Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Old Year!

I never do New Years Resolutions; I don't believe in them. I believe in making smaller goals -- a goal for the day, the week, the month...

I didn't write 100 blog posts this past year as in previous years -- though I still have 6 weeks to get to 100 on the blogoversary. (I only need about 70...excuse me while I laugh at the thought of writing even 70 WORDS in this thing after law school starts...)

I don't like to reflect on the previous year; it gets depressing to think of missed opportunities, because even if things overall were positive, there is always something to nitpick at. (Though if I look back at 2009, it's safe to call it a success, though honestly, it seems like it was more of a place-holder year than real advancement...)

I do, however, like to think ahead. And I'm thinking good things. Not even so much about the next year, but about the next month, week, and day.

And on that note, I'm going to wish all of you out there the same thing I've wished you in the past:
May you find a 2010 calendar in your price range.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Teddy Bear

I admit it, I have a teddy bear. That's right, I'm a 24-year-old male with a teddy bear. In fact, I have a number of stuffed animals, but just one teddy bear without whom I do not know what I'd do.

Let me put this out there: it's been years since I've slept with said teddy bear, but he lives on my nightstand next to my bed. I always know where he is. And yes, if I've had a bad day, I will grasp him in hopes of gaining comfort, though it works less and less as I grow older. (Which makes me only grow sadder.)

This teddy bear was a gift to me at birth. He's in great condition for a 24-plus year old stuffed animal. He had a rattle inside him that broke upwards of 13 years ago (thankfully), his eyes are rough from many trips through the dryer, he is no longer incredibly furry, and the felt on his nose would come off if rubbed the wrong way, but I guess that's to be expected.

Tonight, I watched my eldest niece, age 5, carry around a bear of her own (whom she called "dolly," though I've always assumed dolls to be human analogs) and I watched her care for it. She made sure her clothing was on properly and her Croc slippers (yes, her bear has Croc slippers) were on properly. Such work for love, my niece puts in. Dolly even has a sweater that my mother knit for her to match my niece's sweater.

Then my middle niece, 3-and-a-half, had a birthday party for her favorite stuffed animal, a bunny (called "Nani") whom I'm not sure I've ever seen her leave the house without. When she goes to the beach, my sister has to put Nani in a ziploc and bring it. Nani cannot leave the bag, but Nani does not leave my niece's side.

I have no friends who admit to having such a tangible connection to his or her childhood still living with them. I guess I can't handle the thought of fully growing up.

My sister used to have a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal that lived on her nightstand, even after marriage and even while she lived in London for a couple years. I should ask her where Pooh is. I'll honestly be sad if the answer isn't "my nightstand."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It Never Gets This Dark in Brooklyn

I never used to be afraid of the dark. I admit that I liked having my closet light on when I went to bed as a kid, but it had nothing to do with fear; it was because I loved staying up late and playing in my room without my parents knowing. If the closet light was left on, I could get out of bed and pull out a toy car or legos and sit in its – what’s the opposite of shadow? Since my mother or father would leave me tucked in with light creeping from under the door, there was no way to truly know I was awake and out of bed since there was no change in what they saw from outside.

I never had a strict bedtime. I had a time when I had to go to bed, but it wasn’t that I had to go to sleep. My mother always said: “I don’t care what you do, just go in your room, and I don’t want to see you for the rest of the night.” In the years since then, when I come home for holidays and stay up late and my mother emerges from her room suffering from the apparently-genetic insomnia wanting to play a game of cards or Scrabble, I regurgitate that same line to her. (She probably wishes she had never used it on me…or that I were not smart enough to see the cyclical nature of our dilemmas.)

So I used to stay up. I’d bask in the light of my closet. I would tire myself out, since the rest of the day clearly did not tire me.

I am now an adult – by age and lifestyle, at least – and live alone without anyone to tell me to turn out the light or to go in my room. So I keep the light on until I get tired enough to sleep. Just like when I was seven.

But now, I’ve developed a fear of the dark. Not really all the time – just at night. That’s the hazard of living in New York City; there is never true darkness to deal with. The lights that reflect in from the street, from neighboring apartments, from the hallway of the building, those lights are a built-in excuse to distract from sleep, to distract from thoughts, to be able to watch shadowy figures dance and let imagination run wild. It doesn’t take a night light to play with a toy car – literally or proverbially. It doesn’t take action to distract oneself; the world does a good enough job for you.

So now, I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of having no excuse. I’m afraid of having no distraction. I’m afraid of having my eyes wide open and still only seeing the back of my eyelids, the inside of my brain, my thoughts and memories and fears and anxieties.

I’m afraid of the implication that comes with total blackness at 2 in the morning, that of solitude and loneliness, and frankly, of being lost.

I love vacation, but after this one, I only fear my next. Bring on the onslaught. And the next time I have free time, I’ll spend it where the light still shines and being alone doesn’t mean ever being alone. At least then, I’ll have an excuse for insomnia.

Halfway Down the Stairs

In a recent entry, I posted the video of “Halfway Down the Stairs,” which is one of my favorite Muppet Show segments. As great as the segment is, there is something to the simplicity of both the music and the lyrics that speak to me. There is an inherent duality in its meaning, and I am never quite sure if it is a hopeful piece or a depressed piece.

On The Muppet Show, it’s sung by Robin Frog, Kermit’s nephew. (Though we do not actually find him to be Kermit’s nephew until the season following this sketch.) Robin Frog is always a slightly depressed character. He’s the underdog the Muppets. He’s the one that nobody really notices, but he’s genuinely liked and would be missed if he weren’t there. I guess I relate a lot with Robin. Perhaps it’s more in my head than a real one-to-one correlation, but this song is part of what makes me love Robin.

It’s a song really about a special place – a place of solitude and reflection, a place that “really isn’t anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead.” In my own life, I have had many places like this, and I am yet to figure out if these are happy places or sad places.

When I was little – say 5 years old and under – I loved nothing more than being in places that only I could fit. When I was VERY little, I used to love to stand under the kitchen table, the place where I could be surrounded by the action and be completely free of everyone else, as I was the only one who could fit. I reigned over the kingdom of under-the-table. I would play with toy cars. I would stand there when I didn’t want to go somewhere that my mother was making me go. I would just go to get away from it all. (More often than not, I’d take my teddy bear with me, as even the powerful ruler of table-opolis needs a companion and confidant.)

When I grew too large for the kitchen table, I used my abilities to curl up in a little ball – something I can still do quite impressively today for a so-called grown-up – to my advantage and would curl into laundry baskets, again with my teddy bear, and sit contently.

As I grew older, my me-places became more normal solitude places: My car on a long drive; Long walks on the beach; Long showers; My piano bench. (Incidentally, I hated being interrupted while practicing piano not because of the rigors of practice, but because it was the only place I really felt like I could be alone without leaving the house, as my entire being would get into practicing and I did not like being torn away from that world.)

In all of these me-places, one constant remains: duality. Sometimes it’s where I escape to cry; sometimes it’s where I escape to revel in glory; sometimes it’s where I go to reflect on the future, itself an action of ambiguity and duality.

Having such strong attachments to music, many songs – or specific recordings – have an emotion tied to them when I hear them, be it one I’ve implanted onto it, one tied to a specific memory, or one deliberately written into it.

“Halfway down the stairs,” however, is one whose emotion changes as fluidly as my own.

But I always love it and it’s always me. I guess it’s a place where I always stop, too.

Rather than post the video again, I’ll link to it, but I will also type out the lyrics here:

(video here)

Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit.
There isn’t any other stair quite like it.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top.
So this is the stair where I always stop.

Halfway up the stairs it isn’t up and isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery, it isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts,
Run round my head.
It isn’t really anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thinking too much

Rowlf's voice in this hand puppet really says it best: you can't get away from it.

Two versions:
The first from 1959 from "Sam and Friends"
The second from 1966 from "The Ed Sullivan Show"


I've been having a bout of insomnia lately. Yes, I have been known to have odd hours, from the year I was an RA and went to bed around 4 every night, or the year where I was studying with a yogi and at one point went 3 days without sleep and merely 20-minute meditation sessions every 6 hours, but the difference is I wasn't TRYING to sleep then.

