Log in

Previous 10

May. 23rd, 2016

Summer / Life

A lot has happened since I returned to Gainesville, though my relatively relaxed pace of life recently makes it feel otherwise.

First of all, I am excited / terrified to begin work with the Gainesville Peer Respite. The respite is going to be a community of certified mental health peer specialists that will be hosting events to raise awareness and create discussion around mental health issues as well as running a residential facility where individuals can check themselves in to receive support in a non-clinical setting. We are aiming to create an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization with all of its forms, medications, locked doors, cold and clinical environments, and professional distance of staff. The environment we create will instead be home-like, comfortable, free of labeling and judgment and diagnosis. I will be one of the peer support specialists.

I'm excited to be part of the founding team that helps to create the structure for how the organization is run in the future, as well as learning how to better support individuals that are in crisis or just need someone to listen. I'm also super-excited to be fulfilling a fantasy that I have had for the last five or so years of blending my career as an IT professional with that of a mental health professional. I really love the solitude and creativity and satisfaction of IT work, but in the past few years it has felt a little more like a way to make a living rather than something that feels like it makes a real impact in my community.

I am not giving up on IT altogether, and have invested many hours in learning iOS programming. My goal is to be able to provide native iOS app writing services and work with apps that play back and manipulate sound. I am really loving Swift since it has tons of features that I love in languages such as Coffeescript and Ruby and I am finally learning to love strongly typed languages. It is a little annoying to work with types when I am used to the convenience of languages like Ruby and JavaScript, but the rich tool support is worth it. Knowing that it has been open sourced is comforting, since I am a big proponent of open source. I am excited for the possibility of creating a native iOS app with an open source swift server-side back end.

Musically speaking, I have been performing less than what is usual for me. However, I am happy to be joining the friendly folks in Mourning Glories and bringing traditional music to appreciative audiences. Additionally, I have been working hard on an as-of-yet-unnamed mandolin quartet. I have spent hours and hours arranging ragtime piano sheet music for the quartet and have found it a great source of pleasure and satisfaction. Playing a plucked string instrument (a baritone guitar with a mostly-fifths tuning) has also been a fun challenge. I have been inspired recently by friends that are taking risks and learning new instruments and performance styles to also take up a new instrument. I am thinking that taking up drums would provide the kind of challenge I am craving, and give me an outlet to my immensely rhythm-oriented musical brain. I am very much inspired by jazz drummers but not interested necessarily in playing jazz. We'll see what happens. Oh, and I have a fantasy at getting really good at arco playing on the upright bass! One thing at a time, though ;]

In other exciting news, my brother has really impressed me with his immense drive and energy with respect to his career in nursing. He recently graduated summa cum laude from his BS in nursing, has solid intensive care unint experience, and is considering a career as a traveling nurse so that he can check out various cities that he has been curious about. I am looking forward to visiting him in Portland or Austin or wherever he might end up :]

A list of things that I am really enjoying:

  • I am currently reconnecting with some of my musical roots by taking the effort to properly digest the recent MASSIVE release by Autechre -- a release named "elseq" lasting more than four hours and containing multiple tracks that exceed the ten- and twenty-minute track length. I am loving how so many of the tracks rely on quite slow tempos yielding space quite long phrases filled with kaleidoscopic shards of rhythm and fragments of melodies. The disconnected and austere sound of this music can be massively comforting to me in that it provides a space within which I can just rest and have an experience that allows me to temporarily disengage the side of me that is emotionally reactive and too-concerned with my perceptions of myself and my ideas of how others perceive me. It feels intensely private.

  • Graphic novels have filled a space for me that used to be taken up by TV. Graphic novels stimulate me visually, connect me to my early-childhood fascination with visual art, but allow me the creative freedom and personal control over pace and consumption that TV shows and videos fail to provide. The Alachua Public Library has a great selection of graphic memoirs and (auto)biographical works.

  • Speaking of graphic novels, I am completely obsessed with Alison Bechdel. Seeing her "Fun Home" on Broadway was in my top five most moving experiences of my life. I connected very strongly to the character of the closeted father as well as the character of the awkward early 20's Alison and her gradually discovering her sexuality and entering into the world of romantic relationships for the first time.

