clever people and grocers, they weigh everything

[audio:hints.mp3|titles=Hints|artists=Jose Gonzalez]

It’s been hard to write, though not from a lack of inspi­ra­tion. Far from it; it seems like there’s a smile or tear hid­den in every lit­tle detail of an Autumn day. The prob­lem is I don’t have the time. I don’t reflect on an emo­tional rush until I have a chance to write by a win­dow in the dark, and those oppor­tu­ni­ties are get­ting more and more rare.

That means I’m get­ting bet­ter at putting my feel­ings on hold, though no bet­ter at fig­ur­ing out whether that kind of dis­trac­tion is a good idea. I imag­ine it’ll all catch up to me at some point, and I’ll find out soon enough.

girl in doorway


It’s a sure sign that the Cipralex is out of my sys­tem. I’ve decided that being able to feel is bet­ter than being numb, even if that means not know­ing which way things are going to go. Right now, I’m just appre­cia­tive of fru­gal forms of hap­pi­ness again, my lat­est dis­cov­ery being the feel­ing of a healthy lather rins­ing clean from your hair.

Maybe my time away did me some good. I lost a week, but I’m feel­ing recharged. I’ve been pro­duc­tive. I’ve been social. I’ve even been exer­cis­ing.

Now I’m ready to begin again.

Escape from New York, part 2

Check out my short film about being Trapped in NYC.

I walk towards Penn Station, after being uncer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped along with sev­eral other con­fused pas­sen­gers at Grand Central by shut­tle. While it’s hard to get a sense of how long it’ll take, the grid gives me the courage to con­tinue on foot instead of wait­ing for a trans­fer­ring shuttle.

I carry screen­shots of a map on my phone, which I soon dis­cover is a poor sub­sti­tute for an actual map when nav­i­gat­ing New York. The roads occa­sion­ally run in strange direc­tions or skip num­bers, and it’s enough to throw off my orientation.

Still, the city feels smaller than I thought. So many sto­ries hap­pen here, told in movies and nov­els and songs, that I’ve always expected it to be a size rel­a­tive to the dreams peo­ple have. This is what F. Scott Fitzgerald must have felt when he climbed the Empire State Building1, saw the lim­its of the city for the first time from within, and was left “with the awful real­iza­tion that New York was a city after all and not a universe”.

New York apartment


I passed through here many years ago when I was too young to be scared of what could go wrong, and too much in love to care any­way. That jour­ney — on my way to Jersey by bus — was far longer than this one through Toronto by plane. I sur­vived then, that’s how I know I’ll sur­vive this, no mat­ter what happens.

Continue read­ing “Escape from New York, part 2″…

  1. The tallest man-made struc­ture in the world at the time, a record it would hold for 23 years. []

Escape from New York

Three days and two nights. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Meet Mike at the cor­ner of 31st Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan after the busi­ness part of his trip was fin­ished. Get out of the coun­try, con­nect with a good friend, return with some nice mem­o­ries. That was the plan, but I never caught my plane home.

A day before Hurricane Sandy landed, all flights at LaGuardia were can­celled, a theme that would con­tinue two more times until the air­line resched­uled my return for Saturday, almost a week longer than I had orig­i­nally planned to stay (and that’s if it’s not can­celled again). Mike made it home to London, Liz and I weren’t so lucky.

They were expect­ing 6–9 feet of water, and we got 14. The pres­i­dent has declared a state of emer­gency. All mass tran­sit is shut down. The rail­road tun­nels are flooded. All air­ports are closed. School is out for the whole week. The New York Stock Exchange has been closed for two days straight, some­thing that hasn’t hap­pened since 1888. More than 2.5 mil­lion are with­out power. The death toll is over 100 and counting.

Luckily, I have a place to stay. Aside from a brief loss of power, a longer loss of inter­net access, and a few leaks from the ceil­ing, we’re sit­ting pretty with run­ning water, heat, and a flush­able toi­let. It’s a lux­ury com­pared to what oth­ers are going through at the shel­ters, and I con­sider myself for­tu­nate com­pared to those in New Jersey who’ve lost their homes, their pets, their pos­ses­sions, and their lives.

The strange part is that I’ve never met the cou­ple who own this Brooklyn apart­ment. Liz and Mike found them through Roomorama, and they left before the storm hit, leav­ing Liz with the main bed­room and Mike with the guest room. They’ve been gen­er­ous enough to let me stay dur­ing this exten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stance, although the fact that they rented out the guest room to some­one else two days ago means I’ve been rel­e­gated to a nook and mat­tress on the floor. At least it’s cozy, and there’s a spare mattress.

