Find the archive of past entries at archive.htm. Today's entry is at daily.htm.
|Sunday September 30, 2001 Road trip|
Snapshots of a trip to the north: driving past Manhattan on the New Jersey turnpike and wondering where the Trade Center towers once stood. My eye kept looking for them, not like Rabi's, but rather as someone who hadn't known their location and kept waiting for them to reveal themselves. They didn't, of course, and we kept moving.
A corporate building with Daewoo's symbol and name outside it, just outside NYC--this is included for my mother.
The wedding in New Haven was held in Eli Whitney's original mill--yes, the Eli Whitney who invented the cotton gin, just like your social studies teacher told you. What they didn't tell you was that he filled the largest order for muskets in the history of our country. He invented a lot of machines to help him, and did the machine with the aid of water power. Nifty guy.
Driving back from New Haven to Philadelphia, we got stuck in really bad traffic. We drove through Coop City (or whatever it's called) in NYC. I looked out my window and thought I'd moved into a bad science fiction film--the hulking apartment buildings against a bloody sunset made me really uncomfortable. I know people for whom they say "home" and all the good things that go along with it, but I felt crushed under their weight, oppressed though I sat safely in a car miles away from them. I missed green, open spaces, with wind that breathes life rather than death.
On the way to our wedding gig on Saturday, Susie and I stopped off in Stony Creek, CT--one of her hometowns. We walked along the waterfront and looked at the sea. Things are pretty well closed down there, at this point. The tourists have mostly gone home and left the locals to their town. Susie showed me what used to be her house, the building where the local fife and drum corps practices, and the harbor where she swam.
I sat on steps carved out of the rock and looked out across the sea. Somehow, it seems like the sea has gotten itself into my blood. I've always been a water person--Aquarian that I am--but I didn't expect the ocean to do it for me. I just felt... home, somehow. I watched a very fat and very ornery seagull, who probably felt just the same about me. We saw fiddler crabs and watched them scuttling here and there, and I was reminded of Pau Amma from the Just So Stories. The sea was moderately calm, and beautiful--I wished I'd had a sailboat. There was enough wind to make sailing fun and worth the effort, but not so much as to make it a great deal of work.
And all those sea ballads kept running through my head. I don't know. I think I made a mental resolution to live near the sea at some point in my life.
Tonight I had guests, and they drank tea with me, and snuggled up in my blanket, while I ate dinner (I got back too late to get in to Sharples). We talked. We goofed around. We were friends. It was a good, good thing.
Did any of you go looking for chipmunks this weekend? We saw a hedgehog sitting by the side of the road in CT. It sort of looked at all of us whizzing by, and I think it lumbered off to the side of the road. Goodbye, hedgehog!
|Friday September 28, 2001 Uechi Ryu and new friends|
Today had lots of Uechi Ryu in it. Practice was good, even though I got a small cut on my hand from my instructor's wedding ring. It was a lot of fun.
And afterwards, they asked me to be club treasurer and help get the funding for the club off the ground. I said yes--it's something I know how to do, and I'm glad to help out. So I'm now (or will be shortly) treasurer of the Swarthmore Uechi Association.
And I made new friends: Elizabeth and Ami. They complimented my room setup, and we talked, and I fed them dried cherries, and it was all good.
Tomorrow will be a day off for the DS. I'm going to Connecticut with Susie to play with Norb Spencer for a wedding tomorrow, then for a music workshop and Scottish ball on Sunday. More traveling and work than I'd like to do, but at least it pays better than staying in Swarthmore.
So I will leave you to yourselves for a day. Take care, friends. In lieu of reading my entry for tomorrow night, I'd like you to do this:
Go outside, and notice what it feels like to be there. Is there a bite in the air yet? I saw a chipmunk this afternoon, while I was giving a piggy-back ride. Is there a chipmunk for you? While you're outside, find the most boring thing in your field of vision--maybe it's a piece of sidewalk, or a seemingly nondescript tree. Just go look at it for a while. Don't judge it--just observe.
When you come back inside, think about how you feel.
|Thursday September 27, 2001 Fahrenheit 451|
Occasionally things just fit. Alana's shoes were like that as I walked up from Sharples this afternoon--bright, bottomless red, in just the right shade. Holly berries against the lawn where she was studying. They were just the right shoes for sitting in that place.
I read a book today. For fun. I sat down and reread Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in Birdwainer. It was time to take some time for myself again, so I did. Good book, really. Various good quotes that I didn't have time to write down, and one classic that's still good--Revelations 22:1-2. "Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
And, in the end, my recital will happen. It's confirmed: 27 October 2001, 2:00 pm, Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College. Yay!
|Wednesday September 26, 2001 Looking at things|
I cleaned my room today, and got it closer to what I want it to be. I now have room to practice kata and jubi undo for uechi ryu.
