Monday, April 12, 2010

Running Commentary

I have a narrator who follows me around. He's sarcastic and dry, and occasionally mean to me and others. And usually, I'm the only one who can hear him.

Okay -- he's me. He's my internal monologue. Fortunately, I keep him to myself most of the time. (This is fortunate, because as I said, he's quite mean at times.) He makes me feel like I really do live in a movie.

I'm not quite sure what genre it is. Probably some kind of mix between Romantic Comedy and Film Noir. Let's call it "Romantic Noir." It's Laura meets Sleepless in Seattle. It's Chinatown meets When Harry Met Sally. It's Play It Again, Sam meets...huh...okay -- maybe it's just some version of Play It Again, Sam.

And now my inner-narrator is making sarcastic comments about me being Woody Allen -- and not in a positive way. My narrator says I'm not as funny, I have worse luck with women, and most certainly don't have his paycheck. At least I'm better looking. And dress nicer...sometimes.

And I am definitely a better musician.

Without further ado:

The Windmill of My Mind

I've been having trouble getting to sleep lately. And by lately, I mean the last 16 or 17 years. It seems I have a thinking problem. I do too much of it.

This is nothing new. This is nothing unknown. This is nothing that is merely confined to the moments I lie in bed, lights off, teddy bear grasped. But it is me, for better or worse.

I think a lot about the past, the future, and the present. I think a lot about art, work, friends, me. I just think...a lot.

I've been looking for ways to turn my brain off. I've meditated to little avail. I've tried every concoction of tea my local herbalist has given me. But one thing is constant: I can't stop thinking.

I dream of the places I will one day be and of the places I've been; of the people I've met and the people I'm yet to encounter; of the stories I've heard and the stories I've told. The only problem is that all these dreams happen while awake.

My somber dreams are dreams I'd rather not remember.

And maybe that's why I stay awake; my dreams while awake are always better than my dreams while asleep.

At least those dreams are monthly, not daily.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nostalgia for a place I've never been

Back when I worked at WNYC, I was taken to do some field interviews at a photography of exhibit of jazz photographs by a man famous mostly for his pictures of Miles Davis.

I asked people about their reactions to the photographs, and one person put it perfectly -- and, if I recall, this was the only man-on-the-street quote that made the final piece.

He said that the photographs made him nostalgic for a place he'd never actually been.

For better of worse -- or more accurately, sometimes better and sometimes worse -- this is a feeling I can relate to. I guess that's what hopeless romanticism really is: a longing for a comfortable familiar feeling that you may have never actually experienced.

When it's something you have experienced, then it is just depressing, thinking of what you once had that has slipped through your fingers.

Right now, I'm nostalgic for seeing the Bill Evans Trio in the Village Vanguard. Never saw it, seeing as he died 5 years before I was born, but hearing all the recordings, feeling the emotions behind the music, singing along with the piano lines, I'm there. I've never been there, but it's easy to get there.

So now, without further ado, I allow you to join me. I present to you, Bill Evans playing "When I Fall In Love."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Earn Joy

I do a lot of reading on the subway. Admittedly, over half of it is over other people's shoulders.

I know I'm not alone in this, so I feel no guilt in admitting this publicly. I read my fair share of newspapers, magazines, gossip articles, and whatnot. (In fact, last week, a man saw me reading a newspaper over someone else's shoulder, and he, having already finished his, offered it to me. I wasn't sure whether to take it or not. I opted not and then focused on listening to my music rather than reading about Tiger Woods. But I digress.)

My favorite things to read, though, are the things I shouldn't be reading. I watch others around me, and I know I'm not the only one who looks over someone's shoulder while he's drawing or writing, trying to sneak a peak at a poem or journal entry. (I even expect others to be reading over my shoulder, especially when I'm writing on the train. I accept it and am okay with it, knowing full well that I'll never see these people again. Maybe, also, I'm secretly hoping for this to happen to me...)

But this weekend, I was on the train and saw a girl pull a journal out of her bag -- filled with pictures, writings in English and what appeared to be Korean from far way, drawings, and doodles -- and flip through it with her sister sitting next to her.

