Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't call me "Deacon Blues"

So, earlier this month I made a decision that it was high time for me to learn how to play the saxophone. I (sort of jokingly) reached out to my friend Phil who plays and he's offered (perhaps jokingly) to go with me to rent one and show me the ropes in exchange for dinner.

Lots of flutists are sax doublers, and it's because of some similarities in fingering, but I've been uninterested, until now, in giving it a try for a couple of reasons:

1. I'm concerned for my embouchure. The one thing I can count on in my flute playing, especially when I lack the time for consistent practicing is my clear, sweet tone. Lack of practice means everything else (fingers, confidence, ability to sight-read) goes to hell but since I usually sound okay, it keeps me from committing suicide (or, putting the flute away forever; you decide which is reality). I've heard things about what happens to a flutist's tone who picks up the sax, and let's just say, they're not always nice things.

2. I'm lazy. See above: I don't have a lot of time to practice the flute, when the hell do I think I'm going to be able to sit down and figure out a new instrument?

3. The reeds and the mouthpiece. WTF is this shit? I don't know anything about these items, and frankly, they bother me. I have to do what to a reed before I can use it? Get it all wet with my spit? Is that gross or is it just me? I mean, I'm sure I'll get over it, and some Reeds 101 would probably include hygienic advice but for now, I don't feel good about this part. And then I know that the number of your reed can be a status-y thing for some players, and jeez, do I need that pressure?

On the other hand, I have (misguided, probably) confidence that I will be able to pick this up fairly quickly (due to my inherent musicality and superior genes, musically speaking. Fine: I can't parallel park, but I can be hot shit on occasion, when it comes to music. Man. I'm a brat, aren't I?), and will be playing the sax solos from "Careless Whisper" and Fishbone tunes in no time. And, I bet I would look good in a bowler hat. Check this one out, too. Seriously, is this going to be a problem?

Come on.
Or maybe this is my destiny.

Cuing up the English Beat now.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


While at work, I don't want to have to "overhear" anyone's conversation that includes the words, "It's because you're a Cancer, honey, it's your hard shell..."

I'm just saying.

If your daily conversational style requires that you constantly use terms like "the bottom line is," "the point is" and "the idea here is," doesn't that mean that you need to improve and simplify your communication skills? I mean, if you have to constantly ask for confirmation that your listener understands what it is you're telling them, couldn't you do a better job of making the prime point, whatever it is?

Or is this just the sign of rampant condescension?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Feels like the (cough! cough!) first time

I've been hearing commercials on the radio for a new product called "Enjoy" Electric Cigarettes. I haven't done much (any) research, so all I know is what they tell you in the commercials (and then only the bits I can remember), which is that you can't buy them if you're a minor (that's got to be a good thing), that nicotine is addictive, and that they are some sort of "electric" cigarette. What the hell that means, I have no idea. Do you plug it in or are they battery powered? Then they have Foreigner's "classic" "Feels Like the First Time" playing in the background.

I did do a little half-assed research into Foreigner, and I had no idea that some guy in the band used to be in King Crimson. Shocking! And I found out that "Head Games" (one of my favorite dirty little secret songs) was a Foreigner song! I had no idea. Also, Foreigner seems to take themselves very seriously.

Anyway, my point is, I think that's a funny song to use in this commercial, because, as I remember it, my "first time" smoking a cigarette wasn't anything to brag about or remember fondly. It involved a soft pack of Pall Malls (I've told this story before; I chose Pall Malls because some dumbass kid, who my life would be a lot better had he never crossed my path, told me "Kurt Vonnegut smokes Pall Malls"), the dirt behind my neighbor's shed (they were out of town and I was supposed to be watering their eggplant), and a shitload of coughing. It was not a pleasant (or very smart) experience. Unless I'm significantly lamer than the rest of the world (and it's definitely a possibility), I'm not sure that anybody who smokes is looking back to their first time lighting up through rose-colored glasses with Foreigner in the background. It was around 1987, the chances are very high that I was listening to U2 or Billy Idol.

Anyway, I wasn't a huge smoker, and I finally quit about 10 years ago (because it was literally making me sick, and starting to feel very gross to me, and because I worried about my husband, who smoked more than I did, and when I would relapse, he relapsed even harder; and because there's nothing more stupid than a woodwind player smoking a cigarette), and of that I am proud.

If you're a smoker and you need help quitting, there is LOTS of information and help out there for you. Try starting here:, and please, do it for yourself. You deserve a long, healthy, smoke free life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"I love the smell of bookstores in the morning."

Over the weekend, Patrick and I took Jules to a local Long Beach bookstore where our friend Jeff was playing with one of the ensembles he's in. We'd never been to this bookstore, which is crazy, because it's about 1.5 miles away from our house (and next to the bike store, which we both have been many times). It's a little funky used bookstore, apparently small enough for one employee at a time. That one employee, when we first got there, resembled Ernst from the movie "The Hotel New Hampshire," blond, handsome, with a thin little mustache. The guy who came in after him had dirty fingernails and a bit of a tremor.

