Archive for February, 2010

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Heavenly

February 19, 2010

Playa Pelada

Patience

Pays off

New friends

And some old ones.

A hearty wave.

Condensed Reflection

And the finale. Going….

Going…gone..

I think I have 1000 more pictures from the same sunset, but you get the idea. Plus I’ll likely get 1000 more of tonights and every night I’m here. I don’t know if it’s something one can get tired of.

Hasta luego.

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Nosara at last.

February 17, 2010

Finally here. It’s feels like a much longer time coming that it actually has been, especially since I didn’t really know what to expect. I’m very happy to be here at Refugio del Sol, in the company of Josh and Marcia, the owners. Josh has even offered to teach me how to surf, with lesson and board rental at a discount since I’m staying here. And Marcia assures me that Playa Guinoes is a great beach even for beginners, which obviously I am. It’s been a long day and so I will save the bulk of the description for tomorrow, but some things I learned about driving through Costa Rica today?

At first it seemed everyone drives very fast, but once you’re in it, it’s not as intimidating as it seems.

There are times when everyone is in a hurry to pass the person in front of them, it’s difficult not to get caught up in it. But then, just as suddenly, everyone seems perfectly content to stay in a long line, maintaining the same speed. And just as suddenly, everyone goes into pass mode again. I have yet to determine what causes this.

Double yellow lines appear to be a suggestion, not a requirement that you stay in your lane.

The main highway is well paved, but still bumpy. The smaller highways are kind of well paved, much bumpier. The smaller roads are not paved and very bumpy. Lucky I have 9 (10 this year!!) soundwaves under my belt and am no stranger to rough roads.

On the smaller roads, everyone, whether pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, driver, waves at you with such joy it feels like you are home.

There are roadside restaurants so frequently it feels as though it would be impossible to go hungry.

Gas station attendants find gringas who drive barefoot and lose their keys three times within the same fillup terribly amusing.

When driving, make sure to put more sunscreen on your left arm than your right, otherwise you end up with a very funny looking sunburn.

When picking up hitchhikers, hold out for the cool german girls who are staying at some cool way off the beaten path hacienda type place if you want to meet awesome people who will give you good information and offer you a chill place to stay on the ocean for supercheap that comes with it’s own bats!

And now, I’m tired and would give myself over to sippin some rum in a hammock, and typing on my computer doesn’t really mesh with that somehow.

Hasta manana mi amigos.

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Alajuela by night.

February 17, 2010

Ok, so apparently it’s a bad idea to wander the streets of Costa Rica at night.  Before anyone has a heart attack (I’m looking at you, mom) nothing untoward happened to me, unless 2 cute drunk boys (as in, I could be jailed for talking to them, probably) trying to convince one to go for a drink could be considered untoward. It made for a funny scenario, me speaking no spanish, them speaking no english. They started off polite, but when they realized I didn’t understand, they instantly switched to juvenile innuendo, which needs no translation, much to their chagrin when I let them know this.

But encounters int the park aside, everyone I met was superfriendly, some guys made eyes at me, but I’ve wandered enough foreign cities late at night to realize how to signal non-interest. Everyone seemed to respect this, which is always nice. It was when I wandered back to the B&B to find the owner waiting up for me to call for a lift (regardless of the fact that I said I’d make my own way back, don’t worry, es ok, they are too sweet) and he expressed surprise that I would not only want to wander the streets  at night, but that I would even do it. Especially being a mujer sola. I encounter this a lot, it’s difficult to explain that some of the nicest times I’ve ever had in foreign places are when I was walking alone at night. I know that it’s dangerous, I know that precaution can’t rule out every scenario, but there’s something about the nighttime in a city.

Otherwise my evening was pretty standard, except for the mistake. I was directed to a sweet little restaurant with a table of guys in one corner who had more eyes for the waitress than me (yay!) and a menu entirely in spanish. No one there spoke english. Ok, I though, no problema, it’s good for me to practice. And here I made the hugest faux-pas. I asked for a biere.

A Beer! To be fair I asked for it in french, but still! How many times have I said, oh I’ll have no problem in a spanish speaking country because I know Donde esta el bano? And una cerveza, por favor. CERVEZA! And I ask for a beer. To be fair, my first impulse was to speak in a foreign language, just not the right one.

In some ways it’s been good for me to be stuck in Alajuela for a couple of days. I thought I would go straight to Nosara and find myself enmeshed within a touristy enough zone that my lack of spanish would be no problem.  And granted the people here at the B and B are fantastically fluent so there is no problem. But while wandering in Alajuela my handicap is very apparent. I had no trouble for the most part, found a department store and managed to find most of what I needed on my own, bought some sunglasses from a vendor on the street, but wow! Do I ever not speak spanish. The nice thing about knowing french is that many words in french are closer to the spanish equivalent. I even tried speaking french and adding o to the end of words, which doesn’t always work, but now and again, it does. The funniest part about the department store was that after being asked by numerous sales girls if I needed something, they tracked down a woman (Graciela) who spoke english and she dragged me all over the store, making sure I took advantage of items on sale and telling me how much everything cost in dollars. Which was wonderful, we even found a sales girl very much like me in size so we could determine what clothes might fit me best before I even tried them on.

