missroserose: (Default)
"Take this paper, and write down all the regrets you have from the past year. Then we'll burn them and start with a clean slate."

My friend hands me a torn scrap of foolscap, and I pull my purple pen from my purse, considering. The other party guests banter with each other, covering up the inherent vulnerability of the moment by proposing outrageous stories or asking whether such-and-such mundane thing counts as a regret.

I write a few lines, mostly small things; slowly, they begin to imply a theme of something larger that I can't yet articulate. I write a few more, circling around the issue: I regret not taking some of the opportunities my mother offered to grow closer. I regret not reaching out to my friends when I needed emotional support. I regret letting my certainty that I already knew the answers cloud my ability to learn new things.

Finally, I've outlined the shape enough to identify what it is my brain's been hiding from me: carefully, in clear letters, I print "I regret all the times my pride has kept me from connecting with the world."

Then I circle it and underline it twice, as if to emphasize its importance to the oncoming flames.

--

"Even from the time Ambrosia was little, she knew her self-worth."

I am twelve years old, and my mother has told this story many times. Still, my back straightens a little.

"When she was a toddler, I would take her to the playpark in our neighborhood, and she would want to stay longer. So I would tell her, 'Okay, I'm going home without you,' and pretend to leave. And she would keep on swinging, or playing on the jungle gym, until I turned right back around and scooped her up."

At this age, in the nadir of middle school, I am just now beginning to be aware that my greater-than-average self-confidence has been a handicap to my social acceptance. Eight years of teasing, of ostracism both subtle and blatant, of outright violence on a few memorable occasions, are finally starting to penetrate. I am slowly realizing that, contrary to the "just be yourself!" messages of a thousand thousand afterschool specials and middle-grade novels, my defiance of social dictates - my refusal to wear 'normal' clothes, to care about my presentation, to keep my opinions to myself in class - are exacting a very real toll on my ability to get on with my classmates.

Until this point, I've taken pride in not caring about the shallow and superficial things most people in my age group care about, in marching to the beat of my own drum. But the constant shaming wears on me, as it is meant to do; we are social creatures, exquisitely attuned to the slights of others. It will be some years yet before I start to appreciate the value of building my personality through careful negotiation with social norms, of bearing superficial markers indicating belonging to a particular class or cohort. And it will be many more years of careful observation and learning - often by saying precisely the wrong thing - until I learn the subtle arts of getting along in a community, of deferring to others' knowledge even when I'm convinced of my own correctness, of influencing group opinion in small ways, of quietly building social currency against the day when my integrity will demand that I take a stand.

--

This morning, cocooned in blankets and absent any driving motivation to get out of bed early, I sank into the sort of brightly-lit, highly-detailed dream that often seems to visit me at such hours. I was visiting a mall storefront that turned out to be a beautifully decorated Jewish temple, run by a particularly Orthodox sect. For some reason I had a pressing need to wash my hands, and I remember asking a stern-browed woman if I might do so; she looked displeased at the notion, but apparently my need was great enough to overcome her reservations.

I proceeded to the back of the space, where there were several sinks, and started washing my hands at one of them, only to realize from the horrified faces of those around me that not only was I using entirely the wrong sink, but that I was trespassing upon the men's side of the temple, as well as likely violating several other rules I didn't even know. I take such pride in knowing the social tenets in any given situation, in acting carefully to ensure the comfort and approbation of others; the realization that I was in a situation where I was socially illiterate sends a wave of shame, pure and unadulterated as few non-dream emotions are, swamping my chest and my cheeks. Strong as it is, it burns indelibly into my memory the dream that might otherwise have faded in the light of day.


--

"Are you feeling inspired?" I ask my client, once she's taken a few breaths of her aromatherapy oils. We had been laughing at the silliness of naming a scent blend "Inspiration", as if achieving so notoriously elusive a state could be as simple as taking a few breaths.

"Oh, absolutely!" she answers, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Now I can go home and finish all those half-done songs I have filling my notebooks!"

We spend a few moments bonding over the difficulties of musicianship, and the specific frustration of unfinished artistic efforts. She admits that she finishes perhaps one in ten songs that she starts; I, having not even been brave enough to start ten, feel simultaneously relieved and humbled.

I've long known that my difficulties in finishing anything artistic stem from my perfectionism; so long as a song or a story lives only as an idea in my mind, it will always be perfect, spared the trauma of birth and the inevitable marring of being shaped by imperfect hands. But, with pride much on my mind of late, I begin to consider how much of that perfectionism stems from pride. Completion means sharing, and sharing means risk - of judgment, of failure, of losing my sense of specialness. If I could let go of that need to feel special, set apart, would that help me to take artistic risks? Would it be easier to share something imperfect and true if I didn't tie my self-worth to my pride?

That last thought startles me with the truth it implies, and I almost miss a stroke in the massage.

--

"You can spend your life trying to fit yourself into a box. But you'll always be too much for some people. For others, you'll never be enough. But the great joy is that, if you let yourself, you'll always be exactly enough for you."

Something in the yoga teacher's voice catches me, which seems odd - I've been ruminating of late on how the doctrine of self-exceptionalism has been harmful in my life, and on the surface her message reads very much as a variation on the "just be yourself!" mantra.

You'll always be exactly enough for you.

It occurs to me, as my brain slowly slots the puzzle pieces together, that perhaps the problem isn't pride, per se - it's what I'm proud of. All my life I've been told that I'm talented, intelligent, exceptional; all my life I've been secretly terrified that I'm going to seriously screw up and prove everybody wrong, prove that I really am that weird girl who deserved to be bullied and ostracized, disappoint everyone who had such faith in me. I've accomplished a few things, it's true, and I'm proud of them, but I think I've been even more proud of how they reaffirmed my belief in my own exceptionalism.

And yet...in order for me to be exceptional, it logically follows that others have to be unexceptional. And I've long since rejected the idea of talent as a zero-sum game; I strongly dislike the idea that because one person doesn't measure up to another on one arbitrary scale, that means they don't have something to contribute on another axis. I wonder how much of the fear and misery I can forestall by refusing comparison, by practicing humility with regards to others, by working on being enough for me.

