Archive for the ‘Random Writings’ Category

I have never been good at counting my blessings; I’m far too negative for that. Those chipper, upbeat people on my Facebook feed (how did I even get these friends?) are constantly posting positive, life-affirming sayings, and it takes a great deal of will power on my part to not refute each and every one as oversimplifying, sugar coating or self-aggrandizing the true nature of our existence. Luckily I was taught not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say and so I remain, to most people, very quiet.

However, I sometimes feel the need to take a life inventory of sorts, just to remind myself how none of this makes any sense, but here I am and no matter what, it could always be worse.

Here then, in my most positively pessimistic perspective, is my list of miseries and how it could be worse:

1.) I make music that absolutely no one wants to hear. It’s my passion, my heart and soul, but apparently my heart and soul is lacking, boring, potentially dated and out of tune (do not tell me it’s because I’m a downer , not while The Cure and Morrissey are still touring).

It could be worse. I could be loaded with talent and still just as obscure and nowhere, like many of my truly gifted friends.

2.) My house is an absolute pig-sty having just spent the last week and a half enjoying a visit from a friend and her children and making little effort to contain the chaos.

It could be worse. I could have high expectations of my housekeeping abilities and spend the next week stressed out while working towards a presentable home. Instead I will take this opportunity to continue to enjoy the summer and host many more social engagements, knowing I won’t have to clean up much afterwards to maintain status quo. All the while I will not worry that my friends are secretly judging my messy home and deciding my best efforts are not good enough; I made no effort. Perfect!

There is the added bonus of boosting my friends’ confidence in their own housekeeping standards. Once they leave my place they will have a bright new perspective on how nice their homes truly are. I am a good friend!

3.) I’m turning 46 in a few weeks. How did that even happen? I was 27 just a minute ago and now here I am starting the 4 year countdown to 50. What have I even done with my life? Do I really need to go any further with the physical aging process? Because I know how it ends and I don’t like it. And . . .and . . .reading glasses!

 It could be worse. I could still be living with the youthful optimism that it will all work out without any effort on my part. That was a big lesson I learned only in the past 6 or 7 years: if there is such a thing as fate, you have to get her number and harass her regularly to get her to work for you. Or you can just do the work yourself (easier).

 Also gone is the underlying anxiety of where my life might take me because I finally know:  it’s taken me right here, a messy home with a couple of kids who, I hope, are enjoying summer break with their mom, a woman who isn’t stressing over things that don’t matter that much.

 Without being too optimistic, I’d like to say I am okay with where I am right now (although being at Comic Con this weekend would be good too).  There’s still some road ahead with potential twists and turns, but I think I’m better at navigating it than I was in my youth. Or not.

I certainly don’t see myself embracing the bright side of things anytime soon, so I’ll stick with counting my miseries and my life long philosophy. . .Could have been worse

Happy New Year!I have a New Year’s resolution.    It is somewhat daunting yet completely within my capability and will give me a sense of accomplishment and enrichment should I complete it.

 I plan to learn a poem by heart.

I decided this on the day before New Year’s eve.  My in-laws had left a day earlier and even though I had lots of work to do before the neighborhood New Year’s Eve partyI gave myself the morning off. I let the kids play video games in the family room, something they hadn’t done for over a week while their grandparents occupied the space, while I stayed in my pj’s and took to my bedroom like a moody teenager.  Lounging in bed I listened to old cassettes of a music project of mine from the late 80’s and read poems out of college text books.  It was self-indulgent time travel, yet it felt rejuvenating and necessary.  It reminded me how good poetry is for my soul.   That’s when I decided I was done with all the usual self-improvement resolutions.

Obviously the desire to eat better, exercise more, work smarter not harder, all while learning to love yourself for who you truly are, doesn’t work out for most people. If it did, the internet wouldn’t explode each January 1st with articles on how to make this year the year to keep your New Year’s Resolutions,  not to mention the crazy lists about the  7 Surprising Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Diet And Self-Esteem By Reading All These Lists About How You’re Doing Everything Wrong.   I don’t have the energy to think about all the things I’m doing wrong while trying to become a better person who accepts herself.  I think I’ll just live with my foibles, learn a poem and move on.

So then the question becomes – which poem do I learn? I do have a few poems in my repertoire – easy, short poems by W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson as well as the very first poem I ever committed to memory, a catchy verse from Kate Greenaway’s Under the Window .   I haven’t worked too hard at memorizing big chunks of words since my college days,  so there’s an inclination to keep it short and sweet, but I want it to be meaningful which brings me to a recent confluence of events:

Back in November, my friend, Nate, who was expecting his third son (born on December 31st 2013 – Congrats Nate and Rose!), told me he and his wife had decided to name the child Eliot after T.S. Eliot.  After learning this I felt the pull to re-read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and so headed down to the family room to find my old copy of The Wasteland and other Poems.  I was barely there for 5 minutes before my kids appeared and asked what I was doing.  My husband, worried he was missing out on a party, showed up soon after.  I explained I was reading poetry and then without offering anyone a chance to escape, opened the book and began, “Let us go then, you and I . . .”

