Friday, May 26, 2006

All hail the power of MySpace

It's taking over every one of my friends' lives, so I can't help but be awed by its potency. John only recently discovered it... two days ago, in fact... and he doesn't seem to be able to get enough. He's been posting pictures and hunting down friends for hours and hours at a time, which is sort of cute and all, but wow. I mean, he's really putting a lot of effort into it. As it turns out, so are a lot of people I know. Okay, fine. I'll join in. I was already on MySpace, but I'd only gone through the motions, really, doing very little to jazz up my page. Now I'm pleased to announce that I'm the proud parent of two, count 'em, TWO MySpace pages. One is a regular one, which you find if you just type in "Emily McSpadden" when performing a name search; the other one can be found under the "MySpace Music" heading, using the same method of typing in my name. The nice thing about that second one is that there are four of my songs posted (two of them being brand new versions), so people get to hear what I'm up to. Oh, and I get to see how often each one's been listened to. Call me easy to impress, but I'm really diggin' on that feature.

We have a capacity now that we've never had before as a global community to stay in touch. We have the means to speak to one another in so many different ways, and it takes as much effort as brushing your teeth (or less, some would argue). It's marvelous. It's a testament to how far we've come as a society steeped in its own technlogical effervescence, floating along on the warm techno-neon glow of the cosmos-cloud we know as the internet. I'm a big fan. Still, it's a little weird. It's still impersonal, still detatched and aloof. The thing is, it's too easy. That's the strange thing about communication, about staying in touch. It used to be such an effort. Now that it's as simple as shooting an email off into the internet ether, we feel as though we're a little more conected than we would have been otherwise. I can't disagree with that. And yet, how connected are we really?

I've got friends all over the place who I keep up with via emals, MySpace, Friendster, and even blogs like this one. Basically, it keeps me informed. But does that necessarily mean that I reach out to them at every opportunity, or at least a fraction of those opportunities, given that there are now so many? Or do I just appease my curiosity, then go about my day without saying so much as a hello? And should I even bother with this question... shouldn't I just be grateful that I have this contact at all, impersonal though it may be? I don't know... I'm a bit torn on the issue. I have a few blogs that I hit regularly, read up on current events in friends' lives... why do I do it? Is it my own little reality television show, played out before me at my choosing? Am I searching for connection that I don't really have to work for?

That's the rub, folks... connection doesn't just happen. Okay, yes, there are people you meet and instantly hit it off with, and that's what we like to call "connection." That, however, isn't the sort I'm referring to here. Keeping a connection alive and kicking is a labor, whether it be one of love or morbid curiosity. The easier it gets, the lazier we seem to become about it. Some people are better at it than others, and I admire that tenacity, or that talent, or that genetic coding, or whatever it is that makes it possible for those people who are the envy of slacker friends everywhere. Most of us, though, have a little trouble with connection. We do what we can, but, to be honest, we could do so much more, and we know it.

So then we get really weird about it. We post things, like blogs and websites and pages on MySpace and Friendster, like bait on a hook. Then, we toss it in... and we wait. We wait for someone to do the work of finding us. We figure we've done the work of putting the baited hook out there, so that amounts to our end of the effort. So, like lowest-effort early morning fishing, we stick the pole in the dirt and do other things, then check once in a while to see if we've gotten any nibbles. Sometimes we do, and presto, we're in touch. Sometimes, when we've got nothing better to do, we go on a slightly more proactive hunt, seeking out other people's hooks. After that, nothing much changes, for the most part. You know where people are, as well as a general idea of what they're doing, but you don't necessarily go out of your way any more than before to make that contact meaningful. It's just strange, when you think about it, especially when, at the root of things, we all really do mean to keep in touch.

