Friday, September 29, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Oh no. It's just not right: a metallic-sand modern car, instead of The Volvo. I'll miss pics of that car.
I too feel sad. I had to move my car to another block just a while ago (the old tired NYC parking drill) and I felt pangs of regret, because I have so many happy memories of the Volvo, and it was the first car that I bought that I really cared about. But I have agonized for months about this. I did the math, and I am paying so much in repair bills that I could easily have been paying for a newer car. If I were wealthy and could afford to indulge in the expense of operating an old car, I would. But the Volvo is no longer reliable; I am nervous to take long trips for fear of some malfunction. If I drove it like a typical non-city-dwelling American, around town and such, I would keep it. But I rarely make trips of less than 100 miles, and thus I rarely use the Volvo because I don't trust it on the road. So I am sad. I will miss my red car. It has such charm. But charm alone isn't cutting it...and one more thing. The Mazda is sporty and handles excellently; it is fun to drive, and that will be a nice change.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I must mention a phenomenon that strikes me more and more lately: the culturally confused name. What is it? Take the name Cooper Lowenthal, for example (I did not make it up). The first name, Cooper, suggests generations of dusty WASP heritage, a large ramshackle house on Martha's Vineyard, attendance at St. Paul's, then perhaps Amherst or Yale. Lowenthal is clearly a Jewish name. So what gives? Is this the same as the older practice of immigrants in America, changing one's last name to something more "American," less ethnic? Ralph Lauren, for example, was born Ralph Lifschitz. Would he be the household name that he is today if he were Ralph Lifschitz still? Doubtful. With increasing frequency I encounter these odd hybrid names. Taylor Rabinowitz. Tucker Chang. Gardiner Cacciatore.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Y is now on his way to Tokyo (or he may have arrived by now). So by midweek he will be back in New York. I wish I could meet him in Tokyo, but I have neither the available time nor the plane ticket. I would love to go there in autumn, when the weather is beautiful. I was there in winter. It was not too cold, but it wasn't exactly warm. And it is such a good walking city--such confusing streets--and autumn weather would make it more so.
This morning I am going to a car dealer to try out some cars. I am now committed to selling mine. I want to have one that does not make me worry about that part is going to fall off next. My lovely Volvo, sadly, has reached that stage in its life.
Friday, September 22, 2006
One of the best things about not feeling depressed is the increase in my confidence. I used to feel very confident. During one long period in Chicago when I was not depressed I felt full of a kind of energy--not mania--but a kind of power that comes from not constantly second-guessing myself, from feeling in command of my thoughts, from realizing that I do have abilities and talents that are valuable and can be put to good use. I am not going to question why, now, I am feeling so good. I just want it to last. But whether it does last or doesn't, I am going to appreciate it in the present.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
When you know that the bottom can fall out at any time it is difficult to be so free. In graduate school I won a no-strings-attached fellowship given to alumnae/i of my college who were artists; one a year. It was a lot of money, especially at the time. A week earlier I had won a BMI Prize, which involved another sturdy chunk of cash. I was advised by one of my old college teachers to take time off from grad school, go to Africa-Asia-Europe and sit in a bohemian setting and be a composer. I was excited. I made plans. I bought my plane ticket on Icelandair to fly to Luxembourg. From there I would start my adventure. I would take a year off from school, or two, or maybe never go back. Then reality set in. First, after a month in France, I called my mom to check in; there had been a spate of bombings in Paris and I knew she was worried. She told me that she was ill. She didn't know, at the time, that soon she would be diagnosed with terminal, horribly advanced lung cancer. But I sensed something bad. Then I thought some more. If I left school, I would have to pay back the college loans that my father had taken out in my name without ever telling me (long story). I would have no health insurance. My fellowship money would not last very long. I could not bum around the bohemian outposts of the world; who would take care of my mother? If I left school, I would have no more fellowship stipend so generously given to me by U.Chicago, and since I had no savings, and no family money to prop me up, my dreams of the artist life burst like a pin-stuck balloon. I had to stay in school. And when I finished school, I would have to find a teaching job, or any job, right away. I have managed to be a composer, and a reasonably successful one, anyway. But I have not had the trappings of bohemia to comfort me. And I have had no cushion, no parents with the fat checkbook, to catch me if the bottom falls out.
So these are the roots of my bitterness, at least one branch of it. I look at this matter-of-factly. Do I wish things had happened differently? Sometimes. But it is pointless to think this way. The past is the past. Coming from where I did I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to make my way the way I have. And there have been benefits, too. Unlike so many fauxbohos, I have no sense of entitlement. I don't feel that the world owes me a living. These days I don't feel resentment that I had to work, two jobs at a time at the least, through my years of school, that my summers were never spent backpacking around Europe. There was a time when I did, when I felt sorry for myself, felt shame at my background, would have been embarassed to invite school friends back to my mother's humble, shabby house, with the junked cars in the yard next to ours...
