks, and having to stop playing with their friends right now and come in and practice for a gig.

They looked at me, incredulous.

We LOVE it, Mom, they said.

Exploit, Shmexploit. So long as they’re happy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To B or not to B?

My old friend Morris used to boast that he never had a job a day in his life. He is a rich man. He started as a shick yingl—a gofer—for some successful diamond merchant, just hanging around, making himself useful. Soon he found himself ferrying around (to me, hearing the story, alarmingly expensive) diamonds in those little tissue tufts, matching up buyers with sellers, and soon after that he had an office and a partner of his own.

Pretty much everyone I knew growing up had a job. Actually the same job, just at different places and of different strata—teaching.

My Dad is a professor, my mother was a Kindergarten teacher; all their friends and most of my relatives had some university or school connection.

I got a GREAT job soon after college at a fancy NY Advertising Agency—I had decided that a classroom was too small for my outsized sense of my own imagination. I enjoyed every minute of those 15 glamorous years.

And now, here I am with my own business, starting yet another one, and this afternoon, Sruli (ever so lovingly) looked down at me hunched over the computer and said: wow, you really have bags under your eyes.

We were dealt a really bad blow this week and we have been scrambling and stressing and struggling to survive.

Bags? Suitcases I have.

Anyway, he also said I was being remarkably resourceful, and takke I am, and this after I “bitched out” at him for a full four minutes because there is nothing like a setback to make you re-examine your entire life, work, philosophy, and husband.

My old friend Morris said he could never work for somebody else. I could, happily, and I was damn good at it. But I’d be lying if I also didn’t remember that ice-cold fright at being fired, when layoff season rolled around.

And not just being fired. Also explaining the Ortho-have-to-leave-early-on-Friday thing. Each time. Finessing the politics. Jockeying. And not being able to say with certainty that you can make it to a family dinner, or home before your little ones’ bedtime.

I remember furiously cursing the red lights on Queens Boulevard because they were robbing me of another few minutes of evening with my little Zachary and Aaron.

Makin’ the Boss happy.

I don’t have that kind of stress anymore (and I don’t have that kind of money anymore, ha!) but the new stress is frankly overwhelming and all my new own-ur-own business friends feel it.

I am my own Boss. And I don’t always make myself happy.

And I still don’t know if it’s “better” to be In Business for yourself or to work for someone else.

Whatever “better” means.

I’ll let you know when I find out.