Friday, October 28, 2005

The rewards and the exhaustion

Talk about cutting it close. My first all-nighter in, oh, about two, maybe two and a half months... I think I made it through okay. I took an hour-long nap at one point, just for kicks. Otherwise, I was either up studying or up writing my paper. Before I knew it, it was about 8:30 in the morning, and Jane was up and making coffee. I downed a cup of my morning fix, threw some clothes on, and got to class just in time. The test was handed out with two... count 'em... two blue books. It was comprised of five essay questions, and it took me the full two hours to crank it out. I can't feel too bad about it, though... only two or three people finished before me, and they looked a little better rested than I'm sure I did. Anyway, I think it went okay. I'm guessing that, worst case scenario, I get a B on this thing, which I can live with. So okay, the midterm was behind me. Of course, there was still the issue of the unfinished paper.

Since I'd made studying for the midterm my priority, I worked on the paper a little more sparingly than I might have otherwise. I had an hour and a half to finish, and it wasn't exactly looking feasible. The class began (note that this was the class for which the paper was due), and there I was, laptop open, as usual... and taking notes, honest. Among other things. Let's just say that, miraculously, the paper was done by the end of class, and I got it turned in after all. God, I love technology.

I got home, completely dazed. It was as though I'd just blinked, and it was all over. Hey, I'm not complaining. It was weird, though. And speaking of weird...

For out Qualitative Research class, we were asked to turn in a written protocol a couple of weeks ago; this was supposed to be a description of an unfortunate event in our lives. No big surprise what I wrote about, I'm sure. Anyway, we all read one another's stories (which were amazing, actually), but the authors were kept anonymous, so no one knew who wrote what. We were then asked, as a class, to choose one that the whole class would analyze. There was a vote, and it came down to the person who had to catch a baby from a third story window and the "throat cancer one." Two guesses which they chose. Dr. Wertz and I then decided it would be less weird for everyone if I went ahead and came out from behind the anonymity curtain. About two seconds later, an email went out from Dr. Wertz, announcing my identity to the class. For the next few hours, I kept receiving emails from people in the class expressng thanks or admiration or whatever. Um... yeah. It's so much less weird now. Now, If I could just get a few other strangers who now know intimate secrets about me sending me well-meaning yet oddly discomforting emails, that would be a lot more normal.

Speaking of emails, I just received one from the Graduate Student Association, and I've been asked to join the student activities committee, since I'm not busy. (By the way... for anyone not yet familiar with my schedule or my sense of humor... this is an example of my stupidity... watch this...) The first meeting is on a Friday, just before I have to go to Lincoln Center to teach. So I'll be there, but just for, like, twenty minutes. No, really. I'm going. Hey, look at me! I get to be on a friggin' GSA committee! How cool is that? Well, okay, maybe it's not gonna get me into any VIP lounges, but I couldn't care less... besides, that's what the cancer's for. Yeah, that's right. A cancer joke. I got a million of 'em.

I'm trying to write some songs, but I keep getting stumped. I've started four already... I'm about to burst with all of it, though, so I figure it's just a matter of time before something finally clicks. I just wish I could hurry it up, already. I've got a gig coming up, and I've only got one song nailed down for it. I feel utterly moved at almost every moment of the day, pen in hand, feeling all kinds of powerful everythings, just on the verge of winking at me and slinking their way onto a notecard... I write my songs on notecards, usually, if anyone wondered. Yeah, I'm close, though. Just on the verge, as usual. Frustrating to be here all the time, feeling like I'm always just on the edge of the top of a moment I've always been waiting for... there are times lately when I feel like, at any moment, I could just throw my head back, fling my arms out, and fly crashing through the ceiling and into the whole wide world of sky.

I'm exhausted. It's delicious, though, and I love it. It's a lot like that sumptuous breathlessness that you feel all over after some silly little sexual climax... only this is better, a lot easier to surrender yourself to. This is what the searing, groaning hunger of the soul for its art can do to you, I've learned. If you've never felt it, come to New York, and I'll show you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Procrastination empathy

Again, this one is short, but there's at least something worth mentioning. As I flail around in my effort to study for my Methods midterm and complete my Cognitive paper by tomorrow, I find it amusing that John is in the process of plowing through a paper of his own. We both called each other a few times late into last night, discussing our respective works in progress. For me, it was like emotional oxygen... knowing he was dealing with his own beast was strangely comforting, almost rejuvenating in my most haggard, downtrodden moments of cranking out this paper or studying this dizzying material. Thanks, John, for the moral support. Chuck also did what he could to bolster my efforts from affar, so thanks for that, too. I'll be happy when this week is over and I'm workiing on two other projects due then... at least it'll provide for a change of scenery, yes?

Today will be a day of momentary social exposure, but I'm keepiing it to a bare minimum. I'm in my office now, but I'll soon be taking a break to grab some lunch... then, I'm off to my study carrel in the library. From there, I have choir rehearsal, followed by fencing, then back to the library until about midnight. After that, I'll probably go home and study a bit more, as well as fill out my paper now and then. If I need a more substantial break from what I'm doing, I'll put some work into my new song... I don't think it'll be ready in time for the next gig, but I might as well try... for now, though, it's all about the midterm and the paper. And coffee. No need to even ask... I feel an all-nighter coming on.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The keys to my happiness... for now...

Right... I'm busy, so we'll keep this short. That, and I just typed up a nice, long blog entry, then accidentally erased it. I'm pissed off enough about it that I'm not willing to throw myself into take two. So there. Anyway, here it is, in a nutshell:

1. I got a new TV. At long last, I am among the normals! Well, okay... maybe a little better than normal. The TV I got was a bargain I couldn't refuse... a 20" flat-screen, slim profile, LCD screen TV. Believe me, I'm not complaining. I bought it on Friday, and we've been together ever since.