Now, here I am -- and have been for the last 2-3 weeks -- sitting awake in bed, watching my clock roll over another hour. I've owned a sofa for a mere two weeks and change, and yet, I've spent more nights falling asleep lying curled in a little ball on it with the TV sleep timer on than in the previous 20 years of my life combined.

Though I do not need sleep, I miss it.

In my new-found time to watch DVDs, I've started watching all of The Muppet Show seasons 1-3 DVDs. (Rumor is that season 4 will come out in 2010; they're just working on getting rights to some of the music.) I'd say I've rediscovered that my favorite Muppet Show music is the A. A. Milne stuff, but that implies that I'd forgotten it at one point.

So without further ado, two of my favorites:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Everything happens...

We all know the old cliche "Everything happens for a reason." (And if you don't, where do you live, and can I come with?)

If you want to be technical, this cliche is true. I mean, every action has a(n equal and opposite) reaction, and every effect has a cause, and vice versa. So strictly by definition, nothing just plain happens without something having led up to it, so yes, everything does, in fact, happen for a reason. But that's not what the cliche is supposed to be saying.

It's understood that the cliche is supposed to mean that all the crap that happens to us is supposed to fit into some greater plan. I may not identify my spiritual beliefs as that of any religion, though I do consider myself spiritual (though I think spiritual is the wrong word. I think "zen" is more like it...), and while I've had my "there's reason in this" stage, I've come to realize that that's a bunch of, well, hogwash.

"Everything happens for a reason" is the passive approach to life. That action is usually followed by the reaction of, "let's see what this universe has in store for me." That's all fine and good and a good way to get through some tough times, I guess, but I've taken on a different approach.

No longer is it, "Everything happens for a reason," it's just "everything happens." And no longer is that followed by "let's see what happens next," but rather, "let's see what I do next."

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you to stop focusing on the universe and start focusing on you. Luck favors those who work, the only way to get ahead is to take a step forward, and most importantly, the universe doesn't give a crap about you.

But if it makes you feel any better, I do!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m scared to death of failure. But not in the way you think. I’m not afraid of failing. I’m afraid I haven’t failed enough.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell is wrong with you?” Yeah; I ask myself that all the time. I talk too much, I tell the same boring stories time and time again, and tell the same not-boring stories so many times that they quickly become boring. But nowhere on my list of what’s wrong with me does this particular problem show up.

I was listening to the radio this weekend and heard Malcolm Gladwell being interviewed by Tavis Smiley. Say what you will about Tavis Smiley, but he gets wonderful guests and is always well-prepped such that the interviewee always manages to say something noteworthy and interesting.

Gladwell started talking about his failures in the job market and the advertising world. He and Smiley reminisced that it seems all people who show amazing successes always failed first, or at least faced some sort of adversity.

This got me thinking. Sure I’m amidst a change from front-of-the-house of the music business, so to speak, and moving to the business side of the business, but am I too young and inexperienced for that to really count towards my failures and adversity check-box? I’ve had it pretty easy; no opportunity has been spared, I’ve never been fired from a job, I’ve never had any disability (aside from chronic knee issues, which I usually follow up with, “Yeah; so I’ll ice later…”), and I’ve never had any massive academic speed bumps.

Sure I’ve made mistakes, but do these count? Are these failures? Have I hit the ground enough to make me stand taller?

Of course, maybe just the fact that I’m thinking about this is enough. Or maybe I’m not giving my failures enough credit. Maybe quitting my job and being rejected by job after job since is enough, and I’m just lucky enough that my failures spanned a small chronological period.

And then, there’s the chance that Smiley and Gladwell are wrong, that success does, in fact, exist without massive failures.

Or my failure is yet to come.

Okay – now I’m scared of failure. And in the way you’d expect...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another year, another birthday.

Another year has gone by, and for the 24th time, I survived my birthday.

Some years are easier than others – and I'm not talking about the year, I'm talking about my birthday itself. I'm not a big fan of my birthday, even though my mother wants to disown me when I say that. Part of it is that I don't like being the center of attention when I've done nothing more than being born. (I mean, let's be honest, my parents have a lot more to do with my birthday than I do. The only thing I've done to deserve a birthday is not die.) And part of it is that if I had my way, I'd spend my birthday in relative solitude, and people always make me feel quite guilty when I say I want no party or hoopla.

But anyway – this year was wonderful. All it takes is a few friends, in very small groups, and baked goods. Yes, baked goods.

I'd go all retrospective about the last year and where I was one year ago today, or I'd get all hopeful about where I'll be a year from now.

But I won't. Let's just say that things are good right now, and that's all I can focus on now – and all I should focus on.

So here's to not the next year, not the next month, but the next day.

Happy no-longer-birthday! 'Cause every day should be happy, not just one out of every 365. (Or 366 every 4th year...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You know what they say...

"With a sharp enough knife, you don't need a cutting board."

Okay -- I don't think anybody's ever said that, but it sounds like a probable Southern Cliché, one that we all know has been said forever and must mean SOMETHING but we aren't quite sure what.

Maybe it means that the right tool doesn't need another. Or maybe it means you should keep a cutting board on hand if you don't own a knife sharpener. But I'll get back to the made-up cliché. For right now, I'm going to discuss actual clichés. Not any specific clichés, but clichés in general.

The thing about clichés is that almost everybody hates them, and yet everyone still uses them. (Of course, some people use way too many clichés, specifically sports figures at press conferences.) But there's something about clichés that makes them unique to annoying idioms; they're usually true. After all, things don't actually get repeated unless they're true.

I guess that's why it's so hard for me to come up with a new cliché; there seems to be no truth to the random sayings I manage to blurt out.

'Cause you know what they say: "Even the sharpest knife in the kitchen needs a cutting board."

And that's the truth!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Instant Coffee

Good coffee, There is a process to it. And you have to wait. You first smell the beans while they are ground, then the smell and feel of seeping and steam, and then finally the taste. Instant coffee, you get the taste sooner, and it may be good for a sip or two, but you really should have waited for the good stuff to brew.

Coffee is such a simple thing, and it's a staple to most Americans. (Not me, but that's not the point here.) And yet, so many people still pick the instant stuff when there are better things out there.

The recent introduction of the Starbucks brand instant coffee is a perfect example. I've heard -- though I cannot find a link now ('cause I'm not looking, really...) that in the rest of the country, the taste-tests have been mostly quite positive. In New York, however, not so much. In New York, you can get a better cup of coffee that has at least had a couple more steps than "just add water!" in how it's been made, and it's waiting for you so you get it nearly isntantly. As a result, Starbucks instant coffee has been getting quite negative reviews here.

But the problem is that this attitude has gone beyond coffee.

We're all about instant gratification -- myself included. Hopeless romantics are only hopeless because they are too romantic to go beyond a first date when a click isn't instant.

Patience no longer exists in the northeast. The only thing people here will wait for is the next pitch during the playoffs. Outside of the baseball diamond, nobody is willing to put in an extra second, or an extra ounce of work. We all want that perfect job to come right along, that perfect employee, the perfect relationship, the perfect shoe on the first try. And when we find one that feels great from the first second, we take it. And if it feels okay, we toss it aside forgetting that tough leather needs to be broken in. And then they are the greatest shoes you've ever owned, and that before pretty designs hit the sky, the fuse of the fireworks has to be lit.

I'm mixing metaphors, many times over, but I'm sure you get the point.

And if you don't want to weed through the metaphors to figure it out, here it is: Sometimes a little work and patience is worth it.

In other words: Smell the beans, then make the coffee. Micro-ground powder is not a bean. After all, nobody's ever said, "You have to try this instant coffee! It's amazing!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things I've learned while looking for a job

I've been unemployed for a week now. My final paycheck came in the mail yesterday and I think my replacement may finally have figured out the last few things such that I won't be getting daily emails from her anymore.

In this week, I've still managed to stay quite busy, with interviews and meetings and lunches with friends and general activities to keep me from realizing I'm unemployed. (Tomorrow is no different, but I think Tuesday is the day I'll start to actually feel unemployed, so I need to start thinking of activities to do to get me out of my apartment at least once a day to stave off unemployment-depression...)