One of the things that caught my eye was a list. It was "things I want for myself." They were all things about self-betterment, but the one that stuck out at me was number 4 on the list: "Earn Joy."

At that moment, I stuck my hand in my pocket, wrapped my fingers around the 2-inch stuffed dog that happened to be there, and thought about what it means to earn joy -- or if that is, in fact, the way we obtain joy.

My initial reaction was, "Well, that's silly. Joy isn't something you earn; it's something you..." And then I realized, I didn't know how to finish that sentence.

Is joy something you work for? Is it something that comes from the conscious mind? The subconscious? Outside sources? (From a stuffed animal who occasionally lives inside your pocket?) From friends? From just waking up on the right side of the bed in a sun-soaked room?

I'm not sure what it means to earn joy, but I know what it means to work for it. And I know that sometimes, all the work you put in is to no avail.

And maybe that's what earning joy is all about -- working for it and falling short. You can't earn without work, and if it isn't hard, it isn't worth working for.

So I'm not sure if you do earn joy, but just in case, I'm going to go back to working for it. At the very least, I'll get some good experience along the way. And some ice cream. And in the end, even if joy isn't earnable, ice cream certainly is.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Commuting from Brooklyn

When I moved out to Brooklyn 9 months ago, I was working in such an out-of-the-way place that my commute was the same 50 minutes from where I lived in Manhattan to where I live now in Brooklyn. I've since changed my daily routine from work to school, and school is in a place where the commute would have been 15-20 minutes shorter had I stayed where I was as compared to where I am now.

But that doesn't bother me. I like commuting. And moreover, I will never get tired of this commute.

Every morning, my day starts waiting in one of the smaller subway stations in the New York City Transit system, both in terms of its ridership, but more in terms of its physical size. The station house is smaller than my parents' kitchen and the platform is only as long as the train itself and only as wide as to let one person stand and one person walk by. It is the southern end of the two closest subway stations in the system. And it is filled with creatures of habit.

I stand next to the same people every morning. Three days a week, I end up on the same train with the same train crew. I end up standing in the same car with the same people from stops before me.

But as great as the routine is, I will never get tired of the view.

My train takes me into Manhattan by way of the Manhattan Bridge. Every morning, I look to my left and watched The State of Liberty march across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. (Of course, she marches backwards into Manhattan, as she faces the other direction. But at night, she and I both march onward to Brooklyn.)

No matter how sunny or gray or rainy or snowy the weather, no matter if it's foggy and I cannot see the bridge, let alone Lady Liberty, I will never get tired of looking out onto the water, looking into downtown Manhattan, seeing the tower of the Municipal Building (in which I once worked), the South Street Seaport, the occasional tugboat below.

I loved living in Manhattan. I love the hustle and bustle of it. I love the feelings and energy that come with it. But the problem with living there is that you don't get to go there every day.

My favorite part of New York is leaving it so I can enjoy rediscovering it when I return. Commuting from Brooklyn lets me renew my love of it every day.

Even Tuesdays.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fear of success

There's only one thing that scares me more than failure: success.

I know that sounds incredibly illogical. And y'know what? It is. But it's because success is an unknown.

There's something comforting in failure. Failure is a known entity. We've all failed. We've all failed many times and in many venues. And what comes after failure is a known entity: Another try.

What comes after success?

I'm not sure, and that's what scares me. Maybe what comes after success is more failure, and logic would dictate that falling from a higher place is more painful when you hit the ground. Maybe after success comes more success -- which would be wonderful, but who knows.

Maybe success is like death: Nobody really knows what comes next; nobody lives to tell about it.

But more than likely, my problem is not in fearing success, but in defining success. I should stop looking at success as this grand thing that comes after a lifetime of hard work, but in more bite-sized chunks.

Or maybe, I'm just worried that I haven't failed enough or worked hard enough to have earned success.

I'm not done failing. And I am not going to say that I like to fail, and I'm sure I'll like success, but right now, I like what I'm learning from failure -- or at least I like knowing that every failure adds something to my life. Every failed path shows me a pathway not to take. And sometimes it's more important to know which road NOT to take than it is to know the one TO take.

