Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

side effects

Budeprion SR makes me nauseous and destroys my appetite so that eating become a chore rather than a pleasure. This is unfortunate. I feel somewhat less down, but I can't claim that I am not depressed still. I have to give it time.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I know that many people would be thrilled to have George Clooney and John Malkovich and all the dozens of film-production serfs right outside the door, but I just want them to go away.

Although yesterday was Mabel's birthday, and when I took her out for her midday walk there were paparazzi and celebrity-gawkers festooned all around the walkway and front of my building* and I think Mabel thought everyone was there to see her.

*my building is unusual; to enter one walks through an arched gate with a gas lamp and through a rather nice garden fronted by a low brick wall. There is a columned portico and three sets of doors, french doors flanking a big central one

Monday, September 24, 2007


winter trees
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Chronic depression is a cruel and thoughtless affliction. Let me put it this way: I am a highly educated, articulate, artistic person who has achieved a successful career as a composer. I have never gone for long without a commission of some sort, and have won some of the most prestigious honors in my art. I have a teaching position at one of the finest schools in the country. I love teaching. I am always happy to be engaged with my students and my colleagues. I work with numerous highly intelligent, accomplished people who are lively, passionate about their work, and humanistic in their values. I am blissfully free of dealing with a large part of the world that I find incomprehensible, those armies of high capitalists and all the greed and evil that they inspire. I stay free of the inanities of pop culture. I live in a nice apartment in a beautiful part of one of the world's great cities. I have wonderful pets whom I love more than anything. I have wonderful friends, people I dearly love. I have my family, sort of. I am in excellent shape--I exercise like a fiend-- and good health. I am not wealthy, but I have never cared much at all about money beyond that necessary to fulfill my basic, and relatively simple, needs.

And yet, no matter how often I remind myself of all of these things, I still feel, every single day for the last several months, a choking kind of despair and hopelessness that threatens my existence. Go figure.

But one thing occurs to me, a partial cause. I am in despair about the world. There is so much inhumanity, so much violence, intolerance, cruelty, and suffering, and it is impossible for me to numb myself to it, even if I wanted to. I feel like I myself don't do enough about it. Maybe this will lead me somewhere. I don't know yet.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

so what else is new?

tomorrow's horoscope:
You'll be emotional, original and unique in the way you do things and that will be your saving grace. A look at your lifestyle and a desire to get further ahead can lead to a new beginning. It won't be so daunting once you begin.
I don't know about the new beginning part, but the first sentence is certainly true.

Monday, September 17, 2007

circling back

ceiling at the met museum
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

When I started my blog I thought of it as a way of expressing things that I did not address in my own art. Music, in its abstraction, does not pose concrete, specific issues. It is only metaphor, and exactly what a given piece is a metaphor "of" is utterly subjective. Photography and prose, on the other hand, use language that we share collectively. So I began. But now I feel like I have used up my capacity for this kind of expression, at least for the time being. So I will enter a state of semi-retirement. I will post pictures, perhaps write occasionally, but will no longer make the blog an ongoing, current artifact of my life. My depression has returned, big-time, and I need to focus my energies now on getting through my days and doing the things I need to do to keep composing and playing and teaching. This is not an end, but just a new approach.

But I will keep reading the blogs that I have come to enjoy and I will update here from time to time. I just need a rest. A well-earned rest.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


first snow (2)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

It's cold out. It's all relative, of course. By absolute standards it is not cold at all. But compared to one week ago it feels freezing. I love it. I am no fan of summer's heat and especially the noxious humidity that we for most of last week. So when I walked Mabel this morning I felt my spirits lift a bit. I love autumn, and today is the first day in a long while where the promise of autumnal charms is abundant.

