Saturday, September 30, 2006

If music be the food of love, play on...

Music, for a while, let all your cares beguile...

Standing in the middle of Best Buy, behind two easy chairs set up facing a HUGE flat panel hi-def television with the most sophisticated audio and video equipment arranged beneath, I stood entranced.

On the screen was a live Dave Matthews Band performance, in the middle of a tenor sax solo. These few minutes given over to dreaming, and making all the other weekend shoppers disappear from my world. Only music, only dreams, and behind them, silence and darkness.

I needed those moments. It's been a long day after a long week.

What I really needed today was a new phone. But the T-Mobile store didn't have any old (cheap) phones, and I'm not ready to buy the latest greatest. Besides, I'm not eligible for rebates on upgrading to the latest greatest until three months from now. Wish I'd known when I renewed my contract that my antenna would get lost. I'd have just gotten the new phone then. So, balked in this desire, I turned to something... more expensive.

I was at Best Buy to test drive laptops. I did not intend to buy one this weekend. But frustration of one wish will so often drive us into fulfilling what we can, even if it's the less desirable option. I am typing this entry on a brand new Toshiba Satellite. It's pretty spiffy, really. It only cost a *little* more than one month's rent... And hey, it's not the teeny-tiny Vaio I almost fell in love with. THAT would have hurt. This I needed anyway.

Of course, now I'm going to go on line and look up what phones I *can* upgrade to. Hopefully I'll stop hemorrhaging money by sunset...

Then I'll find more music to beguile away my financial cares.
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bad Otto!

All right, I love my car. I really do. Otto rocks, and I've been known to approach him singing to myself, "Little white car, little white car, little white car!" the same as that cat in the Mutts strip and his little pink sock. But he's got a *few* bad habits, and one of them got me into trouble today. *pout*

This afternoon, as I headed out from Mom's to come back home, it was a great afternoon for driving. It's a lot cooler after last night's rain, and the sky is overcast with those high, soft gray clouds. Otto had a full tank of gas and got his oil changed yesterday, so he was feeling feisty, and he *really* likes hills, which we don't get to see many of here in Houston.

So we came down over a hill, and I wasn't paying enough attention to his paces, apparently. Because we got to the bottom, and I noticed another car going slower, and I braked, but then I saw the sparkly blue and red lights in my mirror. Sigh.

So, I only got a warning (only because the cop's computer was acting up, he said). I'm glad, because apparently I haven't changed my address on my driver's license. I swear I did something about that, but now that I think of it, I don't have a new license yet, so it must not have gone through. Drat.

But my pristine driving record is now a bit smudged, and I have to laugh because for all the stupid stuff I've done, it seems only fitting that I almost got a ticket for driving a hair over 45 mph on a nearly empty road. Ah well. I'm not going to argue with a warning, and I'll just have to be more careful in Schertz, Texas. :-P

Saturday, September 23, 2006


It’s getting late-ish, and I should really put away laundry or pack to go out of town tomorrow. But instead I’m sitting on my couch thinking about trust.

I was driving home today when this came over me. People have commented on my innocence. I try to cultivate innocence. I cling to a child-like sense of wonder and awe. That’s how I want to encounter this world. It’s not ignorance. It’s a choice. It’s what’s helped me bounce back from everything that’s knocked me sideways in my life. The joy of living this way is… what I live for. It’s something I actually work at, because there are so many things going on that could make me bitter and cynical. There would be no joy for me in that.

All of these thoughts tonight congealed around the notion of trust. Whom do I trust? Well, for starters, I’ve been known to have some angry, one-sided, rebellious-teen-ager type yelling matches with God. For a while the only way I could tell I did believe in God was that I was incredibly angry at Him, and blamed Him for where I was in my life. But I always knew that He’s a loving parent, and I could never damage the love He has for me. That it wasn’t even a matter of forgiveness, because that was mine already. Held out freely. And this trust in His love is what saw me through the worst crisis of faith I’ve ever had. I still don’t like everything about where I’m at, and I still pray that he will lead me along the best paths SOON. I prefer my time to His. But I’m willing to accept His, because I trust Him to be right. Even when it hurts.

