Time For A Rest, Yet No Rest Comes

When I started this post days ago, I wrote this: the past 36-hours have been a whirlwind of helping activities at the college combined with a mind-numbing, heart hurting, crushing realization that the life in education I’ve been helping myself and others to build, curate, prune, and fill with love is being ripped from my hands in one fell swoop. I have always been open to change and embracing it with the mind of an alchemist who reveres the work of melting new precious metals together to morph them into something new. It can feel like magic!

But what happened yesterday [in context: yesterday was May 26 and it’s now June 2] in the midst of doing many things that I do in a day, was to discover that someone could shred my department in the blink of a two-hour meeting on Zoom and empty it of many of the teachers who give it life. Hmmm. How do we teach everything with just three of us and one of us has numerous other duties as Chair? As it started to sink in slowly that this was going to present a formidable task, my tired (no, exhausted) mind couldn’t work quickly enough to process the Fall schedule that is already published and has many students enrolled in all our courses.

“Why?” You might ask.

“Why?” We all asked.

Aside [on May 27]: I’m playing bang on a can | music for airports | brian eno rather loudly with the open patio glass allowing fog-tinged air to tickle my nostrils. (Wearing a mask all morning into the afternoon sucks.)

For the past academic year in our department meetings, we were upbeat and excited to share the collaborations we do for other departments. BEMA is EVERYWHERE was our call out. So many of our faculty and staff do myriad tasks and projects for and with other departments usually including our students in the collaboration so they can learn, real-time with real clients, the value of teamwork while nurturing the feelings of group accomplishment and success.

Next aside, now on to 90’s Trip-Hop Essentials with Beth’s plaintively sweet wail of Portishead Sour Times filling my room. Ahhh, now this is where I’m at. It’s just right.

Feeling a bit chewed up with my heart twisted today and this suits the vibe. The previous sonic aside featured some perfectly ambient backbone with melodic repetitions weaving throughout. Sound emitting from various instruments timed at intervals that slightly alter the rhythm. I love these quiet and artful thought-provoking works of music and sound…delicious to my tympanic membrane and cochlea.

It’s now June 2 and I’m in southern California staying at the loveliest AirBnB with the sweetest and most accommodating host. As I type, there is a pool reflecting the beauty of a backyard garden filled with flowers, birds, and bees. This is so necessary for me right now. I’ve spent the last 3 days in meetings and talks about how to save my department from the most massive cut ever to our faculty and programs. I have been in shock for days, but showing up to the front lines to fight for every last idea I could bring to the table to change this horror that has been unfolding before me since May 26th.

I can’t believe that after I have calculated every move I can make given the very tiny box we have been put into: only three of us left to teach, no overloads, and the one audio teacher is the dept chair with a considerable amount of other work which covers most of the teaching load I am allowed; we are totally screwed. We can only fulfill our Film, Television, and Electronic Media Associates Degree for Transfer and a Certificate of Achievement in Video Editing and Post-Production. THAT IS IT out of 11 certificates, three of them audio certificates. NO MORE AUDIO? What the living hell? I’m a 35-year veteran of audio and I’m now the chair of a video department? I am livid and deeply sad all in one fell swoop. It’s the same gut-punching sadness I felt when I lost my wife who I was madly in love with and my record label business in the same year back in 2003-4. It’s that same kind of numbing sadness. I walk around here in southern California in a stupor. This was supposed to be my time to celebrate my first year as department chair and attend the NAMM show which is my favorite of all audio conventions mostly to see old friends and associates while playing with new gear together. Instead, I feel like I’ve been through a medieval blood-letting of leeches all over my being. Oh, and I’ve been leached as well (emptied, drained).

In conclusion, I feel an obtusion on my brain and my heart. I don’t know where to start because it feels like I’m at the end…

gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron, and tin – my alchemy fades.

AUDIO ALCHEMY
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Last (last) Weakly Journal of April

Beginning of the weak:

The incessant throbbing in my head stems from a combination of being beaten into submission by a deep flu bug (that I have thrice determined via a test that is not Covid) and from keeping an eye close to the news unfolding more details every day of the plans to overthrow the country we love. America is being tested by the minority who use Orwellian Newspeak and lies to plan their next assault on democracy. Christian politicians who follow not one word of the teachings of Jesus Christ, freedom-loving “patriots” who neither want us to be free nor are people who vigorously support their country and are prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. They are, in fact, anti-Christ sedition-planning traitors, racists, coup plotters, and thieves. (I’m hearing a Cher song in my head now.)

