Dreams of my Mother

Here are two dreams I had years ago, some months apart.

Shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer, I dreamt I was in my parents’s bedroom. My mother was stood outside her wardrobe, her suitcase open on the bed. She was putting things into it. Gently, slightly sadly, she told me she was packing for along trip and didn’t know if she would be coming back.

A month or so after she died, I dreamt I had run into her, in a farm yard. I hadn’t seen her for some time and was happy to see her there. We were making small talk, but I had a nagging feeling that something important had happened concerning her. I had forgotten something crucial to our exchange. Suddenly, as I neared waking, knowledge of the past few months returned to me. Surprised, I blurted out, ‘You’re not supposed to be here!’

‘Oh,’ she said agreeably, and walked around the corner of a barn out of sight.

‘Wait!’ I ran after her, turning the same corner, but she was gone, nowhere to be seen.

Ten Years

I mentioned on twitter recently that my blog was ten years old last month. What I didn’t mention is that I started it because my mom had brain cancer and I was sending out mass emailing of status updates on this and my overwhelmed friends urged me to start a blog instead of fill up their inboxes.
This week is another ten year anniversary in that thursday marks ten years since my mom died. She was only sick for about four months. I knew her death was imminent, but was still shocked when it came. Well, not shocked. I’m not sure what I felt aside from overwhelmed.
The anniversary is making me feel kind of fragile this week and I know I’ve heard other people say the same thing happens to them with anniversaries. But, I mean, I don’t get it really. It’s been ten years and it’s hardly fresh or new and she’s not more dead this week than she was last week or will be next week. I guess it’s not important why this date matters, since it clearly does.
So I think I should mark it somehow but am not sure what to do. Saint Candles are the obvious choice, but they seem to be an American (read:the continent) thing. I don’t know if I could find any in the UK and I don’t want to ship them from North America if they will arrive next week or later and have to deal with all of this over again.
A few friends have suggested that I go into a church and light a votive candle there. They’re right in that my mom certainly would have appreciated the gesture and my presence in a Catholic church. I think this would just make me angry. Everyone called my mother’s mother a saint when she died. She was a larger than life figure in many ways and had admirable principles that she held to. I doubt she saw herself as a saint. My mom was in her mother’s shadow for a long time and only outlived her mother by about ten years. I don’t know if anyone called my mom a saint. And my mom certainly didn’t believe in her own saintedness. She was entirely convinced she was going to hell. During the brief period where she understood she was dying, she was terrified and upset that she would shortly be burning in hell. This is not a way to spend the last few weeks of your life.
The church’s actual teaching is that if you’re very sorry and repent, you don’t have to go to hell. She didn’t remember that part. She just remembered the part where she felt horrendously guilty for minor sins and would certainly be punished for eternity. The church did not give my mom peace in her last days. Nor in the days before that.
There was some volunteer who came around for a while to read the bible to her. I don’t know who organised this. My mom had trouble speaking because of the cancer but one day managed a ‘shut the hell up’ and got the volunteer to actually talk to her like a human. That made her feel better.
So I don’t want to go into a church, since that will just make me angry. Making people terrified of hell is abusive. That they have an escape cause doesn’t help. If it did, it would have helped my mom. All she remembered was the part they went on and on about which was eternal torment.
In any case, I’m not wholly sure that offering eternal bliss is better. Maybe it makes the dying person feel better. I don’t know, as it’s all so conditional. Why would you offer conditional love to a dying person? What does it cost to assert that they’re actually loved?
Priests tell mourners at funerals that it’s all temporary and soon we’ll all being hanging out together again, so I guess the best they have to offer is denial. I know exactly where my mom is right now and where she’s been the last ten years. It’s a small plot marked with an ugly headstone.
Which I can’t get to because I am thousands of miles away and the UK Border agency still has my passport.
So I’ll burn a non-saint candle and wonder why I’m doing mini-grieving this week, feeling sad and angry over again, wondering why round numbers matter. If we used hexadecimal as our standard counting system, it would be another six years. It’s all so arbitrary. Every part of it – who gets cancer, who dies, what dates seem important and on what years. And maybe the arbitrariness: from top to bottom, from every angle is what makes it all seem so futile and extra sad. An arbitrary milestone. An arbitrary existence. An arbitrary end.

Crap Poetry

The hospice volunteer read from a book of poems about death.

