Sunday, December 25, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
I remember when Christmas was not an “issue” that people haggled and hurt each other over, but a time of getting back to the basics of hospitality and humanity.
I remember when Christmas was a time of unity. A time when folks focused on that which we have in common—like being human—rather than on our differences.
I remember when Christmas was when we thought, “Okay, we’ve been at each other’s throats all year. Let’s take a break and enjoy a little forbearance. Let’s try to be good neighbors.”
Why have folks gotten so hateful? Why so stiff-necked and prideful? Why is there so little sense of live and let live? What are we teaching our children, and how will this time of year be treated after we’re gone?
Guess I’m just an old fart, but I miss the days when Christmastime was something to look forward to, and to savor for the short while that it lasted. Why can’t we love our enemies as we love ourselves for one single day?
When the world falls in love,
Every song you hear seems to say,
May your New Year dreams come true!
And this song of mine
In three-quarter time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing too.
Why are we not only allowing the Christmas spirit to die, but helping it to do so with harsh words and prideful hearts?
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
2. Eexecutive secretary
4. Assistant conductor.
Four movies you could watch over and over:
1. Monsoon Wedding
2. The Emperor’s Club
3. Office Space
4. What Dreams May Come
Four places you’ve lived:
1. Solvang, California
2. Ventura, California
3. Denver, Colorado
4. Brighton, England
Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. As Time Goes By (BBC)
2. The Actor’s Studio
3. Masterpiece Theatre
Four places you’ve been on vacation:
1. Redwoods National Forest, California
2. Yosemite, California
3. London, England
4. Vienna, Austria
Four of your favorite foods:
1. Hot and sour soup
3. Ice cream
Four places you’d rather be:
Monday, December 19, 2005
I do want to say a few words about the Messiah concert on Saturday night though. The chorus was outstanding and the soloists (selected members of the choir) were, for the most part, up to the task, although there were a couple of them who flatted out on a high note here and there. Nevertheless, they each executed their melismas excellently. The best soloists were tenor Kim Childs, alto Lynette Erwin. No, really, she was—I’m not playing favorites—and baritone Matt Thomas. The real problem was the string section, who, at times, didn’t seem to possess much in the way of intonation. Nor did they seem to be very familiar with the piece in general. Had they been better, and had Maestro Mark Lawlor been able to trust them with quicker tempi, the soloists would have had no problems at all.
Despite everything it was a very enjoyable performance and everyone had a great time. I especially enjoyed Lawlor’s concentration on the dotted rhythms and Baroque articulation, which gave this piece more personality than I’ve probably ever heard. I also appreciated the tasteful informality of the presentation, which reminded me of those in Handel’s time. Maestro Lawlor is a dedicated musician and an asset to Stillwater’s musical world. I anticipate some exciting concerts while this town is lucky enough to have him. His wife told us that they’re going to have us over to dinner after the holidays, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. What’s kind of eerie for me is that he looks like he could be related to Frank Salazar (if he were Hispanic and bald, that is); the physical similarities are striking.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
It just doesn’t seem like the holiday season until I attend a performance of Messiah or hear a recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. From 1986 to 1992 I worked for Maestro Frank Salazar and the Ventura County Symphony, and over one weekend every December we produced four performances of The Nutcracker. I also sang tenor with the Ventura Community Chorale when we performed Messiah every year. As Frank’s assistant, I was kept pretty busy between all of the score preparation, rehearsals, and actual performances. Too, there were always musicians who hired me to compose arrangements of different holiday music that they were to perform at recitals, school concerts, and performances apart from the symphony.
On the personal end, Frank and his wife, Judi, held a posada, or open house, every Christmas Eve, which was never missed by anyone of any importance in Ventura County’s musical world. It began around noon and ended when it ended, often not until the wee hours. There was live music (usually a string trio of quartet), lots of spicy food on fine china, expensive wines in leaded crystal, tree-trimming, and stimulating conversation. Usually, I had to leave early so that I could make an appearance at one or two other events I always had a round of parties and receptions to attend, and I loved it.
Life is quieter now (though I have a feeling this is only a temporary lull), but there are the kids’ holiday concerts and of course, Nettl’s performances. I miss those hectic Decembers in the late ’80s and early ’90s. If I could, I’d do it all again, even though I think I’d have a harder time keeping up nowadays. I can hardly listen to The Nutcracker without feeling an overwhelming sense of painful nostalgia. I want to be in the orchestra pit so badly, I can hardly stand it (I not only worked as Conductor’s Assistant, but I also performed in the orchestra). I have not been to a live performance of that ballet since. I doubt that I ever shall. It just hurts too damned much. I miss being a performing musician. I think the people around me sometimes forget that I am indeed an accomplished musician and have an extensive background in music. It’s easy to do, I admit, since I’m never seen on stage anymore, or in the capacity of a conductor’s assistant. They don’t see me poring over scores, doing bowings—or composing for that matter. It has been a difficult last ten years where my music is concerned.
