Jill "xtingu" Knapp

Traveling musician. Singer. Road warrior in bursts. Dork. Easy to spot. Gauche eyeshadow fan. Unreasonably happy.

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I last had a professional hair cut on January 3rd.  The last time I bleached my hair was on February 26th when I was up at my folks' place.

We snapped the following photo on March 27th, as a promo photo for our Coffee Break Concerts which launched on March 30th, 2020.

This next photo was snapped today, June 17th, after Coffee Break Concert #34. 

And here's a close-up comparison of my roots.  I have buzzed the sides and back several times with the #4 attachment on my clippers, and just two nights ago I finally broke down and purchased thinning shears because my faux-hawk was no longer staying up.  I'm wishing I had thought to snap the "after" photo before I had given the top part of my hair a little trim.

Seeing my natural hair color has been somewhat sobering. While I don't have much gray (surprisingly), my hair is pretty thin in the "yarmulke" part of my head. Having dark hair at the root makes my white scalp really show; where I feel like bleaching my hair makes it look less scalpy.

I do kinda like the way these dark roots look, though... but then I worry I'm treading dangerously close to Flavortown; I do not want to look like Guy Fieri.

Anyhoo, all is well here, considering.  I haven't worked at all this year, which is stressful... but it looks like training companies are starting to book more classes (99% of them are virtual at this point), which is good. Even if I'm not the one teaching them, I can still make a few bucks selling courseware for other people's classes, so that's good. 

Mentally I was struggling a bit right at the start of the lockdown, but these coffee break concerts really have been a saving grace. It's been good for me to have something to plan for, work towards, and look forward to... plus I get to be silly, and I get to "see" people I love in the chat window. 

We've scaled the concerts back to only Wednesdays and Fridays now that Delaware is into Phase 2 of reopening (back in the earlier phases we ran concerts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).  This was the first week where we only did two shows instead of our typical 3 shows, and it felt like it's the right move (I think).  It's good to have a long weekend so we can go visit my parents without having to schlep an entire sound system.

Physically, my health has been OK. I feel like I'm fighting a little ear infection or something-- when I swallow my left gland where my left ear drains into my throat is all ouchie, though it doesn't hurt as much today as it did earlier in the week-- so maybe I'm over it.

We've been taking the quarantine very seriously, because my dad needs heart surgery (routine, no biggie, just a valve replacement) soon, and when that happens we'll be staying up there while he recovers.  We've been up there to visit twice during the lockdown, but our first visit was after Matt and I got tested for Covid-19.  I know tests are kinda silly because we could have gotten infected 3 minutes after leaving the testing site, but yeah. 

We haven't eaten anything we haven't cooked ourselves since March 14th. No takeout food, no delivery, no door dash, nada.  It's actually been pretty fun cooking stuff, making creative use of the leftovers, making sure things don't go to waste, etc.

Matt's lost about 12 pounds (he's happy about that), and I'm down about 2-3 pounds, which I am not happy about.  I just don't have much of an appetite. Oh well.

It's getting to be iron infusion time, so hopefully I'll get that in the next month or two. I got my iron bloodwork done about 4 weeks ago but I wasn't quiiiiiiite dead enough, so I'll get another round of bloodwork in two weeks and by then my iron levels should have sufficiently crashed. Wheee!

Right before the lockdown I was scheduled to have a ton of dental work done, but then that all got canceled. I just got a note from my dentist office now saying that they're now accepting patients again for everything from cleanings and routine services to bigger mouf projects, so I guess I should get rescheduling that... but maybe I should wait until my dad's heart stuff is done.  Like I said, I've been soooo diligent in my covid-fighting, but if I go for Dental Derp, I don't have any way to be sure I'm being as neurotic as I should be... and I also won't have a way to keep an extra eye on the dentist staff, too (though I hope I should be able to trust them).


What else... 

We have so much music-work to do, in addition to our own music. We figured we'd be getting a break with The Rock Orchestra being on hiatus, but nope!

Matt's been hired by a modern-day vaudeville/performing arts group in Maryland to create a shit-ton music for their next big production, so he's been heads-down creating bespoke arrangements of Queen tunes and Meatloaf songs that can fit the size ensemble this group has.  But he's not just writing the parts out and calling it good; they want him to change the feel of some of these tunes to give it more of a steampunky feel, if that makes any sense. They're an interesting group.

I've been hired by two bands to help them out with their respective "covid collaborations" -- you know, those videos where bands record themselves playing their parts of a song at home, and then someone assembles the audio and video into a Zoom-like view so you can watch the individual band members singing/playing the song.  We did a few of these for The Rock Orchestra (here and here), but then two bands I've never heard of contacted me hoping I could handle some insane backing vocals and percussion-- I guess they wanted to go bigger than what their band can usually cover.  They're paying hansomely, which is very nice, because it's fuck-ton of work. 

One of the songs one band wants me to do is a tune by Boston-- so I'm covering all of those stacked vocals that go waaaaay up into the stratosphere. I can do it, but first I have to write all the parts out and then I'll record them.  The other song for the other band is an original, so I'm creating the arrangements from scratch and singing them, and playing a bunch of percussion, too.  It's fun, but it's a lot of work.


In other news, I'm officially 762876 years old because I bought a few bird feeders and I love watching the birds go nuts for them. We have pair of cardinals, two pairs of sparrows, two borbs (mourning doves), four crows... and now most mornings three squirrels have been taking up residence in the feeders and pissing off the birds. (I can't believe four crows are afraid of 3 squirrels... where the sparrows could not care less about the squirrels. Go figure.) 

Around 3:30am a family of five raccoons pops by and eats whatever's been kicked over the sides of the feeders to the ground, though tonight they decided to sit right in the feeder-- five racoons on a pie plate eating seeds and nuts. It was pretty damn adorable. 

OK, this is way too long.  I know there are more important things I should be talking about, but my brain is squishy.

love you all.

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he chomps in the air with the greatest of ease,
he's the raccoon on the feeder trapeze...
Ooooh, I do not like looking at the yarmulke part of my head right now. The longer my hair gets the thinner that part of my head looks. Weirdly, when I buzzed it way down, it looked fuller. Hair is weird. If I'd known how brief my long flowing curly locks period would be I would have leaned into it more; every haircut I got in my 20s was a mistake.
love you too.
love you! i'm happy you guys have so many creative outlets (especially the self-created ones, because we get to benefit from your awesomeness). i hope you feel better soon!!!
Jenn A 6/21
 

I sometimes make music with The Rock Orchestra.  It's a tribute band. They're good.

On Wednesdays at 7:30pm, they've been hosting watch-parties of professionally-shot, multi-camera videos of some of our live performances... Peter Gabriel... The Who... and tonight was when we performed Bruce Springsteen's first three albums

I was never a huge Springsteen fan, for no particular reason.  But playing that Born to Run album (as I overlook the occasional problematic misogynistic juvenile lyrics) with people I freakin' LOVE, with bravado and swagger, with a horn section, a friggin' old-skool Hammond Organ trucked in... just... wow. We killed it.  I had forgotten how much fun it was. (Here's a link to Rosalita. Here's a link to the song Born to Run with my badass glockenspiel.)

But this post isn't about that.  

The audience was packed-- it was a sold out show of 700+ people we didn't know. And they were happily buzzed and singing along. Some of the camera angles were shot from the back of the house, over the heads of the revelers standing shoulder to shoulder to strangers, having a blast, connected in that moment of live music.  And at one point there were 15 of us on stage once the horn section came on stage... and at times some of us were sharing mics and doing that jubilantly goofy standing-back-to-back "rock move" that sometimes organically happens when musicians are musicking. 

And then it hit me. 

We can't do that anymore.  That was another life. Another world. We may never get back to that until we have a vaccine... and today I read an article in Wired about how this Covid fucker is mutating into something potentially more sinister. Great.

I watched the livestream and cried.  I cried with happiness, remembering the joy we experienced on stage. 

And then I cried for how much I miss connecting with other people.  I cried seeing the audience, and hearing them sing along. I cry at the drop of a hat lately.