But I will never forget, one summer at the MacDowell Colony, how a certain fellow composer told the story of his family's epic tragedy, being forced to leave their homeland with only $100,000. I didn't say a word, but inside I thought that this was a lot of money. Things could have been a lot worse. As I usually do, I kept my mouth shut, but I have not forgotten it almost twenty years later.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I am so tired. I can barely talk. I felt bad after B called because I was so out of it that I could hardly have a conversation. Sorry, B. Why am I so tired? When Patsy woke me at 630 I had only been asleep for about five hours. But then Mabel woke up. She peed on the dining room floor, which I did not discover until I took her out and noticed that she did not seem particularly eager to pee outside. So after I cleaned it up I figured I would do my laundry. I should have gone back to bed instead. But I did the laundry, and then it was too late to sleep again. After teaching I swam, probably too much, and then did some errands. By the time I got home it was 3 pm and I got busy practicing. So I never even had a nap. Now I can barely function. Tomorrow morning I have to go to the dentist. Boring. But today I was realizing that I have not been depressed in quite a while, and that thought made me feel really good.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
One of my colleagues told me to shave. She said I look too old like this. "You don't like it?" I asked her. She said, "it's not that I don't like it, but it depends on how you want to look. You look so young when you shave." We are long-time colleagues and good friends and there is no concern, on either part, that we might offend one another. Then, walking Mabel, I saw a few of my students sitting on a stoop. "I like your face," one of them said, shyly. They were happily playing with Mabel while discussing the merits of my stubble. I told them that my colleague told me to shave. They laughed and said "don't do it." Personally, I hate shaving, and I like looking scary, so it suits me fine.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Today, another day of solitude, got me thinking about just what it is that makes me feel bad with this kind of situation. And I realized that it is just another way to make me wish that I had a more functional family life. Not that I want to be married with kids. It is just that I wish that my family did more things together. I rarely see any of them. For example, last evening my sister and her husband had a well-known jazz musician, a friend of my brother-in-law's, over for dinner. It did not occur to them to invite me, even though my sister gleefully told me about it when I called her yesterday morning. I had dinner with my brother on Friday, but that was the first time I'd seen him in a long while, other than having lunch with him one afternoon in the summer. My cousins on my father's side, well, forget them. I only see them if someone dies, gets married, or has a baby. C, who together with M are my surrogate sisters, are never available since C has become a total workaholic who has no time for anything anymore. So without Y here I am simply lonesome on the weekends. I am like the guy on the bike, going the wrong way down the fire lane.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I realize that one of the things I like most about teaching is that it is a social activity. Composing or painting is a solitary one. I need solitude to do my creative work, but I also crave interaction.
Since we got back together last spring, Y and I have spent almost every weekend together. We don't see eachother much during the week, as we are both busy and he works long hours sometimes. But our weekends are great. Now he is in Japan and I see the weekend as an expanse of time to fill. Last evening I took my brother to dinner for a belated birthday celebration. It was very nice, food was excellent and it was fun to talk to him. I have not seen much of him the past months because he goes away every weekend and during the week is busy working and socializing (he is a much more compulsive socializer than I am).
But this morning when Patsy woke me up and I started my routine I realized that I had this whole weekend with no real plans. So I did some work, cleaned, read the paper, and still it is only 10 am. I have an urge to go buy some shoes but I really don't want to spend any money. But I will not obsess; if I feel like it I will buy them anyway. I have not been spending much on things other than necessities anyway: food, bills, the car.
I think I will enjoy this weekend but I had better make plans for next weekend because the charm of it will wear thin. Worst of all is that I can't call Y as he doesn't have a cell phone in Japan. He called from Narita but it was in the middle of the night, and my phone was in a jacket pocket and the jacket was in the front closet so I would not have heard it while immersed in my foggy sleep.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Do you know Patsy Cline's song called "Crazy?" Poor Patsy (my Patsy) is lonely. She misses Tuna. She used to play with him, cuddle with him, and sleep on the bed with him. Now she drives me a little crazy. She wants to play all the time, and the keeps knocking things off of my desk when I am trying to work. I will have to get her a companion kitty soon, but I am holding out as long as possible.
I have been teaching. Yesterday was a whirlwind, my busiest day, and I woke up this morning with a headache.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Well, tomorrow I start teaching, which means that summer is truly over. I am looking forward to teaching, though, which makes me feel better about life in general. Today I had a very good meeting with the director of OEDIPUS and I am now assured that I am on the right track. Getting to midtown to her apartment was a chore. The subways are always so messed up on weekends. I checked out the MTA website in advance to plot an efficient course, but nonetheless the information was not 100% accurate, and I was forced to detour. Finally I ended up in a taxi on the last leg of my journey. Later, in the evening, after I had given Mabel a bath (finally washing away the last traces of her country sojourn) some friends came over and they asked me to play for them. I have hardly practiced all summer, but I played Ravel's "Pavane" and they enjoyed it, although I was annoyed with how out of shape I am.
