Friday, February 29, 2008

"Excuse me, but..."

The subway is a very personal place for me. I'm surrounded by tens of people, likely over a hundred on a rush-hour car. (Maybe next time I'll count...) Headphones in or headphones out (a topic I've written on in the past), I tend to avoid conversation.

There have been rare instances in which I will engage when someone else says something to me, and even rarer still when I will be the one to ignite the interaction.

"Excuse me, ma'am, but you dropped [your glove, pencil, other small item that I'm comfortable picking up and handing to you]" is about as far as I'll go. Others will give the "Excuse me, sir, but your bag is open." I'm yet to see someone say "Excuse me, sir, but your fly is unzipped," but I await the day.

Today, though, I had mild embarrassment when I let someone move from leaning against the door and took hit spot in order for him to sit down in the seat I was standing in front of, newly vacated. I thought he was going to say thank you, but no, he gave me the "come hitehr" finger (that I'd much rather be getting from an attractive lady-type) and said, "Hey, Man; you've got something on your nose."

We had a good laugh about it, me thanking him, and him telling me that he just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be embarrassed when going home to a girl or something of the sort.

I still think I'm not comfortable telling someone else he's got something on his nose, but I'm glad this guy did. I mean, I went home to an empty apartment, but still; it's nice to know he's lookin' out for me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Caught in the rain

Monday was a beautiful day. It was one of the few holidays for which I had the day off from school, I had no more homework to do for the short-term, I couldn't run any errands because the management company and the post office were both closed, and it was 65 degrees. Sounds like the perfect day for a walk to me!

Around 2 PM, I finally got outside. I was surprised at how nice it was and upset at how long I'd taken to get outside. Of course, never trusting my own sense of temperature or the internet for what it's really like outside, I had my had in the back pocket of my khakis. (I was, of course, without jacket.)

It was a beautiful day, yes, but for some reason, I kept walking West -- towards the ominous dark clouds. The rain didn't scare me. I was excited for it, in a way.

And when I hit Park Avenue, between 95th and 94th, walking south after exploring some architecture by the park, the heavens opened. It wasn't just a light rain, it was a downpour. I blasted my music, unzipped my sweatshirt, put on my had (to stay somewhat dry and keep from getting sick), and danced around.

The music playing, "Hang Gliding" from Maria Schnieder's album Allegresse, seemed oddly fitting. As people crowded under the large awning of nearly 1199 Park Ave, trying to keep from soaking through their clothing, I laughed. "Silly people," I thought. Of course, they were all laughing at me -- or at the very least, confused by me -- as I looked at them and laughed at them.

As the rain died, I took off my hat, pulled off my headphones, and lingered in silence until I got home and got to experience among my favorite feelings in the world: A hot shower after being drenched in the rain.

Friday, February 15, 2008


For my birthday, my niece, who was not yet 3 at the time, got me a tiger. (It's a puppet.)
Not knowing about this puppet, last weekend, my dear friend Amanda got me a dragon. (It's a finger puppet.)
Tonight, the three of us had a fantastic display of our abilities as thespians.

Fast forward to the conversation between me and my roommate:

"You know I'm losing it when my finger-puppet and my hand-puppet are talking to each other."
"Huh? What are you doing?"
"They're performing a play. Hamlet. But they aren't very good; neither one of them's read Shakespeare."
"What about Puff the Magic Dragon? Or Eurika's Castle?"
"He doesn't like to be type-cast!"
"I don't blame him!"
"I think you've gone crazy."

Below: the cast photo


One year ago tonight was my first blog entry.
In addition to one year, this is my 100th entry.
I was going to comment on one or both of those things, but I've decided that looking at the past 12 months, I'd probably rather forget 8 of them, so I am not going to comment on the passage of that time specifically.

I was then going to write a short story, but it still needs work, so maybe I'll post it some other time.

So for now, well...on over-thinking.

I have a major project -- a 15-minute composition, a collaboration with illustrators and animators, so it's 15-minutes with animations and music, performed live at the beginning of May. Our first rehearsal is less than a month away. I asked the instructor how much material I should really have done by then, and his response was, "Just don't think too much." I started laughing.

He obviously doesn't know me very well. I over-think EVERYTHING. (Except for things I over-feel and don't think at all on.)

I stay up nights thinking about every possible scenario and every possible outcome with every possible action I -- or someone else -- might take. On the one hand, it hurts sleep. On the other, I'm always calm when whatever is going to happen happens. It takes a lot to surprise me, and it takes even more for me to react in any way other than level-headed. (The only exception I can think of is unexpected brushes with mortality.)

I always think of the movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth that I used to watch as a young child. There is one line in it that may or may not be in the book -- I wouldn't know, I never actually read the book -- that has stuck with me forever.

I think Tick Tock the Watchdog says it, but upon further memory searching, it may have been the weatherman...
"Expect everything and the unexpected never happens."

I grew up with VHS cassettes of taped movies off of early and mid 80s television, and this movie -- from 1970, taped off Channel 4 -- or 5 or 7 or 38 -- from before I understood the world, showed to me at age 6, has one line that just stuck with me 16 years later, helping shape some of my life philosophies.

