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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The East Village bars and Chinatown at the wrong time of night...

I bar hopped last night for the first time in a while. My friend Emily from Raleigh was in town still but staying with another of our friends, Paul, so the everybody was hanging out in the East Village where I went to join them after a stressful two days of work. Paul is also a UNCG alum and so were a handful of the others all hanging out with us. So it was good to reconnect and connect with them all. We started off the night on St. Marks Place, a place called McCabe's. As I was walking over there, I came across a procession of oddly dressed characters, some on bikes, some just walking. There were men in dresses and a lot of people painted and decorated. It only clicked later when I heard the news that the senate vote that we were waiting to hear about at work (whether or not to legalize gay marriage in New York State) had probably passed and that what I was seeing was an impromptu parade (they even had police escorts holding up the rear). Woo hoo! So, there was already an air of celebration and whimsy in the air that evening. And the East Village was lively as ever.

McCabe's was playing 90's rock but we only stayed for a few beers there before hitting up a pizza joint (yes, I allowed myself a slice) on Ave B by Thompkins Square Park. Next we headed to a place called Tile Bar (Technically called WOUC Radio Bar but the Tile Bar nickname stuck) where we met up with Miles, who attended UNCG around the same time I did, and a few of his friends. Miles freelances in video editing so we had a lot to chat about before I hijacked the juke box for a little bit. After Tile Bar we went over to one last place on 5th Street, that I don't remember the name of and can't even find on Google Maps, where we ended up playing one of those buck shooting video games while Miles and one of his friends played a few games of pool. At this point in the evening some of the gay revelers had wandered into the bar with us and it was starting to get crowded. Eventually, when the night felt like it was over, Paul, Emily and I began to head toward 1st Avenue to get cabs back to our respective boroughs. None would take me to Brooklyn from the East Village strangely so we started to walk toward Houston Street. Somewhere on this walk the idea was hatched to go to Chinatown (think it came from the mouth of Paul actually). I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have normally agreed to this but something clicked on inside me. Realizing it was Emily's last night in town and that she needed to have a quintessentially New York experience, my eyes got glazed over and I had this dreamy look on my face thinking of all the wonders of Chinatown and the adventures I'd had there...and the food! That was it, we were doing this! So we hailed a livery cab who agreed to take us down to the area but the cab ride that followed was dominated by an intense discussion about what was a good place to go in Chinatown at that hour for dumplings. The cab driver didn't think it was a good idea to go to a place that Paul had in mind, so Paul tried to get a recommendation out of him. Something about this exchange had me in tears I was laughing so hard. Eventually we were let out around Market St. into the barren quiet of Chinatown at 4am. This was seeming like less and less of a good idea.

With Paul leading the way we stumbled down a few blocks looking up at the Manhattan bridge and eventually slid into a bodega to ask for directions. A kind of sketchy bodega that Emily and I decided to wait outside of, glad of our decision when we noticed a guy by the door locking the door behind Paul as he went in. At this point, poor Emily was thinking we were going to get mugged any minute. The fellows in the bodega pointed us in another direction but, by this point we weren't sure where we were and were either too tired or too lazy or my GPS wasn't accurate enough to figure out. About to give up, we spotted fluorescent glow and a red building down the block from where we were. I suggested we go for it. And we did.

The food was pretty decent but there's something about not knowing exactly what you're eating and having it boldly lit with fluorescent lighting, the bleary eyes of your cohorts in stark relief as you realize exactly how drunk you are that you are eating conch, cauliflower, some kind of bony cuts of pork and some weird dish with duck in it and loving it while your friend who's been to Hong Kong is trying out all of his Mandarin on the staff. Hilarity.

Thankfully, finding a cab home after this adventure was not nearly as hard. Cabs were pretty frequent out on East Broadway.

This morning I slept in and went to yoga to avenge my guilt at my self indulgence the night before then spent the day toying around with some of the music for the film score. Our oud player is coming in to town from Philly tomorrow afternoon and he, the director and I are meeting to talk about the music and play some stuff. The oud player has already sent me a draft of some ideas that he gleaned from the themes that I wrote so far. Dropbox is great and the audio he's sent me is awesome.