Perhaps it's a harsher view than I ought take on modern interaction among old friends, but it's how it's struck me of late. I'd love to get together with a lot of the people I run into online, these old friends from years and years of personal history that I forever feel fondly toward, and yet it hardly ever takes place. Oddly enough, the lack of effort seems to be mutual... there aren't loads of people clammoring to hook up with me for a coffee once they've seen my website or sent me an email for old time's sake. Should I take offense, or feel guilty, or allow myself to feel the pang of not being missed quite enough for that extra level of effort? Should they feel that about me in return?

Who knows. Chances are, we're all just too damn busy to do much more. I know that when I do try to hook up with old frends and catch up on things, it takes days to get to everyone on the list of folks I schedule in, I never make it all the way through said list, and I've exentually exhausted my vacation and myself in the process of the amity-fueled exertion. Is it worth it? Yeah, I think so. It's been worth it every time I've done it. Why don't I do it more often? Because I'd never see John if I tried to see everyone else I wanted to during my breaks in Texas, or my free time wherever else I go. That's what I suppose it comes down to, then... we have new lives, new here-and-now relationships... wedging the old ones in becomes an artificial excercise, well-meaning though it may be. It's still a good idea to do it, though, from what I can tell. And as often as possible, if you ask me. We only have one shot at this round of living, after all.

I'll be in Dallas for about five days next week. If there are any takers on a coffee, let me know, and I'm there.

Oh yeah... proof

It's been long enough since I've posted a picture. This one's as good as any I can think of to show the world.

For anyone who needs the clarification, John and Chuck are the pretty ones, and I'm the plain one on the right. The image is a bit small, I know, but it was this or fuzzy resolution, and I chose size defficiency over blurr. The masses will forgive, no doubt. They've learned to expect dissapointing results from me on these matters.

Monday, May 22, 2006

He came, he saw, he didn't hate it

Which is, by the way, a pretty big deal.

John got here on Friday night to spend the weekend with me, although he also came because he had a meeting with a professor on Monday at Lincoln Center to discuss his new teaching associate status at Fordham. That Friday, I had spent most of the day in rehearsal and performance with the choir. As soon as I got out of that, I went home, did some last minute cleaning around the place, and made my way to the airport to meet John. It wasn't exactly necessary that I meet him out there... John is perfectly capable of getting to me from the airport without my holding his hand. Still, I felt like meeting him there... he's come to see me here twice before now, and I didn't meet him at the airport then. I figured I could manage it this time around, just for fun. I took a taxi to Laguardia, and the cabbie dropped me off at the wrong terminal. Perfect. This meant that I had to take a bus to the terminal I was supposed to go to in the first place, and that took about forty-five minutes. By the time I got there, John had already been waiting a litle while, although not too terribly long, thankfully.

So no problems, right? Find each other, kiss kiss, go home? Not exactly. Found each other, sure. No problems there. Finding a cab, on the other hand, was a complete impossibility. This meant we'd have to take the long way home... the bus to the subway to a cab in the Bronx. To be honest, it didn't matter. We were both just so damn happy to be together again. We could have been on our bus/subway/cab adventure for twice as long, and neither of us would have cared. How strange, the passage of time in the company of a wish fulfilled. It passes, just as any other span of time might, and perhaps it feels just as long or just as brief. And yet, when we invest ourselves in such a way as to love the moment, it changes entirely. I could have stayed on that bus from Laguardia to Harlem for an entire day. I don't know that John would agree with that one, but I can't help that I was that happy.

The next day was the Fordham commencement ceremony... I had to sing, so I went off to do my thing while John stayed home and slept in. Afterwards, we went to Queens to have dinner with my family... Aunt Jenny, Uncle Willie, cousins Mark and Jane, another cousin, Allan (fresh from his masters program in France and some general hanging-out in Barcelona... what a horrible fate that must have been for him), and three other people who were friends of Aunt Jenny's who I don't know. Anyway, the usual ensued... food followed by crackaoke. When the crackaoke wasn't enough, Uncle Willie suggested we go to a Filipino restaurant/bar for more... um... food and crackaoke. John, of course, was the only white guy there, which I think he kind of enjoyed. I ate strange foods that were offered to us (acting as John's proxy), and we listened to a Maroon 5 cover band rock out Filipino-style, while frightening gyrations emerged from the younger members of the audience, including one particularly enthusiastic, particularly gay young man. Odd entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless. Hot fun in the city.