I wonder if, freed of its shackles of fear and embracing its gift of imperfect life, my art might someday take wing, finally able to share itself with the world, to help forge those tenuous connections we so desperately need.
missroserose: (Red Red Rose)
I continue to study Swedish via Duolingo and the occasional conversation with my friend Petra (conducted via text, so I have time to look up words I don't know). I'm to the point where I can interpret most simple sentences with a high degree of accuracy, and occasionally work out more complex stuff by a combination of word roots and context. I'm not going to be working as a translator for the UN anytime soon (not that most Swedes would need one), but it's satisfying to be able to have an idea of what Petra and her friends are talking about on Facebook without having to constantly click the "translate" button.

My verbal comprehension, on the other hand, is lagging behind significantly. I've always read faster and more accurately than I hear, but especially with a non-native language it's turning out to be a real handicap. I know I'm making progress - I can make out about one word in five, now, instead of one word in ten or twenty - but it's not quite enough to get the gist, especially when they go by so quickly. I hadn't realized how much I depend on predicting what words are coming next in a given sentence to keep up; I just don't have the body of vocabulary or syntax to guess in Swedish.

This was brought into somewhat hilarious focus today when I (completely by accident) picked a Pandora playlist that turned out to be a mix of American power ballads and Swedish rap. As I was texting Brian on the train: "So, there's a dude rapping over a minor-key riff, with a highly processed falsetto voice providing accenture and chorus, and so far I've managed to make out 'the train', 'your letter', and 'never come again'...I'm guessing it's a breakup song?" Then, of course, there's certain words that the languages have in common - I about busted out laughing when my brain was trying to process "...{Swedish garble} fucked upp system!" Given the driving beat, I'm going to guess that one was more of an antiestablishment song, but I wouldn't bet too heavily on it.

Still, it's turning out to be useful - the cadence of the words fits and things rhyme consistently, and the singer's diction is clear enough that I can make out some individual words even when I can't remember (or don't know) their meaning. I have a feeling this artist will feature somewhat prominently in future practice efforts.
missroserose: (Default)
Hello again, Chicago! It's good to be back. I was saying to Brian recently that my semi-regular trips home to Anchorage, over the years, have been an excellent indicator of how much I like where I'm living. When we lived in Juneau, it was nice to get somewhere that felt (slightly) less isolated; when I was coming from Arizona, it was such a relief to get out of the heat and see green and open water again. Now, as much as I like visiting my mother, I'm genuinely sorry that it has to come at the expense of a week-plus of things to do in Chicago, hah. But! My mother is all moved in to her new place (if still in the throes of her decorating frenzy), and it's even more gorgeous than the pictures made it look. It's not somewhere I'd want to live permanently - far too isolated, with nothing within walking distance - but it'll be nice to visit her now and then for a change of pace. (Luckily, she feels much the same way about Chicago. Hurrah for complementary family preferences!)

Speaking of things to do in Chicago, last night I some friends and I went to the first of this summer's movies In Millennium Park. (We brought a picnic dinner, but despite arriving almost an hour early, the entire lawn was taken, so we ended up grabbing seats and just passing the fried chicken and salad and wine back and forth.) I actually enjoyed the movie far more than I expected to. Ferris Bueller's Day Off isn't a favorite of mine, exactly - I always found Ferris to be kind of a twerp, which isn't helped by his complete lack of character arc - but there's something undeniably special about getting to see all those gorgeous shots of Chicago while surrounded by that very same skyline and a cheering crowd. The best part, by far, was when damn near the entire pavilion got up and danced and sang to the "Twist & Shout" sequence. (I was lamenting on Facebook that I didn't get any pictures/video, but...that would have meant I'd have to stop dancing and singing. Nah.) Afterward, Lindsay got a picture of Brian and Jamila and me under the Pritzker's frankly amazing architecture, and later on in the evening I got a nice shot of part of the nighttime skyline as seen through the superstructure. This city is far from perfect, but I do love the very real sense of civic pride we have.

Speaking of civic pride, I've gotten on the sucker list for the Lyric Opera's educational outreach programs, and I've got to give their phone fundraisers credit - they know their stuff. They always ask if now's a good time to talk, they're unfailingly gracious, they ask you about your recent experience at whatever performance, talk about the goals and achievements of their programs, and start with an aspirational sell - "These are all the awesome thank-you gifts you get if you donate at this level" - but never come off as less than wholeheartedly grateful if you offer a (sometimes much) smaller donation. I think what's really impressed me, though, is their enthusiasm; they don't come off as hired telemarketers, but people who are genuinely passionate about music and opera and want to share it with the community. Helping give kids in underfunded schools in my community access to art and music education is a pretty easy sell for me already, but way to make people feel good about giving, Lyric. A++ would donate again.

And speaking of...hrmm. Not sure how I can segue into something about biking from opera fundraising. But! I've got my bike all kitted out for pedaling around Chicago. (Bet y'all can't guess what I named it, heh.) I'm still taking baby steps regarding where and how much traffic I'm comfortable dealing with, but as I was telling my mother, I actually feel far safer on the streets in Chicago than I would in someplace suburban like Anchorage. For one thing, the exponential traffic density and unpredictable patterns mean that people are paying much closer attention to the road, as well as by necessity limiting their speed. Plus people here are much more used to cyclists on the road. In Anchorage traffic moves too quickly; you have to ride either on the shoulder, the sidewalk, or a bike path, and cars don't look for you. I nearly got run over a few times crossing streets as a teenager; while driving my mother's car just a few days ago, I was a little saddened to see a woman on a bike slam on her brakes when she saw me about to cross her path to turn into a parking lot. (I would have let her go first!...but you just can't depend on that attitude in suburban environments.) By comparison, I took a fairly busy road to the store during rush hour yesterday, and actually made better time than most of the cars by dint of being able to cruise by in the gap between the parked cars and the flow of traffic. Though I did keep a very close eye out for car doors that might open in my path.
missroserose: (After the Storm)
It's kind of amazing, how the spectre of upcoming Major Financial News has a tendency to rearrange your priorities with some alacrity. To wit, today I was quoted over two grand for the upcoming tooth extraction. Admittedly, that's worst-case - before insurance and with full anesthesia. Insurance should at least cover a few hundred, and if I can tough out my usual tooth-related squeamishness for a few minutes - anyone have a Valium I can borrow? - I can save $800 on the cost of the anesthesia. But still, that's a pretty eye-popping number. And that's not even getting into what the implant's going to cost, or even the temporary cosmetic spacer. (Which, I am informed, insurance usually does cover. Which surprised the heck out of me, but I'm not going to complain, because I'm vain.)

