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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. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Swarthmore and Philly...

Just back from Philly today, having ridden on a Bolt Bus for the first time since the accident.  That was fun.  But so was Philadelphia and the concert last night at Swarthmore College.  Every spring and fall they do an alumni and student composers' concert at Swarthmore and Lacy, being an alumnus, was invited back to perform again.  We did her song Moon of Fire which we've been practicing and have performed a handful of times at various open mics lately.  I think she's going to post a youtube video of our performance, too.

The other performances at the concert were all great and there was such a diversity of styles and genres represented, from folk songs, to pop songs, to contemporary concert music to vocal music to duets to small ensemble pieces with percussion, even some electronic music.  I even got to meet some of the alumni composers, one of whom is a professor at NYU, another of whom organized the event and was a phenomenal pianist.  Some of the composers were not present at the concert, the more well-known of them, like James Matheson, a pretty big orchestral composer who has had works performed by the NY Philharmonic, and Peter Shickele better known as the fictional composer, P.D.Q. Bach.  Yes, I had no idea that the P.D.Q. Bach attended Swarthmore College until Lacy clued me in.  And I had forgotten that until Saturday night at the concert when they introduced some of his more serious work that he composed under his real name, Peter Shickele.

So, overall I had a good time.  Murat, my friend the oud player, who helped out on the score to Mohammad's film, showed up with his girlfriend, too.  They live in Philly and drove out for the event, despite the snow (I mean, I guess the snow wasn't all that bad…it only provided me with a slushy, hurried walk to the subway after work and wet socks on the way into the concert hall and was not enough to deter me…although it cause some cancellations on Amtrak).  Anyway, we all went out after the concert, deciding to meet in Center City.  Turns out they both live down there as does Lacy so it was convenient.  After we each found parking, we met back up in the lobby of Lacy's building and began wandering in the cold to find a watering hole and, after trying a few places, wound up at Fergie's Pub.  Chatting about everything from music to dance to Occupy Philly, we stayed out until almost 2am.

Hence my tiredness right now.  Sunday morning I got up around 930 and Lacy and I took off eventually for a walk around Center City checking out the architecture and a few random fun things, like the Sound of Philadelphia Souvenir Shop at the Gamble and Huff Studios on the Avenue of the Arts and the Magic Gardens on South Street.


The Magic Gardens were pretty damn cool, I thought.  Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar created these mosaics covering every outer wall of this and other buildings in the South Street area.  Composed of his own tiles, mirrors, glass bottles, bike wheels, tiny statuettes and I even saw an old toilet bowl, the work was part of his and his wife's attempts to revitalize the area.

We didn't tour the inside due to time constraints since I had to catch the bus at 3pm and we still wanted to catch brunch.  We might have gone down to the City Hall area to check out the Occupy Philly demonstrations but only really had time to do a drive by on the way to the train station.

The Bolt Bus came pretty quickly and, though it was rickety and devoid of wifi, it got me to my destination just fine, with just one weird moment when the A/C started whining pretty loudly just outside of the Lincoln Tunnel.  Freaked us all out but thankfully nothing more eventful than that happened and I caught the first C train at 34th and 8th and was home in no time.

Went straight through to the overnight shift without a nap because I'm crazy like that and tomorrow I hope to start working on the piano and electronics piece again.  An update on my progress there soon and hopefully I'll even get some VO work done tomorrow afternoon!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blurb #27

I must be insane…that or I'm determined to never have a quiet trip to Philadelphia.  I have to leave work early and catch a train at Penn Station and hope that this weather will do no more than wet my guitar case a little.  They are calling for snow though.  Wish me luck at Lacy's concert tonight!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I've never...

I've never found a place this fast that I like this much, yes.  But I've also never gotten settled in said place quite so fast as I have.  Maybe time is just moving faster and I've perceived it as such.  It did take a full almost a full week to get where I am now: boxes all unpacked, window treatments hung, important decisions about furniture placement made.  Hell, we even already have cable by some random fluke (I hooked up the wires when I was setting up the TV and stereo and Katrina happened to notice that our old wireless account as popping up on her laptop).  But that week seemed to breeze by.  I didn't have a long period of feeling uncomfortable and unsettled and I didn't even mind that I had no blinds on my windows for most of the week.  Maybe it's because, unlike when I lived in Sunset Park and having no blinds was a huge problem with me being on the first floor of the building and on the street side, my room was actually quite pleasant without blinds with the sun pouring in.  Never mind the fact that I barely could sleep those first few mornings due to the brightness.  Maybe it's also because I like the place that much.  It could be that simple.  I was already thousands of times more comfortable even with a maze of boxes and no internet and barely any food in the house.  

Anyway, the only thing remaining to do, at this point, is to decide where to hang pictures and take boxes out to the garbage.  But now my mind is turning toward things like how awesome it's going to be to have a comfortable living space.  Especially for my creativity.  I remember now that one of the best things about my favorite apartment and living situation (500 Mendenhall Street…the big apartment in the 110 year old Victorian house) was that I had so much more creative energy in that place.  I wrote prolifically and my concentration was unparalleled.  It's so important to have a good healthy space in which to create.  Hopefully, now that I have that again, I can harness that energy. I mean, I can't imagine it being that hard with a piano just inches from the foot of my bed.  It's going to be especially important because Tania and will be needing to get together soon to work on the new piece.  I'm not even finished fleshing it out and I have to sit down with her and practice using my software to sample the piano parts live and mangle the samples while the piece is being performed.  I also will need to use this time to figure out how to creatively use the sampled piano to advance the piece.  But that's why we're starting this in November for a concert in February.  I may need all that time, but I may only need a single recording of her performance of the first part of the piece.

