Ferry to realization…

18 Feb

Today Celina and I decided to take the ferry over to Whidbey Island.  I’ve lived in WA state for about 18 months and I had yet to take a ferry.  I had ridden on the water taxi from downtown over to W. Seattle to see the Tripwires and Damien Jurado once but that hardly counts since I could have just driven right over anyway.  This I consider a rite, something inherent in the culture of western Washington.  There’s a free bus that takes you anywhere on the island that you want to go.

As we waited for the bus at the ferry terminal a certain calm came over me.  People always speak of Islanders having a different pace and enjoying the simple pleasures, but as you know hearing about a concept and understanding it intellectually is entirely different from experiencing it deeply on some unknown level.  This probably sounds really cliche but I’m pressing on anyway.  I’ve always heard that about places like Key West and various points eastward in the Caribbean.  I got a sense of that in Mexico, but in Jamaica the drivers are worse than Manhattan.  One of the Jamaican tour buses in our caravan got into a fender bender!  But this is something different entirely- on this island people were wearing sweaters and hats, for instance.  They were listening to each other when they spoke and letting each other finish a sentence- not simply waiting to talk as I’ve seen so much in some of the coffee shops in and around Seattle.  It’s not so black and white either, like one location is preferable to the other and here are the “top ten reasons” why.  This isn’t that kind of blog, actually.  Just intangibly, but certainly noticeably different.

The frenzied pace of the urban landscape, for the first time, gave me a headache and made me curse (a bunch) last week when I spent an unusually long two hours in traffic on my way down to Georgetown from Monroe for work.  To those who know the landscape, I know that’s a long way to commute for any job- forty-five minutes on a good day, but this is something I promised myself would be temporary, a condition of the job I’d initially hoped to remedy as our lease draws to a close this May.  I am reminded of the lyrics of Norwegian songwriter, Sondre Lerche (someone’s been watching “Dan in Real Life.”) that I just heard for the first time the other day.

“I’m not gonna state obvious observations everybody makes but baby be prepared to be surprised.”

I have been surprised a lot lately and now that I feel open to it, it’s happening more and more.  So simple, yet eerily pertinent when I consider the geographical component of the general attitude or demeanor of a particular demographic.  For example, when I first announced my plans to move to the great Northwest from Louisiana, on several occasions, I was forewarned about the “Seattle freeze” and/or a certain element of passive aggression common with the notoriously tough-to-crack shells of Seattle social circles.  For the first several months I refused to believe it but the more I existed in Seattle, the more prominent this “problem” became.  The concept came full-circle in a roundabout, joke’s-on-you manner the other day as I came to the realization that if you’re that difficult to know, I don’t want to know you!

For the better part of a year I played the networking game, attending more shows than I could afford at times handing out fliers for our gigs and my card at classroom sessions at the Art Institute whenever I met aspiring musicians and sound engineers.  I wear my heart on my sleeve like any good musician or hippie in denial should and on more than one occasion I couldn’t help but feel that my cohorts were so anxious to trample on it and even cut away little pieces for themselves.  These experiences initially brought me great discomfort as I meditated and thought, “God, what do you want from me?”  Aren’t I doing the things I should to build my career and generate a genuine interest in my art?  A resounding no.

As I sat today in Useless Bay Coffee shop in the sleepy, but aware town of Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island, I could only take comfort in the idea that the long, slow burn, while obviously preferable to the “hit-driven” career of yesteryear comes with a huge but not always evident qualifier:

You must really be into and believe in what you are creating.  Your heart must absolutely be in it, otherwise you’ll simply get discouraged and lose interest.  Enjoy your life, travel, have experiences and for God’s sake, get out of your comfort zone.  Otherwise, your motives will be clear and people will not be responsive no matter how “genuine” your emotions driving your work may be.  Doing anything for the love (the true meaning of the word amateur, by the way) is so much easier said than done, but when you realize the impact that it can have on you, your life, and your work, you get a sense of calm that is impossible to duplicate.

Of course there are exceptions, the road to super-stardom (not my motive by the way) is paved with wannabes, cash cows, and one-hit wonders.  For them, the inverse to my earlier statement is true:  If you’re that easy to know, I probably don’t want to know you.  But just below the surface there are some great things being said, ideas being shared, etc.  And today, watching and absorbing the island state of mind afforded me a great metaphor for that realization.

Sondre Lerche song I referenced:

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Pasta Primavera…

17 Feb

I just spent a few hours at work this morning preparing what turned out to be 102 servings of beautiful pasta primavera.  This process consisted of cutting 48 pounds of fresh veggies, boiling (a lot of) whole wheat penne pasta to a perfect al dente, and chopping fresh herbs, etc.   I am passionate about cooking, among other things and as a meditation I do my damndest to put love into everything I cook.  This morning was no exception, as I cut the vegetables I took care to ensure some degree of uniformity and bitesizedness.  I wafted the scent of the herb infused olive oil several times because it pleases me to know that all of my senses went into creating something delicious and enjoyable even if those who eat it aren’t quite as knowing of my strange fascination as I.