2. I sprinkled magic technophile dust on the shiny new TV and got cable. Okay, no... I got it from a Jamaican cable installer sent to me from the gods of CableVision. Included in that package was also wireless internet access, which is also most welcome, but primary focus has remained on the cable. I got it on Saturday, and we've been together ever since.

3. I got my own study carrel at the library. I figured I'd need it, since I have a midterm and a couple of papers due this week. Sure, I've got an office, but I'm still sharing it with another student. I don't mind sharing... it's just that neither one of us seems to get any work done when we're both in there. In any case, I opted for the carrel at the library, and I've already spent too many hours there. Not only that, but I managed to grab the largest desk in the whole place, and they were nice enough to put my name on it, so I'm pretty happy with things on that front.

Okay... so, besides the two papers and the midterm, I also started fencing again, am trying to learn music for an upcoming choir concert, am in the process of putting together my set for my next NY Songwriters gig (which, incidentally, is going down on Sunday, November 6th... more details to follow), and am still trying to crank out a paper to submit to this women's issues thing. At some point, I guess I should do some laundry, clean up my room a bit, bla bla bla... and all of that is firmly on hold, especially since I have two projects due this evening, and only one of them is complete at this point. Goody.

Yeah, well, bring it on... I got my TV, and I got cable, which means I can cope with anything. Oh, yeah... I'm not about to lie here... at this point, it really is that easy to keep me happy. For the moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Time flies when you're with a redhead

I've been overtly neglectful of my blog, but who cares... I don't think the world stops revolving if I don't post something. In fact, I would think it odd if I had actually taken time to post over the past few days. After the CBGB gig, I was pretty much focused on one thing... the arrival of John, the Great Red Affliction. God, I love that boy.

On Thursday, the 13th, I went about my day as well as I could... went to class, feigned interest admirably, then scurried home to make sure the place was presentable. Which, of course, it wasn't. Not only that, but I'd been heartlessly jilted by one of my great loves of late, the cable guy. I may not have a television yet, but, by God, I was going to have cable. I had an appointment in the afternoon to have cable installed, and he never came. Like a child at the window, searching the skies with large, innocent eyes for any trace of Santa's sleigh, I clung to the window sill in the living room... waiting... waiting... until I grew so impatient and aggitated that I called the cable company, during which I did a bit more waiting, this time clinging to the phone with my shoulder pinched up against the side of my head. At long last, I came to terms with my grief of being abandoned by my sweet, sweet cable harbinger, then rescheduled for next week. After such unabashed betrayal, I don't know if I can ever trust again.

I received a call from John at around ten or so in the evening; he'd just arrived at JFK, and was going to catch the shuttle to Grand Central, followed by the Metro North train to the Fordham station, then a cab to my apartment. I didn't think much of it, but he seemed to find it a daunting task. Ah, the strangeness of slowly becoming more and more of a New Yorker... when three or four transfers are just another day's typical travel. Anyway, he finally got to the apartment, and I can't say I've ever felt happier. It was raining, so he was damp and cranky, but it made the hug so much better for me. He had a guitar slung on his back, in a bag identical to the one I already have. "I brought your electric, " he said, and I thought the gesture very sweet. My electric guitar and I have a sort of love-hate thing going... try as I might, I can't get good sounds to come from it. Ah, well... this might give me a chance to work on it a bit more. We trecked up the stairs with the guitar and a couple of luggage pieces, then settled in and started unpacking things.

My actual birthday wasn't for another four days, but we decided I'd have my presents early. I got a new guitar tuner, a guitar modeler for the electric, and a stand for my keyboard... oh, and he brought my keyboard along, as well. Finally, I set out to get the guitar out and place it among the others... and that's when I realized that this wasn't my guitar.

Like mine, it's red. And it is, indeed, an electric. That, however, is where the similarities end. For one, this is no Ibanez. It's a Squire Stratocaster. And it not the shiny, acrilic red of the Ibanez... it's a wood-finished red, a deep red that I couldn't love more. All of the tuning pegs are lined up on one side, and the knobs and switches are all a bit different... she's beautiful... it was love at first sight, as true as I've ever known it. John saw how affected I was upon seeing this wonderful little beast, and he smiled broadly at his job well done. I didn't have an amp to plug it into, but that would come in time. At least I have the guitar.

The next day, I had to teach at Lincoln Center, so I made the quickest work possible of it before going back to the Bronx. When I arrived at the Rose Hill campus, I went to the psychology office to pick up my check, during which I happened to see the back of a familiar head, attatched to someone who was sitting in Dr. Wertz's office and talking to our esteemed department chair. I inched a bit closer, and was elated to find my friend Azizi, a fellow student from my department at UD, sitting there, chatting away. Dr. Wertz saw me and invited me in; we then talked about the program, the trends of existential phenomenology in psychological academia, and the prospect of Azizi joining our program. A half hour later, Azizi and I were leaving the office arm in arm, catching up briskly with one another. We stopped for a bit in my office (I couldn't help it) and talked about the state of the department at UD, then I walked him to his bus stop while we talked further about his possibly coming to Fordham. Marvelous time... great guy, Azizi... definitely hoping he can join our ranks, as we could certainly use another e.p. freak in the mix.

I finally got back to the apartment, where I met up with John. We decided to make a shopping trip to Target and Marshalls, hoping to round off the birthday buying, as well as to pick up one or two things for John. I couldn't have cared less where we were going, as long as I got a chance to be with him; two and a half months since I'd seen him, and I felt suddenly as though we'd only been apart for a day... we seemed to have picked up right where we left off, and that felt wonderful. After having done some damage at the stores, we went back to the apartment, made my room an even bigger mess by strewing our shopping all over the place, and called it a night.