Still, I wasn’t pre­pared for this. I’m run­ning out of money, med­ica­tion, and morale. The only things I brought were a change of clothes, a cam­era, and an iPad. The worst part is the wait. Not hav­ing a com­puter to be pro­duc­tive, and now a week of can­celled plans. Not hav­ing my cats1 or my gui­tar. Not know­ing when I’ll get out of here. Just wait­ing in a city I hardly know, with no way to get around. I can’t be proac­tive; all I can do is be patient.

To keep abreast of the ever-changing sit­u­a­tion, I’ve been watch­ing 24 hour news cov­er­age, hang­ing on the words of Mayor Bloomberg at his live press con­fer­ences for any sign that I may make it out of here.

I came to New York, expect­ing to return home recharged, refreshed, and ready to take on the world. The world decided I wasn’t ready yet.

  1. I left them six days of food, but they go through that in three days when I’m away. A major cri­sis was averted when Aaron found a spare key to my house, and was able to take care of them. The only other per­son with a spare key was Pat, and he just hap­pened to be leav­ing for Cancun on the morn­ing I found out my trip was can­celled. []

Matteo Carcassi: Study in A Minor (Etude No.7)

While study­ing this Carcassi étude — and ana­lyz­ing as many ver­sion as pos­si­ble in aid of that — I real­ized that clas­si­cal music is like wine. They’re both based on a cen­tral theme or taste, and it’s the sub­tle dif­fer­ences between the inter­pre­ta­tion of each per­former or wine maker that make them unique and inter­est­ing. That’s why you need to lis­ten to a lot clas­si­cal music (or drink a lot of wine) to develop a palate. I bet two dif­fer­ent musi­cians (or even the same musi­cian at two dif­fer­ent points in their career) play­ing the same piece would sound the same to some peo­ple for the same rea­son that two dif­fer­ent mer­lots would taste the same to others.

This is sup­posed to be played alle­gro, but I’ve yet to hear a ver­sion above 105 bpm that didn’t feel rushed to me, so I pre­fer to play it andante1. Luckily, I enjoy clas­si­cal music, and I can tell the time I’ve invested in devel­op­ing that foun­da­tion trans­lates over to non-classical songs, not only in the extra fin­ger pre­ci­sion but in prac­tic­ing tech­niques too.

I’m still using elec­tric strings2, which I’ve had on longer than any other set, cause I love how crisp and brassy the tone is through­out the range. For a piece like this where the melody switches between bass and tre­ble, that becomes really important.

  1. Also cause I’m not good enough to play it that quickly yet. []
  2. XL Chromes, warm/mellow, flat-wound, extra light gauge. []

thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes

That lit­tle fur­row was there because you weren’t. That’s why you never saw it, of course. You must think I hate you cause it was the only thing I couldn’t help her with myself. But I could never hate you. You gave her what she wanted. In the end, that’s all I really wanted too.

I knew it was seri­ous when I saw your umbrella under her bed, back when she hid those kinds of things for my sake. You never real­ized she only took it as an excuse to see you again (not because she was par­tic­u­larly scared of get­ting her merino socks wet), the same way you never real­ized how easy it all was for you. That was a sign that you were the right one. I knew it before she did.

If only there was a bit of mys­tery left in you. Instead, I had you pegged by the sec­ond night, and all I can tell peo­ple is that you’re a nice guy, when I want to say you’re an artist, a lover, a fighter, a wor­thy rival, a slayer of inse­cu­ri­ties, a breaker of bar­ri­ers, a tes­ta­ment to testos­terone, a hero among men. She deserves more than the painfully pedes­trian life you’ve given her, but I know she’s had enough of heart­break to think that nor­mal is hard enough to come by. And so I’ve learned that a person’s hap­pi­ness is all that mat­ters, not the dreams you have for them. I guess it’s hard to give up those dreams when you’re part of them yourself.

I want to say I’m leav­ing for some noble rea­son of great impor­tance, but it’s really because there’s noth­ing left for me in this lit­tle town. I used to believe I could escape; even­tu­ally I real­ized you can’t out­run your mem­o­ries. Now I’m just try­ing to fig­ure out where I belong. She was all I knew for so long, and now that life is gone.

And so I must tread care­fully with new lovers; it’s impos­si­ble for me to tell my story with­out that part of my past. That’s why I won­der what she told you about me, about us. About los­ing feel­ing in her face and let­ters you wouldn’t know how to write. If she inten­tion­ally left any­thing out, or whether our time was even worth men­tion­ing. But the past is still the past, and that’s the only rea­son I can write a let­ter now to the man who saved her with­out ever know­ing it.