Wednesday, January 23, 2013

331. Today

Today I learned a lesson that may have been inspired by terror. I love music, and I love playing music. But piano players are gods. I can never do what they do, and I know this in my core.
Every time I have ever touched an instrument, I have felt intimidated, but confident in my abilities.When I picked up my viola for the first time, I knew it was right. I knew deep inside, there was a viola prodigy lurking, and all I had to do was train her.
The piano does not feel like that. The piano watches, but makes no judgment. She hopes that you will sort it out yourself. But you don't. The chord charts and suggestions of guitarists mean nothing to you. You show up to every practice as though it were your first.
You are not a pianist. You already know that you speak another language.
Those strings wrap you up, pull you in.
Garage bands do not want for viola sounds. If they did, you would be taking viola lessons and not bumbling over a piano, wouldn't you?
Still, piano is something amazing, and you will try.
Why not?

Friday, January 18, 2013

330. Writing Exercise #1

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is a fiction writing workshop. It is also my most terrifying class, and probably the most surreal as well. If I counted correctly, there are 26 students in my class. 6 are women, and the other 20, based on the first evening's observations, could be the same person. They're practically Cylons. Except...real.

I've always been aware of this particular demographic, but I've never found myself surrounded in so many of them at once. I'm not sure what to call them, exactly. Twenty-something, awkward, painfully nerdy boys who desperately want to the world to know how intelligent they are. They fling themselves at the professor, a charming and somewhat witty woman, slightly older than me, and who reminds me of a friend of mine. They make the sort of jokes that should fall flat in any other circumstance, but because these fellows all seem to share a brain, they actually chuckle at one another.

In my Anthropology class, we were asked to state what local sub-culture we thought we'd like to study if the opportunity presented itself. I had initially answered graffiti artists, but now I find myself fascinated by these gents. They make me feel like I'm at a Star Trek convention, except worse.
Don't get me wrong, I adore Star Trek...but these are the writer's workshop equivalent of fanboys

Having said all of that, I am deeply intimidated. Overall, I feel that I've made great advances in getting over my stage fright. I can sing karaoke in front of people, play keyboard with the volume turned full blast so that my band mates can actually hear me, and I can even give fearless presentations in front of a classroom of my peers. But there's something about reading a story that I wrote in front of these people that fills me with terror. I couldn't bring myself to raise my hand to volunteer. Although I can't say this with certainty, I have a feeling that I would be more comfortable posing nude for my figure drawing class than I am reading something that I wrote in front of these people. Posting it anonymously online, however...totally cool.

This was our first exercise. Go sit somewhere, observe people, write a short scene based on what you saw. I didn't have time to physically go anywhere and observe, so I just imagined where I would have gone if I had the time, and made something up.

And yeah...expect more of these. It's going to be a long semester.
Lance was waist-deep in one of his rambling stories again. Patrice sighed to herself in resignation and cast a bored look out the window. An unusually large crow stood on the sidewalk, wrestling a steak fry between its beak and one of its feet.  

This one gets better every time he tells it, she thought. 

The brim of Lance’s hat wagged back and forth as he talked. Over his right shoulder, Patrice caught the eye of a blond, curly-haired baby who had been busily decorating itself in his breakfast. The baby paused as the two of them locked eyes, and its mouth peeled open to reveal an enormous, pumpkin-toothed grin. It squealed with laughter and bounced in its high chair.  

“Isn’t that amazing?” Lance’s voice intruded.

“Yeah, it’s pretty unbelievable,” she replied, still watching the baby.

Seemingly delighted to have an audience, the monster had redoubled its efforts to entertain. Its face was now caked in Cheerios and dripping with a syrup of liquefying banana. Flecks of milk spurted from the end of a small plastic sippy cup clutched in its left hand. Patrice sat transfixed, unable to tear her eyes from the creature as it smooshed more banana across its eyebrows. Another wild arm movement and the remaining molested fruit plummeted to the floor. The baby’s mother, clearly exasperated, rose to collect it along with the assortment of silverware, napkins, and loose Cheerios surrounding it. 

Slowly returning to her senses, Patrice turned her gaze back to Lance. He was watching her quietly, apparently having realized that she hadn’t been paying attention to him at all. She cleared her throat with a light cough, and stared down at the small mound of untouched scrambled eggs on her plate. 

“Is everything ok?” he asked.

“Sorry,” she replied, running her fingers through the ends of her hair. “I just…I need to tell you something.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

329. Castles Made of Sand

Alright, I made out with at least five that made me smile, and that's more than I expected. I'm not sure, but I might have a couple more that could be worth salvaging out of the roll, I just don't know yet. I think it's safe to say these were the strongest ones.

I'm grateful to have gotten the opportunity to roam around and photograph such a surreal place, and I can't wait to go back when my brother comes to visit again.

328. A New Year Already?

Just like that, I let a month go by without a post. December was oh so lovely, though not at all relaxing. It was much more like a whirlwind of gatherings. Our Christmas party was a great success, and generated a trunk-load of donations for the food pantry. I liked this idea for a holiday party very much, and may have to do it again and again. We ended up with far more alcohol than we started with somehow...and I definitely purchased too much food. But the spread was diverse and delicious, and we managed to eat nearly all of the leftovers before leaving town.

Christmas was relatively quiet, and spent with our families. The Wizard surprised me with the best and most unexpected gift of all, my very own Olloclip! If you haven't seen one before, it fits over the iPhone's built in camera, and includes a macro, fish eye and wide angle lens. The macro is by far my favorite at the present moment. Here are a couple of examples...the first is a tiny branch encased in ice, and the second are tiny dried roots.

The following Saturday we drove to Chicago to ring in the new year with friends. I had the most horrible cold, which made the first day pretty arduous, but by Sunday, I was feeling substantially better. 

Our friend is a member of The Hypocrites, who are currently running a Gilbert & Sullivan double feature of Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. We saw both in one day with an oyster dinner in between. I can't recommend these shows highly enough. They were witty, engaging, cleverly staged, and riotously fun. You would have a difficult time finding a troupe so inclusive of its audience. The performance space literally surrounds and permeates the crowd, swirling in and around them in constant motion. If you can't see, you can move. If your leg starts to fall asleep because you're sitting on the floor, you can be sure the show will be parading through your seat and forcing you to jump up any moment. It was a wonderful time. 

The rest of the trip was equally fun - two NYE parties, a bright pink dress that I managed to spill wine on, too much food, even more drinks, generous hosts, and a sampling of an amazing $300 stinky sheep's milk cheese from Corsica. I wish I knew what it was called...

The final highlight of my vacation was Friday, after we returned home. My brother and new wife were in town, and they took me to see Cementland, which is currently managed by a friend of his. The park is unfinished, with no timeframe for completion, and is not open to the public. Since the creator, Bob Cassilly (of The City Museum) died in a construction-related accident a year and a half ago, progress has ground to a halt. What currently exists is a massive, surreal landscape that is part abandoned cement plant, part dreamscape. You can read more about it in this The New York Times article.

The three of us spent the better part of the afternoon exploring and photographing. The combination of sunlight and icy conditions made for challenging conditions, but I managed to get a few that I'm happy with. We hope to go back for another round the next time they're in town, because there was so much that we didn't see (and so much I want to do over). I'm in the process of editing the shots I have though, and hope to finish up tonight. Stay tuned for a photo post, coming soon!