Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Repulsive: listening to Shrub, the self-proclaimed "War President," speak to an audience of US Naval Academy students--under orders to clap, I am sure--explain how Iraq is the central front on the "Global War on Terror." He is beyond hopeless. It reminds me of those recitals that students give, when the audience of friends and family claps wildly. Of course they will, no matter how good or bad the performance may be.

And let me clarify something: I grew up in a military family. My father was a retired officer in the in the U.S. Navy, something of which he is very proud. My childhood summers were spent on a military installation. My friends were mostly from military families too. I am a pacifist, but I do believe that the servicemen and women fighting this war should be supported. They do something I would never and could never do, but they are trained to follow orders. That the orders they are following are issued for no true good reason (we are not defending our own country, after all) is the real horror.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005



I have been very busy with work lately. This is all well and good while I am there. But when I leave I feel utterly busted. I go to the gym and work myself into exhaustion, and then I feel like I will never sleep enough, and my head spins with worry that I am sinking into a deep depression. It is funny how, while working, I escape myself and feel ok. But once I stop it is like I have been slammed by a huge wave, like the one that hits you when you have your back turned and knocks you into the roiling surf.

And to add to my woes, I have to find a new doctor soon, as my psychiatrist will retire at the end of the year. This fills me with dread, because as anyone who has been under a psychiatrist's care knows, it is a very difficult relationship to establish. For me it looms too large, a huge wall that I can't imagine climbing past.


Today's high temperature will be 68F. This is bizarre, considering that it is nearly December. I dislike unseasonable weather, with the exception of autumnal weather in the heat of summer.

* * * * *

The Catholic Church has issued a mandate to bishops to deny admission to any aspiring seminarian who has homosexual tendencies. This is being done in an effort to ameliorate the damage done to the reputation of the church in light of all the child molestation scandals that have erupted in the last few years. This seems slightly warped; they should deny admission to any pedophile. The vast majority of gay men (and women) I know, as well as the vast majority of straight men and women I know, are not sexually attracted to young children. Since a priest vows to be celibate, what does it matter who one is attracted to? And pedophiles, as I understand, are usually straight males. The pedophile-priests are just going for the most available prey.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I was walking home from a meeting at school. I took a shortcut through a small one-block-long alley poetically named Love Lane. As I was walking I realized that all I could hear was the scuttling of dry leaves blowing along the asphalt. No cars, no sirens, no voices, no city sounds. And for just a few moments, I was amazed that one could experience such peacefulness in an alley in busy Brooklyn at 5:15 in the evening.

Sunday, November 27, 2005



I took this picture of Mabel in the elevator on Friday evening as I was taking her outside for her night-time walk. Her expression is identical to what I remember from the first day I got her. My brother had driven me to pick her up, and she sat on my lap on the way to Brooklyn. I talked to her and she looked up at me with this very same look. It was adorable then, and even more so now. What would I do without her?

* * * * *

At my sister's for Thanksgiving, I got to hang out with my nephews. They are very sweet kids. _______, the middle one (like me), is like my clone. He looks just like I did at his age (seven); he talks like me, has a bizarre and vivid imagination, and is rebellious just like I was. It is a little freaky for me to witness such a walking replica of myself, a smaller echo. I only hope that he has an easier time of things as he grows up. I think he will. My sister and her husband are quite different people from my own parents.

Thanksgiving was fun this year. I was not so stressed. We all shared cooking responsibilities so I did not have the day-in-the-kitchen exhaustion and lack of appetite that usually afflicts me. The drive down was easy, although once I got lost after getting off Route 78 for gas, and then missed my exit even though I have driven that road hundreds of times. I was distracted. Oh, and on the way my car stereo stopped working (it is almost thirteen years old, so no surprise there) which meant that I could no longer listen to my iPod while driving. And it is illegal, I think, to drive with headphones on. So I am stuck with the radio.

