Category Archives: Essays – Non-Fiction

Non-fiction thoughts, memories, etc.

Play Me, I’m Yours

piano-03 resized

 

Me and a piano and a Bag on my head

(The Above Photo Added because Tianana’s comment reminded me of one of the funniest moments she and I shared with me at a piano)

So a while back I discovered Street Pianos or the Play Me I’m Yours project.  It was started by a British artist, Luke Jerram.  You can find out about it here.  The first time I was aware of it was when someone posted this video on Facebook.  I was captivated.  Not just the fact that the guy playing is doing a good job but the whole thing.  The painted piano, the public location, the inherent generosity of shared art, the immense courage to sit down and play music in a public space, and most of all the overwhelming joy of unexpected art and music.  It’s a quieter, more personal (and less commercial) version of the well-rehearsed but still incredibly joyful dancing flash mobs.  Check out all the smiles on the people in the crowd during the flash mob.  It’s wonderful.

The thing I find fascinating is how riveted I am by the whole thing and how emotional I get watching the videos.  It speaks to something deep inside me, something very personal, eliciting very strong feelings from me.

I grew up in a house where music was played and studied and celebrated.  My brother and I were expected to play music, and we did.  Various instruments at various times in our lives.  My Dad was a musician.  I’ve come to realize that the way we experienced music growing up was not necessarily super normal.  By that I mean music wasn’t just for the professionals.  Music was something everyone could and should participate in to some degree.  You might not be great at it, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was you should know how to play some music.  As a result of that the casual playing of the piano was constant in our house.  It was what my Dad did when he was waiting for the rest of us to finish getting ready to go somewhere.  It was what you did when you came home from school.  It was what you did when you discovered a new pop artist that played piano.  It was, quite simply, something you did just like everything else you did…read a book, watch TV, clean your room, play some music, get ready for bed.

Historically music, and many forms of fine art, were something that everyone practiced.  Everyone learned to make some music.  Everyone learned to draw and paint a little.  Everyone learned to dance.  Everyone learned to do a dramatic reading.  Everyone, dear god everyone, attempted poetry.  This kept art, music, creativity in general, within the grasp of everyone.  Most importantly it allowed for everyone to connect with themselves and others in a creative space…it made the home a creative space.

But something happened when we gained the ability to record art in various ways.  As a society we gave away our active participation in music and art to the professionals.  We stopped practicing music and dance and art ourselves and became an often distant and intimidated audience only.  I remember at the age of 5 or 6 being asked by a teacher to draw a picture that would show what my Dad did for a living.  I clearly remember saying, “OK, but I’m not good at drawing.”  I also vividly remember that picture.  It wasn’t so bad for a kindergartner using Crayons.  It included my Dad complete with mustache and glasses with a pretty decent Apollo rocket in the background.  But my Go-To response, even that young, was to lead with a qualification that it wouldn’t be very good.  I feel like this is something that has invaded our society much to our detriment.

So I think that is one reason why the Street Pianos move me so much.  I’m sure lots of people sit down at them and do not play anything wonderful.  I’m sure the videos I’ve posted are videos because they were impressive.  But the truth is the most impressive thing about them is that while one or two of them might be people who make their living playing music, there are many that are just regular people who play music.  They are musicians because they play music, not because they get paid to do it.  The Street Pianos create an opportunity for music to happen in an unexpected place at the hands of…well maybe that homeless guy, or those two guys in Liverpool, or these two guys in Paris.

It just feels like a good and powerful example of how close art and music always is…all we have to do is reach out for it, put our hands on it, stop comparing our ability to anyone else’s ability, and stop judging ourselves and others so harshly.

Sometimes I wonder if we were a more courageous and compassionate people when we regularly practiced the courage and compassion of art in our own homes.

6 Comments

Filed under Essays - Non-Fiction

Why I Sometimes Distrust Google Maps and Why I Am Sometimes WRONG To Do So.

Freeway 1-2

I live in Los Angeles. I work roughly 25 miles from where I live. The commute, by L.A. standards, is not bad either in length or as a result of general traffic patterns (traffic pattern being much more important here than distance). But if I leave for work right in the midst of the worst part of rush hour things can still go awry during my commute. Luckily these days we have Google Maps and Waze.

Now my only problem with Waze is that it seems as though it always sends me wandering about town, turning here and turning there, as though I am a sailboat desperately tacking into the wind in an effort to get where I’m going.

Google Maps does not seem to do this quite as much. Which I appreciate.

Both of them take note of traffic issues along the various routes that will get me where I’m going.

So I’ve taken to starting up Google Maps Navigation when I start off for work. Usually I head for the freeway the way I like and let it adjust as it always wants me to make a left where I make a right to head towards the freeway. The other day I took its directions and it led me to a different onramp of the same freeway and it was quicker to get there for a variety of traffic-y reasons. Big win!