I worked out in my room for an hour tonight--it was great. I did karate, I lifted weights, I did pushups. So nice to have space that's my own, and a little bit more organized and useful. Yay for caring about things.
My recital is going to happen, and I only need one more note before I'll know exactly when it is. In all likelihood, it will be on Saturday, 27 October, at 2 pm, in Lang Concert Hall at Swarthmore. More when it comes, but I'm pleased that I will (perhaps) not have to deal with much more scheduling crap.
I have a red candle now. I will burn it later tonight. I love my candles--they're good at helping me modulate my energy. It's all about staying sane, I guess. That, and remembering to love things.
Swarthmore's so good at burning people out--I already feel the now-familiar vague discontent that seems to come after spending a certain amount of time here. I keep trying to find ways to pull myself out of it, and it becomes apparent that the only useful ones are internal. So I go on lighting candles for the world, and singing softly, and playing my instruments. I try to arrange my room according to feng shui. I try to notice the trees, and the buildings, and the squirrels (I saw a chipmunk the other day!) and the other people.
When I was taking art classes, I found myself actually looking at things more often than I normally had a chance, and had the oft-cited reaction of finding them all incredibly beautiful. A strand of her red hair blows across the face of a classmate, the way soccer players walk differently from rugby players and non-athletes... It's all good. I just like to look at it all, sometimes.
|Tuesday September 25, 2001 What is a good death, anyway?|
I stayed after Uechi Ryu class a week or so ago, practicing and talking with the instructors, as has become my custom. I had a conversation with Peter about the purpose of martial arts.
He said that, in truth, one of the things martial arts train you for is not so much how to live as how to die. How to die with honor and grace, not going early but not clawing to hold on too long.
David J and I discussed this on the way back to ML this evening, after my Tuesday (sixteen hours of nonstop classes, meetings, homework, or rehearsal). The idea of dying with honor is an important one to me--we talked rather more about the concept of a "good" death, though.
So what's in a good death? Is it having made a difference before you die? Is it being on an airplane, and choosing to die of stabbing wounds rather than through a massive explosion? Is it taking a moment, as life leaves, to put your thoughts in order and say goodbye?
I don't know. But I keep wrestling with something, and I don't remember if I've written about it before, and I suppose it doesn't really matter either way. I think the hardest thing for me to take about the tragedy of 11 September is not that so many people died, but that so many people were denied the chance for a good death. No chance to say goodbye, no chance to fight back, no chance to calmly release your spirit. Just... gone.
It's not fair, dammit.
|Monday September 24, 2001 Bad CS homework!|
Today was going to be a good entry. My mother won another award for being an awesome person. I did really well in karate class, and my ukemi was comfortable and on-target. Sally Dee finished my kilt, and I sent her money for it.
However, my pants are still missing, and more importantly, I'm a fucking moron.
I didn't get any work at all done on algorithms tonight, because my CS22 homework, rather than taking an hour or so, like normal, took four and a half, and I'm not done yet. I can't finish it. I don't understand it. It makes my head hurt--there's this one fucking problem that I just can't do.
Every other problem on there was reasonable. But this one just doesn't go. For one thing, I hate it when professors assign problems that build on work from other problems they haven't assigned.
But, really, in the big scheme of things, I don't like the Scheme programming language, I don't like this class, and I don't like the fact that the entirety of my future in computer science is dependent on the single fucking grade I get from this course.
And to the people who seem to not take the hint that the reason why I'm ignoring you when you came to my door even when my pin was in "Busy" is that I'm actually busy and trying to do work: Way to go, dumbasses. I may be a moron, but at least I can read.
Happy entry. Really.
|Sunday September 23, 2001 Ramblewood|
Ramblewood was cool, marred only by the people who stole my handmade red pants and did not return them.
Good: Hudson Riverdance skit, playing with Susie, playing with Steve Hickman and David Knight, meeting Steve, Ralph Gordon, and so many other nifty people, dancing with Jana Blue and Marianne Percival and a bunch of other friends. Doing three hours of Uechi Ryu with Justin Giacoletti.
Bad: Pants stolen. Losing keys for a while. Feet hurting and getting pre-blisters. Being tired. Not getting much reading done.
|Thursday September 20, 2001 No recital?|
The music department told me today that I can't have my recital.
More details will eventually be forthcoming. For now, suffice it to say that I'm not going to let them cancel my recital because of a stupid scheduling problem. In the meantime, we'll keep practicing, and working to have things ready.
Tomorrow, I'm going to Ramblewood for the weekend. Scottish dancing should help with life; at least, I hope it will. It will be nice to see some friends.
Be well, people.
|Wednesday September 19, 2001 On the eve of war?|
Apparently, we're now going to war. The news networks are changing their slogans from "American Under Attack" to "A Nation Challenged". Please, let this not be jihad. And if it be jihad, let us find the way to do our best.