* * * * *

On Friday my Venta Air-Washer arrived. After setting it up it was not working properly, and I was annoyed. I called customer service, and they said they would send a new one. But after I got off the phone with them I was able to get it to work properly. So I will call tomorrow and tell them that it is seemingly ok. They may opt to send a new one anyway, but it is ok with me if I just keep this one. It really works well. I no longer wake in the morning with my throat dry and my head aching. And I don't have the same allergy/asthma symptoms. Perhaps I am imagining it, but I think not.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
happy thanksgiving to all...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

like stones around my neck

I should have known. Yesterday's hypomania could not last. As today progresses I feel myself sink. I want to go into some kind of deep-freeze for the next two days until the holiday passes. Or travel someplace far. B has the right idea, splitting town for the holiday. I am going to try something, though. I will not acknowledge that I feel depressed. I will act as though I am fine, and maybe in acting, I will become fine. I am determined, but I am also skeptical.

path and rocks


I had an interesting experience yesterday, teaching. Tuesday is my busy teaching day; other days of the week I only teach two to three hours, some days even less. But on Tuesday I have a relatively full day of classes: five 45-minute periods.

Two of these classes are music history/literature classes, two different topics, but similar concept. One of the two is fantastic. The students' enthusiasm is so strong, their joy in learning palpable. Articulate, creative, thoughtful, imaginative: each student in the class is a pleasure and I feel great teaching them. After that class I was buoyant; my state of hypomania yesterday (I woke up that way) only added to my smile. And then, later in the afternoon, the other group. I was so demoralized and frustrated teaching them. They make almost no effort to learn; when I verbally "quiz" them about the listening we did in the last class, they can't remember. They are basically clueless. And I told them that I was frustrated with them, that they disappointed me in their apathy. They looked genuinely dismayed and contrite, and I know that I made them feel bad.

But I didn't feel bad making them feel bad. They deserved it. I am a very patient teacher, and I give a lot in the classroom. This is because I genuinely love teaching. But when students don't uphold their end, when they make no effort, I feel defeated.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Some years ago, a few years after I had finished graduate school, I made the fateful decision that I would not compose except on commission. I figured that it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to a steady stream of commissions. And mostly that has been true. Of course if I had to support myself on my composing income I would starve, but I have had ongoing composing obligations. Lately, though, I have realized something: sometimes I am not that into the pieces I am obligated to write. And so I go for long dry spells where I don't get much work done.

Thus I have decided to compose pieces that are not commissioned alongside my commissioned work. This keeps my composing chops in shape, and helps me feel productive. And then, when these "spec" pieces are done, I can shop them around. I find the "shopping around" part distasteful, but I guess it is necessary.


Monday, November 21, 2005


I am against war utterly and completely. I was certain that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction" right from the start. I was within walking distance of the twin towers on 9-11 and was as horrified as anyone. But I never felt that invading Iraq had anything at all to offer the situation. Now, though, it is clear to me that to have a complete withdrawal at this point would be disastrous. We have been responsible for the deaths of far too many innocent Iraqis to leave them now in such a state of chaos. We have a responsibility to help put their country back together. But there must be a draft. It is unfathomable to me that all the "red state" folks so in favor of this war are not enlisting to help. No one is sacrificing anything. People blithely drive around in their bloated SUVs and cheer on the war from their overstuffed couches, watching jingoistic propaganda on the television news. There MUST BE A DRAFT. And anyone who was for the war in the first place should be the first to go and fight it.

Ok, I will stop hyperventilating now.


