Tuesday, January 27, 2009

25 Random Things

25 Random things about me. 

This little game is going around Facebook and I thought I’d share mine: 

1 - I am totally addicted to Facebook, I can't WAIT to hear that little popping sound. I'd like there to be a way to send ALL of my friends the same note. Is there? 

2 - ALL the food I love to eat is bad for me. I hate vegetables and salad. I am scared to death of getting diabetes, but still eat all the carbs within grabbing range. Forget about ice cream. 

3 - I'd rather ride my motorcycle than anything. 

4 - I love conducting and wish I could get a foot in the door. I'm really good at it, too. 

5 - I still love my wife, after 21 years of marriage. 

6 - There have been 4 men in my life that I have loved, My Dad, My Brother, Phil Zahorsky & Vic Steelhammer. The other close men in my life, I have respected and held in deep regard. 

7 - I am deeply religious, but choose to keep it to myself. I have EIGHT versions of the bible on my nightstand and read them regularly. At heart, I am still Catholic. 

8 - I fear people think I am smarter than I really am and I try not to let them down. 

9 - I really LOVE my fellow man and take it VERY personally when people don't like me or misunderstand me. 

10 - I like doing Union work, I feel like I am actually DOING something to help my friends. 

11 - I am really frustrated by "process." If everyone involved is in agreement, why can't we just do it without all the dancing around? 

12 - I really hate Mahler, listening or playing. If I never play Mahler again, it'll be too soon. EXCEPT his first symphony. 

13 - Prokoffiev's BEST work, after "Romeo & Juliet" is his SIXTH Symphony, and no one plays it. 

14 - I am TOTALLY addicted to television. Hooked, like a drug addict. 

15 - I am still really mad at the old San Jose Symphony, I feel like they really fucked me. 

16 - I wish marijuana was legal and alcohol illegal. More people's lives have been ruined by alcohol than grass. 

17 - I wish we could start over. Bag all the constitutional amendments and simply state this: It is illegal to treat people unkindly. Doesn't that cover it? Fuck the lawyers. 

18 - Restructure the income tax law. Everyone pays 5%. PERIOD. You also get to earmark your taxes, like a donation. I'd give all my money to have a decent freeway to ride on, like the Autobahn. 

19 - 50 states are not needed. Divide the country into 10 zones, that are politically disparate. Then people can move where there are people who believe the way they believe. This whole Proposition 8 thing has me EMBARRASSED to be a Californian. SHAME on us! 

20 - Gas should cost a buck. The obscene profits made by the oil company should be returned to the consumer. 

21 - Men who hit their wives should be flogged. No judge, no jury. Kick their ass! 

22 - I deeply regret not practicing harder as a young man. I was always 'good enough.' Should I have followed my teachers' advice, who knows where I may have ended up. Maybe I wouldn't be scuffling for a living now. 

23 - I wish I was kinder to people. Sometimes I say stuff, I wish I hadn't. This is the hardest lesson for me to learn. 

24 - Baseball is the only REAL sport. Basketball is for criminals and football is just legal mayhem. You call GOLF a sport? Don't get me started about Hockey! 

25 - I wish I could be in the moment a little better. I tend to dream, instead of appreciating what is right here in front of me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Show, or Symphony

Show or Symphony.

Recently, I came up against every working musicians dilemma; which gig to take. Frequently, it is an easy financial decision. Which gig will make me the most money; either for the run, or on a ‘per service’ basis. As I get older, I discover I have 3 criteria for taking on a musical project.

1 – Do I really want to do this? I haven’t played Prokofiev’s SIXTH symphony in almost 30 years, I’d LOVE to do this again before I hang up the spikes. Other tunes I’d really like to play: Stravinsky’s “Jeu de Cartes,” Revueltas’ “Sensemaya,” I’d love to be in the brass section for ANY of the Ring Cycle, tuba, bass bone, bass trumpet, ANYTHING! Later this month, I’m playing “Carnival d’Aix” by Milhaud. I’ve never even heard of this piece, much less played it. It’s way up at Mills College and the commute is going to be a bear, but I can’t WAIT!

2 – Am I helping out a friend? Often I do stuff simply because a friend asked me to do it. DO I need to play “Trumpet Voluntary” at a wedding again? Not really, but playing in a quintet WITH or FOR friends, just seems like a good, fun thing to do. Honestly, I’ll never get tired of playing “Die Bankelsangerlieder.”