I also thank Him every day for giving me the ability to trust myself. I know myself better and better each day, and I’m not sure that’s something everyone can say. For a long time I was more interested in changing myself into what I thought I should be than in finding out who I actually am. Like my trust in God, my trust in myself has hit a few snags lately. It’s hard to unmake decisions you were so sure were the right ones. And having to do that shook my faith in my ability to make good decisions. But I know now that I can trust myself to make the best decisions possible with the knowledge, the wisdom, and the love that I have, and that I can’t do any better. They may end up not working out. But I will do my best. Always. It’s who I am. I have a lot of faith in that.

And I trust my closest friends to love me even when I screw up. Everyone’s been so supportive of me, even when I waffle and whinge and whine about the same things over and over. I know they wish they could help, just like I wish I could help them in their troubles. I’d give a lot to fix things for everyone I love. And they do help me so much, just by being there. So I trust them, and I’ve never been let down.

Who else do I trust? Who do I not trust? These are more difficult questions.

I have made a habit of believing that all the people I meet are caring people. And I tend to assume that people are like me in many ways, and getting to know someone has a lot to do with discovering where and how we diverge. Honestly, I’m fascinated by the divergences. I feel like everyone I meet gives me a new perspective, and expands me into something a little bit more than me. There are differences that come out immediately, but some things I only learn slowly, and they can be a surprise. One of these surprises lately has put me into a new sort of crisis of faith. How on earth can I maintain that child-like trust in other people, people I don’t really know, now that I know how badly I can be mistaken?

You see, being single again, I’ve started poking my nose out and sniffing the winds of the dating world. I’ve never really done this before. Since I was about fourteen, the longest I went without being in a committed relationship was measured in months. And each new relationship was with someone I’d known or at least known of for a while. Now it’s been over a year since I really had a someone, and I’m not likely to find a someone among my close friends. Those winds out there can be pretty darn dry and searing, I find. And just when I knew I could trust myself, and was ready to open up my trusting little heart to that world, certain that I could protect it, I got kind of turned upside down.


Tonight, thinking about trust, I find that one of the things I’m most afraid of is losing the ability to trust. Of not being able to lay my heart in someone else’s outstretched hand in an act of faith as simply as a child does. I’m afraid I’ll be too scared. [...] I feel like a little bit of my innocence has been eroded away. Maybe it was inevitable, but I’m still so sad to see it go. I want it back. But how do I find it again? Is that even possible? Where do I go from here? Besides back inside my shell. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m still pretty sure I can get over anything and still be the same confident, confiding me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First Breaths of Autumn

It's an absolutely beautiful day outside. This is the sort of weather that always makes me want to jump in the car and drive west. I'll be doing that this next weekend, so I hope it holds. It's warm but fairly dry, and not nearly as hot as it has been. The sky is clear and bright. The sun is golden. There's that certain subtle something in the air that stirs up memories just below the surface of my mind. Texas fall does exist. It's just as subtle. The trees don't change into firey oranges or dazzling golds. It won't get really cold for months probably. But when you grow up here, you learn to know autumn by the way it smells.

It smells like football games with the afternoon sun slanting over the field. It smells like a new year of school settled and underway, with all the busy comings and goings of college life. It smells like carving pumpkins and dressing up to walk over the grass fields at Ren-Fest. It smells like family gatherings and a drawing inward for thought and quiet reflection.

As I walked to my car this morning, images rose up in my imagination like a wave that rushed over me. I was on the field in orange and black out at Fredericksburg for a marching competition. I was on top of Fondren library to see the lunar eclipse through a telescope. I was on a trailer loaded with hay in a black cat costume driving through a neighborhood trick-or-treating. I was reading Plato on a tree limb before musical rehearsal. I was looking over Canyon Lake from the porch of a three-story split level with the smell of Thanksgiving turkey and spiced pies drifting out of the windows.