Last night, due to my own absent-mindedness, I took twice my usual dose of desyrel, 400mg instead of 200mg. Not a good move. This is an antidepressant that is also a sedative. I am barely able to sleep without it, and when my doctor first prescribed it for me it was like a miracle (after years of insomnia I was finally able to fall asleep). But now I can't shake off the fog of the double dose. Another effect of this drug is that it provokes quite vivid dreams, and the one I had last night was truly fascinating. An array of people from my past and present, some already dead, participated in a large rambling party that seemed to last for days. I had my old guinea pig. Another friend had her cat. My friend ________, now a chef, was preparing elaborate food in preparation for opening his restaurant. My sister was working as a lifeguard. The dream took place in a strange wooded landscape with steep hills, a combination of Pennsylvania and San Francisco. I felt disoriented but happy throughout the dream. I will probably spend most of the day trying to sort it out.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"Le Tombeau de Couperin"

I feel a lot better. Still I took it easy this weekend. I practiced a lot. I am working on Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," a very awkward piece to play but so beautiful. Ravel's piano writing is so strange because it requires such odd fingering sometimes, quite different from Chopin, for example, where everything lies so evenly for the hands.


Today Y and I went to Chinatown and ate dim sum. Then we drank bubble tea and ate pastries. We bought a cake and ate it here at my apartment. In fact I ate a lot all weekend. I had not been hungry all week and had barely eaten from Tuesday until Friday. So I bought two big boxes of clementines. I figure the vitamin C is good for my bronchitis.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I broke down and ordered a Venta Air-Washer. Y had been urging me to do so for months now. He said it would help my asthma and is good for health in general. People say it is the best air-cleaner on the market, better than those "ionizers" and "hepa" air purifiers that cost even more. And I like its minimalist styling. So we will see.


village doorway
When I get sick like this I get dragged down. The last two days, I have been increasingly depressed. Today I feel smothered in a black cloud. Everything is onerous. The sky is bright blue and the sun is shining and I hate it. I want to disappear. And the world around me makes me feel hopeless. This country is falling to pieces. Idiots run the show and most people seem too selfish or oblivious to express the kind of outrage that any thinking person with some sense of ethics should display. I feel like I am screaming into a tunnel and that my screams fall away unheard. And this just fuels my depression even more. I do hope I will snap out of it. I know of course that this is a cycle and that at some point, probably sooner rather than later, I will feel better. But the holidays approach, and these are the worst time of year for me.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I just took Pomona to the vet for her blood test to see if the thyroid medication is working. She has gained three-quarters of a pound, so it clearly is. She was upset when I put her in the carrier, but she was very cooperative once there.

* * * * *

I myself went to the doctor yesterday. He gave the verdict: bronchitis. He said I need to rest and that I should not exercise for a week. This will drive me nuts. But right now I can't imagine exercising because I feel completely exhausted despite the fact that I slept a long time. I still have a bad cough although it is less painful than before. I just want to sleep...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

giving in

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Well, I finally gave in and called my doctor. I like to avoid antibiotics, but yesterday by late afternoon I was hardly able to breathe. My chest was horribly congested, I had a fever, and my coughing was so painful that I was afraid of it. So he gave me some antibiotics and some cough medicine. Already I feel a bit better, although the cough is still ugly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I have a terrible painful cough. I have been taking over-the-counter cough medicine, and it is making me feel crazed. I feel both spaced-out and hypomanic at the same time. It is dangerous. I have to watch myself very carefully.

I just found a blog for bipolar folks. It has been interesting reading the postings of people like me who have the most erratic and troubling mood swings. Had I known that the cough medicine would put me on the brink like this I would have thought twice. But had I not taken it, I would have been up all night coughing.

conflict of interest?

I have true respect for Wynton Marsalis the musician. He is an excellent trumpet player. As artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, he has presented exciting programs and done a lot to increase public awareness of jazz. A gifted educator, he has introduced people to the richness of jazz heritage.

But I have a real problem with the manner in which he has used his position as a bully pulpit. He has commissioned himself numerous times, which to me seems a blatant misuse of his office. And now there is a concert which celebrates twenty-five years of Wynton Marsalis, featuring none other than the man himself with a string orchestra. Wouldn't it be better for someone other than the man himself to organize and intitiate a concert to celebrate this milestone? Makes me wonder...