Both boys listened to the entire poem without interruption which I found amazing because while my inner voice reads the poem with the proper measured tone and inflections, the reading my real voice gave left a lot to be desired.    When I finished, my youngest son asked to hear more poetry. My eldest son seemed lost in thought.wasteland

“If you memorize passages of this poem and quote the right parts at the right time,“ I told my oldest son, “There are  people who will be very impressed and think good things about you.”

“Really,” he asked.

“Yep, especially that part about the mermaids, “my husband chimed in, “Everyone loves that part about the mermaids.” (It’s true.   Many, many years ago, back in the 1990’s, a friend sent me a handmade postcard with mermaids on the front.  On the back she had written “Actually, I do think they are singing to you.”  It was so touching that I have kept it, even though she has long since gone out of my life.)

My husband then put a record on the turntable and we sat there listening to music and, at least in my case, thinking about poetry.  It was one of those rare picture-perfect moments when your kids behave exactly like you imagined your kids would behave, before you actually had kids.  It gave me yet another reason to appreciate “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

My younger self always appreciated the poem because by my humble interpretation, it touches on human frailty and failure, mortality and missed connections, all wrapped in the yearning for something greater that will never transpire.  It’s beautiful and timeless and I know small sections of it already, but it would be wonderful to have it all committed to memory.

And so, this year instead of resolving to take up the 7 habits of highly effective people, or eat only the 5 foods that will melt my belly fat, or try 10 tricks that will cut my workout time in half,  I resolve to learn “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”   It doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t try other things, it simply means I am to making poetry a priority for my mind, body and soul.  After all, learning poetry by heart is the number one purest and safest way to ingest art and make it part of you.  I think it’s a pretty good resolution.

As an aside – I’ve often wondered how many people have a poem or poems committed to memory and what those poems might be.  Let me know if you do.

 

He did not mean for it to happen
He was just doing what kids do

Capture and release
Wanting to hold something beautiful

But when he  uncupped his hands
A delicate pair of wings  stuck to his palm
A newly flightless creature crawled across his knuckles

Put it down, I said, before you hurt it more

There, he said, as he flicked it off his hand,
Now it has a new life

We watched it crawl along the ground

Yes, I replied
Remembering
It can happen that fast

word pressButterfly

In the wake of last night’s VMA’s I have come up with a subversive idea for the music industry.  Why not start promoting new pop artists who are over 35.  What more mature artists may lack in youthful good looks and reckless abandon witnessed on last night’s show, they make up for with years of experience, a serious understanding of paying your dues, and self-respect for one’s craft and performance.

Now I recognize that self-respect doesn’t really sell the way youthful good looks and wild abandon do. This could actually be a good thing.  It could be a reset button, a way to lower the bar for the young performers who feel the need to top all that’s come before, because topping all that’s come before is eventually going  to take us in to Annie Sprinkle territory and I can guarantee you that Annie Sprinkle has done it  better.

We’ve come a long way from Elvis swiveling his hips on Ed Sullivan, or even Madonna humping a wedding veil.  It takes a lot more to shock the audience.  There was a time when playing around with a bit of religious imagery was enough to get some cries of outrage.   However, religion seems to be on the decline in America so it’s hard to get the public riled up over something they may or may not care about.  Besides, Madonna drained that well dry in the 80’s and 90’s and Sinead O’Connor all but paved it over.

It seems we’ve lost the knack for subversive imagery and we’re left with nothing but the actual acts we once artfully paid homage to via creative symbolism.  Or maybe we have nothing left to rebel against.  However, there are things that still seem subversive in our society – conspicuously aging, being fat, being poor, being gentle, being average and being okay with it.  Unfortunately, none of these things make a marketable train wreck.

I maintain that here are a lot of musicians in this world, who in my opinion deserve way more attention than some of last night’s VMA acts received.  Here’s a list of some  artists/bands that would have shocked and amazed the audience both by delivering a compelling performance and also by breaking the ever devolving pop-star mold.  Check them out if you get a chance.

Diggsville

Adam Beach

The Hodges

The Clarences

Bite

Zoid

A poorly drawn cautionary tale of a middle aged woman and a fictional character in a relationship that just wasn’t meant to be.

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Bedroom-1

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Bedroom-3

Split-Screen-Not-there

Kid-Panel

Card-Game

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Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2012.  You were a pretty good year.