A guy named Joe on Twitter wrote a thread that sent a chill down to my toes and back up to my pregenual anterior cingulate cortex giving it a moment of relief because he verbalized exactly what I have been feeling/dreading. It was the most important thread I have read all year and wish to copy it here giving him full credit. It’s scary because it points to a reality that few comprehend in our country (the majority who are not the perpetrators) and before you know it, *BOOM! it will be too late.

April 25 – @DempseyTwo (Twitter)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no matter how big you think the story of January 6th is, double it. Now triple that @RepRaskin has said the @January6thCmte ‘is going to blow the roof off the House.’ It is. But this is a wee thread for those who know: I’m tired. Like you, I never thought I would use my eyes so much. I have suffered through some pretty rough days. I heard trump say ‘Read the transcripts’ so I did. Along the way, you start to learn the story. You see the picture emerge. You try to understand. As you find information, you hear on the news about polls and approval ratings and you think to yourself, they just don’t know yet. As you read the court filings, you realize these are things the government has evidence of. Why doesn’t the news tell us? You find an obscure connection and uncover a network of intertwining leaders, you begin to see patterns. Then, in the background noise, you hear from the news that JFK Jr is going to return to Deely Plaza and you think to yourself, that ain’t right. But they just don’t know yet. You begin to get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that what you are reading is so terrible, everyone needs to be aware of it because it’s an existential threat to our country. You begin to wonder if anyone is listening. If anyone is paying attention. If anyone cares.

You read that one court document, or that one local article, or that one transcript and you cry tears of anger because what is being done is on purpose, planned. You *know* the entire democracy is in jeopardy. But the Oscars are on, and you think, they just don’t know yet. Because you see it, you begin to recognize it. You can even predict it. Based on what you know, you can hypothesize. Look for the evidence. Find it or not. Reevaluate the data. What if I looked at it differently, am I being completely objective? It’s exhausting.

But when has preserving something as important as a self-governing society been easy? There are thousands of people reading transcripts to try to understand. To bring it to the people who don’t know. Why bother? Because like @RepRaskin, we know how close to fascism we are. Americans put yellow ribbons on trees. We have BBQs on Memorial Day, and we watch old war movies. This same country put their lives on hold to fight a war against fascism and end a humanitarian atrocity. We can look it up in the history books, while they’re still available.

What did it mean to have a war against the Nazis? An historian can tell you better than I, but at the core, it was to preserve democracy. Democracy and Humanity go hand in hand. If we lose one, we will surely lose the other. Will we save democracy now? Retain our humanity? For everyone who knows how big and deep the story of January 6th is, I know you’re tired. I know it hurts to know what you know. I know it’s demoralizing to hear the news tell us the party responsible for it is going to regain power in Nov. Remember, people just don’t know yet.

The truth is the truth. No matter who finds it, it will always be there. The truth doesn’t change. Raskin knows the story. They all do. It *will* blow the roof off the House. More people are beginning to know. There are times I want to give up. I lose hope but then I remember why I do it. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to read the transcripts. Mine are mine. Whatever yours are, will they allow you to give up? Will they allow you to lose hope?

Hope in America? I thought America was hope. There are so many things we can do if we did them together in a manner that works best for everyone. That makes sense to everyone. With input from everyone. The only way to do that is to communicate. To educate. To listen. There are headstones of thousands of people whose last breath was taken in an effort to defend our democracy. To defend what the founders created for us with an instruction to form a more perfect union. We don’t honor them with movies and hotdogs but by deeds.

I’m in no position of power, leadership, or influence. Some days, I’m lucky to just have my eyes open. And when I do, I see just like you do, what is happening. And I remember, they just don’t know…yet. For everyone else, States are making it more difficult to vote. Confirm you are registered and vote in this year’s elections. November will decide if we live in a country that values truth over lies, democracy over authoritarianism, and humanity over greed. Soon we’ll all know.

End of Joe’s thread. This one hit me hard today.

It’s now the 28th and I had quite a mind-numbing, Chris Nolan “Inception” type of day today. Color it complete with many things turned upside down and inside out. Take a simple test that I have had many times before: a PCR Covid-19 test to ensure the rapid test results are correct. In San Francisco, these things have become rather fluid, or so I thought.

I went to get a drive-thru PCR test at a Walgreens I was directed to on their website the other day when I heard from a colleague that her sister had been testing negative but having cold symptoms and then tested positive from the PCR. So, I hopped online to schedule. I received a confirmation for 2:30p today. I arrived at the Walgreens on a busy corner in Daly City and no drive-up, no nada. The instructions explicitly stated, “Do not go into the Pharmacy, go to the drive-thru.”