On Saturday, I had a chance to finally show John the campus, and he seemed to like it very much. This, of course, is a good thing... with any luck, it'll be further incentive for him to end up at Fordham (yeah, John... I know you're reading this... but whatever, you know I'm dead set on holding the Fordham torch until you're here). We then took the "Ram Van" from there to the Lincoln Center campus (during which we were forced to endure these frightfully insipid undergrad theater majors sitting in front of us... our strength of will knows no bounds, and now there's proof), and we met Jane there. She was busy at running the medieval conference taking place there, so we said hello, grabbed some free sandwiches, and went off to survey the city. I had made reservations at the same hotel that Chuck and I had stayed at, so we checked in and left our things in the room (oddly, the exact same room as Chuck's had been), after which we headed toward Times Square to stroll around and play "dodge the tourists."

Here's John, orchestrating the gruesome torture and heart-removal of a poor, defenseless teddy bear, a couple of blocks away from Times Square. John's tiny teddy bear henchmen look a little too eager to cut into the poor thing, and John looks a little too pleased with their work. I made sure, just after taking the picture, to back away from the scene... slowly.

Again, beautifully pleasant. We had dinner and people-watched, popped into a few stores... we watched "The Constant Gardener," which ended up being a very well-made, very beautifully written, very well-acted, very boring movie. We also bought a couple of DVD's we'd been wanting, then took the leisurely walk back to the hotel, very pleased with the day. The one damper to the night was the discovery that, upon our arrival at the hotel, the elevators had all stopped working. We mustered up our adrenaline, then made the hike up the stairs to the eleventh floor. Suddenly, my five-floor walk up at my apartment building wasn't looking so bad anymore.

The next morning involved sleeping in and ordering breakfast-in-bed... and we're talking about some serious breakfast-in-bed. He had waffles, I had French toast... eggs and bacon, orange juice... life was good. We checked out of the hotel, then set off to meet up with Russ, who'd be meeting us at Central Park. Once we hooked up with him, we went to the Central Park Zoo, where we took some time to look at the penguins and polar bears and such. From there, we went to the Metropolitan Museum, particularly for the Egyptian exhibit, the arms and armor, and the Greek and Roman art.

Here's John making himself at home in a reconstructed Egyptian temple at the Met. (John: "Oh.. this is actually real, and they brought it over here? Wow... okay, this is really cool, then." Savage. That's okay, though... we put him to work by making him translate a bunch of hieroglyphs while he was in there.

And here I am, in that same temple, looking around for my lost innocence. I gave up the search early on.

Let's see... long hair, goatee, the goddess Ma'at emblazened on his chest... we may have found the sarcophagus of a long lost ancestor. That, or John's tattoos are a little pretentious. You decide.

For John and me, there's really no way for us to have a bad time whenever those interests are involved... and the fact that we were able to enjoy them together, and with Russ, made it all the better. Following the museum, we went to Russ' apartment for a spell, then had dinner at an Indian restaurant before parting ways with Russ and heading back to the Bronx. We spent a little time socializing with Jane and Josh, then settled in to watch our new DVD's and drift off to dreaming.

I typically love my birthdays. Hell, I'm happy to still be having them. This one, though, wasn't as welcome, only because it meant John would be leaving that day. I dreaded every moment of getting ready to leave that morning for campus; John was going to leave the apartment with me, then head for the airport at a leisurely pace and wait around for his flight. We got to the corner where we'd part ways, and I almost came to the decision then and there that I'd skip class and accompany him to the airport, just to spent that little bit of precious extra time with him. I shook it off, though, coming to grips with logic and realizing I was on the verge of being late for class. We said our goodbyes there on Fordham Road, and we were off to our separate worlds. Happy birthday to me.

During the day, I'd received phone messages from lots of my friends back in Texas, who I was especially missing. These were the people I was accustomed to celebrating my birthdays with, so being away like this was a little strange, and perhaps a touch depressing. The calls I got lifted my spirits, though. After class, a couple of girls in our program, having earlier promised to take me out for my birthday, asked, "Is today your birthday? Oh... well, happy birthday. Sorry about that." Fun times lie ahead, folks. Anyway, they actually made good, for a chage, and took me to a bar/restaurant in the city, Muldoon's (one of the girls is Irish, so we figured it would be apropo). Dinner and a few beers later, I was feeling good about the outing... it was simple, borderline- celebratory, and yes, I had to pay for my own order (they're young and a tad inconsiderate at times... what can you do), but it was a good enough outing nonetheless. By the time I was back in the Bronx, I was determined to get to bed as soon as possible, not to reflect on my bitter-sweet, lack-luster birthday. I walked into the apartment, and Jane greeted me. "Hey birthday girl... how was your day?" I played it as cheerfully as I could, but I think Jane picked up on my ruse. "Well, do me a favor... look in the fridge."

I figured there'd be something cute in there.... a cupcake or something, maybe. I opened the fridge door, and I saw a familiar sort of box... Artuso's Italian Pastry Shop is right next to our building... attatched to it, in fact. This was a box from their store. In red marker, on the lid of the box, was written: "Emily... open me!" I cut the string holding the box shut, doing my best not to knock the contents around too much. Inside, there sat a beautiful chocolate-covered cake (shown here), on which was written "Happy Birthday Emily" in yellow cursive letters. What a joy, to have a great roommate! I sat in the living room and shared some lovely chocolate cake with Jane, who had more than earned it at that point. Then, while we were rolling our eyes back into our heads in chocolate ecstacy, she pointed at some pages on the table in front of her. "Just so you know, you've inspired me," she said, grinning. "I've actually started writing a song! See? Here's a verse, a bridge, a chorus... an actual song!" I gasped, jokingly, but congratulated her genuinely, and told her how proud of her I was. And I am. I actually inspired somebody? Weird... And Jane, of all people... I mean, this philosopher, who I admire for her sheer bulk of knowledge that she can instantaneously call upon on a whim, who can play guitar chords (real ones, mind you, and not my silly, made-up ones), and is a generally cool-as-all-hell person... I inspired her to write? She could have skipped the cake ( I mean, I'm glad she didn't, but she could have)... knowing she'd written a song would have been birthday present enough.