I'm not sure what success will bring, but I know I've got more failure ahead of me.

And I'm comfortable with that. It's certainly less scary than success...

The Classic Artist's Dilemma

There's something almost every artist I know goes through, and my own dealings with it have gotten me to where I am today.

It's the classic artist's dilemma: No, not balancing creativity and finance, but that's a pretty classic one, too. I'm talking about the dilemma of: Do you need to be in a bad place to make good art?

The answer, of course, is no, but looking back, the 3 moths of my own art I like the best were also the 3 worst months I've ever had. (Kind of. They were the 3 worst months I had in which I still got stuff done. At one point, when you get to be too bad, you don't make art anymore. That's the real worst place to be.)

It's always strange for me to listen back to my own music. Just as how all music holds with it memories and emotions, my own music has that much more weight to it. Just as with other music, I associate memories of emotions that stick most to my experience of listening to it, but with my own, I feel the struggles and the pains that came with the process of writing. And sometimes those pains come with triumphs in completing said composition, and sometimes, they only come with the tears that came at the end, seeing my emotion -- more often than not in the 3 months I'm referring to, pain -- played and articulated so perfectly by another musician.

It's one thing when art takes you on an emotional roller coaster. It's another entirely when it takes you on a roller coaster that you built.

When I listen to these pieces -- I have two in particular in mind, I want to be back in that place of artistic success. But I remember with it the emotional failures.

I know that you don't need to be in a bad place to make good art, but we wouldn't all worry about it if it didn't at least help.

I think I'd rather be in a good place and help good art not made by me.

But more than anything, I'd just rather be in a good place.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Misery loves company

I have no idea who said that. I have no idea where I heard it. And I most certainly have no idea why people keep saying it.

It's one of the biggest lies that I've ever heard -- not far behind "I promise this will only hurt for a second" and "I want to be friends."

Let's just think about this for a second. Misery doesn't love company. Miserable people don't love company. Misery loves distraction!

Logically: Do depressed people like being around other depressed people? (I mean, maybe, but that's not because of company, that's because depressed people don't make you work through depression, they enable you to stay depressed.) With the possible exception of funerals, do you want to cry with someone, or do you want someone whose shoulder you can cry on?

I know I can only speak with absolute certainty on behalf of a small population whose numbers are equal to the person typing this right now, but I know that when I'm down, the last thing I want is to hear about my friends' problems, too. In fact, if you tell me about your problems, I'll probably just feel guilty that I'm in a place that I am too self-absorbed to help you through your troubles. If you try and have your misery give my misery a companion, my misery gets joined by my guilt. And I don't have enough chairs for misery and guilt to sit at the table together. (Especially when my bad metaphors are taking up 3 or 4 chairs of their own.)

What does my misery want? It wants distraction! It wants happiness to come -- even from without, rather than within -- to help push him away. Misery doesn't love company, misery doesn't love itself, misery just doesn't love.

When I'm down and someone I'm close with has something positive to say, I say I'm jealous, and they feel the need to say "if it makes you feel any better..." and then they tell me a situation that they are in or went through similar to mine, I cannot help but think (and usually say): "How does this make me feel any better? How is you feeling crappy supposed to make me feel any better? I'd rather have one crappy-feeling person than two!"

So stop feeling guilty for being happy when someone else is miserable! Sympathy is good. Empathy is good. But so, too, is distraction. Sometimes you can be the proverbial hot air balloon taking off while someone else grabs on to the rope and starts to lift off.

Now I know some of you are going to tell me that "misery loves company" is really saying that when miserable, it is best to be in the company of others. And you may be right, this may be the actual intended meaning of the cliche, but I don't read it that way.

But even if you do read it that way, I think it's safe to say that distraction is the best kind of company for misery to keep.

So I say unto everyone out there: Strike down "Misery loves company." Join me in rewriting the cliche to actually have truth in it: Misery loves distraction!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meteorological Optimism

I pretend to be an optimist sometimes.

Well, it's rare. I consider myself a realist, and reality seems to have leanings towards pessimism, but I still always try to be an optimist in order to stay sane. (Though I'm usually laughing at the absurdities of life when I sound the most optimistic and upbeat.)

