Sunday, May 31, 2009

Learning To Play

It seems easy enough when you watch other people do it. 

One just casually places the soft pads of one's fingertips gently on the sweet spots on the neck. The other hand strums and plucks with confidence. Steel laughs and hums into the wooden cave, and then the miracle happens: beautiful ballads, haunting love songs, and soft pink lullabies waft forth.


The reality is that learning how to play my upright bass activates myriad uncharted neuropathways, all clamoring for personal and immediate attention. What note am I supposed to be playing? What string do I need to find, with both hands committed to completely different tasks? The tender tip of my finger needs to press the thick steel string on to the neck at precisely the right spot, and hit it HARD. 

I am to ignore the pain. 

Simultaneously, my right hand has its own assignment: damp the previous note, find and play the new one. All this while my short-term memory gropes for the words, and my ears, lungs, and vocal cords strain to croon like Diana Krall, with the whole thing on pitch and in perfect time. 

I know it's possible. I just don't know if it's possible without peeing my pants.

I'm seeing glimmers of hope, though. I played a whole song without an error yesterday. (Okay, there are only 2 open-string notes in the bass line of "Sally Goodin," so technically, you could do it on a set of well-tuned drums, but still....) I can play both the C and G scales in both directions. I figured out both "Frere Jacques" and "Doh! A Deer" by ear. 

Rick and I even wrote a song together: Silent Angels. We're going to perform it, as well as ten other songs, at a Rett Syndrome benefit concert in Teton Valley.

In front of many attentive people.

Just the two of us.

With nowhere to hide.

Excuse me. Gotta pull on the Depends and practice now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Griddle Girl Rides Again

I have rediscovered the joys of making pancakes. It's been a while, but I'm back in the griddle.

Part of it is that
I have the right equipment. The new cast iron scorcher and I have finally reached detente: I have agreed not to overheat its saucy bottom, and it has signed up for the breakfast "catch and release" program. Between a compliant cooking surface, the sturdy flipper, and enough cooling racks, I had all I needed but the motivation.

The San Jose Mercury News was the unlikely source of inspiration. They ran an article citing a panel of pancake experts, and I quothe: "Use real butter, real maple syrup, and don't beat the batter too much." How can you not be attracted to a food item so simple that a panel of experts couldn't find anything to fight about?

The article also included a multi-batch recipe for straight-up pancakes. Mix the dry ingredients in a big bucket and store in the cupboard. When the maple muse strikes, pull out three cups, add eggs, milk and a little melted butter, and voila! You'll be flapping these jacks before you know it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Green Queen

I am not green, yet.

At work today, I threw a personal-sized water bottle in the black bucket when the blue bucket was sitting right there beside it. This does not mean I'm a bad person. I took it back out and put it in the blue bucket. What it does mean is that I have not sufficiently trained myself to make greener choices by habit. The very fact I had a water bottle in my hand at all would be your first clue. 

I'm not okay with this, but I take solace in the knowledge that awareness is the first step in any improvement program. I'm heading in the right direction. Meanwhile, as I tag along at the end of the parade with horse poop on my sneakers, my sister Sandi is at the front with the big baton, leading the grass-roots band. She has the greenest
It Starts With Me campaign of anyone I know personally, except maybe Pamela McDaniels, and I only know her from work.

Sandi unplugs her microwave and computer when she's not nuking seaweed for soup or editing stories for her online writers group. She sends old computer bits to recycle depots. She's on a first-name basis with the folks in the health food store where she buys all natural soap and cleaning products. She recycles used tea bags, although I forget for what... does she put them in the soil of her tomato plants to keep bugs away? She signs and forwards online petitions to ban the mining of uranium, and joined millions around the world in "
Earth Hour," shutting down her electricity for one hour. Her search engine of choice? Blackle, an energy-saving version of Google.

The thing is, it's not just a focused devotion to a cause. Sandi actually
celebrates Earth Day. She loves to sit and watch birds at the feeder, and will grow particular flowers because the hummingbirds like them. She really does stop and smell the roses. And there was nothing better than sitting on the warm rocks at the front of the cottage at sunset, soaking in the softness of the calm lake and listening to the loons.

Sandi, you're an inspiration. Happy Birthday! We sent some pretty flowers to let you know we love you. I only hope they were grown in composted organic soil and delivered by a guy driving a Prius.