So, okay, yes, I miss my boy desperately. How can I not? Still, there's hope... I've got Jane to keep me sane, my work to keep me grounded, music to keep me motivated and inspired, and the city, this marvelous city, to remind me of how lucky I really am. I'll feel all the luckier in a year, when John's finally living out here with me. For now, though, this'll do. Guess I'll get to work on this, the last year of my twenties, ever on the verge of new everthings every day. Happy birthday to me, indeed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Drowning butterflies with beer

I just got home from the CBGB gig. And... yep... still got a pulse.

The last two days have been fitfull, to say the least. I spent all of yesterday cloistered in my room, practicing for hours and still feeling utterly unsatisfied. Between songs, I worked on finishing another one, just to get my mind off the stress of making the other ones work. By the end of the day, I had practiced till I could no longer feel my hands, and the new song was complete, which was an unintentional yet welcome biproduct of my masochistic practice marathon. I slept well enough... exhaustion from nerves and day-long self-loathing at every mistake you make can do that to you.

Today began much in the same way as yesterday did; I played my nubs down by another layer. By mid-afternoon, it dawned on me that I might want to decide what to wear to this little hoozegow, which brought me to the realization that I hadn't done laundry in way too long. Laundry gave me a respite from working on the songs, so at least that, along with long-needed clean clothing, came out of the deal. When I got home, I was getting ready to take a shower when Jane arrived, handing me my latest edition of Opera News as she walked through the door. I thumbed through it a little, seeing a face or two that I recognized from singing in Dallas, then headed for the shower, thinking about opera.

I haven't really sung an aria since who knows when. I haven't had to re-audition at Dallas Opera for a while, so I've really had no reason to prepare or sing one in a couple of years. Besides, these last couple haven't been so great for me health-wise (which also equates to voice-wise), ruling out any major classical singing endeavors while healing up. And healing up, of course, took up the majority of my time. When I got into the shower, I got the strangest thought that I ought to sing an aria, just to warm up. I'd basically concluded that if I could get through an aria, I could sure get through my gig.

Naturally, I had to pick Una voce poco fa. For those not familiar with it, it's the big mezzo aria in Barber of Seville. Anyway, that was my... hmmm... what would you call it... signature song... and my swan song, come to think of it... while I was still a voice major, during my undergrad, before the stupid cancer thing came and screwed up all of my fun little hopes and dreams and such. It's always been a little weird singing it since then. When I get through it okay, I think, "Huh... and I could've been singing this professionally by now... you know... if it wasn't for damn cancer." Still, it always makes me feel good when I can get through the thing, because it's not an easy one to just pull out of your pocket. It's got lost of runs, and the runs go up, down, sideways, and everywhere else. But I thought, hey, what the hell. If I could get through, great... good omen for the evening's performance. If not, whatever... at least I wouldn't have to sing any arias at CBGB.

So I sang it, while flinging shampoo everywhere. I'd been singing all day long, but my voice wasn't too tired; in fact, it actually felt pretty okay. I got through the first big run, and it went fine. I sang softly, so I wouldn't freak Jane out or annoy her with the racket. Second big run... fine. Third big run... fine, too. "Huh..." came the usual thought. Then I thought a little more. Here I was, in my shower, singing my old friend, in New York. I live in New York now. And I was singing an aria as a warm up for my gig at CBGB. And as for the CBGB gig, I'd be performing my own music. And playing it on the guitar. My guitar. One of several. Yeah... if you had asked me ten years ago what I thought I'd be doing by now, you might have gotten the New York part from me, but none of the rest of it. And I really like the rest of it.

I came out of the shower feeling better than I usually do after an aria. Or a shower, even. Jane saw me come out and said, "Hey... nice singing in there, by the way." I laughed... that was about as funny as things could get for me just then.

I chose my clothes for the evening, then looked at the time... eight o'clock. Reuben would be driving a few of us over to CBGB at 9pm, so we didn't have to worry about dealing with the busses or the subway, and that was rather a relief, given how much my nerves were already getting to me. Once I was dressed, I turned on the computer and logger on to the live webcast feed of the show, which had already been going on for an hour at that point. I had a moment of panic (several, actually) at the terrible fantasy that, while watching the broadcast, I would hear them call my name and, thinking I just wasn't coming, skip my slot completely. I watched two of the early performers, and I thought they were pretty good. Jane listened in and thought they were good, but that there was something missing from their performances... something about them not owning the songs, or of not quite finding their sound, or something like that. Anyway, I think I understand what she meant, and I instantly began obsessing about whether or not I owned my songs, or if I'd found my sound. Then, another moment of panic... the guy who was singing on the webcast just then had just begun his fourth song. Fourth? We can do four?

I ran into my room, and flopped down in front of my computer. I grabbed the guitar and pulled the time/date window up on my screen so I could time my songs. I played through the three that Russ and I had agreed on the night of the party, and I looked up... it came to just under thirteen minutes. Was there time for one more song? Should I even consider it?