  • I love working at the Alachua County public library. Spaces where a communal experience is created that doesn't involve talking are very rare. Being both introverted but also wanting a feeling of community can feel difficult since extroversion and extroverted spaces are the norm.

  • Heat. After the initial sluggishness / acclimation phase of summer is over, I thrill at how pliable my body is in the heat. I love how flexible I feel and how my joints feel less achy. I am also loving the end of pollen season!

  • I am very much nourished and sustained by my current partnership. I am grateful for their loving support, smarts, compassion, energetic vitality, and grateful, also, for our shared values of non-violent communication, introspection, and consent. I love sharing yummy food and musical knowledge and cuddles and Alison Bechdel fanaticism with them. I love running into them around town and feeling my heart fill with joy and love the instant that I realize who it is that I have encountered <3

Mar. 4th, 2016

A more affordable mandocello

I am starting a plucked-string quartet modeled after a classic mandolin quartet. Instead of an expensive mandola and mandocello, however, we are using a tenor guitar tuned ADGC and a baritone guitar tuned EEADGC. The timbre is not going to be the same using these sing-course instruments, but this is not a major concern for me.

We are using the Ibanez PFT2-NT for the tenor and an Alvarez ABT60 for the baritone guitar.

My original intention was to tune the baritone guitar GEADGC (New Standard Tuning), but even a .009 and .008 broke when I attempted to tune them up to that high G.

Here are the string gauges currently on the instrument:
E 010
E 011
A 018
D 029
G 052
C 070

I am going to put on a new set of strings using the following:
E 010
E 010
A 020
D 030
G 052
C 070

The strings used on the instrument are D'Addario EXP coated strings for the wound strings and D'Addario plain steels for the plain steel strings.

I am pleased so far with the sound and intonation of the instrument after this dramatic tuning change. (Originally, it was tuned BEADF#B). I do need to take care of some major fret buzz on the third fret of the D string and beyond the 12th fret on the G string, though.


I tried out the new string gauges. I switched the tuning to CGDAEC (that's with the high C actually two steps lower than the E). The fret buzz is gone and the new wound 020 A instead of the plain 018 A has a bit more fundamental and blends timbrally with three lowest strings. I will keep this string gauge and perhaps switch to a 012, 013, or 014 for the high C. I like this tuning because it sounds really nice in chords and also puts less tension on the neck. I worry a little about putting two high E strings on a 27" neck.

Jan. 8th, 2016

To New Orleans and Back

Back in July, I announced that I would be leaving Gainesville and moving to New Orleans. Guess what? I am returning to Gainesville after only a few months! I will share the reason for my return after I reflect on my experiences in New Orleans.

Here is what I was envisioning for myself in New Orleans and how it has played out:

Continue playing and singing the kinds of European folk music that make my soul really come alive.

I took lessons from Craig Judelman, the fiddle player from the band Litvakus. He invited me to a klezmer Chanukah shabbat dinner that connected me with a couple of very talented and very sweet musicians named Jennie and Alex that played in the band Klezmephonic. There was definitely potential for development here.

Find a contra- or square-dance scene and see if they could use a cellist.

The scene here is quite active and the people have been very receptive and friendly. There is a monthly squaredance and now a monthly contradance and there is a pretty good spread of ages. The weekly old-time jam is an epic and cathartic wall of mountain-music sound. The Balkan folk dance scene has been quite welcoming as well, and I attended an open-air potluck and dance with live music that I remember fondly. As far as cello goes in this scene, I didn't notice much interest. There is a movement toward recreating early ragtime music that relied on bowed cello for bass (check out the East Texas Seranaders!) and a very gifted plectrum banjo player invited me to join his string and piano ragtime band. I think that I could have had fun with that.

Investigate the Arabic music / bellydance scene. Maybe I could finally learn from an Arabic musician?

I met a greek Oud player and heard about and got in contact with a dancer, but didn't develop this further.

Find a cellist that has delved deeply into a non-classical folk music style and take lessons from them.

I emailed a few cellists but got no replies. I got to see the fantastic Helen Gillet play solo cello with looping and singing.

Find a singer-songwriter to collaborate with.

No success here. One singer-songwriter I met mentioned that she had tried to put together a backing band before, but the musicians in this town are so gig-oriented and transient that she wasn't able to put together a group that wanted to rehearse and work on arrangements on a regular basis. I received a few bites on a Craigslist ad and attended an open-mic night but no singer that I saw here really drew me in.