Maybe it's PMS. Maybe it's 8 weeks of not leaving my house except for three turbo-fast trips to the grocery store.  Maybe it's missing my parents (who are doing fine, by the way).  I dunno.  Last night was really bad-- I was inconsolably crying and feeling really fucking hopeless for a few hours.  I've never felt suicidal in my life, but last night was the first time I could sorta see how someone could maybe feel that way-- it seemed at least.... plausible?  Like, fuck it, why bother?  (Pleeeeeeease don't read anything into that. I mean it. Do not worry. I am not suicidal, like, at all. I'm totally OK, and was just feeling blue from these shit-ass circumstances.)  And honestly, taking a 1/2 xanax and talking to my dad via Duo helped a huge deal.  But I'm just saying I could finally see for the first time the darkness that brains have the potential to experience. Jesus.


ANYWAY, now that I've totally ruined the mood... let's forget all that and talk about happier stuff.

1) I have bird feeders outside my kitchen window and I love how we have a cast of regulars who visit every day.  We have a pair of sparrows, four mourning doves, a pair of cardinals (though the male visits more often), a fat squirrel, and we had our first crow the other day, but I haven't seen him back. (As an aside: My dream is to have a crow or raven decide to be my friend. I subscribe to waaaay too many raven/crow channels on YouTube.)

2) We are still doing our thrice-weekly 15-minute Hot Breakfast CoffeeBreak Concerts at 3pm EDT on our Facebook page.  Our production values have gone up a smidge... we have "hold music" as we wait for people to arrive, and Matt labors over the signs we put up as a placeholder before each show.  I love his silly design aesthetic.

Today was concert #17, which I kinda can't believe. We haven't repeated a song yet, which is kind of a fun challenge.  Today we did only covers... we did one somber tune to acknowledge the sadness in the air that seems to be weighing everyone down ("Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, of course)... and then we played "Squeezebox" by The Who because it's our friend Kevin's favorite song and he was having a rough go of it and we wanted to cheer him up.  Then we went full-on dork with Pac Man Fever, and we finished chipper with a Daydream Believer singalong.  Original songs are great and all, but sometimes you just wanna hear songs you recognize, y'know?

When we originally decided to do these concerts, we said we'd do them until May 15th, which was the arbitrary end-of-the-lockdown date the Governor of Delaware picked way back in March.  It doesn't look like things will reopen by then, or maybe a few things will soft-open, I dunno... so I'm not sure if we should bother still doing them after May 15th.  Lots of people write to us and thank us sincerely for doing them, saying it really helps to have things on their calendar a few days a week. The comraderie that has built up among the regular attendees in the chat windows is so, so glorious to see.  It's really fun seeing new friendships being formed among the viewers.  

In the beginning these livestreams were easy because we had our standard material that we've played a billion times and didn't really have to think about.  But now we are deeeeeeep in the super-deep-cuts of our original songs... stuff we've only played live once or twice, and/or learning new cover songs the night before the livestream.  We try to have some kind of theme, and we try to put little easter eggs around our performance space, though we're not sure if the camera can always pick 'em up.  These are definitely good for us to do.  I'm grateful to have deadlines since I have no other work.

(Though I did teach my first vocal coaching session via Zoom yesterday, which was cool... but it was a favor for a friend's kid who has an audition coming up.)


3) In other news: Every Saturday the PhilaDels have been having Zoom hangouts; sometimes we play Cards Against Humanity or Pictionary, and other times we just shoot the shit.  I've "seen" my PhilaDels more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 2-3 years combined. So I guess there is a silver lining in this.


4) In other, other news: Since the general rule is that you can't gather in groups of 10 or more... what's preventing anyone from having a small group of masked people over to our backyard on a nice weekend day, standing a reasonable distance apart, just to shoot the shit and eat a burger (carefully, being mindful of the mask and drool)?  Do we have to be THIS isolated?  


5) Matt and I have only left the house thrice for quick shopping trips, like I mentioned... and when we do, we have ridiculously complex and hella overkill decontamination processes as we bring ourselves and our purchases into the house.  I am confident we are virus-free.  With that, we are thiiiiiiiinking about visiting my parents this weekend. They also have not left the house except for a few quick shopping trips. Mom is clearly getting worse, surely due to understimulation... but Dad actually seems to be doing a lot better now that the weather is warming up and he's healthy again, and now on a low-dose antidepressant which has made him a new guy.  They are more than comfy with us coming up... the room we sleep in up there hasn't been opened/entered since we were last in it in February.  I'm still a teeny bit nervous about going up-- god forbid I somehow am an asymptomatic transmitter... but I don't know how I could have contracted it since I'm so friggin' neurotic about washing, desanitizing, distancing, masking, even wearing goggles in the store, etc.  I have a few more days to decide if we're gonna go.  It'd be nice to see Mom for Mother's Day.  I don't know how many more Mothers Days she'll have where she understands what day it is.  The last time Matt and I left the house was April 28th, so we're 8 days isolated. I suppose I could wait an extra week and go up next weekend when we are more than 14 days clear, just to be super-safe.  Hmmmm.  Thoughts?


Anyway. That's enough outta me for now.

I love you all very much. 

Sorry I've been so quiet over here. I am reading what you're all writing. Thank you for writing.

xoxo-- good night!


PS: Hey, anyone hear from Robert Bryan anytime recently, by the way?


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I'm here, thankful to hear your voice in my head as I read your amazeballs writing.
Yaaaaaay! Thanks for surfacing, my friend. Just wanted to know y'all are OK.
Sounds like those concerts might be doing good things for you guys as well as your audience. I would think about keeping those up. maybe change the schedule to be a little less intense if you like. Just a thought, of course you should do what's right for you. But rhythm is everything.

Everyone is working out their own quarantine buddy situation. I see how there are big trade-offs in your mind about visiting your parents. It does sound like you've been impressively isolated. We are taking advantage of the fact that we're allowed to go for walks, and so is the entire neighborhood, with increasingly poor mask participation, so I would hesitate to say that we are grandparent ready.

Take care.
For what it is worth, I know you will be out there again as soon as the stage is available. You will be one of the people reminding us about what it means to be together, and be encouraging us to return to whatever level of social normalcy is possible.

Also, for what it's worth - this isolation has given me the opportunity to examine my own mental health from a different perspective. For me, life does not change dramatically from one day to the next, and yet my mood(s) can swing wildly. It's helped me recognize what a chemical pea soup I have going on in my brain, and further, to recognize real versus imagined crises. Yes, I can cause my own downward spiral if I focus on anything negative for too long, but I can also simply experience something without even trying - and it can come and go in the space of a few hours.

And I don't have the stressors you do. I mean, you don't actually know what mine are right now, but I know they are very different from yours.

And your concerts do help. For me, they give me something to look forward to that is regular and predictable. I know you can't see me, but I imagine you can, so I make myself presentable before I sit down in front of the computer to tune in. It jump starts me to handle errands or interact with others. So for me, you're helping a lot.

I miss you. Take care of yourself and Matt, and let me know if you need anything I can provide.
SFM 5/7
Wow, Thank you. This was extreeeeeemely helpful for me to read. Recognizing the difference between a "mood" and overall mental health. Thank you. It's OK to be in a poopy mood, and remembering that this is not the "forever setting." Thank you. It's so obvious, but reading it really helped. Thank you. Really.

And dooood, I'm so happy to hear the concerts help. I love the idea of you making yourself presentable before them. :) It means the world to be that you tune in to our bojangley-ness. :-D

Douldah.
This resonated strongly for me. I'm afraid to contact you too much because I'm afraid you'll think I'm stalking you. if you guys had to stop doing the HBCBCs, I would be blue, but I'd survive. I also imagine that prepping for these must be exhausting.
More later. I have some stuff on my desk that I have to deal with.
A couple of thoughts:

Does your mom still have respiratory issues?
Would she understand or be okay with you wearing a mask and/or remaining 6' away?
Could you say, "Mom, I have a cold, and I don't want you to catch it?" If so, would she be okay with that?

In reference to gathering in groups of 9 or less: Our downhill neighbors do this every time the weather is nice. It used to make me furious. Now I just figure if they get sick, I don't have to feel sad. They play corn hole (huh huh, huh huh, hey, Beavis) and wiffle ball, which is distanced, but they also hold their kids on their laps and sit around the same table. it seems like it's the same cast of characters routinely. I know that some people agree to co-quarantine or whatever they're calling it.