𝕎𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖?

So, I parked to go inside and it was all locked up. A typed sign on the door read “Closed. Re-Open at 8a tomorrow.” Three other people walked up behind me and one woman walked right into the non-sliding door. An employee who was driving away pulled up behind us and pulled her mask down: “We are closed. Come back tomorrow or go to John Daly Blvd.”

I mentioned my PCR test appointment. “Go there. They will help you.” So, I shrugged it off and drove a couple of miles over to the other location in a busy mall area. I walked in and phew: This one looked more together. Alright. A slight detour. I stood in a short line for the Pharmacy counter and was prepared with my email confirmation to show along with my ID, vaccination card, and insurance card. I started to tell the first Pharmacist that I was redirected for my PCR test from the 6100 Mission store. He quickly shooed me over to a window further away from us that no one could see. “They will take care of you. Next customer.”

I walked over to a window with a small sign: Covid Test and Vaccination. A nice young Pharmacist took all of the cards and looked carefully at my email confirmation for a PCR test which I had stated aloud upon arrival at the window. He then proceeded to hand me a clipboard with a long-form to fill out. I told him, again, that I’m here for a test as I’m already twice vaccinated and twice boosted.

“Yes, all good. Fill out the form and have it ready when they call you.” ᕼᗰᗰᗰ. ᔕᗴᗴᗰᔕ Oᗪᗪ, I thought to myself, yet I dutifully went and filled out the same form I had when I got my second booster at another Walgreens a couple of weeks back. Then the line on the form: 𝗐𝗁𝗂𝖼𝗁 𝗏𝖺𝖼𝖼𝗂𝗇𝖾 𝖺𝗋𝖾 𝗒𝗈𝗎 𝗁𝖾𝗋𝖾 𝖿𝗈𝗋 𝗍𝗈𝖽𝖺𝗒 and it was already typed in as Pfizer-Biontech. I circled it and wrote: 𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕒 ℙℂℝ 𝕥𝕖𝕤𝕥. I answered the 20 health questions and signed it.

I then sat and waited for 25-minutes as the others who were clearly receiving vaccinations were called in one after the other slowly. My name was finally called and I brought the form to the counter, “Hi, I‘m here for a PCR test. I just want to be sure that you are not planning…” I was interrupted with a perplexed look by the 3rd Pharmacist I had been called by: “Wait. We don’t administer PCR tests here.” I looked at her and blinked. “But I was sent here by the store that closed and both the Pharmacists I have interacted with before you didn’t say that.”

She asked me to wait a moment. She turned around and another Pharmacist who had approached (the 4th one I had seen—they were very busy) and asked if the Mission store sent over PCR tests. The other one confirmed that they don’t have them and that they don’t do PCR tests at that location.

(;´༎ຶٹ༎ຶ`) 𝕘𝕠𝕠𝕕 𝕘𝕣𝕚𝕖𝕗!

𝖨𝗇𝖼𝖾𝗉𝗍𝗂𝗈𝗇 𝗅𝗂𝗇𝖾: Wᴇʟʟ, ᴅʀᴇᴀᴍs, ᴛʜᴇʏ ꜰᴇᴇʟ ʀᴇᴀʟ ᴡʜɪʟᴇ ᴡᴇ’ʀᴇ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇᴍ ʀɪɢʜᴛ? ɪᴛ’s ᴏɴʟʏ ᴡʜᴇɴ ᴡᴇ ᴡᴀᴋᴇ ᴜᴘ ᴛʜᴇɴ ᴡᴇ ʀᴇᴀʟɪᴢᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ sᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴡᴀs ᴀᴄᴛᴜᴀʟʟʏ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇ.

Here’s to a 🅓🅐🅝🅐 🅙🅐🅔 waking dream state on 4/28 ndsı̣pǝ poʍu.

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Extraordinary Independent Music

I’ve had a wee break from the daily grind at the college. It’s been positive and inspiring amidst a backdrop of world-weary realities. Music always saves me and this past month helped to reel me in from the nether regions of negativity to the shining light of sound.

Check out the music and buy this EP today. It is AMAZING! (Also, the artists receive all proceeds from sales on the first Friday of every month.)