How exciting to be composing again already!

Inevitably, there are a few things about the apartment (more about the building than anything really) is that we do live with a smoker downstairs…smoker of what I can't seem to figure out.  In the morning it smells like cigarettes, in the evenings something else all together.  There is also a dog but I have yet to do more than just smell the animal in the halls.  Oh, and also to contend with the minefield of poop in the backyard where I lock my bike.  But these are things that register barely if at all with me in light of recent indoor fungal growth and difficult landlords.  My own new landlord, when faced with a leak in the apartments below us, called a plumber immediately and scheduled him for the next week.  We were only in the apartment without a shower until around Wednesday.  A tiny inconvenience when you factor in what we had been experiencing.

With all that having been said, I can't get enough of this new place and how amazing it is.  And I don't think my opinion is too terribly influenced by the previous situation by comparison.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No sleep 'til...

People are always saying they don't know how I do it.  It being overnight shifts alternating with day shifts.  And while they don't always directly ask how I do it, I am sometimes compelled to ponder how I would answer such a question.  If I had to say one thing that is key to staying up all night, it's mindset. I've tried every combination of trying to sleep in the morning before an overnight shift, napping in the afternoon, over caffeinating myself etc. But none of these things has served its function of keeping me awake through the whole stretch like adjusting my mindset has.  It's too easy to go into an overnight shift after being up since 8 am thinking, "Dear God, how am I going to pull this off!?" This kind of thinking actually makes you more tired though.  I've found that if I just forget that I've been up for that long and that I have to be up much longer, it goes a lot more smoothly.  It's exhausting thinking negative thoughts.  And if I can manage to distract myself from those kinds of thoughts than I can usually go a pretty long time without getting terribly lethargic.   I sometimes even go into work pretending that I haven't already been up for almost 16 hours.

I'm not going to lie and say that there aren't nights when I've passed out at work (see last night), nor would I say that there aren't moments throughout the day and during the overnight shift that I get tired, but basically if I've had 8 hours of sleep the night before, then even if I don't pull of a brief nap, I can usually make it through relatively well if I try not to think about how much it sucks.  I even have spurts of energy at select times throughout the evening.  Right when I arrive at night, sometime before I take my lunch at 4am and the walk to the train from work at 7am are the big ones usually.  The slump comes anywhere between 2 and 5am.  

So, I've found a way to pull it off because I have to…for now.  That's not to say that I'm not so sick of it that I want nothing more than to be my own boss for a change.  But, all in time.

In a few weeks, I've got some freelance work with George Perez of "Peeper: A Sort of Love Story" fame.  I'll be operating the boom mic on a couple of weekend shoots in November for his series titled "Life."  This'll be the first scene of the pilot episode.  Should be tons of fun.  They're shooting on location in the West 40s on 10th Avenue.  Gritty Hell's Kitchen location that they scared up.  I've yet to check it out but it should set the stage quite nicely for the scene we'll be shooting.

More on that later.  I'm still trying to get things square away with the old apartment and get settled in the new so I can start composing again.  I had a little bit of an issue with my speakers when I set up the computer today.  Not something I can't fix but it always seems like every few months something comes up like this.  Some technical issue that puts a damper on my progress.  I'm just glad it's something that I can work around for now.  And not something necessarily earth shattering.

Either way, I can't wait to get my space comfortable again.  I think the worst part about moving is the period of feeling unhinged.  I had to unpack a bunch of things in the kitchen before I could even cook breakfast this morning and that took a chunk out of my morning.  Because you start looking for what you need and you find ten other things that you think you want to put away.  It's hard to stay focused.  Especially when the exhaustion starts to kick in.  Speaking of which...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The move...

Moving a piano is an art form and one that I enjoy observing as such.  I've witnessed the act enough times that, even when performed by four Polish guys, I can understand the untranslated dialogue because the whole time it's dawning on me that I've had these arguments before in English many times about which way to turn the piano and how to ease it down and heave it up the stairs.  I did have to look up the word "suka" though.  I was sure it was something profane.   

Anyway, my slightly uncouth movers were quick about the job and managed to accomplish everything in under four hours, for which I salute them.  And even despite my own unintentional unpreparedness (I think I may have blogged before about how one can't prepare for anything even if you do think you've prepared for everything).  I did the ol' set your alarm for PM instead of AM number and sprang out of bed not at the sound of my alarm at 7am but the sound of the movers buzzing the front door at 845am!  Not my best move all day.  I was intending to get the cat out of harm's way early, take a few small things over including the bike (yeah, I know it's not small) and pack up what was left laying around that we couldn't find boxes for, well before the movers got there.  Unfortunately, none of that happened.    

I let the movers up and started trying to frantically do some of that stuff but ultimately decided to take the cat over with her litter box first and get her set up.  She was fairly well behaved on the walk over (all 6 blocks of it), and even did her standard slinking around low to the ground maneuvering that she does whenever introduced to a new space.  Then, once she had settled on a spot to hideout until she was comfortable, she started to hack and heave as though she was about to leave me a hairball.  Her idea of christening the apartment I guess.  But after a second or two of watching her she seemed to be having a bit more trouble than just a hairball and I wondered if it was more serious.  She gave me quite a scare but ultimately calmed down and when I returned later on with the next batch of small stuff she seemed fine.  