This tang in the air makes me both sad and eagerly expectant. Autumn starts the end of the year. But when the year ends, a new one begins. A lot of beginnings mean we have to leave something behind. Something we know, we love, we feel safe with. All the autumns I can remember seem tinged with this strand of excitement and sadness. What is it that I'm always leaving behind? What is it that is always just over the horizon?

Monday, September 11, 2006

All That Jazz

So I've never been in a jazz band before. I've been in marching bands, wind ensembles, chamber groups, and played solo, but I've never been in a jazz band. Now after ten full years of sitting in the audience, I've joined the crew. Tonight I had my first rehearsal with the Rice Jazz Ensemble. Wow.

If I don't grow musically through this experience, then my musical pituitary needs to be checked. If I don't grow as a person through learning to feel this kind of music, then I may as well hang it up. Not that I've never felt a physical pull at my gut listening to the blues. Not that I've never wanted to become a musical note my self and slide into the swing of a fast shuffle. But I'm not sure I've ever given myself over to that. Some part of me is held back. And I don't know why that is.

First, improvisation scares me. Like, not nerves or stage fright. Something deep in my soul pulls back into a shell and slams it shut at the idea. It's probably mostly a confidence issue. The structure of music is something I feel I only barely understand. I've gotten to where I can make up my own harmonies in choir by finding the notes I hear that aren't voiced. It's a start. But these chord structures... They aren't your grandmother's chord structures! I was having a helluva time just finding the pitch the music told me to hit sometimes. (Concert F# was being particularly bothersome.)

Maybe part of it is an inner rebellion against being pushed towards it so much by a friend I had a while back. Encouraging a shy person is a delicate business. Supportive is okay. But I remember not wanting to read *books* my Godmother kept saying were so good, just because she kept encouraging me to read them. So if that fine line gets crossed, I tend to flip from shy to stubborn. I still haven't read those books.

There are a lot of things that I don't hold back, but the ones that I do are tied so tightly to something inside me, and on such a short chain, that there must be something more than just my usual shyness going on. I wish I knew what it was. Maybe that's something jazz band can help me learn and understand. Even if I can't conquer the fear, I'd rather understand it than be puzzled and therefore even more shy and insecure every time it comes up. I still don't think I'll take any non-written solos. :-P But in just learning to feel the music more, to let it wind more intimately into my mind and soul, until I flow with it, and understand the tongues it speaks in... That's challenge and reward enough.

Back to something more concrete. Jazz band has already taught me that my reading sucks. Oh. Wait. I knew that. But it's taught me how bad it really is. I fully intend to nullify this with diligent practice. I just have no idea when I'll find the time. I've never been in so many musical groups before. I do, however, have my strengths! Yay! All three of us trumpet players there showed some particular ability that deserved a nod. Erik played really high really well, and expressed the style of each chart with confidence. Even Larry was impressed at how solid he was on lead so much of the time. He's been working on it a lot. :-) I think Zev read a lot of the running eighth notes a lot more accurately than either Erik or myself, and did some fun solo stuff, which both Erik and I were honest about *not* wanting to do.

As for me, at the very beginning of rehearsal, during tuning, Larry commented on my stance and horn angle. I try to stay straight and open and keep my bell up, and he likes it. I was on third part, which, when I wasn't completely unable to find the notes, gave me a chance to really anchor some of the chords, and stretch my ear for chords I'm not familiar with. But the thing I'm personally most proud of? The last piece had one of those trick rhythms that lulls you into complacency, then surprises you into an inadvertant solo. Is it on the upbeat of 4 like the previous one? NO! Hah! It's on the and of 1 this time! Gotcha! Only *I* wasn't fooled one single time. :-D

Now if I could only find that darn elusive concert F#....

Sunday, September 10, 2006

No one exSPECS this much beer in Laura's fridge

So I had a small party, at which only Frank drank beer. And he brought his own, and it was a Heineken mini-keg. So now there's that on top of the Newcastle and the Woodchuck pear cider I bought at Specs. Definitely going to have to throw another party...