Consider taking up the upright bass.

Nope. My music teacher, perhaps noticing my proclivity toward bass function on the cello, did ask me if I had considered learning the upright bass. Maybe one day?

Consider producing electroacoustic music again.

I am still feeling the tape-music itch but haven't acted on it. Considering working on a music app for iPad.

And here are some ongoing personal goals that I set in July:

Feeling worthy of love, connection, and romantic partnership.

I have been working hard on this. One way I have worked on this is to try to initiate the kinds of relationships I want in my life. My past pattern is to wait for relationships to appear, and this passivity meant enduring long stretches of feeling undernourished and lonely. I have experienced quite positive results in this area, which is directly related to the reason for my return. I've also worked to connect my feelings of unworthiness with my difficulty in knowing where my boundaries are. This has helped in restoring balance in some of my valued relationships.

Developing the courage to speak out and act skillfully when I am in pain.

I realize that a big part of this is learning where my boundaries are and working to enforce them. Rather late in the game, but I'm happy to be learning just the same. Passively enduring less-than-optimal situations has not served me in the past.

Balancing my tendency to follow and support with a more assertive leading and guiding role.

I worked a bit on this in Gainesville as I was getting ready to move, practicing by leading a small ensemble consisting of the past members of Queen Anne's Lace. Worked on this less so in New Orleans.

Here are some reflections on my time in New Orleans:

The city really is lovely. My eye is drawn to the juxtaposition of old and new, the weathered and quirky infrastructure, and the free and uninhibited use of color. I noticed in myself a sense of unease in appreciating the broken-down feel of the city and realized that I am able to appreciate it from a position of privilege -- the visible signs of decaying infrastructure are a clear signal that this city and state is poor and is not able to serve its poorer or marginilized citizens effectively. If I were poor or marginalized, or if my income were tied to the economic health of the area, I would likely feel differently.

My routine most days has consisted of walking out to work at the comfortable Mojo or HiVolt coffee shops for a few hours, then playing cello in my huge room in a building from the 1860s, then maybe going out for a show, rehearsal, or folk dance event. I've busked a few times (with mostly disappointing results), and played one benefit gig. I am playing out a lot less than in Gainesville, but I notice that I don't miss it as much as I thought I would.

The party vibe is a major factor in the city, and I find it hard to relate to people that consume alcohol on a very regular basis. I couldn't really connect with the way of interacting that I find in the jazz scene -- maybe because I don't value alcohol-fueled interactions so much. I did meet a couple of sweet and very talented jazz musicians and have been playing in their trio using my cello as a bass. Maybe we will get a chance to play some more before I go.

I was worried about grocery availability and cost, and I totally miss Gainesville in this regard. Everything is more expensive, and bulk organic food is crazy expensive (walnuts are $15/lb). I haven't encountered much of a support for local food. There are fairly regular farmer's markets but I haven't gone to them yet so maybe that's where I need to do my shopping.

I am realizing that I don't care so much for exactly what I play or where I play it, as long as I have a good time with people that I genuinely like and care about. My favorite band experiences are band experiences where I have felt emotionally connected to my band members and not just musically connected. Sometimes I notice that a musical connection can feel very strong (I've cried and sobbed over leaving or breaking up bands), but it ultimately feels hollow if there is no emotional connection behind it.

And here are some reasons that I am returning:

Well, here is the main reason. Before I left Gainesville, I connected with a super-smart, deeply compassionate, lively, radical-activist, optimistic, hilarious, sweet, and motivated person who happens to be an excellent communicator and values transparency, vulnerability, thoroughness, and gentleness in communication to a great degree. (They have more qualities that appeal to me but I would have to dedicate a whole blog entry to that ^_^). We have been in close contact my entire time in New Orleans, and during a recent visit to Gainesville, amidst a huge flood of excitement and vulnerability and AAAAAAAAAAH we decided that we should invest more formally in our relationship and be in the same city to nurture and deepen our connection. It made sense that I should move back to Gainesville, though we may move elsewhere together at some point in the future if that makes sense for both of us.

I do still feel a pull to unfurl myself in a new city, but I am realizing that I could just make a substantial change in my life in Gainesville and achieve many of the same benefits of moving (new experiences, challenges, and opportunities). I am currently considering substantial volunteer work, a new music project, and/or developing music-related software.