Swat's Daily Gazette included this item today: "Swarthmore has a new escort service, replacing the safe walk program that was in place last year. The College put the escort service in place in the hopes that the new service will be more reliable and convenient for students. While the safe walk program relied on the sometime fickle schedules of student volunteers, the escort service will enlist the services of Faulke Associates, a private contractor who also operates the College shuttles." I must confess that my eyebrows went up at first, when I read "escort service" and "will be more reliable and convenient for students." Perhaps the college has finally found the answer to the problem of how to deal with hundreds of Swatties whining about their complete lack of love lives.
I hope the world doesn't blow up tomorrow.
|Tuesday September 18, 2001 Un feu petit|
As usual, I go on lighting candles for the world.
|Monday September 17, 2001 Issues with Werther|
I didn't like Werther. I spent a long time talking about how he's irritatingly long-winded, how his sentences sometimes span 17 lines, how he doesn't ever do anything with his life.
I debated a similar issue with Emily, wherein I espoused the idea that a lot of the debate among academics is really pointless, because fundamentally you're trying to formulate rational excuses for your irrational emotions. Very few people change their opinions of a work based on reading formal analyses of its technical constructions. And so, we are set in our emotional states, and forever trying to convince people, others or ourselves, that ours is somehow the right position.
However, I'm also doing philosophy, and thus am even more attuned than usual to the issue of consistency. Do these things represent an inconsistent set of beliefs? I sat in my room with a lit candle and nothing else this evening, and thought about things for a moment. I think they are inconsistent.
Jung would probably have a field day with me. I disliked Werther because he never did much with himself save pining for the wrong woman. He knew his love for Charlotte was doomed to dissatisfaction; as Julia Ormond says in First Knight, "I'm not to be had for the wanting, sir." She's betrothed to someone else when Werther meets her, and remains betrothed or married for the rest of the book.
And so I wrote Werther off, criticizing his choice of someone unattainable for his love or lust or whatnot. He knew the price, he paid, it wasn't good enough for him. Not much new there--a miracle simply didn't occur in this case.
So, is Werther my Shadow? Does he bother me so much because, deep down where we're all shallow, I know that many of the things I want are never to be had? I hope not. It would be poetic, certainly, to damn him for my own faults. At any rate, I am forced to reconsider my position on Werther and his letters.
This disturbs me greatly, because in rejecting one belief, I am obliged to reject some others. And so it goes.
|Sunday September 16, 2001 Quilt and concerts|
For the record, Alan Chmurny was convicted of assault, not murder. The record has been changed to reflect this.
I got a backrub tonight. It was good. :dance:
Went to the Brahms concert tonight, the first of four. I had to move to a different seat because people were annoying me too much.
Honestly, our concert etiquette in this country is offensive. I understand people not knowing about the "don't clap between movements" rule--it's not intuitive, and is a relatively minor transgression. But it seems to me that anyone with a modicum of sense should know that it's bad form to arrive 15 minutes late for a concert, walk in while the performers are playing, continue your conversation with someone while you're in the concert hall, and let the door slam behind you. Someone did that tonight. So I left during intermission and went to sit in another part of the hall with some friends. There were no slamming doors in that part of the hall.
I've now finished The Sorrows of Young Werther. I'm debating how I feel about it.
I put my quilt out last night! I love my quilt! It's so incredibly awesome. My quilt, for those who don't know it, is a Lone Star quilt made of fabric my mother dyed by hand. She sewed and quilted it. It's brightly colored but not offensive, and it looks really good in my room. Thanks again, mom! The addition of the table lamp to my room does a lot to make it look more happy.
|Saturday September 15, 2001 Italian stone soup|
It's really late again.
Randomly, we made Italian dinner tonight. Linguine with roasted peppers, Portuguese vegetable soup, pizza with various things, garlic bread, my homemade chocolate sauce... It was a stone soup evening, and beauty ensued.
I have a lamp for my bedside table, and I have good friends.
|Friday September 14, 2001 Vigil|
I am so tired of people dying. Tonight marks the third independent incident where someone dies and gets memorialized in the DS.
This time it's Alan Chmurny, brother-in-law of my aunt, who committed suicide yesterday after being convicted of assault. You can read more about it here. I didn't know him. And yet.
I'm sick of it all.
Tonight we held a campus-wide candlelight vigil. Reportedly the same thing happened at college campuses across the nation. It was helpful.
I wrote a SWAPA zine. I played Wink for four hours. I gave massages. I'm tired now, and it's after 4 a.m.
|Thursday September 13, 2001 Phaedo|
"It is natural, Crito, for them to do so, said Socrates, for they think they derive some benefit from doing this, but it is not fitting for me. I do not expect any benefit from drinking the poison a little later, except to become ridiculous in my own eyes for clinging to life, and be sparing of it when there is none left. So do as I ask and do not refuse me."