It contained rainbows.
And also wolves, bald eagles, spotted owls, blue whales,
a veritable who’s who of the endangered species list.
All of them welcoming a freed spirit

Maybe they didn’t know my mom had let her membership to Greenpeace lapse.
Or maybe they did, but also that when that quack came around saying shark cartilage was a magic cure,
I’d said no.
Not just because it wouldn’t work
but for the sharks

Or maybe, as the poem implied, they were just overjoyed at the death of a human.
Any human.
Thinking, “Thank gods. If enough of them die, we might get to live after all.”

Six Years

Six years ago today, I went to the opera to see Messiaen’s St Francis of Assisi, because it was the last night and I had a ticket and all the critics were raving about it.
Some people might think that I’m too willing to sacrifice them for the sake of music. My mother died alone because I was at the opera. And if I’ll do that, what could anybody else matter in comparison?
We buried mom with some things of hers. My dad tried to give them to the mortician ahead of time. But he said to bring them back later.
We had a rosary at the funeral home. Her casket was in the room. We said ten Hail Marys and went home.
My dad had in his hands some things of hers to put with her. So the mortician opened up the casket in the front of the room, so Dad could put them in.
My dad who wanted a closed casket. My dad who had to call somebody to take her body away the morning after she went.
He put in there her teddy bear that she’d held for the last few weeks and her volunteer badge for the historical museum and a few other things. I forget what.
One of my mother’s friends saw the lid lifted and approached. Wanting to view the corpse. My mom had wished for a closed casket funeral. So her friend was disappointed. Palpably so.
But it didn’t matter because none of it could actually possible be happening.
This is not how she would want to be remembered. This isn’t the story she would want me to tell. It’s what’s on my mind, crowding out other memories.