I don't know the answers, but I wholly empathize.
Thanks for the concerts! Mos def highlights of my weeks. I hope you and Matt can find it in yourselves to keep them up.
Thank you! This is really helpful feedback, and I love when you pop in and say "Yo!"

I think we'll commit to 3x/week through May 30th and then re-assess what life is starting to look like for people.

What are they saying in your neck of the woods? Any target dates of a soft reopening or anything? Here in DE, they allowed certain business to "soft-reopen" as long as they keep a teeeny number of customers in the building at one time, and everyone masks up. Stuff like hair salons and nail places... but nobody's sitting down in a restaurant yet.

Love y'allz.
As of Saturday (today's report won't be for another few hours), we've had 261 total cases, 244 recovered, 3 deaths, 14 active cases, of which 4 are in hospital, of which 2 are in ICU. Hospital capacity is at about 60%. Some two-thirds of the total cases in the province are related to one weekend's services in March at a funeral home three streets away from our house. This outbreak made a lot of the general public sit up and take it, or at least its stupid contagiousness, very seriously early on. Between that and the early move to ban healthcare workers from working in more than one long-term care home, we haven't seen nearly as much trouble here as some other provinces with their elderly populations.

The provincial government has implemented a 5-level scheme of alerts: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/alert-system/ . Today (Monday) we've been moved from level 5 to level 4. Under level 5, it was very much a complete stay-at-home order unless you were an essential employee, you needed hospitalization, or you were out for essential groceries. Parks were closed, but you could go out for exercise. Self-isolation for 2 weeks if you travel into the province, and recently they put in some rules that make it very difficult to travel here without a good reason (and "I have a vacation home in NL" wasn't actually a good enough reason). Under level 4, the parks are open, but not for picnics or playgrounds or team sports. Some businesses, daycares, and non-emergency medical visits can resume. Restrictions will continue to ease as the levels go down, but I don't think any public health official can say with certainty what level 2 or 1 will really look like. And of course we may have to go back to 5 if there's another outbreak.

Also, they've gotten us into a "bubble" concept, where your immediate household is your "bubble" that you don't break. Two weeks ago, we were allowed to merge into "double bubbles" -- two households can get together, so long as they are mutually exclusive. We doubled up with a friend who lives on her own and doesn't have any local family. (On our island with a culture of extended Irish Catholic families that gather together frequently, other households are encountering some trouble when they try to figure out which adult sibling's kids get to see Nan and Pop. One feel-good story, though, was that the mayor of St. John's got to hold his new grandbaby for the first time last weekend.) At least one other province, New Brunswick, is working with this "bubble" idea.

Canada's been addressing loss of income a little more ... proactively than the States, but we aren't eligible because of our income situation. Also, we got our U.S. tax refund but we haven't seen our sweet, sweet stimulus checks. I hear that's a common or universal problem among eligible Americans living outside the States. [EDITED to add: the system finally responded to my query this morning, and we should be seeing our moneys this week. Yay!]
Michele Grant 5/11edited
 

Last got a haircut on January 3rd. Yowza. 

Because I bleach the everloving crap out of my hair, sometimes the unavoidable small amount of sacrificial breakage serves as a cut... "a chemical cut," as we jokingly call it. This means that if I bleach my hair at home during long stretches, I can sometimes put off a haircut a bit. (I'm not saying this is optimal, but it has bought me time in the lean times and the busy times.)

But with the lockdown in place, and my hair rapidly approaching "meth-using love-child of Guy Fieri and 1985 Richard Marx" status, I decided to whip out Ye Olde Clippers and take matters into my own hands.  (I have done this before, but never after 3 months of growth.)

Holy moley, I am a new woman. I kept the top Fieri/Marxy, but the sides are clipped to a nice 1/2" and YAY.


Easter Zoom Calls / Parent Update

In other news: Today is Easter and we did a Zoom visit with Matt's family and then my family.  Guiding Matt's family through using Zoom was similar to this, but once everyone finally got on it was fun.  We yapped for about 45 mins before we said goodbye and then chatted with my family.  We had my parents in one window Zooming in fron their home in north Jersey, and my brother's family of five in their window, from their dining room about 25 minutes away from my folks, also in north Jersey. My mom didn't understand why we weren't all able to be physically together, and kept asking where we all were. She kept saying, "Well I know you're all so busy," as if she thought we couldn't get together because we just didn't feel like freeing up our schedules. At one point she also didn't recognize the grandkids... but that's kind of understandable-ish because she only sees them maybe twice a year, and the two girls (ages 16 and 23) look different every time we see them (hair color/length changes, typical weight fluctuations, new glasses, etc.).  Mom also kept asking where Matt and I were, because she had assumed we were having a big Easter dinner with Matt's family. I assured her we were in my kitchen alone. But again, her not recognizing my kitchen is also sort of understandable: Mom has been to my house maybe twice since I bought my house in '07... so how could she realistically recognize my kitchen?  I can't let myself stress about it.

What's ultimately important is that she and my dad are safe up in NJ at their home in the sticks, and they have neighbors and folks offering to go to the store for them (which my dad rejects because wants to get out of the house). As much as I bitch that they live on the moon, it has given them some insulation which is comforting. 

Their isolation, and now the lack of the home health-care companion I had coming a few days a week to keep Mom engaged and stuff, means Mom's just pretty much sleeping much of the day because she's bored and understimulated. I asked my dad if hecould suggest maybe they watch a movie together, and he said, "Well, our tastes don't line up."  I jokingly/not-jokingly said, "I suppose being flexible for 100 minutes and watching something maybe Mom might like... that's probably asking too much, I guess...?"  He just shrugged. 

It's so weird. Maybe it's because gender dynamics have changed between our generations, and maybe my mom believes that it's her job and duty just to go along with whatever my dad wants... and instead of asking to watch a movie or the news together, it's better for her just to go sit in her room alone with her TV blaring, and for my dad to sit in the TV room with his TV blaring.  *shrug*


But when all you have is each other, and understimulation is only going to make her decline WAY faster, wouldn't you wanna watch a stupid movie or even friggin' Tiger King and just BS about it? Dementia or not, she can watch a movie. 

I also get that Dad is her sole care provider right now, and watching his wife decline decline decline and then ask the same questions 27 times in a row has got to be exhausting... so maybe he welcomes the time off and the peace. But since she's honestly out of her room maybe 2 hours a day total (that's to eat and grab a smoke), it seems like it shouldn't be too much of an ask. 

I know I'm making a lot of assumptions on his part, which isn't fair. So I should probably knock that off and change the subject. 

In slightly other news, for the last few years he's been getting REALLY wound up over little stupid things. Part of it is our Jersey snark of always having to have some snitty comeback to small stuff, but it started becoming his default behavior, and we've been really worried.  His anxiety has been through the roof, and made waaaaaaay worse since his various hospitalizations this year since my Mom's been so bad since October or so. We all kinda think his first two hospitalizations have been physical manifestations of his anxiety.  So the hospital doctors increased his xanax frequency from "as needed" to 3x daily (a low dose each time, but still). Sometimes it'd make him groggy, but it definitely did take his anxious edge off. But I didn't like the grog-- you could see it in his eyes.


His regular doctor (who is awesome) did a regular med-check at the end of March via a telemedicine visit and said he was concerned about my almost 80-year-old dad taking so much xanax, and would prefer he not build a tolerance, and would prefer dad use it as a rescue medication for legit panic attacks, and not as the way he copes with his wife.  Instead, he put him on Zoloft (sertraline). At first I was concerned... but after a week, HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD he's a new fucking guy. He's handling lockdown great, he's chipper, he feels good, he's got more energy, he's got more patience, he doesn't get overwhelmed, he doesn't get out of breath, and he doesn't feel 'medicated' like he was feeling with the daytime xanax... so it's a definite home run. It's like I have my old dad back from 25 years ago. Yaaaaaay! 


Fancy Easter Dinner

The food we have eaten today: Buttered toast made from some bread I made last week that is still delicious (ate that at 1:30pm), a few strips of bacon (ate that at 2:30), and then some home-made french fries at 8:30pm as a snack. Only the finest Easter meal. 