I'm lucky, in that it's a hit we can absorb - not easily, perhaps, but it's doable. And I don't want to sound like I'm ungrateful; just about anything's better than having a tooth that regularly has half of its mass pop out of alignment when you bite down the wrong way. But I find myself regarding things like our restaurant bills and impulse purchases rather differently. A friend wants to come visit and I've been meaning to take him out to the local theatre! ...but upcoming tooth bill. The Lyric has inexpensive tickets to Capriccio! ...but upcoming tooth bill. A friend of mine has a role in Perseverance's upcoming production of one of my all-time favorite musicals, which just happens to be running right when I'm going to be in Alaska for Thanksgiving! ...but upcoming tooth bill. (That last is the big bummer of growing up in the country's largest state; swinging by to visit friends in a 'nearby' town necessitates either three days of driving and a ferry ticket or else a $125 ticket change fee to Alaska Airlines.)

Ah well. I'm still feeling pretty good despite the frustrations. So I can't think of a better way to finish than with this video a friend posted on my Facebook page awhile back - one of the best buskers I've ever seen. I am completely in awe of anyone willing to even attempt to cover Nina Simone, and she just knocks it out of the park like she's not even trying. I get chills every time I listen to it.

missroserose: (Masquerade)
Yeah, we're getting a bit serious this post. It happens. Life happens.

Sometimes, death happens.

Back in Bisbee, there was a local couple named Derrick and Amy Ross, who played music together under the name Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. They'd been doing it a good long while, and were fairly well-known in the area - even someone like me, who didn't get out into the social scene much, had seen their flyers around town, and seen them play at the Farmers' Market and various local events. They were quite talented*, and obviously very close. I didn't know them personally, but several local acquaintances/friends did, and had nothing but good things to say about them.

Monday, Amy died. According to friends/news reports, she'd been diagnosed with lupus some years earlier, and had contracted a dialysis-related blood infection that reached her heart. It was a heartbreaking (pun unintentional) event, unexpected in the way all deaths are unexpected, because we don't want to think about a world without our loved ones, and we literally can't conceive of a world without us. But not shocking, as it were. My Facebook feed was full of grief, but it was mostly the sympathetic, supportive kind, with calls to pass the hat for Derrick. (For something so unavoidable, dying is remarkably expensive.)

Then Derrick bought a gun and shot himself that night.

Without question, it's a tragic and traumatic event for the community, and my heart goes out to the people who knew them. But if you'll forgive me for looking at it from a storytelling/journalistic/fairly detached standpoint, it's been fascinating to observe the difference in people's reactions. The response to this news was much more shattered - a lot of people were genuinely shocked.** The level of grief involved multiplied exponentially. Even I, who didn't know them personally and was now more than 1,700 miles away, felt the effects; it put a pretty good damper on my mood yesterday afternoon. I can only imagine how it felt to be at ground zero.

Fortunately, one of the awesome things about Bisbee as a community is how they pull together at times like this; it was neat to see ideas for informal memorial/community-support gatherings spring up and become solid events, and to see folks comforting each other and sharing their stories. In a way it's a blessing to see folks who are often fractious and squabbling given a reason to remember their shared love for their town. Even if one wishes the circumstances were different.

Not really having much in the way of people to talk to about this, and not really having much to contribute on a personal level, I've instead been doing a lot of thinking about the issues involved. For a long time I've generally thought (even if I didn't often express it) that suicide is a matter between the person involved and their conscience; in some cases, it's the last choice they feel they can make, a way to finally and dramatically exercise the sense of control they feel has been taken from them. All this isn't to say that I'm in favor of it, or anything - in the past, when I've had suicidal friends, I've taken what steps I could to help. But I didn't, and still don't, believe that suicide is absolutely wrong, or damns you eternally or anything like that (wouldn't a compassionate deity understand how our human wiring gets twisted around sometimes?). As to whether or not it's selfish (as is often accused), that largely depends on your point of view and the circumstances involved. Given the impossibility of seeing inside someone else's head, of experiencing their state of mind, I don't think any of us are in a position to judge. In fact, I've often thought it odd that people so harshly judge those who take that route - it's not like they're in a position to care, anymore.

All that said...I think I understand a bit better, now, why it's so strongly socially condemned. The way the effects ripple through a community - humans just aren't equipped to deal well with death, and even the death of someone we don't know well can have a strong effect on us. And when you pile this kind of shock and trauma on top of that, well, it's a pretty heavy cloud of negativity to disperse. You can start to see how chains of suicides could get started; if you have a bunch of people who're unstable to begin with, and then one person kills themselves and creates this kind of grief and despair, and then another...that would magnify pretty quickly. Looking at it from that perspective, it starts to look far less like an individual decision and far more as a threat to group survival - which, if you're a pragmatist like me, is the only real objective "right" and "wrong" that there is.

I still think it's a personal choice, and I'm still in favor of death-with-dignity laws and such (even if I think the name a misnomer - there's no dignity in dying, be it by your own hand or the world's. It's merely unavoidable, not dignified). But more than anything, I hope that we as a culture are moving toward a lessening of the taboo in discussing issues like death and loneliness and despair. It saddens me to think how Nowhere Man might have chosen differently, had he felt he had someone to talk to, and how the world is the poorer for the loss of someone who brought such happiness to others. But it also motivates me to do what I can to fill that void.