When it comes to weather, I typically manage to make the best of it.

Snow? That means fun times catching snowflakes on my tongue and making smiley faces on car windows.
Really cold? At least it isn't snowing!
Oppressive heat? Makes me (Let's be honest; this city is horrible in oppressive heat. Not only do I have no air conditioner in my apartment, but the city has a smell to it that is only describable as "ew" when the air gets too heavy.)

Today, it was pouring. When it rains hard in the winter, I always say that at least it's warm enough to rain.

And you know what they say: "If it's warm enough to rain, it's warm enough to smile!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflection on depression

I've been doing some reflecting on where my life has taken me over the last few years. (Me? Introspective and reflecting on something? That must mean today's date ends in a number!)

I actually was going to post something along these lines last week for my 3 year blogoversary, but I opted not to. But anyway...

There have been a number of relatively major events in my life the past few years (in no semblance of order): Employment; getting a place without a roommate; graduating from undergrad; starting law school; relationships; breakups; injuries; and so on. But the one major thing that has changed me was my battle with depression.

While depression itself was horrible, it is clear that, on balance, I like myself better after depression than before. I like how I interact with the world better. I like my perspective better now. I like my broadened ability to communicate and understand people. I even like the fact that depression is what helped escort me out of being a practicing musician and ushered me into law school in hopes of being a part of the business side of the industry.

(I do not like how I interact with myself now as compared to pre-depression, however. I find that I have much less self-confidence, self-assurance, and a more fragile sense-of-self as compared to before, but my insecurities are for a discussion of another time, likely non-blogosphere'd)

I find that depression has completely helped shape who I have become. As I've watched friends talk about and go through battles of their own, I can't help but be a little bit thankful that I've gone through it. I relate to it. I can help -- not because I actually can help, but because I can empathize as well as sympathize and can be not just a shoulder to cry on, but a shoulder that's been through the fire.

As for interacting with those who go through it or have gone through it, I was struck by something today when having a conversation with someone with whom I had not had a conversation with in years, and most certainly have not interacted with since even entering depression, let alone exiting. In giving the readers digest version of my last few years, I mentioned my battle with depression -- which I usually do, because it is impossible to fully explain how I went from where I was to where I am without it. Her response to the words "battled depression" was "I'm sorry."

Now for better or worse, my response to someone talking about depression is usually not "I'm sorry." Maybe it's because I do not feel pity, as I am not sorry that I went through depression since I think it changed me for the better. Maybe it's because I know that "I'm sorry" is usually empty language that we're taught to say. But usually, it's because I'm too busy saying "are you okay now?" or "is there anything I can do?" or, if it's someone with whom I'm really close, asking about their battle and their story. (I am, as we've determined, a story whore, after all...)

In line with my dark sense of humor, this person mentioned the process of trying to figure out life. I couldn't help myself; I said: "Might I recommend depression? It's a great way to find yourself."

I lost myself for a while, but I've found myself, and I'm happy with where I am. I wouldn't be here without depression, and i wouldn't have found myself without it, either.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I am not what one would call a physically gifted pianist. I never have been. I've always been better in my head than in my fingers. That's kind of why I became a composer.

But one thing I have always had a penchant for ballads -- both playing and listening. It may stem from the fact that my childhood piano is a piano from 1920 with worn out hammers and dull strings rendering it non-responsive to up-tempo bop playing and perfect for ballads. That may be the cause, or that may just be a happy coincidence. My lack of technical prowess is such that I can still (or only?) express myself how I want to express myself through lower tempo'd music.

Calling a ballad at a jam session doesn't win many friends, and showing off your ability to play rubato doesn't exactly win the women. But it most certainly makes me happy.

And in the end, isn't that what music is about? Joy through self-expression?

So turn the metronome down, close your eyes, and Slowly. Surely. And beautifully. But most of all, slowly.

Three years

This week marked my three-week blogoversary. (I know that some of you out there -- I'm thinking of you, Matt and Jeff -- 3 years isn't that much, but that doesn't make my 3 years any less...well...whatever it is.)