Hopefully, you can imagine and even relate to my level of excitement regarding this food fascination.  Or, maybe I’m already a madman and no one is quite as eccentric and prone to simple excitement- in which case, please do not tell me, I prefer to be happily deluded into thinking that the whole world is happy to go to work and absolutely adores what they create with their own two hands.  So, after all of that as I tasted for the final time and accordingly approved the seasoning balance I asked my supervisor about the next step.  “What should I now do with this amazing pasta primavera?”

“Put it into bags and freeze it,”  was her reply.

I was depressed.

What is the point of that?  It was an order for a restaurant who buys from our production kitchen, freezes, then thaws and prepares individual servings for their unsuspecting guests.  In fact, the owners of said restaurant approached me a while ago for a potential menu consult and I remember discussing in the preliminary stages this very concept (concerning his lasagna and ziti dishes) and how I was, markedly in opposition to it.  Guests in a restaurant whose kitchen is of ample size shouldn’t get frozen crap served at their table, especially if they are under the impression that it is fresh.  They can stay home and prepare Stouffer’s for a third of the price and probably have more fun.  I didn’t know just what when we were discussing business, but something definitely seemed off about the whole operation and I left the ball in his court.  Luckily, I smelled the rat before I put them on retainer. Today it all added up- freezing lasagna is bad enough, but under no circumstances should a dish as elegant and classic as pasta primavera be frozen and reheated.  The idea of it still makes me cringe.

This occurrence combined with his flakiness and unwillingness to commit to a retainer so I could in turn do my work (I had a few freebie ideas he may or may not have implemented) all add up to a common problem I am noticing more and more especially in virgin restaurateurs but in lots of businesspeople of other avenues as well.  I am speaking of course of the desire to get something for nothing, or more accurately, for very little.  The profitable restaurants aren’t serving frozen bullshit that was prepared two weeks ago.  This is a frustrating concept to convey politely to an owner when you are sitting down for the first time and trying to discover where the less obvious kinks in their model exist.

Pasta Primavera by definition, should ALWAYS be served fresh.  It means “Springtime” in both Italian and Spanish.  And when it’s so easy, there’s no excuse except laziness not to.  All that is required are two burners, pasta which is parboiled and chilled at the beginning of the shift and veggies that you can even pre-slice if you want to.  Most of the time when you order pasta in a restaurant you are eating pasta which was par-cooked, chilled and blanched to order anyway.  The second burner is for sauteing.  Too easy.

As a food lover this insults me.  As a musician I feel I should write the ode to frozen pasta primavera- it would be about idiots trying to do something about which they have no idea just for profit.  As a future madman it made me want to destroy his freezer so he’d have no choice but to prepare the dish the way it should be.  As a scientist and observer it prompted me to imagine the poor excited cellulose running around in the plant cell walls, ecstatic that they would get to be part of something grand, beautiful and larger than themselves and that they are going to nourish someone who’ll appreciate them.  Poor little cellulose.  For the first time I realized why Chef Gordon Ramsey yells so much when he deals with clueless restaurant owners on Kitchen Nightmares.  I imagined the unknowing cellulose feeling betrayed as I pushed the cart containing 102 servings, individually bagged, into the freezer.  The waste of poly bakery bags is another story entirely.

I felt like Dr. Frankenstein watching his creation out on the ice, like murdering a friend.  I was Wilhelm at the controls of the gas chamber as his former neighbor Mr. Schwartz entered the phony shower with gaunt cheeks and ashen eyes, starving, denounced.  Depraved.  I felt like I might have lost a bit of my soul.  Forgive me, Cellulose…

-GC

St. Valentine, Smith and Jones.

14 Feb

Valentine’s Day is a strange day indeed in its modern incarnation.  Named for one or more of the early Christian martyrs who was killed for his beliefs, the holiday began in 469 AD and was a memorial to the fallen “St. Valentine.”  I say one or more, because it’s not even clear which Christian martyr Valentine it was.  Apparently among early Christian martyrs Valentine was the equivalent of a Smith or Jones.  At any rate, how that translates today to heart-shaped boxes of candy, red and pink greeting cards and diamond-heart tennis bracelets  is beyond me.

This Valentine’s Day was special to me.  I have a girlfriend who also recognizes the ridiculousness of this strange holiday.  Not being one of the blind “sheeple” consumers that make up a large part of our generation, she made me a greeting card with the hooker and tranny ads from the back of “The Stranger,” a local Seattle magazine.   Her card mentioned her disgust with the monotony of the severely misunderstood holiday and called into question our country’s fascination with pink and red for the day.  She also mentioned that she’d love me no matter what the day!  Cool, huh?

