Archive for the ‘Somewhere in between phases’ Category

You can be a patron of the arts! Doesn’t that sound sophisticated?

During this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders (which I heartily endorse) musicians are losing out on income because bars and clubs have closed down. Bandcamp is trying to help out by waiving their revenue fee tomorrow – Friday, March 20th. That means 100% of the money you pay for the music goes to the artist. You can read all about it here:https://daily.bandcamp.com/fea…/bandcamp-covid-19-fundraiser

Now is a great time to discover new music and support artists who may be struggling financially. Here’s some recommendations to get you started. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Karina Denike
https://karinadenike.bandcamp.com/

About: Karina Denike is a S.F. songstress, chanteuse, arranger and songwriter who sings her way across many genres of music. Her original tunes are a haunting combo of 30’s seaside shanties, 60’s girl group harmony and noir soundtracks. You may also know her voice from her other groups: Dance Hall Crashers, The Cottontails, Mr. Lonesome & The Bluebelles, Ralph Carney’s serious jass Project and many more.

My take: You will fall in love with Karina’s voice the first time you hear it. “Golden Kimonos” is my favorite track off her album, Under Glass.

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Lily Taylor
https://lilytaylor.bandcamp.com/

My take: I discovered Lily Taylor through her work with Karina Denike. Her music is beautiful and experimental and showcases her lush vocals.

Deborah Crooks
https://deborahcrooks.bandcamp.com/

About: California-based songwriter Deborah Crooks’ music draws on folk, rock, and the Blues. Her diverse, ever-evolving artistic path has included studying writing and poetics at The Naropa Institute, voice in India, co-founding the band Bay Station, and gigging throughout the Western US.

My take: Poignant Americana, reminiscent of Lucinda Williams

Eki Shola
https://ekishola.bandcamp.com/

About: A talented vocalist and pianist, Eki Shola’s music transcends genre, as she seamlessly draws from jazz, electronica, and world to create her own sonic landscape. Her music has been described as “…sound art to be used to trigger thought and encourage love and beauty through rhythm and unique composition.”
Her personal story was featured in a PBS TV special, “The New Normal: Visions of Healing”

My take: Beautiful, genre-defying music that blends jazz and electronica.

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Little Spiral
https://littlespiral.bandcamp.com/

About: a.k.a. Suzanne Yada, is a piano-pop singer-songwriter who writes at the intersection of technology and heart. She mixes her indie pop, classical, blues and electronic influences with her background in poetry, media and the internet to create clever little piano pop songs for the digital age. Fans of Tori Amos, Mary Lambert, Fiona Apple & Regina Spektor will feel right at home.

My take: Thought provoking lyrics and mad piano skills.

Eu4ic
https://eu4ic.bandcamp.com/

About: In the 2010’s, a post-religion woman muses over our day and age to deep, hypnotic soundscapes, beats and big basslines.

My take: Shimmering beats, lovely vocals and introspective lyrics.

Raven State
https://ravenstate.bandcamp.com/

About: Raven State is a guitar-driven rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area with the spirit of The Stooges and patience of Pink Floyd. At times haunting and atmospheric, pop hooks combined with soulful harmonies keep the dark, hopeless melodies from destroying the future in the hearts of mankind. Their self-titled debut EP is available now. Enjoy.

My take: The Pink Floyd influence is strong in this band!

sick

I have had a head cold for the past week, but have tried to continue operating like I’m totally fine. It’s a tried and true American value to show up and do your job even when you’re sick. This illustrates how things have gone for me. “I’m fine. I took a double dose of Dayquil an hour ago.”

My last post was nearly 3 years ago. . . 2016: the year David Bowie died;  the year DJT was elected president; the year I decided it was time to do something different with my life.  The first two items from my very-cherry-picked list of 2016 events were terrible occurrences, but the third, deciding to doing something different with my life, was a good thing.  I had been banging my head against a wall for at least a year trying to make something happen for my band, Shot in the Dark, and the universe just wasn’t buying it.  It was a moment of reckoning between reality and every piece of advice you pick up as a child when they talk about following your dreams:  if you really try, if you love it, if you really want it, it you work hard, it will happen for you.  I want to say something snarky about how I must have been sick the day they added, “also, you should probably be young, attractive and have talent,”  but I’m going to let it go. Yep, letting that go.