But in my first week of unemployment, I've actually learned quite a few things.

I've learned that I really like wearing nice clothing. My life's goal is a job where wearing a suit is normal...or at least nice pants, a blazer, and a tie. (In fact, if my next job is merely an administrative assistant position, I'm going to set the precedent that I am the guy who comes in wearing a blazer 3-4 days a week, unlike before when I started doing that a few months in and always got the "special plans after work?" questions.)

That my people-skills will get me halfway to wherever it is I'm going. (Side-story: I once said to Mark, my first restaurant manager, that I was scared of being a musician because of employment and bills, and he told me that if I could get myself in the door for an interview, I could wow anyone. Of course, he also warned that that doesn't mean I'll get jobs, but I'll at least get chances to get jobs...)

That if your resume says you type 95 WPM, you better be able to do that on a slightly-off day, too.(I hit 92 earlier in the week at a temp agency, under pressure, and was given an all-in-good-fun hard time about lying on my resume. Had I hit only 80 or 85, I think the reaction would have been much harsher.)

That being young is a disadvantage only if you act your age. Wearing a tie and exuding confidence is a good way to avoid being seen as young.

That you never decline an interview. Even if it's in a field you really don't belong, interviews are good experience. And sometimes if you're on the fence, the interview will push you one way or the other. Not to mention the fact that a positive interview for a field you shouldn't be in could be a great networking opportunity!

There's no telling how long this unemployment will last, but I'm completely certain that it will be longer than my parents would like it to be, shorter than I fear it will be, and filled with valuable lessons and experiences that I would have no other way of getting. That, and a few matinee movies. Free Tuesday movies at select theaters in Manhattan, here I come!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Listening to the old folks

This past weekend, I was at a favorite hole-in-the-wall eatery this weekend on the Lower East Side. (Best Vietnamese sandwiches EVER! They also have wine, beer, coffee, and it turns out, really wonderful M&M cookies. Kinda glad I was waiting for someone and the kitchen was closed on Saturday! But anyway...)

I had no idea that this place, in a neighborhood that's part slum, part Chinatown, and part old-world Lower East Side, was a hangout for old Jews on Saturday afternoons. Outside, on the first day that I was wearing a jacket all year, there were 15-20 elderly Jews, all friends, all talking. Come to think of it, i don't think they had actually bought anything from the shop, they just loitered in their sidewalk seats, completely unbothered.

As a people-watcher, I love to watch people interact and make up their stories, filling in whatever gaps aren't readily apparent. But this was a gold mine, as I didn't have to guess anything, they said it all.

I zeroed in on two white-haired men. One was emptying the entire contents of his wallet on the small table -- a risky move considering the steady breeze. Included were business cards with handwritten phone numbers on the reverse side, credit cards, his ID, and black-and-white photographs. He was carefully examining the contents while the other man spoke.

The first man started examining his photographs, looking lovingly, as he carried on conversation. The second man spoke. He had the raspy voice of someone who has had a long life and loves to talk about it, and the confidence in tone of someone who was clearly the dominant figure in the relationship.

"I don't know how people survive 10 years in prison. I couldn't survive 10 hours," he said. The other man looked up from his photo, confused. "I never told you about this? I was young and I had no idea what was happening. I was just in the truck. I wasn't driving. I didn't know it was stolen!" He continued to tell stories of the pair of shoes he had just been given that he was wearing and the minority men were eyeing them. (Oh, the colorful language of the actual story that I feel uncomfortable typing...) "I told them that if they wanted the shoes, they'd have to pry them off my cold, dead feet. They woulda done it, too, had I not gotten the hell out of there!"

The men continued their conversation with unashamed cultural observations about prison, the neighborhood, and anything else that came to mind in ways that were both insensitive and more honest than you will ever hear people now in this politically correct and culturally "sensitive" world that is the Northeast United States.

Another man walked by and asked how Pauly was doing. "Oh, you didn't hear? He died on Thursday night. The funeral's tomorrow." Discussion about the burial plans ensued. "They're cremating Pauly?" "Wow. Do you think that's what he wanted?" "I dunno. It could be money. But his uncle and aunt were cremated. His mother, though, she's in a box."

Allow me to step outside the narrative for one moment. There's something about watching old men discuss mortality that is oddly comforting. These men, who have seen their contemporaries start to drop, seem so comfortable with it. They clearly know that one of them is going to be the last, and everyone seems okay with it. I almost assume they have a pool going, and to the winner goes the box of unopened Cubans from well before they were illegal.

This led to the talkative man calling a friend on the wallet-explorer's phone to tell of Pauly's death.

"Hello, Marty."
"It's Marty!"
"You only know one Marty, I thought!"
"Yes, I know it's your name, too. It's my name, also."
"What do you mean Marty who? You've only known me for 64 years."
"Yes. Yes, Marty. It's Marty!"
"Pauly died..."

The conversation continued, but at this point, Marty realized I was there and knew everything. In the same way that this man so bluntly spoke unapologetically and uncaringly before, he looked at me and said, "I cannot believe he doesn't know me! I hang out with a bunch of old men!" He then told me to sit because it was better for my back. He pulled up a chair and had me sit at the table next to him.

He continued his conversation. I got cold and wanted hot chocolate, so I went inside.

There was no "goodbye" or "have a nice day." In fact, while I tried to give him a glance and a nod, he ignored me, went back to looking at wallet photographs, and discussing shoes.

I've got a feeling that Marty's the one who's going to get a box of cigars when all is said and done. And he'll be okay with that.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Conversation Starters

Goodnight, ladies and gentleman!

Yeah -- okay. That doesn't work. And I don't think it ever will. But that's been a big topic of debate over the last few years of my life.

So back in my days of being a restaurant host, times of day and what to call them were always in question. When I worked lunch shifts, someone always yelled if I said "good morning" at 12:05 or "good afternoon" at 11:55. (I tried "Good Mid-day" a few times, but that just didn't work. Usually, I said "good morning" too late and when someone corrected me, I would say, "It's morning somewhere!") It was consensus that evenings begin at 5 PM, and before that "good afternoon" was still appropriate. But the problem came when people would enter the restaurant past, say 7 or 8 PM.

Fast forward to tonight, when the debate continued, this time with new parties: the two musicians who came into the subway car I was in at 11:52 PM and sat down. The one who did the talking said "goodnight, ladies and gentlemen of New York!" and one man returned the goodnight. The performer ranted for a minute about manners and how nobody returned the goodnight. I told him that I felt goodnight was an ending, and that I would say goodnight when they were done and left, but not before. "So what would you say?" "I'm not sure. Maybe good evening? Maybe just 'how are you all tonight?' I'm not entirely sure." "Have you ever travelled outside New York City?" "Plenty!" "Haven't you noticed people say goodnight there?" "Not that start of a conversation!"

Ultimately, they played. The man who spoke played two congas and sang "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" (the Bob Marley tune) while the other accompanied on guitar. They walked around, I gave them a couple bucks, and said "goodnight" and smiled.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What I'll miss about my job

Well, I'm officially no longer employed -- though if things go as planned, that won't last long. I most certainly made the right decision leaving, but there are a number of things I will miss.

Of course there's the people -- both the production staff and the support staff, from mail room to reception to archives to the custodian who I can understand 45% of what he says.

But more than anything, I'm a creature of habit and I'll miss the fact that the last 2 weeks, 7 of 10 morning commutes have been on the train with the same crew (with the man with the best voice I've ever heard on a subway) and I even sat next to the same man 3 of them. I'll miss my breakfast cart man and my glazed doughnut (though I wish he didn't sell out of the chocolate covered before I got there), and I'll miss the lunch place where the owner gives me the occasional free fruit and wants to open a wine bar when he's done selling lunch to business folk.