I wanted to mention the satisfaction it brought me find a girl who gets that.  My favorite color does happen to be red…Green is a close second, not at all like Christmas though!  As evidenced by her hair color when I met her and now, she obviously loves pink.  Maybe it was meant to be this way, maybe I notice too much and try to point out coincidences where they hardly exist.  Probably so, that’s sort of the theme of a lot of these entries as you may have noticed.  The more I exist, however, the less I believe in them, coincidences.   At any rate, I love this picture of Celina , taken by her roommate after she just re-dyed her hair.  Enjoy and happy St. Valentine’s Day.

12 Feb

"Sometime in the future..."

It is no one’s responsibility but our own to break free of the clutches that could potentially bind us all.  Civilizations topple, but man continues to survive.

Las Vegas…

11 Feb

I went to Vegas the other day, what a disappointment that was.  I approach all new experiences openly, but what a distraction that place proves to be.  Like being in one big advertisement the whole time I was there.  Everything that’s wrong with America cranked up to 11 and served on a disposable platter, give me a fuckin’ break.  I love you Sis, but next year I pick the vacation destination, capiche?

I must say though, AMAZING uses of scale and architecture.  A LOT of talent went into that place- too bad the format is so damned redundant.  I overheard on the radio in the cab ride back to the airport that the Planet Hollywood (if I recall correctly, there’s a fair chance I don’t) is bankrupt and trying to sell the multi-billion dollar property.  Can you imagine how that feels?

“Guys, we’re out of money.”

“Yeah, but we’re a casino.”

“I know, and that’s what’s so perplexing about the whole mess.”

Aside

Hello.

10 Feb

I am going to go absolutely insane one day- I can feel it starting already.  As for how it will manifest, I don’t know exactly.  My growing dementia does, however, currently manifest in many innocent and clever ways.  Some of which I will be sharing with you here on this blog.  My hope is that by recognizing early the signs of an oncoming dementia I can give insight into how it so steals us into its clutches.

I don’t wish to prevent it or turn back from it in fear.  What sort of stability is there really in this world?  What a game of Jenga they all play when they pull piece after piece away and the structure still collapses- each time though, there “we” all are, ready to rebuild it again so that we can start the ticker once more from zero.  And rightfully so, I suppose, the world is never going to change.  May as well make the best of it.  In the same breath though, may I remind you that it’s always changing.  The world is constantly in a state of flux, and the animals don’t mind either, they seem to enjoy the change in the same manner that man once enjoyed the change of seasons- most people probably wouldn’t notice today if they weren’t constantly reminded through advertising, the literature of our age, that even if they aren’t keen on shopping they ought to at least consider purchasing a few new outfits, you know, for the season.  Nope, whoever first said it was correct I’m afraid- there is bliss in ignorance, and conversely, if you know any more than a modicum of just how this world works, there is ironically no shutting off the desire to learn more.  How far down the rabbit hole?  A million metaphors throughout time tell this melancholy tale, but the bitch of it all is that it never gets old and it never gets learned.  While history goes on repeating itself people keep inventing and CONSUMING distractions that steer them off course from their intended purpose.* I am just beaming to know that I have once again regained that adventurous spirit that is in all of us just waiting to be awakened.

Please don’t take me wrong, I may sound preachy at times, but that is not my intention.  I merely want to share the tale of a man going nuts as he attempts to relate to fellow man.  I find the irony in everything and have no reservations about pointing it out at times, just take it all in and judge for yourself where along the curve you are at this moment in terms of “getting it.”  Enjoy day to day, checking in to see if I am making any use of all of this exciting…shall we call it “data?”  Knowledge sounds so pedantic.  Wisdom, cliche.  Neither of those are entirely accurate anyway-  I felt pompous even typing those words.  And for the record, I never claimed to possess  either.   I just like to talk a lot, but I want to know that at least some of what I’ve said meant something to someone.  I hope I’m not too far off base here…

*Of course, I realize that blogs are, in essence, distractions.  I want to define, for our purposes, a distraction as any activity which doesn’t require the participant to be entirely engaged.  So, for example, channel surfing or surfing the web are most likely being “participated in”, distractions, whereas actual surfing, for instance requires the participant to be “engaged.”  Any activity in which thinking is a requisite factor isn’t really a distraction in my book, it’s a hobby.  Habitual television watching or excessive internet fucking about is a way to pass time, to forget momentarily how bad your life actually sucks.  It is precisely this intentional re-wording of social constructs that is in large part, to blame for the inevitable decline of any society.  Where “spacing out” and “daydreaming” yield to more benign phrases like “channel surfing” we see a big disconnect concerning people’s attitudes towards apathy vs. action…Again, not preachy.  Just observant…conversant…I am dying here!

-GC