Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I think one important thing for me to remember is that nothing is going to change in an instant, nor does it have to. I don't have to rid my house of every last scrap of extraneous paper in one night. If I get rid of one bag of stuff I don't need every day, or every other day, it will still all eventually get gone. If I take two boxes of stuff to storage tonight when I go pay for the space, and two boxes tomorrow, and so on and so forth, it will eventually all get there. I can save the bigger projects for weekends and stuff - things like rearranging furniture and painting. But I also think that if I take my time with these things, it will help infuse new energy into my apartment. I'll have the memory of doing all of these things to make my living space more mine. And maybe next year, when it's time to renew my lease again, I'll be excited about staying.

Also, if I look at this as a project instead of a task, I have something to do at night, somewhere to put my energy in the absence of theater rehearsals and band practices. I think that's something I very much need right now - somewhere to put my energy that feels constructive.

I am kind of excited about staying, and investing in my living space. Largely because the financial impact will be smaller than if I moved, so I can finally start treating myself to things that I couldn't previously afford. Like Guitar Hero.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

There's something about people who can just pick up and move their lives somewhere else that I've always been envious of. I don't know if it's a disassociation with things, or a fearlessness, or what, but I have to admire people who don't think twice about undoing their lives and trying again somewhere else. I wish I could do that.

I'm sitting here in my apartment thinking about all of the things that I don't like about it, not really wanting to leave. Moving is a hassle. And it's going to be expensive - not necessarily just a one shot payment, but every month, it is going to be more expensive. What if I stay put? I could save up all of the money I would have spent on rent and maybe think about buying something someday. Something that really does kick ass. Something that has all of the things I want - outdoor space, working doors, decent carpet, etc. But the question is, do I need all of those things RIGHT NOW, or can I wait another year or two in the hopes of something better? Or, who knows? I could get blindsided in the next year or two and fall in love with someone and we'll want to get a place together.

Maybe staying where I am is the better thing to do now. But there is a part of me that is going to feel..less fearless or less strong or something, if I don't move. And I know that if I choose to stay here, I'm not going to get any sympathy when I complain about lack of heat or hot water or stuff like that. But maybe it is the better choice for the time being, and maybe I can do some things to make it so I don't feel the need to complain. Am I wuss if I don't move? Am I okay with being a wuss if that is what I am?
I've looked at a couple of apartments so far and so far, I'm kind of underwhelmed. I'd like to think that moving somewhere else would be a step up. And I'd rather not shell out all kinds of extra money for rent to get a smaller space with no windows. Which makes me think maybe I should stay put? I like my neighborhood. I have lots of space. They just put in new windows. But I have no storage space. And the heat is a problem. And it took them six weeks to fix the hole in my ceiling. And I have no counterspace in my kitchen. And none of my doors close properly. So maybe I should move. Ick. It's all such a pain in the ass. But if I stay where I am for another year, I could save up all kinds of money. I still have a few days before I have to decide for sure, if not a couple of weeks. I don't know if I have to give them 45 days or 60 days notice, because they never gave me a copy of my lease as a reference point. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I'll find something that is, if not amazing, at least a step up from where I am now.
Last week was a really rough week for my family. Three deaths in one week. Two of them were kind of a long time coming, but it's still never easy to bury a mother or a wife or a partner. The third completely blindsided me. But I was able to go up and say goodbye to my uncle, who had lost his wife just five days earlier. They were a great couple, and he was such a sweet man. More than anything, I remember him smiling and laughing. And I will always remember that he would ask about my theater projects and would listen without glazing over when I would talk about them. He felt like an ally, and I loved him for that. He will be very much missed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

(My mom sent this to me today, and today in particular, it seems important to share.)

A Contemplation on Music

Welcome address to parents of the incoming freshman class at Boston Conservatory,
given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at Boston Conservatory.

One of my parents' deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn't be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother's remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said, "you're WASTING your SAT scores." On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren't really clear about its function.