I'll miss my desk -- the closest one to the cafeteria, which I think is the best location because of the near-weekly leftovers that I get the first crack at. I'll miss having a space of my own that I'm paid to be at rather than paying for. I'll miss being closest to the printer and starting conversations with people as they wait, or helping people who have powerpoint formatting issues -- the parts of my job that aren't actually part of my job. I'll miss the one girl who never engaged in conversation, even though I always tried to make eye contact while she was at the printer or passing in the hallway and she would look away. I'll even miss the little TVs in the elevator that gave me my gossip news.

I guess in the end, nostalgia takes over. Whether experiences are positive or negative -- and this particularly one was mostly positive -- there's always a sadness to endings...and a scariness to new beginnings.

But that's another story.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Training my replacement

I've been training my replacement at WNYC. It's an odd feeling to train the person who will effectively be you mere days away, and this is the fourth (or fifth, depending on how you count) time that I'm doing it.

It's not just odd because of the feeling of finality and ending, but it's a weird balance of wanting the new person to succeed as well as wanting to be missed. I can't say I'm sad to leave. I can't say I'm excited to be training my replacement. I probably can't say I'm being fully thorough -- but that's not on purpose, that's just because I cannot think of what she needs to be trained on and know that she'll learn it all by doing it an asking questions, which I've already expressed that I'll be willing to answer remotely.

Perhaps the hardest thing about training someone is the fact that by the time training comes along, you've (almost) always mentally checked out of the job by that point. (In my five times training replacements, this has been true four of the five. The odd one out was at camp, when I knew before summer began that I was leaving, so I spent the whole summer pointing out the little things. Ultimately, the person I'd picked to replace me had to replace someone else so it was a futile training, but, y'know...not the point.) Once mentally checked out, it's very hard to get excited about day-to-day tasks, or even remember most of them.

But I'll do my best. Not necessarily out of loyalty, or out of doing what's right, or because I've been asked to and it's still my job for another few days, but because of karma. Others will train me, and some of those others will be people I've replaced. And I hope they'll give me the same good-faith effort I'm giving my replacement.

Because as much as on-the-job training is important, it's nice to have a little warning.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Second Guessing

Those of you who know me, know that if I'm good at one thing, it's over-thinking. If I'm good at two things, it's over-thinking and baking brownies. But if it's THREE things, it's over-thinking, baking brownies, and second guessing myself.

I manage to second guess almost everything in my life -- from the things I do ('Should I really have quit my job?' 'Was it a mistake to agree to take on this extra project when I don't have time for myself?' 'Really? A basketball league? With MY knee?') to the things I don't do ('Why didn't I give her my number?!' 'I should have hung around at that jam session a little longer.' 'Was it something I said?' 'Should I have kissed her?') and even, somehow, I manage to second guess myself about a third category, and that's the things I thought about. (Yeah -- you know it's bad when you second-guess your own thoughts and emotions...)

Even though I second guess myself and over-think, and even wallow perhaps a bit too much, I have gotten good at conquering the first category of those second-guessings. I still question what I've done, but I've come to accept that life does not have a rewind button. Every day, I live my old boss's words of, "Everyone makes mistakes; it's how you fix them." I've come to accept moving on and getting over it. (Easier said than done, as anyone who's had to listen to me the last 2 weeks knows.)

It's that middle genre I need work on. For years I've been talking about taking chances and not regretting the things I don't do, because I should do them when I see the opportunity to. I don't want to look back and regret something, especially when I know in the moment that I have the chance and I should take it.

I guess what I'm saying is a 2+ year old message. It's time for me to buy a damn lottery ticket already.

I guess what I'm saying is:
You don't know who you are yet, I might not know who you are yet, but you're getting my number, and you're calling me.

I'll take it from there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Self-Reflection in E-Minor

That's going to be the name of the next piece of music I finish -- even if it isn't actually in E-minor. (In fact, I'd expect it to NOT be in E-minor...)

But I digress...

It's Yom Kippur, and all that time, standing, alone with thoughts and no food, it's a time of forced self-reflection. I've had a few years where that's scared me tremendously -- and honestly, this year is one of them. It's not that I'm scared of what I'll find in my actions of the past year or about the person inside me, but rather of my state-of-being in the right-now.

I'm in a transitional phase. I just gave two weeks notice at work, I've started dating again (Oh the stories I won't tell here...), I'm in the process of filling out law school applications, and I'm writing cover-letters galore.

I've had 6 weeks of insomnia, my creative output -- both musically and linguistically -- is WAY down, my frustration level about said creative output is way up, and I've been focusing internally on too much negative and not enough positive.

The upsides, though: I'm taking care of myself well. After having a couple weeks in August when I couldn't walk because of a knee injury, I've been rehabing well and am back to being in great shape. I'm eating better again. I'm even doing something I haven't done in 3 years -- shaving daily. (Okay, not this was a BAD week. But other than this's been a lot closer to daily than usual. We're talking 5 days a week and then taking the weekend off...)

Overall, I guess I'm happy at what's looking back at me in the mirror.

Now how to write about it so prospective employeers and educators like what they see, too...

Thoughts while resigning

This Friday, I submitted two weeks notice at my job. This post isn't about the reasons behind it, but suffice it to say, sometimes we have to take a very large risk and leave a secure situation in order to maintain sanity and happiness. But that's not the point.

This, of course, caused me to get thinking...about everything.

This is the first time I've ever quit from anything. (I know what you're thinking: How is that possible? Nothing? Really? Ever?! I did quit a summer job once, but that wasn't quite like this. It was a $9.75/hour lifeguarding job where I was mistreated. I felt no guilt quitting there. And I was part of a slew of (3?) people who quit all within a day or two. My extracurriculars were never me walking away -- and even when I did walk away, I stayed involved and hadn't really quit. I've never even "quit" a relationship -- always been "fired" so to speak, but that's a discussion for another time.)

So this quitting thing -- it's really kind of scary. It's hard to take a look and say that you're in a situation where the only thing that makes sense any more is to leave and that things cannot -- or should not -- be worked out. And there's nothing scarier than saying "I'm not sure what comes next, but it's going to be better than this and I can't wait for it to find me, I have to find it -- and I may have to be unemployed to find it."

Bottom line -- it's life-changing. It's an experience everyone should have once. Just make sure to have support. It may be an individual decision, but it's one nobody should have to make alone.

Right now, I think it may be the best thing I've ever done. Get back to me in two weeks, though...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I've been living in the middle of Brooklyn for just shy of 3 months. Before then, I spent just under 5 years in Manhattan (with the occasional 2-months on Cape Cod), and while I loved Manhattan, I missed crickets. And stars. And space. Did I forget to mention space?

But back to the crickets:

There's something I love about sitting in my apartment at night and hearing nature coming from outside, as opposed to the reverberation of air conditioning through an air shaft, or worse yet, nothing at all.

And nighttime walks are best with a side of nature-sounds. And stars and the moon.

I'll miss the hustle and bustle of the sounds of Manhattan Nature Sounds, but I think I'll manage.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Notebook

I opened up a new notebook while on the subway after work today. I opened it up and wrote the following...


Ahh -- the joys of a new notebook. Pages clean, crisp, smooth. Full of potential...and fear.

In one sentence, it can be the start of the great masterpiece, or the journal posthumously published, letting the world fully experience you.

Or it can be ruined in that same one sentence, a crossed out line leads to a crossed out paragraph leads to a torn out page.

New notebooks make me nervous, but I guess it's better to write rather than just stare at a new, empty notebook for too long.

After all -- notbooks are made to be defiled.

It feels good to write again -- because a notbebook is new only once; tearing off the shrink-wrap is wonderful.

It's good to face the fears.


Tonight, I can say very happily that I didn't tear any of those three pages out of the notebook. I may tear a later one, but for now, I'm just glad to have gotten the page dirty.

And not just the notebook's.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday is the Purgatory of the week

I hate Tuesdays. Period. They’ve always been my least favorite day, dating back to high school when they were early dismissal days.

But Alexander, if they were early dismissal days, why did you hate them?

Good question, voices-in-my-blog. Because early dismissal just meant that classes were done early, not that my life was miraculously free from work at 2 PM. It was the day I had to stay late for newspaper (which, don’t get me wrong, I loved, but it was a lot of work and while I loved the work, I was iffy on some of the people), or the day I had to deal with writing up a bio lab, or, worst case scenario, was the day I had nothing to do and had to deal with my mother for an extra hour and 40 minutes.