Mixing the music on this EP for my friends Yoko OK and Dibson T Hoffweiler provided the amber orb of love and living that I needed to get through a difficult time. When you mix a song, you delve deeply into all of it. First as a whole and then break it down piece by piece, instruments, notes, voices…The goal is to “sweeten” every track and then blend it all together into a stereo file for listening and reaching wider audiences. I have not focused on other people’s music in a very long time, so this was magical for me. I’ve been recording and mixing my own songs throughout the pandemic, but have found that I lost the pop melodies I once conjured for a more dire and cacophonous (noisy) sonic palette. DTH’s and YK’s four-song EP showcases what can achieve in the digital world we live in: write and record music and lyrics separately in our own homes and have someone else mix the files all without ever seeing each other in the flesh.

An aside: in late 2014, Propellerhead.se (the software company behind the popular DAW Reason) created an ingenious way for people around the world to share music snippets on a site called Allihoopa using their free software (Take and Figure) combined with Reason. Read about it here. It worked for a few years and I met some amazing musicians around the world I collaborated with including a man in Transylvania who also introduced me to DistroKid. So, we musical types have been composing and recording in our separate spaces for a while. However, what DTH and YK offer in this EP is a glimpse of pandemic life (The Story, House of Hidden Life) and hope (Power Up). They are excellent songwriters whose pop sensitivity creates some of the best earworms I have had burrow into me in a long time. I sing Land of Lunatics out loud through the day and night. Another wonderful aspect of this EP is the collaboration with Yoko’s mom, Helen Oji, who provided the art for the cover. It’s a piece titled “Apparition” from 1995 and is perfect for the House of Hidden Life EP.

Last year, I was introduced to an amazing concept known as Bushwick Book Club. I saw a performance of the Oakland chapter (BBCO) in the Fall and loved it! This time around, I’m bringing my PA and some live sound students of mine. The students will get to practice the craft of live sound mixing and recording for the eight music artists who will perform their songs written in the theme of the graphic memoir recently ready by the group, “Charmed” by Trinidad Escobar. The show is outdoors on a museum porch in a park. Love this. Click for more details and to RSVP here.

Another amazing musician/composer and musical creative to give a shout out to is Marissa Deitz (suckercrush.bandcamp.com, and Music Every Week www.marissadeitz.com/music-every-week). Marissa hosts weekly themed songwriting challenges that have also helped me move through the mud of the past year requiring me to delve into my musical self weekly to submit a piece of recorded work to the challenge. One of Marissa’s explanations of a theme struck me as something that should be read and felt beyond the group:

I’ve been diving deep on recording an album lately, and I have some big questions for everyone this week!

History is told by the victor, and we are the heroes of our own stories. When we’re recording our songs each week, what are we capturing? What is preserved with the record we make, and what is lost? And when you’re writing music, what are the stories you choose to tell, and which ones go unmentioned? Why? Is the fidelity of your recording representative of “the work”, or is it a stand-in of some kind (for live performance, or for a future vision of a fully-fleshed-out arrangement)? Does recording expand your capabilities through multitracking or processing? How cool is it that we can time travel, edit, manipulate recordings? Is your recording process symbiotic with the composition process, or does it come afterward? How do you archive your work? Your life? Does your song live on your hard drive, in your memory, on the page with chord symbols, tabs, staves? A combination of multimedia methods? Can we ever represent our musical ideas in their truest, fullest form? Should we even try to?

(copied here with permission)

Music has saved me again and I’m happy to be able to help others polish their muse.

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Falling Back an Hour

I feel a lot of falling back these days. I don’t mean into old habits, but rather the feeling of falling backward the way you do when you’re a little kid and you allow yourself to fall back into a pool or fall back onto a bed you’ve just been jumping on the past 10-minutes. The feeling of fearless abandon when you just let go is something that I’m feeling almost daily. I realize that I’m doing this in order to cope with the quotidian madness that is the work-life I have set up for myself. Seconds and minutes turn into weeks and months so rapidly. Last year felt interminably slow. This is year is a roaring opposite. I can’t believe it’s NOVEMBER already! The amount of work I accomplish each day stuns me and thus the feeling of falling backward. Did I really do all that? And if so, why is there still so much left to do? For every item I scratch off the to-do list, 5 more lines replace it. What is going on? I’m paid a lot less for doing more work since my union accepted a sizeable pay cut to help our college out of a massive budget deficit that hasn’t really helped at all. Ooops, duped. {head in hands} “Yeah, I’m freeeeeeeee, free-fallin’,” crooned Tom Petty. I feel ya, buddy.