In my absence, though, the movers had begun to box things using all the extra materials that they brought and that we found out they'd be charging us for (see, no matter how much you prepare, there's always something that you didn't prepare for…they charged us for tape, too, so they could double wrap all the boxes we had packed…plus they wanted me to take all of my clothes out of the dresser so they could just wrap it in and carry it in one piece and that took extra time).  The good thing was they were making awesome time even doing all this.  Before I knew it we were finishing up at the old place and I was trying to beat the truck over to the new place on foot.  

The piano went up the stairs a whole lot easier than I thought it would.  At the old apartment they took off the legs, wrapped it in moving blankets and plastic and slid it onto a cushioned board with rope handles, ran two straps through holes in the bottom of it and dragged it down the stairs with relative ease.  

At the new place, they quailed at the sight of the first flight of stairs and we joked a little about the task ahead.  One asked if I was sure I wanted it upstairs.  It wasn't long, though, before they were sliding it in the front door and into my bedroom where we each played a few triumphant chords on the thing upon unwrapping it.  It felt good.  

After everything else was in and we paid the guys, Katrina and I took off down the street to a small restaurant on 5th Avenue called Korzo.  They had an amazing looking brunch menu that even offered all you can drink Mimosas and Bloody Marys.  I dug into a German omelette with a side of grilled sausage and Katrina had their potato latke with a poached egg on top.  All the food was amazing and our server actually was gluten free savvy and realized without my having to tell him that the sweet potato fries would be no good for me because they were fried in the same fryer with all the breaded foods.  That was a little hard because I wanted to devour everything on my plate since it was the first food besides dried figs and peanuts I'd had all morning.  

Upon sobering up from my two mimosa buzz, we set to work on getting the last few items at the old apartment over to the new place and I eventually began unpacking what little I needed to to be comfortable enough in my new room to take a nap.  A nap which never materialized because my mind is completely full right now.  So here I sit having just devoured my dinner in the breakroom at work and contemplating how I'm going to stay up for almost 24 hours straight yet again.  

Hopefully, once we are completely done with the old apartment, place cleaned and keys turned in, I'll get a little rest and can get to work on this piano and electronics piece.  I need to make it a longer piece and organize the structure of it, then Tania and I need to get together at some point so I can work out the electronics part and everything…but right now, I'm too unsettled to do anything creative.  Even though I did take a little break from supervising the move to improvise on the piano for a good five minutes while the movers kept on moving.  It's good to have a new place with a piano in it.      

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It never ends.  By that I mean, the constant introduction of obstacles by the universe.  Some of them great, some of them minuscule and manageable.  I called my new landlady last night to let her know I'd be by to bring over a few small things and let her know our move in date while I was on the phone with her.

Now, a few days ago, Katrina and I were cleaning the new place when our landlady came huffing up the stairs frantically (as frantically as a woman in probably her 70s can) asking if we had been using any water.  The tenant downstairs had water coming from his ceiling and she wanted to know where it was coming from.  At first, I'm thinking, "great, this again."  It was even raining out at the time so I'm thinking it could be a leak from outside and here we go again.  But then I realized the good side of all this:   My landlady was there in seconds to respond to the problem.

However, this means that she has a plumber coming on Tuesday and until then there's no water in our bathroom…until he fixes the problem which might entail taking out a wall downstairs.  This is what she tells me when I called last night.  Now I feel like a real jerk for moving in early.  And I have yet to tell my cousin about it.

Good news is the apartment is pretty much packed up and we await the movers at 9 am tomorrow.  The actual brunt work of moving is actually the easy part (especially when you hire people and all you have to do is direct them). It's all the logistical bullshit from finding a broker who's not going to bait and switch you, to finding a place, to passing the credit check, to seizing it before anyone else does, to signing the lease, to finding respectable movers at a decent price (don't even get me started on having to find ones that'll move a piano properly and not charge an arm and a leg), to hiring said movers, to gathering together boxes because you threw all of the ones you had out because New York City apartments are tiny and then finally to packing every damned thing in your apartment into whatever boxes you can manage to scrounge up (and carry awkwardly on the train hopefully not during the evening rush hours).

It's a mess and every time I move into an apartment where I have some reservation, even the tiniest, about whether or not I'm going to like it still in a few months, I quail at the thought of having to do this all over again.  Especially with a piano.  I just found out that I have an 80 year old neighbor directly below me.  I'm going to have to make friends with him or having the piano at all is going to be moot.  And that will actually be a problem.  My process for fleshing out piano sketch no. 4 into a full on piano and electronics piece to be performed in February is going to involve sitting at said piano and playing…a lot.

We'll see how it goes.  So wish me luck.  I gotta finish my tea and head to work.  I'm sitting in 'Snice right now on 8th Avenue in the West Village soaking up their wi-fi and listening to one of my favorite Fleet Foxes songs that just came on their stereo.  So I'll probably hang out and listen to the rest of it.  Laters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creator's Project

Blogging about my experience at the Creator's Project's New York City event in DUMBO this evening.  I was strolling through DUMBO on my way to yoga when I spotted a flyer for the event and there, in big letters, was Four Tet, one of my favorite electronic musicians, on the list of musical acts.  I immediately started trying to RSVP on the website with my phone, as I continued walking down the street, before I even knew much about the Creator's Project.  Apparently, it's a collective that supports artists who are using technology to create in innovative ways.  The event in DUMBO this weekend was to display a lot of the most recent installations and projects.  Some incredibly cool stuff.

