Originally uploaded by madabandon.
It's hard to feel bad or bitter or sad when you look at this. So this doctor offers up this prescription to any friend or reader who needs cheering up.
Hey, I found out that I worked with a former student of yours. (She doesn't work with me anymore, having moved on.) Tonight I went to a party at her parents' house and met her brother, who is not only a former student of yours, but also will be a fellow teacher come fall. His name is Max, and he said you were one of the reasons he chose to pursue music as a career.It's no surprise, and I have not made such a major effort to remain anonymous on this blog. In fact, by posting my own music, one could say I have made no effort whatsoever. I am curious about this Max. I have taught a lot of Max (plural?)-es over the years, and I can only speculate which Max this might be. One with a sister, which narrows it down somewhat. It is hard for me, today, to think that I might have inspired anyone to do anything but yawn. I feel dull. My deliberate break from composing--from all composing work, no less, including editing, proofreading, etc.--is either indicative that I have crossed a line into a kind of limbo, the inevitable result of years of eroding depression. Or else I am just taking a break. I read a lot into things, and sometimes that is not a good idea.
I am feeling much better. And today I scored some more cool stuff in the continued upgrade of my home. I bought this Chilewich rubber rug for the living room. I know it sounds odd, but here, take a look. Mine is saffron, and feels incredible to walk on. The family loves to lie on it. And I got some excellent large pillows to replace the cushions on my sofa, making it look new again. All for less than $200, thanks to the DWR warehouse outlet sale.
I am resting at home with my family. They cooperate sometimes. Other times Hammy wants to play. His favorite game now is chewing. My arm, that is. His teeth are very sharp. But he chews gently.
I did do some more painting, touching up, and I have to say the results are excellent, even if my sinuses are truly suffering. I miss swimming, but am following my doctor's orders and am avoiding it. I have taken long walks and hauled lots of cans of paint from the hardware store, and I am doing my exercises at home.
I am reading an excellent book, EASTER EVERYWHERE by my former neighbor Darcey Steinke. Fiercely intelligent, she writes with needle-nosed probity about a challenging childhood (and beyond). Many things in her upbringing ring familiar to me. We used to be neighbors here in Brooklyn when we both lived in a run-down building (down the street from my current home) with a benevolently neglectful landlord who favored artistic types. The entire time I lived there he barely raised the rent on my spacious one-bedroom apartment. It had a huge kitchen where I would spend most of my time (when not practicing). Tuna, my beloved Tuna, would sit on the table and keep me company. Or else he'd sit in the living room window and passersby would speak to him in admiration of his substantial bulk and handsome visage.
Then she divorced and moved to another part of Brooklyn, but I ran into her in the Whitney a few years back and we chatted for a bit. She has also written several novels: SUICIDE BLONDE, her first (and something of a literary sensation) and JESUS SAVES. Religion is big in her work; her father was a Lutheran pastor during the tumultuous 1970s. I'm glad to read this book by another true artist who is addressing something substantial in her work. I wonder what she thinks about the current "gilded age" mentality that is pervading Brooklyn these days.
I went to the doctor last evening. He gave me drugs and told me that I must rest for the rest of the week, which means no painting, no swimming, and lots of sleeping. I am glad he told me that, because otherwise I would feel too slothful to rest so completely, and thus I would perpetuate this awful congestion and cough. So that is my plan. Today I will sleep. I will wake up from time to time, maybe practice a bit, walk Mabel of course, but mostly I will be like Patsy and Hammy here, crashed out on the bed.
I took this picture in PA the weekend before last. I was at a small farm buying vegetables and blueberries, and their flower gardens were so beautiful.
Today, despite the fact that my cold has morphed into a sinus infection of unprecedented ferocity, I persisted in my home improvements and painted the bedroom ceiling. Painting a ceiling is not easy. I did a pretty fine job, although I do have to touch up a few spots. All that is left now is the living room ceiling--a large expanse, but far fewer complicated obstacles than in the bedroom--and the bedroom walls, if I dare.
It is important for me to be productive, I have realized. If I am not composing, I'd better be doing something around the house. I am not lazy, that's for sure. I wish that I were lazy. I could relax more.