Things I have discovered about Costa Rica so far?

Drivers will honk if there is even a second’s delay in moving forward.

There are no street names outside the larger cities. Even then, smaller streets have no identity of their own.

Drivers do not wait for the light to change green if there are no cars coming.

An appetizer plate is as big as most entree plates in canadian restaurants.

Regardless of how hot it is, most people wear jeans.

Sunglasses vendors are very helpful.

Large grocery stores do not have a produce section, because you can buy produce on the street everywhere. I even saw a bunch of loofahs hanging off someone’s truck. (I just recently learned a loofah is a plant)

Large grocery stores do have Antonio Banderas perfume, men who feather dust the alcohol bottles and others who use all purpose cleaner to meticulously clean that strip of shelf where the price tag goes.

In department stores, the higher the floor, the cheaper the clothes.

You do not have to know what time of day it is because most people will greet you with Buenas. Which helps when you aren’t sure if you should be saying buenas dias, buenos tardes, etc.

Ideally my bag will arrive sometime tomorrow and I will be able to make more observations on my way to Nosara.

Buenas noches darlings.

That is a flame on the crest because when I was driving with Bernard (Barnabus?) who has been so sweet and taken me all over the place since I’ve been here he pointed out a statue of Juan Santamaria and I had the gall to ask if those were flowers he was carrying. No, I was informed, he is not carrying flowers and a gun (which seemed perfectly logical to me for some reason) he is carrying a flame and a gun. For those unaware, a short and wildly inaccurate history lesson.

There was this United Statesian douchenozzle named William Walker who decided he wanted to be the president of Nicaragua. This was after failed attempts to invade Mexico and charges of starting wars were dropped by dudes were liked the idea of owning slaves from new countries. He took advantage of Nicaragua’s civil war to insert himself, set up a slave holding republic, mockfarce electioned himself president and recruited many honky slave owning douchenozzles from the states and europe to come and help him take over Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Franklin Pierce (president of the states at the time) even recognized his douchebaggery as legitimate! Lots more stupid stuff happened, eventually Vanderbilt(who business interests were being messed with) paid mercenaries from the states and along with a Costa Rican military delegation they went to fuck him up. As the story goes, they weren’t outnumbered but the tactical advantage was with William Wanker’s men. Finally Juan Santamaria, the brave little 25 year old drummer boy, risked life and limb to carry a torch (not flowers)  and set fire to the building Wanker’s men had holed up in. His limbs came out okay, his life? Shortened by a whole bunch. Eventually William Wanker was executed by being shot a whole bunch of times in the face. In Honduras. To this day, Juan Santemaria has a museum, 2 statues and an airport named after him. William Wanker is aknowledged by some narrow southern brainless idiots as a hero, but no one really thinks those guys have any sense.

History lesson over. Thanks for tuning in.

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Alajuela morning

February 16, 2010

And now to find my backpack so I can see some more.

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La gush..el gush?

February 16, 2010

I have to rave a bit about this place I’m staying tonight. It’s called Melrost B&B like I mentioned before and they are just awesome! It’s by now common knowledge that the redirect gods got ahold of my stuff and spent the day hoarding it in Toronto. I imagine this happens to travelers at least once in their adventures and boy am I grateful that I got off as easy as I did (knock on wood as I don’t actually have my bag in my possession yet). It could have happened next year when Janice and Jimmy and Hanah and I go to Bali, stop by to visit Nikki’s folks in Australia on our way to New Zealand and Tasmania..(hint, hint?) and the bag could be on it’s way to Minsk while I fret over the potential loneliness it feels. Although it could be argued there’s no way that could happen because I’ll likely play the carry-on game from here on out. Here on in? Whatever.

I’m always a little hesitant with recommendations that come from tourism affiliated businesses. Who’s to say how reputable it ever is? It could be a second cousin and it’s just a way to lure in unsuspecting, non-native languange speaking noobs like me who just wants  a sane place to lay her head while waiting for a backpack full of practical things like hula fire spokes, legwarmers and knee high socks. (To be fair, it was late, I was excited, I needed sleep but didn’t get any, I baked a cake to send to England, I spent hours backing up all of my music and writings just in case I lose my laptop or the harddrive filled with music that I brought with me and I was going on the fact that you just never ever know. Bikini top, short skirt, legwarmers, bare feet, I honestly can’t imagine many sexier things than that. ) But fortune smiled like a Costa Rican (they seem to do that a lot and it feels genuine, unlike the Danes. They smile, but it’s sometimes hard to tell if they actually like you or they’re laughing at you to your face. It’s rather endearing in some strange way though. I like the Danes.)  upon me and brought me here, where they showed me to a little room (the only one left for the night) let me know if I needed anything I should call, asked what time I wanted breakfast brought to my room, let me know where I could buy a change of clothes, offered to drive me the block and a half if I wasn’t into it, parked my rental in a secure locked up garage, drove me to a great restaurant where I sat at the furthest table from the kitchen and then felt like a jerk when I realized my super attentive waitress was waaay pregnant but so accomodating, and came and picked me up after. I’ll have to come back to Alajuela to pick up my sis next week when she lands around 9 am tuesday and since I’ll be coming back from Nosara monday night, I already know where I’m going to stay. I’m sure there are cheaper places to crash, but I don’t know about better. These guys are soooooo awesome! They even got on the phone to try and communicate with the sorry-we-lost-your-bag people because I couldn’t understand the message (being that it was in spanish and I am a freakish neophyte in that realm).