When I got to college, Tuesdays were no better. In fact, my two years of school, I had class from 10 AM to 10 PM every Tuesday. (And then had a much-needed Wednesday off.) This schedule actually led to one of my favorite incidents of Awkward Elevator Monologue. The elevators at school are paneled in metal, and my voice booms perfectly against said materials. I step into the elevator at 10:15 and say, in a deep, booming voice: “We join our hero as he exits the building, never to return again…until Thursdays.” The person in the elevator with me gave me a look and then back himself into a corner.

My third year of college, I was an RA and I was on duty every Tuesday. Now you’d think that Tuesday would be a good night to be on duty – it’s too early in the week for the antics to start. But I had bad luck, and something always happened when I was on duty – whether it was Tuesday, Friday, or even Sunday. The security guards loved me because I came to their rescue, and they always knew something exciting would happen. I had people slice their fingers while doing art projects, I had people collapse drunk in the hallway and vomit on themselves, I had people smoke pot in their rooms…with the door partially open, I had people try to sneak guests in…I had Halloween. (I even had one night where we lost a resident. But that may have been a Saturday. I can’t be sure all these years later.)

In the two years since then, Tuesdays have not been any day of dread, really – I’ve enjoyed some of my Tuesday classes, I’ve had some good Tuesday meetings, I had rehearsal for my recital on Tuesdays. But still Tuesday is very much a blah day.

The way I see it, Tuesday is the only day of the week with no personality of its own.

Monday is the first day after the weekend. It’s bittersweet in that sometimes it’s nice to get back to routine. Also, after the weekend, you know what to expect on Monday, it’s gonna be kinda crappy.
Wednesdays are the middle of the week. After lunch on Wednesday, the entire week’s momentum is like water flowing down an aqueduct; it may not be the quickest movement in the world, but it’s clearly moving downward toward its final goal.
Thursdays are the foreplay to the weekend. Thursday is the day when your weekend starts to come into focus and you really get excited for it.
Friday, well, we all know about Fridays. They usually are over before the begin – if only mentally.

And then there’s Tuesday, which just is. It is the purgatory of the week. It is the day that you just do what you do, and that’s it.

And even if it doesn’t involve 12 hours of class, or countless crazy incidents, I gotta say, I still get a bad case of the Tuesdays every 7 days.

But at least it only lasts a day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goundhog Day

The movie Groundhog Day has come up in conversation today, mostly because of the sense of deja vu in the world -- Brett Favre and otherwise. I hadn't seen in probably 10 years, until it was on last winter when I was home for vacation. I remember it getting warm reception from critics, but not great -- and in doing a quick google search, Roger Ebert himself wrote a review of the movie 12 years after it was released saying that it withstood the test of time more than he thought it would and he liked it more a decade later...

Sure it's a movie about living in a never-ending loop. It's even a coming-of-age story, in a way. But what it really is is a movie about manic-depression.

This reveals itself in one of the first repetitions of the day when Phil (Bill Murray) speaks with one of the locals in a bowling alley.

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

I had not actually noticed this deep subtext until after battling my own depression. The movie felt a lot more true and less funny watching it when I could empathize. I highly recommend it. Watch it, keeping in mind that one line.

It'll be the saddest comedy you'll ever love.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pure Imagination

After a wonderful day in Central Park today, my night time activities today were quite simple: ice pack on my knee, baseball, and then when that was over, flip through the channels until something worth watching came up.

Fortunately, the wait for something good was not long. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was on.

I remember as a kid this movie being on what seemed like all the time. (This and The Brave Little Toaster. Only one of those movies, I think, has actually stood the test of time. And I'll give you a hint: It's not the one whose sequel puts its main character on Mars.)

I don't know how often it was, in fact, on, but my memories as a child about being sick all have me lying in bed with my mother's small (6-inch, at best) black-and-white TV with the thin antenna and the switch to switch between UHF, VHF, and a third bandwidth I cannot remember. For some reason, every time I was sick, I was watching Willy Wonka on this TV, always on Channel 56 (WLVI).

(Incidentally, when we went to Israel for my brother's Bar-Mitzvah over Christmas/New Years break in 91/92, I remember going into our first hotel and turning on the TV and it was on, specifically the scene when Violet was blowing up into a giant blueberry.)

I loved this movie. I'm not sure it was the movie's story I liked as much as the music. (And maybe a little bit the idea of having free reign of a candy factory.) In my musical life, I've always tried to keep some of that child-like playfulness, both in how I play and the songs I choose to arrange. My favorite big band arrangement I've ever done was to "Rainbow Connection." When trying to figure out my senior recital repertoire, I felt compelled to put a little childhood in it. I opted for "Pure Imagination." (Which you can listen to over at My Website.)

Something about this song speaks to me. Lyrically, musically, and the fact that it takes place in the chocolate room. It embodies everything I wish to be true: the ability to close your eyes and be in whatever paradise you so desire.

Unfortunately, I'm not good at keeping my eyes closed. So I guess I'll just stick with the music and the feeling, rather than the delusions of fantasy. Though it's certainly nice to escape there once in a while...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Talking with Strangers

I've been vowing to write more. I'm having some major creative issues musically -- that is to say, I've been playing every day again for the first time in years, and feeling worse and worse about what's happening -- so I still need a creative outlet. Not to mention, I really like to write. Before I was a composer, I used to stay up until 4 in the morning writing prose. (And then one day, I started staying up until 4 in the morning writing music.)

ANYWAY...I've been writing some poetry, some prose, some reflections...nothing I've been quite ready to put here, but I did read some of my already-written poems -- some for inspiration, and to edit some (because let's be honest, some of 'em aren't good...)

Here's one of my favorites. (I wrote it for class in December of '08 and got a great reaction -- partially because it was unlike any of the other poems I'd written for class, and partially because I pulled off the fast-talking dialect of the italics aloud as I'd heard it in my head and people weren't used to me reading like that. I only hope they liked the poem...but anyway...without further ado...)


Talking with Strangers

He ain't afraid to mess up, I guess.
He's got that angular shit down,
but he sure ain't no Monk.

Influenced by Oscar? Bullshit!
He ain't got chops.
He slams his arms on the keys
Makin' love like an impotent virgin.

Don't as me;
I kinda dig him.


(I guess people were also kinda stunned by the phrase "making love like an impotent virgin." But with some of the other phrases I coined in that class, it was all building up to that...)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thelonious Monk

I love Thelonious Monk. I love his compositions, I love his bands, I love his playing, and I love stories about him. (And thanks to my work on the Jazz Loft Project I have gotten a chance to hear some pretty amazing stories about him.) And most of all, I love playing his music. (One of the few recordings I like of me playing piano is playing "Friday the 13th" with Alexi's band live at Fat Cat.) Of the (only) two solos I took on my own senior recital, one of them was on "Bemsha Swing."

Thelonious Monk wasn't the first jazz pianist I became obsessed with -- it was Oscar Peterson. But I don't play like Oscar, and I never tried to play with Oscar. Monk, though, I started to emulate.

I was introduced to Monk by some of my NEC Prep teachers. (Oh, I'm sure I played "Blue Monk" before then, but just as another blues with a simple head -- which, while it may be that on the surface, the person who taught me it originally failed to show me the importance of playing it not like a regular blues, but like a Monk blues -- a distinction I preach, and try to practice, though my version of not practicing it is making other blues sound like Monk and not treating Monk like other blues...)

The first Monk tune I really got into was "Friday the 13th." Jeremy Udden, my ensemble coach at NEC Prep my sophomore year of high school, brought it in -- along with 4 or 5 other Monk charts -- and I was instantly addicted to the simple 8-measure progression and the rubs. Sure, I'd already owned multiple Monk albums and had started to play some of his other charts in school -- namely some of the blues charts, and "In Walked Bud," though I was trying to play it as I would a standard, not a Monk piece -- but I didn't start to understand Monk until "Friday the 13th."