And on that note, I'll head out - I have a song to write.



*Side note re: "skilled" vs. "talented" - I try to use the former term more often than the latter as regards to performing, because there's a school of thought that treats "talent" as something you either have or you don't, whereas "skill" is something you acquire with practice and experience, and both of those are frankly undervalued in the art world. However, "skilled", used in the context of a performance, also carries a certain implication of lifelessness, where you're good at what you do but don't manage to quite connect with the audience. And since one of the things NMWG was best at was that connection, I'm using the word "talented" to describe them, though their talent had been well-honed.

**A few people claimed not to be surprised, as "they were true soulmates" and "she was everything to him", or went on about how "what a beautiful love they must have had that they weren't willing to live without each other". Needless to say, I find that attitude problematic at best, but I also don't want to wade into people's grief with a blowtorch going "That's an unhealthy and codependent and frankly awful dynamic" - the events are what they are, and if it comforts some folk to think of it as romantic rather than tragic, do I have the right to try and take that from them? Still, it did produce an unintentionally hilarious quote: "What an incredible loving and strong bong these two people must have had." This being Bisbee, that's...not necessarily an inappropriate typo.
missroserose: (Hello Grumpy)
It's been an...eventful week. Some frustrating things have happened, but some awesome things have too. I'll definitely take that over the "nothing but frustrations" kind of week, but it does mean I can't in good conscience write a ranty "why did this week happen to me" post. Which makes me a bit grouchy on its own. Grumble.

To begin at the beginning, last Saturday Brian and I were coming back from the Farmer's Market when our car went "bing" and gave us the engine-overheating warning. We popped the hood and discovered the coolant boiling over (even through the sealed cap); given the balance of evidence (it's an eight year old car with 109,000 miles on it) we figured the water pump had given up the ghost. Hardly unexpected, but it turned out to be particularly bad timing. Most weeks we could probably have gotten by with borrowing Brian's work truck (the grocery store is right by his work, and we could have begged rides from friends to/from our mechanic's in Sierra Vista), but this particular week he had a flight to Albuquerque to catch. So that added a couple hundred bucks' worth of rental car to the bill, on top of the towing to Sierra Vista and the pump itself and labor to put it in. Unsurprisingly, that ended up more or less emptying out our emergency fund.

On the other hand, I had a nothing-but-pleasant experience with the rental car company. There's a small Enterprise franchise just a block from my mechanic's; I'd never used them before, but have friends who have nothing but good things to say Enterprise. So I wandered down there and told them "I need to rent a car, probably for about a week?" They were very flexible, and while (unsurprisingly) their least-expensive cars were all rented out, they offered me a Prius for the midsize price (just under $200 a week with tax), which I was happy to accept. Even better, the employees were all competent and polite (surprising, for Sierra Vista) they didn't try to upsell me on insurance/a GPS/roadside assistance/the other eighty billion things Hertz and the others have all tried to push on me. Needless to say, I was pleased.

I also rather enjoyed driving the Prius around. It definitely didn't have the most hamsters on the road (accelerating up the hill from Old Bisbee onto Highway 90 was a bit of an adventure), but it got us all over southern Arizona with no problems. I've heard some people say the cockpit is too strange for them, but I found it to be quite intuitively designed, and really liked the heads-up display with info like the battery charge level and your per-trip mileage. Also, the sound system has improved immensely; I remember test-driving one back in 2007 or so and being rather miffed at the tinny sound quality. This one had a perfectly respectable stereo and a USB connection to my music player, to boot. (Yay for built-in touchscreen controls without having to futz with your phone! Yay also for charging and audio through a single cable!) And the entire week's driving, which included multiple trips to Sierra Vista and back, a trip to Tucson and back, and a not-insignificant amount of driving around Tucson, cost me all of $35 in gas. (By comparison, a similar amount of driving in our BMW, which gets excellent gas mileage for its age and class, would've cost nearly twice that.) It occurred to me that if I were doing the professional-musician thing (driving around a lot for gigs and lessons and such), it would be a strong contender for the perfect car - lots of room for gear, not too expensive, economical on gas. If only a professional musician's income weren't so frustratingly inconsistent from year to year, and even month to month.

Wednesday came around, and Brian and I got up at 4:00 AM to catch his 7:30 flight to Albuquerque. The story behind this is a little convoluted, but the short version is this: back in May, he had several phone interviews with a network information and security firm in Chicago. Obviously we were pretty excited about this, as we've both wanted to move to a proper metropolitan area for a while, and while Brian's current job with the County isn't awful, its opportunities for advancement were fairly limited (and he'd just been turned down for a pretty significant one). Unfortunately, after several phone interviews, the folks from this company disappeared for a month - and when they resurfaced, they had him talk to someone in Albuquerque about what sounded like a drastically different position. (And in the meantime, Brian had been offered a non-traditional advancement path with the County, doing much more of what he liked, with more money involved too.) The Chicago folks asked him to come to Albuquerque to meet them in person, though, and while he had a lot of reservations about them (as we've already done the "move across the country to a job with people who can't keep their shit together" thing once, and it was a near-disaster), he figured it couldn't hurt to meet with them and ask what was going on in person.

Apparently things went rather better than he expected; not enough to erase all his reservations, but enough that we're adopting a "wait and see" attitude, pending what they offer him. Obviously we're both a little torn about the idea. On the one hand, things are definitely looking up here; he's getting to do some awesome (and awesomely resume-building) stuff at his job, and I'm starting to make connections with folks in the music community here. But on the other, the fact remains that opportunities for both our careers are ultimately pretty limited in this area. Which doesn't mean that saving for a couple of years before moving wouldn't be a good plan, especially as we've just had to empty out our savings. But depending on whether he can negotiate a significant relocation bonus with them...and back and forth it goes. (And that's not even getting into the more emotional aspects of "I want to live in a city, goddammit" and "I never thought I'd say this, but I kinda miss snow and rain.")