Friday, September 14, 2007

cleaning up

messy bedroom (detail)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I am trying to spend the next few days organizing. I feel like the school year started while I was still napping. How could this be, when I knew it was coming? But somehow my head, despite my best intentions, was not where it might have been. But school has been closed yesterday and today--for Rosh Hashana--and I am using the time to prepare. Many times I have felt overwhelmed by it all and just tried to escape in sleep, but I can't sleep lately so that this is a strategy doomed to fail. I am feeling that maybe I have to go back on my antidepressants. I have come to terms with the fact that the depression is not disappearing; while my head is clearer since I stopped them in June--my memory is better--those benefits are negated by the return of dark thoughts, intractable bad mood, the desire for nothingness. I just don't know what to do, but I have to make a decision soon. I need to function well in the coming weeks, and the way I feel now I think it would take some superhuman effort to make it happen. Wish me luck.

The most important thing, in deciding, is to try to be objective. What do I stand to gain? What will I lose? I will make a list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

in the `hood

orange, brick and rust
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Directly across the street the Coen brothers (of FARGO and more) are making a film. I sit on the stoop of the house weekly as I sit with my car on Wednesday afternoons. This film stars Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Frances McDormand. I don't much care about the first two, but I absolutely love Frances McDormand. She's awesome. Films are shot in Brooklyn Heights frequently, but most of the time I don't much care. But the proximity of this one, and the fact that one of my favorites actresses is going to be here, even has me, usually unimpressed by such things, a little bit thrilled.

Mabel has already charmed the crew that is working there; they will be here for weeks. Perhaps she will charm them so much that I can meet Frances, or better yet, Mabel can meet her. There are few who can resist Mabel's charms...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a few more...

There are a few things that still haunt me, though, from 9-11-01. One: sirens. It seemed that for days there were sirens wailing non-stop, all day and all night. It became a constant background. They went on and on. They sounding like screaming.

And since I was at home when it all happened, not due to teach until later in the day, I decided--after the towers collapsed--to run to the school, to help. I could not call anyone; neither my home phone nor my mobile worked. I saw masses of people, fleeing Manhattan, walking through the streets (when you leave lower Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge you end up in my neighborhood). One man stands out in my memory: South Asian, covered head to toe in ash, he asked me where he was. He had no idea. He thought he was in Bay Ridge.

And there was the smoke and dust. The air was acrid, for weeks it seemed. The wind blew directly from the site of the WTC across the Hudson to Brooklyn Heights. In this neighborhood we were undoubtedly exposed, for days on end, to toxic dust. I remember it coated the buildings, the windows, and the cars parked on the street.

But the oddest thing of all is that as I stood on my roof watching the second plane hit, and then the towers collapse, it all seemed to happen in silence. I have no recollection of any sound.


blue night
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Today it is raining hard off and on. I just got soaked on a short errand, as the skies opened up just as I set out, and in two minutes the hurtling rain, accompanied by crashing thunder, bombarded me. It is a vastly different day than the one six years ago, which was dry and bright and clear, the sky a brilliant blue.

The rain makes this 9-11 feel utterly unlike that tragic day. My memories are incredibly vivid, but the unsettled feeling that stuck with me for a long time has largely lifted. I take in stride the not-infrequent bomb scares, cordoned-off streets, crowds of office workers from some evacuated building. And I actually miss the feeling of unity that was so strong after 9-11-01. NYC has become even more stratified; the greedy people seem even greedier; the creative class has largely been forced out, replaced by Wall-streeters, lawyers, and money people. It is a different city now, but not in the way that it could have been, and not in a way that appeals to me.

I guess the one thing I feel is a certain inevitability that something will happen again, at some point. Living here, one gets used to that.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

tucson clairvoyant


I wonder if the Tucson Clairvoyant could tell me what the coming school year holds. I am excited to start teaching. I love teaching and I am lucky to teach really bright students. And what an assortment! We have quite an eclectic population. Faculty included. The only thing that is not diverse about our community is that there are probably almost no Republicans among us.

