Thursday, June 30, 2011

SMELLY Elevators

I do hope the title caught your interest.

If you are male, I REALLY hope it caught your interest.

Elevators are very small cubicles with very bad ventilation.

They go up and down in the same general space all day long. And lots of people touch the floors and walls thereof.

Just that thought makes one a little queasy.

But I do digress. This is about smells--smells in small spaces.

Working as I do in a public building (a courthouse), there are lots of people. Some of them smell like humans. Some smell like flowers. Some smell like spicy things. Some smell like stale tobacco. Some smell like, well they are parents of very young children.

It is a very mixed bag.

And the elevator doesn't care.

And, usually, when the elevator opens its doors and vomits its contents onto the floor, the odors attached thereto go with. Usually.

But there are some humans that like to leave their pheromones behind. They like to mark their territory, so to speak.

My best example of a marked elevator was one in Bakersfield. It went to the various level of the parking garage attached to the high-rise business tower I worked in. It usually carried men in suits and women in office attire. There were a few women suits, too. (Like me) Nice ties, fancy looking heels, clean hair, all nicely pressed and faintly (business subtle) smelling of the day's choice of cologne or perfume.

The elevator screamed law firm chic.

But there was a bank in the building. And its sales force was on the third floor. And on the third floor, cellphone man would appear to head to the garage elevator.

Cellphone man spoke to no one. Except the person (or computer or alien or whatever) on the other end of his cellphone connection. Cellphone man was not quiet in his conversing with the entities. In fact, he was quite animated.

That alone would have made him notable.

This was not law firm chic.

But he had one other attribute that one could not block with earplugs.

He wore men's cologne. Lots of it. He must have bathed in it.

If he walked by you the wave of odor would wash over you and linger. It made you want to take a bath.

If, god forbid, you were in the elevator with him............

You felt like taking a sauna followed by a steam bath. Then a long hot soak. That was just to get the molecules out of your pores! Your clothes would have to be burned because you could never get the smell out.

After cellphone man, the smells of real people are not as offensive.
I don't say that they are great, but they aren't as obnoxious or as interfering of my space as that was.

So, I plead with all persons who indulge in the use of artificial smelly things, PLEASE remember that a little goes a long way.

But more important, the smell of human is, well, natural. It is human and real.

Can't we just be us?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


It was the finale. The last concert of the International Choral Festival.

I wasn't directly involved except to sing.

And I didn't go to any of the competitions.

But I did want to hear the choirs. So when we got permission to sit in the audience I went and bought a ticket. Row H, Seat 9.

It had been an interesting day already.

We had to be on stage for rehearsal at 4:15. It is tough getting 7 full choirs on risers and singing together especially when some of them don't speak the local language. And some don't know the music that is to be sung.

But we are told to stand in sections (Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano) and not stand next to our own choir members. This made things a little tough for Rebecca and I as we were the only Tenorettes and we kept being pushed into the alto section. It just looked weird to people to have to women in a sea of men.

We are use to it.

But after rehearsal there is a dinner break. And about 8 of us end up at the same place. Nothing like a good gyro before you sing. No cheese, no cream sauce, just good food and enough to keep you going.
Talk about a lot of fun. I haven't had so much fun razing people in a long time.

But back we go to the Performing Arts Center to change into our uniforms and get ready. All this time I am being told about this incredible song that the Riverside City College group did earlier in competition. People were telling me that it brought them to tears.

So now I am hoping that Riverside wins something and that they will sing that song. Cuz when a choir wins first through third they get to perform a song.

Well, Riverside won. It won a lot.

They sang three songs. One was very good. One was the one just mentioned and was outstanding. And one was O Magnum Mysterium . I had heard the song before. It is powerful. I had heard the LA Master Choral version. (that is the link, above). I heard VAE perform the song and was moved to tears.

But I had never heard it done as well as it was done tonight.

Their intonation was perfect, their blend was perfect, their vocal control and volume control was exquisite. 

 But that was not what made it so very, very special to me.

I was mesmerized by these young people, ages maybe 18-20, their faces full of awe and joy, their bodies almost straining to stay on the ground as they sang. Their total involvement in an incredibly intricate piece of music made them PART of the music. It made ME part of the music.

I was on my feet before my hands reached each other to clap. It took my breath away.

When I finally stood on stage to sing with them and the other choirs, I felt so very, very humbled.