Meanwhile, since he was leaving early and coming back at 11:30, I decided to book us a hotel room in Tucson for the night so he wouldn't be driving back after a nineteen-hour day. Thanks to it being summer in Tucson, I managed to nab us a room at the Wyndham Westward Look Resort for about $100 (including resort fee). Gorgeous place - quiet, beautiful xeriscaping, great pool area, super-friendly staff (I hardly felt snooted at once!), spacious room with a bathroom larger than some apartments I've seen. I doubt I'd stay there at the full rate, especially in the busy season, but in Brian's words, "I've stayed in way crappier places for a hundred bucks a night."

Conveniently, while I was killing time down on 4th Avenue, I also discovered that Sky Bar was having an open mic that night. (Convenient because they're right next to a late-night pizza joint Brian adores, and I'd promised to bring him some when I picked him up from the airport.) So I put on my awesome Nordstrom's maxi dress (awesome because it looks great, packs easy, and I got it for $3 thanks to various discounts) and a bit of makeup, grabbed Kalia, and showed up a couple of hours in...only to discover that most people call ahead before the night even starts and all the slots were full. However, the emcee (who went by the entertainingly Regency nomenclature DJ Odious) took pity on me when I told him it was my first open mic, and managed to slip me in for a couple of songs while a Mexican ska band set up behind me. (In contrast to his name, Sir Odious was a fantastic emcee - excellent at tech, good at putting the performers at their ease, and encouraging and helpful to newbies like me. Mass props.) I was fairly nervous, but I think I at least put in a respectable performance. At the very least, I had the undivided attention of a few folks up by the stage - and in a bar environment, "undivided attention" is about the best compliment you can ask for.

Picture, compliments of the aforementioned Sir Odious:



Incidentally, I'm glad he had me go before the Mexican ska band, because holy crap. They were amazing.

The night at the hotel/obligatory Costco trip/drive home were all pleasant if uneventful*. Friday I did my usual busking after yoga class; it turned out to be my best day so far financially, bringing in nearly double my prevous record (two $5 bills, woo! plus assorted singles), and some wonderfully heartfelt compliments. And later that afternoon Brian and I drove down to Sierra Vista, dropped off the rental car, walked to our mechanic's shop, and picked up the BMW.

At which point I apparently decided two weeks was far too long to go without a physical mishap, and tripped over a concrete parking bollard and fell, scraping up my shoulder and spraining three of the fingers on my left hand in the process.

My fretting hand.

In the words of Kvothe, possibly the literary patron saint of musicians (and craftspeople, and pickpockets) everywhere...Tehlu spare my hands.

The good news is nothing seems to be broken (I can move all my fingers and I don't have that bone-deep ache that signifies a fracture somewhere), so our financial situation isn't any more precarious. The bad news is, as I discovered when I sprained both my ankles a few years ago, soft-tissue injuries are tricky and hard to predict in terms of healing time. It might be a week, it might be three or four, depending on the severity of the sprains and how good I am at keeping them immobilized. And I have a gig in a month to practice for, dammit.

So that's been my week. How was yours?

*ETA: Though at Costco I did find a fantastic 18-year-old Scotch for $32, as well as a book I'd been wanting for $9. Which both chalk definitively into the "good" column.
missroserose: (Partnership)
Those musicians. Give them a single paid gig, and a couple of good days busking, and suddenly they think they're, like, professionals or something, and go ordering business cards and stickers and all manner of frooforah. You don't even have a business, you have a guitar and a twelve-song repertoire. So what do you need business cards for? Get over yourself.

Yes, thank you, Niggling Self-Doubt. Your services are not required at this time.

In all seriousness, Friday was another excellent busking day, both cash-wise and interaction-wise; I even made one woman cry with a song one of my mother's high-school friends wrote and taught her. I was a little nonplussed, given that it's actually a sweet and fairly upbeat little ditty about being happy and in love, but emotional interaction is emotional interaction. And afterward we had a conversation about depression and loneliness; she seemed like a very sweet woman who'd hit a rough patch, and if nothing else, I think the song helped to remind her that there was happiness out there, too. I hope, anyway.

Meantime, life continues to be a series of ups and downs. I decided to order some business cards and stickers from Vistaprint; despite my fears about being premature (see Niggling Self-Doubt, above) it felt like now would be a good time. I figure I can sell the stickers for $1 while I'm busking, and the cards will be nice to hand to people that I talk to. It's true, I wouldn't say I have a "business" quite yet, but if people are already hiring me for gigs (well, "gig", singular) it seems like a bit of self-promotion is in order.

On another note, I'd forgotten how high-pressure-car-sales Vistaprint's website is. They make good-quality products, and if you do even a little bit of trawling the Internet you can find some pretty excellent deals (I got 500 business cards on premium glossy stock, sixty glossy 3" diameter stickers, and an engraved business card holder for just over $50 with free shipping). But they just don't let up on the upsales - "Are you sure you don't want a mug? A tote bag? A mousepad? What about calendars? Or possibly pens? Look, doesn't your logo look fantastic on this notebook? And what about our web-design services? We'll even manage your Facebook page for yoooouu!" On the "order confirmation" page, they were going "Look, address labels! Only a few dollars more! See, look - here's your order with them, and here it is without!" Even the "Thank you for your order" page has a bunch of "Buy these now on super-deep discount!" offers. It's like you're leaving the store and the salesman is still clinging to your pant leg going "Are you extra special super sure you don't want these? Cross your heart and hope to die?" Cripes.

Still, I'm pretty pleased with the designs I came up with, so I suppose I can't complain too heavily:

Self-promotion ahoy! )

I swear, that sketch I purchased on a whim from my friend Alisa has turned out to be one of the best investments I've made. It's about a perfect logo, far better than anything I'd have come up with. And it even served as the inspiration for the slogan. (Alisa, expect to be getting a thank-you card in the mail with some samples once they come in - maybe they'd be good for your portfolio?)

