Archive for August, 2012

I yam what I yam

Friday, August 31st, 2012

[IMAGE] Popeye

…click to listen:

…about the music

The sailor gal.

My gradual adaptation from urban city kid to rural gritty adult has been, at least in my view, pretty effortless (those who have witnessed me rush to keep a smoking weed whacker from erupting into flames, or once heard me claim that carrots grew on trees, might beg to differ). I adore this island so much that it’s inconceivable to me how I could have been equally happy years earlier, as I maneuvered in my Porsche 928 (yup, and it was a beauty!) between dueling big rigs on the gazillion-lane-wide Santa Monica Freeway. Or, as I dashed in my stiletto heels across Broadway between dueling taxi drivers whose sole amusement is to watch pedestrians scramble for their lives. Yes, I prefer island existence, with nary a traffic light nor angry cabbie to impose on my daily bliss. Sure, we have a few cabbies here in Friday Harbor, but they’re verrrrry laid back.

The pattern of these summer days seems a near-perfect blend of workworkwork that compels,

[IMAGE] Alex working
Error message??? This is not the way I prefer to be compelled.

friendsfamilycolleagues who delight,

[IMAGE] star and crabs
No, I don’t usually cage my pals. But just like this sunflower star and Dungeness crabs who feasted on the surf-’n-turf offering of stinky salmon head and extremely old hamburger, they’re well fed.

sailing outings that relax,

[IMAGE] sailing
On the way to Sucia Island, passing by Yellow Island.

walks that inspire,

[IMAGE] kelpy walk
Yes, those are my feet in those mud boots in that squishy kelp.

food from the garden that nourishes,

[IMAGE] yum!
The vitamins alone are blinding.

food from the sea that provides,

[IMAGE] yum!
Two salmon, caught by a [generous!] friend an hour earlier, right in front of the house.

and wine from wherever the bottle might come from (not from trees, this much I know).

[IMAGE] yum!
My version of the healthy food pyramid.

I call it all near-perfect because if it were true-perfect, a day would be 37 hours long and I’d actually be able to get a heck of a lot more done. AND sleep. Amidst this idyllic setting (well, for me; I know plenty of folks who can’t comprehend living this far from a good deli), and desiring a life in which all these wonderful things– nature, people, work, navel-gazing– are organically integrated, it’s tough to find the time for everything I want to accomplish.
Hardly a unique problem. Heck, everybody’s busy.

And so, I don’t find time.
Nor do I try to artificially make it.
I just allow it to appear, by staying focused on the visualizations of what, and who, makes me happy.
Damn, that sounds obnoxiously hippie-Zen-woo-woo, doesn’t it?
But magically, when I turn around, having reluctantly given myself permission to not “get everything done,” I realize that despite this, plenty of things have managed to get done. Just not all at the exact same time.

I’m reminded of this, because earlier today I stumbled across a response I gave to an interview question about time management a while back, along the lines of:

“All these zippy computers appear to be multitasking to the nth degree, accomplishing numerous daunting tasks at once in response to our repeated, insistent clicks. But the truth is, computers are only doing one thing at a time: they give the illusion that they are multitasking because of how fast they can process each separate request. Well, composers should be the same way.

We’re faced with a long sticky-note list of many different tasks that seemingly all need to be accomplished simultaneously, and it can become maddening. Composing the new piece. Filling publishing orders. Correcting a typo in an older score. Fixing a software glitch. Updating the web presences. Booking the next gigs. Returning emails/phone calls/carrier pigeons. Etc. But if we take a moment to breathe in and breathe out, and then peer closely at all those important things tugging at our sleeve, we’ll usually discover that we can triage them, ranking each item according to when it actually does need to be done, as opposed to when our fearful, adrenaline-ridden amygdala lizard brain thinks it has to be done.”

To which I’ll now add, “Then put the fancy-schmancy triaged list to one side of the desk, and make sure that while you’re regularly glancing back to it, you’re also having a good time.”

Screw the lizard brain.

I never take any of these joys for granted, yet I was particularly struck by the mundane minutia of a morning last weekend. The first three, non-working-when-I-should’ve-been-working hours of that day summed everything up. In short:

Within two minutes of opening my groggy eyes I witnessed a Bald Eagle swoop down to the sea in front of me and grab a creature resting atop the bullwhip kelp (fish, crab or gull; gosh, who knows, it was a stunning blur), and fly off with it in its talons.

[IMAGE] eagle

Having coffee 20 minutes later, a black fox sprawled by my feet on the deck. Geez, the wildlife around this place are as chilled out as the cabbies.

[IMAGE] fox
Here he is a day earlier. Um, ding dong, Avon calling?