Because I had to work until 6pm today and because Four Tet was playing right at 6pm, I rushed over to High Street right after work and managed to catch the end of Four Tet's set first (after checking in and getting a wrist band, of course).  As I walked up, I heard a familiar song off the album that came out last year and began to get excited.  DUMBO was throbbing with activity.

After Four Tet's set was over (the 15 minutes I managed to catch), I scanned for a map and made a plan of what I wanted to see.  Having read about most of the installations before hand, I knew what I wanted to see first.  "Origins" by United Visual Artists with music by Scanner.  First, I stopped in to Powerhouse Books to see what was going on and caught a glimpse of this.  "Urbanus Female" by U-Ram Choe. It was a giant metallic looking flower hanging from the ceiling with a glimmering light in the middle that would react to your movements.  I didn't get close enough to try though.  Just watched a few people stare at it for a while. 

After that it was on to the Tobacco Warehouse for "Origins."  This was a giant 30 foot metal cube erected inside the Tobacco Warehouse on Water Street, with LED lights lining the frame that would flash on and off in elaborate and intricate patterns aligning with the score being pumped out of speakers in the four corners of the cube.  At the entrance of the warehouse, they were doing the old one in one out routine and again at the actual structure...because you could walk inside it and observe it from within. Keep in mind that it's already dark out and the only light is coming from the structure itself.

I stood around and watched it for a bit, then slid into another portion of the roofless warehouse to see the musician that was performing on stage there.  Looking at the program I picked up later, now I see that it was the end of Atlas Sound's set.   

I watched one song and then hurried along to see more of the installations.  Still without program at this point, I opted to jump on the next line I saw, having no idea exactly what it was.  I even was asked by passerby and had to admit my ignorance.  After about 40 minutes of waiting in line (15 of that actually inside the building before entering the installation, hearing an almost unintelligible wash of sound oozing out of the speakers),  I finally found myself in a small room with four openings in the ceiling, light pouring out of them, the music much louder.  I was inside Jonathan Glazer and J. Spaceman's "A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space."  There was an ambient electronic piece, much more clearly parsed now floating out of the speakers in the floor but depending on where you stood (or laid down):

you would hear different parts of the mix louder than others.  The four openings in the ceiling were pouring shafts of light onto the ground and we were told to try lying down in each shaft of light to get a different experience with the music.

After I had my fill of that, I wandered back out onto the street and turned a corner headed toward 81 Front Street, a gallery that, only a few weeks ago had been displaying some of my favorite exhibits at the DUMBO Arts Festival.  Inside this time was another of the installations that I had read about earlier in the week.  Meditation by Minha Yang.  It was comprised of three speakers emitting meditative sounds in the middle of a screen with an animated projection that would interact with your movements.  This might have been the most fun I had the whole time.

People were dancing around in front of the projection screen and watching the lights play.  Standing and watching was almost as fun as actually playing with the light yourself.  You could get really creative with your movements and almost always get satisfying results.  One other attendee asked me to repeat something I had done so he could take a better shot of it with his camera.  A handful of other really cool installations were in this same space and among them this.  "Strata #4" by Quayola.  Scroll down and watch the video. 

I left this space with a mind to grab a snack at the grocery store on Washington Street and then go check out "Life on Mars Revisited."  The music video for the song "Life on Mars" by David Bowie apparently had all this extra footage that got lost and then rediscovered (check out the video here on the reimagining of the footage if you're interested).  Film director Barney Clay took the footage and edited it into a stunning video piece and it was on display on the 9th floor of the building where my yoga studio is.  The building at 10 Jay Street is sort of off the beaten path from all the other exhibits, and to get to "Life on Mars Revisited" we had to wind our way to the back of the building on the second floor to find the freight elevator, so it felt a bit secretive, like we were sneaking off to see something exclusive...which we kind of were.  I almost might not have gone all the way down there if I didn't know much about it, wasn't that interested or didn't know the area.  But I'm glad I did.

When the freight elevator left us off at the 9th floor, we were led into a small room with floor to ceiling projection screens on all the walls.  Just like "A Physical Manifestation of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space," we were told the best way to experience it was laying down, so we all kind of piled onto the floor and waited for the footage to start.  I fully did not know what to expect.  The video was projected on all four walls but each wall was different.  The video footage itself was very spare, mostly a single shot of David Bowie, all made up with blue mascara, singing the song.  Part of the way through the video though, you start to see Clay's divergence from the original, the video seemingly cracked like glass and flashing while the audio becomes granulated and distorted.  There was a warning on the door to the screening room for epileptics that simply said if you have epilepsy, do not enter.

At the end of the video, I left and began to head back to the center of it all to catch one last gallery full of installations.  I was trying to get back to 55 Washington Street but it happened to be cordoned off from earlier because it was the main avenue that led to the music stage set up under the Manhattan Bridge archway.  I displayed my wrist band to the bouncers but they turned me away, rather rudely, probably because they were tired.  I tried to explain that I was not headed to the stage but to the one last venue I had not checked out but I realized that they were probably underpaid and didn't really give a shit and that it was probably better to just go around the block the other way to get in.  So I did.  First I ran across "Soil" at 30 Washington Street, a series of aluminum plates that move as you walk across them.