I hope I sing every song as if I must be tied to the earth or the music will carry me away.

That was the finale lesson.

P.S. after I posted this I found the group singing at the 2011 National Directors Convention. Here is the link:  I think you will see what I saw.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Somethin' About Singin'

It was probably the best "Wade in the Water" we ever did.

Bar none.

Don't know if we hit all the notes. Don't know if we made all the entrances or cutoffs.

But it felt like it.

And it was FUN.

The Vocal Arts Ensemble was singing at the opening concert of the California International Choral Festival that we sponsor. It is a ton of work.

And there were huge problems getting international choirs here this year. The good ol' USA doesn't like to just give away visas to choirs for the Congo or Indonesia. They want money and lots of paper and then, maybe, they just might think about getting around to looking into a visa.

So the Festival is a little smaller. But no less exciting. Especially when we got up to sing to the choirs that could make it.

We did a rendition of "Amazing Grace" that goes from a slow oboe solo to hot piano jazz piece. It starts as a women's piece and ends with the tenors going nuts. It is a fabulous arrangement and we nailed it.

We had the most fun singing as a group, in concert, at home, that I can remember.

I wish I had film. But that would have diminished the feeling.

Singing to other singers. And doing it well. There isn't anything more fun than that for a singer.

And I am a singer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heart full of Love

We scattered the rest of my brother's ashes today.

At the beach.

Well, to be accurate, at the cliffs above the beach. Near his old apartment.

Me, my daughter, Dan's best friend and his wife.

No big tado. Just us.

Tellin' stories.


Cryin' a bit.

But mostly laughin'.

BUt I came home early from work. I couldn't think or concentrate. So I came home to dinner made by my husband and three ferociously wagging tails. Well, stubs of tails. Well, waggin' dog butts. (Cocker Spaniels have their tails trimmed VERY short.)

And I was sitting here feeling sad. I thought. I missed Dan.

But I missed Smitty and Janine. I missed laughing with them. I missed getting hugged every 5 seconds.

And I realized....we had been celebrating all the love that my brother had given us.

And we had nurtured the seeds of love that he had planted in our hearts for each other.

I hadn't spoken to Smitty in 38 years. But in the last two days he became my brother.

Dan's passing broke my heart and it will never heal.

But Dan gave me Smitty.

And tonight I have a heart full of love for both of them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Singin' for Smitty

Smitty, my brother Dan's friend, came to San Luis Obispo today. He wanted to share his stories of Dan with me.

I wrote about that in my other blog.

I invited him to a Vocal Arts Ensemble rehearsal. We have a performance on Friday as part of the California International Choral Festival (CICF) that Vocal Arts sponsors.

I had told Smitty how much Dan enjoyed our group and how he would come to our rehearsals when he was in town.

Smitty was thrilled that I asked him to come.

So at the appointed hour he and Janine (this time I got her name right) showed.

We went through our warm-ups (boring) and then we rehearsed with the children's choir that will be part of our Friday performance. That was ok. We sound good and it was fun to watch Smitty's face.

Then we launched into our version of "Amazing Grace". I won't give it away here but Smitty started to cry. It was a wonderfully cathartic moment for him and for me. I can't begin to describe how it felt to sing that music for him.

They stayed all the way to the end of the rehearsal. When Gary said we wouldn't be running through the songs that we would be singing with the competing choirs I was a bit dismayed. There was one that I wanted Smitty to hear.

So, being as shy as I am, I piped up and asked Gary and the choir if we could sing Eric Whitacre's "Lux Aurumque".  Here is the link for the virtual choir directed by Eric Whitacre singing Lux--

Gary and the choir said sure. Then Gary said, "Turn off the lights".

If you have never listened to an intricate piece of choral music in the dark, with your eyes closed and only your ears to hear and feel, you must do so. It is an incredible experience.

Didn't think you could make a grown man cry twice in one night just to the sound and feel of beautiful music. But we did.

He promises to come back for our Christmas program.

What a gift Smitty has given me. Thank you, Smitty.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Can't Do What?

Back in the early 70's I lived in Florida. My husband at the time was flying B-52's over places in Southeast Asia that the United States government said they weren't flying over, I was pregnant with my first (and only, it turned out) child, and I was 21 years old.

