Sunday, January 23, 2011

Soundtrack to an Independent Life

I’ve been on my own a lot lately. One of the nice things about being on my own is being able to do things I want to do. So when I get a chance like this, I take full advantage and enjoy it while I can. At present I have full control of the TV remote, meal choices, and free time activities. This Sunday that freedom meant hearing some good Jazz with a nice lunch followed by creamy vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit.

A good four-chord progression is laid out like four easy rules to stay within. Jazz compositions are like saying here’s a big box for you to play in. Have fun, and it’s ok if you color outside the lines a bit. In fact it’s encouraged

I’ve also been on my own in another way recently. In preparation for a change of domestic venue, I’ve been freelancing as a consultant and news writer. Freelancing is always better than it sounds. It requires a lot more discipline and motivation than a regular job. I still have to get up to go to work, and to make that task more real I tend to work away from home a little every day. Usually this means a cafĂ© or some other establishment offering free wifi. I generally go prepared with my computer power cord, my own travel mug and enough cash to keep me in snacks for the day. Sometimes a change of location is required. This is usually happens when inane talkers or giggling teens manage to overpower my headphones. That only happens once or twice a week.

Jazz is the perfect sound track to my temporary independent lifestyle. The players play for each other but also for themselves. And when listening to live jazz I can’t help but feel like a kid on the playground watching the coolest, most fun game, wishing I could jump in. There’s also something uniquely intimate about Jazz because of it’s improvisational nature. It yields a kind of intellectual pastiche that makes me feel less alone and more in tune with the dynamic world that surrounds me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Date Night

I've been on my own as of late. Being solitary isn't a bad thing from time to time. I begin to notice things around me that maybe were previously ignored due to the distraction of others around me. I've taken up crocheting again, finally have time to read my stack of New Yorkers cover to cover and enjoy the company of my four cats.

OK, being on my own has some slippery slopes. So instead of staying home making sweaters for my cats on Saturday, I decided to take myself out on a date.

After a typical Saturday of running errands and doing chores, I took a shower, dressed, put on nice-looking but potentially painful shoes, shaded my eyes and headed out for dinner, a movie and drinks after.

Armed with a back-issue of the New Yorker, I opted to sit at the bar of a local Italian chain restaurant, where I was able to fully engage with a very clever article about a teen fashion blogging phenom. I've learned that having good reading material is a must when going out alone. Reading a well written article is the equivalent of hearing a great story from a witty conversationalist. Add a good glass of wine and Pellegrino, and well, you have great dinner conversation, even if it is only between you and the writer and only in your head. On this night, I was so engrossed in my article that I agonized putting it down when my salad arrived, after my entree. It may have been an American chain, but I still order in the Italian way.

Checking the time, I paid my bill and made my way to the movie theater. Normally, I opt for German train time, but for this date, I was OK with being just a little atrazado. I entered the theatre just as the previews began, found a good seat and pulled out a container of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered cherries.

Had I listened to that inner voice that said, "go home now, it's been a good night," I could have saved myself for what came after the movie. A cold California night hastened pain that pierced my brain as I walked to the car. I contemplated going home instead of for a drink, but decided I could tolerate one more venue if I took an Excedrin.

It was a bad gamble. The pain medication dulled my headache but couldn't cure the absolutely suck-tackular cover band that I paid a five dollar cover to see. Before I could finish my bourbon, I ordered a tall glass of water to quicken my exit. When the singer felt it necessary to preface, Jesse's Girl, I took that as my cue to leave. It wasn't a total loss though. I got home just in time to see the pilot episode of Firefly.

Overall it was a good date. I had a nice meal, saw a movie of my choice, and was able to end the evening without any "it's not you, it's me" awkwardness. And when I came home, the cats almost seemed happy to see me. If nothing else I'm sure they were happy to not have to wear an embarrassing sweater.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Geek or Not to Geek

I'm a Geek. It took me years to accept it, but now I embrace it. It's who I am and I wear the badge proudly.

What is a Geek? That depends on your definition. We're not exotic enough to be misfits, extroverted enough to be mavericks nor malleable enough to be with the in-crowd. We are creative, thoughtful, curious and brave. We deconstruct, figure out, re-imagine, and innovate for fun, seeking out knowledge, appreciating insight, and doing our best to understand the world around us.

The best of us realize this early, and understand that having the will to stand alone with your imagination, thoughts and beliefs takes a special kind of fortitude. These are the bravest among us. They are the ones willing to take the risk of not trying to fit in early. Perhaps it's because they realize that fitting in is just a slick slide down to status quo and the boredom that suck a life implies.

I wasn't one of those. Even though I was flute playing, theatre performing, documentary watching twelve year old, I made great pains to separate myself from the kids who hung out by the library at lunch. I liked those kids. They were nice and thoughtful, and accepting and funny. There was even a boy I liked there. He was tall, cute and very sweet. We slow-danced at a school dance, but when a friend told me that she heard he had wet his pants at school, it was too much for me to brave. I never talked to him or went back to the library for lunch again. I wanted to be cool and these kids weren't cool. They were brave. But, I couldn't see it.

So I sought out a different crowd. I started smoking, drank some, cut school, did other nefarious deeds. After a few years of escalating trouble I landed in catholic high school. I had a few friends there, but by then we had learned how to at least not get caught doing naughty things. There were some odd flirtations with religion there as well, and though I was much kinder to geeks then, I still refused to see myself as one.

Twenty-plus years and several lives later, I realize I was a geek all along, and wonder why I ever denied it. It's one thing to learn to be comfortable in your own's another be comfortable in your own mind. And now, by the power of the information age, geeks rule and it's pretty awesome in a lot of ways.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Truth in Advertising and Easy Solutions

Well, a new year is upon us, with its predictable round of advertisements for diet plans and exercise programs. It seems the beginning of the year is an ideal time to begin new regimes and disciplines that help us to be better individuals. For some reason in January it is easier to imagine ourselves as more athletic, thinner and with fewer bad habits. Be it electronic cigarettes or fast food, in January everything is somehow geared to make us better people. Among advertisements in this trend I noticed that one fast food chain is now offering "natural cut fries with sea salt," as if being naturally cut with sea salt actually makes them good for you.

Of course, one wonders what exactly is a naturally cut potato? Is it grown in a special place where naturally formed crystals share the soil and through some special happenstance of circumstance the ground apple emerges pre-cut like a honey-baked ham? And even if this were the case, it doesn't change the fact that once saturated in hot boiling oil, and covered in salt from sea or table, it's both a tasty treat and potentially deadly foe. But it's January after all, thus even french fries can somehow be good for you when cut naturally and covered in something as natural as sea salt, right?

I suppose we can't blame advertisers who take advantage of our annual desire to be better people. What we can blame is our willingness to be taken by easy solutions. Solutions can be simple, but seldom easy. The former requires creative and elegant thought that choreographs effort with willingness and imagination. When such a circumstance is achieved one imagines that a great number of problems we encounter would be simple to solve. The latter simply calls for a desire to achieve goals with little effort, implying a lack of genuine will.

I don't really make New Year's resolutions. It seems that for me, resolve comes once I've decided to act on my contemplations, and that comes in its own time. And as much as I desire easy solutions, I know I have to have patience enough for my imagination and will to allamande making a perfect geometry that will show me how everything eventually ends up in its rightful place.

Oh, Happy New Year.