One year ago, I started this blog, calling it "Late-Night Thoughts" with the tag-line "what keeps you up at night?" and I'm really just getting to answering that question now. What keeps me up is my late-night thoughts; my thoughts of scenarios and possibilities; my thoughts of who I am and what I've become; my thoughts of what I want to become; and most of all, my attempt at truly expecting everything so the unexpected never happens to me.

For a while, I needed this outlet to help with some of those thoughts. Now, I've just grown used to having it.

Thanks for sticking it out with me for the past 365 days. I hope the next 366 are even more fruitful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

I won't lie, faithful readers: the only thing I like about Valentine's Day is cheap chocolate on February 15th.

Whether bitter and single, or in love and happy, (or single and happy,) I have never liked it. I guess it's the whole idea of needing a day devoted to love. Maybe it's just because I'm a hopeless romantic, but I've always felt that there should be no one day where love is more important than any other day. I've always thought chocolates and flowers are okay the other 365 days a year (in leap year) are perfectly acceptable, and NO flowers and chocolates on February 14 is also acceptable.

I've been lucky enough that the counterparts in the relationships I've been in have felt the same, but I look and find it amusing what people go through to make sure they don't do anything stupid and make sure to say something extra-special on a random date in the middle of February.

I was amused, however, when a class-mate of mine tonight came in with a box of chocolates that she bought for her husband. You read that right, she bought them for her husband. (And not like my mother buys birthday gifts for my give to her. She bought them as a gift for her husband.) She told us of being in the candy shop downtown and being in a store with her and 20 men getting chocolate for their wives.

I'll enjoy Valentine's day this year, but only for one reason: because as far as I'm concerned, I don't need an excuse to eat chocolate.

February 14th is no exception.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I carry your heart with me

I've shared others' works before, and tonight, I want to post, and my body and brain are too tired to allow me to write about the snow, as I wanted to (perhaps tomorrow night?), so instead, I leave you, my blog readers, with a fantastic poem.


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Jazz Singer

I just listened to the radio adaptation of "The Jazz Singer". It was done with Al Jolson on Lux Radio Theater in 1936. (You can download it here, if you're interested.) It was common for popular Hollywood films to be broadcast on the radio. This film, though, I think translates to radio better than most. (In fact, I would say that this is MORE successful on radio than on film.)

(Side-note: I'm listening to the radio adaptation of "Pinocchio," and it isn't nearly as good.)

At risk of giving away the ending to an 81 year-old movie, at the end, Al Jolson's character sings Kol Nidre in place of his father, who died earlier in the night.

I cannot speak for Jolson's connection with the music, but for me, this has a tremendous meaning. And part of it is the way he sings it. It reminds me of when Kol Nidre was the most meaningful and powerful thing in the Jewish liturgy to me and would make me cry. It makes me miss the days when it meant something.

I remember the last time Cantor Candler -- the man who lent me his name for my middle name in Hebrew -- sang it. It was Yom Kippur 1999. I was months shy of 14 years old. I remember looking out the large windows onto the newly-flowered rotary, beautifying the town of Brookline in order to usher in The Ryder Cup to The Country Club as I stood waiting for the service to start. Everybody felt it would be Cantor Candler's last Kol Nidre -- he was nearing 100, after all, and the upstairs service -- the one he sang that night -- was standing-room only. (Ironic, in a way, since the prayer is recited stood in its entirety.)

Cantor Candler's voice was never operatic or truly magnificent as far as singers go, but there was a power and meaning in his voice -- it was the perfect voice for prayer, and while it may not have been the perfect voice to listen to, it was certainly the perfect voice to be overcome by.

It's amazing how months away from any holiday of significance, I remember back to how nice it felt to be overcome with that kind of emotion. I don't think I've felt it since that -- nor am I particularly looking for it. There certainly is a void where it once was, but I don't think it will be filled by religion again -- or at least not any time soon.

It's amazing the power of radio -- even 72 years after the fact.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Her: You must go to paradise for a week.
Me: Does paradise exist?
Her: Yes, it does. I've been there!
Me: Where is it?
Her: All over. Hawaii; The Bahamas; some remote location in Paris; a remote location in New York; in my dreams; Notting Hill; Some chateau in England where Pride and Prejudice was filmed; in my eyes when I look at parts of New York and they remind me of what I imagine it used to look like. It's in music; in someone else's dreams; in my parents' eyes; in the eyes of my loved ones. Paradise is in many places if you can feel it in your heart.

I pause and think about that and change around the phrasing.
Paradise is a place in your heart.

She continues: Paradise is wherever those meaningful tears come from, those doubtful sighs, those empty nights, and those warm hugs. Paradise is in my father's eyes when he looks at me because I am his angel. So I'm sure you know where paradise is.

I still think back, though.
Paradise is a place in your heart.

It continues around up in my head.
Paradise is a place in your heart.