"... Such was the end of our comrade, Echecrates, a man who, we would say, was of all those we have known the best, and also the wisest and the most upright." Plato, "Phaedo"
For some reason, that wanted to go in the journal tonight. No idea why, other than that I was reading it for philosophy class.
I came up with new sorting algorithms today. It was good. Friends worry about being too traumatized by the events of the 11th; other friends worry about not caring enough. We all deal with life differently.
I'm listen to Mahler IV, and it helps, as usual. Incredibly beautiful music, full of life.
|Wednesday September 12, 2001 The God of small things|
Last week, Tony Barone, my piano and 19th century music professor, told us that he has a student who plays piano to keep the monsters away. Tony said he thought that was at least a part of why we all play--it helps us deal with life.
So, in the last couple of days, I've been playing a lot. The tunes I've played the most were The Death of My Friend, from the Simon Fraser Collection, and Going Home, an old hymn. I think I may arrange it for Mixed Company--such a beautiful tune. Dvorak was right to include it in his symphony.
Psych Services may not want my help, but I think I contributed to the world today--I started another game of red light/green light in ML. People played for three hours. They were happy. Some people had lost family in New York, and they played too. There was something else to occupy their minds, and it was my doing.
It's a small thing, but I'll content myself with thinking that I haven't sat by and done nothing. I guess I hope that trying is what really matters.
The world seems to be figuring itself out. I hope it will succeed. And please, not too many more black marks on the lists of people I know.
|Tuesday September 11, 2001 World Trade Centers|
Years from now, my kids will probably ask me where I was when the twin towers went down. I asked my parents where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, and they both knew. Do you get to know, in the middle of an event, that it's one of those that will burn itself into your mind for the rest of time? I wonder about this.
Where was I when I first heard about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center? In CS 22, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, with Charles Kelemen, in Sproul Observatory, at Swarthmore College. I sat at the Sun Ultra 10 in the back of the room, on the left. Terminal next to me was vacant; next over was a girl I didn't know, and beyond her, Julie Corder. Someone--Rebecca Paul, I think--sent a note to the chat list saying that a plane had hit the WTC. I didn't believe it; chat is often a silly list, and who would hit the Towers with an airplane? I put it out of my mind, I think.
I spent the morning in Cornell Science Library doing homework for my algorithms seminar, which was to have taken place this evening. I checked my email when I finished the problem set, and the volume of email from friends checking in and saying "I'm okay--are you?" got my attention.
So, I was at Swarthmore, in the middle of class and then work for another class.
I remember saying to Abby, a friend from NYC, "I hate the world." I thought about that for a while. My not-too-profound question is this: if I hate the world, how much more must these people hate it to destroy so many beautiful, perfect things?
In my cynical Democratic fashion, two of the first questions to go through my head when I found out were: (1) will the prospect of disaster and war cement Bush in the presidency, as it has so many others? (2) how long will it take someone to raise the specter of the missile shield as a possible defense against this sort of attack?
Swarthmore shut down at noon, formally. My two afternoon classes went on as scheduled, but my seminar was cancelled. I was late to 19th century music because I was trying to eat lunch. I was late to ballet because I'd gone to try helping.
I'm a crisis counselor. I'm trained in Critical Incident Stress Management. This sort of situation is what I do. So I wanted to help. I went to Psychological Services to offer my help to them--see if there were anything I could do to ease things, maybe just to run support in their lounge and talk to people until they got appointments.
They made me wait a while, and then the director came to see me. He thanked me for trying to help, said they couldn't use me, but that he would keep my name in case someone asked for a student with whom to talk.
I was disappointed, not so much because of being asked not to help, but more because of what I saw while waiting. A fair number of people showed up at Psych Services while I was waiting, and counselors saw each of them fairly quickly. Equally quickly, however, the counselors would leave the room, go into the office, get something, and return. The door would close and the room's inhabitants would stay in their, quiet.
It took one of them talking to the office secretary for me to recognize the pieces of paper I'd seen the counselors carrying back into their rooms: insurance forms. They wanted to make sure that the students could pay.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope I saw incorrectly, that I'm overgeneralizing, that I've somehow drawn the wrong conclusion. When there's a disaster, you don't worry about the money. You do what needs to be done, and you worry about the cost of it later. That's part of being a real person. Honestly, what sort of counselor could stand to worry about insurance forms when people's lives have been ripped up like this? It makes me sicker the longer I think about it. Please, let me have been wrong.
Watching TV in the Career Resource Center in Parrish (it was quiet and deserted, and we could change the channels) I had a weird experience. I bent over, and my sinuses released. Fine; I went to the bathroom to find a tissue and blow my nose. And while I was in there, every few minutes, my nose would release a steady stream of yellowish liquid. Not mucus, not blood, not... I don't know what the hell. It was just another side of the "world not making sense" thing.