New Year’s Eve has always been a bittersweet event for me.  I remain a creature of possibility.  A hard, fast ending that involves a countdown followed by a melancholy tune rhetorically questioning if we should forgot the days that have gone by can reduce me to tears as I realize all that could have been won’t be.  At least not this year. But then, poof, here comes 365 days of possibility, wonder, amazement.  You can’t turn down a fresh start.

I’ve become a little more fluid in my thinking these days and have recognized possibilities and fresh starts are available almost any time or place, but it still feels good to demarcate the beginning and ending of 52 weeks.  It makes it easier to look back and say things like, “That was the year my youngest son started school;” “That was the year my oldest son grew taller than me;” “That was the year I began to feel like if I put in the time and effort, I could really become a musician;” “That was that year I felt my life had come together and I became aware and  amazed by how much love and beauty surrounds me.”

Actually I  would never say that last sentence because it’s a little too New Age-y for me.  One cannot thrive on the power of failure and fully embrace the positive affirmation.  It seems to me positive affirmations are tossed around far too willy-nilly these days anyway, and often I sense there is a less than positive subtext beneath.  In my cynical little blackened heart I  feel that the much touted “I’m so blessed” Facebook status update translates into: “My life is soooo much better than yours.”  Seriously, if Mother Theresa were alive and on Facebook she wouldn’t be posting how freakin’ blessed she is every 15 minutes! Get over yourselves, people!  You’re trying too hard, and I’m pretty sure all those pictures of your family have been heavily retouched!

Ahem. I feel better now. But this does bring me to the obligatory list of New Year’s Resolution.  My first resolution is to limit my Facebook time to one session per day (and preferably a session that lasts no more than 5 hours) or at the very least,to figure out how to turn off the status updates of the Facebook friends who annoy me.  Beyond that, I should  work on my self confidence, but then I realize I would never be able to do that, I just don’t have that kind of strength of character.  So instead I have resolved to take up a bunch of  low level bad habits (like not flossing twice a day or biting my nails) and then next year I can resolve to stop doing those things, which should be fairly easy to accomplish,  thereby boosting my sense of self worth.  Sometimes you have to look at the big picture with these resolutions. My final resolution is to have the mess from my New Year’s Eve party cleaned up by next New Year’s Eve.

Seriously though, I’m looking forward to a lot in 2013, including working on my second CD, playing music with the Debora Iyall Group (DIG for short), perhaps continuing a side project with my friend Pauli Gray, and of course spending lots of time with my kids who are growing up way faster than I thought possible.

For those of you who have stopped in and read my entries in 2012, thanks so much for reading.  Hope you have a great 2013!

I'm sooo blessed!

Some of my favorite gifts from this Holiday Season.

 

 

 

 

Deadhau5Wife

A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed some really heavy bass synth sounds for a song I’m working on.  I loves me some free VST Plugins, but thought I might broaden my horizons and check out free demos to see the range of what is out there.  I came across Native Instruments’ Massive, immediately downloaded it , fired up Cubase and was ready to give it a whirl when my son called me into his room.  He wanted to show me something he had created.  I tried putting him off for a few minutes while I messed  with a couple of the presets,  but it became apparent he really wanted my attention so off I went.

After checking out my son’s latest Lego creation, I headed back towards the kitchen only to spy a basket of laundry I had collected a little earlier that day.  I decided to be proactive and take the laundry down to the washing machine.  Once I had the wash started I realized there was more laundry in the dryer.  I’ve been working very hard to stay on top of things and not let it all pile up, so I took that laundry upstairs, folded it and put it away.  In the process I came across a shirt that needed a button sewn back on.  Well, there happened to be a few things in my “needs mending” pile, so I took all of that out to the living room, sat down and made necessary repairs. Now I felt really good about myself.  I was getting things done!

I started towards the bedroom by way of the kitchen when I saw my laptop sitting there with  an odd message on the screen.  I immediately checked it out in fear that is was my  virus protection software alerting me to some download doom.  Nope.  It was simply a message from Native Instruments telling me my thirty minute trial of Massive was up and thanking me for giving it a try. D’oh!

 

 

Disappointment (who perhaps looks a little like Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island)

One of the hardest things to do is to sit with your own disappointment; sit quietly with it in a room, no running or reaching for the phone to call for help, no opening a bottle of something to drown it. Disappointment can be huge, and yet still drowns neatly in a small bottle of the right stuff. Funny how that works. The challenge is to just sit with it, look it in its colorless eyes and wait until it gets bored. Eventually it shrugs and says “what did you expect?” before it finally lopes off to some other non-event.

But I can’t do it. I can’t wait out disappointment like that. If it looks like disappointment is on the way, anyone’s disappointment, I will be the first to cast an anxious eye to the horizon and scream, “Distract, distract, distract!” And  it must have been that time when I could not distract myself from looming disappointment, that I discovered the power of failure.