Well, I am chained to my apartment by a nasty summer cold. It hit me out of the blue yesterday, driven no doubt by my own enthusiasm for my apartment-painting project. So now I sit in a sudafed-induced haze. I have barely ventured out in twenty-four hours, but I will have to go out and get some supplies soon. The worst part is the cough. I have this ripping cough that sears my chest. Oh, and my ear infection is back. What a mess.
This lady was missing last night for three hours. A friend came by and we were going out to have coffee when he asked where Patsy was. "Oh, she's hiding," I cavalierly told him. An hour later, when we came back, I noticed that Patsy was nowhere to be found and that Hammy was looking for her and seemed a little agitated. I looked in all her hiding spots. Then, growing more alarmed, I thought that maybe she had scurried out at some point in the early evening, when there was much coming-and-going with Mabel, guests, etc. I put up signs in the building and began a heart-thudding search, setting up cans of cat food and putting up signs alerting my neighbors. I called Y who came over to help look. My friend K continued to scour the apartment, and a helpful cat-owning neighbor came to help. Finally I heard a triumphant shout. K had found her. She was in a drawer in my dresser, my sock drawer no less! How on earth had she gotten in there? That is what I have to figure out. Anyway, I was exhausted when I finally fell asleep last night. She is lovely and a little mysterious, my Patsy. I wonder what she was thinking while she was lying among my socks, listening to us all looking for her, calling her name over and over again.
It was odd, because I couldn't imagine that she had run out. She has never shown the slightest inclination to do so. Maybe she didn't like the newly painted bathroom and was registering her protest.
My laziness plan for summer extends only to composing. I am not really capable of being fully lazy and doing nothing, and so I find myself with a newly-painted bathroom. Yesterday I spackled and repaired the plaster, not expertly, but reasonably well. Today, after sanding and breathing in plaster dust, I painted it Benjamin Moore SuperWhite eggshell finish. It looks good. I have to touch up the corners with a brush since I used a roller for most of it. But it definitely makes the room, which is the original 1920 bathroom, brighter and fresher.
I am feeling a little guilty and very sluggish this morning. I didn't swim as I had planned to, opting instead to go back to sleep. I did not get up until almost nine, which is the equivalent of a non-sleep-challenged person sleeping until three pm. The weekend was tiring. Saturday I drove to PA to see my cousin and bring my aunt to Manhattan. She is attending a convention and staying at the Hilton in midtown. It was a driving day. Once in PA my cousin piled us into her hulking SUV to show us some sights, including the house she is buying and also her horses, both of whom are beautiful (but this pony, in the picture, lives in Hudson and is not my cousin's horse). My aunt has an adorable puppy, a Shetland Sheepdog. I wanted to steal him.
Driving back I had to go to the Hilton, and I must say that driving in Manhattan, particularly in the theater district (one of my absolute least-favorite parts of the city) was enough to quickly give me a nervous breakdown. I did survive though, and I have almost never been so happy to get back to boring old Brooklyn Heights.
Today I ran into a student. I was wearing my bandanna and birkenstocks etc. and I was told that I looked like a neo-hippy. I thought about this a lot. I am a little too young to have been a real hippy, so I guess neo-hippy is about as good as I can get. Minus the long hair, of course. I had it for years, but it doesn't fit with me anymore.
Well, Hammy is getting quite big. He is gangly and adorable, but this picture shows just how tiny he was just a few weeks ago.
I have booked my hotel for Montréal. I will go in a month for four days. It is one of my absolute favorite cities, and I never tire of visiting. Mabel will come too, since Montréal is quite civilized and dogs are welcome all over. I will drive, since flying is such a nightmare these days and I try to avoid it whenever possible. It has been awhile since I have been away--staying in a hotel, dining out etc--and I am looking forward to it. Y has never been there before.
These days I am mostly practicing piano. After reading Charles Rosen's book I am trying to keep in mind his ideas about the physical aspects of playing. Physical working-out is something I do with real concentration. The fact that I have gone swimming at the crack of dawn the past few days attests to this. So if I view practicing as the slow mastery of a physical, athletic task, I accomplish a lot. And the "musical" part, that is easy.