There was an interesting moment when I realized that my potential order had gone from about $15 to about $50, and panicked over whether I wanted to spend that much money in one go on a project that's still very much in its nascent stages. (I've still got about a box and 3/4 of Rebel Bartender cards sitting in the closet.) But then I realized that I have a $50 cheque sitting on the coffee table for my first paid gig. And that more or less sealed the deal - if they're going to have that much confidence in me, the least I can do is invest that much confidence in myself. It does mean it's $50 that's not going towards my Dream Guitar, but if my efforts net me even just one more $50 gig they'll have paid for themselves. So let's cross our fingers, both that the effort pays off and that I don't lose my nerve.

And now, practice. All the self-promotion in the world won't help if I don't have a repertoire worth promoting...
missroserose: (Partnership)
The paid gig is officially set. They've even paid me already - more than a month in advance! - which surprised the heck out of me. (If my writer friends' experiences are anything to go by, getting paid for one's art is generally a much tougher thing, sometimes even when it's offered. Not that I'm complaining, mind.) If you're in town on the 7th of September, come take the garden tour; I'll be hanging out at 123 Clawson Avenue and singing my heart out.

Speaking of my heart (as in something I've set it on), I've decided on my dream guitar. When I was at Rainbow Guitars last, I played a rosewood-and-spruce Taylor Grand Orchestra, their biggest body size. I'm not sure I even have words for the richness and complexity of the sound; rosewood is notorious for its full deep bass, but the size and shape (and Sitka spruce top) helped bring out the midrange and trebles beautifully. I almost want to say I was intimidated by its volume and sound quality, but that's actually completely the opposite of what happened; from the first strum, I knew I had to sing with it. And I did, and it was the most magnificent experience.

I don't want that exact model; the abalone purfling around the outside ("purfling", the term for the decorative trim around the edges of an instrument, is my new favorite word) is a little too blingy for my taste, and the vintage-style brass tuners don't really do it for me either. But like all guitar manufacturers, Taylor will happily do custom orders, with any or all the options you might want. If I can find a design that I like, I'd love to get a rose-vine inlay on the neck and perhaps a matching rose on the bridge. Obviously I don't have a specific price point, but (based on the cost of the 918e) I'm going to guess it'll be in the $6000 range. So that's what I'm saving my music-making money for. It makes for a nice goal - unnecessary enough that there's no rush (at my current average of about $6 a week it'll take me, oh, twenty-odd years to save up that much) but something I'm passionate enough about that it's a motivation to improve. Not to mention that, by the time I can afford it, I should be able to play well enough to deserve such a beautiful instrument.

Meantime, I'm enjoying tooling around with my other two lovely guitars. The last couple of Fridays busking have been a bit cash-poor, but I've amassed a few 'fans' - Bisbee around-town regulars who always come by and listen when I'm playing, despite probably having my entire repertoire memorized by now. Oddly gratifying, that. I also went out and played for an hour by the library in Sierra Vista while I was waiting for an oil change on my car; not exactly the most appreciative audience, but none of the sour-faced retirees who wandered by chewed me out like I was half-expecting, and a couple of kids dropped some change in my hat. (One kid was all "I don't have a dollar, but here, I've got a bottle of water" - in the desert and while you're singing, arguably an even better tip.) And today, since I needed to go downtown for work anyway, I brought my travel guitar and played for a couple of hours afterward. For the first hour, I thought it was going to be a complete bust - I had nothing other than the seed money in my hat and almost nobody was listening. But then a couple of my regulars showed up (one of them even went "Oh hey, I was actually working today, so here" and gave me a couple dollars - awww!), and there was a bit of afternoon traffic, and by the time my fingers gave out I had $10, a bag of mint, and only one mosquito bite (hurrah for remembering bug spray this time). So I came home and had a shower and made myself a mojito. Not a bad day, all told.
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
Between the lack-of-work situation and some fairly large expenses that have cropped up recently (hello, medical bills that go so far beyond ridiculous as to be sublime!), I'm starting to seriously look at my options with finding another job, even just a low-paying part-time gig. Thing is, it's nearly the end of tourist season here, so I doubt many folk will be hiring, and I don't always have the transport to get to Sierra Vista. (Not to mention exactly how much the gas costs inherent to a 60-mile round-trip commute eat into your part-time paycheck.)

It's occurred to me more than once that I could take up busking - I have a (small) repertoire at this point, and God knows I could use the performing practice. I also have a list of reasons not to - or really, excuses - about a mile long. It's getting to be hot outside. Tourist season is almost over. There aren't that many people around anyway. I wouldn't make enough to make it worth my time. I can only play about half an hour before my chording hand starts to hurt. I only really know maybe five songs well enough to perform. If I got bored of them and tried something new I might make mistakes in front of people. Hell, I might make mistakes on the ones I do know. Not to mention people might laugh at me for busking with a $1400 guitar.

I think it was my mother that told me once that the best road to achieving your dreams was to take the course of action that made you think of the most reasons not to do it. If that's true, I should be making a livable wage on my music...oh, about three days after I start busking. :P
missroserose: (Partnership)
Just a quick "thank you" for all the supportive comments. I'm feeling a lot better than I did this morning. (For the non-Facebookers/bad guessers, I got a letter from Berklee saying I hadn't been accepted. I didn't even get to the point where scholarships/financing/loans were an issue.)

I don't know what it is, exactly, but this failure feels a lot less end-of-the-world than the few similar ones I've had in the past did. Maybe it's that the whole thing was a spur-of-the-moment decision to begin with. Or the way I've managed to improve noticeably even since my audition, so I'm more hopeful about the future. Or just the fact that I'm getting older and have more life experience. (Also, as Julie pointed out when I stopped at Blissbee with the news, "You were going up against kids who've been playing piano since they were 8, been to music camp every year, and been performing in recitals most of their life." It did sort of put things in perspective.)

The rejection letter did include an invitation to apply next year (of course it did - that's another $150 for them!). I'm not sure yet if I will - a lot will depend on where we end up over the next year. If we're in Boston, I might just, especially if I can get a good chunk of lessons and performing experience and get more comfortable with myself and my voice in the interim. But if we end up landing on the West Coast, I'm sure there are good music schools there, too. And probably cheaper as well.