Rabi talks about missing the skyline. I talked about this a lot with David today, and I think we've been poisoned by the video-game culture; real life comes with no convenient reset button. I keep expecting the tragedy to go away, for life to overcome it and for it not to have happened.
I love fantasy novels and stories. Generally, the hero and the important characters die for a reason in these stories. There is time to say goodbyes, or there is a wave over the shoulder before mortal combat, or something. There is a degree of foreknowledge. You get to say a few goodbyes before you go, and you die for a Reason and a Purpose.
And then there's the real world, where tens of thousands of random people didn't choose to die, didn't choose to fight the black knight or the fluffy bunny, and didn't have any notion of what was about to happen. There are no goodbyes, none of that clean ending stuff.
I guess I can't understand what it's like for people to be gone. Missing, certainly. Misplaced? Sure. But gone? Not. What's it like to know that you'll never see your husband again, or your daughter or friend or boss or teacher or whatever? How many lives are touched by one person's death?
I guess it seems grossly unfair that people should have to do for no purpose. I hated dissections in biology because there was no point and it seemed unnecessarily cruel to me--this is so much worse.
A girl from downstairs has it much worse than I do--there are no black marks on my list of people. There may not be on hers, but it seems doubtful. Her brother-in-law was one of the first firefighters to go into the towers in NY. There has been no word.
And that is, perhaps, the worst thing of all. How many people will never get to know that these people were killed, plucked, harvested, destroyed? How many will simply think it was a friendship that trailed off, a contact that got lost, a phone call that someone chose to ignore? How many little deaths will your memories suffer at the hands of the people who were never told you'd died? I can't explain this well, of course; there are simply not words to cover it.
How do the rest of us deal with the not knowing? A lot of people take refuge in brave or congratulatory talk--Bush talks of hunting down and punishing the people who did this, while Swarthmore's Daily Gazette says "As talk of war starts to penetrate national news coverage, there is the feeling that before long, Swarthmore will return to being Swarthmore, and do its part to make everything right again."
I feel revulsion in my throat when I read that. It may be a good statement, but it's too cocksure, too proud, and too undamaged to work for me right now.
It seems strange to eulogize people two nights in a row, but that seems to be the trend. And so, for those brave rescue workers and other people who died in the line of duty: I probably didn't know you. But you died doing good things, and I'm still never going to get to hear about it. I hope the universe will make it up to us. And for the people who died without the chance to be courageous or peaceful or ready, God dammit. People have gods because they want help answering questions like this. Why does this happen?
I went outside and stared at the stars. They were faint, but there. No passing aircraft obscured the view, and I just looked for a while. Do so many of us believe in a heaven lodged in the stars because having one makes it easier to deal with losing people? If your arm were big enough, your antenna long enough and with high enough gain, maybe you could touch them?
Last night I lit a single candle, for memory. Tonight I will light several.
|Monday September 10, 2001 Uechi Ryu and Dave Cubley|
Today, I didn't get anywhere near enough done. I made money working my library shift, and all that, but insufficient work.
But Uechi Ryu, my god. We learned to do the flippy thing from the Matrix, where you scissor your legs around and go from lying on your back to being in fighting stance in about a second. It's so cool. We also did punching drills, some basic procedural things, and a lot of falling--both forward and backward. I need work on both--I've got mental blocks here.
Which means, appropriately, that I'm actually more likely to hurt myself until I get over them, as I'm doing the techniques incorrectly and holding myself back. It will go.
Dave Cubley died recently, I learned tonight. I can't really say too much on that one; he was a good man who loved his family very much, was always kind to me, and whom I didn't know very well. He fought with cancer long enough to see his son graduate from high school. My mother tells me that, during the past year, he went to every event his kids participated in at school, and that he always talked about them rather than about being sick. He wore a baseball cap to cover the spot where proud, flowing locks had been. And so it goes.
So, Dave, this one's for you. I'm sorry we never got to talk again, and I hope that wherever you are, you're in less pain. We're thinking of you down here.
|Sunday September 9, 2001 Welcoming Joy|
Mixed Company was pleased to accept Joy Mills '05 this year, for alto. We wanted a few other people as well; it didn't turn out that we could have them. Joy will be a great addition to our group--she was our first choice anyway, and seems very excited.