I ran through a quick mental inventory... what song could I do? Almost as soon as I began to ask the question, I had one in mind... a shorter, upbeat rock-out sort of song that I always pulled out for my Dallas gigs because it was fun to play, and, more importantly, I seemed to always remember the words. But then I thought it over. Something was nagging at me, and I hated to even think about it. It was that new song, the one I had just finished the day before. Bad idea, of course. The king of bad ideas. I mean, it was too new... way too new. Did I even know the words? I went to the living room and asked Jane to lend me some time, then played the two songs for her. Baffled, I sat staring into space while she told me that not only was the new song better, but that she really liked it as a song in general, and that I should do it. Great. Let's throw a little more stress on the pile.

By then, it was time to leave. Detecting my nervousness (and how could you not... at that point, I was trotting around like a chihuahua), Jane handed me a glass of wine, which miraculously disappeared. We then made our way downstairs, where we met up with Reuben and Miraj. We drove a little way to pick up Josh, then ended up at CBGB a little too soon for my liking (though, at that point, I can't say I'd ever have wanted to get there). Once we arived, it was only a moment before Aunt Jenny and my cousins, Mark and Jane, met us at the door. We went downstairs to the lounge, and I started getting ready.

The guy that was playing when I walked in seemed pretty good. My head wasn't really set on listening to him, I'm sorry to say, but I can't say I heard anything glaringly bad coming from his direction. The nerves were only getting worse... the wine hadn't done it's magic. I pulled my guitar from its case and sat down in a chair about halfway to the stage. We all got comfortable (which is relative, of course, to my state at the time), and watched the next few performers. One guy was... well, okay, he kinda sucked. Still, he was pretty solid on the guitar, which is more than I can ever say. Hey, at least he knew real chords. The guy that went up after him was from Austin, and he was really good; great guitar work, nice low voice, good lyrics, solid all around. After him, there came a guy from Kansas who played beautifully, but, once again, wasn't so strong on the vocal end. Then it was my turn.

While I'd been watching those going before me, I'd had a beer. A Corona, to be exact. It made me think of the gigs in Dallas, where Jake would play bass with me, often managing to hold a beer, smoke a cigarette, and play beautifully all at once. Bastard. I got a second beer to take to the stage; I may not be able to hold it while I played, but I could at least have it there for a sip between songs. That, and I could kind of channel the spirit of Jake while I was up there. I got to the stage and did a quick sound check; unlike the rest of the people who played, I decided to sit on a chair rather than stand... I'm a wuss who can't play standing up. Or maybe I can, but I haven't performed that way yet, and, in appropriate wuss fashion, I wasn't about to make this the first time. I sat down in the chair, plugged the guitar in, set the beer on the floor, and took a deep breath. No turning back, right? Well, really, where on earth would I rather be?

They announced me, and I began. The first song was the most upbeat of my set. It's about two weeks old, but it felt comfortable. Towards the end, I felt the crowd... that was nice. The second song was prefaced with a word of thanks to everyone and a disclaimer (for my aunt's benefit) about how it wasn't me who I was going to be singing about (which, of course, was a bold-faced lie). The second song, also about a week or two old, felt fine. Good reaction from the room. Almost done.

I had saved Violet's song for third. She's been my good luck charm through this whole thing, so I wanted to give her the good seat. I took a moment to dedicate it to her before I began, then, rather unconsciously, looked up. I'm not sure why I did that. I don't go for the whole "watching from above" spacial principle a lot of people tend to when thinking of their dearly departed. But I looked up, and I don't know why. Ah, well. I got to see the ceiling of the lounge. I sang through the song, and it went smoothly, no goofs. Looks like the practicing might have actually paid off. Or maybe I had just gotten so tired from the stress that I gave in and just let it all happen. Or, likely most probable, I was nursing that second beer. Whatever it was, the third song was over, and the applause came. Then, in a moment of absolute genius on my part, I waved, said thank you, and left the stage. No fourth song. Frankly, it felt like I'd been up there long enough, and Violet gave me a good finish.

When it was over, everyone was very kind to me about it. All my friends told me I did well, which you sort of expect. They did seem genuine, though, and that felt good. A few random people also came up to tell me they liked what I did, and a couple of folks asked for a CD (which I didn't have, of course) and a business card (which, suprisingly, I did have). Larry, the guy who runs NY Songwriters, seems to really like what I did, and he wants to give me another gig soon, this time at The Bitter End, another pretty popular live music venue in the area. That was especially nice to hear. I mean, I'm grateful for anything nice that anyone cares to say, but having it lead to another gig really helps keep the ball rolling.

A familiar buzzing came from my cellphone on the trip back to the Bronx; John was calling. He, Chuck, and a few others had been watching the webcast and having something of an impromptu pizza party to celebrate the occassion. I also got calls from a couple of other people who managed to watch, as well as one or two emails once I got home. Wow... I asked people to watch it, sure, but I didn't really think anyone would. Seriously! I mean, who cares, right? I thought I was turning into something much like a bride preparing for her wedding... she's the only person in all the world who gives a rat's ass about the thing, but she makes it a point to tell everyone everything about it as though they should care just as much as she does. Well, I guess I have a few folks out there who were rooting for me of their own free will. Even now, that makes me feel better than I have in a long time. Which is saying a lot, because I've been feeling pretty damn good lately, except for the nerves. Nerves are a big, necessary part of it, though. They make the other end of things seem so much more fantastic when you get there. So yes, I got through my New York debut unscathed, and pretty happy with the outcome. Stomach-wrenching butterflies be damned... as long as there's beer around to drown them in, I should be fine. And how could I not have been? After all, I'd gotten through that silly aria. Huh...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rain and revelry

About two weeks ago, Jane and I decided it was high time for a party. She'd invite her regular philosophy crowd, and I'd invite the psychology newbies. We decided on Columbus Day weeked, thinking people were more prone to come. As it turned out, we were getting a lot of "Sorry... can't make it... I'll be out of town on the three-day weekend." Not to worry, we thought... it'll be an intimate gathering, and it won't be too stressful to throw together. Besides, I would have two weddings to sing at that day, so anything that might make life simpler where this party was concerned was not so bad a thing to occur.