I would like to know what goes on between Marsalis and the board of director of JALC. How can they condone the artistic director using their funds to continually commission himself when there are so many deserving musicians who could use the recognition that an organization like this provides?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Science and Religion

The Dalai Lama wrote this brilliant editorial in yesterday's NEW YORK TIMES. Now if only the "Intelligent Design is a Scientific Theory Worthy of Darwin's Theory of Evolution" people would read it...

Burning Bush

If today's letters to the editor at the NEW YORK TIMES are any indication, Bush is slipping down the slope and picking up speed almost daily. The scary thought is that he has three years to go. The comforting thought is that the senate and house republicans are joining the democrats in denouncing him and his administration. Too bad it took this long. And I hope his slide is anything but smooth. Some thorns, grizzly bears, and other predators should have a go at him. And he should be dragging Cheney et. al. with him.

Monday, November 14, 2005

hitting the wall (part I); knee story (part II)


I am sick. I don't know if the depression that crept up on me this weekend is the cause, or if being sick is making me depressed. I am never sure. But today I woke up with a horrible congestion in my chest and the feeling of being overwhelmed. I called to cancel my classes, which in itself makes me feel guilty. But I need to rest. I feel like each minute is an eternity. My body aches. Ugh.

* * * * *

Since Lodgerlow is experiencing knee trouble, I will recount the history of my own knee trouble. Maybe it will help her figure out what to do. As a kid, during my very serious competitive swimming days, I began to have severe knee pain. My family doctor suggested pulled ligaments. My parents did not pursue any further investigation. The trouble was intermittent, and I thought little of it.

Over the years I had little problem. Then in spring 1995 I was walking up the steps from the subway and my knee literally locked. I could bend it and the pain was excruciating. I pulled myself up by the handrail. I stood and waited. Then I felt a "snap" but suddenly I could walk again. I was perplexed. The next day it happened again. Same thing. I went to see the nurse at school. She said that my kneecap on my right knee had slid to the side and was unusually loose. She referred me to a prominent knee surgeon. He suspected a torn ligament, the ACL. I had an MRI, which revealed a strange ambiguity; there was no clear torn ligament, but there was no clear ligament shown at all. Hmmm. I began a regime of physical therapy and strenthening of the leg muscles. The idea was that this would stabilize the knee, and we would watch to see what happened. I was dedicated (despite having a psycho for a therapist, who told me about his time in the Israeli army and how he loved to shoot guns). After a year or so there was no significant improvement in the stability, although the pain was less. The doctor recommended surgery, which I put off for months. Finally there was no delaying; the knee had become quite painful.

So I had ACL replacement surgery: a portion of the patellar tendon (which holds the kneecap in place) was removed and used to form a new ACL. I had the surgery under spinal anaesthesia, so I was awake. I could smell the burning bone as they drilled holes in my leg bones. I was so doped up that this was not upsetting. I was laughing and drifting in and out.

Post-surgery, the pain was intense, and I had to pursue a very dedicated path of physical therapy. The diagnosis mystery was solved when the surgery revealed that I still had a ligament but it was impossibly stretched so that it provided no benefit to the knee. This is an unusual condition and afflicts other joints and explains my remarkable flexibility, an asset to a swimmer but not an asset to aging joints. Surgery on my left knee (the same surgery) is indicated. However, my right knee was damaged further when the surgery revealed torn cartilage, some of which was removed so that now I have osteoarthritis. All in all, while my knee may be stronger, the pain from the arthritis is often severe. I will put off the other surgery as long as I can. Wearing a cumbersome leg brace for several months cramped my style. Being physically indisposed in NYC is difficult, as I walk most places and was unable to do so. Looking back, I am not sure how I handled basic things like grocery shopping.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Today has been strange. Really, I did nothing. The time passed. I slept in the afternoon. I woke up at five, groggy. I ate some dinner, but I have felt strangely uninterested in food today. I feel on the verge of some kind of vague illness. I cough and my chest hurts. My knee, the right one, is particularly bad after my near-fall on the cobblestoned street yesterday. I had an urge to go to Manhattan, but opted out because the trains are so messed up on weekends these days that going anywhere turns into an ordeal, and I could not move the car from its parking space because they are ripping up the streets everywhere and parking is even more at a minimum than usual.

