Under Influence

You know, I have always had a hard time deciphering the difference between influential people and inspirational people. I guess it was only recently that I figured out inspirational people make you want to do something and the influential just make you the way you are; good or bad. So that has me thinking. Who is to blame for me? I’ll tell you who…

lindablair_wideweb__470x3300Linda Blair. I know what you are thinking but she has had a big influence on my life. This lady set a new standard for things that go bump in the night. I’ll never forget sleeping in a sleeping bag in the parents bedroom at age 12 because I was sure Reagan was hiding in my closet giving me that creepy grin. You know the grin.

So thanks, Linda. Because of you I will always jump to the conclusion that I am possessed if I hear strange noises at night. Even as a 31 year old.

joe-strummerJoe Strummer. It’s weird to realize your influences so much later in life. When Joe died of congested heart failure in 2002 I had been a Clash fan going on 12 years. I was saddened but like many other people I figured a rock star life was one that circles the drain anyway and it was only a matter of time. The other day when I was thinking about this post it really hit me that Joe set the standard for my musical taste and messages the artists bring to the table. Was he the greatest singer? Compared to many, no. Was he the greatest guitarist with the cleanest live performance? No way. But when you read the lyrics and see the raw artistic talent, it will make you involuntarily sit down. The Clash set te bar high for me and Joe’s death really affected me more than I thought.

peter_benchleyPeter Benchley. I guess it would be easy to put the blame on Steven Spielberg but I am going right to the source. I saw the movie, Jaws when I was younger, and it’s true that after seeing that I was deathly afraid of the ocean, harbors, ponds, lakes, pools, bathtubs, toilets and anything else that held water, the life-force¬† of great whites. But I feel that blaming Steve is like shooting the messenger. no, I think the mastermind of Jaws deserves a bit of the blame for my inability to tread water in a lake without visions of teeth and dorsal fins.

I read Peter Benchley’s book, Jaws, one summer in high school. It kind of hit me that this guy is the real reason that it’s never going to be safe to go back in the water. I held the same resentment for Peter that I held for my grandfather when he would make me walk down the center of the aisle because he was positive that I would poke out my eye on the hanging hooks. To this day I walk dead center in the aisle for fear of loosing an eye on a sock hook. But I have to let go and forgive them. Besides, they’re both dead and wouldn’t care anyway.

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You know, I have been accused many times of being emotionally disconnected or cold when it comes to sad situations and even thought to have never shed a tear. But those who claim such a fact never asked me about Jim Henson. Then I may just ball like an eight year old girl.

I can’t under state how this guy with his socks, strings and foam shaped my childhood and gave me so many precious memories. Memories like renting Muppets Take Manhattan for the fifth time and watching it on the couch with my Dad. Spending the summer in Elk Grove, California with my then 19 year old Uncle as a young child and how he skipped a party to take me to see The Labyrinth. I even remember the countless summer days watching Sesame Street, never quite sure what was going on with Bert, Ernie and the Yellow Ducky but certain that Grover was the greatest character to ever bless the Public Broadcasting Station. But I’ll never forget on May 16, 1990 when my Dad told me Jim passed away and said in a shaky voice, “Jim Henson died today. He’s been your buddy since you were a baby.” I think many children of the 70’s and 80’s sat alone for a while that day.

I don’t think you can pull off a life like Jim Henson had without being destined to do so.¬† I guess what really got to me was the thought that all the characters I grew up with passed with him. He really did put a soul into what ever he touched. Thanks Jim. Your influence shaped me to be a reflective adult. I hope when I have kids they can have memories like the ones you gave me.

See? I can’t even hear this song without tearing up.

So, that’s just a few of the influences I am under. Maybe they are just puzzle pieces to why I am like this? Who knows? I guess inside I’m just a possessed, punk rock, muppet shark.

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