Tonight, I went to Queens to celebrate Karishma's birthday with a bunch of friends at a Greek restaurant called Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars Blvd. I had the grilled shark and tried someone else's grilled calamari. This place was pretty big on seafood and luckily, we had a girl at the table who's from Cypress ordering for all of us. They all went to the East Village afterward and I, having had quite enough of the East Village for one weekend, came straight home.

Anyway, I am so tired I think I'll fall asleep sitting up if I don't finish this blog and hit the sack. So goodnight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling TV sets and a jaunt around midtown with a friend...

For some odd reason one of the maintenance people (I'm pretty sure it was him) was just dropping television sets off the roof. Sounded like gun shots and breaking glass so I got a tiny bit freaked out and ran to look out all of my windows. Just got to the kitchen window in time to see the third one drop out of nowhere. I gotta say, I was mildly alarmed.

Luckily, there's nothing else falling from the sky as of late. No asteroids, no hailstorms, not even rain. Well, a little today but that didn't stop me from getting out and about. Finished another blog for the new site and went to a noon yoga class, then picked up groceries and here I sit. Just took a look at the iRig mic and iRecorder software that my friend Emily has and wanted me to give my opinion of. I hooked it up to her iPad and messed around with it. Recorded myself reading from "On Bullshit" and messed around with the edit functions so that I could cut out some mistakes I made and then tried out some of the processing options. Without being able to hook up my good headphones I can't really speak to the quality of the audio recording. But it sounded decent through the iPad's speakers and the Sony earbuds I carry around in my pocket to listen to music on my Droid. It's pretty easy and intuitive to work with as well.

More on that later though. Emily is in town attending some tech expos and the like for her job at Techno Buffalo. Yesterday we went to a couple of places together around midtown. After catching those break dancing kids on the N train we went to my favorite gluten free pizza place, Mozzarelli's. Afterward we went to Madison Square park and saw this:

Then we wandered around the Flatiron district for a bit, explored Eataly and then stumbled on a place called Limelight Marketplace. It's a bunch of upscale clothing and jewelry stores and a wine bar crammed inside an old converted church. I have to say I was pretty amazed at how cool this place was. Granted the jeans were all over $100 and I'm pretty sure I wasn't going to buy anything in there.

We even went down to Babycakes on the LES for a quick cupcake fix. And I'm making poor Emily walk all this way and me running on about 3 and a half hours of sleep. The overnight shift sucks.

Tonight, however, fully rested, I'm about to head out and go meet her and another old friend from college somewhere. No idea where yet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Before most of you would have woken up if it were your day off...

Something peaceful about a casual walk through several neighborhoods and a rest in a park to cap off a morning of hard work and productivity. I just got back from dropping off a few books at the Central Library in Brooklyn, first walking through Park Slope from 4th Avenue up Union Street to the library, then sitting on a park bench by Grand Army and reading a bit of my weekly magazine and then walking from there through Prospect Heights briefly before catch the 3 train back to Atlantic Avenue. It's also nice that my day off can feel leisurely and busy at the same time. Of course, I did have to get up at 7:00 am for a yoga class, like the yogi rock star I've been lately, so that I'd have time to polish off most of the other tasks I had on my to do list before Lacy got here at 2:00 pm. Anyway, poor Lacy's effing car got towed so she had to alter her plans and take a bus to the city and is meeting me in Tompkins Square Park in about an hour and a half. We'll probably try to run a few things out there before heading to Bar 82 for the open mic at 7:00 pm.

This morning, post yoga, I grabbed a bottle Tea's Tea at the bodega on my walk back to the train and headed home. Fried up some eggs with toast and sat at the computer to write this. Then, I penned some program notes and came up with a new title ("Moon, Tides, Cycles") for my piano and electronics piece that Tania will be performing in July. After that, I hooked up the mic, setup the portable sound booth and recorded a handful of auditions for some voice123.com jobs. Once satisfied with those, I took down my setup and moved it into the living room, miked the piano and hooked it up to the laptop and my M-Audio Axiom keyboard and MIDI controller and toyed with MainStage, an application used for live performance through your laptop. The aim was to get it setup so that I could use my laptop to perform the electronics part of the piece, using my keyboard's controllers to fade in and out and pan left and right. Sounded awesome, by the way. And programming it all in Mainstage was a piece of cake. I love my Macbook! I'm going to be writing another blog entry tomorrow about that on the new site as well.