After taking this in for a while, I wound my way back behind 55 Washington Street and slipped into the place.  In this gallery was, first a DJ and a group of dancing hipsters but then four other works that I had only read about that night.  The coolest was "Diskinect," a puppet connected to a Kinect controller that sensed your movement and caused the puppet to somewhat mimic what you were doing.  I played with it for a while then moved on to "Super Pong," which, as far as I could tell was a cross between Pong and foosball which you could actually play.  This I opted not to play but just to watch.  The last thing I experienced was "Six-Forty by Four-Eighty."  This was yet another interactive piece that was comprised of several magnetic blocks with colored lights on a screen.  You could rearrange the blocks any way you wanted on the screen and also tap them to change their color.  

At this point, I was pretty tired because I brought my laptop home with me from work and had been carrying it all night, even during the Four Tet concert.  So, I wound my way back to High Street and headed home.  Greatest part about the evening?  It was all free!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New digs...

It happens that fast!  Yeah, this was the third apartment we looked at between the two of us and it happened to be it.  The way I found it: a friend.

My friend (remember the person I shared a cab with back in December that I ended up becoming friends with?) told me she had an apartment in her building that was opening up so she gave me the number of the realtor. I called him and they told me that it was already rented but that they had another one a short distance away.  Thankfully, a short distance away in the right direction: North.  It's on 19th street, so it's closer to the Prospect Avenue subway stop.

Anyway, I set up a time to see the apartment with this guy on Wednesday afternoon.  He initially told me it was on 16th street so I was checking the street view on Google maps and really liking the block.  On the Wednesday, he told me it was actually on 19th Street.  I'm thinking, "okay, not a deal breaker…let's just hope it's still a good block."  It was.  And it was a cool looking building.   He had told me before that the landlord lived in the building, another bonus for us because it means, first of all, that she'll take care of the building…unlike our current landlord.  I did get a chance to meet her and she seems like a nice lady.

The apartment itself was on the third floor (a slight worry for the prospect of moving the piano in…the first quote I got today from a mover to move the piano up 3 flights of stairs was $700!) but it was at the back of the building.  Inside the halls, family pictures adorned the walls and the stairs creaked pleasantly asI ascended the stairs.  Upon entering the apartment though, I had one of those rare, "This is our apartment." moments.  You just know when you see a place.  It was spacious, airy and bright.  The kitchen is big with lots of light and a view of downtown Manhattan out the side window.  The buildings around it are smaller so we have a clear view in two directions.  The larger bedroom was about as big as my bedroom in Sunset Park two years ago, and there are double doors opening into it.  The living room is about as big as our current living room, perhaps slightly bigger.  There were three closets, two in the common area and one in the smaller bedroom.  This alone made me feel like this would be a perfect match for Katrina and I. She needs a closet and I need space. Plus all the closets are big.

I could rant and rave but I didn't need to to convince Katrina that we needed to move on this place.  I sent her these pics:

Apartment on 19th Street

…and a similar description to the above, only organized into cons first, pros second.  She said she liked it but wanted to do a walk through later that night.  I called and scheduled it with the broker and we came back, cashier's check in hand, ready to seize the place.

I can't encapsulate how excited I am about this.  Suffice it to say that I'm floored that I like this place this much and that it was so easy to find.  We really did luck out.  There are more and more things every day that I realize are going to be great.  It's on the back of the building and on a quiet block, so no more getting pissed off because people are honking their horns outside while I'm trying to record.  I can fit the piano into my room (that is, if I end up moving it).  Think of the inspiration and being closer to the computer when I come up with ideas that I want to save…no more running between rooms!  Their is an alley to access the backyard where I can lock up my bike more safely.

And while the laundromat may be further down the block and the subway slightly farther, I think we've pretty much moved up.  More to come on the trials of moving.  Thank god we're going to be able to move in once we get the key on Monday after I sign the lease.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confusing wisdom...

Finding wisdom in the inside of a label on a bottle of tea is pretty standard stuff these days.  And I drink a lot of tea.  But today, I had one of those interesting days where I seemed to be getting signs from not just tea bottles but just about everything around me and some of the signs were conflicting with others.

In truth, it all started with an impromptu discussion with a co-worker and friend of mine about working in the corporate world and how it's always going to be the same no matter where you go, as far as workplace politics go and you're really only ever going to avail yourself by being your own boss.  Which, in a way, has simultaneously discouraged me from even trying to job hunt for a better career in this climate and encouraged me to work that much harder at being freelance eventually.  The end of that conversation actually found me feeling grateful that I have a job and a lot more level headed about my general situation than I have been for months when at times, I tended to get rather frustrated that things weren't better with the money situation or the hours.  

It's file checking week at Learning Ally where we go through all the audio book files that have been recorded and spot check them for errors.  Today, one of the audio books that I was checking today at Learning Ally was some kind of business text book that had a ton of chapters about building resumes and interviewing for jobs, etc.  So, while I waited for my assigned booth to open up (the last volunteer was still finishing up her session), I perused a bit of it and got thinking about what I was doing wrong with my last few attempts to find a job.  Here I am now swinging back the other way in my thinking about what I need to focus on right now.  Should I take another shot at job hunting but be more focused this time?  Should I be so cynical about the job market?

On the inside of my tea bottle was this quote though: "Lack of money is no obstacle, lack of an idea is an obstacle." - Ken Hakuta

Maybe I just need a good idea.

Here's one, I'm doing some freelance audio stuff for George's next film and if it needs music, I'll likely be doing that too.  The audio stuff will be operating the boom mic for the first few scenes of a pilot for a series he's going to be putting together.  The scenes will act as a teaser/short for the pilot which will eventually be shot and pitched a few places to get support to do the series.  It's exciting because it could be some steady work and it seems very interesting.  I won't say too much else about it so as not to jinx it.