I realized that when I arrived in New Orleans I was trying hard to re-create the life I already had in Gainesville (which is an OK approach to take), but that this seemed problematic. My friend shared an adage with me a while back that continues to resonate with me: "It is easier to move the body than the mind."

Gainesville is SO green and SO comfortable and SO easy. The cracked-asphalt-no-greenspace-driving-on-I-10 vibe of New Orleans could get me down sometimes. In Gainesville it's so nice that you can bike or drive a short distance and experience many different distinct feels and social circles.

New Gainesville goals:

  • Nurture my connection with my new partner (!)

  • Change the nature of my work in some substantial way. The telecommute-then-play-in-as-many-bands-as-possible thing is great but it is growing old.

  • Work on something more in line with my values. Perhaps something related to activism in some shape or form. One idea is crisis center volunteer work.

  • Continue working on improving my ability to communicate in a non-violently assertive manner.

  • Continue to work on feelings of worthlessness.

  • Continue improving leadership skills.

  • Not settling for a house with even *slight* mold issues. This may mean having to live in a new or renovated structure, even though I feel so drawn to historic homes.

Oct. 14th, 2015


Spend the weekend in Richmond, Virginia with: The Fierce Fiddler!

Hung out in the cold Marino Cave with a friendly & purring Killer Kitty. Washed & cleansed dishes under the tall trees. An ambulance passed ("The Mother Ship") and set the wild pack of wild puppies to shrieking & howling. Threw the grime-ball for the very friendly and intensely needy & cute Roxy (Roxanne???). Small brown patch at base of tail. Oh, I saw a crawfish splashing. It was missing a claw but still lively & vital. At one point it released itself into the swell of the river.

Wonderful bike-rambles down down a hill across to an island in the James. A lush & green island dotted with rusty-cool old ruins. Biked a pedestrian suspension bridge (!!!) across to the downtown zone and then discovered a magical trail consisting of a catwalk built over a pipeline. Arcs of cement undulating over the rushing waters. Rising and falling and undulating. Undulating into and out of Misery-Conflict & Tender-Joy with the fiddler.

Big white tents full of lovely sparkling earthy sounds. 3.5 hours filling a morning cafe with lovely music. 13 & 11 hours of interminable car-lurching across South East. Welcome to Nash County. Cruised & darted through sun-sparkled and car-filled city streets. Took in life at the hyper-compressed Fiddler-pace. Did you know that blue whales can only swallow an amount of food equivalent to the size of a grapefruit at one time?

A bleating goat cradled in loving arms. Silky Persian Pajamas. Rambles up and down the people-filled hills at The Festival. Mamusu fish-overload followed by the Salads of Atonement. 

Sep. 27th, 2015

Let's be friends

I am leaving Gainesville. Leaving Florida. The city and state that has most of the people I call friends. I've left once before but this time I am leaving alone and moving to a city I realistically know little about.

I've been thinking about friendship. Why am I friends with the people that I call friends? Who are the people I look forward to seeing and why do I look forward to seeing them? How can I make new friends in the city I am moving to?

Here is a catalog of qualities that influence how I relate to people and make friends.

  • Music is a big way that I make friends. Music is inherently a connecting experience, and sharing that experience alone is enough to make me feel open to, connected, and curious about someone. Any shared experience, even one as seemingly devoid of activity as meditation can create a sense of connection. I've made friends by spending time mostly sitting in silence with others.

  • When someone remembers some detail about my life and asks thoughtful questions about that detail, I feel that they are genuinely interested in and care about me. This is pretty important to me.

  • When I am experiencing some upset or some joy or some heightened emotion and that person reflects back to me my own experience, I feel that the other person genuinely understands and shares in what I am experiencing. In contrast, if that person instead launches into advice-giving, admonishing, criticizing, or relating personal anecdotes, I might at an intellectual level appreciate what they are giving, but a tender and soft part of me feels closed-off and uninterested in continuing to share.

  • When someone honors their commitments with me or clearly and proactively communicates their lack of availability, I feel respected and appreciated. I find flakiness to be a really big turn-off.