I have decided to sell my car. As much as I am fond of it, I simply can't afford to keep pumping money into it. If I am going to spend money on it, I might as well spend money on a car that does not give me such headaches. I am not sad at all about this. It is a relief, actually, to have made the decision. I will probably wait a bit to replace the car, but when I do I will be practical and get a Honda or Toyota or Subaru, something that won't cost a fortune to maintain. I am even toying with the idea of buying a new car, but I doubt that I can afford one really.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
But speaking of chest-beating, yesterday I was tempted to pummel myself. It was the annual car inspection, and there were a few things with the car that needed fixing, the headlights being the most urgent. So I took my car in earlier in the week. I figured that the total bill would probably be about $300. But of course it was almost twice that. So I was pissed. Pissed not at the car--these are things that happen--but at the fact that the cost is, for me, so high. At my age most people make so much more money than I do. So my life, in the financial sense, can be difficult. But as I sat in my office yesterday getting prepared to start teaching next week, and then later while I was practicing, I reminded myself that the work I do is so precious to me, that I love it, and that it is worth the tradeoff.
But when I was driving the car to Fairway to buy groceries I found that the turn signals did not work. I was disgusted. I drove back to the mechanic. The guy who had taken care of me came running up. I told him about the problem and then I strode past him into the office and dumped the keys on the counter and said "I don't mind paying over five-hundred bucks to have my car fixed if it WERE ACTUALLY fixed." Actually, it was a lie, because I did mind paying that much. But I was aiming for dramatic effect. They jumped into action, quickly figured out the problem (something with the fuse box), and I felt like a fool.
Friday, September 08, 2006
There has been a lot of talk recently about September 11, 2001, since the five-year anniversary approaches. I am unsettled. I witnessed the events of that day in a very immediate way; my apartment looks out at lower Manhattan; I could see the towers from my bedroom window, and I watched the second plane crash and then, later, the towers fall from my roof, where neighbors had gathered, watching in horror. I will never ever forget what I saw, and I feel a suffocating fear when I think back to that day. To this day, when I hear a plane fly overhead, I cringe. And the thrum of helicopters overhead, which happens much more frequently since that day, brings on panic. I think anyone who was here that day was changed by the experience. It was, and remains, terrifying. People who were not here will never understand. I cannot go to "Ground Zero." I have no desire to see the site. I don't even like to see pictures of the towers. I don't dwell on September 11. But I know that on Monday, if it is a clear day with a brilliant blue sky, I will feel an awful dread and a kind of panic. And it will pass. But I doubt it will ever go away, and I will never be able to stand the sound of helicopters or low-flying jets again.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity. I went to meetings. I yakked, I schmoozed, I organized, I assembled equipment. I ate. I walked Mabel. I took a short nap. I taught a piano student. I saw an super-cool renovated carriage house; it had been gutted and the interior turned into a modernist gem. I bought Benjamin Moore Decorater White paint and painted three walls of my living room. I fell asleep exhausted at midnight.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
It was nice to have things to do, a schedule; it makes me better organized. Long stretches of time don't work well for my productivity.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Yesterday in the late afternoon I drove to Fairway with Y. We had two goals: to walk along the water and look at the light, and to buy food. Obviously we would do the former first. The clouds were rolling in and the sky was dramatic; the intriguing sort of Red Hook decay blends with the self-consciously urbane Fairway shoppers. The store has opened a very nice café where you can buy sandwiches and pastries and coffee and the like and go sit overlooking the harbor.
Walking away from Fairway and down a little narrow passage between two buildings we found this inlet and swimming in it a beautiful swan. Y walked toward him/her (?) to get a good picture but he/she hissed in anger. Swans are quite fierce, and quite amazing to look at.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Nghiem, in a comment on one of my photos, wrote that I looked more content in the country, more serene. He is right. Now I have to figure out how to arrange my life so I can have more of the serenity that being in nature, out of the city, provides.
Friday, September 01, 2006
I'm back in NYC. I woke early yesterday after a night of fitful sleep. I can never sleep the night before I have to travel. I was back here in Brooklyn by 10:30 after an easy drive. Patsy was so happy when I came in. Mabel was tired but excited. I was tired but felt relaxed until I saw the note on my iMac. Y could not get it to work the other night. He didn't tell me while I was away--and for this I can't thank him enough--because he didn't want me to stress out. But the short of it is that I had to erase the hard drive and reinstall everything, system software etc. I lost a lot of financial information and mail, but not too much else. It was not the way I wished to spend my afternoon, but such things happen. I wish I knew what caused it.
I am going to slowly adjust to being back here. Luckily it is a quiet weekend. I wish I were still in the country. It was sad to leave.