The kids’ winter vacation begins on Thursday, so I’m spending that day making all of the sinful goodies I have planned. They’ll be leaving on Christmas day to spend the rest of their vacation with their dad, so I want the days leading up to Christmas to be fun, and musical, and in a house full of the aromas of cookies, gingerbread, candy and hot spiced cider.
I’m really looking forward to tonight. Not only to the concert, but also to a possible after-concert visit from one of Nettl’s old school friends who is in town this weekend. He’s a great guy and we always look forward to his visits.
And it’s beginning to snow! How could it get any better?
Thursday, December 15, 2005
- The cordless phone in our bedroom died months ago, but we couldn’t see springing for a new one, and the replacement batteries cost as much as a new phone. I opted for latter. Fourteen bucks. Big deal.
- A new spotlight for the one that has been burned out on our front porch for several weeks. Hey, halogen bulbs are expensive (about $7 each) and this house has 72 of them, inside and outdoors. Seems like I’m constantly replacing one of these. That one bulb (among the 8 that are in the front) just didn’t seem all that important at the time.
- The ingredients to make fudge and cookies for Christmas.
- A gallon of chocolate milk for the kids (this was relegated to the “unnecessary luxuries” list).
- New dish cloths & dish towels (one can only bleach things so many times).
- “Not-the-cheapest-on-the-shelf” toilet tissue.
It’s not that we couldn’t buy these things, it’s just that when you’re supporting a family of six (three of them growing teens with teen needs, food, and activities expenses), it’s easy to say, “We really don’t need that right now. It can wait.” Lynette and I make about the same amount each month, but when my mother died we were left with her debts and burial costs. On that note, yesterday we got our “Final Payment” notice from the bank that gave us the funeral and burial loan. One more payment and it’s paid in full!
And now, my wife and I are going to Leo’s for lunch.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Take five books off your bookshelf.
- Book #1 — first sentence: “How happy I am to be away!”
- Book #2 — last sentence on page 50: “I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me.”
- Book #3 — second sentence on page 100: “It is enough!”
- Book #4 — next to the last sentence on page 150: “Modern writing belongs to him, he does it better than any.”
- Book #5 — final sentence of the book: “The waters abide.”
“Modern writing belongs to him, he does it better than any. How happy I am to be away! I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me. The waters abide. It is enough!”
- Book #1:
The Sorrows of Young Werther - Goethe
“How happy I am to be away!”
- Book #2:
Zelda - Nancy Milford
“I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me.”
- Book #3:
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
“It is enough!”
- Book #4:
The Diaries of Anais Nin - Anais Nin
“Modern writing belongs to him, he does it better than any.”
- Book #5:
Quiet Days in Clichy - Henry Miller
“The waters abide.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Poor Nettl is so tired. The past weekend was huge for her. As soon as she came home last Friday, she had to pack, then go to Sand Springs for the speech tournament at which she was a judge. That meant working Friday night and all day Saturday. She didn’t get home until Saturday evening, when she had to help the girls get ready for their winter semi-formal dance. We took them, then did a little shopping. I picked the girls up because I demanded Nettl go to bed. On Sunday she was up early, helping Lauren prepare her French club’s Christmas semi-formal dinner party, which she hosted here in our home. Preparing and cooking for a dinner party of fifteen in no small feat.
Last night, when she came home from work, Nettl looked absolutely beat. She tiredly told me she had to take the kids to the bank to cash the Christmas checks they received from their grandfather, take Lauren to a band function, then take Heather and Nathan to Walmart (money burns holes in their pockets). She also want to deposit a Christmas check I received from my uncle yesterday. (Thank you! It was completely unexpected. Now I can do some Christmas shopping without dipping into our personal finances!) She also had “Messiah” rehearsal to go to, from 7:00 to 10:00.
I told her, “You don’t have to do all that. The kids can wait till tomorrow, it won’t kill them to wait a day to spend that money. Take a long nap.” She lay down on the bed and was asleep in no time at all. I then went out to the living room and told the kids their mother was tired to the point of being ill and asked them if they’d mind waiting. Heather looked disappointed as only Heather can when things don’t go the way she thinks they should (she’s a Leo), but they were good about it (they’re great kids). I made dinner and everything worked out just fine.
So I’m ticked off that I’m sleeping so late every day, and I feel really guilty, besides. I try to chalk it up to the fact that I’m ten years older than Nettl, but it doesn’t really work.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
- January: Maybe it’s my sun in Libra, ascendant in Sagittarius and moon in Cancer.
- February: I should know better than to stop flipping through the channels when I come across one of those inbred talk shows like Jerry Springer or Maury Povich.
- March: I’m just going to get this crap out and then I’ll be done with it.
- April: It has been repeatedly expressed that due to the extraordinary circus/gypsy/vaudevillian life I’ve lived, I should one day write about it.
- May: You’re right.