But anyway, all those confusing signs and I'm tired.  Need sleep.  Tomorrow I see apartments.  The first one is in Park Slope and I might just fall in love with it, so long as it's cat friendly.  Good night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day...

I must admit, it's making less and less sense to work on the laptop in my "office" at work…especially since now, it's doubling as a storage room while they renovate some offices upstairs here.  I do have a nice arm chair to sit in but I'm surrounded by stacks of boxes, extra chairs and furniture and, the latest addition, a huge divider that's half blocking the door.  It's still secluded though and I'm able to work relatively distraction free.

So, here I sit blogging.  I went to see my first apartment today.  Katrina has already been to see one but this is the first we were able to see together.  And only because of the fact that I can never sleep much farther past 12 noon after the overnight shift these days.  I figured I had just enough time before going to yoga to check out the apartment with her.  She was off today for Columbus day so it was ideal.  Every other day this week we are unable to go searching together.  And I've already had one broker that I spoke with tonight tell me they'd rather have us both there…i.e. they want us to be able to make a decision that day, so we don't waste their time.  But I've found that you almost never take any of the first apartments you see.  It's like you have to build up a few impressions, see what all is out there, and knock down your unrealistic expectations a bit before you can settle on something.

So, the apartment today was in Prospect/Crown Heights (it's always these muddled neighborhood borders with brokers…they could just call it Crown Heights but they want the allure of Prospect Heights which is a better neighborhood).

When we arrived on the block it was busy and there were a lot of people out and about while we waited for the broker.  What made me nervous was the general behavior of just hanging around and looking tough.  I didn't want to judge based solely on that though.  This was after all an apartment that was right on the corner of an avenue with a lot of store fronts.  Now, I actually thought this was a great place for the price and it even had an elevator (something that might make it a little cheaper to move the piano in).   It had huge rooms and lots of light as it was on the corner of the building but in the back.  The bathroom smelled strongly of pot (interesting, he thought) and there were electric baseboard heaters which I don't tend to like too much as they inevitably take up wall space and can be a bit dangerous.

I was starting to warm to the place though but something happened while we were there that made me change my mind a little (and this is a classic New York City story here).   While we were upstairs and the broker was raving about the apartment and the neighborhood, sort of tap dancing around a little (making a real effort to convince us that the neighborhood was up and coming etc. etc. blah blah blah), I started to hear screaming coming from the street downstairs.  Now from my vantage point out the kitchen window, all I can see is a little sliver of the street through the alley but what it looked like was a tussle of some sort going down in the street with no less than two women screaming and several men appearing to be kicking someone who was down.  I seemed to be the only one among the three of us who noticed, and knowing how hard the broker was working, I opted not to bring it up so as to keep from making her have to tap dance harder about the merits of our current location.  Luckily, by the time we reentered the street everything was cleared up.  God only knows what happened.  "I don't want to alarm you, Katrina," I said, "but there was sort of a fight going on out in the street while we were up there talking to her."

We still did opt to walk a bit in the neighborhood to see how it looked.  Granted, it's two in the afternoon at this point, but still the scene on the street was a little tense.

Only in New York…and hopefully only on that particular street corner in Crown Heights.  I've got a handful of apartments to look at that are close to that place (we're talking mile radius here) but across Atlantic Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant, a notoriously bad neighborhood that has been rumored, as well, to be on its way towards gentrification.  We'll just have to see about that and get out on the ground out there.

Tonight, before leaving for work, I called a handful of these ads and, to my mild frustration, I find that at least one of them was a Rapid Realty broker, a company I don't want to work with if I don't have to. The unprofessionalism among their office staff was a source of stress last time we moved.  In addition, they seem to be very strategized and focused more on getting you into an apartment quick than helping you find the right place.  I almost never get the feeling that they want to help me find a place any worse than they want to make sure they don't waste time taking me to a bunch of places that I could potentially not like.  They were the ones who had a problem with it being just me who would come out with them, saying they like to have both roommates present.  I understand this but it's still annoying. Basically, they don't want you to lose the apartment because you have to go home and confer with someone else.  That's how good apartments get snatched up.  Anyway, at this point, we're kind of just doing research and that should be allowed.  These brokers guard their listings so jealously, it's impossible to see a place without a broker pressuring you because most of the ads you see, even on craigslist and padmapper.com end up being broker listings.

I've rambled and ranted enough for one evening.  Tomorrow, I voice audio books and then continue on the hunt.  Wish us luck as we're trying to get into a place as soon as possible and not necessarily wait until the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Statue of Liberty...

Checklist: Statue of Liberty = Done!  So, around, 10:30 today I moseyed up to Battery Park to meet my friend Allison for lunch at a little burger joint outside the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center before heading to the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.  We've been planning this trip since May, neither one of us having been, and she being a lifelong New Yorker.  Back then we talked about doing this over sushi in Chinatown one night, thinking we'd be able to do it a few weeks later.  Apparently, though, the crown was booked solid until September.  So we were going to have to make reservations and wait.  By the time we settled on a day to do it, it ended up having to be today, all the way into October...and what a day to do it!  The weather was fantastic, mid 60s, sunny with a light breeze...okay, a big enough wind that the boat was rocking something violent when we first boarded.  But I got my sea legs pretty quick.   Having bought our tickets in advance we got to bypass the line for the ferry and were on the island well before our reservation time of 2 pm.