Coming Out for Christmas

On Christmas Eve, I had my handbell playing debut. It was only my 4th time holding them. They’re heavy percussion instruments, like a disassembled marimba or something. They’re exactly what the name implies: bells you ring by hand. I had some big ones, F4 and D#4. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve for only my 4th attempt. So far ahead, I finished the piece several bars ahead of everybody else. (It’s hard to come up with page turns that work when everybody reads the same score.)
My third time playing them was the day before, the 23rd. Since the bells were in Palo Alto, I stayed over the whole holiday in the South Bay. I came down for rehearsal and then had lunch with my dad. The rehearsal foreshadowed the performance for me. My mind wasn’t on the bells, but on coming out to dad.
I met my dad at a chinese restaurant. Sarah gave me a lift and my dad invited her to lunch also, much to my relief. After we started eating, I said that I had been thinking about things a long time and I was very happy to say that I was taking T.
My dad chewed on his noodles.
Finally he said something about how it might change my attitudes.
I said I didn’t think I would become a conservative, and then immediately regretted the way I’d said it.
No, my dad explained, I might start eating like my brother and want to consume vast amounts of meat!
I have been kind of craving protein lately . . .. (This kind of seals it for me in my research of the cultural equation where meat is masculinity. I need no more evidence.)
So he more or less didn’t really react. Sarah said it’s what she had expected. I hadn’t known what to expect. I felt weird about it and stressed for the next few hours.
After lunch, Sarah and I went up to the San Francisco zoo for Daniella’s birthday party. There’s an ice rink there and it was open into the night, even though the rest fo the zoo was closed. Sarah and I were super late, so Daniella’s friends passed the time looking for the lions, until they finally started skating and we joined them. Sarah wanted to look at sleeping animals in violation of zoo rules, but all we saw were gigantic sleeping reindeer and some chilly looking flamingoes.
(About 48 hours later, some zoo visitors got a very close look at one of the lions. Some poor kid was mauled last night by an escaped lion, right next to where we were hanging out two days previous. Sarah was perturbed to learn this on the news, but I don’t feel like we just had a brush with danger.)
The next day, Christmas eve, I was sitting in Sarah’s living room, trying to get a p5 glove to work with SuperCollider when my dad called with a question. He said I sounded terribly depressed. I said I wasn’t. He said he had a question for me. I said ok. He decided he shouldn’t ask me over the phone. I said ok. He hung up.
I spent the rest of the day worrying about what he might have wanted to ask. So when I played handbells, my mind wasn’t totally on it.
After services, Sarah, Daniella and I went to the house of Sarah’s mother and grandmother. They made Swedish pancakes for dinner. It was fantastically tasty, but extremely sugary. I got into a punchy, post-sugar mood and then we went to another xmas party and then another with a glass of wine or so for me at each.
I woke up on Christmas at the crack of noon. Oh crap, I was supposed to go to Brother Bob’s early to help with cooking. Instead my holiday threesome (Sarah, Daniella and I) rolled into Bob’s house at the same time as my dad. My brother and his wife showed up shortly thereafter. We all chatted and then Bob put me to work cooking. My dad came into the kitchen and asked to talk to me. We went out into Bob’s garage.
My dad looked me seriously in the eyes. I have a question, he said. “Are you suicidal?”
“What?” This was not what I was expecting.
“I spent some time on the internet reading about what you’re doing. I want to make sure you’re not suicidal.”
Oh!! He read statistics about unhappy closetted, non-transitioning people. My dad was worried about me. My heart felt slightly warmed and relieved. No, no, no, don’t worry about that, I said.
Ok, he said, In that case . . . “have you ever contemplated a cue ball?”
“What?” I asked. He repeated himself. I had no idea where he was going with this. “No, I can’t say I have.”
“You should ask your uncle about his grandfather.”
“He was a pool shark?!” One of them was a dentist in San Francisco about a hundred years ago. Maybe he played pool on the side? Here was some new family history.
“No” my dad said and paused in the way he does when he’s about to make a clever point. All this setup is the clearest part of the day in my mind. But the punchline? I can’t remember how he delivered it. My great grandfather was apparently very bald. That could happen to me. I can’t say I haven’t worried about going bald, but um. at least we were in familiar territory. My dad was trying to talk me out of something. He does that a lot. This had become just another mundane scheme to be discouraged. I felt great relief and my heart warmed even further. I might have smiled.
He turned serious again, bringing up health risks. He repeated a few times that he didn’t want to bury me. I assured him that we were in agreement there as I don’t especially want to be buried. He told me that no surgery was without risks, which is true. Then he told me that he thought my mom got her brain tumor from her last surgery, which was for a stomach problem. I expressed doubt on this, but he started talking about how her brain tumor was so agressive it could have dated from a time so recent to it’s discovery. He said that 90 percent of all brain tumors come from the lung getting punctured.
I was losing the thread again. Mom’s stomach thing didn’t go near her lungs . . .. Maybe he’s confused about top surgery? I told him that I didn’t think my lungs were going to get punctured. He just wanted me to be careful, he didn’t want me to die before him.
I told him that I was moving into male risk categories and that I would possibly live shorter, but not that much. I looked at the corner of the garage. “I’d rather live shorter and be happier.” I said. Then I smiled and put my hand on his shoulder. “Dad, you told me something really smart a few years ago. You said that if I put off dealing with my troubles now, they would just be worse later. And I didn’t want to hear it because of this. But now I’m doing it and I feel really good about it.”
He awkwardly turned to leave the garage. I felt profound relief at the termination of the conversation. And then I drank moderate amounts of alcohol for the rest of the evening.
While waiting for the train back to Berkeley this afternoon, I noticed that I was feeling kind of anxious and wondered if maybe I should have not decreased my zoloft. But man, if all I have from that is mild anxiousness the next day, well, I think I can manage.
I am so tired right now. Daniella asked me today how my mom would have reacted to my transitioning. She would have been extremely upset. But the brain tumor changed everything, didn’t it? I want to think that if she could possibly think anything now, that she would think that I did the best I could when she was sick. I think that makes up for a lot of things that happened before. And precludes any afterwards. So what’s there to think about what my mom might think other than that I did my best and if it wasn’t good enough, well, it was my best. She sent me an email months and months before she got really sick, before the surgery my dad blames, about how she was having memory problems. And I didn’t write back for some reason, I don’t know. (It wasn’t good enough, but it was my best.) And my dad struggles with that too. How could a quarter of somebody’s brain go bad without me noticing? It must have been sudden. It must not have been noticeable. It’s not my fault. Of course it’s not. She followed a very typical trajectory for people with brain cancer. Nobody notices until it’s really bad and then she lives for maybe six more months. What causes it? Well, what causes a tiger to escape from the zoo one day but another? Our very existence is so improbable, what’s a few near misses along the way? What’s a fluke when our whole existence is a fluke? I might have been anyone, prior to the moment of conception.
I imagine my parents, my dad in grad school, my mom no longer working, holding their baby. This impossible thing they just made, in their arms. And them, with money tight, dreaming dreams. Of what I would be. Their little girl. Only god could know what lay ahead. No mortal would ever do anything if they knew. And so I didn’t go according to plan, but what did?
Happy Holidays.