All this, and I still have plenty going on tonight! Don't worry, I plan on sleeping at some point. Tonight after Bar 82, I'm having Ethiopian Food in the village at Meskerem and then heading across the street to the Grisley Pear for a bluegrass jam session. Should be fun!

This Sunday, I'm actually playing guitar at the Brooklyn Unitarian Church for their Juneteenth service. More on that later. Huzzah!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Museum Mile and my bucket list...

A few weeks go by and things just get away from you. I haven't blogged in a bit. I realized it's been even longer than a bit since I last posted on the new site...and wouldn't you know it, when I was on last night trying to tweak the sidebar and make it look better, I realized that I had been completely overlooking the comments that people have posted on the blog entries. There were 30 of them waiting for me to approve them! All good stuff too besides. That means I'm actually getting traffic to the new site! So, now I'm frantically trying to get back on the ball with posting on that site. Right now, I'm thinking of blogging about my using Logic again now that I have it and perhaps Battery 3, which I've been using to record drum lines.

Anyway, that's for the other blog. I wanted to mention that I actually finally got to see the Guggenheim Museum today. Granted, it was only for about half an hour since the rainy picnic I had with a friend in Bryant Park ended up taking up most of the early evening...yeah, we were dawdling. But that's okay. I didn't really have much interest in seeing the other museums taking part in the festival and, just being realistic with the the time frame, I wasn't sure it was really possible. I've already seen the MET a handful of times and while it's by no means fully explored, it is something that I can always go back to...it's always pay as you wish.

As for the Guggenheim, it's a little hard to really take in a museum when it's over run with people trying to do the same things as you: take advantage of free entry to several of New York's most popular museums. Try reading the descriptions and artist bios on the walls and really absorbing each art work with people walking in front of you and crowding behind you. I still had fun though and it was cool to actually get inside the place. It's such a cool building and I can definitely see myself coming back to explore all the secrets of the place...maybe when they open the ramps back up after the next exhibit is installed fully, I'll go back.

After we were corralled out of the museum by several hard nosed security guards, along with the gaggle of tourists accompanying us, we took off down 5th Avenue and eventually crossed Central Park to get to the West Side where my friend lives and where I was going to catch the B train at 72nd Street. Smack dab in the middle of the park at about the level of 72nd Street, is the Bethesda Terrace, a feature of the park I had not seen before. "Dammit New York, why were you hiding this place from me!?" I exclaimed as we turned the corner at the bottom of one staircase to see the arched tunnel that goes under the road, with it's tiled ceiling all lit up at night. I wish I could have seen some of the carvings in the stonework a little better but alas, it was quite dark. And damn my phone for saying my SD card was full when I knew full well it wasn't. I'm going to go back in the daylight sometime anyway because it's just gorgeous. And at that point, I promise multiple photos...and with the Canon for god's sake! Yes, I'm going to try and get back in touch with my more touristy side again. Because this city constantly surprises me and I have this inexplicable impulse to document everything.

So, that's one more thing ticked off the NYC bucket list and one more added to it. In fact, I'm probably going to do both the Guggenheim and Bethesda terrace again soon. Maybe as a means of forcing myself to go up to Central Park more often this summer. Perhaps I'll even add one of the Summer Stage concerts to that list. Already on the bucket list though is Hayden Planetarium, sort of also in keeping with my recent obsession with all things extra terrestrial (Gotta love History and Discovery Channel docs!). Today while I was shooting the breeze with one of the interns at Learning Ally, we got talking about our shared interest in space and Hayden Planetarium came up so we talked about going sometime.

And of course, the Statue of Liberty with one of my old co-workers is on that list...and I'm talkin' about going all the way up in the crown now that it's open again. It won't be until September though that we can go because it's pretty well booked up until then.

The more I think about it I probably shouldn't even call it a bucket list. It's not really in the spirit of finish things before I die. It's more in the spirit of get out and live now, go do these things! The city is your oyster! How about oyster list? Or just get up and do list? I'll think about it and get back to you...

A quick update on the score: Mohammad has reached out to the new oud player from craigslist and we're awaiting a response so we can get the ball rolling on that. I've re-recorded, fleshed out and remixed my first version of the electronic section of the piece and am getting closer to a melody that will tie the whole thing together. Once we get the oud player in everything should fall into place.

