Monday, April 11, 2016

#robotvoice #subdivisions Hello, April!

The month of March was kind of a shitty one. Without delving into the gory details, I'll just say:

It's done, and now I don't have to do it again, and hello, April, why, you're so pretty, aren't you, April!

It's taken me like, 11 days in to get to this point, and it's possible I'll take a u-turn again and get all squiggly, but right now, here I am, sort of, and I'm glad to be here.

I'm going to try to stay. And if I don't, I'll start all over again, and it will get easier, because nothing truly life threatening occurred, and it's just my ability to deal that has been tested, and even though, as you keep reading, you'll think that I feel like a 100 year old ancient person, in truth, I am still a kid, still have a lot to learn, and have a heart the size of a Greyhound bus. I can say that because I've seen at least one other heart that big, and I know what I'm talking about.

I met up the other day with my old friend Bo (20 years ago I would've said, "emphasis on old" but 20 years is a long time for us both) about some changes I've endured (encountered? Endured), and his response to our conversation, which pretty much just consisted of me saying, "Owwwwwwwww! Owwwwwww," perhaps with a few details, was genius.

He said:

"You don't know what tomorrow will bring."

Dude. So simple, and yet so smart.

One way I deal with stuff is with music. Playing it when I can, yeah, but listening, too. The problem is, certain kinds of music gets me in a bad head space. And then the radio, rife with crap like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or the Eagles, and other junk that should've been banned from the airwaves 20 years ago (when Bo and I were young, and hated this music the first time around), or new garbage, like Maroon 5 and Coldplay, is, in general, a dangerous place for me to be, so I've been enlisting my friends Rush, via streaming.

Patrick read somewhere that Rush's lyrics were once voted amongst the worst lyrics in the world, and while I totally agree, on the one hand, on the other hand, nothing distracts from one's emotional basket-case self like "Tom Sawyer" or "Subdivisions."

Math rock to the rescue, and I mean it (without being melodramatic or anything), I kind of needed rescuing.

On Saturday, I was putting away laundry and sorting out my closet, and Jules was in the bedroom with me, playing with his legos on the bed. "Subdivisions" came on, and I started teaching him when to drop in with the robot voice. Hearing his awesome five year old voice say, when I pointed at him, "subdivisions" was the highlight of my weekend.

Here's to another week (or month) of blasting Rush in the car and other places. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Too much information.

I have to be honest: it's been a rough month.

However, I've found myself turning to two things that are doing me a lot of good:

Music, and friends.

(If you've gotten a weird phone call from me at 4:30 p.m., that's when I'm on the 710 freeway, sitting there, trying to not stew about everything.)

I've been trying to play more, and practice, and think about tone and power and volume, and that's slow going because time is not my friend these days. It's funny: work is the no. 2 cause of my stressed-out feelings, and also the cause of my shoulder pain (NOT tendinitis, as my physical therapist told me today but rather... something else having to do with posture and weak muscles and sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day for 15 years that I can't remember the name of), but I do actually like being there. Is that weird? However, having to be there means I can't practice or do the other things that soothe me (laundry being another).

(I'm at Starbucks, and some guy just asked if he could plug his phone charger into the plug beneath my table. He said, "Do you mind if I borrow some of your power?" I said, "WHAT power?" I think he thought I was kidding around but it was amusing, and SO APPROPRIATE. Personal things are making me feel a bit like a bug under a tire.)

The funny thing is the music I've been listening to. I think people assume that when there are hard things to go through and think about, that women tend to turn to sappy, sad music (the opening to Bridget Jones' Diary comes to mind). But I don't need SPECIFIC music to make me cry, and honestly, that kind of stuff does NOT make me feel better. I know how to do that shit all by myself. Nope, I've been turning to Rush for when my brains are scrambled, and it has been so therapeutic.

