Friday, January 27, 2012

When they leave too soon

This day always sneaks up on me.  I'll be chugging along with the normal routine, and then something will make me stop in my tracks and remember.

7 years ago this very early morning, my friend Nicole was shot and killed on the lower east side of Manhattan. The story made the national news: I got phone calls from TV stations when it happened. Her murder has a Wikipedia entry.  I'm not sure what to think about that, but there it is. 

I've been thinking lately about those who leave us too soon.  Friends whose parents have passed away, parents who are younger than mine.  A colleague who wondered in her blog if all people lose friends when you're in your 30s.  Another colleague who lost two dear friends in a senseless drunk driving accident just a few months ago, and is now dealing with the fact that the scales of justice don't always balance quite correctly. It seems unfair that life goes on.  But the reality is that a different life goes on, because what has been lost can't be filled in.  Life grows back around the hole, but it's changed.

7 years later, the sadness of my friend's death has become more poignant than viciously hurtful.  My specific memories of her have faded, and instead I find myself wondering what all the big events of life would have been like these last 7 years if she'd still been around.

There's really no way to to know if Nicole would even have been at the big events; the weddings, the babies being born, etc.  Would we have produced more plays with our fledgling theater company?   She left us before facebook became a thing...I wonder what she would have done with it?  She would have gotten married a few months later; would she have kids now?

I would have liked to know those kids.

I don't have many photos of Nicole.  The truth is, we were just...friends.  If she had gotten married, I'm not sure I would have gone to the wedding.  In fact, the last time I talked to her, 3 or 4 months before she died, the conversation was an update, you know, the kind you do with a friend you don't keep in touch with much. I remember thinking, as I hung up, that I wasn't as connected to her as I used to be.  It made me sad.

But these two photos can tell you something about her, and the effect she had on others. They're from a New Year's Eve party, I think, in Brooklyn, perhaps? It makes me laugh that I had to take a picture of them with my phone to get them onto the computer.  How the world has changed in less than a decade. 

But what hasn't changed is that there are a lot of us who remember Nicole, and who still miss her.  I think we always will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More about being comfortable with being out of balance

I've been feeling citation guilt over my blog entry the other day about tightrope walkers, so I decided to go on a hunt for the original source.  Amazingly, I found that my recollection of the source was right.  It came from a blog entry from Andrew Taylor, the oh-so-smart human behind The Artful Manager blog.

I happen to be lucky enough to have studied under Andrew at the oh-so-awesome Bolz Center for Arts Administration, and Andrew's blog posts constantly challenge me to get my feet out of mud (routine) and place my head into the clouds (systemic/theoretical thought).  This can be either a good or bad thing, depending on the situation, but generally, it reveals something profound about the work I do. I speak of the daily, grinding, get-through-my-meetings-and-emails-and-then-wonder-just-what-I-accomplished kind of work.  Seth Godin calls it the lizard brain.  It's that incredible gravitational pull toward bureacracy and group-think, which sometimes (not always) are the anathema of creativity.  And by the way, I believe that administrators are every bit as creative as the artists we support.  Go ahead, commence throwing stones at me.  I can take it.

Anyway, I digress.  We were talking about a certain blog entry that Andrew wrote where he mentioned seeing a PBS special that featuring a tightrope walker named Janine Antoni.  She spoke eloquently about being "out of balance."  So, here's the video that shows her doing her work.

And here's the quote, that says it all better than I ever could:
So I practiced tightroping for about an hour a day and after about a week I started to feel like I'm now getting my balance. And as I was walking I started to notice that it wasn't that I was getting more balanced, but that I was getting more comfortable with being out of balance. I would let the pendulum swing a little bit further and rather than getting nervous and overcompensating by leaning too much to one side I could compensate just enough. And I thought, I wish I could do that in my life when things are getting out of balance. You know when you have a hard day and one bad thing happens after another? I sort of learned that I could just breathe in and sort of set myself back up onto the rope.

So, I leave you with that.  I hope it's a good "head in the clouds" moment for those who read this.  It's defnitely helped me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The way a weekend should be...sort of

I might have hit a turning point in my life this past week.  It's nothing I can talk about in this public forum, but it might be that something has begun that will change things.  But really, I say that almost every few weeks.  Whether it's thinking something really good is about to happen on the romance front (only to find that it doesn't), finding myself in a really bad mood at work (you know, the kind where every person who asks something of me pisses me off - thankfully that hasn't happened in while) or just questioning my life, priorities and direction, it feels like I've been in a state of...well...suspension for a while now.