In addition to the score, some exciting news has popped up about Tania's concert. It's now booked for July 27th, 2011 at 9:30pm at The Metropolitan Room. Here's a link to the facebook invite for the event. My piece is going to be getting a new title because we're revamping it and doing it without the dance that it was written for. I'm really excited because it's technically a premiere and my name will be on the program as performing live electronics! More on this to come.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bar 82, yoga and the score...

We played Bar 82 last night, a small but very nice venue with a generally under-attended open mic (according to Wayne, the organizer). We ended up going first and played the best versions of "In the Garden" and "Vengeance is mine" yet. The performance went un-recorded as there was no really good person to ask to do it. But we'll do it again in a few weeks at Pete's Candy store and probably rock the place right in half.

There were at least two folks from Banjo Jim's open mic crowd (other than Wayne) that were there last night, too. One of them, Walter Ego, spoke to us for a bit. He's a good guy and has his own thing going for him, which I appreciate. So many times you meet a musician trying to emulate, which can be good in its own rite. It's always nice though to see some originality poke through the chatter.

Right now, I'm getting ready to bike to work for the first time. First chance I've had to do it all week since I started considering it and the weather is perfect for it. It's not going to get much hotter than 80 degrees F today and I already sampled the air this morning on the way to and from yoga. A great class this morning, too. Sarah's a great teacher and one of my favorites at Abhaya. There is nothing at all like getting up early on a bright morning and practicing yoga, pushing your boundaries and finding new strengths before most people have even sipped a cup of coffee and groggily entered the subway station. Most first time yogis that I have the pleasure of talking to after their first class say things like they feel taller and some say they feel like they could fly. While I don't ever encourage this, I do agree with them. Part of what I enjoy so much about yoga is that rush. For me that comes from stretching my own ideas about what I can do on the mat (which translates to off the mat as well). Whenever I do something I've never done before in yoga, I bring that feeling of power I get back to my real life and apply it as best I can. You really do start to feel like you could do anything short of flying.

I get a similar feeling of empowerment when I look back at all that I have done since I moved here. While, on a grand scale, it doesn't seem like much, it certainly does seem like a lot when you consider where I came from. From my own perspective, I have done things that six years ago I might not have even considered possible. Sure I might have dreamed of them but thoughts of implementing those plans and realizing those dreams had yet to surface.

So here I am. Working on major film project #2. The oud player we have our sights on now is a guy who responded to one of Mohammad's cragislist ads. He has some recordings on last.fm so I've had a chance to listen to what he can do already. I think this one will be better since he's actually a professional player, not a hobbyist. Plus, he responded to us so that indicates a higher level of interest than anyone yet involved. We'll see. With any luck, I'll also have my hands on an oud as well within a few days. My choir director may have one I can use. My idea i to get an idea of what can be done on it and ultimately let the oud player we use improvise on some ideas I've written so that it'll segue perfectly into the electronic part I've already written. I'm also debating using edited samples of the oud to layer in with the electronics or just having the oud player continue to improvise over the electronics. We'll probably try both once we get in the studio.

So that's the next step and meanwhile, until then, I flesh out ideas here, adding more layers to the track.

Wish me luck not getting run over by asshole cab drivers on the way into work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blurb #25

Lacy should be here any minute. We're rehearsing all afternoon and will be playing an open mic at Bar 82 in the East Village tonight somewhere between 7 and 9. Come out if you can. Meanwhile, it's pretty hot out isn't it? Well, comparatively speaking. One of my yoga instructors joked that we went straight into summer. It still feels like we had something of a spring though. I guess those mild 70 degree temperatures never last more than a few weeks either way. Anyhow, it sucks a bit because I've just gotten to where I can find time to ride the bike. Took it to yoga class the other day and, while it was fun, I found myself pretty uncomfortable by the time I got there. Good thing I was going somewhere where I expected to sweat anyway. Another thing, I thought for certain that one of those effing livery cab drivers was going to kill me. Who cuts across a bike lane and slams on the brakes to pick up a fare? I nearly had to jump off my bike and this guy thought a honk in my general direction a mere second before he pulled the maneuver was going to be enough to alert me to his presence. What can I say? It's hard being a biker in the city, even with all the bike lanes and bike paths at our disposal. I've got more news on the score but this is supposed to be a blurb. More on that later.