I think I read somewhere that so-called math rock can help with concentration and learning; for me, the mostly lack of sappy love-centric lyrics and the complicated rhythms are what I'm looking for. Yesterday I was happy when I thought I hit every bass drum beat with my thumb on the door of my car during "Tom Sawyer." I'd love to try out some King Crimson - a favorite of mine and Patrick's for years - but I don't think I'm ready for all those lyrics. Bill Bruford's drums, though! The yearning quality of Adrian Belew's voice, which I love, just isn't what I'm looking for right now. The other band I've been listening to a lot is Weezer, but only the obnoxious songs like "Everybody Get Dangerous," "King," and "Troublemaker." Weezer's ability to make me laugh is appreciated; "The Red Album" delivers.

The other day at home, I was getting a little work in on "The Magic Flute," which we're playing in flute choir. It's hard, and I'm inspired (and, I have to admit, a little challenged) by the woman on 2nd flute. Her name is Loretta, and I'm really fighting to keep up with her. She's got great fingers! I was practicing and Jules sat on the piano bench next to me. The little dude was ROCKING OUT. I've also been playing, on the radio, all my favorite corny classical music greatest hits (The William Tell Overture, Bolero... the Star Wars soundtrack - ssssh, don't tell anyone), and he seems to love it. Me too. It works, right now.

Hey, there are worse things with which to self medicate, right? YES. Maybe I'll get in some piccolo playing today. After my massage.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

If this post were set to music, the composer would not be Wagner.

March 1st of this year was a momentous day in my career.

Not really, but it looks cool up there, doesn't it?

I don't know what I wrote about last year or whenever it happened, but at some point in the past couple of years, I went from being an organized and glorified secretary ("Administrative Assistant II"), a job I enjoyed but didn't challenge me very much, to handling one of the aspects (possibly the easiest) of an employee's time off work, FMLA. I work for a large department, though, so there a lot of parts to that, and policies and laws, and I had to learn a whole new set of skills, and I don't take to change easily, and I let things like this make me anxious and doubtful.

"Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" -- That's a quote from "Lear," by Young Jean Lee, now playing at City Garage Theatre in Santa Monica. Using it here is an inside joke, between me, and myself.

Anyway, my point is, I was so upset when I had to change everything, and then I mastered it, and then I made it better, and then I was told that I have to become a full-on Return-to-Work Coordinator effective March 1, 2016, and take on even more responsibility, learn another whole new set of skills, and I am once again, freaking out.

I just explained it to a coworker (someone with whom I have a history of not always getting along with, but as I am discovering, she and I are so alike, as much as it used to bother me to admit): I got built up (I raised my hand to over our heads) and then now I have to start all over again, at the bottom (slammed my hand on the other one, at waist level). I'm so dramatic. But it's totally what it feels like.

It doesn't help that my office is chaotic, it doesn't help that you ask a question and you find out it's just the tip of the ice berg, it doesn't help that everything here is multi-layered and complicated, it doesn't help that my coworkers (and me, too, probably) tend to be a bit passionate and sometimes passive-aggressive.

It doesn't help that last month I hurt my shoulder and though it's not excruciating or stopping me from functioning, it hurts a lot and is constantly on my mind (and it affects my sleep). I'm being seen by a doctor, and tomorrow I have some physical therapy, but it hurts.

It doesn't help that something else, personally traumatic, is happening to me that I can't control. It won't kill me, but it does suck, rather a lot.

I'm sure that events will transpire as they usually do (history has shown!) in that I'll begin to understand, I won't be so anxious, and that I'll start to feel better (and that I will see that though I feel like I'm in the midst of a lot of drama, this is just how it is sometimes), but for now I'm sort of drowning.

Hugs welcome.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Mozart in the Jungle (Spoilers)

I finally caught up and finished watching both available seasons of "Mozart in the Jungle" on Amazon. Stupid me: I watched Season 2 first, and didn't realize until about 5 episodes in. At that point, I was too invested in the stories to stop, watch the pilot and Season 1 and catch up, so I finished out Season 2 first. The only reason this matters is that Season 1 was actually much better. I don't think the out of order-ness of it affected anything.