The strange warm weather tires me out. I feel restless and I need a break. Thanksgiving is coming soon. A tortured holiday for me, because of history. It was Thanksgiving of 1986 when we learned that my mother was terminally ill. Ever since then, I have sort of hated Thanksgiving.

path and rocks

Tarnation (click me)

Last night Y and watched TARNATION, an autobiography on film by Jonathan Caouette. This is a gripping, harrowing, beautiful film. It is now out on DVD. I will not even attempt to describe it here, but I will never forget it.

down under the manhattan bridge overpass

clockarchwaymanhattan bridgerememberbridge and grass

Saturday, November 12, 2005


It was a beautiful day. Rather than brave the ridiculously screwed-up subway to go to Manhattan, I chose to stay in Brooklyn all day. Y and I went to the park in Dumbo.


There is so much construction going on there. Just a few years ago it was desolate and only a few intrepid artists lived there. Now it is quite yuppified and a bit slick.


But remnants of the old remain. They provide a bit of "edge" so the yuppies in their million-dollar lofts can feel like they haven't lost theirs.

le end

There was a wedding party taking photos at the little beach-type area here. They looked like they were having fun.


Friday, November 11, 2005


I did something I haven't done in years. I went to swim at 7:30 this morning. Since I wake up so early, and my schedule today is not my usual Friday schedule, I thought I would try something new. It felt great. I feel tired now, though, and hope I don't get too sleepy this afternoon.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

more than two sides to every story

Due to my own limited experience, there are many things I don't understand. This is not an admission of ignorance or laziness. I am neither ignorant nor lazy. But every individual's experience must be limited; to argue otherwise defies logic.

I don't understand the "strike" that graduate teaching assistants at NYU are holding, causing classes to be canceled. They want to have union rights. I just don't get it. I was a teaching assistant at the University of Chicago. I never considered myself an employee of the university, nor did anyone else I knew in a similar position. I thought of it as a position of privilege, an honor bestowed on me by my department. After all, not all grad students are asked to be teaching assistants. The position provides a very important benefit: college-level teaching experience, which, especially in today's very tight academic job market, is important to one's career. These teaching assistantships provide full tuition remission and, in my case, a fairly healthy paycheck (by graduate student standards anyway). But it is a quid pro quo; the university has the benefit of providing instructors for lower-level classes at a lower price that they would incur paying a full-time faculty member; the teaching assistant enhances his/her resumé and gains experience; it is a sign also of some achievement on the student's part (other wise he/she would not have been given the position).

As sympathetic as I am to workers' rights, this is a case of misplaced sentiment. And it undermines the struggle of legitimate efforts--Walmart employees, for example--to unionize to protect their jobs and livelihood.

I think it is yet another case of the sort of blindly following some ideology that students can be prone to, especially students at an elite, expensive university. I know. I was one myself. But I did know what was work and what wasn't. I had been a janitor. I cleaned horse stalls. I had a construction job one summer. I was happy for the chance to teach bright motivated students at a first-rate university. These students should open their eyes to reality.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

points of view

Why is it that family members can infuriate me more than anyone else?

I just came within inches of being hit by a speeding car. I was crossing the intersection of Cadman Plaza West and Tillary; it is a wide intersection and rather risky to cross, but I had the "walk sign" in my favor and was being vigilant of the large buses that make the wide right turn there. As I was almost across a car came flying AROUND the turning bus, headed straight for me. I could not jump away because the bus was there--the driver had also turned in front of me, although I had the right of way--and then the driver swerved sharply left to avoid hitting me. It was very close and my adrenalin was pumping. I turned to see a Nissan Maxima, dark glass, Florida plates go speeding on its way. My heart was pounding after the initial reflexive reaction. I have extremely fast reflexes, so fast that they attracted a whole slew of medical students when I was being treated in Chicago for a back injury.