We have not ordered any takeout whatsoever during this lockdown. I know I should support my local businesses, but I just can't trust that these small businesses have kitchens designed for social distancing, and enough PPE to last long shifts. I'd rather just buy gift cards from them online and this way nobody has to be in danger on my account. (I am not judging anyone who orders takeout. Please don't @ me.)

With that, it's been fun getting back to our "home economics" roots and planning meals, going to the store once every 10 days or so, buying only what we planned, and making everything here, and then making good things from the leftovers.  We will probably have to go to the store this week since we are low on some staples, but if it needs to wait, we will not starve. We haven't dug into the soups in the pantry or anything.  (Now that I've written that, maybe I will stay home.)

Masks

Because of Burning Man prep over the years, I had a few boxes of N-95 masks. I donated the sealed boxes and the healthcare workers were VERY grateful. I had an opened box with only a few masks in it, so I kept that and sent my parents two masks, and kept two for me and Matt, and gave two to my mailman (along with some PVC gloves and a small thing of hand sanitizer I had) after I heard our post office didn't have PPE. 

But even with that, my dear BFF Patty is making gorgeous masks that follow one of the CDC designs, and even comes with replaceable filters and a moldable nose-piece and adjustable ear-loops. They're wonderful. So if anyone needs masks, she charges $10/mask (that comes with a bunch of filters and great instructions and are beautifully made in fun-printed fabrics) plus shipping. They are worth every dime. I've been buying them for friends and family when I hear they are mask-less. She has adult and child sizes.  So if you need masks, lemme know and I'd be happy to ship you some as a gift. 


In the last bit of thing:

Is there a way to back-date entries, kinda like how LJ used to do?  I get that this might be anti-OPW ethos, but I feel bad for dumping 73 years' worth of bloggy thoughts into one long entry, when maybe I could spread them out with a carefully-used backdate option.  (Or maybe I could just plan my writing better.)

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Thank you for the link to your friend who makes masks. <3 We are maskless over here and I was looking at the awesome pattern Anne linked in her post, but honestly I am struggling with even just the basics of living right now, so mask-making has not happened for me yet.
I would just like to second the fact that Pat-man is a pretty fantastic human and has more style in her little finger than I do in my whole body. I realize that’s not really saying much, but she’s awesome and stylish, and her masks are too! :)
I cut my hair back when I was still in town. It had gone waaaaayyy too long without a cut before the pandemic started, so I’d figured “What the hell?! I’m not going to be seeing anyone anyway, I have a simple hair style, and why not?” Guess it turned out okay since no one on the Zoom calls stopped, pointed, and laughed. I suspect yours looks infinitely better though.

Glad to hear that things are... well... at least ‘stable-ish’ with your folks. And the Dad v. Meds scenario is awesome! Glad to hear he’s feeling more himself and has a bit more zest.

If it helps, I had a similar sort of Easter dinner. A whole hell of a lot more of it, but similar in it’s... traditional fare.

I don’t believe that there is a way to back date entries. Might be an interesting future addition?
Teaching my mom how to use Zoom was so insane that I recorded it. I hit the record button about two minutes into the call, thinking, “Ted and I can make comedy gold out of this.” I can’t bring myself to watch the recording, and I’m just going to delete it, because it feels cruel now.

Is it better if your mom thinks that you all having separate Easter dinners is by choice, rather than because there’s an invisible threat? I don’t know the answer, or if there is one.

Patty’s designs are gorgeous. Half the reason I’m obsessed with mask making is because I feel like it’s a problem I can solve. It’s an intersection of art, fashion, ingenuity, necessity, altruism, repurposing, and thrift, if you’re using up a fabric stash or old clothes that didn’t work out.

Your dad’s Zoloft process sounds so similar to what I went through when I first started taking it. I resisted it really hard, because I was afraid I’d turn into a compliant little zombie. The thought that comes to mind to describe how I felt is, “the giant pile of bricks is still there, but I can deal with it and it doesn’t own me.”
I have been in since March 17th due to an early possible exposure (false alarm) and was due for a clip then. I had a sleep study on the 24th and knowing they were going to put electrodes on my head, I broke out the clippers and gave myself a 0 guide clip. Not enough hair to look cool, too much hair to look mean. But Lord, did the sleep lab technician like me.

I needed to acquire the inner layer filter fabric for my friend's little mask production line. This required a trip to Norristown to pick up from Joann Fabrics, the closest store with the fabric in stock. Fortunately they were open for pickup.

No takeout orders here either. Although I've had to be in and out for various errands. Food and medicine. Being single means there's only one person around to do the dirty work. I masked up and went to Lowe's today to get some new blinds. Being that the old ones in my office were old enough to vote and broken due to my former cats... they were ripe for replacement.
My pal who makes masks said that shop towels (those thicker paper towels) doubled up make damn good filters in a pinch. I only have a few of these filter-towels, but I also don't leave often enough to be worried about running out.

Is the filter-fabric you got at Jo-Ann designed to be a filter, or does it just coincidentally work as a filter?

How'd the sleep study go? (If you wrote about it, I'll find out in a second... I'm pretty far behind on reading OPW.)

Man, I miss hanging out with you. I really, really look forward to the day we can have lunch together again.
Seconded on shop towels.
The filter fabric (Pellon 911FF) is recommended. It's a non-woven fabric. Not sure I want to be wearing a mask come summertime. It's not the easiest stuff to breath through.

Sleep study went well, I advocated for surgery as a remedy, since it showed mild sleep apnea. But since all elective surgeries have been cancelled, (I guess this is elective, since it only MIGHT kill me) I have been prescribed a CPAP. But hey, since all of the companies that make CPAPs also make ventilators, guess what else isn't available right now?

Even in introvert wonderland, this introvert is getting a little rammy to be out and about.
Sorry to hear about the CPAP. Here’s hoping that things wrap up sooner than expected and you get one faster than you thought possible. (And that the surgery options get back on the table shortly after that!)
Good to hear your dad is better. I just learned that my elder aunt is now in a similar place to your mom. I'm more concerned for my mother's feelings than my own; I haven't spent a ton of time with my aunt, but my mother is clearly grappling with the existential implications of her sister not being all there anymore.

As to OnePo, there's no backdating hack, alas. But there *is* the queue feature, for spewing forwards in time. You can post as many posts as you want into the queue, and they will come out one per day, on days when you don't post something else.
I meant to reply to this sooner, but all my time is taken up by Hot Breakfast Coffee Break Concerts. :-P I just sent you a text with my t-shirt size and shipping address, for context. :-D

Thank you for the update on your parents. I have been concerned about all of you and you are never far from my thoughts. I wrote on FB during my mother's decline mostly to share what happens during dementia. And the stories are completely hilarious, if you allow them to be. I am glad to read your father is coping better.

I buy masks for cleaning purposes, so bizarrely, I had a supply of masks before all of this started. I also bought toilet paper on sale in DECEMBER and am just running out of it now. I happened to pick up a 12-pack at the supermarket today. Totally weird how that worked out. I may ask for a mask from P. Lin ("Plin") eventually, just to be more stylish. I have also turned into that old guy who yells at teenagers about not wearing their masks properly, so there's that.

I was just thinking of you and Matt and wanted to reach out. Thank you for the concerts - they have really been helping me get through all of this, and I am certain I am not the only one. Much love to you both.
SFM 5/2
 

I wrote this maybe 10 days ago.

I forget where I left off, but I was living full-time in NJ at my folks' place from 2/8 to 2/28*.  Most of that time I was away from Matt because he was working in Maryland, music directing a show.  It was a really hard three weeks.

(*which does not include the 5 then 6 days in January we were up there, too.)


One of those February weeks my dad was in the hospital, so with my Mom's routine disrupted she was extra spacey. Once Dad came home, things slowly returned to normal, but Dad was really struggling with the fact that for the first time he wasn't just *bing!* back to normal. He is not used to feeling weak and needing help.

Anyway, Dad had a bowel obstruction, and thankfully the surgical fix didn't require a bowel resection-- instead there was just a weird piece of string (made out of a strand of scar tissue) that strangulated his guts.

