If you loved (still love!) M.C. Escher, or spent your childhood in the library looking at books of optical illusions, there are so many things on the Web for you! And me. Okay, I certainly have better things to do than sit around looking at Akiyoshi’s illusion pages, but sometimes I need a break. Looking at some of these is like looking at blooming spring flowers. And looking at others is like looking at blooming spring flowers after doing too many tours on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the carnival.
Most days, I spend at the Toddy Cafe. That’s my house, I guess, although it can be portable. I felt like a fool when I dropped the $34.95 for a big plastic funnel and a carafe, but I have never looked back. I keep my coffee in the refrigerator now. I heat it in the microwave, add boiling water, and my coffee is almost certainly the best you’ve ever tasted. Unless you, too, are a Toddy person. This is one of my favorite things in daily life. And my coffee drinking, sadly, has increased dramatically. I’m okay with that.
Hey, look, the inestimable Dr. Ron Pen has begun da blog. Teacher, learner, mustachionado, and relentlessly groovy transplanted Chicago hillbilly, don’t miss Dr. Ron’s perspective, over at Pen Points!
Today is the big day! My first performance with Dr. Han’s Gamelan. I’ve been to three practices, all basically concerning our Gamelan version of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.” And then, at the last practice, Dr. Han gives me THREE pieces of music, saying “You need to learn these pieces. We already know them, so you will have to learn them quickly!” Uh, yeah. Actually it’s so hilarious and charming that Dr. Han will even let me do this. And this morning, I came in and practiced the pieces in solitude. It really helps to count out loud, I found. What a delightful experience this is.
It’s sunny, I got up early and I had a glass of chocolate milk. If you don’t like chocolate milk, well, what’s wrong with you? Oh, lactose intolerance? Damn, that’s a shame. Sorry, dude.
Had another Gamelan practice this morning and I feel like I’ve got it, as long as I focus. It’s meditative. and it’s new. I’m not used to learning new things. It’s so weird to have to focus singularly on this rote action. I’m trying to read the music, really read it, not just memorize it and stare at the page, which is what I’ve always done with music. When I actually read it, and play along, it results in this immediate (if momentary) trancendental state in which there is no room to think about anything else. And since my specialty is thinking of random things, this is a nice vacation from that.
Sunday, Lucy and I went to see The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, the latest Wes Anderson movie. I just adore the guy and his movies. What I like so much is that he manages to tell these tales of guys struggling. And I think this is very timely. In the past decades, we have (thankfully) seen great progress towards gender equality (at least in the West), which has led to much great female stuff. But I think there’s a very real place for examining the effect of the modern world on men. Wes Anderson’s movies always seem to do this, in a way that is poignant, hysterical, and profound. He seems to sympathize with males who have sort of done what society has expected them to do, and yet still end up so fucking lost on some level. He takes these male characters who are on some basic level going what am i doing? and give them an opportunity to grow, to bloom even. And the fact that many of these characters are older is, I think, the most significant thing, because it doesn’t cater to this youth & beauty culture that we are so sick on. Instead he supposes that we can all learn things, even later in life. Especially later in life. And that along with the journey, the searching, the falling down— come acceptance, and that acceptance is in itself a form of happiness.
Suddently there was only Chris Barron.
Her honey blonde hair cascaded down in waves around her face, past her broad swimmer’s shoulders. Her smile was warm like summer and all the brighter when directed at me.
One day I woke up and I loved Chris. I couldn’t wait to see her that night. Later, I was surprised to hear the sweet melody of her voice saying “Hi, Mickey!” but then hurrying away from the wide-open bathroom door… Where i was peeing.
I was eight years old and Chris was my baby sitter, but she’d never be my girlfriend. Not after that.
It’s funny how I can’t predict at all what might constitute a good day. For instance, today started off with me discovering that my car had been burglarized. Wallet? Gone. Cool customized briefcase? Gone. Running shoes? Gone.
Running shoes? Running shoes.
I was on my way to practice, by invitation, with an actual Gamelan. A Gamelan! I wasn’t going to let some petty thievery ruin that. Not when UK’s amazing parking snarl is so much more capable of sending me off the deep end. I was 20 minutes late to this thing that I’d been so looking forward to, and also a bit nervous about it because I didn’t know if I was totally out of my league, trying to do such a thing.