I don't feel like it was wasted effort. It was a good experience, and it did highlight some significant areas I need to work on. Plus it motivated me to get up off my butt and take lessons (weekly) and practice (some, not as much as I should have). And...I admit I feel a little liberated, now. I tried, I failed. It's not the end of the world. I can get better. And in the meantime, at least I did something.

And that's actually kind of a nice feeling.
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
Most of what has been written about me is one big blur, but I do remember being described in one simple word that I agree with. It was in a piece that tore me apart for my personal behavior, but the writer said that when the music began and I started to sing, I was “honest.” That says it as I feel it. Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest. If you want to get an audience with you, there’s only one way. You have to reach out to them with total honesty and humility. This isn’t a grandstand play on my part; I’ve discovered—and you can see it in other entertainers—when they don’t reach out to the audience, nothing happens. You can be the most artistically perfect performer in the world, but an audience is like a broad—if you’re indifferent, endsville.

Frank Sinatra, Playboy, February 1963
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
In a very strange headspace this morning. My brain apparently decided to have a "Let's get all wired and run run run like a hamster in a wheel all night and maybe get a grand total of two hours of sleep!" party, and I woke up feeling every missed hour with interest - but once I sat up and got some coffee in me, the grogginess disappeared and I actually felt surprisingly alert. Definitely beats the alternative (especially given that I'm covering the gallery alone today), but it sort of makes me wonder whether I just *feel* alert and am actually zoning out something fierce, or if I've hit that point where my subconscious is taking over and I'll find at the end of the day that I've written my masterpiece in between waiting on customers. Jury's still out.

Thanksgiving was a lovely holiday. We went to Scott and Niki's place in Sierra Vista to cook for them (would have invited them to our place, but they have a three-year-old daughter and our house is definitely not childproof). Not only did that mean we had friends to share the holiday with, but Brian's turkey dinner got rave reviews from their ten-year-old daughter - which, as anyone familiar with the species is aware, is one of the highest accolades one can earn. Additionally, Niki introduced me to Just Dance, which led to my searching for a used Kinect in the $50 price range, and not finding one anywhere online (where they all seem to run $70 or more). Discouraged, I decided to try the GameStop in Sierra Vista, even though I wasn't holding my breath after Black Friday - and it turned out they had so many of them they were selling them for $40 apiece, which was $20 off their usual price and less than half the cost of a new one. I'm not the biggest fan of GameStop's business model, and only rarely buy games from them, but the local one seems surprisingly well-run and we've gotten excellent deals on used gear there more than once. And I found two well-reviewed games (Dance Central 3 and Just Dance 4) on sale at Amazon for $25 each. Now to wait for them to arrive.

After five months and a good two-inches-plus of new growth, I've finally bleached my hair again. No clumps falling out, hurrah! I've been having fun using up leftover dye by mixing colors; this time, I mixed together a bunch of Cupcake Pink with my leftover Cherry Bomb, and came out with a rather nice slightly-orangey flamingo pink. It was a bit of a shock after the months of darker colors, and it's probably not quite as flattering as the purple or the burgundy I had going for a while, but the color's growing on me. I'm just a little sorry I'm not likely to go anywhere blacklit while I have the color, as both colors are blacklight-reactive and it would be fun to show it off. Ah well. It'll probably be back to something darker as my roots grow out again - new rule is I get to bleach once a month at most, and less is better. But it's fun to have something eye-searingly bright again.

Music is going...haltingly. I don't know why I have no problem practicing guitar daily but I'm so much more self-conscious about voice. One week I didn't practice at all. Last week I practiced once. I've gotten once in so far this week, and a couple more days until my lesson, so hopefully I can get another day in. I've barely done any work on sight reading, despite that being my weakest point - I tried a little bit, but felt like the slow kid in first grade who tries to follow along with their finger in the book but is obviously just watching the other kids to see where they put their fingers rather than reading the book themselves. Grah. I was able to accept that I was starting from day one with guitar, and I'm not even starting from day one with music - I already have the rhythms and note names down from my days playing flute. But it's still so hard to let go of that "I should already be good at this, dammit." Well. Nothing's going to change if I don't get going on it, and I really don't want to embarrass myself at my audition. So I'd best work on it tonight. Maybe sleep-deprivation will help with the self-consciousness as well as the creativity.
missroserose: (Partnership)
Requested information from the Berklee College of Music today.
missroserose: (Partnership)
Requested information from the Berklee College of Music today.
missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
That strange, paradigm-shifting, serious-o.O-faced moment when you hear a song you've always previously dismissed as period-pop-pap of the aggressively-banal "High school is the best years of your life!!!" sort, only to realize that it contains lyrics like these:

Let's dance in style, lets dance for a while
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you going to drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Can you imagine when this race is won
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the mad men


So, uh...yeah. Well played, Alphaville. Well played.

(Also, the video looks like several early Tim Burton movies swirled together with a bit of Python and a dash of cheesy period sci-fi to boot. Surprisingly entertaining.)
missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
That strange, paradigm-shifting, serious-o.O-faced moment when you hear a song you've always previously dismissed as period-pop-pap of the aggressively-banal "High school is the best years of your life!!!" sort, only to realize that it contains lyrics like these:

Let's dance in style, lets dance for a while
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you going to drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Can you imagine when this race is won
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the mad men


So, uh...yeah. Well played, Alphaville. Well played.

(Also, the video looks like several early Tim Burton movies swirled together with a bit of Python and a dash of cheesy period sci-fi to boot. Surprisingly entertaining.)
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
I'm not sure if I'm going to make my original goal of three performable songs by September. (If I went with "end of September", maybe, but the intention was "by the end of summer", and I'm pretty sure the bulk of September is firmly in fall.) If everyone will pardon my bad manners, I'm going to take this moment to flip a gigantic bird at every single jerk who posts "Mr. Jones" as an "easy beginner guitar!" song. The chords are easy, yes, and the riff is relatively simple, but it's fast enough that it's taken me two months of near-daily practice to get up to anything resembling speed. And not only is the strum pattern syncopated, every fifteenth and sixteenth measure uses a different one that I haven't worked out yet. AND that's not even counting the melody line, which comes in on a triplet and only gets weirder from there. AND AND AND the chords on the tab that I found online were completely wrong, along with half the lyrics being misspelled, so of course I had to sit down and do them up myself. (Come on, Google, I expect better from the first hit you bring up.)