So in 2016 I enrolled at the local community college in classes for early childhood education with an emphasis on special education.  I  enjoyed the classes and when the semester was over I applied for a job at a non-public school for students with moderate-to-severe disabilities.  This was a huge step for me as I hadn’t been officially employed for almost 16 years.  I got an interview and was offered the job on the spot.  And what a job!  This was a population of students I’d never worked with before despite all my years volunteering at my sons’ schools.  Everything about the job was new and exciting and occasionally unpredictable.  I felt I had found a place I belonged and could make a small difference in the world. And that was what has brought me here to January 2019, where I am now in a credentialed master’s program for special education while working part time at a school district. 

And I’m feeling less certain about having found my place.

As if on cue, Music, like a long absent ex, shows back up on my doorstep asking to just hang out for a bit, you know just to catch up.  And so here I am with more music, hoping 2019 can be a year of balance and happiness for me personally.  I can’t comment on what’s going down with the rest of the world.

Before my break I was all about synthesizers and drum machines and production. Now I’m concentrating more on an acoustic sound and live performance. Check out the video and let me know what you think!

 

Tree Fort

It’s Sunday morning around 3 AM. I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house, savoring the last beer of the evening,  still glowing from the show my band played at a local bar just five hours prior. My friends and I may be middle-aged but we are giggling like school girls. Our kids are elsewhere, sleeping and safe, and we are talking about everything . . . movies, men, our mothers, life. I know I will pay dearly for this venture into the youthful territory of pre-dawn revelry –particularly in a few hours when my family will look to me to be the functional, dependable mother and wife who will make breakfast, but for now I feel like a teenager.   The deep, intense friendship we are enacting, the underlying sense of possibility that permeates the night all takes me back to the summer after high school graduation when the future was unknowable, but the mystery seemed overwhelmingly in my favor. Good things have happened and therefore more good things could happen. Summer has just begun. “The future’s open wide.”

It’s Wednesday afternoon around 3 PM. I’m standing in a darkened room next to the bed of a dying woman. We have known each other for ten years. She is the mother of my oldest son’s one-time best friend. Together we have endured and enjoyed countless play dates, some which ended well and some which ended in tears (the children’s, not ours). The friendship between our sons fizzled out a few years back, but she and her family have remained regular attendees at our New Year’s Eve parties, including this past New Year’s Eve when she shuffled into my kitchen, thin and frail, to take her usual place the table with all my friends. Her presence made the party feel complete. But now she turns her head towards me, her eyes flutter open and fix upon me for a moment before looking away. We know each other well enough for her to say, with the most emphasis she can muster, “This sucks!” Already she is tired and drifting off again and we have run out of things to say. “Take care,” I tell her, “I’ll catch you later.”

It’s Thursday morning around 4 AM. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. My youngest son has a headache and a fever of 104.6. My husband is rocking him in the recliner. I have administered Tylenol and placed a cold pack on his forehead. We have been fighting this fever since the early evening. The advice nurse told me everything is fine as long as it stays below 105 degrees. I’m worried – not really worried, but still worried. Life takes detours; one moment changes everything. What comes next remains unknowable. You hear stories all the time.

It’s Thursday morning around 10 AM. My son’s fever is down, not gone, but back to around 100. He’s feeling better and acting more like himself.

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside, an anomalous warm and sunny day for our coastal Northern California town. I step out on the deck and feel the warmth rise up from the sun-heated boards. There’s not a hint of cold, even the icy sea breeze that often threads itself through the usual spring-like temperatures of our climate is still.  Summer!

“Come outside,” I tell my son. “It’s beautiful out here.”

Still in his pajamas, he follows me across the deck to the weather-beaten settee and sits on my lap. Instinctively we both close our eyes and turn our faces towards the light.

“Sometimes,” I say, more to myself than to him, “all you have is the warmth of the sun on your face. And sometimes it’s enough.”

He lays his head on my shoulder.  I have not felt this content in days.

ShyThis is my first memory of it: I am five years old, shopping with my mother at Kmart. We run into a friend of my mother’s. The friend says hello to me and asks me how I am. I stare up at this unfamiliar adult; I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure how I am. The person’s fixed smile and expectant gaze makes me uncomfortable but I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to say anything about it. My silence goes on for too long. Then my mother says in an apologetic tone, “She’s shy.” And that’s when I know how I am – I’m shy. My mother will say this many more times throughout my life with her. Eventually the apologetic tone will change into one of annoyance and embarrassment as I remain shy well into my teens.