It's actually be an incredibly transformative 3 years for me. It's been a pleasure to write through it all. There have been a lot of writings I have refused to press "publish" on, but that's for the better.

I really don't have anything insightful, or even funny, to say about it. I just wanted to point it out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Washing of the Water

I've spoken about this song before.

Everything I said still holds true. But I came across this version of it this morning and am re-obsessed.

Note the fact that Peter Gabriel is not particularly wonderful as a singer or a keyboardist, but the complete raw emotion comes through.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bad Dates

I've been on a number of bad dates in my life. None of them I'm going to talk about here.

I am, however, going to say that they are all better than this date that Woody Allen spoke about in his bit "Vegas" from 1964. (If you want to hear it rather than just read it, email me and I'll gladly send you an .mp3.)


Y'see I'm not a gambler, you should know that about me. I went to the racetrack once in my life and I bet on a horse called Battle Gun, and when all the horses come out, mine is the only horse in the race with training wheels. You have to believe me when I say, that there is something seductive about me, when I shoot crap. And I'm at the crap table, I'm...dicing. A very provocative woman comes up to me, and she begins to...size me up...and I take her upstairs to my hotel room. Shut the door. Remove my glasses. Show her no mercy. I unbutton my shirt, and she unbuttons her shirt. And I smile. She smiles. I remove my shirt and she removes her shirt. And I wink and she winks. And I remove my pants. She removes her pants. And I realize I'm looking into a mirror.


Back when I was collecting material for my podcast, a woman sat down and told me her story of overcoming illness and letting god into her life. (I shared this story with my class, but did not publish the final product anywhere since she made it quite clear that she did not want her voice in public.)

Her story moved me. Not because I, myself, am a person of faith -- in fact, I may be quite the opposite. My faith is something I am constantly struggling with. But that's not the point. Her story moved me because of her and how she framed preached faith to me -- understandingly.

She started by sitting down and asking me if I am a person of faith. even though the answer is a clear 'no' in my mind, I struggled answering this question, partially fearing that if I'd say 'no' she would start to preach, and partially because I feared that if I answered improperly, she would not share her story with me, and we all know that I'm a little bit of a story hoarder.

She could see me struggling, so she cut me off. "Do you have faith in anything?"

I quickly answered, "I have faith in the people around me."

She smiled, and lovingly said, "That's all you need."

I occasionally find myself jealous of those people who are, in fact, people of faith. I'd like to believe in some higher power. I'd like to feel like I'm part of something other-worldly. But when I find myself getting jealous, I only have to remember this woman, who truly believes she was taken out of the grasp of death and paralysis by god and brought back among the functioning.

If she is convinced that all you need is faith in the people around you, then I'm proud to say that I am a person of faith. I have faith in the world around me. And y'know what? That's all I need.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Napoleon's Battle Plan

Napoleon's battle plan was a simple two part plan.

Part one: Show up.
Part two: See what happens.

For the most part, this plan worked out quite well for him. That is, until he hit Russia. (But even then it didn't stop him. I mean, he escaped Elba, after all! Yes, only to be defeated at Waterloo and then die in exile, either from cancer or poison. But that's not the point here.)

The man single-handedly (or more accurately, with one hand firmly tucked between the sides of his jacket and with many, many hands, legs, arms, swords, shields, and force of soldiers) took over Europe. All that by just showing up and seeing what happened.

It didn't hurt that Napoleon's army was great in both skill and numbers, but they all showed up.

Showing up is a major part of life. You cannot do anything if you aren't there to act.

Which brings up step three of Napoleon's plan, which, even though it isn't actually part of the plan, per se, it was, without question, how Napoleon succeeded.
1) Show up;
2) See what happens;
3) Act and react.

(And of course:
4) Declare war on Russia;
5) Get banished;
6) Show up again.)

So maybe the lesson of Napoleon is less so about the first three steps and more about the last three. Quite simply:
*Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
*You can always show up again.

So on those days when I feel like I haven't actually shown up, when I'm on my own personal Elba, I just have to remember that sometimes all it takes is showing up again and I can rise to power again.

We'll stop the analogies there; I am in no mood for arsenic poisoning.