A few quotations from random places:
"I soon realized that poets do not compose their poems with knowledge, but by some inborn talent and by inspiration, like seers and prophets who also say so many fine things without any understanding of what they say." -- Plato, "Apology"
"A good algorithm is like a sharp knife--it does exactly what it is supposed to do with a minimum amount of applied effort. Using the wrong algorithm to solve a problem is like trying to cut a steak with a screwdriver: you may eventually get a digestible result, but you will expend considerably more effort than necessary, and the result is unlikely to be aesthetically pleasing." -- Thomas Cormen, Introduction to Algorithms
"You may have heard of MIT--it's actually a pretty good technical school." -- Charles Kelemen, CS 22
"The nice thing about computers is they're not going to explode if you do the wrong thing." -- Charles Kelemen, CS 22
And that's enough of that. Today I cared for my flutes. I took them apart, cleaned them, oiled them (carefully protecting their pads against the oil), cleaned the pads, greased the corks, and have let them dry. They are all happy.
Today I also got a bunch of boxes out of my room, which was good. I've got some floor space again.
I met a nifty frosh named Megan, who plays Celtic music on hammered dulcimer. She lives across the hall from where Allen McBride lived our freshman year--Allen's a junior who also plays hammered dulcimer. I often think Myrt Westphal has far too much fun with housing assignments, and I love it.
Did lots of dishes, cleaning, and assorted other things. Did some work. Discovered that I am stupid when it comes to math. Oh well--better luck tomorrow :)
|Saturday September 8, 2001 Playing with the big kids|
fairly frequently about having the opportunity to "play with the big kids."
Ochestra 2001, Swarthmore's resident professional group, often allows the better
student musicians to sit in and play, and she's often invited. So she sits on
stage with some of the nation's best musicians and plays great music, and
it's all good.
Well, Nori, I know how you feel. Admittedly, I do it in a different way, but I know it. Tonight, I played with my big kids again. Bob Pasquarello on piano and Susie Petrov on accordion, and me on flute and whistles and, get this, vocal percussion. I don't think the contra dance world has ever had vocal percussion before, but people seemed to like it.
There are differences, of course--I prefer the smaller ensembles like tonight, when the three of you can get inside each other and make music--but the idea is the same: sometimes you get invited to play with the People Who Have Names, and it's an amazing feeling. It's a wonderful gift--these people improve your playing just by playing near you.
The contra dance was wonderful. I played bagpipes in the bell tower for a little while in hopes of drumming up a few impulse buyers, and though I don't know whether it worked, it was fun. When it's driven by pipe drones, the decay time in the bell tower is several seconds--quite amazing. It's a beautiful space in which to play.
The dancing portion of my evening flew by, with a few of my favorite contra dances from Scott's repertoire. We've got some really nice frosh. And then it was break, and it was my turn to play. I hope I never lose the feeling of joy that comes of making music together, particularly for people who care to listen. We played lots of music that'll be on the Delaware Ball program, including the polka set I put together and a jig set that's mine.
And, for a while, I was the band, or part of it. A year and a half ago, Bob Pasquarello was someone famous whom I'd never met, and Susie Petrov a goddess whom mere mortals might hope to hear someday, if they were lucky.
And now, I know some things about Bob and his son, his wife Kathy, and various others. My stuff lived at Susie's house over the summer; we meet weekly to play music, do yoga, solve the world's problems, or do whatever else happens to come up. They're great people, and they're normal, except for being brilliant in this one area.
My brain goes on to wonder--will it come to pass that there's a young Hollis out there who thinks with awe about the Hollis Easter he hasn't yet gotten to meet? Is there a way to find him and make friends?
I suppose that I'm a performer in a lot of aspects of my life. The prospect of standing in front of a group of people and talking to them doesn't faze me. I've been performing music or theatre for so long that it feels like home to be under the bright lights, and sometimes I wonder if those of us who have the bug are ever as truly alive as we are when the world is watching, we're practicing our art, and the connection is made. Is this the way teachers feel? Do they feel their best when they're sharing their knowledge with students?
I'm just sitting here. Among of the things I tend to write about in the Daily Show are those experiences where everything fits, where some complete and wonderful, if not perfect, occurs. Everything falls into place, and even the mistakes become wonderful and magical. A suspension of awareness, or a hyper-awareness, takes you in and holds you, and for a minute, you are not entirely yourself, and it doesn't matter, because somewhere, the universe said "Yes" and things just clicked.
I guess a lot of those moments, for me, tend to come when I'm on stage trying to share something with an audience. Does this happen to the rest of the world?
Thanks to everybody who helped make the contra dance work. You all rock.
|Friday September 7, 2001 Uechi Ryu and redlight greenlight|
Wherein I am a really big idiot because it's 4:15 am.
But we watched Dead Poets Society, and then I instigated a game of contact Red Light Green Light in the lounge that lasted for hours and drew frosh. And then I played with this addictive game that plays on my inner engineer and lets you build bridges. You build them, then test them by running trains across them. It's cool cool cool.
And today I had my first Uechi Ryu lesson--an hour or so of class, and two hours of talking one-on-one with Jim, more properly Sensei Herndon. It was deeply excellent. Um... Other than that... Life continues.