Sunday was a day in Manhattan for the two of us. A rainy day, but that hardly mattered... what's a little rain when you have umbrellas? This is one of the lessons I've learned during my time in New York thus far: if it's raining, and you have either an umbrella or a water-shedding piece of upper-body attire with a hood on it available, you have no real excuse for not going about your day. A street fair was in full swing (in a full rainstorm) in midtown, so we walked around out there, splashing around, bumping umbrellas with the other brave Manhattanites, eating amazing street food and making the odd purchase here and there. Shortly after that, the rain stoped. That certainly made walking around a little easier. We walked, shopped, walked, walked, walked, saw a movie, and walked. I couldn't have been happier. New York is one of my fondest loves, and I've never made any secret of that. But when John is here with me, it comes inexplicably alive in ways I've never known before. John's always been good for that... bringing this freakish sort of fantastic magical wonder into the mix, no matter where we are or what we're doing. I can't explain it too eloquently... it's so good, it's ridiculous.

Today was John's day to meet with the professor from his department. We got up and out with plenty of time to make his scheduled slot at Lincoln Center, and his meeting went very well, so we celebrated by, well, walking around. I showed John around the Lincold Center complex, and then we... um... walked around a bit more. Okay, a lot more. And it was marvelous. Really. We must have laughed and played back and forth nonstop for hours, between the walking and the popping in and out of shops and cafes... just talking and laughing and making no sense to anyone else in the world but each other. It was disgusting.

A little after 5pm, I put him in a cab and sent him to the airport. No tears, no clingy oh-god-I-wish-you-didn't-have-to-go-because-I'll-just-die-without-you-here moments, no sappy weirdness whatsoever. Just a couple of kisses, a big hug, and the knowledge that we'll be together again in about a week when I go back to Texas for a brief, week-long respite. So, then, what to take from the weekend's experience... the bigest, wildest, most exhilarating thing about the past three days? John had a great time.

Just as I've never made any mystery of my love for this city, John's never been shy about his disdain for it. He himself would have told you it was founded on nothing more than what he'd seen in movies, coupled with a general dislike of change. He warms up to the city a little more each time he's here, but never in leaps and bounds. Still, I kept hope alive. And this time, I think it actullay took. We both know things will be hard, different, strange, whatever. We've been young and stupid long enough to figure that much out. There's something different about this big move for us, though, something I don't think either one of us was counting on. John said it best yesterday, and again today, while we were out walking in the city together: "This city has a way of motivating you... of making you want to do big things." Funny... I've always felt that way about John. I know what he means, though, and I agree with him. We've always inspired one another to dream big, hunger big, and imbibe the most that we can from the world. If we can do that here, we might just be happier than anyone has ever been in the history of the entire world. I'm just saying... it could happen. Or we could just end up so happy that we explode into little pieces and pass into oblivion as spontaneously combusted love-bits. That's possible, too, I suppose. If it's alright with everyone, I'm rooting for the first option.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oh, the drama

Okay... I promise to give the sort version...