My Mother’s Last Pie

When I arrived, it was sitting on the counter. I hadn’t fully expected to see it, a part of me thinking that it couldn’t be real. But there it was, looking more or less like I remembered. Maybe the color of the crust had changed, but it just looked so typical. Like any other of my mother’s pies.

I looked at the knife holes in the crust, searching for special meanings, but there were none. They looked hasty, as if the pie had been assembled as part of a larger process and not prepared specifically for this occasion. Indeed, it had been one of many pies that she’d made that day and frozen unbaked.
Like all her best pies, it was apricot. The baked syrup had bubbled out the slits in the top and around the sides, as normal. It was a little bit browner than usual. My sister-in-law apologized for leaving it in the oven too long.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe we were going to eat it. I couldn’t believe the general lightness of mood. I tried, gently, to broach the topic with my brother who seemed puzzled by my point of view. I tried a different track, “This pie should be enrolled in the first grade.”
He laughed, “It’s not that old!”
“Actually it is. We found a label on it that said ‘2001’” said his wife.
“It would have to be.” I concurred. “Mom died in 2002 and didn’t have a chance to make any pies that year.”
My brother shrugged it off and turned his attention to the thanksgiving turkey. I tried to ignore the pie, sitting there. Eventually, it got moved to the top of the refrigerator in order to clear up counter space. It almost slipped from my mind. Except that it didn’t slip from my mind at all.
I had plans to spend the night at a friend’s house. She arrived at my brother’s house in time for dessert and with an entourage. Encouraged by her presence, I again tried to cast doubt on the advisability of eating a six year old pie. “What if the power went out or something while it was frozen?”
My dad explained that he had given the last three pies to my brother over 2 years ago. My brother said, “the first thing I did was bake one of them and eat it. It was delicious.” He saved the second one for last thanksgiving and the third one for this year. It was the last pie made by mother that anyone would ever eat.
As to a power failure, he’d had one for three days. After the first 45 minutes, he’d rushed the pie over to his neighbor’s (still working) freezer for safe-keeping. The pie was still frozen solid at the time and, he argued, unharmed.
My friend was a biologist. Normally when I see her consume something, I feel like it’s risk levels are acceptably low. So when dessert was served and she took a bite of the pie, I felt like maybe I could too. Still, I spent a long time thinking about it, voicing my objections. My brother assured me that he was just as happy to eat my share and I didn’t need to.
This pie would surely kill us all.
How could they not see that eating this pie, made by mother those six years ago, before any of knew she had cancer, when she seemed well, how could it not kill us to eat it? But they ate and didn’t die immediately, so I asked for a slice.
I stared at the tiny sliver on my plate for a long time. It was a different color than I remembered her pies. The fruit had browned slightly with age. I took a tiny bite. I chewed slowly. And then another bite.
Did it’s age change it’s taste? The texture was different. It was more like a pie made with jam than with whole slices of fruit. But the taste, I don’t know. I can’t think of it now. I couldn’t think of it between swallowing one bite and putting the next in my mouth. Now, I don’t know if I could even remember the taste of her pies when they were new: fruit picked and baked on the same day.
Instead with every bite, the undeniable truth – that this pie would certainly kill us in horrible ways – got harder to ignore. This was a mausoleum pie. Not a pie for the living.
I took three or four bites in total and then looked sadly at my plate. It was my last ever chance to eat my mother’s pie. Her apricot pie. Her specialty. Something she excelled at. Made with love. I would never again have the opportunity to eat such a thing and I couldn’t do it. I felt like an important moment had come and I wasn’t up to the task. I felt like crying. I worried I would forever remember the terrible moment of having to choose between total panic and rejecting the pie. My sister in law informed me kindly that it wasn’t a big deal. Nobody thought it was a big deal. Not my dad who provided the pie. Not my brother who saved the pie. Not my sister in law who baked the pie. Not the friend of my mom who arrived in time for dessert. Nobody.
Except for me.
I knew my truth of death-dealing pie was irrational, but there was no visible middle ground between joyous object and horrifying object. No room to grieve for the pie or for myself.
I’d also brought a pie. In case we decided not to eat the other one. It was a sweet potato pie. I took it with me when I left. My brother hoped I would leave it, but his wife told me not to, fondly patting his stomach. One left over pie for him to eat was enough.