Didja ever cut a raw, boneless chicken breast and there's that weird white tendony-gristly thing that kinda goes through a 3rd of it?  It looked like that.  So the doc snipped it, and in one second my dad went from Guy In Agony Who Could Not Breathe And Wanted To Die to WHEW SWEET RELIEF.  They waited six days before they operated, hoping the obstruction would just kinda clear itself, but after Day 6 they realized they needed to get in there. Three teeny laparascopic incisions and a snip later, and he was fixed up. They watched him for 2 more days and then released him.  

(Side note to Jeremy Moskowitz  and Matt Lichtenwalner : Remember that time in either 2006 or 2009 (I can't remember) when we went for Indian food someplace on Kirkwood Highway and I had to go sit in the car in the middle of the meal, and when you came out I was inconsolably wailing and screaming bloody murder in the back of the car, and you guys took me to the hospital? That was a bowel obstruction. Dad had the same thing. We're built weird, I guess.)

Problem is that while Dad was in the hospital, they stuck a naso-gastric tube down into his gut and pumped his stomach for 6 solid days, to relieve the pressure building behind the obstruction in hopes it would clear itself. During this time he wasn't even allowed to have ice chips, let alone any food, broth, water,  nada.  After the surgery they continued to pump his stomach so he could heal up, so for a grand total of 8 days he didn't move, eat, or drink anything.  He was a withered shell of a guy.  We were afraid he'd never regain his strength or confidence after that.  Once they sent him home, it took him about two weeks of constant care by yours truly, but by February 28th he was back to about 87% strength, which was enough for him to tell me I could go home, so I could do a gig on the 29th.  (Gig was great. More on that later.)

Mom continues to be on Planet Mom. Her dementia is fascinating, honestly. If you talk to her, you would have no idea anything is wrong. She is funny, normal, on-task, quick-witted, well-spoken, patient, friendly, sweet, knows all of her stories and recipes, all that.  It's just that 5 minutes later she won't remember that you had that conversation.  So she'll go to a doctor and will sign in perfectly, will be friendly, will make eye contact, and will tell people things that sound totally reasonable... and 50% of the time she's right.  But while my dad was in the hospital I had to take her to a GI appointment, and she told her GI doctor that she was the one who was in the hospital for a week... and the GI doctor dutifully wrote it down in her chart, because it sounded totally convincing. I had to gently say, "Mom, you weren't in the hospital; Dad was."

"What now?"

"Dad was the one in the hospital, not you. He's still in there now with a bowel obstruction."

"What? Did I say I was in the hospital?

"Yep, just now."

"Was I in the hospital?"

"Nope. I mean, you visited Dad, but you weren't the one being treated."

"Oh. Hmm. ((chuckle)) Well, that's old age I guess."

The GI doc was puzzled listening to us have this exchange. On the way out I popped my head into his office and asked him to please make a note in her chart that she's got early-stage dementia, and to please make sure someone else is in the examination room with her, because otherwise we can't be sure if she'll be giving accurate information. And also, she won't remember any instructions you give her.

Fast forward three weeks later, where we had a follow-up appointment with the same GI doctor. He now sees in her chart the note he wrote-- "patient has early stage dementia."  I am in the examination room with her again.  As he prescribes her antibiotics for something, he looks at her and says loudly, "Now don't forget that you have to take these for 10 days. Don't forget, now!"

Right. Because those are the magic words that make dementia patients miraculously remember shit.  Fucking idiot.

(And no, that wasn't his way of making sure I was paying attention. Trust me on this one. He just doesn't get it.)

She's like a computer with a bad hard drive. If something was written to hard drive before 2017, she remembers it perfectly. Post 2017, it gets glitchy. Starting around Thanksgiving 2019, it's RAM only.  


Anyway. While I was up there, I did not think I would ever be able to come back to DE.  I had several private, epic, Oscar-worthy meltdowns... and in the twitchy aftermath of one of them, my brother picked up on the fact that I wasn't doing so well and he suggested that I go home to DE for one night, sleep in my own bed, attend a Sunday rehearsal that I didn't think I'd be able to attend, and then head back up to NJ afterwards, and he'd watch my folks for that time.  Those were a sweeeeeet 20 hours, I'm not gonna lie. It's amazing how much one can recharge in a short amount of time. Everyone at rehearsal was so, so, SO lovely and supportive, and genuinely asking not only how my folks were doing, but how I was doing. This was weird for me... I've never really been the one who needed a supportive hug; I'm the one who gives them. I didn't even know that many people even knew about my parental situation. I felt really loved and cared for, by people I didn't really think ever gave me much thought. 

While I was in NJ, I contacted 41 home health agencies to lend my folks a hand... and only TWO serve Warren County (the ass-end of cow-town NJ where they live). One agency had caregivers that live in Newark, which is about an hour away from my parents. Generally speaking, Newark folks don't understand country life, they don't understand deer and bears and how your nearest neighbor is a cow a few acres away. They also don't drive generally, so when we tried one caregiver we had to pay a $68 Uber ride each way for them. How would they be able to give my parents a hand if they can't even drive?  So they weren't a good fit.  But the other agency, Home Instead Senior Care, is based about 8 miles from my folks, and their caregivers live in the area. They understand the ways of the cows. After some shuffling and scheduling, we now officially have Wendy the caregiver spending 3 days a week with my mom for 4 hours at a clip. This basically frees up my Dad to turn his brain off so he can putter in the garage, go have lunch with the guys, snooze, pay bills, whatever. Wendy makes sure my mom is entertained, fed, takes her meds, helps with meal prep, can take her to get her nails/hair done, take her to doctor appointments, etc.  It's a huge relief.  Of course now with all of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I'm not sure how long this will last... but I'm comforted that at least for now there's an extra set of competent eyes making sure she (and Dad) aren't experiencing any symptoms. 


Now we're home. I'm writing this part on 3/15/20 now.

So anyway, I've been home since March, and I've mostly been hermiting. Like, pretty much staying in my PJs, leaving the house only when absolutely necessary. I've been doing a decent amount of voiceover work, and 

On Friday March 13th, Matt's Ramones band had (53rd & 3rd) a gig at Oddity Bar, which was comfortingly bleachy, and not very well-attended due in part to collective nerves, and the Delaware State of Emergency which didn't make ir clear if folks should stay home. We were all OK with the attendance, honestly. The 25-ish folks who did attend really wanted to be there, and we all amused ourselves coming up with silly, inventive ways to greet each other without shaking hands or elbow bumping. Everyone tipped the bar-staff very well, knowing they had it rough. Some of us even ate at the Chinese place next door and overtipped there, too. 

In other news, the stores have been busy but not nuts, and fairly well-stocked. They were out of bleach, hand sanitizer,  and rubbing alcohol, and low on bread, but nothing we couldn't work around. (Besides, we already had bleach and rubbing alcohol on hand Because Adult, and also Because Burning Man.)  We feel prepared for a week or two (or  of isolation if it comes to that.

I bleach-washed the bejeezus out of the kitchen floor and the entire master bathroom, so I feel like I've accomplished something. I'm hoping my burning lungs are from the bleach and not a symptom of COVID-19. 

Anyhoo, there's more to tell, but this is already hella long. 

As a reward for reading this long, blathery post, please enjoy this delightful thing by making with the clicky (fixed link!):

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Everything is beautiful, isn’t it?
I can’t imagine your stress. I’m glad you’re back at your home.
Thanks, m'dear. Very glad to be back home... though the guilt is pretty overwhelming at times. Trying to just stay present and breathe, y'know? 💗

Love to you guys.
I can see Derren Brown, but was there a particular tweet you wanted to share?
Weird-- not sure why the link isn't working. When I edit the post it's fine, but once I post the post, it just takes you to Derren's profile and not the tweet.

Anyway, I think I was just able to fix it now.
BRILLIANT!
RIGHT?!
Super glad Dad's back on track and that Mom's got additional help so he can get some peaceful Dad time. Also, that Wendy knows the ways of the cows, because yeah.

Most importantly, I'm glad you've got your life back. When this pandemic is over, I'm very much looking forward to catching up.

Love you and love to the folks.
Glad your back and rebuilding your spoon inventory. Offer still stands, if needed. Don't be a martyr.
 

Hi!

Sorry I haven't been on OPW for a week or two... was out of town for work and then working on a new music thing. Slowly catching up.

Anyway, I would just like the record to state that we have exactly one spoonful of Anne Mollo ​​'s raspberry jam left, and Matt and I are both fighting over it, and also deciding what final food is "jam-worthy" enough. 