Tuesday: got to my office to begin working at around 3pm.
Wednesday: left the office at around 7pm, went home for a quick shower and a change of clothes, stopped at Reuben's place for about a half hour and a beer, then went back to the office for more work.
Thursday: Left the office to print my papers at 1pm, then went to my 1:30 class, followed by my 3:30 class, handing in my corresponding papers at each one. Had dinner with Miraj, went to his place to do more work on another paper, went home at 2:30am, slept like the dead.
Friday: got up at 8am, did more work on the paper from the night before, recorded in Brooklyn with Craig, went home to do more work on my paper, packed my bag, left the apartment (by then, it was about 4am the next day)
Saturday: arrived at Laguardia airport, got stopped at the security check and had my bags searched, had to run like a crazy person to get on the plane while they called my name over the airport loudspeaker... watched "King Kong" on the plane, finished my paper just before we landed... met up with John, Jay, Nate, and Chuck at the airport; I went with John, Jay, and Nate to Arlington to get some things from the martial arts supply store (no idea why... just something John really wanted to do)... then we went home, and Chuck and I spent the rest of the day (until 2am) buying things for the next day's surprise graduation barbeque for John, in bed by 4am.
Sunday: Yeah... got up at 7am, got to University of Dallas at 8:30, John realized he'd left our graduation caps at home at 8:31... I was back at the house by 8:45, and pulled over by a cop on my way back to the university at 8:50. Finally made it to the campus by 9:10 (the ceremony started at 9), somehow snuck into our seating (that's it's own story, which I don't have the energy to go into right now)... met with professors and family afterwards, had a Olive Garden lunch with the fam, went to the tattoo shop to hang out with friends (and distract John while folks got stuff ready at home), went home to surprise John, had a great barbecue complete with cake and impromptu swinging of sticks... John then went to bed, everyone went home, Chuck and I cleaned up, and I finally collapsed at midnight.
Monday: Slept like a champ... didn't move till about 10am; bumbed around the house for a while, ran to Starbucks to email some things off (since the internet was down at the house), went with John to the tattoo shop, this time to actually get tattoos (I got one, he got two... that doesn't adequately depict how that went, so trust me when I say that John's were nice enough and mine was a masterpiece... no, really), went home after many hours at the tattoo shop, called it an early night at 1am.
Tuesday: Got up at around 8am, visited with my boys in Fort Worth over breakfast, was back in Dallas in time to say goodbye to John, then went with Chuck to look at a potential site for his offices before he took me to the airport... got stopped at security again... barely made it on the plane again... got back to New York, took a cab home, left my phone in the cab, ran to meet the cabby a few blocks away to get it back (after some frantic calls from our apartment land line), got home and did a little work on my last project, went to sleep around 3am.

To sum up... I'm friggin' tired. My trip to Texas was hardly a vacation... more of a marathon, really. Today was like a relaxation treat of sorts; I had a choir rehearsal for this Saturday's Fordham commencement, went to the Psychology department office to tie up a few loose ends, and went into the city to meet with the guy who I think will be doing my mastering (we actually mastered a song, and I'm pretty stinkin' happy with what he did, so now I'd like to announce that I will be taking donations for the mastering fund)... see? Nice, relaxing day. Tomorrow will be a little like today was, except for recording instead of mastering. Friday is a little bigger deal, since it's a full day of rehearsals, followed by a trip to the airport to meet John when he arrives. Well, bring it on. I could really care less about how busy things get, or how weird my schedule becomes. That last part about John coming to New York this weekend makes everything else seem like a twitch, a blink, a shrug... a nothing. My favorite boy is coming to visit, and I couldn't care less about anything else. Dramatic as things can often seem, what with the double-all-nighter and the graduation and the barbecue and the plane trips and the lost phone and the CD stuff and the getting ready for John to get here (oh, the LAUNDRY)... the hell with all of it. I'll be seeing my boy in a couple of days, and that's enough motivation for me to turn the world sideways if I have to. And, God help me, even do laundry.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Okay, okay, I give

What's the use of fighting it, right? Besides, I haven't got the energy right now... I've become a sad, mushy mound of limp, listless acquiescence. No shame in it, though. I'm a grad student. I'm academic slave labor. I should be used to having no will of my own by now.

And what fight have I relinquished? The battle to pull a fast one on a few people, and have a little fun with graduation. Looking at it now, it's not so big a thing. Kind of a bummer, but I'll live.

