Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leaving Home Blues

This is my last day at home.

This week has been really great, which makes it even harder to say good-bye to my family and the Maine coast.

Yesterday, my family and my friend, Ember, and her family went on a sailing adventure.  Ember and I got totally soaked twice as the waves crashed over the bow of the boat.  We were sitting as close to the forestay as possible, and when the wind picked up the bow fell into the water and the water fell onto the forward deck.

My brother tried to help us by bringing out a towel.  Then it was wet.  And then he tried to keep the towel between his legs to catch the waves.  He ended up looking like a circus performer as he perched against the side rails with the towel billowing between his legs.

This week I have seen Garrison Keillor in concert, been to Castine, and seen the new Planet of the Apes film.  Overall it's been a great week.

In 24 hours I will be heading to the Midwest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's All in the Family--My Parent's Band

This is a piece I wrote for fun about my parents' band.  I hope you enjoy it!

The Piece:
Bluegrass music fills the air on this Wednesday afternoon in Rockland.  A private lobster bake is hosted by Sharp’s Point South, and music keeps the conversation lively.  The band is local and plays bluegrass music along with folk, country, and light rock and roll.  The band is Playin’ Possum.

The three members of Playin’ Possum are family and have been singing and picking together since last year.  However, David and Gigi Hynd, the founding members, started using the name Playin’ Possum in 2002 when the band played its first gig.  The band has gained and lost members since its inception, but David and Gigi have remained the group’s base. 

The band members are David, Gigi, and Peter Hynd.  Gigi and David are both 50 years old, and Peter, their son, is 14.  Gigi plays the upright bass, which stands taller than she, and David and Peter play the acoustic guitar.  Peter sometimes brings his electric guitar and alternates it with his acoustic guitar.  However, today he has decided to play his acoustic.

Peter’s young age has provided him with countless hours for practicing.  On average, Peter says he practices two hours a day.  He began playing the guitar when he was ten.  Inspiration to play the guitar came to Peter because his home was filled with music. 

“I wanted to learn music because my brother was playing the guitar,” said Peter, who was attracted to the guitar because of “the sound of it.”  Peter enjoys bluegrass music along with country, light rock that is “a little bluesy,” and singer-songwriters like Marc Cohn, John Meyer, and Eric Clapton.

Peter’s musical talent is a reflection of his parent’s musical pursuits.  David began playing the guitar when he was 16 on an S&H Greenstamps guitar, and Gigi began playing the bass in 1999.  David and Gigi both came from musical families. 

Explaining her musical background, Gigi says, “both my parents were music teachers at public schools.  Dad taught band the whole time I was growing up, and Mom started teaching when I was five.  She was also a piano teacher, and an organist at church.  I often woke up to Mom practicing.  It was very comforting.”

David’s father played the piano and was “always working at it,” and a few times his mother sang as a church soloist.  “Through just hearing music a lot you accept it as an important piece of life,” says David.

David and Gigi each discovered bluegrass music before becoming a couple.  Gigi said, “I’ve always been kind of intrigued by it.  I remember hearing bluegrass music when I was at summer camp in the Midwest, and it tickling my ear.” 

David’s attraction to bluegrass was the banjo.  “I heard Earl Scruggs as a kid and I was blown away by the banjo.  I just love the sound of the banjo.  The first songs I heard were ‘Streamline Cannonball,’ ‘Last Thing on My Mind,’ and ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere,’ and I just loved them,” says David.

However, like most hobbies, daytime jobs are a necessity.  While David, Gigi, and Peter would love to play music full time, at this point “it is not realistic,” says David.  Raising children and paying college bills take up most of their time, and as Gigi admits, “we enjoy the level that we’re at.”

In the summer David and Gigi clam, and during the school year David works as a carpenter, and Gigi teaches language arts to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the Friendship Village School. 

The band does not perform to gain fame and fortune.  Through word of mouth Playin’ Possum spreads its name and is requested to play at local venues.  Gigi says, “We like doing community events and being a part of the community.  We enjoy the hometown stuff.  We’re not looking for glory.”

While glory may not be in David and Gigi’s minds, Peter’s career as a musician has just begun.  Peter hopes to become a professional guitarist.  He has already written the music and lyrics for at least 20 songs.  However, the practice can sometimes get tiring.  Peter says, “I know I can’t stop practicing because if I want to make a living at [playing the guitar], then I’ve got to be unusually good.”

Even with the challenges that present themselves to the band, the joy of playing out makes them all worthwhile.  “I like singing, and I love harmonizing,” says Gigi, “It’s fun to have the opportunity to return [my love for music] to someone and hope that they will enjoy [my music] too.”  David’s sentiments are in line with Gigi’s, and he adds, “We don’t have any great aspirations, but we hope that we’ve brought some joy.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

PEI in the Rain

My sister and I went to Prince Edward Island with her boyfriend.

I learned a lot on this trip.

1) Traveling with a couple is difficult.
--My sister and her boyfriend needed their alone time, I needed my alone time, and we all needed to be heard.  It's important to "express yourself," to quote Madonna, and this includes letting each other know when things are working out well and when they need to change. We all became better at talking with each other as the weekend progressed.

2) It is a good idea to be organized.
--Cramped quarters don't work well when it's raining outside and everyone's stuck in a small car.