That simple 8-bar tune taught me what I consider the essence(s) of Monk: Eccentricity, followed (very closely) by humor, deceptive simplicity (that is to say it sounds simple but isn't), and rhythm. (Of course melody and harmony are important, but I think Monk's harmony is part of his eccentricity, and his melody -- well, I can't begin to touch the amazingness that is "'Round Midnight." But for the complexity of "'Round Midnight," there's the simplicity of "Raise Four.")

I've never been a physically gifted pianist -- I have no chops to speak of, and it isn't for lack of trying. But listening to Thelonious Monk and becoming obsessed with "Friday the 13th," "Bemsha Swing," "Green Chimneys," "Raise Four," "In Walked Bud," "I Mean You," "Straight, No Chaser," "Well You Needn't," and others -- some well, and some, not so much -- taught me how to be a decent pianist without having to be a physically gifted one.

And I learned that it's okay to be eccentric.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

And for your reading pleasure: Monk's advice to Steve Lacey. Enjoy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Broken Hearted Subway Ride

Y'see...I have this problem. I'm a people-watcher and a story-teller, so I watch people and make up their stories...and sometimes that's not good. Like today, for example, I kinda had my heart broken! It was me getting in my own head.

Beautiful girl, we meet eyes, and my mind wanders -- creating her entire life story. She has a fantastic smile and I imagine the dreams she's having as she tilts her head slightly back against the 6-train window and gently shuts her eyes.

I imagine where she grew up, where she lives, where she works, everything.

I imagine the kitchen she goes home to and cooks in.

I imagine the childhood puppy she had but has not yet replaced since coming to New York City, though she desperately wants to.

And then she gives out a smile...the kind of smile one only gives when thinking of a significant other. And my heart drops.

Now my story shifts to him. How they met. How she's way too good for him yet she can't break up with him because, even though she knows she's too good for him and her friends and family hate him, there's something about him she loves. And then I get a little sad, and move on to reading the newspaper over someone's shoulder.

And that was today's commute.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

January 26, Zack Hample

It's been a while since I've done anything related to my baseball project. (And even longer since I've written about it.)

On January 26, I interviewed a friend of mine (and published author) Zack Hample. He's been on NPR, been on Leno, featured in many news stories, written heavily featured stories for Yahoo! Sports, been featured in newspapers and by the AP, and is what one might call a baseball geek.

(With his third book just announced, he is most certainly the most exciting person I've interviewed thus far. Unfortunately, the piece I ordered to allow me to record cell phone interviews ended up being shipped to me...and it was not the piece I ordered, so I'm still a while away from being able to interview other in-business baseball names.)

I interviewed Zack for over an hour. (It's still waiting to be transcribed, incidentally.)

I talked with Zack about his personal relationship with the game, his relationship to other fans, and anything else we could think of. (Until my arm got tired from holding the microphone...)

Location wise, Zack spoke to me about the intensity of baseball being greater on the coasts, with some exceptions. (Specifically: San Diego, which is great for a collector because of less competition, but it's a sad place to watch a game.)

I took pride in my home-town when Zack said that Boston, hands down, has the most passionate fans. (Sorry, New York.)

He also mentioned baseball really as the game of the US. He told stories of watching baseball in Canada (both in Toronto and Montreal) where fans are nearly silent. He told me of a foul ball where it landed in the aisle between the seats and nobody even got off their chairs to pick up the ball.

The thing that Zack spoke about that stuck out to me most -- aside from his unique perspective on steroids -- was the accessibility of baseball. Not as a fan, perhaps, but as a kid and a player. When you're little, you can look at your family and your build and you can know that you're not going to be a football player or a basketball player, but being a baseball player feels accessible. You can look at David Wells, who is slightly overweight and a fantastic pitcher in his day. You can look at Dustin Pedroia, who is generously listed at 5'9", but has anecdotally been called 5'7" at best.

There was so much more, but this is what sticks out at me not yet a week removed from my latest listen to the interview.

Zack's answer to the "Baseball Is..." question was very long, but had some very interesting things in it. My favorite:

"Baseball will find a way to survive. Doesn't matter how many strikes there are, how many steroids are ingested, what kind of competitive imbalances there are, if the balls are juiced, baseball will survive. It's that beautiful and awesome and there are that many people who are interested it in that it will find a way. It will be there."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sy Johnson

“You know what your problem is?” he asked me. I had more answers to this question than he could have possibly imagined, so I decided to let the question stand as the rhetorical question it was meant to be. “You're scared. You let fear get the best of you.”

This was only my second lesson with Sy Johnson, at 6-foot-1 and 76 years old, one of the five greatest living jazz arrangers, Charles Mingus's right-hand man until the day he died, a big name in the jazz community, and for two to three hours every three weeks, my composition teacher.

“Y'see, right here, you held back.” He pointed to the fifth measure of the arrangement of “But Beautiful” I had brought in. “You wrote something that is perfectly nice, but you could do so much more. You're too simple. You've got a muted trumpet, a muted trombone, and a flute in three octaves. Beautiful combination; but you have 10 other instruments! Use them!”

I took notes using the pencil Sy had just given me – a “Mingus Pencil.” My success in the music industry, Sy explained, was based on my use of this pencil. It was once owned by Charles Mingus, though never used. Mingus bought them in bulk, and when he died, Sy was given the rest of them. Sy now gives one to select students.

“Fear gets the best of us all at times,” Sy continued. “Take me, for example. I was once conducting an orchestra doing a live performance of a film score in Cannes. Afterwards, I was at the bar and the most beautiful women I'd ever seen came up to me and asked to go to bed with me. Fear, my boy. Fear got in my way. I still wonder.”

I paused. Sy did not.

“Now in measure 7...”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Driving in the Snow

The last two nights, I've found myself driving in the snow. It's a beautiful experience when three things go right:
1) Windshield wipers are working
2) There aren't that many cars on the road
3) You're not trying to read street signs that are, of course, covered by newly sticking snow.

(Yeah; I had to deal with items '1' and '3' on separate occasions, but it was uneventful, in spite of said obstacles.)

There's something infinitely beautiful about going into a snow storm. When you're in a car, driving at 20-30 miles an hour, the snow comes at you, coming closer -- no matter which way the snow actually is falling -- but never actually touching you, thanks to the whole windshield thing. It's like being surrounded by one of the old After Dark screen savers. (Not Flying Toasters, y'know, the stars one...)

It's incredibly peaceful, too. Each flake lit by the headlights, causing a small reflection around it and a small bubble of pure white.

I love driving, and I love being out in a snow storm. For once, logic is right: I love driving in a snow storm.

As long as I've got no deadline and no cars around me who are being crazy. After all, I hate not being in control...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So...why, exactly?

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of this blog. It is also, by no small coincidence, the 200th post.

Which brings up an interesting question that I have certainly been asked:

Honestly? I'm not sure any more. (Which, in a weird way, is the perfect answer.)

It started as a place to write my thoughts -- and to impress a girl (whom I dated shortly thereafter). She was a writer (I mean, I suspect she still is, but even when I dated her, she didn't do that much writing, so even if she calls herself a writer...well...I'll stop here before I say something mean) and I wanted to come across as literate.

Then, the depression I was trying to avoid admitting that I was already months into came to a point where I could not avoid it any longer. The blog was a way for me to work out my problems -- more for me than anyone else. I never really cared if people read it, but I liked the whole honesty thing and thought that maybe someone out there could relate.

It then became a tool for me to document my random thoughts and things that I've come across that caught my fancy.

Now? Well, it's me searching for the perfect use for it.

I've always gone through life knowing what I want, just not quite sure how to get it. While in some ways, I'm getting closer to figuring out how to fully achieve my dreams and goals, on the other, the more I learn the means, the less I'm sure of the ends.

I guess the only thing I am sure of is that I write in this thing. I guess it reminds the internet that I'm still alive.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wise Words from an Eccentric Jew

Nope, not me. Woody Allen. More from Without Feathers, for no other reason than it amused me.


Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable, with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats.


