Saturday, February 12, 2005

a soulmate of a different kind

Last night, over some Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, I discovered my literary soulmate.

Lauren stopped over to drop off some ice cream. I handed her a beer, and asked her if she'd finished The Dark Tower books she'd been reading. At Christmas, I had agreed to loan her my David Sedaris collection when she'd finished The Dark Tower books my brother gave her. So, after I went upstairs to pluck Sedaris off the book shelf, we got to talking, and Lauren, who was an English Lit. major at St. Lawrence, rattled off a bunch of stuff while I sat there in total, utter amazement:

"Have you ever read any Margaret Atwood?"

I clutched my hands to my heart and replied, "Are you freaking kidding me?!"

My mother smiled with recognition. "Heidi's loved Margaret Atwood for years. Since high school."

"Cat's Eye is my favorite. I had to read The Edible Woman for class, and after that I was hooked."

"Oh my God. I have every Atwood book ever published except for the one that's out of print. As soon as I unpack, they're yours." I said this with some trepidation. I had just relinquished my collection of maybe 20 books, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and essays.

We also talked about Ayn Rand (someone who brought Ryan and me together several years ago), Wally Lamb, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Erica Jong, and William James. But the real kicker came towards the end of our conversation.

"You know who else I really like?" Lauren asked. "I had to read her for class, too. She's British. Jeannette Wilson? No, Winter? Winterson?"

I shrieked. "OH MY GOD. She wrote Written on the Body, which has to be one of my favorite books of all time. You can have that one, too. You have to read it."

It was nearing 10pm and both Ryan and I had completely forgotten about eating dinner. We were so engrossed in our literary discussion. And as Lauren stood up to put on her fleece and roll a cigarette, I felt like a new person in a way; refreshed and hopeful.

Lauren said it best: "How often do you recommend a book to a person who replies, 'Oh, I've already read that. And loved it. It changed my life.'?"

I have. Once.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

temporary catharsis

I didn’t want to talk to anyone last night. Not friends, not lovers, not family. Not even the dog.

Earlier yesterday afternoon, I broke down right over this keyboard here and just sobbed. And I don’t really know why. Mood? No sun + cold + too much snow = Very Bad Mood. Circumstance? Maybe. It just came out, without any warning. Hard.

It’s tough for people around me to understand why this happens, especially when I can’t even explain it myself. It’s not like I was actively searching for something cathartic. It only lasted about two minutes and I didn’t really feel better afterward.

Maybe what I need is a spiritual re-centering. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I seem to always be moving in one direction, spiritually, while many of the people I know are going completely opposite of that, if they’re going someplace at all. Often, I feel lost. I struggle with this sort of thing quite frequently – there are people close to me who seem to not even have a spiritual center. Not that I believe one is necessary in order to lead a fully satisfying life. But I’ve observed that these people seemingly appear empty on the outside. What’s on the inside, of course, is a whole different story.

So, yesterday, as was required of me, I went to church. In the past, Ash Wednesday has always meant something to me. There have been times while in church I’ve been almost paralyzed by sadness and hope at the same time. Last Easter, for example, I cried like a baby during the triumphant processional Jesus Christ is Risen Today, complete with full organ stops, antiphonal brass choir exchanging praises from balcony to altar, and a truly astonishing choir whose sounds echoed magnificently off the stone walls of the church. I guess I was hoping to be so moved again last night.

I sat on the organ bench during the imposition of the ashes wondering if I should go forward to receive them. From dust you came, to dust you shall return. Sometimes in church I feel like a foolish hypocrite. I question things. I doubt. I stay up till 4:30am debating St. Anselm and Pascal’s Wager. I elected to stay put, and as I watched everyone in the sanctuary form a line, I noted that they all looked a little bit like possessed disciples. Zombies, almost, with eyes glazed over, doing something only because it was expected of them.

Then came the sermon and I thought God came down and bonked me right on the head. Was the Pastor really looking at me the whole time? He talked about how people, during Lent, have a chance to really start over. He commented the most common item in a household next to or near the front door is a mirror. That’s so you can check to make sure before going out that your exterior is arranged and flawless. While your interior may be falling a part. I swear he was looking right at me.

