Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Day I Received Rob Bourden’s Drum Kit

If you are 35 or under, you probably logged on to read how I got close to Rob Bourden. If you’re over 35 you may be reading this because you are curious to learn who the hell Rob Bourden is and why I would get his drum kit.

Rob Bourden is the drummer for Linkin Park. He isn’t your typical celebrity who is so full of himself that he doesn’t give a damn about other people (except anyone who might adore him and buy his records). He grew up in Calabasas (at the far west end of the San Fernando Valley) and played music as a kid. He’s one of those exceptionally talented people who became famous but never let his ego get the best of him. He’s a well rounded guy – the kind of son a mother could be proud of, for in addition to his remarkable talent and accomplishments, he has an abundance of friends of all sizes, ages and colors, many of whom are not famous or even in the music business. One of them is my husband, David, who doesn’t care too much for rock and roll recorded after 1972, especially really, really loud rock and roll. He had never even heard of Linkin Park until some teen aged girls came to a holiday party at our house several years ago and freaked out to find Rob Bourden sitting on our couch. That’s when David learned he had a famous friend.

As a soldier for my cause to get music in schools, David hit Rob up for help. He, of course, obliged by saying he would donate something. For readers 35 and under, you might as well stop reading now because the rest of the story isn’t that interesting. If you are over 40, read on.

Ever since I started my arts education nonprofit twelve years ago, I have never, ever refused any sort of donation, and have happily, gratefully accepted whatever gets passed my way. This has resulted in some pretty amazing gifts, connections and experiences, but it has also amounted in more junk piled up in our garage when my husband wasn’t looking. When Rob told David that he wanted to donate something, and that I could pick it up at his apartment any time during a certain week, I assumed I would run in and pick up an autographed drum head or a small, electric drum machine or something. I did not expect to find myself in an I Love Lucy episode.

After driving my minivan to Sherman Oaks, and finding a parking spot quite a distance away from Rob’s apartment building, I walked up the many stairs, through the heavy gates to the manager’s office where I was told to ask for his key (he had just moved out and had left the donation there for me to pick up – the manager was expecting me.) I was directed where to go and after a walk through the pool area and a ride in the elevator, I finally reached Rob’s apartment and opened the door.

There, sitting in the middle of an empty apartment, were lots and lots of boxes. I could see right away that I may need some help and a dolly, because I had neither. As I looked around the empty apartment, I laughed. Teen aged girls in America would gladly sell an organ to get to be where I was at that very moment, alone in Rob Bourden’s apartment. Yet here I was, a middle aged, married woman with two kids, a PTA president, with a mini van parked at the end of the street, waiting to carry my latest charitable load. Alone with this amazing piece of rock and roll memorabilia, I pondered: How in the world was I going to get all of this down to the street, and once there, would it all fit in my van? I was Lucy without an Ethel. Rob’s drum set was John Wayne’s footprints in cement.

After trying to push each box down the hall myself (huffing, puffing and grunting in my sweats), I set about walking the grounds to look for help. After some time, I was finally able to get some assistance from the custodian who had a dolly. We rode the elevator and then walked to the apartment together, chatting. Once he realized where we were going, he paused outside of Rob’s door and asked me dreamily, “Are you his mother?”

Oh God, it's official, I thought. I am not cool anymore. I'm old.

Since my little helper was no longer star struck, we hustled and got everything out the door, through the complex and out onto the street in a pretty timely fashion, for he had no more questions for me.

At a board meeting soon after I brought the drum set home, we put our heads together to try and figure out what to do with our new kick ass donation (Rob signed the side of a drum head and some sticks and a paper saying his signature was the real thing). One of the board members had a son who was a concert promoter in LA and vouched for the band to the rest of the other middle aged board members. "Linkin Park was HUGE", she assured us, and that perhaps we should just charge teenaged girls ten dollars a piece to touch the stool that Rob actually sat on. We nixed that idea because none of us really wanted to go to where the teenagers were to solicit their ten dollars. We decided to donate it to a very excited high school music department director instead, who promptly gave it its own locked room after dubbing it, “Jesus’s drum set”.

As a nonprofit leader, I am touched by Rob's generosity, for this was a large, personal gift. As a mother, and as an artist, I am moved by how he has managed to follow his bliss, play so well, be so successful, and stay grounded amidst so much fame and all that comes with it. He's the ultimate rock and roll role model (donating this drum set to my little nonprofit is just one of the many things he has done for young people in our community). His mother must be so proud. She raised an incredibly talented, humble, generous human being. He's the real thing.

I was inspired to blog about this because rock and roll is on my mind a lot these days. I have been creating and posting rock and roll ART cartoons all month. It’s funny how life ends up working out sometimes. I didn’t move out to Los Angeles 24 years ago to turn kids on to art and music. I wasn’t even thinking about kids. I was young, cool, and focused on having fun. My only goal in moving out to L.A. as a young artist was to design rock and roll album covers and to party with the boys in the band.

I did better than that. I grew up in L.A. My course changed, and I eventually had two great kids of my own who inspired me to bring art and music into the lives of many other children. While traveling this road I have been given many gifts, one of which was receiving the ultimate compliment: I was mistaken for Rob Bourden’s mom.

To view this month’s daily rock and roll cartoons, visit ART by Spike Dolomite on Facebook.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who Will Be the Next Steve Jobs?

I have a big art show coming up, not the usual type of show that I have been producing for over a decade for kids, teens, or other artists, but for myself. This is a solo show for me, an exhibition for an artist who has turned to her own art to get her through one of the most difficult periods of her adult life: staying afloat during the recession.

This isn’t the first time that art has gotten me through tough times. Art saved me as a kid, too. I didn’t have a Father Knows Best childhood. I didn’t even have a father. He died when I was eight. The adults in charge in my life weren’t anything like Margaret and Jim Anderson. I was raised by a post-feminist movement mother whose new found freedoms were all consuming. Life for all of us was made even harder and more complicated by the abuse of alcohol. I learned at a very young age to rely on myself. This doesn’t sound that unusual by today’s standards, but back in the seventies, it was novel. The only constant in my life was my creativity. I could trust myself and my art. Making art was safe, dependable, and constructive. Whether I was alone in my room, or down in the basement creating something, I was master of my own universe. I could tune the world out, be free and in control.

This is one of the many reasons why I advocate for the arts in schools. It’s not just that an arts education makes for a complete education, or that participating in the arts raises test scores. It’s about finding and nurturing passion, about turning kids on who would otherwise be lost without art, music, writing, theater, etc. Offering arts education in schools is about giving right brained kids their due respect and much needed dignity, and helping them find and follow their bliss.

Tragically, however, our society is so busy, over whelmed and self involved, that we look upon these kids as being deficient in some way. They’re in the way. They won’t conform. They move too much. They don’t focus. They don’t go along with the status quo (all qualities that are usually revered after someone like Steve Jobs makes his mark, but are shunned, stifled and snubbed until society finally approves). We mistakenly label and medicate these kids so they’ll settle down and go along with the flow, or not upset the apple cart. Or challenge us. Or protest when we tell them to march and take their place in the status quo line.

Labeling and medicating children has become an epidemic in this country (and only in this country – we’re the only society that starves itself, gets depressed, and labels and medicates its young). This is a serious epidemic that needs to be eradicated by having all Americans slow down and take a good look at itself. Quit looking at kids and isolating their behaviors as if they are the problem. Our lifestyle and attitudes are the problem. We need to ask, what are we doing to our children? If we keep dosing our kids, who will be the next Steve Jobs? If the next generation is too zoned out to question, to take on challenges, or to push the envelope, what will become of them? What will become of us?