Looking Forward/Looking Backwards

Party Report

At the party were: Esperanto Ed & Sandy (who left before midnight), Sarah Dotie + cousin Kareem and Brother Bob (who had to leave before too late so Sarah could go relocate mating Salamnders to a new pool as part of an abatement program or something), and Polly and Paul. And Ellen and I, of course. It was a small group. I made a mountain of gaucamole. I told Ellen that Californians eat tons of gaucamole and that you couldn’t make too much of it for a party. So last night, I ate a bunch of leftover gauc. Anyway, we chatted and ate food and totally missed the countdown. I looked at my watch at 12:02 and ordered Sarah to call popcorn to see it was after midnight. It was. So we toasted the New Year a bit late. One of my resolutions was better time management, alas. I started the New Year late, but at least it was under five minutes late.

We had several six packs of beer for the party. Of which four beers were consumed. Two by Ellen and two by me. Then I switched and had a glass of Compari + OJ, thus making me the heavist drinker at the party. It makes me nervous when I notice that I’m drinking more than everyone else, but fully half of the people there were non-drinkers and some folks who might normally drink were obstaining so they could go do things like interrupt salamander mating.
I thought it was oodles of fun. So did Ellen. She was impressed by the complete nerdiness of my social circle. Yes, I am a nerd. Most of my friends are nerds. I think she was worried that a bunch of really hip people were going to come over. Maybe I seem hip? That would be exciting. Do nerds suspect me of hipness?
I was very releived when Polly started talking about the decline of Santa Cruz. I had been concerned that it had always been uncool and for some reason I hadn’t noticed before. But no, Polly verifies that Herland did used to be an extremely hip hangout and the Saturn was awesome, etc. She said that less than five years ago, scruz was colonized by valley yuppies. alas. woe for the world. The homoginization of amerika is spreading even to liberal enclaves.
after the party, I played Ellen some MP3s of Polly’s flute playing. Ellen said it was the best, most interresting flute playing that she’d heard in her life. Earlier, she had been talking about how the flute was completely boring and I had argued that cool extended techniques existed. and indeed they do and Polly knows them.

A New Day, A New Year

Woke up early yesterday and full of energy and optimism. Had two cups of coffee and then felt even more energetic and optomistic. Thanks to the hard work of Ellen, I am now addicted to coffee. I woke up yesterday thinking, “If I get up now, I could have coffee!” I’m up to two cups in the morning. I think I will try to stay at that level. coffee makes me so awake and so smart and la la la. anyway.
We went to Half Moon Bay to try beachiness again. the sand there is a lovely yellow color. But it was cold, cold, cold, so I did not walk barefoot in the waves and ran up the beach a few times to keep my feet from getting wet. Ellen, however, got wet feet as she failed to successfully dodge the waves a few times. But she was laughing so much afterwards, I suspect it may have been somewhat on purpose.
the rains caused the streams that run to the ocean to swell. Torrents of muddy freshwater were rushing out to the sea. We walked down a sandy penninsula as deep, fast freshwater raced on our right and the ocean crashed to our left. I feel some sort of mystical connection to the earth and the sea when I’m surrounded by so much water. The ocean makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. I feel the presence of a mother earth when I feel the salt and hear the crashing waves. It was quite lovely
As we drove further up highway 1, I was reminded of a trip I took there in 2002 with my parents and Christi. Sometime after brain surgery, when my mother could communicate, she indicated that she wanted to go to a restaurant in Moss Landing called the Distillery. She liked fish and the restaurant is purported to be haunted. She loved ghost stories and haunting and so the Distillery was one of her favorite restaurants as far as I know. My dad and her ordered crab cakes. I remember being impressed about the discretion of the waiter. I was worried about things like that then. On the way there, we drove through the farms of Half Moon Bay. We passed the Christmas tree farms, the pumpkin farms and the horses. My mom used to ride and show horses. I had the idea that she might like to do horseback riding and was looking to get her into a program for adults with disabilities. I asked her if she was interesting in having a horse. She said, “oh yeah. Maybe someday. Not now.” Her memory wasn’t good. We told her she didn’t have time left, but she couldn’t remember or didn’t want to. The word “someday” broke my heart. There was no someday. there is no someday.
Yesterday, Ellen and I drove past the distillery and stopped at a second beach a bit north of there. We looked at the sandy cliffs and more water rushing to finally again meet the ocean. I thought of the future. There is no someday. There is no control of fate. Take things as they come. Look for opportunities. Do my best. I might die tomorrow as my life rushes back towards the sea and the earth, but I cannot know. this is a kind of optimism. I will do my best. I will accept things as they happen. I will change what I can. I will accept what I cannot change. I am a part of the universe and I belong to the world.