When I reach my 20’s I begin to recognize that certain goals I have set for myself can only be achieved by meeting and talking to people. I feel this most sharply when attending classes at the Film Arts Foundation. I want to make movies in a serious way, but as I sit through a seminar on screenwriting or a workshop on Super-8 cameras, I take notice during the breaks that people are talking to each other. At first I tell myself these people must all know each other from previous classes, but as I eavesdrop in on conversations I realize that no, they are meeting right there before my very eyes. Not only that, but they are talking about their film projects, they are talking about working with each other, they are networking. But I am shy, which based on the tone and context my mother and teachers used when discussing my introverted nature, is a bad thing. If only I had stopped being shy when my mom pointed it out to me, when teachers coerced me to speak up in class, when my college advisor told me I was too quiet and that made me boring. But instead I just felt embarrassed and ashamed and then defiant. Screw you, world, I had thought on those occasions, you think I’m quiet now? Just you wait, I will never speak again.

Of course I did speak again, but it wasn’t until my 20’s that I started trying to figure out ways to become less shy. There were many, many well-meaning people along the way who would tell me I just had to get out of my comfort zone and do it; they had been very shy but now they had become comfortable talking to everyone. A therapist recommended Toastmasters, I perused the Learning Annex catalog, a bastion of self-help and self-improvement seminars, and considered taking “How to Make Small Talk” and “Become a Master Conversationalist” but I doubted a 3 hour lecture would take me from being unable to make eye contact to being the life of the party (or film-making class). Finally I started consciously running a reminder script in my head, “Make eye contact. Say hi.” Surprisingly, when I remembered to do it and made the effort, it actually worked! Soon I found myself with another problem: making eye contact and saying hello gave many people the impression that I wanted to talk to them.

To be fair, I did want to talk to them, but only about the things I wanted to talk about and I quickly observed there was an anticipated flow of conversation with someone you had just met. Apparently there had to be a neutral starting point, small talk involving trivial observations about the weather or the class we were taking. Following this was a low-key getting to know each other Q & A: who are you, where are you from, etc. etc. If you could make it past all these hurdles then you might be able to gracefully bring up the thing you wanted to say in the first place – “Will you do the special effects make up for my film?”; “Can I be your camera assistant?” If I didn’t stall out during the small talk portion, I usually hit the “getting to know you” questions too hard and the other person would bail out, most likely feeling as if he was being grilled by the cops rather than enjoying a casual chat.

Thank the universe for the extreme extroverts of the world who are not bothered or unnerved by a mostly silent conversation partner. It’s not surprising that many of the people who came in and out of my life in my 20’s and early 30’s were flamboyant, outspoken, and enjoyed being the center of attention. It was a mutually beneficial relationship for the most part, although I confess to intentionally using their boisterous personality for my own purposes, especially when it came to film making and putting people in front of my camera.

When my first son came along I decided it was time to really grow up and quit being shy. I wanted him to have a good role model for social interactions.  While I never thought to do this for myself, I was willing to do almost anything for him (later I would completely rid myself of my fear of spiders on his behalf, but despite best efforts, my fear of heights remains intact). I joined a mother’s club and playgroups, volunteered at school events, and hosted birthday parties. I tried very hard to act like the other mothers, to fit in, in hopes that my son would learn to fit in as well. It didn’t work out.

Despite putting myself into all those social situations, I was still shy, or I suppose socially anxious as it’s called now. I did make a few good friends, other moms who, like me,  did not easily fit in at mom-centric events like PTO meetings and Pampered Chef parties.  There was also another problem; by age 2, my  son was actively avoiding his peers. Things did not improve in preschool and by age five, at the behest of his kindergarten teacher, we had him evaluated by a child development specialist. Asperger’s Syndrome was the diagnosis. Considered a high functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome can make social interaction very difficult: “The social communication deficits in highly functioning persons with Asperger syndrome include lack of the normal back and forth conversation; lack of typical eye contact, body language, and facial expression; and trouble maintaining relationships.”  Huh. How about that?

My son has just started high school and I don’t think any of his classmates or teachers would classify him as shy.  He’s not the most talkative kid around, but when he has something to say, he says it without hesitation.  I also have a second son who is a natural extrovert.  He makes friends every where and talks to everyone.  At seven he is far more socially savvy than I have ever been.

As for me, I recently made a conscious decision to no longer work towards becoming the extrovert I had long believed existed inside me if only I put myself out there and really tried. I have tried, and with age I’ve gotten better at successfully negotiating social situations, but I feel it’s time to honor the introvert that I am. It feels wonderfully rebellious to no longer beat myself up over my given nature. Obviously I do need to function and interact with society at large, but if I fail to have a conversation with other parents on the school yard at pick up time I’m going to be okay with that. I’m good at smiling and nodding, so when the chatty cashier at the grocery store begins to monologue about something or other, I’m not going to shut him down, instead I’m going to appreciate what he has to say and also that I’m good at giving others room to speak. I very much enjoy listening. Also, I can be talkative when with the right person, so if I’ve ever talked your ear off, know that in my book we’ve made an honest connection.