3) Being a vegetarian is smart :)
--Boca burgers take much longer than meat to go bad.

4) Camping is expensive.
--Expect to drop a few bucks.

5) Sleeping in a car isn't that bad.
--Just pull up a sleeping bag, a couple of pillows, and put the seat back.  The Toyota Corolla fit all three of us.  We slept in a church parking lot.  No one questioned us.  Maybe that's because we parked the car at 10pm and left by 5:30am.

6) Oh, and rain may flood your tent if you aren't prepared.

I enjoyed staying in PEI at Cavendish.  Despite the expensive campground, and the rain, it was really gorgeous.  I liked the whole vacation. However, the vacation seemed more like a chance to learn about myself than to relax.  Except there was one day when we were stationary that gave me time to read a short book.  I really liked having my own small space to myself.  I could decide when to sleep, where I wanted to sleep, and how long I wanted to stay out watching the tide roll in and rush out.

Now I am back home with my family.

It's crazy to think there are only two weeks left of summer vacation before the school grind and giddiness begins again.

It's weird how life progresses.  My little brother Hammy (nickname) and I were talking about life this evening.  Sometimes it doesn't make sense.  It seems like we live in a dream and our words don't mean anything, but they do.  Our words hold together this world and this society.

Lies don't work.

Jazz-Bear, my sister's boyfriend and I were talking about one of our common acquaintances who is a compulsive liar.  When Jazz-Bear figured this out after they had known each other for a summer, he decided to end their friendship.

Lies and words do matter.  They make and break friends.  And we seem to need friends in this existence.  Through relationships we learn about ourselves and each other.  We trust.  I think justifying life is impossible.  It just is.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Possession, by A.S. Byatt

I finished!  Yay!  I started this novel, or romantic novel, or mystery novel, or all three types, over a month ago and finished it this morning.  At 2 AM I turned the last page and breathed a sigh of relief.

I really enjoyed the last 50 pages of the 530 page + novel.  It pulled together all of the characters and created a scene that could have come right out of a Castle episode.  In fact, it read just like the episode "Under the Gun." At the end of the novel, all of the characters are brought together at a gravesite.  Two of the characters are digging up one of the other "main character's" gravesite, and find the last clue.  They solve the mystery after being caught by the actual owner of the box in gravesite, and everyone gets together at an Inn where they share the secret.

This may be giving away the end of the book, but I need to remember it for class in the fall.  I figure this is the best way to remember what it was about when the school year begins.

Even though I didn't particularly like this book, it did make me imagine how terrible the life of a literary analyst must be.  It is probably terribly interesting at moments and terribly boring most of the time.  The only character that seemed to have a fulfilling life was the American guy, Cropper, (in fact, the American woman, Leonora was pretty interesting in her "non" English enthusiasm for dead English poets).  But, now that I think about it more, none of the characters had fulfilling lives outside of their English field.  They were all wretchedly obsessed.  Except Roland's girlfriend, Val, who was depressed.  At least until she finds love with Euan, who is the character that allows the end to occur.  Without Euan as an interested solicitor who wanted to help "fix" Val, the end could not have arrived.  Funny how all the "students of literary" couldn't solve the mystery in a legal fashion.  Huh.

I am sure that criticizing literature has it positive points.  The two main characters, Maud and Roland, do find love in the end.

The novel also made the Victorian age look like a very important age in the world's development of English literature.

The two main characters, Ash and LaMotte, who are replicas of the other two main characters, Roland Michell and Maud Bailey (who lack umph or excitement for anything that isn't their love of Ash and LaMotte), fall in love even thought LaMotte appears to be a lesbian with her partner (Blanche), living in solitude and enjoying her egg-like state, and Ash is married and loves his wife, Ellen.

The novel begins to make more and more sense after wading through tons of faux literature that fills the pages.  It makes sense that the novel is so long, because half of it is the literature that all the characters read and write while they discover Ash and LaMotte's love (which turned into a child, but LaMotte is such a moral/unmoral/Victorian woman that she hides her child indefinitely from Ash (but of course Ash is so smart that he meets the child, which we find in the postscript)).

It really was fun discovering the characters and what they wrote, which explains who they are and why they are fascinating, but at moments I really wanted to get back to the story!

There was one story in the story that really stuck with me.  It a short story by, I believe, LaMotte, about a princess who is locked in a glass coffin, and a cobbler discovers her after taking a magical key from a goblin.

Every story, criticism, journal, and letter, helps bring out the characters.  But at moments there seem to be too many characters!  At other moments I forgot who I cared about, and I didn't think I cared about any of the characters.

I have a lot of respect for the writer.  She invented tons of characters and put them in history and then tried to write with her characters' genius.  I don't think she always succeeded.  But I liked the pieces she wrote for LaMotte.  It's clear that LaMotte is the main character in the writer's eyes.

I think this book will play in my head for a while to come.

The book made me think that writing convincing male characters must not be easy.

I liked the idea of this book.  Sometimes it felt pretentious, but overall it was entertaining.  And long.  And must be an English Literature grad-student's dream.  I would love to uncover a scandal that went unknown for a hundred years.  That would be so much fun!

I think I'd give this book a B+.  I liked the end.  It brought everything together so well.