As far as Nosara goes, I’ve been checkin it out a lot, as I’m pretty sure I want to spend the bulk of my time there. I had found someone on couchsurfing who lived there, was extraordinarily charismatic and seemed to be a whole lot of fun! How ideal to have a potential couch or even just a hookup for the very area I wanted to be in! Sadly, she moved back to the states literally 3 days before I wrote to her. But write I did and she came back with mucho suggestions for where I should stay, who I should speak with about surf lessons, who to seek out for rainforest tours, which bar has free tequila for women thursdays, even a blog of events happening within the community! A wealth. Seriously.

Since I wasn’t sure how quickly I could find a place, I contacted her friend who runs a B&B over there, the day (literally!) before I was due to fly to Costa Rica, telling her that she had come highly recommended. Her response? I’ll be away for the day, but if you reach Nosara before I’m back, I’ll leave the key in the door of one of the suites for you, let yourself in.

Does that happen anymore?

She knows me from no one! And yet, extends this hospitality (which I was sadly unable to take advantage of because of my scenario) on such short notice that it would not have seemed anywhere near untoward if she had pointed and laughed uproariously. Ok, maybe that would be a little untoward, but not by much.

As well, the guy that I’ve contacted about surf lessons (the only tican run surf shop/school out of 11 in the area) also rents houses and has every confidence that I won’t need to find a place to stay while I search. WoW!

Oh, and Costa Ricans are fearless, if the way they drive is any indication, especially motorcycle drivers. I think of myself as a pretty awesome, assertive (not aggressive) driver, but I’m thinking after driving around here for a month, I’ll have the confidence to enter a nas car rally and giggle the whole time.

Speaking of giggling, you know when you’re so tired that everything is hilarious? I’m beyond that. And so I shall say Buenas noches darlings.

Sueno bien…I think that means dream well..and so I shall…

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Livin la pura vida

February 15, 2010

I remember when I first went to France and was so completely frustrated with how often I had to start a conversation with Desolee, je parle pas francais. Eventually though that flourished into more comprehensive ways of telling people I couldn’t speak the language until I realized one day that communication is not restricted to language. So many times I cut myself out of even trying to comprehend, feeling a lack of confidence in my ability to convey what I wanted to say. I had an epiphany of sorts one day, with regards to my ability to creatively express myself as a result of my impressive vocabulary. It doesn’t amount to much when that vocabulary is only impressive in one language.

So here I am again, different location, exact same phrase over and over again. Lo siento, no hablo espanol. Actually the first few times I said it, I’m pretty sure I said no hablas espanol, which I believe means you don’t speak spanish, which obviously just isn’t true. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this communication problem!

I’m a huge fan of never checking bags. I’m also a huge fan of spinning fire. Fire toys and carry on do not go so well together. I decided at the last minute to throw my fire hula into the mix and check my backpack. I arrived in Costa Rica, my backpack did not. Suddenly all my best laid plans were for naught because I would have to spend the night in ALajuela, near the airport and wait for my bag.  Fortunately I had the sense to reserve a car yesterday and while waiting for the shuttle to get me, I asked the rep if he knew of a good place to stay. He got on the phone and called Melrost B&B. They not only had a vacancy, they had someone meet me at the car rental place  so I could follow him here. Then they directed me to a shopping mall a very long block away, through a neighborhood where all the houses have bars on the windows, but all the neighbors and very friendly. It’s an interesting contrast. Plus, there is a huge field in the centre of this residential area with half a dozen horses and a bunch of cows milling about. When I stopped to take pictures of the horses,  a cool old dude wandered across the street and told me all about the neighborhood, regardless of the fact that I have not a clue what he was saying. He knew I didn’t understand, but that didn’t phase him in the least. I believe he and his sister own a block of apartments but everything else was lost on me.I told him I wanted to go to the market, he gave me very thorough directions in spanish and off I went.

I was a little disappointed that it was very much a mall in every sense of the word, but set out to find what I needed until my pack arrives.  Most of the stores cater to the young adult scene, as malls often do, and even the grande was far too pequeno for this busty gal. The funny thing is, I would walk into a store, immediately cut short the sales pitch with lo siento…try to explain that I have no clothes, get blank stares and my reasonable, not reactionary at all response? I buy the first thing that looks like it will fit me, look like a complete jackass trying to figure out if i’m getting ripped off spending 20,000 colones on a shirt and  leave. (20,000 is about 36 bux I discovered later.) Plus I had to go to the bank machine three times because the first time I took out 6000 which won’t buy one pair of panties (depending on where you shop I’m sure) the second time I took out 20,000 thinking I was alright this time. Spent that on a shirt. But I’ll learn, it’s only my first day after all.

I’ve got to gush a whole bunch about how awesome the people are who run the b&b I’m staying at, as well as the people I’ve been in touch with in Nosara, but right now I’m going for dinner with the awesome people here in alajuela!