A few weeks earlier, I found out about the Gamelan (the Balinese term for orchestra) from my pal Ron, and—unbelievably—was told by him that newcomers were welcome.
“Can you count to four?” was Dr. Ron’s jovial retort when I asked him if I had to be able to read music to play with the Gamelan. So I excitedly marked my calendar, and exchanged email with the leader, Dr. Han, who said “come Han down!” Okay, so he didn’t really say that.
Anyway, I forgot that if you want to park close to UK when school is in session, ha ha, you are so not-going-to. And after getting near-coronary over finding a parking place, I showed up 20 minutes late… and it was no problem. Ron was there, Dr. Han happily proclaimed me to be “the new guy” and I got plopped down (shoes off, I was instructed) behind “The Grandfather,” (similar to picture), aka gangsa.
it turned out I just got in on the early run-throughs of a Gamelan version of Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More. Huh?
I actually love this song. It’s so touching and beautiful, but as a Gamelan piece? Whodathunkit?
Anyway, I was freaked at first because I could barely even pretend to follow along, as we ran though it, and I was expecting at any minute for Dr. Han to thunk me over the head with a mallet and tell me to get out. But this didn’t happen. At one point I sputtered apologetically that it was just taking me a while to get the hang of it, and several people gaffawed sympathetically and said things like Oh yeah–Because we all got it immediately! So I relaxed some. And I was blessed with the experience of learning something new for a time. I followed the music, I listened to those around me, I got lost over and over again… and I got better.
It took a lot of concentration. A kind I’m not not practiced at, but that I think could be good for me. It’s the kind of concentration that I look for in meditation, where I attempt to direct all my attention at one repetitive thing, and thus doing, shunt out all the complex chatter that my head is so completely full of lately.
I stayed late after the rehearsal was over and tried to get the hang of my grandfather for a bit.
Then I went to the bank and canceled my debit cards and checking accounts.
I’ve been meaning to see Hair Police for literally years now. This noise-rock act from here in Lexington is kind of a sensation, getting noticed by a variety of national media, culminating (so far!) in touring with Sonic Youth last year.
Seeing them (or, rather, the goal of seeing them) has been this kind of unknown quantity for me, which has in and of itself been kind of hilarious. I get the general gist, the field report– noise, chaos, mania, flailing. In fact, on many occasions, I’ve taken the opportunity to tell people about Hair Police, and describe them, never having seen them myself.
But it’s not entirely presumptuous, because of this thing that happened a couple of years ago: I went to this house party just to see them, and—fresh back from living in NYC—I had missed this new trend of Lexington bands playing 30 minute (or less) sets. So I got to this house at 10pm (plenty early right?) talked to some people out front, and finally meandered into this living room, where this wall of pure white noise was ensuing from a destroyed drum kit, lying in pieces, and several guys epileptically flailing around with guitars and mics. Otherwise, the room was detailed with a variety of hipster kids, standing around watching or not, laughing or not, talking. This sight was preposterously mesmerizing. It reminded me of small children exposed for the first time to mics, amps and guitars; Often, when I’ve seen this, the kids just end up screaming and banging on these things, hypnotized by the incredible racket that THEY ARE MAKING.
So when I went to Mecca to actually finally see Hair Police last night I was kind of surprised by this revelation: They sound exactly like I thought they would. With the flailing, and the banging and the… the… jeez, who fuckin’ knows? Good or bad, I ain’t got a clue, but it’s a sight to behold.
My friend Kate put it best: “Listening to Hair Police–It’s like watching my family being set on fire.”
After the gig (estiimated time: 25 minutes), I talked Robert, possessed modified electronics czar. Immediately restored from spastic flailing to a general calmness, he asked, “Have you ever seen us before?” and I told him the above encounter. He replied with a smile and a shrug: “Yeah, that could’ve been us.”
Once upon a time, there was a geodesic dome built from scratch in my backyard. Much thanks to the friends that made this happen! For it was very good. December 1999
If you want to see more pictures, leave a comment below. I just stumbled across archived pictures from the Millenium New Year’s Party at Bassett.