- June: You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.
- July: Although technically it’s early Monday morning, I’m writing this as if it’s very late Sunday night because, well, to me, it is.
- August: Really, how can anyone be more fortunate than I am?
- September: After a restless and (for me) mostly sleepless night, we got up and met the crew in the hotel’s breakfast room before the day’s work began.
- October: It’s 8:00 on Saturday morning.
- November: After nearly a full week in bed with an especially bad cold, I’m happy to report that I’m on the mend.
- December: It’s World AIDS Day, and I wanted to post a picture of my friend Cteev, who died from complications due to AIDS at the age of 32 in 2001.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
It’s weird. Kind of like walking around wearing only one sock.
Thursday, December 8, 2005
I didn’t sleep at all well—I kept waking up as soon as I’d get into any semblance of real sleep—so I gave it up around 8:30 and got up tired. I think today I’ll nap from two to three so that I won’t ruin a good night’s sleep with an involuntary evening snooze. I’m really trying to adjust my night time schedule, but it’s hard. The need to sleep is a giant pain in the ass.
What is the most over-played Christmas Song?
Monday, December 5, 2005
When I was in my mid-thirties I used to say, “I’m pushing 40!” Then, when I hit my mid-forties, I used to say, “I’m pushing fifty!” Since I entered my mid-fifties I’ve felt, on many occasions, compelled to say, “I’m pushing 60!”, but for some reason I’ve resisted.
As I lay in bed a few moments ago, unable to quiet my brain, it occurred to me that I’ve never really understood the saying, “Age is all in the mind.” I don’t think anyone gets it until they get it, and I think one has to reach a crisis point in the aging game to get it. We think we get it, but then when it finally hits us, we realize we never got it. Not really.
It suddenly occurred to me to forget about numbers, forget about decades, forget about all that crap. I’m still me. I still have my goals and dreams. All that’s changed is that I’ve been walking around a bit longer. So what? What does age have to do with anything? I mean, what’s the big fucking deal about getting older? It’s still just me, and although I’ve gained a certain degree of understanding about life, I haven’t really changed.
When I was younger, in my twenties, I though that when I got old I’d somehow be someone else, not really me. That I’d unwittingly turn into an “old person” and for some reason cease to be the vital, questing, ambitious me that I’ve always been. That’s a bunch of bunk. The bumper sticker was right: Everywhere I go, there I am. So fuck all that aging crap. If I live to be 100 I’ll be chasing down my goals and dreams. It’s just who I am and who I’ve always been.
Okay. Maybe I can go to sleep now.
A year ago tonight my mother died, so that’s been difficult. It’s also 214 years ago today that Mozart officially left the building. Also, one of the regulars on Beliefnet, whose name happened to be Steph, died of cancer. As I say, a peculiar day.
The gardeners decorated the neighborhood lamp posts with garland and lights today. I liked that last year, so I’m glad it’s something they’ll continue to do.
I realized this morning that I hadn’t taken my vitamins for over a week.
Tonight I’m watching that Sci-Fi channel special, The Triangle. Really looking forward to that. I’m closing the bedroom door and cozying up on the bed with some hot tea, and tuning in.
Friday, December 2, 2005
My only plan is to put up the outside Christmas lights. With as cold as it is, that’s a major undertaking.
Thursday, December 1, 2005
He’s been on my mind a lot this week. Sometimes I miss him more than at other times; this is one of those times. I miss his silly laugh and his unique sense of humor. I miss the way he used to help me with my garden and how he helped me drink my wine. I miss the wisdom that was hidden deep within the little boy he was and I miss getting to know the man he never had a chance to become. I miss you, Cteevenheimer.
Twenty Things That Make Me Happy
- Snow softly falling late at night under a full moon, when everything turns pink and blue
- Evening Tea Time with Nettl
- A few close friends gathered in my living room, sharing wine and laughter
- Having all the kids (5) home for the holidays
- Hot Ovaltine in big white pottery mugs by a fireplace
- Walking through Hobby Lobby with Ville
- Cats that curl up on your lap when you’re at the computer
- A dog who doesn’t go to bed until you do, regardless of how late that is
- When someone says, “Really?” when I tell them some new, exciting idea I’ve had, although they’ve already thought of it
- When Larry Weinstein tells me I’m a great writer
- Friends who show up on my doorstep, somehow sensing that I needed some company
- When I fall asleep with my head on Nettl’s lap while she brushes my hair
- Hearing Heather singing in her room after we’ve had an especially fun dinnertime at the table. It’s how I know she’s happy and feeling secure
- When one of my boys hugs me
- Nettl’s cute little knees
- Sitting in my favorite Viennese cafe with my friends
- Christmas lights
- Nights with candles and incense, and jamming with a friend on our guitars, playing folk music of the 60s
- The song, Suzanne, by Leonard Cohn
- This feeling of being secure in my relationship with Nettl. It’s something I’ve never known