Finally to all the people who, for whatever reason, love to put introverts on the spot by pointing out how quiet they are I have to say – Stop it! Seriously, cut that out. It’s not helpful and you look like a jerk. I know it’s hard to see in the moment, but I’m not being quiet because I dislike you; I don’t dislike you unless you say something like, “Wow, you just never stop talking . . . ha ha ha.” At which point my newly rebellious introvert self will reply, “Well, you know how the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say . . .”

Then again, perhaps I will defiantly say nothing at all.

only loversjpgI spent Saturday afternoon at The Opera Plaza Cinema watching Only Lovers Left Alive, exactly where I had wanted to see the movie when I first heard about it. While the film does have a very 90’s feel – Jarmusch, vampires, Tilda Swinton, a soundtrack of moody, heavy guitar, it did not allow me to time warp back to 1995 as I had hoped: Indie Movie  Time Machine. You can travel back in time, but only while the movie is playing. No, I didn’t get that experience.   Instead I felt anchored to my present reality, one in which I’m rather busy with my family and new music and the slightest attempt at starting my own business. It’s nice to be so connected to my current life, but I do enjoy getting lost in a good movie and I’m afraid this one just wasn’t powerful enough to make that happen.

When it was over, my fellow film goers agreed it was visually beautiful, but slow-paced, with moments of dry humor. It seemed to me that seventy percent of the main characters’ dialogue consisted of historical and scientific facts, a constant reminder of the ages and information the vampires had witnessed and absorbed in their long lives.

“Do you think it was written that way out of sarcasm or irony?” asked one of the women in our group. “I mean they were such snobs. Was he  making a point about snobbery?” I’ll go with that. Perhaps the point is that the thinking-man’s vampire will become turgid, not with blood but knowledge that, while impressive, can become just as much a crutch as violence or melodrama when used so extensively.   Or perhaps I’m the real snob here. . . But then, Tom Hiddleston.

Meanwhile, back in my everyday life, I’m excited to be part of KnightressM1’s upcoming show at the Milk Bar in San Francisco on June 5th. Violinist/vocalist Emily Palen is the creative force behind KnightressM1, and she is one of those rare people with a direct connection to the music god(dess).   I first saw and heard Emily at The Red Devil Lounge with the band, Dolorata and she has since gone on to play and record with many groups in the Bay Area as well as the Foo Fighters. The music I’m helping her bring to the stage is more electronica influenced than the music she regularly performs with her power trio. It’s beautiful and compelling and I was immediately drawn to it. It’s also subtly complex and nuanced. It is definitely challenging me in regards to knowledge of my gear, Ableton Live, as well as my musicianship.

Here’s a song we will be performing on June 5th.  Enjoy!

 

 

I’ve been meaning to write.

I’ve been meaning to write about pain and loss and grief and the importance of finding small joys.  I’ve been meaning to write about uncertainty and inevitability, the uncomfortable position of navigating a friend’s mourning process in hopes of offering solace and support, and the even more difficult conversations you have with people for whom hope is not an option, but neither is defeat.

I’ve been meaning to write about my own anxiety and the endless one-note symphony of my creative failure.   I’ve been meaning to write about the hard, dull thud in one’s soul when, just for a moment, you catch of glimpse of your place in the universe.   I’ve been meaning to write about fear – fear of having traveled the wrong path for too long, the fear of aging and the unspoken powers of youth.    I’ve been meaning to write about the inequities of physical beauty, and raw, tangible talent versus much-practiced, lesser abilities.

But when I sit down to arrange any of this in a reasonable, logical fashion I get stuck on how unreasonable and illogical it all is.  And I feel helpless.  I cannot give myself the attributes I do not possess and I cannot change the circumstances of those I see around me.   And really, they aren’t in the same realm are they?  Absolute loss and misguided expectations are two different aspects of the hard parts of life.

And so I haven’t written at all because I don’t know what to say.

I tell myself to keep seeking out the small joys – dancing in the living room with my kids, singing in the car, enjoying that first cup of coffee in the morning.  I tell myself that as long as I’m alive and healthy with a roof over my head I can still work out the feelings of inadequacy and failure.  I tell myself that the time to save face and hold back is over.  There’s nothing to save; let people look and laugh or look and admire or ignore it all.  But there really is nothing to be saved for later.

Give it all now.  Give it all you’ve got.

small joys