Jean’s ritual

We came back to the East Bay and went to Jean’s New Year Ritual. there I discovered that my attempts at serentiy and new age hippy-dippy spirituality do not extend to political discussions. I cannot change some people’s minds, but damnit, I’ll try anyway. someone there thought that Kucinich was a Nader-like spoiler who must be stopped. For the record, Nader did not lose Gore’s election. Gore lost it. Because he’s as uncompelling as Gray Davis and because of massive voting fraud in Florida and probably other states with electronic ballotting systems, the same systems that are now all over the country. Made by Diebold, the completely partison republican voting machine company who does not release their source code and runs our elections for profit.
Simply, I would not have voted for Gore. I will not vote for anyone that wants to throw queer or poor folks or people of color or the third world to the wolves to protect corporate profits. The excuse cited is that a progressive would be unacceptable to middle america. but let’s pause for a minute and think of the massive role that corporate money plays in campaigns. Are candidates that think the country ought to be run for the benfit of the people rather than profits really unacceptable to middle america or are they unacceptable to the plutocrats that pay for campaigns? Kucinich has major labor support. the majority of americans agree with his platform. If you think that that you can’t vote you’re conscience because it will lose, then you’ve already lost. there’s no hope. You might was well go to work for Haliburton.
Jean’s ritual consists of list making. this year it was three lists. This ritual is a prayer more than it is making resolutions. the first list is things you want to leave behind in the passing year. I listed angst, procrastination and war. The second list is things you want to draw to yourself in the new year. I listed self-reliance, confidence, widsom, knowledge and skills. The third list is new this year and it is things that you are grateful for. Jean says that if she focusses on what she’s grateful for, she feels better about the world.
Jean passed out envelopes, which we self addressed and then sealed in our lists of things to draw in and things we’re grateful for. In the middle of next December, she will stamp the envelopes and mail them to us. For the list of things to leave behind, we went out to a small fire pit in the back yard and burned the lists. In years past, there’s been singing at this point, but this year there was only a little singing by a few people. I am guilty of non-participation. Jean asked me to hum the MIDI thingee I posted to my blog in mid-December, but I couldn’t remember it. I had forgotten about the pice, thinking it wasn’t worth working on.
For the last few months, I’ve been noticing a dearth of music. My stereo was mostly silent in Middletown and I noticed most other people’s were as well. I was thinking this was because I was at music school. We spend all day studying music and listening to pieces to analyze them and write papers or whatever and so don’t put on background music. But now I’m wondering if this is everywhere. Have people stopped wanting to sing? If we don’t have music in our lives, if we don’t listen, if we don’t sing, how can we live? How can we resist evil? How can we fight for good? How can we remember what is beautiful? How can we call for justice if we cannot sing?
So I’m adding a resolution to sing more. My voice is out of practice. Some Californians may recall my willingness to start singing at the drop of a hat, but lately, I’ve been more restrained. This restaint is not a good thing. (well, moderation is a good thing.)
One of the things that I like Ellen is that she sings. she sings to the cats. She sings to me. We should all sing to each other.
I saw Danica at the ritual. I asked what pronoun to use and the reply was “they.” It makes me feel silly to use it, but silliness is a good thing. they seemed very together and happy. I hope to see them again while I’m in town.
We came home from the ritual and I played the MIDI file that Jean liked for Ellen. Ellen liked it too. So I’ll work on it when I get back to my desktop computer where my notation software lives.
comments appear to be working again.