It was soon Saturday morning, and all was still going according to plan. All but the rain. The rain that fell all day long. I did some cleaning around the apartment, then set off for the campus church, where the weddings would be held. About three blocks from my apartment, a pretty good wind gust caught my umbrella and flipped it inside-out, bending and tearing it beyond repair. I made the rest of the walk to campus sans umbrella, showing up at the church soaking wet and very unhappy. I threw on a choir robe, sang my piece, then went home four hours later... in the rain, umbrella-less.

When I got to the apartment, party preparations were well underway. Jane and Josh were setting up food and glasses, rearranging furniture, etc. I went out again to pick up beverages and a few additional items (this time, thankfully, with an umbrella). No sooner had I returned home from the shopping trip that Reuben and a few other people had already arived. They wanted to jam for a while before other people got there, so they'd brought a couple of guitars and a harmonica set. In addition, Jane and I passed around the guitars that we had, and before we knew it, there was a room full of people playing guitars, which was actually pretty amazing (one guy in particular was just phenomenal... he had brought his Ovation and was milking it for all it was worth). Looking on the scene, it was a little weird, what with all the guitars, but fantastic nonetheless.

From one side of the living room, we have Dave in the foreground, Reuben in the red shirt, and the famous Jane, looking festive in lovely leopard print. Incidentally, Dave is playing one of my guitars, while Reuben and Jane have their own.

On the other side of the living room is the other Dave (who is the one that's so amazing a guitarist) playing his Ovation, and Josh, playing my Baby Taylor. The Ibanez sitting between them is basically standing in for where I was sitting.

Shortly after the impromptu jam session had begun, I had to tear myself away in order to meet Russ at the subway stop. In the rain. I found him safely under an umbrella when I got there, and we caught a cab back to the apartment. When we walked in, I was taken aback to find that the number of party attendees had more than doubled since I'd left... there were at least fifteen people there. A number of folks were in the living room, but there wasn't enough room to sit down, so I opened my room up to serve as a second seating area/smoking lounge. At that point, people started calling my room "the bordello" due to all of the red decor, and I welcomed the label happily. Russ was having a great time socializing, and people were having a really good time; Jane held down the fort in the living room, while I played hostess in the bordello (I know that last bit probably sounds a little off-color now that I've written it, which is all the more reason for me to leave it that way). Much drinking took place, mostly red wine and an assortment of beers, and the dual ventilation, open window set-up made it possible for the bordello to avoid getting even the slightest bit smoky.

Much later in the course of the party, I took Russ aside into Jane's room; he and I had agreed that he was going to hear a few of my songs, then help me decide which of them I'd perform at CBGB. The decision was reached that I'd play Violet's song, along with the two that I've completed since moving to New York. On top of that, he also gave me some really good feedback, which I'm definitely grateful for. Russ is one fo those people I trust implicitly when it comes to opinions on my work, regardless of the medium. He's a semi-professional writer, tallented recreational painter, and passionate music affectionado himself, and even moreso than most, so I really respect anything he has to say about what I'm doing. Luckily for me, he had good things to say. We came out of Jane's room to be accosted by a few people with questioning looks on their faces. Josh asked me what I'd been doing with Russ in Jane's bedroom... I told him we'd been making out. He lauhed, shrugged, and went off to get another beer.

When the party finally ended and all twenty-five or so guests had been seen off, it was about four in the morning, and Jane was determined to see to it that we not be wasteful, so she, Josh, and I finished off the remnants of a couple of wine bottles, winding down from the evening and sharing our individual perspectives on the way things went. Jane reported that the philosophers in the living room had taken to opening books of Hegel, Kant, and Heidegger and setting certain chapters to music, but it never got much weirder than that. All in all, only one glass was broken (Jane did it) and one beer was spilt (that one, I'm afraid, was my doing). I finally went to bed at nearly six in the morning, exhausted from a suprisingly excellent party, and satisfied that I'd actually managed to pull one over on the rain.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pictorial reminiscence

As of late, I've begun to miss some of the people I left back home. I mean, I'm not sitting around moping about them, but I do wish I could have them up here with me every once in a while. Believe it or not, I actually do have friends that claim me, and here are a few of them:

This is Lisa, my Dallas Opera buddy. I miss sitting with her and lamenting the stupidity running rampant around us in rehearsal. And yes, okay, she's a fabulous singer (even though I still think they're paying her way too much at her temple gig... some girls have all the luck). Here she is, being a little bit of an idiot, which is funny because she's a big-time corporate muckety-muck who makes more money than God. Oh, yeah... and, thanks to me, she's also Chuck's boss.

This is Ricky Rainey, eBay extraordinaire, tenor for hire, and one of my most favoritest boys in the whole world. They don't come any sweeter, I'm telling you (or more sensitive... the boy cries at the drop of a hat, which is kind of adorable). If I don't talk to this guy at least once a week, my whole world caves in. Aside from which, he's one of the best Wagnarian tenors you'll ever hear, hands down. Here he is at Dallas Opera rehearsal, also being an idiot.

And here are some of the baddest boys around... a few of my fellow bouncers back in Dallas. Here we have Tank (whose name is really James... we're not sure why he goes by Tank), Z (who we've dissowned ever since he moved to Alaska and never calls), Shawn (who still holds the record... and my heart... for performing the cleanest, most beautiful take-down in a fight that I've ever seen), and T-Bone (a giant teddy bear who should never be allowed to drink... ever). We had just broken up an after-hours fight moments before, and we were all taking a breather when I took this picture.