But it's an ill wind and all. To get the Newcastle and cider I went to Specs. The big one downtown. I've been there before with friends on a mission for specific things. This was my first time to wander the store on my own, with nothing too specific in mind.

First unexpected and thoroughly blissful discovery. Nutella. NUTELLA. OH my gosh. I fell in love with Nutella on a sidewalk in Paris, when it was handed to me surrounded by a warm fluffy crepe. I've heard some regular grocery stores sell it too, but I hadn't really had time to look for it. So when it jumped out in front of me like that, what could I do? I bought some. May have to make crepes next... Heh, and they're so much fun to make! They go FLIP, PLOP, hopefully back in the pan. :-P

Second unexpected yummyness. The cheese aisles. I'd heard they were extensive, but honestly I hardly knew where to begin! All I needed was Brie. But how could I resist wandering the entire section, just to gawk at the myriad of kinds and flavors. That place could very well be deadly. I was lucky to get out of there with *just* the Brie. Will have to go back when I have a clearer idea of what I really want, so I don't end up spending a king's ransom on dairy products.

I decided that now was not a safe time to impulse-buy myself into a mini-bar. After all, not that many people would want to drink hard stuff on a Sunday afternoon. (I was definitely right about that!) Besides, I've got a bottle of wine on the way from California, so I really don't need anything else. Heaven only knows what this almost-teetotalar would have come home with. Grand Marnier seems likely. Maybe next time.

Found the beer fridge, and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to remember, upon examining the pear cider options, which one the folks order at Brian O'Neill's when we're there. So the entire trip was a wonderful success, and tons of fun.

Only no one drank the stuff *I* bought, and now I've still got Frank's mini-keg. Sigh. I suppose I could have worse problems. :-P

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Aaaaaand we're back!

I have legos!!! I can't tell you how happy this makes me, or why, and you can call me a doof if you want, but I don't care. For the first time in my life I own my own legos!

And I bought them at DISNEYLAND!!! Along with a pin for my fedora commemorating the 50th birthday of Disneyland. Just think, the 50th anniversary of the park that started it all. And by all, I mean the incessant and inevitable conversations between my father and my uncle Tom in Donaldese. Their grandparents took the three boys to Disneyland once to get them out of their parents' hair during a move, and Tom and Daddy taught themselves some mean Donald impersonations on the way. Sigh. :-) I may have only shopped in Downtown Disney, which wasn't there when Daddy was, but somehow... seeing the desert scrub mountains and palm lined hills coasting down into the pacific as they must have seen it, knowing it was getting closer, close close closer until... WE'RE THERE! Disney must be so much about that childhood anticipation of what you can only imagine, it's so magical, and even my tiny little side trip gave me that.

Teebs is a pill, cuz he stood us up for HOMEWORK that day. :-P Amy and I had to get by with just our own combined levels of snarkiness at the La Brea tar pits. It was incredibly cool and fun and stinky and fascinating, but man, the cheesy educational films and moth-eaten animatronix were ASKING for snark. Don't worry, we were cool, we could deal, we got by. ;-) Would have been cool to chat with some of the workers from pit 91 if they'd been around and chat-with-able. They seemed to have their own dimension of snark, judging from the whiteboard at the excavation. Among listing numbers of fossils found, etc., it answered some very important questions up front.

"No dinosaurs are found in the tar pits. Dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years before the tar pits formed."

"Tar is not hot."

"Fossils are not found in liquid tar."

"We are NOT graduate students."

"What smell?"

When we did finally catch up with Teebs, he showed us around Mudd and Scripps and we got to visit a cool library with a cool expanded stacks thingy, and shelves that you could open and close and move by spinning a wheel that looked like the ones on safes that get cracked in movies. Very fun. Then we ate dinner at Buca di Bepo, sang happy birthday to about three people, and stuffed ourselves in general. Amy and I went home and watched The emperor's New Groove which I had somehow never seen, and I was wearing my Eeyore shirt, so it was a thoroughly Disney day, really.