But the thing is, it's ok.  I think I might have grown up enough to realize that if you're someone like me; ie, chronically single, career-focused, prone to overthinking everything, you're not likely to settle into a routine and just be happy with it.  You may settle into a routine, but you're going to question it, even as you keep it up.  And so I have learned not to read too much into these feelings.  If something is going to happen, it will.  Fatalistic, you say?  Lazy, even?  I don't think so. It's a pretty zen place to be.

That said, it seems appropriate that after all the thoughts that this past week has inspired, I arrived at Sunday evening with a big fat smile on my face.  This came about not just because I'm overweight and I happened to go to a comedy club, but because, when you look back on my weekend, it's such a great summary of my life right now.

Let's take it chronologically:

Friday: Aside from the indignity of having to attend an 8am meeting with no breakfast goodies, Friday started with the kind of discussions that make the rest of the day feel rather surreal.  But the day got better, ending on a positive note that included an absolutely amazing dinner at a new restaurant with a friend.  This was followed by a (ahem, sold-out) concert featuring the Poncho Sanchez Band.  As we grooved to the music, my friend leaned over and said "I'm not going to last through the second act" and I nearly laughed aloud, because I'd been thinking the same thing; as great as the band was, I was DONE with work and ready to go home to my dog.

Saturday, I got to sleep in, laze about, get my hair cut, take a long walk, and see a symphony performance.  I fell in love with Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, then came home to my pooch bouncing and hopping around as if I hadn't spent the whole day with her.  Seriously, is there anything better than the way your dog greets you after you've been gone? 

Today, I slept in again (these are the days when I bless the fact that I am childless), wasted two whole hours watching Extreme Home Makeover, did some cleaning, headed off to listen to a discussion about the Mark Morris Dance Group and the classical trio Time for Three (go to their website and watch the video there if you want a little inspiration), then raced back home to watch the Patriots narrowly defeat the Ravens, setting up a repeat of the Pats/Giants Superbowl matchup that ended badly for us New England fans back in 2008.  Another walk, a bit more football and then an impromptu visit to the aforementioned comedy club, where I giggled a lot at comedian AJ Finney, who was foul of mouth, but amusing.

And now I'm home, listening to the spooky wind, grateful that we're out of the tornado range, but still a little wary.  It's one of those nights when you make sure you wear appropriate clothing to bed, because if you have to dive into a closet or seek shelter after your house has been blown down, well, at least you can make sure you're wearing pants and long sleeves when you do.  (I know, I know.  But these are the weird things I think about)  Anyway, it was a busy, interesting weekend of art, sports and comedy, experienced both alone and with friends.  And yet, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was...a little off.  But I reached the end of it realizing I was ok with that.

I heard a quote once;  I think the quotee was quoting a tight rope walker, who said something to effect of : "It's not about achieving perfect balance.  It's about being comfortable with being out of balance."

And that's it.  That's exactly how I feel.  Here's hoping I can stay on the tightrope this next week.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Awesomesocks, EL GORDO and other news only fit to blog

At the National Arts Marketing Project Conference a few months back, I learned a few special new words.

What these words all had in common was their universal ability to irk me.

Here are the culprits:
  • sitch (short for situation, used mostly verbally)
  • sesh (short for session, used in twitter parlance)
  • Prezi (the name of a program that is an alternative to PowerPoint and/or a presentation created by said alternative).  For the record, I love the product Prezi.  It's the name that bugs me.
  • awesomesauce (used as a (sort of) superlative, "sauce" being the suffix to "awesome"...well, I think you get the point). 
What is it about these words that irk me, you ask?  I'm not sure.  I think it might be that they are just too...cute.  I supposed they could also be considered clever, but they are either too cute, or not clever enough, or something.  Whatever.  I'm weird and judgmental, I get it.  But I promise there's a reason for my ramblings.

Back in December, I posted what might be my most inane and useless facebook status ever, about the awesomeness of my socks.  Upon request, I later added a photo of said socks. 

Then, for Christmas, one of my staff gave me a pair of wacky-cool socks as a gift.  She didn't say, but I wondered if the choice of gift was prompted by that facebook post.

Anyway, today I decided I needed to wear my new socks.  Here they are (and if anyone knows how to do self-portraits of feet that don't make them look fat, let me know).

And then, suddenly, I was seized by brilliance.  I could take a word that annoys me and turn it into a concept that makes me smile.  It could be a blog title, or a product name, or just a word.  And that word is...