I have a couple of critiques, which I'm sure are shared by musicians everywhere. The first one is, these actors are some of the worst fakers at being musicians I have ever seen. The acting itself is fine, but put a cello or violin (or, god forbid, a flute or piccolo) in the hands of one of these people, and it's like they've lost control of their limbs. And Rodrigo's conducting is maniacal and totally a fantasy. Gael Garcia Marquez is fun and sexy to watch, but I'd like to see him find the downbeat for eight bars in a row. I understand that this is probably me being overly picky, but this show is about musicians. If the show was about doctors or (I don't know) NASCAR, they'd be expected to at least portray those professions with some aptitude. Speaking of NASCAR, Lola Kirke can't even fake driving that well. I think that cat from SNL looked more realistic at the wheel of a car. I wonder what Toonces could do with an oboe?

(It was totally ridiculous to show her cleaning that supposedly very expensive oboe with wet wipes. No one with any knowledge or or respect for an instrument would touch that thing with anything caustic or potentially damaging. And where is that oboe now? Why doesn't she actually play it?)

I do like the actor who plays the flutist "Union Bob," but I wish they'd focus, just once, on his playing. He seems like a sweet guy who doesn't deserve to lose attention to the backstabbing, drama whore-filled oboe section. I kind of hope that for Season 3, this show will shift (as did "Call the Midwife") the attention from the current main character - turn that spotlight anywhere else, at least temporarily. And how many more times can they make a stupid joke about his piccolo? Does every flutist have to be subjected to "one time at band camp" level jokes? Jason Schwartzman, you're a smart guy. You're better than that. Aren't you?

Another thing that bugs me is that if the NY Symphony is such a beloved and illustrious organization, why would anyone even consider hiring Hailey Rutledge to play in it? She demonstrates a love of music, and some talent, but she seems to need so much validation (and suffers so much when she doesn't get it). She's a hard worker, I guess, but hasn't shown any reasonable level of actually deserving the opportunities she's been given. Yeah, she plays with the "blood" (according to Rodrigo): but his taste in women (and instrumentalists) seems suspect at the very least. If this is the way to earning a spot in a major orchestra, I deserve to be considered for an audition with the LA Phil. Give me a few months to practice, and I'm sure I could be as good as she is! I might choose a mentor who is less crazy, however, but that just might be my age talking.

On the other hand, if they have any openings in HR, I'd be happy with that, too.

(I love Sharon, by the way. She's awful, but so likable at the same time. That actress doesn't get much to do but what she does, she does so, so well.)

My favorite character is Hailey's roommate, Lizzie. She definitely got the best line in the whole show - when Anna Maria stormed off stage at Rodrigo's debut, Lizzie yells out, "That crazy bitch just ruined my friend's debut!" Ridiculous but hysterical. As was Anna Maria - interesting, beautiful actress, but has something like this every happened, in modern times? I mean, over the top performances are fun to watch, but is there any attention being paid to reality? Obviously the character Anna Maria wouldn't care, but wouldn't anyone else? And then if Warren Boyd was such an amazing violinist - can the first chair violinist of any orchestra just pop off that solo, from memory, at the last minute like that? - why didn't Rodrigo just have him play it in the first place? It made no sense. And then, why was this never mentioned again? Warren Boyd is a genius! He at least did not deserve that silly storyline about trying to fake his own robbery!

Patrick heard me watching the show, and recognized Malcolm McDowell's voice without even looking at the screen of my iPad, which impressed me but maybe not anyone else. The (old) Maestro has gone through some dramatic changes during the two seasons, and though he's also an egomaniac, I kind of love him. His interactions with Wallace Shawn are great, and I adore both actors when they're onscreen together.

Saffron Burrows is one of the most believable actors playing a musician, and I think if the show focused on her (and maybe explained how she affords that totally awesome apartment) more, I might be less critical of the whole thing.