Moving on to other thoughts. On Friday, I received my Pfizer booster shot at a Walgreens in my neighborhood. I am a monthly/bi-monthly visitor to such a place to pick up things like tissues, or once-in-a-while, a new toothbrush and toothpaste and the like, but never for any prescriptions because I don’t take any save for Keppra which was prescribed to me back in 2012 for an odd epilepsy episode that reared up suddenly in the middle of my life. That small dosage comes from Kaiser. Other than that, I have never been a prescription pill type of person, thank goodness. (I feel very lucky, believe me.) What I witnessed yesterday as I waited to receive my shot and the 15-minutes after to ensure I was OK was astonishing. The Pharmacist was so kind and attentive, and he worked at top speed. I couldn’t believe how fast he was going while trying to be helpful and careful. He called up one person after another (mostly elderly customers) the entire time with no break. I don’t have enough experience with Pharmacy windows to know whether this is normal. Here is the odd thing (and this has been happening to me a lot lately), I awoke the next morning to a newsletter from a reputable, conservative political blog I follow called “The Bulwark.” In “Consider the Pharmacist–How Big Pharmacy is screwing pharmacists and putting the rest of us in danger,” I found a frightening and worthy read of something I had just personally witnessed the afternoon before! The state of the pharmacists and what Big Pharma has done to force them into the undignified position akin to an Amazon Fulfillment Center worker is astonishing, to say the least, but not surprising in our daily intake of watching capitalism eat itself. Later that afternoon, I received an email from Kaiser with the subject line: Kaiser Strike to Affect All NoCal Outpatient Pharmacies; Patients Recommended to Fill Prescriptions Before November 15.

Um, is there nothing left to do but contemplate my retirement (out of America in the next few years) and consider putting on my headphones to the 3D aural experience of Synctuition until then? There is so much going wrong everywhere. For me, personally, I’m living a good life for now, but I’m one of the lucky ones (albeit working too much). I have friends and family who suffer ill health and must cope with daily pain that I can’t imagine. I read about the treachery of a political party setting up the fall of democracy to prepare for authoritarianism. This is happening in every Republican legislature across more than half of the United States. It’s a seriously fatal coup in the works about to be unleashed in the next election. I don’t want to be here when it happens, but I know I will for a short time after. I’m thinking 2024 may be the perfect time to pack up a trailer and head south, but can I be ready by then?

So, it’s Sunday, November 7th and the clocks fell back. It’s sunny this morning (early for a change) and that’s good because I’m a morning person. I’m putting the headphones on and taking another sip of java…

Meditation in Sedona – Creative Commons license

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Pure Silence

Awaking to aural emptiness is one of the most stunning experiences. In this past week, I have twice been in this space and it brings a restful delight that I wish to attempt to express to you. When one’s ear has nothing to focus on, when molecules are not vibrating and tickling the ear drum, one can feel at peace in an automatic meditative state. It causes me to stop and do nothing because anything I do, even the slightest movement, will disturb the resting molecules to create a sound of some sort.

The most common sound in my apartment up here on the hill is a refrigerator hum. It kicks in a couple of times per hour for about 10-12 minutes and seems incredibly loud to me for it being a new refrigerator. But I realized that it’s only loud because sometimes it’s the only sound in the apartment. Oh, and this is a studio apartment which means that I live closer to it than many home dwellers whose kitchens are in a completely separated space from other rooms in the house. Though I am an audio engineer, musician, and composer or maybe because of it, I treasure having no sound as an amazing aural treat. I can focus on breathing and then on the tiny disturbances that enter the space one by one: a car driving on the winding road below; a tweet of a morning bird awaking in the thick fog; a plane flying overhead (so rare since the pandemic began); my fingers tapping on the laptop keyboard.

I am reminded of the Persian poet and Sufi master, Rūmī, who wrote many poems about silence in his sixty-six years of living in the 13th Century. Before I search for a couple of quotes to share here, I found something of interest to our current time: Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī was born in Balkh, in present-day Afghanistan. I shudder for a moment.

This silence, this moment, every moment,
if it’s genuinely inside you,
brings what you need.

Live in silence.

Rūmī

While researching, the refrigerator kicked into a buzzing hum and I also briefly heard the snapping and cracking of ice. I heard the wing flaps of three birds, but no chirps, songs or tweets.

On a Saturday morning before 8a, not a soul stirs up here on the peaks save for 2 cars that have driven by. In the thick of the fog, they are heard and not seen.

Let me sit here,
on the threshold of two worlds.
Lost in the eloquence of silence.

Rūmī

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April? April was my last post here?

My goodness! Summer is nearly here and my last post was in April! THAT is just how busy buried I became with a boatload of bedraggled busy-ness. Woof. I’m sure glad THAT is over! Now, it’s time for a bit of a respite from the grind and here I find myself alone again with you. Thank you for sifting through my thoughts here as there are so many all jumbled up inside my weary brain.

