01 March 2008

The Sound of It All

It is no secret that music moves me to tears. So does dance. And the sound of the ocean.

My father bought our first piano out of the officers' mess when I was maybe 5 years old. It was a black lacquer baby grand patterned with the rings from years of wet mugs of beer set on its top. The gilded soundboard was stained and slightly warped from spilled drinks, irreparable but not un-beautiful to the child I was. My lessons were tedious when I would lay under the piano as if inside its very bones and listen to my father's reel-to-reel recordings of Mozart, Ravel, Dvorak, Smetana, Tchaikovsky. Even as a child I could weep at the rise in Rachmaninoff's Symphony #2, the 1812 Overture, or Horszowski's Beethoven. Pavarotti's nessun dorma still brings me to my knees. Mahler remains my muse.

But the first song I ever performed myself, outside of Sunday School learning and John Jacob Jingle-heimer Smith (sp?) was Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy. My parents recorded the performance, perhaps for some future opportunity for blackmail. My sister and I couldn't have been more than 8 and 9. We knew all the words to every verse and performed in an acapella disaster that climbed with every stanza to reach a piercing falsetto by the final line. The recording is stunning, and, hopefully, lost.

I was also a nun once. My friend Barbara Hanson and I were juniors in high school, walked down the auditorium aisle together with candles and the women's choir, Ave Maria in full black and white habits for the Sound of Music. Hang on to that visual through the rest of my personal history.


28 February 2008

Ah, the Real World

Tomorrow is my last day at my old job. It's a mixed bag. I will miss some people there. I have always loved my work - the re-branded company website launched, and today I sent off the last of the re-branded collateral to the printer. It is very satisfying. The beauty of my craft, as I said to someone earlier, is that it applies across industries. I will be glad, however, to leave the finance industry behind.

Driving home, I got a call from Julie Granger, Program Director at VOA. She's an amazing, intelligent, beautiful, soulful woman and the director of the Outreach program when I worked there. Talking with her brought back a reminder of a key component of the work at VOA, that element of human service.

I am looking forward to my new job. It feels right. Perhaps I'll even hang up some pictures in my office space, actually move in. My kids have teased me about that. In hindsight, I suppose it is a manifestation of my reservations over the last couple of years.

I was about 13-years old when my dad called me a cynic. I remember saying, "I'm not a cynic. I'm a realist in a cynical world." I also remember that made him laugh.

My short story "Doing Time in the Real World" is due to come out soon in the Noneuclidean Cafe at http://www.noneuclideancafe.com/ . Jim Swingle, editor, was quick to respond to my email query and reports that he is just running a bit behind schedule, but that the Winter edition will most likely be released the end of March. I'll post a link as soon as it comes out.

And in the real, real world, the Utah Jazz beat the Detroit Pistons last night, 103-95. Most Excellent.


19 February 2008

How many licks does it take?

Yesterday was a weird day.

First my story Falling Away at the Edges was accepted by Duck & Herring Co Pocket Field Guide Cold Weather Edition 08. After 62 submissions.

Also yesterday, my story Black Bird was selected as a finalist in the Lunch Hour Stories Magazine 2007 VERY Short Story contest. 2 submissions. It kind of skews the statistics, doesn't it?

Then there's the whole thing about getting 2 acceptances in one day. Against only one rejection: 2-1. Double weird. The good news about the rejection is that it does save me one withdrawal letter.

Here's the thing. Falling Away is a story that came out of a single line that arose from a 5-minute freewrite warm-up about my family history combined with a Christmas turkey tossed out the window. It has been a much shorter piece and a much longer piece. It has been workshopped through 2 different groups, Dangerous Writers and Hot Pages. I love the story. I love the characters. And while it is not my family exactly, the setting is literally in the home of my teenage years, in farm country of southern Idaho. It evokes all the warm fuzzies, if I had any in there from those years of teenage angst.

"Black Bird" on the other hand, is a short-short piece written in a single sitting during the 3rd quarter of a Giants/Falcons game on Monday Night Football immediately after some earlier discussion with the Hot Pages crew about the characteristics of a sociopath. There is a poetic rythmn, no dialogue punctuation, one of my sisters wants to know why I chose that particular name for the girl (it is what it is, Sam, nothing personal), and my dad says it just leaves you hanging. But I guess that was the point.

Eckhart Tolle said, "All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness." Apparently my inner stillness seems to manifest during football. I think I'm alright with that.

Yesterday, I also gave my two weeks' notice at work. The new job starts March 3. Gotta make the doughnuts. It will be nice to get my feet back under me at some point.

In the meantime, I might have to make a run to the store for Tootsie Pops.