Chris Evert played her last U.S. Open in 1989, and I clearly remember watching her lose in the quarterfinals to Zina Garrison. Zina played crafty, smart tennis throughout, using her backhand slice incredibly well to move Chris Evert around without giving her any pace to work with. At match point, Zina served down the middle from the ad court, and Chris’ forehand return found the net. At that moment, the British announcer simply said, “With that, an era has ended.” Well, I wish he was around on Friday when an era in my life came to an end as well.
Friday was my last day of regular classes at my school, and like the rest of the week, it was overwhelming, exhausting, and above all, just plain awesome. I held my tears in check, until the bell rang for my very last class, when I let them go for five, ten seconds tops (causing one disgruntled student to ask why I didn’t cry for her class). But really, it couldn’t have gone better, thanks to the kids more than anything.
One thing about kids is that they need to know that their feelings are just as valid as anybody else’s, and for them to know that, you have to allow them to express what they feel. And boy, did they ever. I got a whole Costco bag-ful of letters (one ingenious class made theirs into paper airplanes and hurled them at my head when I walked into the room, a couple missing my eyes by inches!), two mini photo albums, three glass jars full of origami stars and cranes, countless notebooks, a few pencils and pens, a photo frame, two chess knight pieces (I think they were symbolic of something, I’m not sure what), a homemade cake courtesy of a student’s mom, two bowls of dukbokki, and my favorite strictly from a material point of view, a Guy Laroche bathrobe(!). It was a full, full day, and as bittersweet as it all was, I felt proud more than anything else, both for myself and for the students. At the risk of sounding immodest, I really did try my best and worked my ass off for three years, and the kids more than made it all worthwhile.
Okay, I’m going to make myself vaklempt all over again, so on with the Countdown!:
1) Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
2) Meet Me Halfway – Kenny Loggins
3) Remember the Time (Live) – Kris Allen
4) Hyperballad – Bjork
5) I Believe – Blessed Union of Souls
We start with Gnarls Barkley (brother of Charles?), and “Crazy” is a well-deserved hit, but I’ve just heard it so many times that it doesn’t register like it once did. It will probably start fresh again after another six months or so of not hearing it. Still, I love the voice and the arrangement.
Kenny Loggins is next, and you may know him as the singer of schmaltzy rock soundtrack tunes such as “Footloose,” “Danger Zone,” and well this one, “Meet Me Halfway.” I’m pretty sure this is from a Sylvester Stallone movie that I saw on cable a long time ago. As far as I remember, Stallone is a single dad who tries to support his son by arm wrestling his way to greatness or something like that. Needless to say, the movie was a bunch of nothing, but the song, well, it’s pretty darn good. It’s schmaltzy, yes, but Kenny’s soaring voice suits schmaltz perfectly (a la Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie).
Then it’s–sigh–Kris Allen. Oh, how much I’ve missed thee. It already feels like a lifetime ago that the Kris-Adam duel took place. This is a great live performance with Kris doing what he does best, strumming the guitar and turning a well-known track into his brand new creation. It’s slightly marred by the bum high note near the end, but otherwise, I think Michael Jackson must have liked it (another sigh).
Bjork follows with “Hyperballad.” I have very mixed feelings about Bjork. I know she, Tori Amos (see you in Paris!!!), and PJ Harvey were once to alternative music what Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington were to supermodels at large. But at the risk of alienating all the fans of the Icelandic pixie, I find 90% of her music to be pure gibberish where she programs an electro-factory rhythm arrangement and then just starts wailing nonsense over that with no rhyme and reason. Okay, before you attack me (the way Bjork infamously lunged at a reporter at an airport), let me add that the remaining 10% is well, pretty spectacular, still with little rhyme and reason, but a whole lot of otherwordly magic. “Hyperballad” falls straight into that 10%, thank goodness.
The day’s Countdown comes to an end with “I Believe,” and I haven’t heard the song in ages and ages. Well, it may have been better off kept in the vault a little bit longer, because as sweet and earnest the whole thing is, it’s also sappier than a maple forest in Canada. Racism, parental intolerance, forbidden interracial love, these are real, pertinent issues even today. And I’m sorry, just crooning “Love is the answer” and “Love will find a way” over and over isn’t gonna make them go away.
In the end, the race comes down to Kenny and Bjork, with Kenny ekeing out the win. What can I say? I’m in a schmaltzy state of mind (another factor is that I know my brother really likes the song, too).
Winner: Meet Me Halfway – Kenny Loggins