It is (was) heavenly.

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10/5 '19 5 Comments
Might I suggest a fresh warm popover? Absurdly easy to make, takes only about half an hour, and is the perfect vehicle for ... well, pretty much any tasty condiment, but butter and jam are high on the list. Here's my mom's recipe:

Preheat oven to 400°
3 eggs
1 C milk
1 C sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBL melted butter

Mix it all together until smooth (can use a beater, or a whisk) and pour into a greased muffin tin. Bake until firm, crusty and golden brown, about 35 minutes (but start checking at 25-30 minutes). Makes 12.
Anne Mollo 10/5 '19
Okay, that was cute.
Karen Kuhl 10/8 '19
It’s the first thing that came into my head. “Honey, yoooo-oo-ee-oooo, send me...”
>>Might I suggest a fresh warm popover?

Oooooooh. Why yes you can! (NOMZ)

(Just left for a work trip, but when I get home, it's ON.)
 

Hey rone ​​​​: Did you ever get your f(x)tec Pro1? If so, how do you like it?

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8/20 '19 6 Comments
Ooh, pretty. Looks like it is still unreleased, although I would not put it past our rone to have the inside track somehow. https://www.fxtec.com/product/fxtec-pro1-pre-order/
Thomas Boutell 8/21 '19
Nutty! I remember they were aiming for a July release, and then early August. When I went to their site it looked less "pre-order only"esque than it used to, so I just figured it was out. Pooo!

The space bar is getting squirrelly on my KeyOne, so I'm really eyeing that FxTec Pro1, gompy name and all.
Next month, they say, pinkie swear.
rone 8/21 '19
I can't wait for the full report!
They will start shipping on the 29th.
rone 10/7 '19
NICE! I can't wait to hear what you think of it.
 

Here are some random links I have saved for things I found cool or interesting:

1) Sean Ono Lennon's band, GOASTT, and their song "Animals." The video is also mesmerizing. It is clear that he is the son of two brilliant artists. If anyone's gonna have an unlimited bankroll to create art, I'm happy it's him. (GOASTT stands for "Ghost of the Saber-toothed tiger.) NSFW (bewbs).

2) Lizzo's Tiny Desk Concert. She has an impressively filthy mouth, but she makes it so endearing. And holy craaaaap does she have chops! She is unfathomably cute and quick-witted, and so comfy being in the spotlight. NSFW (language).

3) If you don't have time for the Tiny Desk Concert above, enjoy Lizzo's hilarious 3-minute parody of Anchorman. She's such a star, and her comic timing is perfecto. (I love the idiots in the comments saying "Um, she's not playing the flute here." No, really? She's not actually playing the flute when it has flames shooting out of it? You think that might be lipsynced? Thanks, Mozart.)  NSFW (language).

4) The "Satisficing" subreddit, containing gifs and videos of cake and cookie icing and piping... so soothing, so magical. It's visual xanax. 

5) The New Voice Studio run by Lisa Paglin and Marianna Brilla. I would give a kidney to study there with them... good GAWD. They say everything I have felt over the years, and I wanna go there and learn every single thing in their heads. Oh lordy lordy lordy lordy. After I win the lottery or something. The YouTube video on their home page (ya gotta scroll a bit) speaks right to my soul.  (A zillion thanks to Michele Grant for indirectly turning me onto them via this article about Adele and other singers blowing their voices out only to have miraculous vocal surgery performed on them, only to have them blow it out again, because they never fixed their shitty technique.)


Parent Update

In other news, we just visited my folks and had a really great visit. Everyone was chipper, we genuinely all enjoyed the visit, we went out to eat, etc.

It's pretty clear that my mom is mentally slipping... her short-term memory is really going bye-bye. She forgets to play the bills, and gets lost driving pretty consistently now, so my dad now handles the finances and drives her everywhere now, which I guess is not the end of the world.  But other than occasional short-term forgetfulness (she watched me and Matt eat english muffins; about 20 seconds later she asked if we ate breakfast even though she was looking at our plates, and she even took a bite of one of our muffins), she is pleasant, fun, on-task, engaged in conversations, and overall pretty OK. My dad is terrified, OTOH, and exahusted, of course, because he has to stay on top of everything... so it was nice to give him a little break.  Her blood-sugar is also considerably more under control, which is awesome. She looks and feels better, and she says she has more energy.  Her diabetes doc (the one who was delaying approving her  much-needed knee surgery because her blood-sugar numbers were too high) now says he'll approve the surgery in 3 months if she keeps up the good numbers.  The sad irony is that in 3 months she'll be that much farther gone mentally, she won't be able to enjoy her new knee and the freedom it affords her due to her cognitive decline. Dad worries with a fixed knee she may even wander on foot. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

This all sounds grim, but I'm still strangely optimistic.


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8/19 '19 6 Comments
I'm glad your mom is cheerful and pleasant. Lizzo makes me so stinking happy.
OMG I love this! Hahaha!
Thank you for the r/SatisfIcing link. I use videos of relaxing things like icing cakes and other soothing activities to fall asleep to and it is very much visual xanax for me! Here's a link in return: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xrlaJ8egzs&t=329s (SFW) I kill the sound, personally.

Glad your time with family was wholesome and less draining! Sometimes things just click with everyone, and it's a good day. XOXO
Karen Kuhl 8/21 '19
Haven’t checked out the links yet because I’m at one of my coffee shop stops, and I don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Will later.

Over the moon to hear that things are (at least generally) better with your Mom. Of course, I’m sorry that the mental state puts more on your Dad. Though, if someone there can handle it...

I’m also super hopeful for something that you didn’t mention, so perhaps I’m missing a detail. With increased physicality, her mental acuity may improve. Exercise is great for the mind, as my stagnant and lethargic lifestyle proves. (I no can brain these days.) So... hopeful(ish?)
I have been thinking about your mom a lot. I am glad she is doing so well, all things considered. My mom had wanted to visit her if we ever got back to NJ. I agree with Matt L. - if she can get a little more movement in, it could make a lot of difference. You may also want to play cards with her or do other activities that exercise the mind. Every little bit can help.
SFM 9/11 '19
 

(I wrote this on Sunday, 8/4. It's really long. There's a TL;DR at the end.)


Last night (Saturday, 8/3) was the final night of The Rock Orchestra's BeatleFest 2019.  BeatleFest (or, our event we call BeatleFest) is where our group of anywhere from 7-40 musicians play every single Beatles song (all 215 of them) in the order they were released, over a series of six consecutive nights. I equate it with running a marathon, but instead of running 26.2 miles on the streets of Boston, we're doing it on a tightrope. We do our damndest to recreate these songs note-for-note, as best as we possibly can without the help of studio magic... though we also really try to recreate those studio sounds live as best we can, too. 

Out of 215 songs, I'm only tacet (not doing anything) on about 7 or 8 total.

For the show, I'm the 3rd singer (I sing the unintuitive harmony parts since I'm a choir nerd). I'm also the "if you get stuck vocally, Jill's got you," and this can even be in the middle of a song. Joe might give me a look and I know to cover (or double) a particularly high part, or I might hear a harmony and notice two people singing the same part, or I might see that someone forgot to sing, so I jump to the missing part on the fly. Or we might have given a female guest singer a song that goes too low for her, so I'll double those basement notes to give her support. Backstage I'm also in charge of running/checking harmonies for that night's tricky spots. I absolutely love getting to do this stuff. It keeps me on my toes, and I secretly love feeling helpful or being able to fix stuff in a pinch... it's been a weird thing of mine since I was a really little kid. 

In addition to my vocal duties, I'm also the main percussionist (shakers, tambourines, maracas, casaba, etc) and one of the two 'aux-players' -- which means if there's an instrument we don't have covered either because nobody knows how to play it (see Indian tanpura and swarmindal) or everyone else is too busy to cover it (hello 2nd drums all over Abbey Road, or organ on Savoy Truffle), I figure it out. Up on my platform I have a billion nouns: everything from a drumset, a glockenspiel, soprano recorder, kazoos, Korg Triton keyboard, motorcycle exhaust pipes (for 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey,' and for the alarm clock in 'A Day in the Life' when played with a different beater), an Ableton Live rig (for the scant sound effects we can't recreate live, (like the animals at the beginning/end of 'Good Morning, Good Morning') in addition to the usual tambourines and shakers and a bazillion other percussion toys.

