Monday, August 18, 2014

Loving Some More

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   -Victor Frankl
There was a time I considered applying to work in Antarctica. I'd been traveling in New Zealand where I met a bunch of people who'd been working on Earth's southernmost continent. Part of the deal of working there for half the year was a return ticket anywhere between the Antarctic science base and the rest of the world. Post Antarctic-living, New Zealand, Australia and South America were popular way stations. It seemed like a cool deal.
What the hell were you thinking? You might ask, to want to check out nearly as much as possible to spend 6 months working in one of the remotest coldest, parts of the planet. It's likely not hard to surmise I was pretty disappointed with humanity and myself at the time. Having gone through a nasty divorce and its subsequent fall-out, I was in a nothing-to-lose time, that was at once hellish and liberating.
But I didn't go work in Antarctica.  Job placements like that require stability, as well as curiosity, good attention and a will for it all, not exactly what I then exhibiting. Instead I headed back to California to work on getting real about who I was and where I came from, rather than running as far away as possible (though of course I did more of that, too, just not so far).
I remembered my Antarctic considerations this week while reading the chaotic and troubling news of the world near and far. My old desire to check out starts to rear its head. But while running away from things doesn't add to the problem but it doesn't solve anything either. I know now change is always possible, if not easy, and generally better than the alternative.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Speed limits, time, the moon & memory

The latest super moon kept me up half the night after a full weekend of shows and teaching and socializing, which found me driving a hell of a lot. Part of this was great — notably, getting out  to the coast on Saturday for a brunch-time gig (if I looked over my left shoulder I could see the Pacific. Coastal beauty = happy making). But driving in the city has been nutzo. Regular crazy cell phone-using drivers coupled with Outside Lands rabid concert-goers has necessitated extra vigilance. I know I react to aggressive driving more now that I live on an island where the speed limit is 25mph.  Not everyone is holding to that limit here, but even if you're speeding, you're likely not going much faster than 35mph. (And if you are going faster than that on these roads, you do deserve that big ticket).
Likewise, I think there's some genetic influence at play.
My dad drove exceedingly slow in his later years. Trips to town entailing put-putting down the road in his Datsun pickup truck, one elbow out the side window taking in the view: the rows of apple trees filling the orchards along Corralitos Road, who was convening at the local market, oblivious to any cars riding his bumper.  His slowness exasperated me then. I was a teenager,  embarrassed by my dad's driving especially as more than one friend let me know how they'd been 'stuck' behind my dad as he cruised along.' 

Dad circa 1944
Clearly the years have mellowed me. (I choose to live  in a place where the speed limit is 25mph!)   I'm not near the age he was of this memory (I'm closer to the age of my dad when he had me), and I had to answer so many questions myself,  but like so much of my dad's useful knowledge, I've appreciated it more with time, see the wisdom in his slowness and taking time while he could. Dad would have been 89 this past Friday. He's not alive for me to tell him I get it now, but I'm glad I can credit him where some credit is due.

In a Landscape: I By John Gallaher

“Are you happy?” That’s a good place to start, or maybe,
“Do you think you’re happy?” with its more negative
tone. Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling. That’s part
of the problem too, but not all of the problem. Flowers out the window
or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.
We spend a long time interested in which way the car would
best go in the driveway. Is that the beginning of an answer?
Some way to say who we are?

Well, it brings us up to now, at any rate, as the limitations
of structure, which is the way we need for it to be. Invent some muses
and invoke them, or save them for the yard, some animus
to get us going. And what was it Michael said yesterday? That
the committee to do all these good things has an agenda to do all these
other things as well, that we decide are less good in our estimation,
so then we have this difficulty. It just gets to you sometimes. We have
a table of red apples and a table of green apples, and someone asks you
about apples, but that’s too general, you think, as you’ve made
several distinctions to get to this place of two tables, two colors.
How can that be an answer to anything? Or we can play the forgetting game,
how, for twenty years, my mother would answer for her forgetfulness
by saying it was Old-Timer’s Disease, until she forgot that too.

On the television, a truck passes left to right, in stereo. Outside,
a garbage truck passes right to left. They intersect. And so the world continues
around two corners. The table gets turned over, with several people
standing around seemingly not sure of what comes next. Look at them
politely as you can, they’re beginners too. And they say the right question
is far more difficult to get to than the right answer. It sounds good,
anyway, in the way other people’s lives are a form of distance, something
you can look at, like landscape, until your own starts to look that way
as well. Looking back at the alternatives, we never had children
or we had more children. And what were their names? As the living room parts
into halls and ridges, where we spend the afternoon imagining a plant,
a filing cabinet or two  ...   because some of these questions
you have with others, and some you have only with yourself.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Read.Eat.Listen: Time & Beauty

Lucky me was afforded a couple of days at a lovely spa hotel where I went somewhat off the grid. It's amazing how much of what I think is necessary isn't when I can unplug a bit. It's amazing how much beauty gives to the mind, body and soul. S p a c e opens. Yes!
Read: The latest Murakami is out, I'm reminded, by none other than Patti Smith in her recent NY Times review "Deep Chords: Hurui Murakami's 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.  Buying the book will be due diligence but reading her review is a different kind of fun.
Eat:   Though I think the days may be numbered for doing so, I do eat fish. Cold water fish just nourishes. This is a very simple and yummy recipe for pan-fried salmon: Quick & Easy Balsamic Salmon
Listen: I put on some R&B/Soul by SF fave Quinn Devaux today. It will cure what ails you: 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Project completion: Keeping Balls Rolling and Shows Going Amid Chaos