Mwah darlings. Hasta luego!

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Cover.

February 12, 2010

I’ve often thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could make my writing ability work for me? I coul be one of those full time blahgging people who actually makes money at what they do! I could do my job from anywhere in the world!’

More often I tend to think about how clever I would have to be all the time. Most people who seem to be successful at blahgging offer a kind of niche blahg. They specify, rather than rant about whatever comes into their head at the time. Or whatever has been festering over the course of the day to the extent that it must be exorcised into the vast spaces of the interweb at random. I don’t know that I could nichify so easily. Rant, yes. Specify? Not so much.

I also wonder about the drive for content. I’ve noticed that the really successful blahgs have ooodles of people commenting after them. Most of the comments are agreeable, supportive, written  by people who are so pleased to discover other clever and witty people with the same views as themselves, it goes a long way to justifying how they are living their lives. That’s always nice. There are sometimes disagreements, to the point of venomous and wounding remarks. Outright attacks on the thoughts the original blahgger has put forth. Some eloquent, most ignorant and hateful. Would one eventually find that the writing would cater to a certain collective thought pattern, rather than one’s own? The more people who read it, the greater chance there is of offending someone (which distresses me not at all) and the greater chance there is of people voicing their comments, opinions, judgey-hatredy ramblings towards things that came from my head. Suddenly one might have to be careful about how often the word fuck is used. Or how many times in one posting the virtues of abortion to free oneself from the stress of unwanted pregnancy is put forth. Or how retarded it is to demand that the word retarded is only used to refer to people (not things, situations or governments) and then only people who were born with mental or physical restrictions. What about people who  acquire retardation like some acquire wigs? I admit that most of the facts I have are ones that I have made up to suit whatever belief system I’m supportive of today. But I realize that. How many people out there do the same thing, but take what their brains tell them to be true? I’m talking to you ‘big omnipotent dude who lives in the sky and promises sky cake after you’re dead so long as you keep yourself from doing anything fun while you’re alive and do good things (yes, because molestation of children, keeping people from using condoms to prevent excess population and the spread of disease and hoarding riches while children starve are all good acts) only because it’s what’s expected of you, not because you are well and truly a good person’ believer-types.

I’m all tingly at the thought of how many different interest groups/ demographics/uptight wankers I’ve offended within that paragraph alone! If I acquired income from my writings, you can bet that my religious sponsors just dropped me. As well as mothers against anything cool, indignant parents of retards and a good portion of fence sitters who are just uncomfortable with such sarcastic ranting. Ok, the catholic church is responsible for all those things and yes, political correctness has gone to far and people are way too sensitive when it comes to how much they let words dictate how they feel about what they say to one another, but do you have to be so in your face about it?

My thoughts. Mine. My desire to express them, my right, my selfishness when it comes to those things that will make me happy. Nobody else’s business. Truly. Am I going out and performing abortions? Am I forcing my belief system on people who were pleasantly existing before I came along and introduced them to the concept of shame and sexual repression while secretly molesting their children? Am I kicking puppies? Am I walking up to retarded kids and telling them they are limited by their brains that operate differently than most people, regardless of the fact that most people who have “normal” working brains are complete idiots who use less brain power, have less compassion and less joy in everyday existence than so-called retards? Who is the retarded one exactly?

Sure, it could be argued that I should restrain myself because it is the internet after all and some kid might come across my ramblings and be forever scarred by the blatant disregard for subservient kowtowing. (Do those words mean the same thing? Have I just written a superfluous redundancy? Yes, it appears I have. Though kowtowing has a certain amount of respect that goes along with it, wheras I am just a disrespectfully crass ninny. I’ll try again.) Perhaps I should restrain myself because it is the internet after all and someone might come across my ramblings and be forever scarred by my blatant disregard for self imposed blinders when it comes to experiencing life in all of it’s dirt covered bliss, without the stupidity of antibacterial soap.  I hope the scarring is deep enough to encourage independent thought! Besides the chance that a kid will randomly stumble across this is so slim, I use far too many words in one place for that kind of thing. I would bet that most random visitors might read the first paragraph, but upon not seeing their own name written, or some other pertinent detail, would move on. Plus there is virtually no porn whatsoever.

My advice to those who might come across this and be offended? Find something else to look at. There are thousands of websites where you can stare at cats doing silly things, children falling down, fat people being jolly as only fat people can (just lost the portly demographic…) humans enmired in all kinds of useless and ironic activity for no good reason at all. The reason I write here is because I’m reaching out from my brain, to my brain and a small selection of other brains whose presence has not been filtered out by my caustic wit, unapologetically dark humor and general awesomeness. Notice I used the word filter? Yes, it’s true. It could be that under all these layers of savagery sarcasm there is a lovely human being who is nowhere near as mean as she appears. Too bad you were shocked and appalled at her lack of tact when it comes to such a sensitive issue such as (insert religious fanatic’s cause of the day here), you miss out on me. I’m ok with that, the reason why the filters exist to keep the intolerant, the ignorant, the wankers from wanting to talk to me. I’m sure, being a human, you have your inherent value. You have your life and your story and the fact that you came into being (which the odds dictate as astronomical) suggests that you have a place here, just as I do. I just don’t need your small minded bullshit rattling my cage. I’ve got my own small minded bullshit I’m sorting through on my way to figuring out what works best for me, while living my life as joyfully and humbly as one can when one is as incredibly awesome as me.