TODAY: oysters! Yes! I’m taking a ride just a wee bit up the coast to a wonderful place that serves a delightful plethora of sea creatures to eat. I’m sorry sea creatures. I love you so. I thank you in advance for giving your life (unwillingly, I know) to my horrific human food desires. I should be ashamed as I shlurp you up like Jabba the Hut, but I won’t be. I’ll be transfixed on your tasty tidbits of the sea.

Early mornings in the skypad are going to be so lovely this summer. I’m not going anywhere save for a few trips out to the cousins in the Sierra Foothills. Oh, and a few concerts here and there to give my live sound students some real life, hands-on training to perfect the sound at a show. They learned an entire semester of sound reinforcement remotely without ever being able to touch a piece of the gear in our awesome department. Alas, it’s time to use one’s digits to make sound happen. BACK to the skypad summer: the view is divine when the sun is not obscured by Karl the Fog. Summer in SF, you may remember, is one of the coldest summers in the U.S. – blustery wet winds tear through the SF neighborhoods practically ripping your clothes off of you as you traverse the hills on foot. The top of Twin Peaks is no stranger to this crazy wind. Yeah, the photo below is from a week or so ago in May. That’s what it looks like. You can FEEL the wind in the picture, right?

So, when the fog hits and the view becomes that of the inside of an eggshell and no longer downtown SF and the Bay, then here I will be…writing.

And I’ll be composing too.

And I’ll be recording thoughts like this one.

Until soon.

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The Bounty of Being

I sit on the balcony in the warmth of the sun soaking up as much of her rays that I can fit into 10-minutes before the long work day begins. I feel like a rechargeable battery at 60% revving up to get to 100 in order to provide the energy needed to do everything and more. A light wind tickles my face like the virtual fingertips playing with my imagination in a dream last night.

The most beautiful high-pitched togetherness of 40-plus new birds flit by out on the horizon over SF. Their birdsong is new to my ears. Huzzah! I see them briefly as a giant wisp of dots. Who has arrived in the Bay Area today? They are so small and well-grouped, flying high over SF heading towards the north. Are they Wilson’s Warblers flying up from the south on their 2100-mile journey north? They dart left, right, all together in sync.

Next a dragonfly crosses my balcony! What is this perfect 10-minutes I have to juice up my essence? It seems everyone is flying by to say hello! And finally, as I start to close the sliding glass door after a human with a loud blower blows my aural airspace and I head in for retreat from the distorted molecular vibrations (those are most assuredly the worst of all “gardening” devices – ugh), I see a sweet moth has landed on the outside of the window. She’s peeping me in the apt trying to see what’s up in the life of Dana for today.

Hello, little moth. Thank you for planting yourself in my space this day.

Breathe deep and have a fabulous day.

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Radical Dana divided by Wonderment = the Square Root of Pi

Sometimes a day that doesn’t start out right can end up on the opposite axis jumping into a positive polarity in a blink. Such was my Thursday, March 25th that began with morning and early afternoon misconnection thwarting my planned progress for the day. I found myself at the mercy of the digital gods and merely let go without a panic in an “Oh, well–Orwell moment,” if you will. The good news is that it moved into a human, avian, music, and food connection rather quickly by 4p.

I met my inspired friend, @yoko_okay, for a meal that was designated to help me write a scene in my first novella, “Abra Imagining,” a work that now includes us both in collaboration. The meal, we thought, would make for some necessary inspiration for a chapter in which the dialog revolves around the passing of sumptuous Senegalese food. This visit had been on our minds for some time and we were finally indulging ourselves. We decided to meet at 4p when Bissap Baobab opens according to Yelp! and the restaurant’s own website. I parked and walked to the address on 15th St in Oakland and as I approached, I saw prodigious effort outside in the form of building a wide parklet for outdoor seating in a somewhat nascent stage with 2 people standing in front of the entrance to the restaurant observing. I inquired if I could go in. I was told that they would not be open until April 8th! Hmmm, that was odd because everywhere on the web pointed to them being open even an article from Sept 2020 extolling the wonders of the re-opening of the distinctive West African cuisine and vibe served there.