  • When someone engages in a conversation that consists mostly of entertaining personal anecdotes, I feel uninspired and uninterested. I feel that my choice becomes either to participate in the volley of personal anecdotes (which I find unsatisfying), or giving to the other by reflecting to them their experience. I find both of these options to be one-sided and draining. For me, a conversation really recharges my need for human connection when it is equal parts give-and-take. When I present a topic for conversation, I like it when my conversational partner asks me thoughtful questions about the topic and develops that topic further. I like to do the same for others.

  • I really like optimistic people. But not the forced optimism that tries to paper over the real hurts and flaws of a situation with corny affirmations. I like slightly cynical and pessimistic people because I can relate to them. But too much wallowing in that end of the spectrum makes me want to run away.

  • I like people that can tell when they are caught up in their own personal emotional drama, pause, and then backtrack. This is a skill I want in myself and I know from experience that it can take a long time to develop it.

  • I like people that can compassionately reflect to me my own negativity around a situation and then gently call me out on it.

  • I like people with nerdy interests. Bookish people that maybe played a lot of video games and tabletop games. People that sit in rooms by themselves working on a craft for many hours. Creative folks.

  • Pop culture, sports, and celebrity worship are subjects I have a hard time bonding over.

  • I like people that put away their electronic devices and place them on silent when we are rehearsing music or driving together or hanging out. When someone is staring at a screen, I feel like they have left the room and like perhaps I should, too.

  • I like when people I am trying to connect with are on the same wavelength as me. If I am not super caffeinated, I don't want to be around caffeinated folks. If I am not drinking, I don't want to be around folks that are a few beers in.

  • I like arriving at gatherings early because the likelihood that I will get to engage in a smaller group is higher. As soon as the group size exceeds 3 or 4 people I go sit behind the cello and switch from conversing with words to conversing with music. If this option is not available to me, I will generally leave or try my best at treading water amidst the overstimulating noise and often fast-paced and shallower conversations.

  • I like silences and pauses. I can get overstimulated quickly if someone is a big talker. Then I run the risk of shutting down. I can be a big talker if I am jazzed about some bit of trivia I just learned. I like when people patiently endure these episodes and I like it when people tell me clearly and kindly that they are not available for enduring them ^_^

  • I like people that can be emotionally vulnerable and also people that can make relaxed and friendly small talk. Both are useful and good.

  • I like clever people with a gentle sense of humor.

  • I like justice-minded people that are critical thinkers.

  • I tend to have a passive way of relating to others. So I often end up closely bonding with people that have an assertive way of relating.

  • I tend to end up around folks that don't have an identity that is very closely associated with how they dress, the specific slang they use, their specific narrowly constructed idealogies, etc.

  • I like it when people are responsive on electronic communication media. I like longer and more thoughtful responses. Often I will sit at my laptop to compose a response rather than painfully compose a terse and cold response on a touch device.

  • I like very emotionally intense people. People that crackle with infectious energy when they are excited about something, or shrivel to nubs or lash out when they are anxious or sad. Being around folks like this can be very stimulating and invigorating, even if my reaction goes toward irritation. Being around folks like this that are aware of their emotional swings and partly in control of them is inspiring.

Aug. 4th, 2015

Satvatove Retreat Realizations

  • True and unblocked reflective listening can instantly create connection between two individuals even if those individuals have seemingly nothing in common.

  • Deep connection is one of the best feelings that can be experienced.

  • I have trouble accessing angry, assertive, and forceful passion. What is that about?

  • While I do need alone time in order to recharge, I can make do with short and concentrated bursts of alone time.

  • After spending a weekend feeling connected to people within a structured environment, returning to "normal" ways of conversing feels stiff and awkward.

  • I want to retain the ability to communicate my needs in an assertive way. Not a passive way. Not an aggressive way. Not a passive-aggressive way.

  • I still have issues around religion and philosophy. I don't like this philosophy. I like that philosophy. I don't like philosophy. What is that about?

  • I want to return to this kind of connected retreat setting in the future. Once a year would probably be good.

  • I want to cultivate friendships within which connected conversation is possible.

  • Some of my biggest roadblocks to communication are advice-giving, oversharing long personal historical anecdotes, and problem-solving.

  • It is possible for me to be both stiff and mechanical when practicing reflective listening and also natural and graceful. The latter is preferable. One approach to listening more naturally is for me to not wait too long to take in what someone saying and interrupt with reflective statements in an engaged manner. Non-reflective statements that are helpful (open-ended questions, etc.) are best inserted at natural pauses in the conversation.