Now, all that said, it might be determined that all my ranting is naught but a clever smoke screen for the fact that it has been a few days since I reported on the progress of my experiment. The experiment goes well. I have discovered that doing something just to prove that I can is not a good way to inspire discipline in myself. Yes, I feel good when I exercise. Yes, I feel great when I have a good piano playing session. When I have imposed mandatory regulations on myself with regard to both of these things, it doesn’t feel so good. I’m not saying any of this because I’ve stopped doing them, on the contrary, with the exception of tonight when I fell asleep right after dinner, I have maintained the discipline of exercising and playing every day. But discipline that is imposed feels so wrong. It really does. I admit I find it a little sad that there is some kind of compulsion within me to submit to such a thing. Perhaps it’s the masochist in me. I think rather than demanding of my self that it capitulates to what the overbrain considers “good practices” I should instead practice at maintaining “good habits”.  If it feels good when something gets done, why doesn’t that memory sustain a desire to continue? I know how awesome it feels to have the extra energy from exercising, why do I have to cajole my self to do it again the next day? But that’s a question for another time.

On another note, I leave for Costa Rica in 3 days. The only white I’ll be seeing for the next month will be the light cotton skirt and tanktop I’ll be wearing over my bikini, to contrast my amazing tan. I am so due for some vitamin d.  I wish I could take you all with me darlings, but my backpack is just too little. There will be pictures galore however, and while the ramblings will ideally take back seat to rainforest and volcano exploration, along with surf lessons and sunset gazing, I’m sure I will feel compelled to write a little something now and again, just to allow for vicariousness at it’s most topically tropically.

And one more pot shot, for all those banana lovers out there. I did say virtually no porn, remember.

Ha!

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Who knew?

February 8, 2010

Who knew that it would be here that I would fall short of my intended goal? Of course, it’s really not necessary that I write here every day to ensure that I stick with my 14 day experiment, which I have been doing. As difficult as it is to inspire myself to exercise when I don’t feel like it, it’s even more so to play the piano, and more again to write something here. When I’m not inspired to exercise, I can change it up a bit, find a different song on the mp3 player, fantasize about how quickly I’ll learn to surf being more fit than when I started. With the piano I can do my best to channel other musicians, pretend I’m giving a concert for the king of austria, change songs, mess about with nonsensical musical ideas. But drawing inspiration from my own brain at the end of a day that already felt long before I decided I must compose something witty and delightful to fill this space? I admit that a good portion of the time, having a space to pour myself into is great, but some days, I have nothing to say. At least, not when I sit down and attempt to say it. I think of all kinds of fantastic things ove the course of the day, it’s a good argument for carrying a pen and paper constantly. Perhaps tomorrow something divine will carry over into the evening and I’ll wow everyone who reads this with my intellectual prowess…who knows?

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A day of almost didn’t.

February 6, 2010

But then I did. Yay me! Who would have thought I’d hit a wall on, what is this, day 4? Crikey. I can only imagine what day 10 will be like. But I’m still at it, no worries there.

Too sleepy for more than just a check in though. I’ll be more verbose another time.

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Compensation

February 5, 2010

It seems as though my self is constantly seeking to balance itself. Yesterday I was all gung-ho on the exercise action, today the pendulum swung and the piano was where I found the most joy.  Getting out of bed this morning was tough, likely as I’m starting to feel the results of all this activity. Even though I got up early enough I almost talked myself into putting off exercising until the afternoon, which sounds an awful lot like ‘You’ve been doing so well, why not take it easy on yourself?’ So well? It’s only been 2 days! C’mon! Jeez.

The nice thing about coming back around to the piano after an absence of dedication is rediscovering those artists who are piano dominant that I love and tend to forget about. I’m talking Norah Jones, Tori Amos, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, Fiona Apple.  When I say absence of dedication that’s not to suggest that I don’t play almost every day. But I don’t play as actively. I don’t run through scales, practice sections of songs I’m not so good at many times over, rather than just glossing over it, “I’ll learn it some other time..” I do that a lot. While learning something new, actually sticking to the drill of learning one hand and then the other, then both together. The tendency to try and learn both at the same time, to hear some semblance of coherency within the music, to feel like I’m picking it up might satisfy in the short term. But it often results in my knowing little bits of many different things, because I only play as long as I don’t get bored of the struggle to learn it. Also, with that type of learning style, there is no opportunity for the hands to strengthen themselves individually. It could be that there are people out there who can rock it ambidexstyle, but it’s not me. I know it’s not me, still my impatience sometimes wins out and muddle through something, feeling a (short-term) sense of accomplishment. It also sucks because then I’m dependent on the sheet music. The hands don’t know their individual parts well enough to do without.