This is Jake, my tattoo artist, good buddy, and bass player. Not only is he remarkably gifted in the ways of inking me beautifully, but he plays that bass of his like an absolute madman. I miss playing the gigs in Deep Ellum with this guy... no matter what song I played on the guitar (or butchered, depending on the night), Jake could always make me sound like a goddess. If I ever make it big, I'm snatching him up and making him play on everything I record, and that's a promise.

And here is, by far, the crappiest possible picture of my most favorite boy, dressed in our famous bouncing attire. Hey, don't blame me... it's the only one I've got at the moment. Actually, it's not so bad if you squint. Keep in mind there's a big, red pony tail back there behind his head... he certainly wouldn't want anyone to forget that. Obviously, I miss this one the most... it's hard to function when half your soul is all the way across the country.

Just to prove that I actualy do have female friends (besides Lisa), here's Jessica, one of my fellow University of Dallas survivors. She and I went through comps together, which was scary (I came out of it a little better than she did, but she passed eventually). Right about the time I was leaving for New York, she was getting ready to leave for Florida to start a second masters program. Also, she wears way too much pink, and often forgets jut how white and blonde she is... luckily, I was there to put her in her place, usually hurting her feelings. Yeah, well, it was for her own good. She'd even tell you that.

And here we have John Sauvey, the blonde, blue-eyed, baritone bastard. I mean, okay, not really, 'cause he knows who his father is... but still. One of the funniest people alive, a hell of a singer, and one of the dearest friends I've ever known. We've been through a lot together, he and I. Here's one of his casual head shots. And don't tell him it looks good, or we'll never hear the end of it from his other half. (Ugh. I mean, seriously... love is one thing, but continuous bragging on your spouse? Again, I say ugh.)

Okay, I know they're not people, but they most certainly are my kids (no jokes about my good genes, thanks). I miss these guys like crazy. At this point, I'm still trying to figure out a way of finding a place to live where I'll be able to keep them comfortably. Here they are, the sweetest puppies I've ever come accross, Athena and Apollo. Jeese... I really do miss these little mongrels... I need to put another picture up to tide me over...

There we go.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The rampant lack of restraint continues

I'm not sure if you'd call it some kind of disease. Or disorder, maybe. Or perhaps just some good ol' dementia. All I know is that I seem to be on a quest to give myself an aneurism.

Now it's not a matter of getting involved in too many activities. I mean, yes, I'm a pro when it comes to that, but that's not my problem anymore. Choir barely makes a dent in my week, fencing has been put on hold until I can get new equipment (which is being remedied tomorrow, at long last), studies are well under control for the moment, and teaching has been a breeze. No, I'm fine on the activities front. I'm hunting bigger game now.

I've decided that I'm going to go ahead with my plan to organize a conference through the psychology department, focusing on qualitative methodology in the field of psychology, both in terms of clinical practice and research. I've already contacted the head of the department with my idea, and he likes it so far, so I'm giving myself till the fall to work out the kinks and actually have the thing happen, possibly announcing a call for papers by the spring semester. Speaking of papers, I've just started working on a paper I want to submit to a woman's studies journal... there's been a call for papers dealing with the topic of envy, so I want to do a paper on female adolescents and their experience of envy in terms of social development via an existential phenomenological psychology approach. I just started looking at a few sources today, beginning with deBeauvoire. (Incidentally, I told John about it, and I think he's going to submit something, too... how cool would that be if we both got published? Pipe dream, sure, but stranger things have happened.)

I asked the student activities office at Fordham if I could start a competitive fencing club. They told me that graduate students aren't allowed to start sports clubs. Well, that's just retarded. So I then contacted my local Graduate Student Association representative (aka my roommate) and related my grievances; her response was to discuss it with some of the other GSA folks, and they concluded that I should contact the new graduate student coordinator. I've done just that, and now I'm waiting to hear word on what she can do for me. If that doesn't work, I'll take it to someone else. Sorry... if I'm going to be here for the next four or five years, I should be able to have a silly little fencing club at Fordham. I'm going to fight for it, and that's that.

Back at the psychology department, the fight for the master's thesis begins. I'll soon be submitting my University of Dallas thesis to the department here at Fordham, after which they'll deliberate over it for who knows how long, getting back to me at some point with a verdict on what I'll be doing next term. If things go well, I'll be getting to work on my dissertation. If they don't like the thesis, I'll be doing a pre-dissertation project. I don't suppose it's any mystery as to which way I'd rather things go. At this point, I'm waiting to hear back from the head of the Applied Developmetnal Psychology division, who's going to give me the protocol for submission. After than, I send it off and do more waiting. And boy, do I love waiting.

I realize it hasn't been long, that I've only been here something like two months. Fine. Whatever. I'm bored. Besides, I really want these things to work, and for good reasons, all. Why on earth shouldn't I pursue them? Because it's hard? Because I'm too busy? Because I should be focusing on the work I already have on my plate? The way I see it, this is all work-related; I owe it to my school to contribute on multiple levels; part of why they took me in the first place is because of all the things I've done. Well, how the hell do you think I did them?