I don't know if I can afford a week at once there, but I've re-found Paradise.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A short nugget

I had a whole post written about how good I've been feeling as of late, but truth is, it was a horribly written entry. (That's not to say that I need to be miserable to write well...) So instead, I'm going to discuss a piece of advice that I've spoken before. It's something I've learned from experience of my own, rather than having been given to me by one of my mentors.

The sports cliche is right: To be number one, you need to train like you're number two. However, what the cliche doesn't say is that to be number one, you also need to believe that you're number one. If you train to be number two and completely believe that you are number two, guess what: you're going to fall short when you face number one. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That's not to say cockiness is a necessity in victory, but some of it needs to be there internally.

This is an attitude needed with anything in life.

Simply put: expect to fail and you will. (Just a note: 'expect to win and you will' is not always true, per se, because that takes work. But all the work in the world and the expectation of failure will always lead to failure.)

I hope that a future version of me will be struggling with something and stumble upon this and be reminded of all the work it took to be in this place again and the attitude adjustment I needed.

In the meantime, I hope someone out there stumbles upon this and can see how far I've come since this blog started 358 days ago and see that I really learned this lesson, perhaps the hard way, and takes it to heart.

Which reminds me:
Next week: The first blogiversary: a year in review

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I voted

Sure I didn't get a sticker to publicize it, but that's what blogs are for: to publicize the fact that I VOTED!

It was the hardest decision I've ever made in a 2-foot by 3-foot enclosed space. (Note: New York still uses the old lever machines that Massachusetts used in my youth. Walking into this machine was like walking into a time machine, going back to being 8 and voting with my mother...and then my father 2 hours later.)

I was the ultimate undecided voter. I made my decision on my walk to the voting booth. Even in the booth, it was hard for me not to throw my vote away and vote for the one-time candidate whom I supported the most: Bill Richardson.

What made my decision? Endorsements.

Not celebrity endorsements or newspaper endorsements. It wasn't Barbara Streisand or Oprah; it wasn't The Boston Globe or the New York Times; it wasn't Ted Kennedy or Maria Shriver. (Although, I admit, I would have voted for whomever Bill Richardson told me, although he did not issue an endorsement. Perhaps keeping his options open for VP nod, regardless of winner?)

It was the endorsements of those I know personally whom I respect. It was Matt and Ari and Molly and Tom and Jeff and Dan and Tyrone and Jose and countless others. It was those who could give me concrete reasons to vote for someone, not just an "I like him" or "If Oprah says to vote for..." or "Chuck Norris doesn't vote, he just tells the world what is..."

As much as I was annoyed by my inbox flooding with support for one candidate or another, with every additional email from someone I respect, I had to read more carefully. I did my own research. I made my own decision, eventually. But I let those endorsements lead me to find certain facts.

But more importantly than who I voted for or how I decided to -- or when -- I voted! And the best part is, I'm still not sure I made the right choice, and I feel like that actually matters.

It's nice to be an active participant in a close race where pundants are typically wrong. It makes me feel important.

Oh how I love living in a republic!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Reflected Glory

Jose James is one of the nicest guys I have ever met, and is certainly the most talented vocalist I have ever known personally, and probably the most talented I've ever seen in a live setting.

I remember the first time I ever heard him sing. He was in a practice room at school with a pianist and a trumpet player. He was scatting, either over a blues or a rhythm changes, and I had never heard anything quite like it before. I stood by the elevator listening for a while, wishing I knew who he was, deciding right then and there that when I found out his name, it was one I should remember.

Over two years later, it's now a name I tell everyone else they should remember, too.

His first album, "The Dreamer", just came out on Brownswood, a small British label. It is already getting fantastic press, both overseas and here, and is -- at last check -- on the top 10 Jazz albums in iTunes for THREE countries. Jose is rightfully optimistic that it will be picked up for distribution in the US by a major label.

This is the first album commercially released made up nearly entirely of friends and people I know well, which makes it kind of a special occasion for me, too. (I just think it's really cool!) And honestly, I'm quite jealous.

But I'm not jealous of Jose; I'm jealous of those around him. That's right, Alexi, I'm jealous of you.

Even my wildest dreams of musical fame and fortune haven't been of fame and fortune, but rather notoriety and comfort. I've never wanted to be that big front man whose face everyone knows (perhaps self conscious about my nose?) or whose name strikes awe into restaurant hosts and students alike; rather, I've wanted to be known in a select circle as a staple behind the big name, as the ever-loved and never-bombarded side-man.

I want my name in 6 point font in liner notes. I want one sentence mention in a 600-word review. I want to be thanked at the end of the night -- not even publicly -- for being a musical wingman, getting riches and women galore for the man I sit behind.

Is it that I don't want to put in the work it takes to put together a project worthy of carrying my name? No; I'm a composer, and even without doing enough for a band of my own, it's a lot of work from which I do not shy away. Is it a lack of self-confidence? Perhaps, but I don't think so.

I just have never cared for celebrity, and I'd just rather be like everyone else with only one distinct difference; I'm living my dream.

Now all I have to do is find someone to pay me for it.