I pretty much run my life on projects. I didn't consciously plan this, but over time I've seen the pattern. There's always something in the works: a show, a poem, a song, a tour, a recording...a blog post. It's how I create order and meaning for myself, even as I know things run on their own time, despite my intention and bunch of calendar entries, and the world may perceive things very differently than I do.  I can't really tell what and how my project habit will add up to in the end, but I do know I feel happiest when I know I've made something — which I hope will be of some value — that wouldn't have happened without my efforts.
Such was the case for Saturday night's show, a showcase for six songwriters, three of whom would play in the round on stage at once. I've been doing these songwriter showcases every few months for the past couple years, rounding up five other artists and playing myself. It's not a unique formula —playing-in-the-round, one song at a time, is a fairly traditional way of sharing a bill — and we knew the venue well. But I started to freak a little when two artists had yet to arrive five minutes before showtime. I sent the first three artists up to begin and began texting and emailing the others. One confirmed straight away they'd be late due to a contentious commute. One artist (who I'd learn was not feeling well the next day) would not show.  My mind racing, I scrapped the intended order and made a game plan to swap out an artist every time they'd completed a turn of three songs. Amid the shuffle, I sat down and played my songs,  too anxious about how the whole evening was being received to feel nervous about my own performance (Perhaps that was the hidden benefit?).
In any case,  it all was fine. More than fine. The other artists were relaxed (and good at what they were doing) and the audience enjoyed themselves. Food and drink kept coming out of the kitchen, new connections were being made, and by the end of the evening I was enjoying myself as well. We'd done it.
Yesterday, we came home to a box of our newly-pressed KCDC "Your Own Reaction" CD. We first wrote these songs as a songwriting challenge in February 2013. We recorded them in September that year, and we've been overdubbing and then mixing up until a month ago as schedules allowed. We haven't been hurried or anxious about this project but we've kept it going, scheduling rehearsals, working with engineers and graphic designers and learning parts amid work and other projects and, in the case of our co-producer, a pregnancy and birth.  September of this year, we'll release the music officially and have a show.
There will be more to do between now and then, but yesterday, we turned over the CDs in our hands to check it all read correctly, then popped one into the stereo to make sure it played. We had run into a friend on our way home so we gave him one, too.  We felt pleased with our musical efforts. I noticed when I woke up this morning, I'd slept better than I had in weeks. Chaos and meaningless averted... for the moment!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Songwriter's Roundup in Alameda July 26, 2014 7pm

I've been putting together a songwriter roundup at High St Station in Alameda on a semi-regular basis. Next one is this Saturday, July 26, 2014 7pm. Come take a listen to a diverse bunch of voices!
Andrea Stray: Alt-country Americana
Deborah Crooks: West Coast Americana
Jeff Desira: Alternative Acoustic Pop-Rock
Kwame Copeland: Alt-country/Rock Americana
Teresa Topaz: Southern rock & acoustic blues
Steve Waters: Alt-country/folk rock

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Word power

 I didn't always sing, but I always wrote. I had the good fortune to discover books early on, which offered up a fortune of information (and inspiration) about the world out there, and what was possible to do with a pen. Thank god for literacy because it was the tail of the tiger that I had to catch on the road to  liberating my voice. For the quiet girl that I was, solace was found in books and making up stories of my own. For the silent surly teenager that followed, books offered more alternative realities, as adolescence found me getting a lot of props for what I looked like rather than what I said. I had one especially perceptive teacher who ran the drama department in which I didn't dare set foot, who also taught a drama literature class. Ms. Zanjani got right away that the work was easy for me but that I didn't take it seriously, and did me well by guiding me into College English classes.
Writing got me into UCSC, where, fortified by a diverse, dedicated-to-actualizing student-body, I realized that my quiet behavior simply didn't mirror the truth. Still it would take me a very long time to feel anywhere near comfortable talking in groups and to even think about performing, but over many years, writing led to being able to 'say' the truth on the page. Reading that writing stepped up the game, and singing, well that gave me my emotional spectrum back.
This is a CliffNotes version of a bigger story, but I'm remembering it this week, as I caught myself 'being shy' the other day, not speaking up in a mostly-male group when I had something to say.  
Then a friend posted the article What Every Girl Should Learn online and which I found at once encouraging and enraging and all to familiar. That is, I'm so glad Soraya Chemaly wrote this article and so sad getting your voice isn't enough in many cases.
The words:

"Stop interrupting me." 
"I just said that."
"No explanation needed."
The why: Chemaly writes  "As adults, women's speech is granted less authority and credibility. We aren't thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak moremore often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classroomsboardroomslegislative bodiesexpert media commentary and, for obvious reasons  religious institutions.) Indeed,  in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. 
That's why, as researchers summed up, "Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice."


As someone who took a long time to find my voice, I've had many rude awakenings when it comes to the latter. The only thing worse than overt sexism is seeing my own internalized sexism -- the part of me that bought the silence and deferral game who still occasionally rears her fearful head.   
I'll have to remember the direction to "stop interrupting" that much more...and stock up on some more good books.