So this morning I followed its advice again, but quickly realized it was taking me somewhere else…still on a route towards my ultimate goal, work, but not the way I expected. So I just sort of did what it said, singing along to my playlist, until I realized it was leading me to….THE FUCKING 101 SOUTH? OH NO YOU DIDN’T!

Now if you don’t live in L.A. you may not realize the HORROR of this realization. The 101 South heads right through Downtown L.A. I am not going to Downtown L.A. I want to avoid everyone who IS going to Downtown L.A. But…the freeway I DO want to get on runs NEXT to the 101 South for a bit and thus you can use one to get to the other depending on where you are starting out. But it’s just generally a bad idea in my experience.

So now I am in the lane of no return. I cannot make a different choice. I am cursing Google Maps. It is still saying I will make it to work by 8:15 but I do not believe it, not for one second. It has led me to the dreaded 101 South for gods sake. I declare, over the Mozilla song that is playing, I am THROUGH with Google Maps that we will be breaking up. But for today I have no choice but continue onto THAT freeway.

From the street I can the freeway on the overpass. It’s moving, but slowly. Now that isn’t particularly telling, slow is the norm for this time of day on MOST L.A. freeways. But I KNOW it will get worse. I KNOW it will come a screeching halt and I will have to muscle my way across multiple lanes to get to the freeway I want, fighting morning commuters who have no intention of letting anyone merge or change lanes.

I sigh. I make peace with how long it will now take me to get where I’m going. I feel deeply betrayed by the fact the Google Maps is STILL telling me I will get to work by 8:15. I get on the freeway.
But…it’s not as I anticipated. Once I get past the initial merge the whole thing opens up quite nicely. I move easily across four lanes to get into the lanes that will put me on the 134 East. I am actually driving at the speed limit. Soon I am no longer even side by side with the 101 South and find myself heading over the hill between Glendale and Pasadena with only one slow down (the usual one in Glendale, no idea what that is about but it happens every damn day) and then I am on the 210 East moving at a good clip.

I now feel a bit guilty for all the evil things I shouted at Google Maps. I wonder if it will let me take it all back. I don’t want to break up, especially not when I make it to my exit from the freeway at exactly 8:10, meaning that, depending on stop lights, I will likely pull into work at exactly 8:15. I glance down at Google Maps to see if it’s gloating or glaring at me. Luckily Google Maps is quite forgiving and simply tells me to turn right at the next light. I declare that I will never again doubt my beloved Google Maps…even if it directs me to one of the more dreaded freeways in Los Angeles.

Unless it directs me to the 405 for no good reason. If that happens WE ARE DONE!

4 Comments

Filed under Essays - Non-Fiction

The Loss of Our Shamans

O'Donoghue's 2

So it’s been a rough start to 2016.  So many great artists lost in the first two weeks of the year.

I continue to be amazed how personal these losses feel.

The first time an artist I loved and had been deeply affected by died was when John Lennon was killed.  I was in high school.  My Mom even understood how deeply I would be affected by this loss because the news broke while I was out somewhere and when I got home she simply said, with great gravity, “You need to go talk to you brother.  He has something to tell you.”  My brother is five years older than me and at that time was my guide in the music world.  I have always appreciated that my Mom understood that I was going to truly grieve the loss of John Lennon and that I needed to hear the news from others who also understood the magnitude of the loss.

There have been many since that night.  Some great actors, some great musicians, some great dancers, some great painters, some great writers…people die.  Artists are people…thus artists die.

I have to agree with this tweet by Juliette@ElusiveJ: “Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.”

Exactly.  So when they move on to whatever the next adventure is after this life, we feel the loss deeply, intimately.  We are usually a bit embarrassed by it as well, but we shouldn’t be.  Artists are often, not always, but often a type of shaman.  They guide, they inform, they clarify, they focus, they heal, they push, they demand, they hold us gently as we work desperately to become worthy of their efforts.

So here we sit, dizzy from loss at the beginning of this new year.  Trying to make sense of our lives now that some of our greatest shamans have left us.  But they left their work, they left us bright lights shining along this path to guide us on our way.  It’s up to us to do the walking.

Bliss Out.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Essays - Non-Fiction

Welcome!! Sit down and let’s chat for a bit…

Hiya Folks!

Well the lovely Jules has decided to get the band back together so I’m restringing my blog and gonna get ready to do some word jams with my old blogging buddies.  Amazing things happened the last time I was shouting from the rooftops with these people, so I fully expect all hell to break loose this time.

I’m going to have to slowly get the hang of WordPress but I have some great support from the brilliant Patricia so all will be well…or at least hilarious.

So here’s to Written On The Moon.

Moon and Fountain

2 Comments

Filed under Essays - Non-Fiction