3 – IS the pay good? Yes, every so often I get called to do something I REALLY don’t care to do. Then it’s all about the money. I have discovered the less they pay you, the more poorly you are treated. If this is the case, there is a dollar figure I have in mind. If the job offer is less than that, I’d rather stay home and watch Law & Order reruns.

There is another criteria that I use, that really doesn’t fit under either of these three and it is, “Who’s on the gig.” If it is a bunch of people I haven’t seen in awhile, or people whose company I always enjoy, I’ll take it.

This month, I had to choose between playing “Chicago” and playing with the Symphony Silicon Valley. The symphony was playing a brand new piece by David Amram (and you know how I LOVE new music) and “Roman Festival” by Respighi, which I have NEVER played. I had to choose. The pay was about the same, I’ve played “Chicago” and both were in San Jose. I played the show. It was fun, I got to hang with my stagehand friends, the parking was better and I got to see some terrific costumes! I met a new friend, Lee, the percussionist and Billy’s wife put out a beautiful spread for the band between shows on Sunday.

I wish it ran another week!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Take the Train

I hate flying. The American Airline industry has outlived its usefulness. Commercial flying has no redeeming social value, EXCEPT that you get there fast. The seats are small, they recycle the air you breathe, there is ALWAYS a crying baby, the 3 year old that spends the whole flight kicking the seat in front of him is seated every time behind me. They don’t feed you. You can’t get a blanket; you can’t get a drink of water. The airline people are arrogant and rude, they cancel flights with no obligation to get you where you are going and their pricing policies are as unfathomable as ancient Sanskrit.

Not to mention that our government has totally violated our civil liberties for “security” reason. “Take off your shoes. “ “Remove your belt.” “You can’t take 4 ounces of shampoo on board.” “Sorry you can’t take your water or food, but you can buy some at our vending machines.” They have confiscated 4 nail clippers. NAIL CLIPPERS! I’m going to attack a stewardess with NAIL CLIPPERS?!? Now they are charging to take your bags. Forget about sometimes I need to fly with a tuba. Hey President Bush, the terrorists have won! Every time I go NEAR an airport, I am reminded about that. Orange alert, what the hell is that?

Take the train. I just got back from an Amtrak trip to & from Chicago, 5 days, 2½ days each way. We left from San Jose, taking the Capitol Corridor to Emeryville. Then we caught the California Zephyr into Chicago. After spending a couple of days in Chi town, we took the Southwest Chief into LA, and then caught the Coast Starlight home.

The California Zephyr goes through some of the most beautiful landscape our country has to offer. We saw frozen waterfalls, the Colorado River frozen and incredible snow formations. A majestic elk buck was standing right next to the train. When crossing the Mississippi, we saw FLOCKS of bald eagles. FLOCKS! Just standing on the shore, and 3 – 4 in a tree. I was aghast! We saw also the devastation of the recent floods, some truly poor Americans, hard working farmers, eking out a living off the land. We saw miles of rolling farmlands, the sight of America’s breadbasket. On the way back, on the Chief, while the scenery is not quite as striking, one gets a true taste of our America. The train goes through some amazing small towns. Places like Green River, Utah; Glenwood Springs, CO; Holdrege, NE; Ottumwa, IA (yes, THAT Ottumwa), Princeton IL. On the return, we went through Galesburg, Il, where the debate of Lincoln-Douglas took place in 1858; Newton, KS; Raton, NM & Holbrook, AZ. I believe these small towns truly reflect that for which America stands. Not the bumper-to-bumper, rush hour, how’s my portfolio doing lifestyle with which I am acquainted. But a simpler, smell the roses, slower life pace that seems healthier and more honest.

Not only did we see some wonderous things, but we met some fascinating people. I met a man who lives in Paducah, Tennessee, who spent his whole life working in the power plant. I met a woman violinist who pays in the Honolulu Symphony. I met a woman who went to school with Michael Tilson Thomas. Boy did SHE have some stories to tell! Another confirmed bachelor, who met his soul mate at 55!  A young man, from Escalon, CA, who just spent a whole month on the train, and told us some incredible rail history centered around Altoona, PA; A woman & her mom, from Milwaukee, who spent Xmas with her grand children in Santa Barbara, a couple from San Diego, who were going to New Orleans, the woman who has NEVER flown, but had been riding trains for 30+ years. We met train personnel, who have GREAT stories to tell; people, at stations, who confirm my belief about the misery of air travel, Native Americans selling arts & crafts on the train platform in Albuquerque. The list goes on & on.

Did I experience some sort of catharsis? Who knows, but I never would have experienced any of this waiting to get my shoes back.