Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yes It Is

So I’m listening to my iPod tonight as I cook dinner. The “Beatles Softies” playlist is on and, without warning, “Yes It Is” starts playing.

My spicy tofu tomato sauce abruptly takes a back seat as I turn down the burners and simply listen to the 1965 lyrics:

I could be happy with you by my side,
If I could forget her.
But it’s my pride,
Yes it is,
Yes it is,
Oh, yes it is.

Suddenly, I am transported back to junior high. 8th grade is an explosive time in life. We’re just discovering feelings and stirrings inside of ourselves that we are ill equipped to deal with. It’s the 1960s and the decade’s “anything goes” spirit has touched even the yearlings who already see “do your own thing” as an emerging mantra.

I was a child of immigrant parents from the Philippines who were vainly trying to raise their children in traditional Filipino values that seemed to be at odds with psychedelic America.

There were several girls I had a crush on: Carol. Barbara. Leslie. And Patricia. I was the oldest in my family and had no big brother or uncle to look up to for advice in matters of the heart. All I had were television sit-coms, fellow classmates (equally puzzled!), and . . . the Beatles.

In their middle period –- Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver -– the Beatles were still singing unabashed boy-meets-girl love songs. The social consciousness and maturity of Sgt. Pepper and The White Album were in the not-too-distant future. But in 1966, the Fab Four were singing “Please come on back to me. I’m lonely as can be. I need you!”

Understand, there was a lot of peer pressure in 8th grade for the guys to find a girlfriend. Couples were sitting together at lunch, girls’ books were being carried by guys, and a quarterly school dance was the hot ticket of the day. But I was na├»ve and sheltered. I didn’t even notice that Patricia had an interest in me until her girl friends started dropping hints. “Hey, Ken! When are you gonna get together with Pat?”

I was flattered by the attention but I tried to ignore it. My mother had tried her best to warn me against the “dangers” of “dating” so young. I was nothing, if not a good son. But it was Patricia’s birthday, and she was having a party, and even though she didn’t officially invite me, it was “understood” that my presence would be expected.

Of course, I heard about her party. Of course, I wanted to be there. Patricia and I had already started seeing each other at lunch. I was already carrying her books as we walked home from school. But go to her party? What would my parents say?

So when Pat’s friends knocked on my door on the afternoon of the party, asking “Aren’t you going?” –- what else could I do? I looked around for something nice in the house, wrapped it as a gift, put on my best shirt, and walked to Patricia’s house –- without telling my mom!

I was greeted at the door as a hero! All the girls in my class were there, with their boyfriends. They all beamed at me approvingly. Pat had already told her parents about me and they welcomed me warmly. It was a cool party! Everyone talked and joked and we were all so glad to be there.

And then the record player started playing the hits of the day: the Supremes, the Dave Clark Five, the Beach Boys, Petula Clark and . . . the Beatles. “Ticket to Ride” was the mega hit of the past summer and, on the flip side of that 45 single, there was the melancholy ballad, “Yes It Is.”

It was a slow song, perfect for a slow dance. Patricia and I held each other and slow danced to “Yes It Is.” In my middle school mind, time froze. I felt as if a spotlight was shining on us and everyone stopped dead in their tracks to watch Pat and me. At that point in time, everything felt right in my world. Beautiful, red-haired Pat and me. It was a moment that I still treasure to this day.

Pat and I became very close after that. We sat next to each other in class and walked home together often. We talked about the future, where we were going for high school. But there was another draw in my life at that time. I had decided to go to a high school seminary and consider the priesthood as my calling.

Middle school emotions are raw and underdeveloped. I don’t think Pat took my going to the seminary very well. Of course! We slowly went our own ways. I was going to the seminary. She was left out in the cold -- or so I thought. We never really talked about it or even said goodbye. Hey, we were only kids! But I have always felt pangs of regret every time “Yes It Is” starts playing on the radio or in my iPod.

Please don’t wear red tonight.
This is what I said tonight.
For red is the color that my baby wore,
And what’s more,
It’s true.
Yes, it is, it’s true.

Yes, it is, it’s true.

Whither, My Blog?

I don't really know if people are actually reading this blog. After all, I only write sporadically. When I started this blog, I had not yet been on Facebook or Twitter. Those social networks are much easier to maintain. 140 characters on Twitter? No prob! Witty one-liners on Facebook. I can do that!

Blogs are a lot more work: not only complete sentences but also complete paragraphs. Heck, complete cohesive thoughts! And then there's the pressure I put upon myself in my role as a Catholic composer and author. My fellow Catholic composers all seem to write profound insights that are inspiring and uplifting. Good Lord, are they like that every single moment of the day? I know I am not.

Hey, I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger, traveling through this world of woe. (That's a line from an old American folk song that we used to sing at Mass in the 1960s, by the way.) Certainly, my faith is important to me. Jesus Christ is the driving force in my life. But I am a complex human being trying to balance my faith with the pull of the world and the way my life is unfolding as I enter the cusp of senior citizenship.

I have always believed that we can find the sacred in the secular. That is what the Incarnation is about. That is what the Folk Mass was about, and what contemporary Christian and Catholic music try to sing about. Ultimately, that is what religion has tried to be about.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Instead of trying to find something profound to say on the Internet that will lead readers to the transcendence of God, I feel a lot more comfortable writing about my earthly experience and somehow finding God's presence in that.

And so my blogging begins anew. . .