Soup is the perfect food

Yes. That's right. I said it. Perfect. There is absolutely nothing bad about soup.

It's easy to make, quick to reheat, it's tasty. And best of all, it goes well with crackers.

But soup has one other quality that is impossible to ignore: It requires time to eat.

Yes, you can eat soup faster than, say, a steak dinner, or even a large sub sandwich. But for what soup is, there is no fast way to eat it. You can't put a straw in and inhale, you can't pick up the bowl and drink it all, you can't take bites that are larger than, well, a spoonful -- and those soup spoons always seem too small when you're really hungry. But it forces you to enjoy it; to savor every slurp; to enjoy the smell of the soup before the taste as you put your head down closer so not to lose the liquid out of the spoon (we all look like buoys while eating soup...); to enjoy every spec of goodness as you pull the spoon to your lips.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's nice to be forced to focus on one thing, taking time with it -- voluntary or not -- and only it. You can't really eat soup while reading a book; that would get very messy very quickly.

Soup maybe is supposed to be seen and not heard, but no matter what, do it slowly.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I woke up this morning with a particular emotion that can only be described as nostalgia.

I'm not nostalgic for a particular time, or a place, or a person, just...nostalgic.

I've been going through today with the sounds of scratchy vinyl and not-properly-mixed piano trios, playing songs with names of people in them -- Emily; Stella by Starlight; Laura...Have You Met Miss Jones.

Maybe this is what being a musician has done to me; it's imposed emotion of songs whose subjects I do not know onto my own psyche. Maybe it's given me such a vast library of old standards that I can't help but have them run through the jukebox of my mind bringing up memories of a time and place I never was. Or perhaps, it's just given me music to help explain an emotion I would feel otherwise.

Or maybe I'm just nostalgic for those times when I would embrace my inner (and outer) musician and sit at a piano for hours and just play. And play. And play.

And now, I invite you to join me, Bill Evans, his trio, and the nostalgia that Emily brings to us all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dick Johnson

My mother just called and shared with me the Boston Globe obituary of Dick Johnson, one of the unsung heroes of jazz. He was an incredible multi-reed player. If you want to know more about him, you can read the obituary, but suffice it to say, if he'd ever decided to leave the Boston area, he could have been a very big name in jazz.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dick a number of times, though he never remembered me. The very first time I played with a group of other musicians was with Dick Johnson. I was in 6th grade and my parents and I went to a local jazz concert. It was Dick Johnson and the band he was using that night, consisting of all local guys. My mother, being the pushy Jewish mother she is, said at intermission, "my son is a pianist and he would love to play with you guys!" Of course, I resisted, but a couple tunes into the set, Dick called me up. We played "Fly Me To The Moon," lamely enough, in C.

I would hardly say I played well. In fact, I was quite bad, I think. I mean, I was 12 and had never actually played with a bass player. I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to learn.

I saw Dick play the last few summers around Cape Cod with various musicians, and he always sounded great. He always had a great joy for playing that came out through his music...or more often than not, came out through the conversation he would have quite loudly with the band or the patrons in the front few rows of whatever venue he was playing while someone else in the band was taking a solo.

Here my favorite recording, a duet of "Shaw 'Nuff" with Dave McKenna, another unsung jazz hero whom we lost in October of 2008. (I was lucky enough to see Dave McKenna's last performance in December of 2001, I think it was. I'm kind of surprised I didn't write about him on the blog then!) It was recorded live in 1980 and is on Dick's album Artie's Choice! and the Naturals.

(For those who subscribe, you may need to click to the original post to listen to the tune. Even if you are not a jazz fan, you can appreciate the energy, facility, and enjoyment of this music. I promise.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Filled with tears and flapjacks

That was the title of a chapter of a book the man standing across from me was reading while on the subway this morning. I loved the image of it -- or, more accurately, I loved the juxtaposition of these two nouns: tears and flapjacks. Tears is clearly a stand-in for sadness, while flapjacks is, while, breakfast.

So it got me thinking about comfort food.