As a long-time, former bookstore employee, I think I've pretty much seen it all, at least as far as the type of people who work in bookstores goes.

While we were waiting for the band to get ready, I wandered around the bookstore a little bit. They sell used books, and the space is pretty small, so it was easy to see everything in a short amount of time. The book I picked up rather haphazardly at first was Rob Lowe's autobiography. What can I say? I knew I didn't have a lot of time. Sort of magically, I turned, at random, to the chapters where he writes about "The Outsiders." I'd forgotten he had been in that movie, which is one of the very few instances I can think of where the movie was as good as the book. I'm in no way commenting on his performance as an actor. I didn't read the whole story he wrote about that movie, because Jules wanted to be held. Maybe I'll find it at the library. Then, I discovered (in a box) Anne Rice's "Sleeping Beauty" trilogy, and just the sight of those quality paperbacks, with the original (as I remember) covers, took me straight back to 1991, when I was working at Crown Books in Culver City.

Everyone is (or was) all excited about the book "50 Shades of Grey," which I haven't read, and don't intend to read. I haven't read a lot of erotica, but the shitty reviews (or, I should say, the reviews that reveal that it's a shitty book) of "50 Shades" are enough to keep me from checking it out. Not one person has told me to read the book because it's well-written, and I don't have a lot of time for books as it is: why would I waste my time on one that's terrible? Anyway, I had read the Anne Rice books, or at least the first one, back in 1991, while working at Crown, hiding in the corner to the right of the cash registers.

So here's the thing about working in a bookstore, or at least, a bookstore with a corporate headquarters: you really aren't supposed to read the books. At least, not on the floor. This was the rule at all the bookstores I ever worked in, and, aside from not being on time for work very often, the rule I broke the most. Truly, I almost got written up at Rizzoli (or was threatened with it, though, I don't think anyone ever got written up at Rizzoli) for it. I wish he'd done it, because what the hell, right? There are worse things I could've done (and were surely done by my co-workers, some of whom were blatant drug users and outright thieves).

Here's another thing you should know about working in bookstores, should you be looking for that kind of job (and good luck to you, because there sure aren't many bookstores left): people who profess to "love the smell of bookstores" almost never get hired. That type of person, who has a romanticized notion about a building that most likely hasn't been properly vacuumed in years, where the smell of the "books" is more likely a moldy carpet or the other employees, is probably a little bit crazy. We know that, those of us who work in bookstores. We know that "old book" smell is probably the receiving clerk's lunch. From two weeks ago.

Yes, books are awesome. Yes, buying, selling, handling, talking about books, opening the new shipments up for the first time: that's pretty fucking rad. But we didn't wear those aprons at Crown for nothing: it's a dirty business sometimes, and you need to know that you're going to be crawling around on your hands and knees, rearringing the travel section a lot of the time. But the thing that's truly wonderful about bookstores is the people, and that's what I miss the most. I'm pretty introverted: I'm not very outgoing with strangers, and I can be a little awkward, but I loved ringing up people and handling their books and the act of the sale itself, the sound of the cash register, or the credit card machine, and then packing their books up, and wondering about the person buying them (what made them pick these two books?), asking if the writer was any good if I didn't know, supressing a chortle if I did know that the writer sucked. I loved all that, I love straightening a section (I used to say, "I'm inflicting the alphabet on this section!") and cleaning it up.

So, I walked past the used copies of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy a few times. I thought about how much I enjoyed Anne Rice's other books (not all of them!!!!), and how I thought she did vampires so much better, with way better writing than anything I've seen since, and I thought, I should check these out (again). I remember being young when I read the first one, and feeling shocked at the things she was writing, but now that I know about her (and life) a little more, I wonder if there's a hidden value in that, if there's something in reading these books beyond the initial, secret thrill. Somebody out there, probably lots of somebodies, has figured it out already, because there are so many smart people in the world, and I'm not necessarily one of them. Still, I think they'll be fun to read. Anyway, the books were cheap. They were practically giving them away.

I'll let you know if I figure it out.

What do you mean, probably?

I was just now helping my co-worker print something (personal), and trying to be careful not to cough or breathe on her, but then I put my hand down on her mouse, and felt something sticky on the left mouse button.

"What is that?" I said.
"What?" she asked.
"There's something sticky on your mouse."
"Oh, it's probably just coke," she said.
"What do you mean, 'probably'?" I thought.

And then I felt that feeling of absolute revulsion that comes over you sometimes, and I went back to my cubicle and practically emersed my hands in hand sanitizer.

She may find an anonymous gift of Lysol disinfectant wipes on her desk later today.