My goal is to keep my energy level up by treating myself well. I will exercise with more discipline and stay organized as much as possible. I want to enjoy my work and not let it stress me out. And part of that will come from learning to say no to obligations that might threaten my balance. I have always had some difficulty with this, and tend to take on too much work. I get it done, and I do it well, but I sacrifice my sanity and peace of mind in the process. And one thing that will help is that I am feeling quite confident these days. The nagging insecurities that plagued me most of my life seem to be dissipating. I hope it is not an illusion.

On another topic: last evening I went out to help celebrate the birthday of a younger friend. Originally I was going to co-host a small party for her but plans changed and I went to the East Village to meet for dinner and then after-dinner carousing somewhere. It was awfully humid last night and I felt it acutely. It seemed to sap my strength. After dinner we went to HiFi, a bar on Avenue A. It was nice enough at first, relatively uncrowded. But the jukebox was incredibly loud and with my less-than-perfect hearing (the curse of aging and the life of a musician) as the place got more full with patrons all I could hear was a unnerving roaring in my ears. I could not have a conversation, even with the people sitting directly next to me. I was tired, and this compounded my feeling of being utterly out of place; it did not help that the place was full of NYU students and I was probably one of the oldest in the room. So I did something rather selfish and uncelebratory and I left. I was upset at myself and the situation, but I could not see another way to cope. I should know better next time. My days of hanging out in crowded loud bars until the wee hours are long behind me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Well, this is my last weekend of freedom. I start teaching Monday. Not that I mind. I am looking forward to it. But it will be different. I had a summer largely unscheduled. Now my days will be ordered by external commitments. It's actually better for me this way. So I am enjoying the weekend so far, although I wish it weren't so damned hot out.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Great Idea...

But is it too little too late? Click on the heading.


red octopus
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I have been busy preparing to start teaching. I am enjoying being busy and having specific things to do at specific times. I do best that way. I am getting back into my swimming routine more seriously too because I feel fat. I have not gained weight, and I am not fat, but I just feel fat. Hmmm.

Or maybe I just feel out of shape.

I can't stand the Republicans, which should be no surprise to anyone, but here are a few specifics: John McCain is an ass, and the sound of his voice makes me want to vomit. Listening to his lies is torturous. Guiliani is a fascist nightmare. Remember the Brooklyn Museum incident? And who is this Fred Thompson? What a joke! A TV actor. Yikes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

abandoned park

abandoned park
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Down toward the end of Columbia Heights, as the street starts its steep downward slope, this abandoned park tempts me. There is something enticing about it. Its decrepitude is sinister. I keep imagining that something horrible must have happened there, something so horrible that the gates are chained closed and no one ever even considers breaking in. On the other hand, maybe people break in there all the time; or maybe it is under constant surveillance. It is a local mystery, or at least it is to me. So odd, that in a city starved for public spaces, one so useful should sit in this state unused.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

This is my great-uncle, my grandfather's brother. He was killed when the Nazis invaded Hungary. I do not know the circumstances of his death beyond that. My grandfather was the oldest of eight children, and he and the second sister came to the US before the Nazis began to gain power in Europe. The rest of the siblings were too young to leave their comfortable home in Hungary, and like most of Hungary's Jews they were among the last of Europe's Jewish population to be rounded up and killed by the Nazis.

Of the eight Kessler siblings, only one, Magda, survived the concentration camps. My grandfather was able to bring her over, along with some cousins, after the Allies defeated Hitler. I was named for Hugo, who was the youngest of the eight. My middle name is Hugh. Apparently my grandfather was extremely fond of his brother. He had bright red hair and green eyes. I don't know how old he is in this picture, but he can't be more than sixteen or seventeen. I think he was nineteen when he died.

Isn't it inviting something bad to name a newborn baby after someone who was killed at nineteen? Maybe I am cursed, in which case I am thankful I've made it this long.

Sunday, September 02, 2007



Some things are perfectly simple. And such things are often the ones I find most compelling.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

trick of the eye

trick of the eye

On a wall on Water Street in Dumbo

deep blue

deep blue
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

A beautiful. lazy day.