And yet I'm still determined to learn it - even more so, now that I've actually played it through (albeit shakily) a couple of times. A certain amount of that is sheer stubbornness, plus the whole "I've come this far, might as well see it through" aspect; but I also just really, really like the song. It's got such a sweet blend of desperation and pathos and naivete and tragedy and worldliness. The singer seems to understand that the fame that he wants so badly is ultimately insubstantial and only likely to lead to misery, and yet he still wants it so badly. In a lot of ways it reminds me of my visit to Los Angeles back in 2004; I'd grown up hearing about what a shithole the place was and how underneath all the glitz and glamour its values were so awful, and sort of wondered for a long time why anyone would actually want to live there. But then I went there, and saw a little bit of the glitz and glamour for myself, and suddenly understood better - it may be gilded, but the gilding is so shiny, you almost can't help yourself.

Anyway, that one might be a bit late. But with a little work I think I can polish up both "Warmer Climate" and "The Scientist". I'm especially looking forward to revisiting the latter when I learn a bit of picking; it sounds okay just strummed, but I think some picking will give it a little more variety.

Now to work up the courage to actually record and *shudder* watch myself...
missroserose: (Hippie Musician)
I'm not sure if I'm going to make my original goal of three performable songs by September. (If I went with "end of September", maybe, but the intention was "by the end of summer", and I'm pretty sure the bulk of September is firmly in fall.) If everyone will pardon my bad manners, I'm going to take this moment to flip a gigantic bird at every single jerk who posts "Mr. Jones" as an "easy beginner guitar!" song. The chords are easy, yes, and the riff is relatively simple, but it's fast enough that it's taken me two months of near-daily practice to get up to anything resembling speed. And not only is the strum pattern syncopated, every fifteenth and sixteenth measure uses a different one that I haven't worked out yet. AND that's not even counting the melody line, which comes in on a triplet and only gets weirder from there. AND AND AND the chords on the tab that I found online were completely wrong, along with half the lyrics being misspelled, so of course I had to sit down and do them up myself. (Come on, Google, I expect better from the first hit you bring up.)

And yet I'm still determined to learn it - even more so, now that I've actually played it through (albeit shakily) a couple of times. A certain amount of that is sheer stubbornness, plus the whole "I've come this far, might as well see it through" aspect; but I also just really, really like the song. It's got such a sweet blend of desperation and pathos and naivete and tragedy and worldliness. The singer seems to understand that the fame that he wants so badly is ultimately insubstantial and only likely to lead to misery, and yet he still wants it so badly. In a lot of ways it reminds me of my visit to Los Angeles back in 2004; I'd grown up hearing about what a shithole the place was and how underneath all the glitz and glamour its values were so awful, and sort of wondered for a long time why anyone would actually want to live there. But then I went there, and saw a little bit of the glitz and glamour for myself, and suddenly understood better - it may be gilded, but the gilding is so shiny, you almost can't help yourself.

Anyway, that one might be a bit late. But with a little work I think I can polish up both "Warmer Climate" and "The Scientist". I'm especially looking forward to revisiting the latter when I learn a bit of picking; it sounds okay just strummed, but I think some picking will give it a little more variety.

Now to work up the courage to actually record and *shudder* watch myself...
missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
If I have one pet peeve, it's seeing someone repudiate an entire genre (of anything - books, music, movies, whatever) based on a couple of bad experiences. So I want to state for the record that I've tried here; really, I have. I've hit up the various devotee rooms at turntable.fm. I've listened to the genre-specific "must-listen" internet radio DJs. I've found links in discussion threads to people's favorites, and tried to click with an open mind. Because I like lots of different electronica - trance and techno and dream-pop and shoegaze. And I didn't get to like any of them by dismissing them after hearing a few mediocre examples and then deciding that I didn't like the genre as a whole.

Dubstep, my friend? I can tell you're trying, and obviously you're doing something right because you have plenty of devotees. But ultimately, I just don't think we're ever going to be best pals. It's not you, it's me - I seem to lack whatever genetic quirks allow me to distinguish between your myriad wubs and woos and bzzzzs and beep-boop-beeps. I don't have anything against you, I just don't see what it is everyone else seems to love so madly.

But don't let that stop you from going on and being the best you that you can be. Because I do so admire that about you. You're not afraid to do something a little different, and if you can pass that message on to your fans on some level, I'm all for that. I'll just be over here listening to my 80s-influenced multilayered indie shoegaze electronica, and we'll all be happy.
missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
If I have one pet peeve, it's seeing someone repudiate an entire genre (of anything - books, music, movies, whatever) based on a couple of bad experiences. So I want to state for the record that I've tried here; really, I have. I've hit up the various devotee rooms at turntable.fm. I've listened to the genre-specific "must-listen" internet radio DJs. I've found links in discussion threads to people's favorites, and tried to click with an open mind. Because I like lots of different electronica - trance and techno and dream-pop and shoegaze. And I didn't get to like any of them by dismissing them after hearing a few mediocre examples and then deciding that I didn't like the genre as a whole.

Dubstep, my friend? I can tell you're trying, and obviously you're doing something right because you have plenty of devotees. But ultimately, I just don't think we're ever going to be best pals. It's not you, it's me - I seem to lack whatever genetic quirks allow me to distinguish between your myriad wubs and woos and bzzzzs and beep-boop-beeps. I don't have anything against you, I just don't see what it is everyone else seems to love so madly.

But don't let that stop you from going on and being the best you that you can be. Because I do so admire that about you. You're not afraid to do something a little different, and if you can pass that message on to your fans on some level, I'm all for that. I'll just be over here listening to my 80s-influenced multilayered indie shoegaze electronica, and we'll all be happy.

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