Failure can be a beautiful thing. It builds no expectations, and with no expectations there can be no disappointment. The twisted twin of: “Do or do not. There is no try,” there is only “try” in my power of failure. And I try everything – film making, sword fighting, singing in front of an audience, creative writing groups, so many endeavors that make others pause and worry, “What if I’m no good?” I simply mutter my negative affirmation “I’m going to suck. Oh well,” and barrel onward.
Sometimes I do stop and ask, “Where has this gotten me?” Because obviously approaching everything with the understanding that you will fail doesn’t leave much room to strive towards improvement. I suppose the answer is nowhere, but it’s an interesting nowhere. And I’m rarely if ever defeated, which makes me something of an alpha loser.

Sadly though, any expectation, even an expectation of failure, will lead you back to disappointment. Witness the moment a peer in one of my activities turned to me and said, “You know, you’re not as bad as you think you are.” It was intended as encouragement, but it meant that I had failed at failing.  And what do I do with that?

I went out to Secret Studios last night to meet up with my friend, Pauli, who hopefully will play a few songs with me at my next show (May 22 at El Rio, in case you’re wondering). I was late and he thought I had already cancelled,  so I waited while he made the trek from his place in The Mission to Cesar Chavez.  As I stood there in the hall with a pile of equipment at my feet, fumbling with my phone to pass the time, I realized that this was such a familiar situation in such a familiar place, that it felt timeless.

Before I knew it as Secret Studios, I knew the building as McCune Audio/Visual. I worked there for a few years, but not a contiguous few years. I think I may have quit twice before finally leaving for good. Secret Studios was already occupying the back of the building when it was McCune, but when McCune left, Secret Studios took over the rest of the warehouse area (the same area where I spent a lot of time wrapping cables, because the McCune warehouse manager didn’t know what to do with the secretary from upstairs who claimed she wanted to be a tech even though she couldn’t comfortably lift half of the equipment that needed to be hauled around for the job).

I’d been there a couple of times on auditions before I became a regular, traveling down the long halls of rehearsal space doors to meet with Karen, the singer/ guitarist with whom I formed The Little Things. When Karen needed to take a break from music to have a baby, I auditioned for Candy from Strangers, which lead me to the same door I waited by last night. Since then I’ve also rented out the hourly room for various projects.
I’ve watched bands load drum sets and amps into shabby vans in the parking lot, I’ve clumsily dragged my own equipment over the bumpy asphalt and dropped my keyboard on the loading ramp more than once (on one particular instance it was a choice between my keyboard or my mini skirt, and I chose the mini skirt. Either way, I was going to look stupid.) Sometimes it seems the musicians coming and going are ageless, sometimes they look like kids, and then sometimes, when I really look around everyone seems to be my age.

If there’s any secret left to Secret Studios, it certainly isn’t the security gate code, I think you could probably Google it if you had to. Maybe the real secret is that it is timeless. Some bands have practiced there forever; many bands have been born and died there, occasionally  all in the same night. It holds the same psychic energy as say a dorm room, or a prison, or any space that is inhabited for a very specific purpose. Musicians come and go, but things don’t change much. The musical styles cycle through.

But the one thing that hangs in my mind each and every time I go to Secret Studios is “Man, this would be a kick ass setting for a zombie flick.” And it really would be.  A poor unsuspecting singer on her way to the audition of lifetime doesn’t realize the zombie apocalypse is upon her.  Suddenly she finds herself trapped in a maze of punk rock zombies, metal head zombies, goth zombies, swing band zombies – and half of the zombies she encounters aren’t even zombies yet.  It practically writes itself!

 

My youngest wakes up crying for a certain kind of breakfast food I don’t have in the house. For reasons still unknown to me, I agree to run out to the store to appease his craving. I throw on some sweatpants and my winter jacket and head out to the local store that is not as safe as its name implies (you’d better check the dates on the organic yogurt, if you know what I’m saying).

As soon as I start-up my husband’s car, the mp3 player comes to life and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” blasts forth from the stereo, throwing me back in time a good 25 years. And then, like a character from a Philip K. Dick novel, my timeline is scrambled. I am both a middle-aged woman driving down the pleasant, suburban street on which she lives on a crisp Monday morning, and I am also an awkward, discontent teenager, shut up in her room listening to records, dreaming of a future she knows will never materialize.

“It’s okay,” I want to tell my tell my teenage self. “Things turn out nothing like you planned, but it turns out fine. By the way, can I pick up anything for you at the grocery store while I’m out?” My teenage self gives me the silent treatment as usual.

There’s no one else out here except for a teenage boy walking to the bus stop; his dyed black hair provides no contrast to his black hoodie and his black t-shirt.

“And if a ten ton truck crashes into us, to die by your side, well the pleasure the privilege is mine,” croons Morrissey.

For just a moment I fight the urge to pull over to the Emo boy and say, “Hey, want a ride?”