So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the "arts and entertainment" section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it's the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls
and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture; why would anyone bother with music? And yet, from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art. It wasn't just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art.


Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, "I am alive, and my life has meaning."

On September 12, 2001, I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn't this completely
irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day. At least in my neighborhood, we didn't shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn't play cards to pass the time, we didn't watch TV, we didn't shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang We Shall Overcome. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at
Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.*

From these experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment," as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass-time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber's heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece, Adagio for Strings. If you don't know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know
that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn't know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what's really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings – people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there's some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame,
even if the quality isn't good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding, cry a couple of moments after the music starts.


The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can't talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no
music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you, if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn't happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I'll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I
thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland's Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland's, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the
piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier-even in his 70's, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn't the first time I've heard crying
in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: "During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team's planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many
years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn't understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle.

How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?"

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of the invisible relationship between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year's freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at 2:00 AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save
their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8:00 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether
they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

"You're not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell yourself. The truth is you don't have anything to sell; being a musician isn't about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I'm not an entertainer; I'm a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor,
physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

"Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don't expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that's what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You know, if I think of this "marketing coordinator" person as another character that I get to play...

I had my yearly Guinness today in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. It's such a fantastic beer. And I got to enjoy it with friends I hadn't seen in a very long time, which was really nice. Sometimes I get caught up in the drama of the everyday life of my immediate friends and family, and I forget that there are other people out there, doing other things, leading other lives, who are wonderful, interesting, vibrant people from whom I can learn a lot. So (not to discount my closest circle of friends - you guys know I love you), it was kind of cool to hang out with people I don't see very often.

I dunno. I think I'm deciding to not be pissy. I think the weather helps. The fact that I was able to take down the plastic on my windows. The fact that I could wear a short sleeved shirt to work. Whether or not my life is what I want it to be right now, there has to be something good that I can get out of it, so I'm going to get what I can out of it. I get to move to a new apartment soon (I think - still gotta find a place), baseball season is about to start, there are lots of flowers on my tomato plants, my cat has (I believe) agreed to move with me. There is plenty to bring joy and comfort, and I think I need to start recognizing that again.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reason #6 to not buy more clothes: The more clothing you have, the more laundry you have to do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

So I think I've already told you that I'm moving this summer. I'm ready to live in an apartment that is properly heated, doesn't have holes in the ceiling, and where the doors actually close all the way. I know, I'm asking a lot. And I also know that I still have plenty of time to find the place that is just right for me. My lease isn't up until the end of May, so I have two and a half months. A lot of places don't even know if they will have space available come June yet anyway. But I have to say, I've contacted about four or five places already, and only one has responded. Granted, I'm emailing instead of calling, but if your ad says, "call or email" and you don't respond to emails, then just say "call to schedule a showing." Don't even offer email as an option. There is another place that wants you to fax them with the best time for your to view the apartment - I've faxed them twice and not heard one single peep out of them. Which I have to admit is frustrating. Why post ads for rental apartments if you're not going to talk to the people who are interested in renting them?

I know I have a lot of time to find a good place. And with my recent job upgrade situation, I can afford a slightly cooler place than I have now (not temperature-wise, grooviness-wise). I'm collecting boxes already, and I got some Space Bags to put my smooshables in. I'm psyching myself up mentally to get out of where I am now and move to somewhere, possibly even in a different neighborhood. I just wish I could see the apartments I've found online that I would like to see.