I needed a car. The car that we had was a stick shift and, because he was sent off with less than 24 hours notice, my husband had not taught me how to drive it. (These were the days when husbands were suppose to do those things and it was no big deal). So off to a dealership I went. With a good tradein, good credit, steady government income, a home (we had purchased a local home). Everything a lender could want.

Except the right plumbing.

I was turned down because my husband or MY FATHER were not available in Florida to co-sign!

The co-signer had to be a male relative who had "control" of me!

The seeds of me becoming a wild-eyed feminist were planted.

Much later, when I was accepted into law school, I applied for on-campus housing. I was denied. Officially, I was informed that children were not allowed in student housing (my daughter was 11 at the time) I was told--though nothing was in writing--that law school was not for mothers. That I should take care of my child first.

So I found a very cheap apartment where the train woke us every night. I worked three part-time jobs. I took out student loans. I still drove my daughter to her lessons. I set up what we later called tag-team baby-sitting. I sat up nights and sobbed wondering how I would feed her the next day. And somehow I did.

And I did it so that NO ONE would ever have the audacity to say to her that she had to have a male relative co-sign for her or that women weren't allowed because they gave birth or any other misogynistic nonsense.

And then my friend Liz posted this:

I don't know what planet that woman came from but for the record, I worked and paid back every dime. If I could have worked part-time, I would have. I was a single mom. I chose to be who I am and I chose to do it my way. That is and was my right as a HUMAN BEING!!!! My gender, my parenthood has nothing to do with it.

Liz said it as well. Please read her blog.

She's got it right.

Everyone else....well, you get the picture.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fogged Up

Been sitting at home. Came home early today. There are files stacked on files at work.

I am carrying a workload of several heavy cases. Lots of discovery--1000 to 2000 pages each. Some in Spanish, most in legalize. Some are murder cases. Some are robberies.

These are my meat and potatoes. I love them. Usually.

I have lots to do. And I usually enjoy doing it. But I didn't do it today.

I came home.

I guess every once in awhile there is a brain freeze not caused by ice cream or frozen yogurt or even a margarita.

That is where I am at.

Our server at home died and I lost most of my pictures. I think I am in mourning.

Or maybe I am just trying to avoid reading over 5 thousand pages of gibberish.

Hmmmm...........Ya think?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thinkin' about the Cabin

The Cabin at Camp Nelson

The Cabin is home. I don't remember not having the Cabin to go to. After all, my great-grandparents built it in 1923. It was in a sunny spot and my great-grandfather had tuberculosis. Treatment then was just sunshine so they built the cabin.

It had one room then. And an outhouse. At some point they added a lean-to bedroom/porch that was screened in and a bathroom with a 6 foot, claw-footed bathtub and a FLUSH toilet. They had built a septic tank out of an old oil barrel and stuck it in the ground!

That barrel is still there. (It is NOT in use!)

One of the major responsibilities of having a cabin on forest service land is to make sure the property is raked and all fire hazards are removed before June 1 of each year.

We use to go up every year for Memorial Day weekend and spend the entire time raking and hauling leaves and pine needles down the hill. It was back breaking, dirty, dusty, hot work. But every year we did it.

It NEVER was cold on Memorial Day. It was ALWAYS HOT! Miserably hot.

We have turned the work over to landscaping people who rake and haul and trim trees etc. BEFORE we get up there. And frankly, they get it cleaner than we ever did.

So when we went up for Dan's Farewell, the yard was all in good shape.

But it was a bit cool. And then it rained buckets. AND THEN IT SNOWED!

Snow at the cabin is magical. You can hear the river but not the snow.

Jed had never been in a snow fall. Here is his video from our deck:

We laughed a lot. We cried a little. We shared stories and we all KNEW that Dan was responsible for the weather. Good grief, the next day was heart-stopping gorgeous!

But I think we all felt a little like Bill. Lost in the smoke of the campfire.

Just remembering and thinking. Not sayin' much. Just thinkin'.

He will always be there. He will always be with us.

Oh, Danny Boy,
The Pipes the pipes are calling.
From Glen to Glen and Down the Mountainside.
The Summers gone and all the flowers dying.
Tis you, tis you must go
And I must bide.

But come ye back,
when summers in the meadow or when the valley's white
and hushed with snow.
Tis I'll be here, in sunshine or in shadow.
Oh, Danny Boy,
Oh, Danny Boy.
I love you so.