It was a bit odd, at first, because, at the entrance to the pedestal, they sent us back to the information center by the ferry dock to get crown access wrist bands (we had no idea that we had to go there first), but once we had the wrist bands, we felt like VIPs.  The rangers were giving us very detailed instructions on how to bypass the lines and which way to go up the stairs so we'd go straight up to the crown first and work our way down to the pedestal.  They were extremely helpful and offered to answer any questions we had...it felt like we had our own personal guide at each level, as we chatted with each ranger before going up further (They apparently have a nick name for people with crown reservations: "Crownies").  There was no line to go up for crown access and it felt in some ways like we had the whole statue reserved to ourselves for a little bit.  There were only two other people and a ranger up in the crown when we finally got up there, the ranger perched rather precariously on the support beams above the staircase.  I'm not even sure that many more people could have fit up there, the actual space being slightly bigger than a broom closet with not a whole lot of overhead clearance.  I bumped my head on the beams on the roof several times (not too hard though) and right after the ranger told me to watch my head.

The climb to the crown itself was not all that bad.  The spiral staircase inside the statue did get pretty narrow but it was all very exciting and we were up at the top before we knew it.  Statue's kind of shorter than I had realized.  Something like 354 steps total though, including the climb from the pedestal.  There was a plaque at the bottom with facts about the different measurements, like how long is the nose, the arm, how wide is the face, how much does the pedestal weigh (54 million tons actually), that I should have photographed but didn't.  I shot a ton of pics up there and as I was kneeling down to take a few shots out of the windows, I could feel the Statue swaying in the wind.  Allison noticed this first, like, the second we got to the top step.  But I didn't feel it until my knee was against the side of the crown as I knelt to take my photos.  Our friends that were sharing the crown space with us offered to photograph us and we did the same before heading back down.    

The pics in the crown did not come out all that well but here is the album of everything I took today, encompassing a few pics at the World Financial Center, the ferry ride, Liberty Island and a few of Ellis Island.

Best of Statue of Liberty

We made sure, after our descent, to check out the Pedestal Museum.  The goofy picture of me picking the face's nose was Allison's idea.  A bit of a history nut, I enjoyed this part (the museum, that is, not pretending to pick a statue's nose).  This and the Ellis Island Museum, which we managed to breeze through in under an hour, checking out some of the special exhibits, us both having been there once before. Ellis is always inspirational to me, even when you read the crazy stories of what the conditions were like for immigrants over the years.  Inside the Pedestal Museum though, I learned about the origin of the poem "The New Colossus." Ya know, the whole "Give me your huddled masses yearning to be free" that is engraved at the base of the statue inside the monument.  Apparently, Emma Lazarus wrote it for an auction to raise money for the statue but it was years before the poem was actually associated more permanently with the statue and the plaque installed.  People often credit the poem now with realigning the statue's purpose.  Instead of being a sign of liberty and republicanism, it became a symbol of hope and welcome for incoming immigrants.

Just a tiny bit of history before I call it a night.  The trip was a good time all around and I think I would definitely go back, in the future, for the climb to the crown, when it reopens in 2012.  They are apparently closing down again to further improve safety inside the statue. They are not shutting it down, though, until after it's 125th anniversary, this month, according to this article.  They want to reopen it before the 126th anniversary next October.  Either way, it'd be fun to do again. And for only $16 it's cheaper than the Empire State Building and in many ways a more unique experience.  Sort of an adventure, too. 

Anyway, good night!  Enjoy the pictures!

Moving out and a test screening...

I'm definitely moving out.  We are definitely moving out, that is.  There was some doubt in my mind because I was starting to get a little paranoid that I wouldn't be able to afford to move the piano and would most certainly have to donate it, something that has crossed my mind many a time over the last few years during which I've possessed said beast of a musical instrument.  That among other things.  I did one of those classic listing the pros and cons exercises and it did wonders to clear my head.  But the biggest thing was looking at these pictures again and realizing, of course we effing have a valid reason for wanting to get out of this place!

Messed up Kitchen

And anyway, if I were to get a subletter, the task would be convincing that person, likely a friend that I've probably already bitched to about my predicament, to live in the very apartment that has been the source of my woes. So, that's one of the cons of that situation; the extra effort of acquiring a willing subletter.

All in all, it was a fruitful exercise and by the morning, tired though I was, my head was clear.  I didn't call my landlord today though because for some reason, all the thoughts I had about what I was going to say to him had escaped my head (or buried themselves behind other synapses).  Plus, I had a test screening for Sides of the Track that I wanted to make it to before heading over to the dentist to get a damned cavity filled.  The test screening was awesome, getting the cavity filled, not so much.  But then, it's getting a cavity filled, what do you expect?

Mohammad was able to rent out the very theater that we will be screening in on Friday this afternoon so that he, I, the DP and the Executive Producer could take in the full experience, big screen, big speakers, etc. It sounds awesome!  And looks awesome!  There's nothing to compare to seeing (and hearing) your work on the big screen.  Unfortunately, the screening is by invite only and I've already chosen my +1.  They are sure to screen again soon.  But I'm psyched, you know?  It's another milestone marked but it's also a chance to network.  I haven't gotten to meet any of the other cast and crew yet and am especially looking forward to meeting certain people on the producing team.  All around it should be a good night as I have the whole evening off from work and there is a reception and after party as well.