I’ve noticed a change in my playing recently as well. I’m much clumsier than I ever was. There are pieces I could play flawlessly before that I can’t play at all anymore (yet!) because there are too many instances of the left hand needing a certain amount of reach. Just  a bit more than my half-mast thumb will afford me, at this point. I have a tendency to rely on the sustain pedal so that I can jump the left hand key to key without losing the sound. But none of this is what I’m talking about. When I play, I really play. I’m extremely present. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the feeling just isn’t there, those are the times I usually opt to do something else and come back to playing later. But I really do feel quite a bit more passionate than I used to. I’ve played since I was 8, off and on again. I’ve taken it as a given that I will always have music in my life. I know that when I finally decide to settle somewhere that somewhere will have a piano. It’s a constant. The guitar is a hobby, singing is a joyful distraction. The piano is something tangible, something real in comparison. I’m not quite sure how to explain that. When I was really broke, both in Europe and Canada, and nowhere near my folks place to escape and play, I would fancify myself up a bit and go to music stores, trying to appear solvent enough to perhaps purchase, so they would let me sit and play. No matter how shitty things were at the moment before, as long as I got to sit and play one song, it was better. One note. If I couldn’t manage to get a chance to mess about, even just being in the shop, in the presence. I don’t know what it is, but I always took it for granted. Then I had my thumb ripped off. Lying there in the hospital, waiting for the decision whether or not to reattach to come through, it suddenly occurred to me that I might never be able to play the piano again. I realized soon after how completely melodramatic that was, if Django Reinhardt could play the guitar with 2 fingers and a thumb (and that wasn’t his strumming hand) surely I could adapt to playing the piano without a thumb. Ok, yes, octaves are likely out of the question, but there’s always a way. My second thought was how much I’m going to suck at video games without a thumb, but that was so far removed from the piano tragedy.

As it turns out, the thumb was reattached successfully and quite well, albeit sans tendon which makes thumb wars a near impossibility. So my piano playing continues more or less unchanged. Big shout out to Dr. Dimitri Anastakis by the way, without whom I would be able to hold a beer left handed toast him. Every time I play, every time I use my left thumb to hit a note, I am so hyperaware of how completely delightful it is to do just that.

And I love that I didn’t notice until I had started playing winter that the piano plant has started to flower!

And look at that! Crazy Tori Amos has written this song in the key of G flat major! Six bloody flats! The only natural is F! Insanity. Hauntingly delightful insanity, but insanity nonetheless. Although Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin is played for part of the piece with 3 flats, part with 4 flats, suddenly switch to 5 sharps and back to 4 flats a little later! Madness. Genius. Interchangable terms, certainly.

And to round it all off, Alejandro and I were being all arty, so it’s only fitting that we share.

And we had a squirrel visit! Which is apparently unusual. The residents were quite attentive for this monumental event.

Nothing like pictures of cute animals to sign off on.

Until the next darlings. Remember, appreciate opposable digits, being able to snap your fingers, clasp a beer, wrap a hair tie…play the piano. Good things happen with thumbs.

Thanks Dr. A!

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Second day..still strong..ish…

February 4, 2010

I’ll end a long day with some short and sweetness. The exercise bandwagon is still rockin the socks off any kind of misgivings to that end. Not only a session before work, but after as well! At the point where muscles are being sundered and reforming themselves as stronger, better, after only 2 days! Nothing too pushy though. The piano activity suffered a bit as a result methinks. I sat down for about an hour, but it wasn’t terribly satisfying. I was clumsy and inarticulate all over those keys, which frustrates me, which makes me want to walk away. I’ve always given in to that, if the feeling isn’t there, I shouldn’t be playing. So sticking to it in the face of extreme awkwardness is a challenge, which I met, but it felt a bit like lip service.

It’s kind of too bad because I imagine once I start to get my stride, I’ll bail for the sunny climes of Costa Rica and the odds that I’ll be doing much piano playing while there are pretty slim. I have a feeling the activity end of things will prove sustainable, as there isn’t a whole lot of standing still on a surfboard. Given that it’s on the ocean and not just the beach.

I’m so beat right now and as much as I want to be witty enough to make this interesting, it’s just not the day for that. There’s always tomorrow. The most exciting thing I can offer up is that I’m nearly finished the scarf I’ve been (very) slowly knitting all winter long! I had thought it wouldn’t be finished until it was superfluous, but it could see some use this winter! Huzzah and goodnight.

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First day, strong start.

February 3, 2010

Ok, so day one of the 14 days discipline challenge is over and wow! If today is any indication, I’m gonna kick so much ass!

I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off! Granted, there was a feline kafuffle outside my bedroom door, but whatever works. It seems as though the 2 kitty factions have decided that my room is the last neutral territory in the house and every now and again there is a scuffle over who has rights to the area. But squabbles aside, it got me out of bed, if only to mediate the melee and peer outside to see a brilliantly sunny imbolc day. How disappointing. Only because when St. Brigid’s day dawns fair, shadows can be easily seen, groundhogs can be frightened into burrows and winter can last a whole lot longer. To be honest, I don’t think it makes a difference around here, it’s stupid cold until may sometimes. But no matter. Ran downstairs, plugged in my mp3 action and rocked the hula, some free weights and some hardcore cardio action before breakfast!

Over breakfast I realized how fitting it would be that I should start such a regimen on Feb. 2. Pagans call it Imbolc, christians call it candlemas, the dudes over at Gobblers’ Knob (seriously.) call it groundhog day.  To quote the eternal Miss Joplin, “as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fucking day, man.”