Matt, however, is the real MVP aux-guy... he covers all of the melodic extra instruments, playing everything from extra piano, bass, guitar, synth, bari, alto, and soprano saxes, secondary percussion, plus backing vocals when we need four voices. He's a monster!  It's a lot of fun going through our music at home and saying stuff like, "Wait, what do you do on 'Savoy Truffle?'" "I used to play the electric organ part, but now I'm gonna play bari sax. Can you cover the organ now?" "Yup! On it!" 

My dear friend from college, Stefan, who specializes in Medieval and Renaissance instruments and runs Phoenix' hella-awesome early music group Bartholomew Faire (of which I am an alum), flew out from Arizona again this year to help us play the Indian-based songs using his assortment of unusual ancient instruments. He played hurdy-gurdy on most of the Indian tunes (Within You Without You), and he also took the recorder solo on Fool on the Hill, and he even played a crumhorn (that melodic buzzy sound) on 'Baby You're a Rich Man.'  It was so wonderful having him stay with us again-- he is the perfect house guest: cheerful, low-maintenance, a late sleeper like us, funny as hell, self-sufficient, up for anything, friendly with all of the other musicians, and good for reminiscing, too. Anyway, I was sad dropping him off at the airport today. 


This is the second year of the event, and you can tell we've refined things a bit. From a personal perspective, I was able to streamline all of my percussion gear thanks to some new racks, stands, and rack-mountable versions of some of my usual percussion instruments, so I wasn't the thing holding us up between songs like I sometimes was in 2018. I also had more room on my platform this year, so I had everything I needed within easy reach, as opposed to last year where I had to (for example) drag out and then put away a floor tom or a snare and hi-hat every time I played them. 

I also added a footer to the last page of every song with the name of the next song and what I play on it... that way as we're playing the last chunk of a song I can quickly eyeball where my next batch of instruments are, and how I'll transition to them from what I'm currently doing. Why put the tambourine down if I need it at the top of the next song?

Performance-wise, Night 4 (aka "the long night") was probably my favorite-- that's the only night where we play 3 albums instead of just two (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Magical Mystery Tour), though the final Night 6 (Abbey Road and Let It Be, as well as the singles and Past Masters from that year, e.g., "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)") was a very very close second.  My own personal roughest night was Night 5 (The Beatles (aka The White Album)), because I whiffed a harmony or two (in my defense, I was sight-reading one of them after I got a nod on stage to cover it), but it was still a hell of a fun night. Good GAWD how I love recreating 'Revolution No. 9' live. It's a riot!


Once again, like last year, I got totally emotional and lost my shit during "A Day in the Life."  Good god, it's an overwhelming magical brain explosion to play it live with a string section, horn section, and with all of these people I just love so much. At one point I took out my in-ear monitors so I could hear the sound with my 'real ears' and holy mother of crap, it's just stupendous. Plus, it's cool as hell seeing the younger folks in the string section fall in love with The Beatles. 


Physically, this year was a bit rougher than last year. I was getting woefully low on iron in May, and the earliest I could get in for an infusion was the morning of Day 2 of BeatleFest. I did BeatleFest last year sans iron and the crash afterwards was fucking awful, so I decided I'd rather get the infusion on a performance day and run the risk of playing percussion with a freshly sporked arm, because holding off was not a healthy option. Besides, the brain fog was getting bad, and I needed to be on my A-game for this thing.  Infused iron takes about 2 days to fully absorb, and I was excited to be feeling better by Night 4 (the big night).  The infusion went smoothly, and as expected, I felt better every 8 hours or so.   (Speaking of my infusion, I just wanted to jot this down so I remember it: I'm very happy to be back at the hospital's Ambulatory Infusion center as I did from 2006-2010 as opposed to getting my treatment at the Cancer Center as I'd been since about 2011. Contrary to what you might expect, the care is just somehow better and cooler at Ambulatory Infusion than at the Cancer Center. Sure, the Cancer Center has the therapy doggos and the VR goggles of peaceful scenes, but it's still somehow impersonal and production-line-ish; and the blare of TVs blasting The View or whatever is so fucking annoying and inescapable. Also, the Cancer Center's specialty is chemo, not iron infusions, and they actually do iron infusions kinda stupidly backwards there. So yeah, I was happy to be back to the infusion center.)

By Wednesday morning my brain fog had significantly lifted, and my skin sans makeup was no longer corpse-guppy-translucent. :-)

Matt and I both agreed that this year, our biggest challenge was being able to see our goddamn music. It's like in the last 365 days our eyesight has hit that tipping point where music on a stand or tablet is too far away for reading glasses but too close for our usual distance glasses. It might be time to talk to our eye doctor for musician glasses for that middle kinda sheet music distance.

Speaking of sheet music, my magical tablet worked out perfectly-- not a single glitch during the show -- and HOLY BALLS was it a total, total game changer. It's amazing not having to turn paper pages and instead just tap a foot pedal. I was in heaven. It saved SO much time and so many headaches! I kept my paper sheet-music binders on stage juuuuust in case my tablet exploded, but I never needed it for a second. Whew!

We went back to the theater around 12:30pm today to load out the rest of our gear and break down the platforms, and that was pretty sad.  As soon as we got home, we unloaded the car and then immediately loaded it up with Stefan's stuff and then I brought him to the airport. I just walked in a moment ago, and the house is eeeeeeerily quiet and calm. Nobody's rushing around, nobody's woodshedding parts last minute or getting music in order, figuring out what to wear, etc etc etc.  It's kinda nice? I think?


I am pretty distracted by how much my hands really hurt, though. They hurt during the shows, but the combination of joy + adrenaline made it ignorable. But walking off the stage they'd be throbbing. Right now they are still distractingly painful; neither turmeric nor Advil even takes the edge off.  A few years ago I bought a faithful replica of a late 60s-era skinless tambourine that sounds amaaaaazing, but also weighs about 98523823 pounds. Playing fast 16ths on that thing song after song after song really did a number on my right hand from having to grip it so tightly to maintain good control. My metacarpals are on fire as are the muscles in the meat of my palm. Holding things, turning doorknobs, and just generally using my fingers hurts pretty damn good.  But also just doing nothing hurts.  Typing sucks too, but I really want to write this all down, so fuck it. 

In May when we played "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" twice in one day, I strained my right bicep and tricep from that goddamn tambourine, and that's when I became a disciple of KT Tape. Starting on Night 4 of BeatleFest I taped my arm and it really did help tremendously (and had the added bonus of reducing under-arm flab wiggle! Yay!). I may try taping my hand later. 

In some screwed up way, having my body hurt after BeatleFest somehow feels good; like I have evidence that I gave it my all. I'm sure a better, healthier measure of success would be an internal feeling of the satisfaction of a job well done, but whatevz.

I've typed way too much. 

===========================

TL;DR: BeatleFest 2019 was awesome. My tablet rocked; taping my arm helped a lot; getting an iron infusion was smart; I fucked up my hands but I somehow like it? I love getting to make music, especially with these people. I can't wait until next year. 

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you are AMAZING. xoxo
Jenn A 8/6 '19
Your joy shines through. Thank you for sharing it with us!
So happy to hear that things went so well! Sorry to have missed Stefan. Sounds like I may get a chance to catch up next year though, since BeatleFest doesn't sound like it's slowing down at all. :)
I am so proud of you. Congratulations on surviving that high-wire act!
Loved to read this write-up!

Can you take naproxen (Aleve)? I've found that it's the best thing for me when I've jacked my back, knee, or elbow and I need to interrupt the cycle of "this is injured, so it's inflamed, so it hurts, so it's inflamed." Two naproxen to make it knock it off, then another one naproxen 12 hours later, then one again every 12 hours until -poof-. On the stomach irritation scale it's more likely to irritate than ibuprofen but less likely than aspirin. Anyway I think it's the bomb diggity, handles swelling better than ibuprofen, and is not always on people's radar.

Did the City of Wilmington do anything to boost the event as a tourist draw, do you know? I think I recall after last year's success that there was noise about maybe they would do that.
Y'all were amazing, we're talking about engineering it so we can see a weeknight next year. And of course there will be a next year... Right?