For now, I need some sleep. The leg is feeling better, especially after another amazing yoga class with Adriana, my favorite teacher at Abhaya.  I think it should be okay for my long planned trip to the Statue of Liberty with my friend Allison.  Sure I nearly killed it this weekend hiking about 6 miles through the Adirondack mountains, but a few stairs shouldn't be a problem right?  Anyway, I'm excited because I'm finally doing this for the first time...plus, it's Allison's first time too (she, a lifelong New Yorker, too!).  So it should be a blast!  Pics are, of course, forthcoming. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Conquered by the Adirondacks...

Okay, first of all, my left leg really hurts right now.  I'm debating going to the doctor about it.  Backpacking did not help it at all, obviously, but it feels way worse.  Worse enough that I'm taking Ibuprofen right now, something I haven't done in years.

The camping trip was a lot of fun though.  Even if we did get cut short and even if I did come off the mountain feeling pretty crappy.  We drove up to Lake George, NY from Albany, stopping briefly to get a few things at an Eastern Mountain Supply store, and lunch, in Saratoga Springs.  Here's a link to the hike that we did.  The Tongue Mountain Range.  I said it was fun but the following description is going to make me sound practically sadistic. 

We were supposed to hike up to the first lean-to about 3 miles in, camp and then do part of the loop, possibly camping further in and making it back to the car early Sunday morning.  We revised this plan when we saw the lean-to was free and decided we'd take what we needed in our day packs leaving the larger ones behind in the lean-to, so that we could make good time around the loop on Saturday and camp in the same spot Saturday night so we'd be near the car.

Then, of course, that plan got blown out too.  We knew as we watched the sun set from a clearing near the lean-to, a rain cloud slowly creeping up, that the weather was going to figure pretty prominently in our plans for the next day.

We couldn't start a fire because everything was too damp, though we tried for an hour or so.  An earlier attempt to use stove fuel to get something going proved futile even if it did almost singe my eyebrows.  (This, immediately after J. Scott said to me, as I was trying to light the fire a bit too cautiously, "I didn't put that much on there." Famous last words.)  Our decision to cut things short, though we made it the next morning upon seeing the rain finally start in earnest, was actually somewhat influenced by this inability to ignite anything.  The camping stove was leaking fuel too, so between that and our lack of campfire, hot food wasn't an option.

We slept pretty soundly in that old lean-to but shortly after we woke and saw the rain starting and felt the cold chill in the air, the lean-to began to leak, first above my head and then above J. Scott's.  A futile attempt was made to repair the camping stove but peanut butter sandwiches ended up being the breakfast of choice.  We then agreed on a plan to hike back to the car, drop our packs and take a smaller pack each, filled with snacks and water, back up the mountain to explore the shorter Dear Leap out-and-back trail.  This took us to a nice vista of the lake and the town of Hulett's Landing on the far shore.  The wind was so heavy that even from our height we could see white caps in the lake.

Dreaming of diner coffee and steak and eggs, we hiked back up the steep incline and back to the car.  Both pairs of socks I was wearing were thoroughly soaked when we arrived at the car because my boots are no longer water-proof apparently.  When I sat down in the car, I felt like I had fever and my bones were chilled.  It was a bizarre sensation, but I guess it was I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a nylon wind-breaker over it and the hike had simultaneously heated me up and chilled my extremities.  Though I had wrapped my knee before attempting the hike, it throbbed something awful, too.

No matter.  We had called my aunt before setting out to inform her of our predicament.  She offered to have us over so we could get out of the rain and put us up for the night.  Before heading down there, though, we found a little street side diner where I got my much sought after steak and eggs and was able to charge my phone and call my aunt to talk logistics.  We took our time getting down there and made sure we showed up with food and drinks...never mind that it took a wild goose chase around the towns of Coxsackie and Athens and several back roads in between to find a grocery store that was actually across the street from our first stopping point in Coxsackie; the liquor store.  I'm a terrible navigator and was not able to redeem myself the whole weekend.

Anyway, as a result of my plan and my aunt's hospitality, I had a nice relaxing evening as opposed to trying to sleep out in the rain again.  She made us a dinner of ham and cabbage with potatoes (just the thing on a cold evening) and J. Scott and I watched the Florida Gators game until my aunt returned from her defensive driving course.  That night I slept like a rock.  Forget that the Adirondacks beat us.  We were comfortable.   

This evening I still feel pretty sick though and my leg is not happy at all so I'm taking the night off work to recover.  Hopefully, I can stay off my leg for a day and give it some time to actually get better.  Because this Wednesday, I have plans to go to the Statue of Liberty with a friend.  And I'm pretty sure there's no elevator there.

Coming back home to Brooklyn was interesting.  The contractors worked in my apartment at a break-neck pace this weekend and did sort of a sloppy job.  The new sheet rock is stained through brown from the dampness of the bricks and it doesn't even look as though they did anything but make it worse, at least aesthetically.  If I don't hear from my landlord tomorrow about our demands as per the rent for this month and our security deposit, he'll be hearing from me.  With any luck, we'll be looking at new apartments by the end of the week and not this:

Messed up Kitchen

The prospects for this week are starting to look worse than that other week I was complaining about a few entries ago when nothing would go right.  This time, I have a bum leg, I'm getting a cavity filled on Tuesday, I'm still in a crappy apartment and I could go on but I won't.  I found a four-leaf clover today while waiting for the bus in Albany and couldn't help but hope that my luck might change soon.  We'll see.