Whatever you call it, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox is today. It’s a day of cleansing fire ritual, a great day to start a fast, a great time to reflect on the winter passing and ponder the future spring. And so here I am halfway between old habits and new. It’s the time of year I notice it’s light when I get up in the morning, regardless of the fact that I was getting up at the same time last week. It’s the time when animals start to give birth (Pearl is due in a couple of weeks, I think..she’s a goat). If I was in the west I would go walking in the trees, looking for snowdrops and early crocuses. Here, not so much. I think I might find snow and…no, that’s it.

I figured since it was a day of beginnings as much as middles I should start reading Tropic of Cancer. How amazed was I to discover that Tropic of Cancer could be retitled “Trish’s adventures as a broke-ass bohemian in Paris from the point of view of a man with slightly more sex with prostitutes.” At times it was even creepy. The first time I went to Paris, and ran out of money within the first month and stayed for 4 more and depended on friends, my wit and charm to get by. When I had nothing but time and nowhere in particular to be and so spent days wandering the city, seeing all aspects of Paris, even places friends who live there aren’t aware of. Coming into contact with an essential part of her identity and finding  a common ground. Granted, his writing is a little more surrealistic than mine tends to be. I have a gift for run on sentences that he doesn’t seem to dabble in. He is infinitely more visual than I am, but I see his influence in my writing, by way of other writers who have come between us that I have read before. Kerouac is a big one of course. But if, when told at age 17 that I resembled Miller, I had sought him out and read him then, I wonder if I would have seen the parallel? Especially since it would be 12 years from that time before I would find my way to Paris to indulge myself as an expression of iconoclastic artistry. Because that had never been done before. Do I see the parallel in our adventures because I’m looking for them? Perhaps. I prefer to think it’s because it applies. I was right about his impatience as well. Mind, I’m only a short way into it, but indeed, I believe I have come to him at exactly the right time, for reasons I’m not quite ready to expound upon now.

I’ve had some hesitation through the day, as to making it a mandatory activity to sit and play the piano. There’s nothing like taking the joy out of something than to have it be imposed upon one as a duty. I compared it to the writing style of John Steinbeck, who wouldn’t just sit at the typewriter when inspiration or the mood took him. He treated it as a 9-5 job and plugged at it every day. Which might be why his stories always seem a little sad to me. Sitting there, looking out the window at a blue sky out of reach. Trapped inside with the characters who embody those parts of humanity that are dark and sad and desperate. Although it could be attributed to the time he lived in as well. It wasn’t called the great cheerfulness, after all. At any rate, around 8:15 I sat down at the piano, I know because I looked at the clock and determined that I should not get up before 9. I pulled out all my sheet music (which I tend to pack everywhere I go, likewise my tango shoes, because you just never know) and there’s a lot of it and a good portion of it I’ve never even played. Instead of automatically playing the familiar, I started with some old jazz songs I’ve wanted to learn for a long time. Next time I looked at the clock? 10 pm. I played for almost 2 hours! I didn’t even notice the time go by! It wasn’t a chore at all!

We’ll see if I’m still singing (playing) the same tune by day 4. So far, so good though.

And super big yay for the light coming back. It’s been dark long enough. Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to darkness, in fact there’s many aspects of it that I feel more akin to than any light, but it’s nice to have balance. Happy Imbolc!

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Disciplinary Action.

February 2, 2010

I have none.

If not none, then little, so diminutive as to suggest none. I have the desire for discipline, but how often does desire give us what we need, or even what we want? I think perhaps it gives us what we think we want, even to the extent that it gives us what we think we ought to want. And ought is one letter removed from nought. Which is to say, nothing. Two letters removed from naught, which is to be without result or fruition. We oughtn’t want naught. It’s frustratingly fruitionless! Where am I going with this?

Ah yes, it could be that I’m stumbling into the realm of why I have no discipline.  I have a very hard time keeping my brain, my captain smartypants brain on one track at one time. I have a tendency to allow it to wander like a dog without a leash. It could be argued that a dog without a leash is a happy dog, but happy dogs are just as likely to wander into the street and get themselves a good smuckin.

Every day I think, today is the day I acquire discipline. I will wake up, I will exercise, I will go to work. Even just there I have problems for some reason. It’s only 2 hours into my day and already it’s an uphill battle. I set the alarm and turn off the light and fall asleep and the alarm goes off and I smack it and fall back asleep, waking again 10 minutes before I have to be at work. It’s a common enough scenario. I’ve been justifying it in various ways for years.  ‘I don’t function as well in the morning.’ ‘If I felt more passionate about the work I would get up excited about it.’ ‘I’m not so out of shape that I need to exercise every morning.’  All of these start with a negative thought. I’m not- What about all the things that I am? There’s no self-love here, there’s only indulgence. ‘Sleep in, you deserve it.’ ‘You exercised two days ago, you deserve to sit around and play video games instead of doing something productive.’