I know, I'm asking a lot.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lately, I've been feeling very normal. Which, for me, is not normal. I'm not saying that normal is bad. It's just odd for me. I've gotten into this pattern of going to work, coming home, working out, eating dinner, falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, not sleeping, and going to work again. Lather, rinse, repeat. And there are millions of people out there who follow that same pattern, or one similar to it. And it works for millions of people. But it is not what my life has been for the last eleven and a half years, so it feels strange to me. It feels wrong to not have a show, or a band practice, or a fundraising cause, or a something. It feels wrong to be thinking about my job 24-7. It feels wrong to be in a decent financial position when there are so many people out there who aren't. It feels wrong to be making career progress in a career that is not my career of choice, or even a career I'm necessarily qualified for. And I know there are people out there who are thinking, "I can't believe she's posting that on a blog! What if her boss finds it?" Thing is, I've already told my boss that I'm completely unqualified for this position, but they offered it to me anyway.

I don't know. I'm restless. I'm afraid I'm being set up to fail. And I'm annoyed that I'm missing out on one key component of being normal - I don't have a partner. That would seem to be the most fun part of being "normal," and it's the one part that is perpetually missing. I don't know that I have the energy to do anything about that at the moment, though. I think I need to wrap my head around being "normal" first, and see if it's the kind of thing that suits me.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

So one thing about being an introvert, or a woman, or a person, is that I feel I have to be "on" when I go visit friends. When I go out, I feel like I have to be entertaining and engaging and all that stuff. Which is what exhausts me most as an introvert and what cuts visits short - I need to go be "off" for a bit. But what I'm realizing is that I have more people in my life than I thought with whom I don't have to be "on." I can just "be." And I think that is just about the most wonderful thing in the world. To get to just "be."

I went to visit my honorary sister this weekend and her kids and her family, and I just got to "be." I got to read books to kids while they sat on my lap, which just about melted me. I always wonder, when I become a mom, am I going to be the kind of mom whose kids snuggle up to her? I always feel weird snuggling up to other people - it's the introvert in me not wanting to get into their personal space. But when its my kids, I think I'd like them to be snuggly, or at least to know that it's okay for them to be snuggly with me. They can sit in my lap, or hold my hand, or whatever. They're my kids - I want them to know it's okay. So to have these kids this weekend just crawl into my lap - it was great. And then to read them stories while they turned the page and we talked about the stories as they went along...there is something so therapeutic about spending time with kids. It seems to give things purpose. I'm not some crazy creepy person you don't want around your kids - don't worry about that. I just think it's amazing how they learn and how they think and when you can get a kid to smile...that's beauty, right there.

So thank you to my friends for having me out for the weekend. It was so good to see all of you. And thank you for being the kind of people around whom I can just be me.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So the first spring training game of the season is on WGN tonight and I just about cried when I saw Theriot. I've missed these guys a lot more than I realized. There's just something that feels right with the world when baseball is being played. Like I said, I'm not going to tell you who my new favorite Cub is (now that DeRosa is gone) for fear he will be traded. It's a new team this year, but it's still the Cubbies. And I know I sound crazy, but it's like Bill Murray said - if you're not a Cubs fan, you just don't get it. And that's fine. I'm one of the lucky ones - I AM a Cubs fan.

Glad to have you back, boys.

Monday, March 02, 2009

So it's March already. When did that happen? And I am now officially a Marketing Coordinator, whatever that means.

I wrote a song this weekend, and I just let it go head and be a love song, where both parties love one another and everything is going to be okay. It might be hard and annoying at times, but it's all going to be okay. Not inspired by any one person specifically; just written kind of to prove that I can write a love song that doesn't make me want to vomit. And truth be told, I'm kind of in love with this song. That usually happens when I write a new one that's even a little bit good - I can't stop playing it. But this one...I feel like it needs to be picked up by some television drama or a romantic comedy film or something. It just feels like the kind of song that would augment some other art form. Which almost makes me want to write a play or a screenplay around this song. Some tortured love story that actually turns out okay. Two people who have just been through a lot, but who recognize the beauty in one another and despite their best efforts, they can't deny it or ignore it so they just give in and say let's give it a shot. Kind of like my life in general at the moment.

If you happen to have heard it, could I bother you to tell your friends about it? Maybe if enough people hear the song, it will end up where it's supposed to be - in some TV show or film. Preferably indie.

Tee hee.