Since I am allowing myself time this summer to contemplate my composing life freely without the obligations that normally prevent my kind of free-associative ramblings and counter-productive (negative?) excursions, I have spent a lot of time thinking about being a composer, about what--if any--relevance there is in doing this kind of work, and about "career issues" (which in my more cynical moments could be subtitled "fame or the lack thereof").
I was just reading the blog of a young twenty-something composer who is all the rage (such as the rage is) these days. Nico Muhly writes charming music, and by all accounts is a highly intelligent, charming, funny guy. I have now heard several of his pieces and heard interviews with him also. He has been endorsed by some big names, worked for Phillip Glass, and has seemed to have had a good career thus far. Funny that this morning I read his post on a composer of my vintage, Michael Torke. Much of what I write of Muhly could have been written about Torke twenty years ago. And where is Michael Torke now? Firmly established as a post-minimalist, getting commissions no doubt, and being attended to by no one I know.
So fame, interviews, articles, etc., can be wildly exciting when you are a composer in your twenties and it seems that people really do care about what you are doing and the world is PAYING ATTENTION! But then, as the years move along, suddenly you might find yourself thinking back nostalgically to those days of heady thoughts and wondering why it seems that no one cares anymore. But no one really did. It's just that it all seems new and glamorous, and seeing your name in the TIMES and getting interviewed for NPR is magical.
I myself was never a "sensation" that these two individuals are/were. But I had my success and got some acclaim in august circles. My reserved personality and lack of hustling skills prevented me from running with the little fame I did enjoy. And I did not move in the proper circles early enough, having not gone to Juilliard or Yale, the two schools that seem to spawn sensations more reliably than any others. Had I known more early on I might have made my choices with fame in mind, but I was blissfully naive.
Nico Muhly will write his charming music, he will get older; hopefully his music will continue to charm, but in the meantime attention, such as it is, will refocus itself on some other young thing, and he will hope that he has some nice teaching gig to pay the bills and put food in his mouth. Some young composers whom he is excited by now will hang it up, get married, have kids, quit music altogether.
Do I sound cynical? Of course. But I am not bitter. And remember that cynicism is the child of idealism, and my idealism runs too strong for me to possibly outrun it.
Hammy, who is slightly cross-eyed, really hit it big for this photo. Stunning, no?
Yesterday the Boredoms, an avant-garde Japanese band of long-standing, gave a performance in Fulton Ferry Park along with 77 drummers. It was quite an event, sort of like a massive hipster street party, and I had a great time. Afterward a bunch of us climbed to the roof of a friend's building on Jay Street in Dumbo and hung out. The streets were teeming with people, there was nary a Range Rover in sight, and it felt, at least for an evening, like the New York I love.
This morning I went to look at a few coops in Ft. Greene that sounded attractive, mostly because one, a "loft-like studio," came with a private outdoor space. But what a joke. The "outdoor space" was a narrow sliver that one could hardly stand sideways in; there was not even a door leading from the apartment to it, but the broker cheerfully told me that the building had already granted permission to have a door cut through the wall. Wow! I wish brokers would just be honest and not mislead people. I would never have hauled my ass over there at 10 on a sweltering Sunday morning for that. But I should know better. At least every apartment I see makes me realize, more and more, how great my own place is.
I have vowed to take a complete hiatus from "work" for the rest of the month. I have a compulsion to work, and even though I have lived my entire life on an academic calendar (summers off) I have always been busy composing and reading, studying; the summer "off" was never a vacation but rather time to pursue various achievements. So this summer I have no plan other than to relax and to contemplate things, especially my composing work, and figure out where I am going, what my intentions are for my creative work. I am in a crisis, in a way, but it is too complex to begin to dissect it now. I will just exist in a kind of convalescent mode, and not take anything too seriously.
While walking Mabel yesterday, the streets were getting crowded with people arriving to watch the fireworks at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. A woman approached me, smiling. "Excuse me," she said in a charming French accent. "What is the race of your dog?" I did not blink, and replied "Pomeranian."
Sleepy, that's how I feel. I had to wake up early to let the plumber in. I got back yesterday. It was difficult to tear myself away from the country, and the only saving grace is that the city is fairly empty due to the holiday. The natives have left, for the most part. Last night Y and I went to the east village to eat ramen at Setagaya, which has the best, based on the fact that I was perhaps the only non-Japanese person eating there.