I told them I had driven all the way from San Francisco to eat there and several web sites including their own and Yelp! gave the information that were open for dinner at 4p. I was polite, but had that disappointed “awwww” in my voice. They looked at each other and one said to the other, “Oooh, it’s already starting…a good omen.” Then the other said, “I better look at the website and Yelp! to make changes.” So, I said, “See in you April then,” and bid them good luck. I continued down the street towards the corner when I saw my pal @yoko_okay dismounting from her bike shouting, “Dana!” in an “over here” sort of voice. I walked toward her smiling, but who can tell in full mask protective regalia? As I got closer, I delivered the bummer news, “Guess what? They are closed until April 8th.” She looked dismayed, “No fucking way.” We had both checked the web and are pretty thorough researchers, so this seemed impossible. I was already over the disappointment as I scoured the area for a plan B.

The cutest little restaurant called PINTOH Thai Street Food beckoned from 20 or so yards away from the corner on Franklin St. It had three brightly covered tables each with 2 chairs and heat lamps though at that point they were not necessary as the sun shone brightly on the tables and chairs. “Let’s check that out,” I offered. I approached the front door where they had protective plexiglass set up through which one could order. “Hi, there. Can we see a menu?” I inquired. We were handed two and the person gestured for us to sit where we like outside. “Please sit where you like and we will be right out.”

The next hour or so was like living in a dream before a year ago when everything was shut tight like a clam with a diver poking about it. We were treated to supreme service by a sweet crew of staff bringing out delicious dishes of fried pork belly with sticky rice accompanied with a delectable spicy chili sauce and a plate of chicken, large shrimp, cashews, and pineapple over rice with a light flavorful sauce. It was all preceded by a colorful Lychee Ice Tea adorned with a pink umbrella and 2 skewered lychees and a sparkling water with a fresh lemon circle floating inside. These sat upon a floral oilcloth pulled tightly around the table which gave the entire experience a festive vibe. Ahhh, dining again. I’ve eaten take-out on occasion during this blasted pandemic, but have not sat down to a meal anywhere (except for at home and I’m usually standing) for a year. Wow.

And then…

The lovely day could not escape just yet, I brought a steel tongue drum and a ukulele to brighten the early evening with some creativity should my buddy indulge me. We stuffed her bike in the back seat of my car and drove to the sunny side of Lake Merritt to find a spot to set up the little table I brought (for the drum), and we laid out a blanket on the grass. It was a beautiful spot with plenty of sun still high in the sky. What transpired was pure magic. It began with @yoko_okay playing with her mini glass globe in the sunlight and noticed her image inside it was upside-down.

It wasn’t long into my little banging around to re-familiarize myself with this little “spaceship” as one passerby called it that @Yoko_okay discovered a hummingbird perched on the light wire just beyond and above where we were hanging. The sweet little one seemed to be interested and hung out for a while as we jumped up to take notice. I had already started to record the drum with my Shure MV88+ mic system connected to my phone. It was still going as we jumped around in excitement as the Hummingbird took flight and we watched the path it took in an area around us. We squealed with delight as we watched it fly up, down, stop for a sip on a flower, fly to another barren tree branch, then off across the street and over a house!

The top of the tree spells YK!
@yoko_okay’s initials are YK and that’s what this magic tree spells at the top.

We recorded several more sequences that I have cobbled together in a little soundscape that includes @yoko_okay jamming on a cool tongue drum riff. Go ahead and click here to listen as you read on…

My talented artist friend then proceeded to draw me sitting with the tongue drum in my lap, and in 4-minutes (timed) she whipped this out:

YK called the Tongue Drum a “Giant M&M.”

We hung out for a bit more lounging on the lake until one moment a disabled man with a cute little dog on a leash was flying by and got himself caught on something and crashed in the bushes near us. I hopped up to help him and grab the leash of his wee pooch who was not trying to run away (thank goodness). I wrote about this experience earlier as it brought home some family memories for me. As the sun started to sink beyond the buildings on downtown Oakland, the familiar chill of shade settled in and we hopped up to split.

Almost the end…

This is where I do a solid for my incredibly gifted artist/musician friend @yoko_okay because I was floored and am honored to discover she featured me in one of her #dailydrawings on her Patreon page which I know you will want to support and check out along with the other fantastic links to her work here. And you may as well take a listen to this song she wrote and recorded with her songwriting partner Dibson T. Hoffweiler titled “Flight of the Hummingbird” waaaay before this day.

That post was inspired by a few pictures she took of me holding her drawing and the magic of Thursyay, 3/25/2021.

Lastly, I have been so inspired by my talented friend, I wrote a little ditty for her a month or so ago after seeing a hilarious Bitmoji of two of her flying around in a hotdog. So, have a great April coming and I will peace out to y’all with this last listen.