Basically, it was going to be a surprise, mostly on my parents. John's graduation commencement is this coming weekend, and I was going to be flying in anyway, so that was no surprise. And my parents were going to come, and wouldn't they be surprised when they looked up to see me walking across the stage, too. Since I officially graduated in August of last year, and University of Dallas doesn't have a walk in the summer, I was informed that my walk could take place in this May's commencement instead. So I thought it might be interesting if I made arrangements to walk, and then sort of surprise everybody with it. At first, I was going to surprise John, too, but I decided that was probably a really bad idea, since he'd get aggravated with me for trying to steal his thunder or something. So I told him, and he seemed fine with it. Then, to make sure things were going according to plan, I called my parents to make sure they were coming to see John's graduation. Naturally, my dad wanted to cancel... something about a motorcycle ride with friends. So I try to subtlely convince him to come anyway, to no avail. Mom will be there, though. I decided to go ahead and tell her, since the surprise seemed to be spoiled anyway, with dad unable to come. Besides, I figured it would at least be a surprise to John's family, right?

No, not so much. It turns out that John had already let the cat out of the bag with at least Bob, his stepdad. At that point, I was ready to be done with the ruse. I told him to go ahead and let everyone know. Besides, he then told me that he didn't feel it was appropriate to make that sort of thing a surprise anyway. Frankly, I couldn't see what it would hurt, but I understand. He then added, in so many words, his other opinion... It's his special day, and my sort-of-special day, the way he sees it. Fine... I understand his point of view. It's wrong, but I understand it.

So here's my vent: It IS special for me!

Okay, so I was done with my degree in August. So I've been living in New York since before that. So I got my diploma from University of Dallas in December. So I'm finishing my first year of my new program. Does that mean I don't get to walk in my commencement for my masters program? Hardly. I had the option of walking last May, before having completed my masters requirements. I chose not to... I hadn't graduated yet, and it felt strange that I should go throught the motions when I hadn't really accomplished what we were supposed to be celebrating. A lot of people do it, but it wasn't for me. Besides, it's pretty amazing to think that both John and I could walk in the same ceremony. That's damn cool, if you ask me. He graduated from undergrad two years before I did... I took a year off in California, then came back to finish. I was at his ceremony, and he was at mine. Now we can walk together... unless we walk together at our doctoral commencement, I don't see how we can top this.

How does that not mean the world to me? How is that not important?

The point it, it's my commencement, too. And yes, it's my official commencement ceremony. I'm not trying to take anything away from John's experience. How could I? It means something entirely different to him than it does to me. His accomplishment over these past three years culminates at his commencement, and he deserves his accolades. At the same time, I would think, so do I. When I found out I couldn't walk in the summer, I made the best of it, convncing myself and everyone else that it wasn't important to me. What choice did I have? Besides, I found it unlikely that I'd be trying to walk the following May... it seemed so far away, and I was sure I'd have actually gotten over it by then. Then, when May was getting closer, I started to think otherwise.

Actually, it's Chuck's fault.

It was his idea. We were talking about John's upcoming graduation, and then he brought up the idea of me walking also, if it was even possible. I thought about it for a second, dismissed it, then realized I wasn't actually dismissing it. When I walked at my undergraduate commencement, I was happy beyond words. I worked my ass off to get there... I'd been through a whole hell of a lot more than most undergrads who were at commencement that day. I'd been through cancer, the loss and reclaiming of my voice, two engagements, a marriage, a year of living on a mountain in California with a bunch of yogists... among other things. I was older than I had imagined myself at my undergrad commencement, but I was there, damn it, and I was all smiles.

My masters was its own battle; I worked four jobs at once while going to school full time, fought the administration at the school for the opportunity to attain my MA instead of an MPsy (which meant completing a language requirement and a thesis the size of the headaches it gave me), spent too many week-long stints in the hospital due to bronchial crises (which, incidentally, I've had none of since leaving Texas), and lived a life for the sake of academic advancement and passion-chasing that no one seemed to understand. I've come through the other side, and it was anything but easy. It was late nights, lots of ridiculous work, and sacrifices the likes of which I've never made before. I wanna celebrate.