Bernadette Peters is gorgeous! I love seeing her on screen, and at 67 years old, she's a total goddess. I hope I look that good at 47 (because I sure didn't, at 37). Her speaking voice is enthralling, so I was so happy when they finally let her sing. I love the friendship that doesn't seem to be based on sex between her and Rodrigo. I like the way she talks to him: she knows he's a freak, but loves him for his (supposed) genius. I hope she works things out with Pavel. I liked seeing them together, and the way he reacted to her (possibly unintentional?) snobbery.

This is only the second show I've watched on Amazon Prime (the other was "Bosch, and I'm waiting for that thing to start again... and not very patiently, either), and my first on the iPad. I'm not sure what they call it (X-Ray?) but I love seeing the information on screen for the music playing or the actors. I wish there was even more content. It's very cool.

I'm thinking when Season 3 is underway, I'd like to test my abilities, and do some recapping of full episodes, so stick around. If and when that happens, it will be here, of course.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The news

I was listening to NPR on my drive to work this morning, and heard a brief story about the guys "occupying" that bird sanctuary in Oregon. I haven't been following this story very closely (I've heard the stories and seen headlines but I haven't read very much about it). I do wonder why these people seem to have gotten a pass - this story has unfolded over such a long length of time, and the point of it all still seems murky to me.

Anyway, I'm not prepared or qualified to discuss this, at all, but at the end of the story, and I will admit that I may have stopped listening very closely by this point, a man spoke up out of my radio and into my delighted ears. I had to write it down (fine; I had to ask Siri to write it down, which she did, with more perfection than she displays when I ask her to send a text message). It made me giggle. The guy speaking sounded a tiny bit like Elmer Fudd, a detail I don't add to make fun, but only so you too, might hear what I heard. Here it is, for your enjoyment.

"If you stand up against the government, the government will squish you."

Words to live by, kids.

(I think the repetition of the words "the government" got my attention. And then, "squish." It's such a great word. Squish you like a bug, my friends. Like a bug.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Here I am again on my own

Here I am again, at the laundromat. Our dryer died 2 weeks ago. It took us a week to decide to buy a new one, and then to choose the one we wanted. We ended up buying the 2014 model that happens to match our 2014 washing machine from the Sears outlet online but they're taking forever to confirm our order by email - it was supposed to have happened within 24 hours of placing the order. That was 52 hours ago (give or take).

There seems to be a lot of couples here. I don't recall doing laundry (in the short time I lived somewhere without machines of my own) as a team all that much. Maybe I just like the solitude.

Anyway, our cats have been vomiting and peeing on things they shouldn't be, and we need clean clothes, so here I am.

This laundromat doesn't get that busy but the people watching is superb. I shared my observations via text with a friend last week but decided to combine those messages with a real blog entry, today.

The couple next to me is a bit older - the gentleman has gray hair and is probably in his 60s. He's wearing a red hooded sweatshirt that says "North Anaheim All-Stars" on it, jeans, and sneakers. His female companion has dark brown hair, and she's wearing a black dress with a swirly white pattern on it, light pink leather flip flops, and a magenta cardigan. She has nice legs but I wonder if she's cold - it just started raining. They are taking this laundry operation very seriously. Their earnest expressions are what drew me to notice them, but then I saw a man's pleated white tuxedo shirt hanging on the cart. Most of their clothing appears to be black and white. My first bought was: he's a musician! Or maybe a magician! Or maybe the shirt is hers. She's the musician/magician! With skinny black pants, heels, and a blazer…?

The first couple I saw when I came in is having some sort of faux philosophical conversation. They're probably my age. The reason I called their conversation "faux" is because the woman said to the man, who was eating a burrito, "Are you not listening to me or can you just not hear?" She sounded petulant. She seems to be the kind of person who thinks asking endless questions is "conversing." Maybe that works but probably not if your companion appears to be ignoring you. I was not impressed. Also the dude is wearing sunglasses and it's almost dark outside. He's not Roy Orbison. I double checked.

My clothes are in the dryer now.