Well well well

during flute band rehersal yesterday, I went to the underage labor cafe and I talked to the owner about labor laws. He told me that the twelve year old only works for a few hours on saturday only, but showed up on Sunday asking to work another day and that he checked with the Employment Development Department before hiring her and there’s no problem with a getting a kid to do a few light tasks (delivering food, making smoothies, pouring ice tea) for a few hours a week. So this is apparently a lot like my plant watering job that I had at the same age.
I’ve know been exposed to every single flute song. All I need to do is learn to play them perfectly, and all is very well. I have three that are in the needs-much-more practice pile and three that are very new. This should be very doable.
Other deadlines are fast approaching. July 1st is the deadline to submit a tape to Sonic Circuits. I want to write a new song for it, but if I don’t get moving, I’m not going to. I don’t think I’ve written any tape music in 2003. It’s pathetic.
July 1st is also the deadline to do tape editting for OtherMinds’ web radio launch. Of course, I haven’t started. I’m inspired by Christi’s ability to do great editting at the last second, even though I should not be. when I was inspiried by her ability to do great homework assignments at the last second, my undergraduate advisor told me “You’re no Christi Denton.”
Speaking of the flute band, our guitarist is missing. We may need a new one. Five songs on acoustic guitar. Practice for around one afternoon a week. And a gig in Vegas in August that pays. Free trip to Vegas! woo!
Some of you have things that I’ve lent you. Books. Music keyboards. My trumpet. (why do I not know where my trumpet went? ack!) Lord knows what else I may have lent out. Please bring things back.
Also, I have many things of yours. I’m storing musical instruments that belong to many different people. I can continue to store them over the next two years, but if you suddenly decide one thursday afternoon that you need back your double-belled sarousaphone, coordinating it’s release would require an introduction via email to my housesitter. Just a thought.
I called some real estate agents today and left messages. The student housing person who would talk to me about finding a place is out today, so I have to call again tomorrow. I need to find a place soon and start packing very soon (which is why I need things back…). I need to put my things in a truck less than one month from now and drive my dog across the country. Big change is creeping very, alarmingly rapidly. If I don’t do something soon, I’ll have to live in the moving van… Oh and I just got thru to an agent! yay! The very expensive places in Middletown could be up to $800. Which is about twice what I would like to spend, but I feel optomistic. Anyway, when I go out to look at places, I’ll get an idea of what a dollar will get you.
So everything is going well well well. This morning, I realized that if the overly optomistic oncologist had been correct in his six-months-to-a-year prognosis, my mom would be dying now. I don’t think my marriage or any of my friendships could have survived it.
Speaking of marriage. Christi and I are going to elope. We’ll come back and have a very big party. You will all be invited. And then we will enter into many years of highly annoying litigation around every aspect of our government duties and obligations surrounding everything from paying taxes to god-knows-what. When I think of the legal stuff, I become alarmed, so I think that I will not think about it. Or maybe I will talk to a lawyer. or not. As my grandpa used to say, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