I'm walking on Sunday, May 14th, at the University of Dallas campus, with my best friend in all the world, in recognition of our hard work toward successful completion of our masters degrees. His is an MH (Humanities) with a classics concentration, mine's an MA in psychology with a clinical concentration. We deserve this... both of us... and we've worked extremely hard to get here. And when we walk on Sunday, I'm guessing we'll both be all smiles.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The horn is just sitting there, so I figure, hey...

I might as well blow a little tune, yeah? So okay, it's not so much that it's bragging... it's just all a little weird. Extremely cool, but weird and random.

For starters, today was the day that the Emeril Live show was aired on the Food Network. I got a close-up. A few seconds long, too... no skimpy little close-ups for me, thank you very much. Aside from that, we made it into a few pan shots and wide shots of the audience, so we were all happy with the results. In addition, Francisco and Cat came over to watch the show with Jane and me, and Francisco made an amazing pasta dinner for all four of us, coupled with a wine that he spent a lot of time choosing to go well with the pasta cheeses and a lovingly prepared garlic bread that we polished off almost too quickly. I'd taken the liberty to pck up an amaretto cake on my way home that afternoon, so we finished up with a slice of that. Very nice, on the whole. Yeay. Anyway, we didn't have any means of recording it, but Chuck got it on TiVo back in Dallas, so there's a chance I'll get a copy of it eventually, if I find that I just can't live without it. I think I'll be fine without, but it's nice to know it's out there.

Yesterday wasn't too shabby, either. The world premier of the Francis Xavier documentary took place on Fordham campus, at Duane Library. It was a standing-room-only crowd, especially since Liam Neeson, the narrator of the film, was rumored to make an appearance at the premier. He didn't, of course, but it was still pretty damn cool. Before the film began, they asked all of the people there who participated in the making of the film to stand up. Apparently, I was one of very few participants in attendance (besides the composer... he was there, and looking very nervous)... I stood up, and there was a lot of applause, which was ackward, since I was one of the only people standing. I sat down as soon as I could, but people kept clapping and patting me on the back and congratulating me and such. The film started shortly afterward, and I have to admit I was surprised... t was really top notch, very professional, and Liam Neeson was the perfect voice-over. The music was great, and the vocal portions came off really well... we sounded like a much larger group than we actually were. I could hear myself in the group, but I wasn't sticking out or anything, which was my main concern. When it was over, the applause was huge... people kept the applause going all the way through the credits. And then, when the credits got down to the musicians, a welcome surprise... rather than list us as an ensemble, our names were listed individually, in large case, just like everyone else. Wow. That was pretty great, I'll say.

Afterwards, we made our way to a reception on the third floor, and people contiued to approach me and congratulate me, which was strange, because I didn't realize that anyone knew who I was. Many of them were Jesuits, and some were those involved with the film that I'd had contact with during planning and recording. The writers and producers talked to me, and I had a nice chat with the composer, who was very gracious and complemented me for... get this... my professionalism. "You were so professional, and it was nice to have a seasoned artist there when most of the other singers didn't have recording experience... you sounded great and you took a leadership role, and it helped a lot." Really? I thought he might have confused me with someone else... I still think he did, but I'm not complaining. I thanked him, and told him to keep me in mind if he ever had need for a mezzo again. I got my free wine and cheese, said some goodbyes, and made my way home. Cool... I was in a movie with Liam Neeson. Sort of. John likes to remind me that it's not exactly the case, so let me rephrase... my voice is in a movie with Liam Neeson's voice. Still pretty kick-ass.

Right. Back to the real world. I have class tomorrow, followed by working on three papers, an IRB application, and a conference proposal. Friday is a recording day... all day, hopefully. This weekend will have to include a laundry day, since I've pretty much run out of clothes at this point. Besides, it's high time I tried to clean my room, which is pretty scary. Whatever. I'll be home in about a week to watch John graduate, then I'm coming back here to tie up the rest of my loose ends before summer. That's fine... for the record, I'm still having a blast.