  • When the connected communication format is in effect, a room full of strangers feels like a room full of close family and best friends. When it is turned off, the usual awkwardness returns.

  • The Yoda Rule is worth remembering: If I "try", I have already failed. If I "do", I will succeed.

  • If I want something to happen in my life or in my community, expressing the need for it is less likely to make it happen than doing it myself.

  • While I still have a habit of hiding shameful behavior, I am able to notice and expose such instances and take responsibility for them.

  • I felt a sense of strength during the retreat that likely comes from my decision to move to New Orleans, feeling secure in my current unpartnered state, and feeling strong in my ability to connect with people musically. I was able to brave certain scenarios and exercises that normally would have triggered intense anxiety.

Jul. 7th, 2015

Why I love Gainesville and why I am leaving

Save for a year's stint in Salt Lake City, I've been in Gainesville since 2002. Gainesville has become my home. Everywhere I go, I meet people I know. The embrace of ancient oak trees, the magic of walking or biking late at night in the summer, the thrill of the first clear and cold day of the fall following days of rain, the fury of thunderstorms, the fragrant and lulling humidity and heat of the summer -- all of these things I have grown to love.

Life in Gainesville is easy. The city is generous. It makes available everything I could want. Good food, easy access to nature, a vibrant music scene, short commutes, an abundance of people that value self-inquiry and mindfulness, and easy access to satisfying work are all available to me.

But I think that it's time for adventure. Time to break hearts and let my heart be broken. Time for desperate loneliness and intense fear. Time to work very hard and go to sleep exhausted. Time for desperately desired breakthroughs that just won't come. In the midst of the struggle, I hope to grow and be changed and be rewarded in new and unexpected ways.

This summer I passed through New Orleans and decided that braving this city will be my adventure. The city is hot. Humid. Filled with majestic decaying architecture. Too-narrow streets that are more than likely not bike-friendly. Only the occasional tree. Not a bit of nice parkland in sight. Good restaurants but a seeming lack of good grocery stores.

However, I experienced a show there that hinted at the musical potential of the city -- a room full of people of many ages performing, dancing to, and listening to the kinds of music that my formerly more active group Blackfire opened me to. Musicians of a caliber that I aspire to maybe reach sharing music that touches my heart deeply. I am writing to some of these musicians and dancers now to see if what I witnessed wasn't just a fluke. So far so good.

To my friends and musical family in Gainesville: I am sorry. I could stay longer and be happy here as I have for last 10+ years, but I think that it is time to go away, at least for a while, and try something new. My joy has been in sharing time and music with you and I am tremendously grateful for these experiences. I am sad, but hopefully you can share in my excitement as I move on to try something new.



  • I will be selling lots of musical equipment and instruments and almost all of my books at very low prices.

  • I am shooting to move in the fall. I am not sure of an exact date but early November might be best.


New Orleans Goals

  • Continue playing and singing the kinds of European folk music that make my soul really come alive.

  • Find a contra- or square-dance scene and see if they could use a cellist.

  • Investigate the Arabic music / bellydance scene. Maybe I could finally learn from an Arabic musician?

  • Find a cellist that has delved deeply into a non-classical folk music style and take lessons from them.

  • Find a singer-songwriter to collaborate with.

  • Consider taking up the upright bass.

  • Consider producing electroacoustic music again.


Ongoing Personal Life Goals

  • Feeling worthy of love, connection, and romantic partnership.

  • Developing the courage to speak out and act skillfully when I am in pain.

  • Balancing my tendency to follow and support with a more assertive leading and guiding role.

Apr. 12th, 2015


Sometimes I feel like I spend a majority of my time trying to figure out why I'm not feeling especially well. In those stretches of time I sometimes forget that feeling light and excited is even a possibility. The little colored bars in my Google Calendar become hordes of scary bugs that I hide from rather than declarations that yes, here is a fun thing to look forward to. I wake up exhausted, feel anxious or indifferent to the day's latest practice, show, or work assignment. I mechanically move my body through strenuous and tiring motions at the gym because I know it helps a little bit. I read at breakfast and before bed and remember little of what I read. I inhale food at the appropriate quantities and intervals because I know that if I don't, it makes the day just a little harder to bear.