So it occurred to me as I stood in line at the post office that had I been severely injured, or even killed--the car was going fast enough to do that--I have no will. Not will. Will as in "I heredo bequeath..." I called my brother the attorney to ask him, as I have a few times in the past, to write the will for me. He acted quite put out, and I recalled when he did my closing on this apartment ten years ago, and then sent me a bill. As I later told him, this would be like me charging him to play the piano at his wedding. I was furious, although I did not show him. I cheerfully said "bye" and hung up the phone.

* * * * *

I read many blogs. I don't have a particular order, and there are many that I don't follow closely.
The Shower Room is one I check on regularly. The author writes of his life and his romantic exploits with style. However, reading it annoys me almost always. I dislike banalities and platitudes:
I've said before that the best days of my life are ahead of me and I look forward to living it.

It's funny how I see it now. I'm living it, the best days of my life; and everyday it only get (sic) better.
Gag me.

does this mean? Does it mean that every day will be the best day of one's life? Or that one day he can look back on the days he describes as the best? Surely that would breed a kind of sadness. I have always said that I don't want to look back on any part of my past as "the best days of my life" because that implies such a bleak future. But the thing that I find so depressing about such platitudes is that it reflects a kind of shallow thinking, a willful optimism of the type that causes blindness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I slept a long time. I can't tell if I feel really better now, or if it is the kind of delusion that so often occurs upon waking.

Monday, November 07, 2005


1. abdominal pain, mild to occasionally severe
2. low-grade fever
3. headache
4. joint aches
5. dizziness

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Friday, November 04, 2005

thank you

I just got home and was reading my email. I received this comment from John, who checked out my photos on Flickr. I felt so happy after reading this. It has been a rather rough day until now, and I feel better...

Thursday, November 03, 2005



This morning while walking Mabel I saw a man riding his bike down my street. He had a small girl perched on the bar connecting the seat to the handlebars. Neither the man nor the child had a helmet on. My street is quite busy in the morning and people drive fast. As I watched, incredulous, the guy went right through a red light across a busy intersection. It is one thing to risk your own safety; as an adult that is his choice. But to put a small child in such danger is unbelievable. I wanted to scream at him. I wished a policeman were there to arrest him. I believe it would qualify as child endangerment.

I can't wrap my little mind around this

From the CNN website in a column asking readers to comment on the current state of the Bush presidency:

I think he is doing a wonderful job and smiling the entire way. Who protected our country after September 11? Who protects our country today? I think the Democrats should look at their own party that is where the problems lie. There is nothing they can do to discourage our party. Nothing. We are all smiling.

To me this is unbelievable. What are they smiling about?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mayor Mabel

A number of people from my neighborhood, friends of Mabel, have suggested that she would be a great mayor for New York City. Election day is next Tuesday. I think Mabel could win, and I doubt that she would have to spend 70 millions dollars to do it.



It was a colleague's birthday yesterday, and he had been given a huge batch of chocolate-chip cookies, brownies, and I ate many of them. Then, later, a student of mine who had just returned from Austria brought me a box of Austrian chocolate. I ate many of them. In the afternoon before teaching my last class I ate more chocolate; these chocolates were provided by the school (they give us a little "high tea" every afternoon, very nice). Later I ate two chocolate cupcakes, after dinner. I was hungry from swimming. So I had more chocolate in one day than I usually consume in a month. The result? I could not sleep. The combination of chocolate high and allergy attack (I am allergic to the chemicals they use in the pool) kept me up virtually all night. So now, at ten past six, I am totally exhausted. Damn.