Regarding distance vision, these days I'm wearing progressives. it's nice to get most of the benefits of bifocals but there's no line. I'm not sure if the range of options it provides would cover the case you're talking about or not.
I LOVE when you expound on your musical expertise. Love love love. Generally speaking I have musical anhedonia, but your technical and functional descriptions light up my nerd soul like a Christmas tree.
Anne Mollo 8/6 '19
You might want to look into an athletic sleeve instead of tape. All the compression goodness, plus flab compaction and it is reusable.

I owe a post about my vacation but I am too fried right now.
Ray Conrad 8/9 '19
This is gonna sound like an epic humblebrag, but it is the annoying truth: I have tried all of the athletic sleeves I could find, and they're all too damn big. It's ri-god-damn-diculous.

(Insert 5th grade joke about going to Dick's and only finding things too large. Hhuhhuhhuhhuhuhh!)

In other gnus, I look forward to your vacay post. Hope it was spiffy.
Try shopping for a boy's athletic sleeve.
Ray Conrad 8/11 '19
 

(I wrote this at 4:00am on Saturday morning.)


Hi, all!

It's been go-go-go land here, so I apologize for not writing or generally being more present or responsive. I have been reading here and trying to comment where I can, but that's about all I can offer for the next 8-9 days or so.


We are now just a few days away from Beatlefest 2019. It's going to be the same format as last year, in the same location, etc.

The biggest change for me is that instead of using three enormous 3-ring notebooks full of sheet music, I'm trying to use my new tablet that I bought expressly for this purpose. I struggled so much last year juggling several percussion instruments and having to turn pages, so I needed something electronic with a bluetooth foot pedal. I labored over my decision, and I chose the Boox Onyx Max2 Pro, 13.3" e-ink tablet, so it's crazy-light, and easy on the eyes, and displays a sheet of music at full Letter Page size that my 48-year-old eyeballs can read.  I've been using this amazing app called MobileSheets Pro which is everything you want in a music-performance device. 

Sadly, the app blew up last night (Friday night, just 11 hours ago) and I lost 4 days' worth of the notes I transcribed from my paper notes from last year. I am heartbroken. The app developer is ridiculously responsive, so he may be able to salvage some of it. I am not hopeful, but we're trying.


It's very late (or early, depending on how you view days)-- I've been trying to fix this since 5:30pm and now it's 4:09am (good morning, Jenn!). Today (Saturday) we core-band BeatleFest people move into the venue and get everything wired up for sound, and then we run a quick sound check with the core band.  Then the strings, horns, and Indian musicians come in Sunday to get them wired up and rehearsed.  

And then we start Beatlefest on Monday! 


In other news, my iron levels have crashed, but I go for an infusion on Tuesday (yes, a Beatlefest day). That was the fastest they could get me in, so I'll take it... and hopefully I'll be feeling magically awesome by Thursday night when I really need to be thinking clearly. It's remarkable how fuzzy my brain is when it doesn't get oxygen. 


Away we go!

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7/27 '19 6 Comments
I miss you
I miss you, too. Genuinely, sincerely.
I can't believe your app crashed at the worst time! I hope you get something back!
Karen Kuhl 7/28 '19
The good news is that I got it all back! The bad news is I lost 3 days doing so, so now I'm 3 days behind in getting the rest of my written notes re-written into the tablet. Tonight (Night 3 of Beatlefest) is the last night of notes I have in my tablet. Nights 4-6 have no notes written, and they are also coincidentally the hardest friggin' music.

I'll get it done, though. Just gotta do it.
good morning! :)

booooooo to that app crashing, that completely sucks. but all that tech sounds so cool! i always wondered how people using a tablet for music turned the pages, didn't realize it was a foot pedal. i feel like i'm living in the future.
Jenn A 7/28 '19
Yep! It's a bluetooth pedal! Some folks prefer to just tap the tablet which turns the page, which is still infinitely easier than turning paper pages. They even make a drum-pad that triggers the page turn for drummers.
 

My Blackberry KeyOne's battery has been bulging uncomfortably for about 6 weeks now. I didn't feel right bringing it on our trip to Portland this past week... I remembered that Samsung Galaxy 7 phones had bulging batteries that would asplode randomly and were prohibited on planes, so I took my cue and tossed my SIM into my previous phone, my Blackberry Priv. 

I looooooooved my BB Priv. It's a slim phone, gorgeous screen, has a slide-out keyboard so you don't even have to use the keyboard if you don't want to (though I always want to). I stopped using it because the battery got shot and wouldn't hold a charge for longer than 5 hours or so, which isn't do-able in real life. Worse is that I dropped it one time with it plugged in and janked up the charging port, so the thing only charges wirelessly. This wouldn't be a problem if it held a charge for a decent amount of time.

Anyhoo, I brought my doesn't-hold-a-charge-long Priv with me to Portland and just kept it in airplane mode unless I actually needed it... and HOLY CRAP how liberating! How fabulous not to be constantly interrupted with bullshit! 

I don't have the self-discipline to not look at it (even with notifications turned off), but with the sucker actually in airplane mode I was able to be much more mindful about my phone usage. It was painless. 

Now that I'm home, I still keep the Priv in airplane mode unless I need it, and my bulging KeyOne (which is wifi only/sans SIM) is in a drawer, and I only use it if my Priv's battery is Bill.Bixby.dead.dead.dead. 

I made an appointment with a friendly local business guy to replace both "non-replaceable" batteries late next week... it'll take a week for the batteries to arrive. (Strange that he doesn't keep Blackberry Priv or KeyOne batteries in stock /s). 

Anyway, I'm really enjoying being more mindful about my phone use. My friends and family are puzzled as to why my usual speedy text reply-time is now delayed by half-days, but this was fine in 1995 and it's gonna be fine now. I shouldn't be that important to anyone. :-)

In other news, my iron levels are officially in the shitter. If I had more time, I'd explain how my iron was in the shittter 2 months ago but not quite shitty enough where insurance would justify an infusion, so we had to wait until I'm gasping for air like a goddamn guppy out of water like I finally am now. It's weird that I have to "look forward" to getting so shitty so I can get fucking treatment. I hate it.  With any luck I'll be ironed up before Beatlefest.  (Last year I did not get an infusion until after Beatlefest, which was a giant mistake.) Let us pray to the scheduling gods that they can fit me in within the next 2.5 weeks. 

In other other news, our trip to Portland to make music with Sunnyvale was amazing, inspirational, beautiful, and magical, and I'll tell y'all more about it soon. But now I must shower for I stink. 

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7/14 '19 6 Comments
My iPhone 6s (shut up) battery started draining super quickly several months ago. I found that putting it in a battery-saver mode where it's not fetching my e-mails until I specifically tell it to do so was just what it needed. It doesn't miss text messages, though, in that mode, which is nice. Maybe you have a similar option on your phone? (Or maybe you don't want it!)

Hopefully I'll get another year out of the battery before I need to find someone to replace it. I like my phone a lot, but iObsolescence is really some of the worst obsolescence capitalism has ever seen.
Michele Grant 7/14 '19
Alas, battery saver mode isn't quite savey enough for my crappy batt'ry. Because we have such awful cell reception at my house, my phone (any phone) spends a silly amount of brain cycles saying "Cell signal, where are youuuuu? Oh! Look! I have some cell signal! Oh, and now I don't so I'll switch to wifi. But I better keep searching for cell signal!" Repeat and fade. So keeping it in airplane mode kills that off.

But if I lived in a world where Verizon fixed their cell towers after they got damaged in a hailstorm, then Battery Saver mode would be the perfect solution.

Yay for old phones! (No sarcasm-- that is an actual Yay.)
I miss my BlackBerry Curve 83xx so much, I took a photo of it and use it as my iPhone's wallpaper.
Michele Grant 7/15 '19
Okay, that made me chuckle out loud a little.
Generally good stuff, but...

>if my Priv's battery is Bill.Bixby.dead.dead.dead.

Too soon.
No recognition /
For green guy's stolid straight-man /
Pursued by evil.
[ from Jeff Swanson’s memorial haiku collection. Evil is a season, right? When does it stop being Evil Season? ]
Brian Rapp 7/25 '19