Once a lumberjack was about to chop down a tree, when he noticed a heart carved on it, with two names inside. Putting away his axe, he sawed down the tree instead. The point of that story escapes me, although six months later the lumberjack was fined for teaching a dwarf Roman numerals.


The true test of maturity is not how old a person is but how he reacts to awakening in the midtown area in his shorts.


It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there for it.


Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

Security Blankets

We all have something that we use as our security blanket -- that actual physical thing that we turn to when times get a little tougher than we'd hoped. (And if you say you don't, you're either lying, heartless, or you die a little inside when a moment comes that would merit said object.)

Mine is a 2-inch stuffed dog that used to live in my pocket.

I'm not ashamed to admit this -- though I may be ashamed to admit when he's with me. But I'm not ashamed to admit the need of something so, well, juvenile. Whether or not a therapist would agree with me, I think that the ends justify the means.

I can only speak for my own situation, but I know that this dog comforts me because he grounds me through his innocence. (It certainly isn't a memory of a better time linked to this dog; I bought him at the darkest time of my depression in hopes to have such a security blanket object small enough to conceal on my person so others would not know.) The mere existence of something so juvenile reminds me that, sooner or later, I'll be able to just enjoy things for what they are -- as I did when I was 6.

And to have that desire to return to such a time of innocence is nothing I could ever be ashamed of.

And after all -- he's cute.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unexpected change

Sometimes, we're the last ones to see our own destiny.

And by sometimes, I mean usually.

The last week has brought along a lot of small changes in my cognitive understanding of my own self. Incidentally, these are changes that my mother has seen since I was six years old.

Without going into details on the professional and personals aspects of it, I tell a story of a a meal this weekend that scared me.

I went into a diner and ordered food. No change. It was midnight, I wanted breakfast food. Again, nothing unusual. I open the menu and decide on one of my three usuals: French Toast and a glass of orange juice. The waiter comes up, asks what I want, and out of nowhere, I hear my mouth speak the words, "I'll have a waffle and some orange tea."

WHAT?! Tea? Waffle? Since when I do eat non-eggos? Or drink any kind of tea?

I know it isn't like a complete opposite type of thing and merely a small step to the side -- which is actually dead-on with the rest of the small changes of the past week or so -- but it surprised me to say it.

It surprised me even more to have the desire to order it again...

I can't help but wonder what's next.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm not quite sure what's brought this up in my mind lately, but I have been thinking about the important people in my life. Friends, family, and the all-important third category: mentors.

I've been lucky enough to have a few people in my life take me under their wing and help me spread my own wings. These are people I've been able to turn to for advice professional, personal, and otherwise. People whose wisdom carries more weight than a forklift in Costco. People whose compliments are more meaningful than a positive review in the New York Times and whose disapproval -- however rare -- is enough to outweigh even the most any Jewish Mother can dish out.

I really don't have any more to say on this subject other than the fact that I know how lucky I've been -- and continue to be -- and that I hope to one day provide this service to others. I hope there is someone I have touched in a way that scratches the surface to these people around me, but I know that I cannot have nearly the same weight until I've been through another 20-or-so years of, well, life.

Certainly gives me something to look forward to!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lesser Known Ballets

I recently rediscovered the joy of reading for no other reason than the desire to have some intimate time with a book.

Of course, that's a blog entry for another time. Right now, I want to share some writings from Woody Allen's Without Feathers.

From his section on lesser known ballets, these are my two favorites thus far. (I have not finished the section yet, but these were too good not to share.)



The ballet opens at a carnival. There are refreshments and rides. Many people in gaily colored costumes dance and laugh, to the accompaniment of flutes and woodwinds, while the trombones play in a minor key to suggest that soon the refreshments will run out and everybody will be dead.

Wandering around the fairgrounds is a beautiful girl named Natasha, who is sad because her father has been sent to fight in Khartoum, and there is no war there. Following her is Leonid, a young student, who is too shy to speak to Natasha but places a mixed-green salad on her doorstep every night. Natasha is moved by the gift and wishes she could meet the man who is sending it, particularly since she hates the house dressing and would prefer Roquefort.

The two strangers accidentally meet when Leonid, trying to compose a love note to Natasha, falls out of the Ferris wheel. She helps him up, and the two dance a pas de deux, after which Leonid tries to impress her by rolling his eyes until he has to be carried to the comfort station. Leonid offers profuse apologies and suggests that the two of them stroll to Tent No. 5 and watch a puppet show -- and invitation that confirms to Natasha's mind the idea that she is dealing with an idiot.

The puppet show, however, is enchanting, and a large, amusing puppet named Dmitri falls in love with Natasha. She realizes that although he is only sawdust, he has a soul, and when he suggests checking into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, she is excited. The two dance a pas de deux, despite the fact that she just danced a pas de deux and is perspiring like an ox. Natasha confesses her love for Dmitri and swears that the two of them will always be together, even though the man who works his strings will have to sleep on a cot in the parlor.

Leonid, outraged at being thrown over for a puppet, shoots Dmitri, who doesn't die but appears on the roof of the Merchants Bank, drinking haughtily from a bottle of Air Wick. The action becomes confused, and there is much rejoicing when Natasha fractures her skull.


A Day in the Life of a Doe

Unbearably lovely music is heard as the curtain rises, and we see the woods on a summer afternoon. A fawn dances on and nibbles slowly at some leaves. he drifts lazily through the soft foliage. Soon he starts coughing and drops dead.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Micro Memoirs, Week 2

I'm taking a class this semester, "Micro memoirs." (How ME does that sound?)

Anyway, we have weekly exercises to do out of a book. We have to set a timer for 5 minutes and we only have those 5 minutes to write.

Here are this week's three. Note: The first is completely true, the second is made up yet comes from truth and is totally plausible for me, and the third is true except for the last line. (She still watches...)


MOMENTS (Think of small moments in your life that had energy -- that made you feel alive. Pick one and set your timer for 5 minutes.)

It was hot, I was feeling sick, and I'd just put a deposit down on a 5th floor walkup in Yorkville. I had just given up my RA job, and thus was newly homeless with the plan to spend my summer on Cape Cod with my family, but for now, I was living on a sofa in the East Village. I was excited by this small refrigerator box I was soon to call my apartment – with my roommate – but more than anything, I was glad to be underground inside a crowded downtown 6 train; it was the first place I'd been in a week with air conditioning.

I make a habit of looking around on the subway; making up people's stories, having inner-dialogues with them, and even the occasional eye contact. But there had never been a connection like this.

She was short – about 5'1”, with shoulder-length brown hair, a pink polka-dotted headband, a brown dress coming right above her knees, and tan flip-flops with a pink strap weaved between her toes. She was grasping a silver Tiffany's heart necklace. She looked at me, and I looked back at her – but even more than that, I looked into her – deep into her eyes – and she began to cry.

SOUND PIECE (Choose the sound from the list (long list to the right) with the most energy or choose one that leaves you cold. Keep in mind that a murmur may have more energy for you than a shriek.)

That damn drip shower won't stop. drip, drip. I can't drip handle it. I try to drown it out with headphones, but I've been drip wearing headphones all day – it's the hazard of working in radio. I just want my ears naked, exposed to the drip fresh-air, or what passes for it in my apartment.

It wouldn't bother me if it were more regular. Then I drip would be able to tune it out.

Or would that make it drip worse? Would that force me to use it as a metro-drip-nome for the songs in my head that cannot drip stop and let me just drip be drip alone.

But with this irregular driping that is going on, I have to wait for the next one. I have to wait for when it will drip fall. I want to write it out and catch the drip music on my score paper; turn it into the next great drip American symphony. Or at least the next great New York City Aria. I mean is there any-drip-thing more Manhattan than a leaky drip shower?

It drives me mad. I can't take drip it anymore. My roommate, in the room next to the drip bathroom, does not hear it. He thinks I've drip lost my mind. He may not be right quite drip yet, but if I don't find a wrench, he drip will drip be.

BOX (The box may be big enough to hold the Sahara Desert or small enough to hold a molecule of dust. Set your timer for five minutes and go.)

It's a new car! I loved watching “The Price is Right” when I was little. It was what I looked forward to most when I stayed home sick as an 8-year-old with the flu. That and cinnamon toast.