Oh, right, the murder mystery. I went to a dinner mystery hosted by some friends (Emily and Autumn) tonight. I was Bradley McAlister, a GQ Most Eligible Bachelor and a flamboyant Broadway musical producer. I, it turned out, was the criminal. It was much fun.
|Thursday September 6, 2001 A Susie lesson|
I think every muscle in my body hurts today. I somehow managed to get only four hours of sleep last night--someone needed to talk with me, and so I went to bed at 2:15, and woke without an alarm at 6:15 to my body saying, simultaneously, "I'm awake! It's time to wake up!" and "In case you've missed the hairy eyeball I'm giving you, what the hell are you doing waking me up at this ungodly hour?"--which sort of crimped my abilities today.
Or maybe it was the fact that DaveJ and I did pliés and relèvés all throughout auditions last night. I don't know. But today, I had ballet and then folk dance, and my muscles were unhappy. Tired in 19th century music, which sucked, because the music was good and I was groggy. We were assigned reading, and Tony sold us our "textbooks": E.T.A. Hoffmann's Tales of Hoffmann and Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. He wants us to understand the sorts of things that Brahms was reading.
I didn't play terribly well at my Susie lesson, probably in part due to the fact that I'd spent a couple of hours earlier in the day practicing the flute and my lips were thus wussy and tired. But there's a silver lining--since I've gotten the D flute and have been learning to drive it, my F flute has seemed positively easy--it has moved from the category of "instrument I fight with to produce music" into that of "instrument that extends my abilities". It's a comfortable friend now. Interesting that it's happened so quickly.
Händel's Messiah is in the CD player, since we're performing it this semester. I guess I've decided to stick with choir for the semester--this is a good one. So November 17th is our concert, I think. Had a production meeting for Compleat Works, which should be fun. Evidently I've moved from being Lighting Designer to being Lighting and Sound Designer, as well as Technical Director. Oh well. More capital letters to write next to my name. Fun.
I like the space in my room better the longer I spend customizing it. It's not there yet--don't know that it ever will be--but the time invested is worth it.
|Wednesday September 5, 2001 A day in the life|
My room continues to take shape. I have ordered checks from the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union. I have deposited my paychecks. I have purchased my algorithms textbook.
I played piano in Upper Tarble today while waiting for my karate lesson to start (it didn't; nobody showed up) and I just played for a long time. Someone came up and complimented me on how nice it sounded. I was pleased.
Hanging out with friends is a good thing. So is practicing. So is talking with John Alston and finding out that the recital is probably set to go.
|Wednesday September 5, 2001 Living with the world|
Posted Wednesday morning, from the Sun Lab.
Most of the time, when you're moving through the world, you do your own thing. You walk, trying not to hurt yourself and to move quickly enough for your needs, and you talk, whether to yourself or to other people. And you move, like a car in a wind tunnel, subconsciously pushing the world out of your way as you go.
And then sometimes, there are days like today. Days when you walk out the door, and you're not going through the world so much as being pulled by it. I've never really had the experience of running energy while walking before, but today I did--just felt connected to the trees around me, the grass, the air, and the puddles. As I got closer to campus, the feeling faded, and I noticed that as it did, I found myself surrounded by more pretentious metal and ugly concrete, and felt sad.
Does the universe grieve for the loss of beauty the way I did this morning? I wonder. Legends abound about the timid nature of sprites and fairies--they say you should always snuff your candles rather than blowing them out because if you blow, the fire sprites are frightened away--are they perhaps terrified of the artificial ugliness created by humans?
Mysticism aside, the wind does not move the same way across the human portions of campus as it does out in the hinterlands, and I wonder if the energy works the same way.
|Tuesday September 4, 2001 Buying a flute|
I could talk about the rain, or the various classes, or whatnot.
Two things stand out, though, so I'll mention them and sleep. First, nineteenth century music is going to be fantastic. I didn't know that they'd changed the subject to being a performer's perspective, nor did I know that we'll focus on Brahms and his music. I was pleased to learn both. Tony Barone, our professor and my piano teacher, played some Brahms on the piano for us, and it was... what? Worthy of the music.
And this morning, Susie and I went in to Philadelphia, where I bought a flute. It's black, made of grenadilla (African blackwood), has nickel rings and six nickel post-mounted keys. Has a tuning slide, and plays in A=440. It's German, made between 1890 and 1910. I like it. I've played it for several hours today.
It was a good one.
|Monday September 3, 2001 Playing and writing|
I had my first philosophy class today, and it was fun. This evening, I read Plato's Euthyphro, so I'm done with my philosophy reading for a week.
Worked my library shift, where George ranted about the new copiers (they're more expensive, they ruin paper, they generally are annoying and don't work) and then criticized me. A good time.
However, Susie arrived for a playing session, and it was really good.