@yoko_okay drew this little Square Root of Dana (aka: Radical Dana) logo

Posted in food, Music, nature, People, Writing | 1 Comment

Counting the Crunched Cargo Container Ships

Many floating behemoths sit in the San Francisco Bay before my eyes, not docked. I see the same cargo company names and at first thought they were coming and going, but no. They have come and are sitting idle. One of my colleagues told me that his wife is in the wine shipping business and they have a ton of wine sitting out in the Bay. T’would be a rewarding time to be a pirate! (Oh my goodness, no. I kid! I would never!)

The ones I see the most: MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company–home headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland), Hapag Lloyd (a global organization originating in Hamburg, Germany), For several months, a continuing back-up of ships await the California ports to allow them to dock. A backlog holds everything up because the pandemic has caused everyone who can to buy a lot of things. Many if not most of the things come from overseas and those things are sitting on ships that if one could boat over or swim to in order to pick up one’s goods, one would. (Or so say the business owners who await their stock.)

Here is one story from freightwaves.

Here is another.

The ongoing 5th grader who lives inside of me giggled at this next bit:

Reefer Cargo? TeeHee

SO, in case you’re waiting for something in California, now you know why. That is all.

Posted in Life in San Francisco, People, travel | Leave a comment

What A Difference A Needle Makes

I just got pricked over at Oakland Coliseum in the most stellar and organized FEMA rollout of the vaccine. Everything was as smooth as the best concert or sporting event you’ve attended where every moment just worked out as it should from the parking lot to the show to your exit home. I went from the middle of SF out to Oakland in 20-minutes (no traffic on this beautiful Sunday afternoon) and had my first fun with finding the best freeway entrance to take me east from the new pad atop a hill. THAT was fun. I’m now a Central Freeway girl which has my car cascading down Portola, through the Castro, inner Mission, and then on to Highway 80. People watching! Something that just doesn’t happen when en route to the highway from the Sunset.

But, I digress. I had a couple of my buds texting me along the way helping me figure out exactly where to get off the freeway and which lane to perfectly set myself up in (both had already been vaccinated there). It was easier than ordering take-out. This entire operation was wonderful and I don’t say such things lightly about going and getting my arm stuck with a needle. As soon as I started making my way around the myriad orange pylons that have been organized to keep everything flowing (SO WELL), I started to tear up. I realized that THIS is what we have all been waiting for! We have ALL been through so much in all of this, and we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Each fatigues-clad FEMA member along the way was helpful and kind and were happy to shout hello back when I waved at them.

I had my ID ready and my scan code appointment from an email they sent. (They send a text message too.) I was swiftly ushered through and suddenly arrived at the tents with the 7 different stations in a row with at least 15 different columns across. So, they were vaccinating a LOT of people in short amount of time. A sweet, young Asian woman approached my window and had everything ready, just verifying my date of birth verbally as she checked my ID. Then, just as quick as a wink, she swabbed my left arm and as I awaited a pinch, she said, “All right then.” I couldn’t believe I didn’t feel a THING.

I told her that I felt nothing and thanked her for being so awesome. She said, “Thank you for saying that. Some people are really freaked out.” I told her that I had never been so excited to receive a shot in my entire life. Since the car in front of me was taking a while, we chatted further. She asked if I’m a teacher and asked where I teach. I told her City College of San Francisco. Then she asked what I teach. When I told her that I’m an audio engineer and I teach various classes in sound including live sound, editing, recording studio, etc. She exclaimed: “My boyfriend is really into that! He’s been recording himself and turned our closet into his personal studio. He put all of this foam on the wall. Is that a good idea?” I told her that leaving some squares of the wall without treatment is best to give it a more natural sound. If you cover all of it, it sounds too dry and a bit dark. She thanked me again and I gave her my card to give to him. Tell him to come to take a class or two with us. I’m sure it will make his recordings sound better to have some help.

The lady in the front was finished and we bid adieu. (I think she was one of the scared ones that come in for their shot.) We had to rest in the parking lot for 10-15-minutes to be sure we weren’t having any reactions. On my fast drive home, several songs came on the radio that made me feel that my deceased mom and brother were with me. First, Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” which had me tearing as I sang the song aloud with the windows down. I used the various versions of this song for my mom’s video tribute I made for the family back in 2010 and had parts of each version crossfading into the next as pictures of her floated past. The next song that came up was CSN “Teach Your Children.” THAT was a song my brother Bill and I sung a lot when I was a kid. My mom would harmonize sometimes too so that all three of us had our three-part harmony in tune. I started crying a little deeper. I miss them both and felt them holding me on the car ride home.

Vaccinated D (Shot One: Pfizer)

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