An hour later, after dropping a pal off at the ferry on her way to Canada, I walked down the dock to the floating fish market, and offered a breakfast of some small anchovy-like creatures to Popeye, the best known harbor seal on the island:

Not being quite as big a fan of smelly little fish myself, I opted instead for a few pounds of wild salmon for the evening’s dinner party, and waddled back up the dock through a bobbing maze of boat masts. It was a sunny, poetic morning. But instead of spending the day sailing, I knew I really needed to get straight to work on one of the new pieces I needed to deliver soon. I got back in the car and headed home.

[IMAGE] dock

Nearly out of town (town being all of three blocks long), I spotted someone I knew on the roadside looking for a lift, so I picked him up and off we went to the opposite side of the island from where I live. Writing schedule be damned. As the dirt road narrowed and the darkening woods thickened, the theme song from Deliverance and news flashes from 1996 of the Unabomber flashed in my head. I drove to the remote acreage where my friend and his wife are building a straw bale house, and was rewarded with the full tour, which meant climbing atop hay bales to get to the second floor and managing to eventually jump back down with 100 years of knees still intact.

[IMAGE] island woods
…and she was never heard from again…

Finally ready to start working, on the road back to my place I slowed to watch deer graze by a pond on one side while on the other, sheep and goats rambled in a field. Two girls traveled in the bike path next to me in far more eco-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles than mine: their horses (I have no photo for this, since I was holding the reins of my steering wheel).

Walking up to my door, bag o’ fresh fish in my hand and lots of musical notes in my little head, I paused on the deck and watched as a killer whale and his beautiful spout-spray passed by. It was not yet 11:30am.

[IMAGE] orca

The afternoon was still ahead of me and I had plenty of music to compose, in the glow of an already-full day that reminded me of life’s graceful interconnectedness. I seek an existence in which I have/make/create/allow room for everything that matters. There will never be such a thing as enough time, but perhaps if I keep visualizing what I need, my inner clock will softly drape across a branch like a Salvador Dali conjuring, and tucked within the melted parts will lie every answer.

If Popeye can get rewards for managing her time so well, then so can I. I just hope mine aren’t quite as greasy.

Fairgrounds for dismissal

Monday, August 27th, 2012

[IMAGE] incoming

…click to listen:

…about the music

Blue ribbon birdie.

Remember my utter glee last year, as I released my inner cowgirl at the San Juan County Fair?

Well, once again (my fifth summer, now!), it was back, and so was she. I. Her. Well, whoever that dimpled chick with the humongous pile of french fries is…

[IMAGE] carbo-loading
How does she keep her girlish figure? With this carbo-loading extravaganza!

Yup, I did the fair three days in a row last week, toting various sets of off-island visitors along with me. Every one of them thought the whole thing was as adorable, fun, and downright hilarious as I do.

Lacking the nerve to belly up for the logrolling or beer drinking contests (were there any?), I did enter three county fair competitions: for nature photography, essay writing, and poetry. I humbly and proudly report that I received a first prize blue ribbon in each. Given the fact that I failed to bring home a Pulitzer, Oscar, Grammy, or MacArthur “Genius” award this particular year, much less win a $1 lotto scratch-off, these shiny regional recognitions made me smile. Plus, there’s something extremely rewarding about being given a nod by others for things that one loves doing, but does not do for a living.

[IMAGE] writings
I wonder what I’ll write about next year…

The photo, “Incoming,” (this post’s lead pic, and subtitled “Duck!! No, eagle”), had been awarded a prize earlier this summer in the Ernest Brooks marine life photography contest. The event was sponsored by the legendary Mr. Brooks, and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, on whose wall the photo has been displayed all summer during their show of Brooks’s recent, truly stunning works. What an honor to be a tiny part of the exhibit!

[IMAGE] exhibit
At the museum: this photographer’s first-ever exhibit. Or, framed photo, for that matter! Thanks go to fellow islander Bob Stavers, for getting the bird off the computer and onto the paper.

Other personal county fair highlights (of the digestible kind) included a coconut/watermelon Sno Cone, and the “Hungarian” curly garlic and cheese fries as modeled three pix above (if you’re reading this and happen to be Hungarian, fill me in on this exotic health food tradition, since I missed out when I was in Budapest years ago).

And, of course, since you all know me so well, a trip or several here:

[IMAGE] Beer here
Apparently, this is what happens when you plant beer seeds.

After strolling through the cheery, colorful sprouting beds of beer, we opted for a stronger crop:

[IMAGE] tequila
I am not going to explain what happened to all the tequila that was in this bottle.

Milling around the hot, dusty fairgrounds, locals run into lots of friends, which makes the whole thing a very social event. Truly, as I’ve said before on these pages, it’s really like living in a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. And visiting the various and, uh, diverse booths can be almost as entertaining.