When I get down, what do I eat? Usually I have to force myself to eat, as my ideal activity for when I'm down is to sit on my sofa, curl up with my teddy bear, and watch The Muppet Show (or some muppet movie) for hours on end until I decide it's time to get up and the lines on my face from the creases in the pillow are getting too deep.

But when I do eat, there are a few staples: Of course there's chicken soup, I am, after all, Jewish. When I have the time and the proper ingredients, it's nice to make chicken soup. Cinnamon toast is another food that brings me back to childhood in that cinnamon toast is what was always made for me when I was home sick. (I have recently come up with a wonderful variation on cinnamon toast: cinnamon English muffin. That is to say, when you can't decide whether to have an English muffin or cinnamon toast, butter and cinnamon sugar up your English muffin!)

Of course, M&Ms are a comfort food. But more so for me, milk chocolate. Nothing makes me smile like a smooth piece of milk chocolate melting in my mouth and sticking to my tongue. (Of course, my dentist hates me for this, but that's another story.)

And what would a good comfort food day be without ginger ale? Canada Dry is my brand of choice.

So while I appreciate tears and flapjacks, I prefer tears and chocolate. Because everything goes better with chocolate!

Monday, January 11, 2010

How did I get here?

Today was my first day of law school. (You will notice that I, who almost never uses tags, have tagged this entry as "law school," which I'm sure is a tag that will be showing up often from now until, well, the next 2-and-a-half to 3 years, depending on if I decide to add a semester and get an LLM in addition to a JD...but that's discussion for 2 years from now.)

As the day went on, I started to feel a little more comfortable with the people around me, and a little bit with my surroundings -- though tomorrow is going to be my first day studying in the library (or some other alcove of the school). But no matter how comfortable my surroundings may feel, one question still lingers, and probably will for quite a while.

How did I get here?

As I said to someone today, "This is weird; a week ago, I was a musician." Granted, I was not really doing much as a musician, and I've had quite some time to prepare myself for this mentally, but I am still not sure what exactly this is that I'm doing here.

I think I'm going to like it, though I may never get used to it.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Comfort is a weird thing. We always strive to be comfortable. We want to be in that comfortable pair of jeans, that comfortable relationship, that comfortable job, that comfortable house...We always say there's no such thing as too comfortable, and then we think about it.

There's certainly such a thing.

I am only going to speak of one kind of too-comfortable that I've always avoided, though I have many more personal experiences with plenty of other kinds, too.

For me, I've always tried to avoid comfort when it comes to my academics. I start law school in 3 days. (why am I awake at 2:30 in the morning, then? I have 3 days to adjust my sleep cycle!!!) (Oh yeah...I started reading my contracts text book and got so excited that my tea to help me relax wore off, but I digress.) Law school will, most certainly, not be a comfortable experience for me. It will require lots of hard work and plenty of shutting out the people around me, I'm sure. I will be irritable at times, and I am certainly sure there will be times when, no matter how hard I try, I will only be able to speak of what's on my plate -- be it a story from class, freaking out about an exam, or the case I just read. (Note to my friends reading this: I apologize in advance. Feel free to yell at me.)

But this is not the first time I am making myself feel uncomfortable.

My previous educational experience as a composer was filled with voluntary uncomfortableness.

I spent 5 years figuring out what I was good at and doing the exact other thing. If I was really good at writing 3-horn arrangements of standards, I made sure to write for 5 horns. If I felt I was good at writing interesting voice-leading accompaniments, I would spend my time writing counterpoint instead. If I...well, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll just say it simply, and redundantly, if I was good at it, I avoided it.

I learned. I moved forward. And oddly enough, I started getting uncomfortable with things I was once good at since I got out of practice.

I'm still confident I can write a 3-horn arrangement of a standard quite easily, though perhaps not as quickly as I once could. I'm sure I could do a saxophone quartet arrangement of "Rainbow Connection" without it being horrible, but as I move on to new uncomfortabilities, what was once comfortable no longer feels quite right.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but comfort has been on my mind a lot in the last couple days. I guess you could say I was quite happy being comfortable for once, and since then, I've been forced out of comfort.

I guess I'll just learn how to be comfortable in this new situation...and then move on, whether I want to or not.

(Which, by the way, I don't.)