I truly don’t think that I’m lazy. If there’s something that has to be done, I’ll do it. I’ll even do it well. But if it doesn’t need to be done, I have no problem letting it go and spending 3 hours surfing the internet, researching all the different types of martial arts (for example) insisting to myself that one day I’m going to start taking aikido and then I’ll learn some discipline. They teach you that right? At the same time as teaching how to redirect opponents energy with cool flips and joint locks. It’s as though I give myself permission to not have discipline because that’s obviously something you learn from someone else.

I try to brush my teeth every day. Those of you who have known me a while, know that for years I had the shittiest smile ever. I was like an english hockey player. Some were missing, some were chipped, some had rot so bad that people would constantly tell me while pointing, “you’ve got a little something here..” Yeah, I know. And I worked and saved money and got them fixed. I appreciate having a nice smile because I know what it’s like to not have that. From the age of about 17 through 31 almost every picture of me is all grin, no teeth. You would think that awareness of something would encourage daily care. Sort of how someone who suffered (and I mean suffered) with harsh asthma all through puberty would know how awful it feels to have trouble breathing and would never even consider smoking, much less do it for 16 years! I brush my teeth almost every day. Some days, I’m already in bed when I remember and there’s a hmmm…get up…do it…rarely do I listen to this inner voice. Is that lazy? Flossing is even worse. I start to floss, I do maybe 3 teeth and begin to think about what I’m going to do next, to the degree that sometimes I’ll have put the floss in the garbage and be wandering away before I’m called back to the present. And my lack of presence in it.

Is learning aikido really going to afford me the type of discipline that will allow for daily brushing?

Then there’s that vicious self dressing down that happens. It’s not in the realm of you suck, you’re not good enough. I’ve been far removed from that place since my early 20’s. It’s worse somehow because it’s a kind of quiet acceptance. “Well, this is just the way we are. Not self-governed enough to do what’s right. We fall back into the habits of doing what’s comfortable, even when it doesn’t actually afford comfort. What did you expect? You have no discipline.” “Ouch, self! Come on! It’s not that bad!” “Ok, so instead of turning on the video game or watching a movie, why don’t you spend that 2 hours playing the piano?” “Fine! I’ll show you! I’ll sit here and I’ll play the piano! I’ll learn all those songs I’ve had the sheet music to for such a long time and haven’t learned yet! I’ll be awesome!”

20 minutes is my average time to sit down and play the piano.

3 hours is my average time to sit down and play video games.

Self love is not the desire to do good things for yourself, it’s the action of doing them. I find myself giving into the instantaneous, the quick fix and it’s starting to get old. If I’m not lazy then what hinders me from the pleasures that require work? Do I get as much satisfaction from finishing Fallout 3 on the highest difficulty setting (those supermutants are nearly impossible to kill!!!)  as I do when I learn a piece on the piano completely so that I’ll never have to use the sheet music again? Hell no. So, if I know that, if I am acutely aware of how awesome it is to make beautiful music with my 9 1/2 fingers, what stops me? Am I lazy?

All right, here’s an experiment. I leave for Costa Rica in exactly 14 days. 2 weeks. Every day I will exercise for 45 minutes, play the piano for 45 minutes and write something. 2 weeks. How hard can that be? I’m a little nervous, not just because when I started to type an hour for each activity and the little voice said, what about 45 minutes? That’s not bad, is it? I’m nervous because I’ve done this kind of thing before and typically I last about 3 days, the I inevitably give over to ‘you’ve been doing so well! Why not take today off and spend a few hours doing meaningless things like importing a picture and giving yourself a hair makeover on one of those makeover sites? Or playing video games? Or organizing your music folder into artists by country? By decade? By genre? Don’t laugh, I do that now and again, it gets kind of manic.

Ok, 2 weeks.

45 minutes of daily exercise, which can include hulahooping, poi, weights, yoga, treadmill, dancing in the kitchen, etc. Apparently it’s better for one’s metabolism if the exercise happens in the morning, but I’m not going to place that restriction on myself. As long as it happens at some point over the course of the day, I’m okay with it.

45 minutes of daily piano playing, half an hour of which must involve practicing something I have yet to learn. (I tend to play the things I know really well and feel greatly accomplished regardless of the fact that I learned the piece when I was 11.)

2 weeks. Daily updates so that I am accountable not just to myself. If I dictate that writing about it here is one of the requisites,  it will be instantly obvious when I slip, and how embarassing is it to slip in front of others? You flail in private, no harm done (unless there’s a coffee table and a head wound in the mix). Flail in front of your friends and loved ones, become known as the flailer. And who wants that?

The exercise thing, by the way, is not just about looking awesome in a bikini on a beach in Costa Rica, though there’s that.  I know that 2 weeks won’t get me to looking akin to Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, but it’s a start, certianly. However, I’ve wanted to learn to surf since I was 8 (Hawaii, 1984. Broken arm 3 days before the trip began. No surf monkey action.) and the better shape I’m in before I get there, the steeper the learning curve will be. I hope.

Hey, I just realized that I planned to head to Mexico last January to learn to surf and I tore my thumb off in November, so couldn’t. It was my left thumb, thankfully because I’m right handed. When I broke my arm 3 days before we left for Hawaii when I was 8, it was my left arm (which sucked because they sent me with homework because I’m right handed). Hmmm…ok, I’m not going to read too much into that because it might get sinister….

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