For instance, since every woman knows that firemen and paramedics are an unusually handsome subset of our species, I couldn’t help but stop here for a little while:

[IMAGE] booth
Just look at that gorgeous cut-out face… he’s a little two-dimensional, but cute.

And although San Juan County happens to be overwhelmingly Democratic, fortunately the Republicans showed up, if only to remind the Democrats why they are not Republicans:

[IMAGE] gallery
A sign to the left instructed, “shoot first and then ask questions.” Hmm. God bless America. Soon, I hope.

And then there are the weird, random [possibly heartbreaking?] booths like this:

[IMAGE] booth
Really? Is this a commentary on the specific needs of San Juan County?

Friday afternoon, I got one helluva perfect tattoo:

[IMAGE] tat1
Long-brown-haired busty kelp mermaid meets orca. I mean, perfect.

As did my fellow San Juanian “Island Sis” Lorraine:

[IMAGE] tat2
Her house includes eight dog paws, but her arm could only support one.

In true drunken sailor fashion, both our tats were preceded by very potent margaritas. And they were followed by a raucously giggle-infested ride: Lorraine had the brilliant post-cocktail idea to fling ourselves around in this slapped-together contraption:

[IMAGE] Ride
Well prepared with tattoos and tequila, Thelma and Louise throw their collective weight around the county fair. Hang on to your hats!

Once aboard and airborne, this ride tested the laws of physics and gravity far more thoroughly than either of us had expected. I do not think we ever stopped shrieking, laughing, occasionally swearing (mostly Lorraine; I’m a @#$%# saint, of course), and wondering whether we were about to be unceremoniously face-planted in the beer garden when these randomly moving metal parts, assembled by underpaid men with beer on their toothless breath, suddenly disintegrated.

[IMAGE] Ride
The two paratroopers, coming in for a landing, mouths still agape and thankful their chutes stayed opened, too.

[IMAGE] Ride
Zooming in: Notice the death grip I maintained on my iPhone the entire time. And no, that was not our shoe on the ground. I think Lorraine was exclaiming something unpublishable.

Yes, there is incriminating video of this, in which, just like the poor little children on the ride with us, you, too, can experience the decibels of our ridiculous screams and guffaws.

And I’m delighted to share with you that while there was plenty of tilting and whirling, there was no hurling. Classy broads like us not only can hold onto our straw hats, but also our lunch, even when hitting Mach Two in a kiddie ride.

Lorraine and I have decided to get tattoos again next year; a new tradition. That is, if we haven’t ended up in a parlor with real ink sometime between now and then, after yet another debauched day of carbo-curly fries and tequila. Next time you run into me at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, dressed politely in my skirt and heels, ask me to roll up my sleeve, just to check.

Table service

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

[IMAGE] moonrise

…click to listen:

…about the music

Nothing fishy about this film cue.

This delicious moon was served up to us a few nights ago.

Meanwhile, when I walked out to the deck with my morning coffee recently, I was given a fine suggestion for what kind of breakfast omelet I might create:

[IMAGE] crab
Into every life, a little crab must fall.

This immediately reminded me of last year’s culinary offering. Maybe I should open a seafood restaurant.

The commercial fishing season has begun here, and what is normally a quiet, isolated view:

[IMAGE] Cascades
from the Cascades…

[IMAGE] Olympics
…to the Olympics.

…suddenly becomes the flotilla equivalent of the San Diego Freeway in rush hour:

[IMAGE] trawlers

[IMAGE] fishing boats

One large purse seiner, The Emancipator (not exactly the Abe Lincoln of fish), anchors right next to my house for a few days.

[IMAGE] trawler
People who live in glass houses should consider putting clothes on.

It’s endless amusement for me and any friends who happen to be here, watching the smaller boats sidle up and toss their catch, one hapless salmon after another, over to the larger boat.

[IMAGE] fish toss

[IMAGE] fish toss
Look closely and you can see the flying fish.

I swear, it’s as though Pike Place Fish Market has come to my doorstep.
Now, if only I could get these fishermen to turn in my direction and fling one of these salmon onto my deck with their best pitching arm!

A huge flock of gulls is waiting for table service.

[IMAGE] gull flock

As is a fox, who sits on my deck, licks his chops, and hopes something fabulous might fall from the sky, since that seems to be what happens around here.

[IMAGE] fox

[IMAGE] fox

And he keeps waiting, right there under the table. Looking more than a tad disdainful. Ultimately, everyone complains that this restaurant just isn’t what it used to be.
But they all admit that the view remains superb.
Location, location, location.

[IMAGE] moonrise