Early in the day, I'd sat alone in the concert hall in Lang, playing the piano and trying to get a feel for the space again. For my recital in the fall, I'm going to do a Québecois song, with a few Québec reels to go along. The song, "Qui me passera le bois", is from Grey Larsen and André Marchand's CD The Orange Tree, and entwined with the song is a nameless tune, just eight bars of light music. Months ago, Susie suggested that I compose a B part for the tune. I tried for a long time, and today, sitting in Lang, my fingers found the second half of the tune. The recommendation I received was that we should most definitely play it, and that I should send it to Scott Higgs and have him write an English dance to it.
Praise is well and good, but sometimes it's worth even more to be sitting in a sunbeam with a good friend, playing music, and just enjoying the sound for its own sake. We played through some sets for the Delaware Ball, and I didn't sound bad. Tomorrow we're going to Vintage Instruments in the hope that they'll have a flute for me to buy. But today--motes floating in the sunbeams, a concert grand piano and a flute or a whistle, two friends, and the music....
Sometimes I just sit and wonder how I've gotten to meet so many fantastic people, and what they see when they look at me. A big kid, with an instrument in his hand, a little half-smile as he plays piano (so Eileen tells me), a lot of spices, many interests... what else?
But then, does it really matter? Not when I'm playing, it doesn't.
|Sunday September 2, 2001 Activities and farewells|
Activities Fair has come and gone, and with it, two Mixed Company performances, one short concert on highland bagpipes, and two folk dance demonstrations. I taught a little Scottish and contra dancing to some interested folk. We have lots of interested frosh!
And then I met Kimberly, and we went out for coffee and to show pictures to each other. The problem with this is the coffee. There are, apparently, no coffee shops in the Swarthmore area. Borders has a caf&eeacute;, I reasoned; no good, though, when all of the tables are full.
So we were almost out of luck. However, Caffe Bellissimo, just down the strip mall, has coffee, and so we went there. It's a restaurant, so we weren't sure they would let us just order a drink and then chat for a while. However, our very nice waiter let us stay as long as we wanted to be there. It was good.
Afterwards I gave her the walking tour of Swat's campus that I never got to give last year, beginning and ending in the rose garden. And then she went away, bound for parts north. Be well, you--see you in October.
Swat's campus has orange construction fencing all over the place. It maketh me sad.
And then, in the evening, I watched The Graduate with most of Swarthmore, in Upper Tarble. It's quite the experience. Love it!
|Saturday September 1, 2001 Moving in|
I'm writing from Mary Lyons 318, a lovely room that's currently clogged with far too many boxes. The piles are steadily dwindling, though--i love that word--and I think things will continue to improve. Nearly all of my clothes are now in either my dresser or my closet. The closet's an interesting story--it's only barely wide enough for hangers to fit inside. Nifty, I guess.
As seems to be the case in all Swarthmore dorm rooms, the electrical outlets were placed, not at random, but with malicious intent, to be in the least useful positions possible. Like, jutting out of the only wall that's not broken by doors or radiators, and at just the right height so that it sticks into my bed. Excellent!
However, we shall overcome, and the space is already beginning to feel like home. I've started learning some of its quirks, and am trying to make it into a happy place.
Coming back to Swarthmore is a strange thing--time changes its pace almost every time you care to notice it. It feels at once as though I've been here for months and like I hugged my parents and watched them leave this morning. I keep wondering how time seems to expand and contract so much.
New books grace my shelf, whether for classes or for enjoyment of life. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programming, Portable Nietzche, various other philosophy texts, O'Reilly's HTML & XHTML 4th edition, the Celtic Knotwork Handbook... books are a good thing.
I can't find some things that I know I left down here--mostly stupid things, like my green stadium cups and my thumbtacks. I still haven't rooted around in a few of the boxes yet, though--it is my hope that further unearthing will yield the things I'm hunting.
Tomorrow will be Activities Fair, replete with Mixed Company singing, me playing bagpipes, and a bunch of us dancing for folk dance. Should be a good time. Then off to have coffee and chat with Kimberly, back for hall meeting, the (now-mandatory ) watching of The Simpsons, then off to campus for the obligatory viewing of The Graduate. I guess we're all just a little nervous about our futures.
Played bagpipes down at the waterfall tonight--disappointing because my reeds, as expected, are not immediately happy with Pennsylvania weather. It'll take them a while to get used to things down here. While I played, lots of people honked and gave me thumbs up, and I received a visit from Janet and Tim Williams, who were out bicycling. They're folk dance types from way back.
Swarthmore is going to have a contra dance next weekend, come hell or high water, and you should come, if possible. I'm sort of running it. Anyway, it will be immensely cool. Saturday, 8 September, 7:00 pm (probably). Tarble-In-Clothier. Be there or be a duck.
I met a bunch of neat frosh. They're cool. Played Boggle with KT and Laurel and Dan T this evening... Didn't do too badly given how long it's been since I played.