My favorite part of “The Price is Right” wasn't the prizes, or guessing along with the contestants, or even the pride I got when my bid would have been the winning bid when everyone else had an overbid. But I looked forward to my grandmother – the worrier of the family – calling me after it was over to see how I was feeling, and more importantly, to discuss the Showcase Showdown.

Did you see that? I've never seen someone win them both before!

Neither had I, of course. I was 8, and she'd been watching the show since before I was born – a time concept not understood by 8-year-olds.

I stopped watching “The Price is Right” when my mother implemented a rule that if you're healthy enough to watch TV, you're healthy enough to go to school.

My grandmother did, too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What I learned at camp

Yeah, I know, it's been over 5 months since the end of camp, but I was recently asked to write up a quick thing about what I've learned from camp, so I thought I'd share with all 5 of my readers, too...

-I learned the difference between good winging it and bad winging it.
-I learned how to adjust.
-I learned how to pretend something is the most fun activity EVER, even if I hate it, if only because my enthusiasm is infectious for everyone from 6 to 16, and not because I'm furry and lovable, but because when you're in charge, people look to you for how they should react.
-I learned that when you have high expectations of someone from day one, they may fall short at first, but most of the time, they rise to the challenge and exceed your wildest dreams.
-I learned that a little camaraderie and good-will go a long way in making a great environment.
-I learned that the greatest people in the world all are still children at heart.
-I learned that you can do absolutely anything with 6 cones, 2 playground balls, 2 hula hoops, pinnies, and a smile.
-Or even just a smile.
-I learned how to lead.
-And more importantly, I learned when the best thing is to let someone else lead.

-And most importantly, I learned how to truly be me.

I'll miss that place...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I've recently become an optimist, and I hate myself for it.

I'm a curmudgeon! Optimists and their eternal optimism bug me! I mean, c'mon, NOBODY'S that upbeat all the time!

And yet, in the last couple months, I was 2 hours late coming back to New York because someone jumped in front of our train, I have had some physical pain like nothing I've ever had before, I had my locker broken into at the gym and my new phone and cash stolen, I've lost a sock doing laundry, and countless other things that when added up, would normally turn me into the muppet-watching hermit I love myself for being.

And yet?

My responses have been:
"Well, it's an adventure! And this was a great way to break the ice to have conversation with everyone around me!"
"At least now I have an excuse for not being able to sleep! And think of how good I'll feel once I find a massage therapist!"
"Nice, new, expensive phone? yes. Annoying? Yes. But I got the phone for free, so it isn't like I lost actual money from it...and hey; it took 4-and-a-half years of living in New York for something like this to happen to me!"
"Neato! I now have an extra sock in case I get a hole in one!"
and finally
"Well, whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, there's still something in it!"

How can I NOT hate myself for this? I've become everything I hate!

Just one more way I'm a self-hating Jew, I guess...

(Forgive the redundancy.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I'm a creature of habit...but if you know me well enough to be reading this blog, chances are, you knew that already.

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of Freshman year, I went into the same little storefront and got a lemon Snapple and paid exact change ($1.25) for it. My routine was so well-known that, by the end of the year, as I walked in, Abdul (the proprietor) was reaching into his fridge to get the Snapple as I was walking in. (This regular-ness also was beneficial when I went in the one and only time I did not have exact change. He could not break my $20 and said, "Don't worry about it; You'll pay me on Tuesday." (I, of course, did. In fact, when I paid him, he'd forgotten and said, 'What's this for?' 'Friday.' I mean, sure a free Snapple would have been nice, but $1.25 was already cheaper than any other place around...)

I take the same path to walk to the Subway every morning.

I hit Snooze the same number of times every morning -- whether I need to or not. (This one's a little weird, yes...but let's take Friday: I hit Snooze and then got out of bed. The alarm going off is how I gauge how long I have until I have to leave.)

Where was I going with this post...

Oh yeah; routine.

Today was my last day of jury duty, and I'm going to miss that routine. The entire month of January (and today), I had jury duty from 10a-1p and work from 2p-6p. The daily routine was something I really enjoyed and could handle quite easily. It was much less stressful than the hectic 12-hour Tuesdays with Wednesday off that I'd grown so used to in the past. I learned that I could handle the traditional 9-5 (or, as the case may be for my hopeful future, 10-6) without getting bored by routine.

I, of course, also learned that working in public radio is nothing like running your own archery program for children, but that goes without saying.

I still have to be at work tomorrow at 2p, but I'll still probably wake up at 8 and leave my apartment at 9, turning off my radio right after the on-air personality says, "It's 1-and-a-half minutes before 9 o'clock and you're listening to the Takeaway on WNYC AM 820."

I'm just not sure where to go...

Monday, February 2, 2009


I know...uplifting topic.

I meant to write about this a couple, three weeks ago, but I a) never got around to it, and 2) wasn't quite sure I was ready to.

I had a really fascinating 24-hour span of death-related occurrences in life. I don't want to discuss the first half of my back-to-back evening of the deceased, but the back end was fascinating and uplifting.

I went to a memorial concert for Dick Sudhalter, Newton, MA native, jazz musician, author, historian, and more than anything, respected man. I'd read a few articles he'd written and parts of a book he'd written without actually knowing who he was, but a number of my teachers were playing at his memorial and sent out mass emails, causing me to decide to put on my blazer and leave my apartment on a chilly Monday night.

Anyone who did not know Sudhalter, or Dick, as after this event I feel I knew him such to be on a first-name basis, could see how well-respected he was without ever hearing a single word of tribute just by looking at the lineup of people playing. (Ranging from Bill Kirchner and Sy Johnson, teachers of mine, to scholars and musicians in his vein such as Loren Schoenberg, to legends Marian McPartland, Bill Crow, and many others.

The community formed around this man and his work was an amazing and uplifting experience -- especially in contrast to the tragic passing I had to deal with the day before. It was a very healthy look at mortality. And more so, it made me realize how important community is.

The entire jazz community in nearly the entire northeast rallied around one another with the love of a family.

However peripherally, I'm proud to be part of this community. I hope life affords me the chance to stay a part of it for a very long time.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Wow it's been a while. Why, you ask? Well, I've been busy. That's all...

With what? Wow you're needy, Blogerica.


And jury duty.

GRAND jury duty.

Which brings us to today's entry: my life as a floater.

Now when I talk about myself as a floater, I'm not talking about being that black spec in your eye that can signal a detached retina, or a kid you're trying to teach swimming to whose body mass is a disproportionate amount of fat and therefore he has a hard time swimming under water because he's always at the surface. I'm talking about the fact that I've never really fit in a social clique.

From when I was little, I was always like that. In middle school and high school, when everyone is all cliquey and going from one clique to the other is harder than leaping rooftops in a single bound, I was -- keeping with the same bad analogy -- a blue jay, simply floating from one to the other.

I go with blue jay over, say, crow or pigeon, because I was always welcome. I got along with everyone. But it had its downside: since I didn't actually belong anywhere, I was never really thought of as part of a group, just always welcomed when I was there.

It never really bothered me, though. I never needed much, just one or two people. I had a couple close friends in middle school, I had a girlfriend and a fantastic best friend in high school, and in my 4.5 years since, I've started to find a group I fit in and am actually part of. It's quite nice.

But I've kept some of my old floater mentalities. They've come in handy, even in something as mundane as grand jury duty. Y'see, our jury is filled with strong-willed (read: stubborn) personalities. We've got the person who's as far left politically as you can go, the person who is her equal to the right, the insurance salesman who asks too many questions and if he thinks something doesn't smell 100% right won't vote on a case, the pharmacist who has his moments of aggressive passive-aggression such as closing a window more violently than he needs to, the man who types too loudly and always has to open said window, and everything else you can imagine.

I seem to be the only one who genuinely gets along with everyone -- though it's safe to say I certainly do not like everyone.

But the point that I'm really thinking about right now is that it's nice to finally be able to be a floater by choice and not because I don't fit. I have a place I fit and very much belong. Kinda wonder what I'd been missing all those years...