Sure, I have guilt. I’m learning even still, more than a year after my life actually did fall apart, not to feel guilty for choices that I know were the right ones. The Pastor continued in his message, saying that when Jesus said ‘give up everything and follow me’, he really meant everything. In addition to your home, your money, your possessions, your time, he also meant your guilt. And your sorrow. And your burdens. When I think about it, this seems like an awful cop-out. This stuff is mine; I earned it – burdens, baggage, emotional scars and all. You mean to tell me I have to give them up to follow Jesus? Humans have a hard time letting go of things as it is, much less giving something up for someone else: C’mon, Jesus, I’ve decided my mother will never again make me feel like an irrational teenager when she whines about being too helpless to do anything super mundane like take out the trash. While we’re at it, here’s my crappy car with 200,000 miles on it, my unpaid school loans, the fight I had last week with my sister, and all the times I’ve unintentionally put my foot in my mouth and really bruised some feelings. Let’s go!

As if.

I feel like since all these things are mine, I should be able to handle them on my own and not bother or trouble anyone else with them. Who would want them anyway? (Apparently, Jesus does.) Perhaps it’s my stubborn nature.

I thought what I really wanted to say, when I first started writing, was that I was depressed yesterday and didn’t want to talk to anyone and that was that. I planned to mention how I came home from church last night, munched on some avocado on whole wheat, let the dog out, and read and finished the new David Sedaris book in 3 ½ hours before finally turning out the light at around 1:30am.

I guess I had more to say. The nice thing about not talking to anyone is that if you listen deeply enough, you’ll tell yourself exactly why it is you are upset. So, I’m upset because I’m off my spiritual pathway and going to church last night didn’t help. Or did it? While I may appear to some as having most of my stuff together, so to speak, there is a daily inner battle going on inside me. I’ve never aggressively tried to conceal what bothers me; I just don’t talk about it until I'm ready.

I also have never had a mirror near or next to the front door.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


if i hear one more thing about valentine's day, i'm going to vomit.

Old musicians never die, they are just disconcerted.

I read in this morning's paper that Karl Haas died on Sunday. Why am I always the last to know these things? I always thought I was rather up-to-date in my knowledge of current events, but alas, this slipped right by me.

Anyway, Karl Haas was the host of Adventures in Good Music, syndicated world-wide, and produced by my favorite old hometown radio station WCLV-104.9 FM in Cleveland.

An excerpt from Haas' obituary:

Robert Conrad, the President of Cleveland radio station WCLV, which has produced and distributed Adventures in Good Music since 1970, said, "Throughout his broadcasting career, Karl Haas had the knack of informing and delighting his listeners with his vast knowledge of
music, ranging from humor to etiquette and everything in between. And who can forget his penchant for punning the titles of his programs "The Joy of Sax", "Baroque and in Debt", "May the Source be With You" and "No Stern Untoned"? Karl leaves a valuable legacy of music appreciation that is unparalleled. And because his programs are timeless, WCLV will continue to make these priceless musical treasures available to radio stations.

You can read the obituary in its entirety here.

Monday, February 07, 2005


i have cramps and i'm pissed, so don't fuck with me.

Friday, February 04, 2005

that's something, at least

we'll see what happens now

I've been diligently working on some arranging for Good Friday. Yes, already. I only had about 3 weeks after Christmas to breathe and recover before diving right in again for Lent and Easter. Such is the life of a church musician. But despite all the complaining I do, I so love my job. That is something I am proud to say. Really, there's nothing I would rather do. While at home, I spend most of my time in front of a score laying out parts for whatever assortment of musicians have come forward expressing a desire to perform at any given time. And, while at work, what I do makes people feel good. Every time. Myself included.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


the day the music died

Last night on my way home from practice I caught Fresh Air on the radio. Terry Gross was interviewing The Godfather of Soul. He's 71 and boy does he sound like it. But man can he still sing...the gruffness goes away as soon as he croons a few bars of whatever pops into his head.

I learned several things last night about The Hardest Working Man in Show Business:
1. He was married 3 years ago to one of his back-up singers, and has a toddler son with her.
2. He used to fine his musicians money for not being dressed properly (shoes un-shined, suits not pressed, etc.), playing wrong notes, or in general, just 'not getting it'.
3. He gave both Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker their starts, back in the late '60s.

How about that?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

a long weekend

Friday - fish fry from Kithno's, fire, wine, fiery stomach ache
Saturday - Chicken French, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, decaf English Breakfast
Sunday- pasta with tomatoes, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts, Glory, wine, every 4 hours
Monday - Sausage corn chowder, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sam Winter Lager