Monday was my last day in Cali, so we had to pack a lot in. We grabbed caffeine and breakfast in the form of a chocolate chip scone and a cinnamon roll. Then we headed out towards Ventura, through fruit orchards and soy fields. We passed a sign that said, "Free honey tasting, 1 mile on the right," and broke into a simultaneous "Ooooooh yeah."

There was sage honey and avocado honey and orange honey (my favorite). There was buckwheat honey, a little traditional clover honey, wildflower honey, cactus honey, which was really granulated and thick, and finally molasses, which is not honey, and is not made by bees, but which they had some of, so they bottled it. I cannot tell you how happy I was to be standing around eating honey off of little wooden popsicle sticks. It was... divine.

Further on down the road was a sign for a winery. It seemed like a tasting kinda day, so I said, "Hey, let's go taste wine." Amy was nothing loath. :-P We walked into the white-washed cave of a tasting room, walk up to the bar, and were greeted by Rosie, who I don't believe stopped talking for longer than it took to draw breath from the moment she greeted us to the moment we left her with other tasters.

We learned all about her family, her boss (a German-French Ph. D. laser physicist whom she described as working with Sponge Bob Square-pants, AKA Rosie herself), and a little about the wine. Not all of them were very good, but I really did enjoy one of the dessert wines, and even ordered a bottle, that will probably ship tomorrow. I tried port, cuz it was there, and Chuck said I might like it, but I dunno. It might be a *little* too sweet. There was another really interesting wine that was as sweet and heavy as the port, and had a definite taste of chocolate and strawberries. Very interesting, but really not for me.

We were a little light-headed at that point. Okay, *I* was a little light-headed. Amy was pretty much fine. So we decided it was time to head back and eat lunch, since I couldn't remember the exact time of my flight, but thought it was around 5:30ish. We went back and had some very yummy steakhouse fare, returned to Amy's apartment, and found out that my flight left at

That meant time for another movie. :-P We watched Drop Dead Gorgeous, a mockumentary about a Minnesota beauty pageant. It was pretty funny. Three movies! Three new movies I'd never seen before! Yay! Then we bundled me off to the airport where the security guard minding the walk-through metal detector grinned and told me I had cute socks. (For those who know, I was wearing my orange/red/pink striped ones with an orange t-shirt.) I met a guy headed back for Houston who's in the Rice MBA program. He looked kinda familiar, so I'll have to see if I see him around.

Then I got home incredibly late, fell into bed, got up way too sleepy, smumbled through a day of work, and here we are!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Go West. . . Now What? :-P

Writing from about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. Sitting in Amy's spare bedroom at the end of a fun fun day. Amy's apartment is wonderful, the surrounding terrain is gorgeous, and the barbecue place about a block that way has made me a very happy camper.

The trip here was fun. About the time we should have started boarding, the sky opened up over Houston Hobby, and the tarmac turned into a wind-tossed sea. Albeit a shallow one. Only a minor delay, though. The second the wheels of the plane left the ground, a weight fell off. I'm on VACATION! This is the first trip in years that I've taken by myself for myself. I'm going to have to do this more often!

About the time we reached cruising altitude, one of the two high school boys sitting next to me asked me what I had been reading. I've started George Eliot's Middlemarch and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. This led to a conversation on my degrees, my interest in Victorian literature and the way it explored the social issues of its day, his interest in film, the colleges he's looking at, Myers-Briggs typing, religious faith, and so on and so forth. For an introvert, I sure ended up spilling a lot my life experiences out to a perfect stranger. But hey, I've learned too much in the ten years since I was where he is to keep it all to myself, and he asked me all sorts of questions.

So, Rice opened the football season against U of H today. We lost 31-30. Drat. I told Amy, "You know, something? Rice football is a lot like guys. It's easy pretend you don't care . . . until you start winning."

Amy and I spent the evening watching Brigette Jones' Diary and eating chocolate ganache. Good times. I feel utterly girly. Tomorrow we'll counter this by visiting the La Brea tar pits and the Lego store. That oughta put things right back to normal. ;-)