One Year Ago Today

Celeste’s new plan to drive herself insane and make herself miserable

One year ago Monday, my mom finally scheduled my brithday party. My birthday was, of course, in February, but she kept wanting to schedule a party, but forgetting to do it. Every monday, I would call and ask about it, and she would tell me she’d forgotten or someone couldn’t make it and it would get put off until the next Monday. This went from February to June. So I would talk to her at least once a week. She told me a few times that she thought she was getting alzheimers. I had just read an article about it, and so told her that it rarely hit people her age. Ususally it got folks older or younger. When I came down, I brought her a saint candle or a prayer card, I think a card, since she’s been out of sorts and I wanted to do something helpful. She didn’t know quite what to make of it, which was strange.
One year ago today, I went to the Esperanto Concersation group with Joel. Maybe it was a year ago next week. It was at the tail end of the Elna convention, so nobody else was there, except Joel who had left the Kunveno early, just in case someone wandered into the Conversation group. afterwards, I went ot the main branch of the Berkeley library and checked out a book by Dr. Zamenhof, which I never read. Several weeks later, Christi’s cousin took it back for me. I never went in to pay those fines.
Or maybe one year ago today was the day that I called my mom and asked if her new medication was helping and she said it was, but seemed confused. Or maybe one year ago today was the day that her doctor gave her physical and said that whatever he problem was, it seemed to be in her head somehow and so started changing around her antidepressant medication. Or maybe it was the day that I finally bought plane tickets to portland for my 4th of July trip up there – the trip I came home from early. Or maybe if I keep thinking about this I can make myself insane.
sometimes, it feels like if you think hard enough about the past that you can change it. But this is false. You cannot change the past. You cannot change the past. You cannot change the past. Hell, you can’t even change the future.
I had band practice today. We have some new songs. Polly is starting to panic about the Vegas gig. I like saying “the Vegas gig.” For example, “oh yeah, I gotta do some practicing for the Vegas gig.” or “Oh yeah, maybe I’ll see Robert dyck at the Vegas gig.” (the last one especially impresses christi.) It’s important to start “the vegas gig” sentences casually, with an “oh yeah,” to show how sauve and chill one is about having a Vegas gig. “Oh yeah, a gig is a gig, you know, like the Vegas gig I got coming up.” “Oh yeah, we’re doing some songs about military aircraft for the Vegas gig, but I’m not really into, you know, warfare or empire or US military supremacy and neocolonialism or anything.”
Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m listening to the three new songs over and over and over and over agin to prepare for the Vegas gig, so I can be solid on the bass lines. Over and over and over again. I can feel stark weather coming . . .. I spent all day yesterday trying to get the JJiCalc to write files. Today, I’m going to get it to read them, all while listening to the same three songs over and over again and it will not drive me insane. Or if it does drive me insane, it will be ok, because it’s distracting the hell out of me and distraction is good. Being driven to distraction is good.

Musically Inclined

Well, yesterday was mother’s day, a day I had been actively dreading since October. It wasn’t actually that bad. I guess I worked it all out in the pre-dread. Unlike my birthday, where I didn’t expect to feel miserable around at all, and yet I did. It was horrible, despite cool people and cool events. Anyway, the next date on the dread calendar is June 21st, when my mom would turn 66, but will not. Christi is playing that night at the Chapel of the chimes concert. Yes, the one you’ve heard of. Yes, the huge, big deal. Yes, it’s in a mausoleum. I’m estatic for Christi, but still full of dread.
Perhaps keeping busy is what made Mother’s Day ok. I had band practice for about five hours with Tennis Roberts. Our songs are now ending ok. Chand has taken to mixing his electronic drum sounds (he plays an electronic kit) with a vocoder to other source sounds. It sounds very industrial and awesome with pink noise. With other source files, I’m not so sure about it. We’re a sort of a tonal band and it’s hard to play along with a tape where you don’t know the tones, especially if the tones are from a random sample and hold thing, so they’re not in any particular temperment. Which would be the tones on the mp3s that I made that Chand is using. Anyway, it doesn’t matter that much, since I don’t play in any particular temperment anyway. The open notes are in tune, but the rest is not.
I’m sort of getting into tuning right now. Ellen Fullman has a piece called “Harmonic Cross Sweep” on her album Change of Direction. The piece blows my mind. Go listen to the mp3. It’s just intoned microtonal coolness. So I started reading Harry Partch, since he wrote about Just Intonation and influenced everyone just intoned these days. But he can’t stop ranting. In his book Genesis of a Music, he complains about how cello players are so anal they won’t even let you take an awl to their finger board. It takes him a long time to explain the tuning thing, so I joined the Just Intonation Network and I’m reading their primer text on tunings. It’s a much easier read than Partch and is very informative. But really, the biggest influence on my thoughts about tuning was Kendon.
The last time I played bass guitar in a band before this one, it was called Trap Door Spirder Woman or the Kraft Ebbings or somehting. We never played outside of Kendon’s basement, except to play in my basement. Kendon had this guitar where the nech was cracked. It was nearly broken in two. He was always tuning it in between ever song. I kind of got into the sound of him tuning. It was very cool. It should have been a song. And he always had to tune because after the first three chords, everything was different, since the guitar neck wasn’t rigid. The situation made Kendon unhappy. He was saving up for a new guitar. But it was awesome. It was so completely out of tune screwed up bad that it was great. Really, equal temperment is all out of tune. This broken guitar was just the next step on a broken tuning. But it was beautifully broken.
So with Tennis Roberts, I started playing Tammy’s fretless bass with the thought that I could be out of tune all the time. I could put notes in between the notes. I could put four steps where three belong. I could be always completely, sharply off. It’s awesome.