If my thesis is accepted, all the better; that's a little less work I have to worry about. Fencing is something I'm not going to ever get away from, and, frankly, Fordham could definitely use a fencing program. And as for the conference, that's obviously good for the department, as well as for myself professionally. The paper for the women's studies journal? A venue to get published, writing about the stuff I want to study. Yeah, it's a lot to do, but really, that's the sort of work load I always thought a doctoral student was supposed to have. I'm supposed to be working hard, right? Well, hard work for me is a little different than the 'usual,' I presume. In spite of my track record, I've been keeping very healthy, and have been careful to remain that way, getting plenty of rest, taking my meds like clockwork, eating right, working out, etc. I'm expecting to get some flack from a few people about this anyway, but I'm used to it. Actually, save your breath, folks. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am indeed out to prove something.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

How to be unwittingly infamous

There was a gathering of graduate students at a bar one evening, due in great part to free pizza and beer, courtesy of the Graduate Student Association. Damn nice of them, I thought. Anyway, there we all were, about sixty or seventy of us, shmoozing amongst one another as grad students who don't know each other but are drinking beer and eating pizza tend to do. Many of the grad students there were fourth, fifth, and even sixth years, so they were seasoned veterans of these gatherings and introduced themselves and everyone else around. I had arrived with Jane, Reuben (a friend of Jane's who happens to be in the clinical psychology department), and Adam, an IPED grad student who lives in our building (IPED students, by the way, do international politics and economics stuff). Once we arrived, Jane and I got beer and pizza, then wiggled around to get through the crowd while Jane chatted with people as we passed them. I ran into Miraj, the kid who's also into qualitative research, and we talked for a bit.

Shortly afterward, one guy I recognized from the philosophy department (Jane had pointed him out to me earlier) sauntered up to us and joined the conversation. Naturally, the discussion led to philosophy, and I mentioned my odd little brand on psychology. Then the philosophy guy, who's name was Jared, gives me a weird look. "Oh," he says, "you're that girl. Hey, Greg, come over here!" At that point, I became frozen in my best impression of the RCA dog, my head cocked to the side in foggy bewilderment. Someone who I can only guess was Greg came over. Jared elbowed him in the arm and pointed at me. "This it that girl... the new grad student in psychology who came from Dallas." Our latest addition looked at me for a second, thinking it over. "Oh, yeah," Greg suddenly chimed in. "Phenomenology, right? That's great, man! We've been hearing about you... good to meet you, finally. So, you gonna fix those other psychology folks or what?" If I answered, I don't remember what I said, but the conversation progressed very pleasantly, and I now knew two new perfecly great people. (Oddly enough, they both said that they hadn't heard about me from Jane but from somewhere else, which I thought was a little weird.)

About twenty minutes later, Reuben, Jane's psychology friend, walks up and asks how I'm doing. Then he says, "Say, what's this I heard the other day about you lecturing on Heidegger when Dr. Wertz wasn't here? There were some people talking about it in the lounge... Oh, don't worry, they said good things." He threw in that last bit, I'm sure, upon seeing the expression I can only imagine was on my face just then. He went on to say that the folks he talked to seem to feel that I knew my stuff, and that Dr. Wertz must have something to do with my being here. Miraj, who was listening to all of this, just laughed it up. "We're gonna take over, girl!" I couldn't help but clank glasses with him on that one.

Not quite a half hour later, Rosie, who lives upstairs from us with her husband, and is also a grad student in the classics department, sort of staggers toward our group (she blamed her shoes for her lack of equilibrium, but I think we all knew better). She and I had only spoken once before, very briefly, and almost two months ago. She set her hand on my shoulder and pivoted so she was staring me in the face. "What's this I hear about you singing at CBGB on the eleventh? Like, the actual CBGB? Wow, we're gonna come see you!" Again, I hit my RCA dog pose, completely stupified. Sure enough, three more people would come up to me during the night asking about the CBGB thing... apparently, Jane had been spreading the word. Well, done, roomie. I owe you a litter box cleaning or something.

In the midst of all the talking, I think I only managed to drink two beers. Mind you, I wasn't exactly planning on getting tanked at this event, free alcohol notwithstanding. And frankly, I'm not much of a drinker anyway, truth be told. Still, I didn't expect to end up so absorbed in these various conversations, nor did I anticipate that so many people would know these random things about me. By the time Jane and I made our way home, I felt I'd had a sufficiently excellent time. Besides, I had to get up the next morning and teach.

Teaching went fine, no problems to report. The professor I'm TA-ing for seems to like me a great deal, and he's asked me to work with him again next semester. Hey... fine by me. It's a good gig, and I love going down to the Lincoln Center campus. So then, if all goes well, I'll be reassigned to this same position next sememster, and I'll at least know that part of my schedule ahead of time, which is always a nice sort of heads-up to have. Anyway, yes, teaching went well. After that, I stuck around in the city until the evening, when Jane, Josh (Jane's boyfriend), and I were to watch Mirrormask at a movie theater in the lower east side. No luck, of course... it was opening night, and the shows were sold out. The executive decision was made that we'd hit some of the local coffee houses and nearby shops instead, just to brouse around and waste some time, maybe grab a drink if we felt like it. Josh and I continued our ever ongoing debate about whether or not Sartre was Cartesian (and, um, he was), and Jane gave us the run down on a party she just threw for people she's trying to coax into volunteering for work on the upcoming department conferences that she's helping to oversee and plan (at this party, apparently, Jane said one guy was talking about his roommate, who's in choir, and how he'd mentioned there being a grad student in the alto section who could sing, and how strange that there should be a grad student who had time for something like choir). A few hours passed rather quickly, and we found ourselves pretty tired, yet satisfied with our attempt to fill the evening up with random things to do.

Ah, and then there was good news. Tonight, aside from finally getting to see Mirrormask (good movie, by the way, with amazing visual candy), I took both my Ibanez with the broken tuning peg and my Baby Taylor with the popped string over to Guitar Center in Manhattan. The Ibanez will be in the shop for at least a week, but the Baby Taylor was restrung and is now back home, in perfect working order. Maybe now I can spend the rest of my weekend at home, writing and recording and rehearsing on my lovely Baby Taylor. That way, I can perhaps stay indoors long enough to not do something someone later tells me they heard about. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, John's off at a bouncing gig, providing security for members of the Wu Tang Clan at some party in Dallas. Jeese... of all the gigs I had to miss... I may be doing my share of things up here, but it's things like that I'm really starting to wish I could be doing again... and, okay, inevitably hearing people telling me they heard about it.