There was a pair of teenage boys here when I arrived, but they've left. They were playing loud video games on their phones. They removed and folded some large blankets from the dryers. Maybe they are going camping?

Last week I had this to say about the people I ran into at the laundromat. This was a texting conversation; my friend's comments (if salient) will be included. I reserve the right to edit and/or make shit up. I'm going to write it out like a real conversation, not texts.

"There's one other person here and she's adorable. She's probably 25 but she has a low, whiskey voice. She's wearing checkerboard Vans and sweat pants."

My friend said, "Keep an eye on that bitch. She might be doing recon for her baby daddy."

"You're right," I said. "I'm always distracted by a cute face. There's definitely a man in that woman's life, but she must not like him very much because though she folded his shirts, they're all inside out!"

"Maybe she's embarrassed by the graphics on the tees," my friend suggested. "FBI: Female Body Inspector."

"Maybe," I said. "Maybe one says 'Paid da cost to be da boss,' and the next one says 'Weiner Schnitzel Assistant Manager.'"

"Or another says, 'I'm with stupid (but at least she's pretty).'"

I told him, "Now there's a woman here with three blond boys. I'm guessing she's recently divorced; she doesn't look like the Rest of Us Here at the Laundromat. And the boys are all driving her crazy. They just left in their silver Mercedes minivan. Who takes custody of the washer and dryer?"

"Okay," I said.

There was a little more of this real/fake conversation but I think these were the good parts. And one of those lines attributed to "me" was really made by "him," but come on. At least I'm telling you now, right?

Now there's a whole new set of people here. I have 9 more minutes on my drying. I'm so cold and have been all day. I just want to go home and put some sweats on! Hopefully our new dryer will be delivered soon. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Might Be Wrong*

Yesterday, I found out that a long-awaited (it literally took eons) promotion finally went through (effective December 10) for me.

It's funny, because a year and a half ago, when I was told that my duties would be changing and that I was expected to learn a whole new desk with more responsibility, I was pissed. Mad because I wasn't asked or given a choice, and worried I wouldn't be able to learn the new stuff (which is very complicated! And absolutely outside of my realm of experience up until that point).

However, as I am finding out from this experience (and others, fairly recently): my gut reaction of anger tends to be the wrong one. I need to think about this a LOT. Somebody once told me: anger = fear in a very nice coat. Maybe that doesn't really make sense, but I liked it (maybe I'd like a new coat). Anyway, I've learned a lot, continue to learn, and will try to remember that opportunities don't always come with a hug.

The thing is, when I got the news yesterday, I was happy (fully happy, proud, excited) for just about 1 minute. After that it occurred to me: I won't be able to tell my mom.

I shared the news with a friend of mine (via text, I was out on a walk) at work. When I said, "I wish I could tell my mother," he said, "Write her a letter." A few texts later, I was offended and upset. Why? Because my head is not on right, obviously,

This is why texting sucks.

This is why I need to be more grateful, and less self-centered.

This is why I need to get more sleep.

It got straightened out later, but not before I felt like an asshole - I guess I had assumed he was being sarcastic, and he was actually being quite sincere and kind, and I had to wonder: why do I do that?

Patrick had made plans to drive to Northridge to pick up something he bought on Craigslist last night, so I drove down with Jules and had a little celebratory dinner with my dad and Angie at Truxton's. It was nice to see them both and my dad was happy for me. When I told him how sad I had been all day about missing sharing this (and the whole rest of my life! Any news, good or bad) with my mom, he said, "You can tell her."

Literally 65 other people (on Facebook) told me this as well. Some said, "She already knows!" I've been skeptical, but thankful. That's a nice thing to say. Later, when Patrick got home from work, and I told him about missing sharing news with my mom, he said this:

"Just today I was talking to my dad and I told him stuff. Even though I don't believe in it, I still tell him things. Because what if I'm wrong?"

"What if I'm wrong" is a good way to think about this. And lots and lots of other things.

*This post composed with "I Might Be Wrong" by Radiohead playing in my brain. Yours too, I suspect.