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:
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.
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-1
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-a
s-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.