In other news, there was some interesting stuff on the interwebs today.  The first comes courtesy of my dad.  Gotta love my conservative dad, who sends me patriotic YouTube video and rants against the government one day, and sends me a tip from Huffington Post that I should check out "El Gordo" the next.

El Gordo, it turns out, is one of the biggest galaxy clusters in the world.  It was discovered via collaboration between NASA and Chile.  It's something like 7.5 BILLION light years away and will provide insight into such coolness as dark matter, dark energy, and beginnings of the universe.  In sending me the link, no doubt, Dad was remembering me retreating to my 3rd grade self as we left the Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago, declaring "I want to be an astronaut when I grow up." Thanks, Dad, that was very cool.


Changing gears, I also submit for your review this blog entry about a ringing cell phone during a New York Philharmonic concert. Here's a bit from the New York Times about it, including an interview with the conductor, who stopped the entire orchestra, turned to the front row, and engaged in conversation with the culprit, eventually getting him to turn his phone off.  

He was in the very front row at Avery Fischer Hall, and it was the final bars of the final movement of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.  I confess to not knowing one Mahler symphony from the other, but I know how people say the words "Mahler's Ninth" - with reverence. It's a spirtual piece, and the final bars, where this unfortunately happened, are nearly silent.  How disappointing for everyone in the room to have their experience ruined like that.

That said, can you imagine being this guy?  I find myself distressed by the hatred and vitriol expressed toward him in the comments and blogosphere.  Yeah, he screwed up.  We all do. But aren't we supposed to forgive?  I didn't see a lot of that in the responses to this incident.  In fact, I saw one comment that said the guy should be sued by the rest of the audience, and cynically, I will bet money that someone called the NY Phil and demanded a refund.   What a shame that we're all so angry all the time.


But, let's end on a happier note. Today I watched musicians from the Blue Man Group touring production do a workshop for 100+ students at Fayetteville High School.  It was pretty amazing, especially when they invited the kids up on stage to drum together.

And last night, I treated a friend and myself to center section seats to the show.  Even though I'd seen it a half dozen times before, it was a complete blast.  There's something about the Blue Man aesthetic.  Weird, gentle, funny, curious, wordless and always supportive.  Gently mocking of the world, yet capable of sending an entire audience into a paroxysm of delight (I love that phrase).  And the drums.  Oh, those drums, the big, pounding, visceral sound.  I wanna be a Blue Man.

As usual, I must admit I have a pretty great job.

Maybe it's even....wait for it...awesomesocks?

Friday, January 6, 2012

10 signs of getting older...

Not old, mind you.  Just older.

1. You're mingling at an office event and realize that the 20-somethings are in that cluster over there, and you're not with them.

2. The song that was #1 in your birth year is considered an "oldie".

3. You can remember major national events that happened almost 20 years ago.

4. It is slightly possible that Tom Cruise might, maybe, perhaps be making something resembling a comeback. 

5.  Friday night is recovery night.  Not from a hangover, but from work.  It's best spent relaxing.  On Saturday, you're ready to go out.

6. It's not uncommon for people your age to have several kids, some approaching teen years (and they weren't teen parents!)

7.  You're slightly jealous of those who are retired, and have stopped saying "oh, I can't imagine not working.  I'd go crazy."

8. Marriage, babies, divorce; you've had 2-5 year cycles of each among your friends. 

9. The idea of another social media platform that you need to be on just makes you tired.

10.  It's harder to sleep until 11am - you really have to work at it.

11.  Sports figures who are your age are reaching the "autumn" of their careers.

12.  You forget how to count to 10.

This post was generously sponsored by my extremely well named friend Jody who shared a tweet on Pintarest from another blogger (I know, this social media thing is getting out of control) about prepping meals to be thrown in the Crock Pot.  When I was 18, 20, 25 or even 30, I would never, NEVER have considered seeking ways to prepare healthy meals weeks in advance.  But nowadays, I'm taking more of a longer view.  I can see ahead to those years when, if I'm not eating my veggies today, I might suffer for it.   The reality of how hard it will be to save for retirement has me trimming costs where I can (well, sometimes), and appreciating how bringing home lots of fruits and veggies lowers my shopping bills.

I think mostly, though, these thoughts come about because all around me, people are growing up.  Homes are being purchased and babies are being born.  Parents are retiring. We're all just...getting older.  It's not bad.  It's life.  It's disconcerting, yes, but I think the key is to recognize it, laugh about it, and then get on with it.

I can't wait to prep meals tomorrow.