A week or so ago I realized that that feeling of trying to escape a nameless, difficult, and suffocating situation was missing. It happened so gradually that I didn't really realize it until I was several weeks into it. So, I'm writing this as a signpost that declares that, yes, being happy is a thing that is real and here is what the creature looks like. And that maybe I can return to it if I need to. As far as I can tell, here are some components that make up my current pleasant situation.


I am doing what I want to do, not what I believe I have to do. Unconsciously trying to follow a standard American storyline produced a lot of stress for me. The storyline being: find a partner, move in with that partner, eventually get married, save up for a house, buy a house, prepare for the eventual decline of health of my parents, all while being both generous and financially successful. Not that I'm not open to actually doing any of those things, but I think I was trying to force myself to follow that pattern without actually feeling in my heart that I wanted to do those things. (The downside to this attitude is that I probably paid too much in taxes and that I don't have health insurance right. Oh, and an oil change and visit to the dentist are way overdue.)


I am playing music. Lots of music. Thanks to wedding season and a couple big gigs, music paid the bills last month. I am playing in several great bands with great people. Nothing better than a week full of what I love to do best. I am also trying to take on a more active role in rehearsals which I have found has helped me to feel a greater sense of reward and closeness with my fellow bandmates.


I am doing interesting work, but on my own terms. Software engineering keeps my inner eight year old Lego self happy. I'm not in the office forty hours a week, though. This means I don't make much money, but it also means that when I work, I work. I don't waste time on FB, reddit, etc. when I am too tired or burned out to be productive.


I am working from home and can set my own schedule. This is huge. If I am tired, I can take a nap! If I am hungry, I can cook food that I make myself. I save money and can code while the rice timer ticks away. If I need to concentrate, I don't have to crank up (distracting) music in my headphones because I can work in total silence with zero chance of interruptions.


It is not winter any more. Being thrifty and allergic to clothes shopping means that I probably don't dress warmly enough for winter. Being cold makes my body feel contracted and my joints stiff. This tightness and contraction of the makes me feel anxious. The coming heat of summer makes me feel pliant and pleasantly drowsy. Note to self: buy a couple cold weather hats, thermal underwear, more long-sleeve shirts, finger gloves, and warm slippers.


Close companionship and friendship. My number one fiddle friend has become a very dear and important person to me. More than simply providing me with a distraction and a remedy from loneliness, my relationship with her has helped me to uncover and address some painful emotional places and has helped me develop a better idea of the kind of relationship style I may want to continue cultivating. Here are some highlights:

  • Space. Having my own place and often sleeping in my own bed lets me preserve a sense of identity and emotional support that I cultivate on my own. This means that I don't have to lean on my relationship partner for all of my emotional needs which can lead to problems and often feels unsustainable.

  • Shared projects. Sharing a big project with a relationship partner is really a wonderful gift. I find that it creates a shared sense of excitement and provides an opportunity for bonding and intimacy that can transcend the unpredictable flaring and ebbing of physical attraction. It can create friction and frustration and conflict, but this friction is its own reward in that it produces an opportunity for personal growth in a way not possible when I am single.

  • Revisiting painful or difficult subjects. Carefully revisiting difficult or painful areas helps prevent buried ill feelings from fermenting and bursting out in unpleasant and unpredictable ways. While it is necessary to cultivate letting go of difficult feelings, letting go is not a silver bullet. Confronting the feelings head-on is vitally important. Only close relationships drive up painful emotional habits. I find that even "unsuccessful" relationships are a gift and a blessing, as long as I keep a sense of humility and willingness to learn.

  • Loving in an open-handed way. Maintaining physical and emotional independence and not letting my feelings of self-worth be connected to my notions of how the relationship should work is tremendously freeing. And lets the relationship evolve and adapt rather than abrubtly terminate because it doesn't meet some narrow preconceived notion of what a relationship should be.

  • I realize that I have a passive / accepting / following personality. This makes it difficult for me to find a romantic partner because I almost never make romantic advances and because this passive role is not considered masculine by typical American norms. However, I feel best when I am supporting and often taking direction from an individual with a strong sense of vision and drive. My musical persona as bassist and supporting instrumentalist is an expression of this strongly Yin character in my personality. Deliberately stepping outside of this Yin role (as with the band Blackfire) can be energizing and empowering, but I find nourishment in the nature of supporting, following, and being receptive. Every woman I have dated is also attracted to women. Coincidence? ^_^


An evolving meditation practice. I still meditate every day, but I am less worried about doing it *right*. I scratch myself. I pause my timer and get a glass of water. I crack the bones of my feet and knuckles. Looking back, it's the same attitude I have toward music practice. When I practice the cello, I play intently for a while, take a break, jam a little bit and get distracted, return to practicing intently, etc. And results come even if to an outsider I am not practicing as efficiently as possible. If I were to judge myself for not being able to engage in laser focus for hours at a time, I probably would not practice much at all. Bringing the same attitude to my meditation practice has helped eliminate a layer of anxiety from my day. Who wants to meditate if you are cultivating self-judgment the whole time?


Working on something big and kind of scary. I am going to tour with Blackfire and ...Y Los Dos Pistoles in June and this is my first time booking a tour. It really triggers feelings of unworthiness and vulnerability and a part of me screams to not want to do it at all, but pushing through those feelings and seeing it slowly come together has been really rewarding.

Dec. 25th, 2014

Blackfire - Kolo Da Igramo

Blackfire, is the project started by kaleidescopekas and crewed by her, the great fiddler Arthur Rosales, the great drummer Zach Randall, and myself. We released an album titled Kolo Da Igramo.

Recording it was quite challenging and fun. Challenging as in exhausting, maddening, tear-stained. Fun as in exulting, joyful, and tear-stained. Performing the CD release party for this was a blast. It's rare, I think, for all five acts of a long evening of music to feel engaging from start to finish, but that's exactly what I think happened.

Nov. 25th, 2014

Mmm, Music

>> Blackfire

Blackfire is a quartet consisting of two violins, a cello, and a drum kit. We can also perform as a duo and trio. We play modern arrangements of traditional European music from Klezmer, Sephardic, Swedish, Gallician, Balkan, and other traditions. We play pretty much anything with a bit of edge, fire, and passion in it.

This band has been one of my favorite musical projects of the past few years. It has helped me to grow musically by giving me an opportunity to sing and play cello, and it tickles the part of me that is satisfied only by listening to or playing metal and other forms of aggressive rock music. It also feels like I have more ownership and direction over the material, which is something rare for me since I tend to naturally settle into a supportive role in musical projects.

We are currently working on a full-length recording(!) and expect to be done soon. I've been genuinely moved by the rough mixes we've recorded so far. Such a great feeling.

>> Wax Wings

Wax Wings is my opportunity to make music with the incomparable Chelsea Carnes. I take more risks musically and allow myself to make more mistakes with this group. We play a lot of fun gigs and have even been on a small tour.

Recently we played at Swallowtail festival and also shot a video. The day of the shoot was really sweet. Hanging out in costume with friends. The band were ghosts and our friends were dressed up in black and performing a seance. There was an industrial fog machine, pizza, general sweet sillyness, and lots of cute people doing cute things. A wee child bumbling about. Rolled-up capoeira pants. A crazy-cool staff made with a dog skull and spine.

We kept the vibe going at a porch jam where I jammed with one of my favorite fiddle players for hours and hours. I jammed a little on guitar and even accompanied a singer on guitar (I don't get to mess around with one very much these days). Frisbee! (The rule was that you had to jump while throwing the disc and also while catching it). Silly giggling into the night.

>> Mourning Glories

I've gigged so much with this group. Such easygoing and sweet people. We play traditional old-time and Irish music. We may have a chance at playing an event for the GODS which would be a lot of fun. Several folks are working to make this happen and it's a really nice validation of the hard work we've put in to promote contra dancing and practice our calling.

>> Klezmer Katz

I have a memory of a nice date back in 2007 where Bear, Carrot, and I stumbled upon the Klezmer Katz for the first time and I heard Klezmer for the first time. I had never heard the style and I was completely floored by it. I can tell that a music had really touched me because it overrides the part of me that analytically enjoys music and breaks it down into recognizable components. I was just struck by the Klez.

Fast forward to 2014 where I find myself playing with them. Arco bass on the cello is so much fun. I have to thank Bach for helping me appreciate that. And helping me to form my chief instrumental identity as bassist.


We play at Satchel's this Wednesday.

Previous 10


May 2016




RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com