Wednesday, December 31, 2008

All Clear

So now I have my CPAP machine to help me keep breathing at night, a humidifier attachment to keep my nasal passages from drying out (and man do they dry out), a perscription for allegra, a perscription for flonase, and I'm good to go. The two medications clear me right up so I can breath through my nose. So I have been using the CPAP for the past few nights and it works like a dream.

Just before I satrted using it again, I actually had a dream where I could not breath. It was so real, my lack of breathing in dreamland caused me to wake up and gasp for air. I suspect it was one of those dreams that was triggered by the reality that I had actually stopped breathing.

I've been able to sleep the past couple of nights without any of that happening. Usually get the full eight hours. I still wake up a couple of times (I think three times last night), but I am still able to drop right back off into winkin-blinkin-and-nod-land. Some of the same things that usually keep my brain spinning are still there, lurking, but they don't keep me up.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Billy C, Ben, Jackson, and Me

The Folk Music Center celebrated its 50th anniversary last night. I didn't get an invite, but all of the other Canaries did.

Billy C either found or got his invite yesterday, so he e-mailed me and we decided to go.

I at first thought that it would be like a tiny reception with maybe some snacks and stuff. So I left the house without my ax. Billy C brought his, which is when the light pinged in my head: this is a FOLK MUSIC center, people will probably play music, people will probably be INVITED to play music. So, I went in unarmed, but I figured that I could borrow Billy C's if there was an invitation to play.

Then I realized, hey Ben Harper owns this place. This may actually be quite the shindig!

Harper's grandparents, Charles and Dorothy Chase, first opened the Folk Music Center and Ben, when he became successful, bought it.

So, now I realized this shindig might actually be a hullabaloo!

We got there and a line had already formed, just like open mike night. Ellen, Harper's mother and the store's manager, opened the doors, and, sure enough, this was set up to be a real party. As guests walked in, they received commemorative t-shirts--they even had one in my size. And a gourmet buffet had been spread in front of the guitar wall. Harper himself had just snagged a gourmet cupcake as he greeted old friends from town.

As I shuffled through from the door to where the eats were, I looked behind me and there was Jackson Browne. Other players were there, band members and such. The stage had been set up, so clearly there would be music.

Ellen announced that anyone who wanted to play could get up and play one song. A guy with a kazoo got up and played "Happy Birthday." As the first few players performed, I thought about going up myself, but the acts got better and better. I thought about doing "The Green-Eyed Dragon" a capella, but the acts just kept getting better. Then Ben Harper and Jackson Browne performed.

I should mention here that the Folk Center is not all that big and could hold, at best, maybe a hundred people for concert purposes. So, I'm standing maybe 15 feet from the stage.

So they were good and they stuck, technically, to the one song per person rule. At the end of his song, Harper thanked everyone for coming and I thought that was the end. And I decided that I was not going to follow them if it wasn't.

People kept going up. Ben returned to the stage often, sometimes with his mother, sometimes with other musicians. The evening ended with "Goodnight Irene."

A good time.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Things I Saw This Christmas

A guy standing out in the rain on a traffic island on Mission Blvd. holding assign pointing out his taco shop, which was open for business.

A homeless guy standing in the rain on a freeway off ramp holding a sign wishing everyone a merry Christmas. He was scowling at the passing cars and shouting profanities.

A couple visiting Mama Canary's new assisted living facility with three dogs on a leash.

My DVD of the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Some people from either the coroner's office or a funeral home removing someone in a body bag as Mama C and I left to go catch a movie.

Doubt. The movie. See it.

After the film, in the men's room, a guy standing at the urinal next me missing--basically peeing on the floor without bothering to correct himself.

Two colleagues of mine (actually, one is now a former colleague) who met at my school, fell in love, and got married.

A huge woman at El Torito who not only talked with her mouth full, but sometimes had food hanging out of it.

The Christmas lights up and down the Wood streets while Christmas music played on the radio.

An ambulance in my rear view window.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Soweto Gospel Choir

I felt like I had never heard Amazing Grace before and will never be satisfied hearing anywhere else in any other way. And the whole concert was like this.

They sang traditional songs as well as popular (but not "pop") songs. And every one was a gem. And every time I asked myself how they could possibly move on and top the song they had just sung, they did.

And the dancing was energetic and wild. And they did a lot of it while singing. And I couldn't see how they could possibly do both. But they did.

The performance of Amazing Grace included four soloists, each of whom sang relatively straightforward with some improvisational flourishes and they were all beautiful. But then a final soloist came out and took her verse into a completely different musical universe. Then all of the soloists sang their verses at one time, improvising off of one another in a kind of dialog between sinners testifying. I just don't know how they did it or why it worked so well--but it was blindingly gorgeous.

They finished with a performance of several Christmas carols, some reworked with an African beat. They kept asking the audience to sing along and normally I would have but I didn't want to miss a note of their singing.

The carols were kind of an encore. Except the group didn't leave the stage to be called back. They just stayed in hopes of wearing the audience out. And wear me out they did. This was music as a catharsis, which good gospel music is. But I could have listened to this well into the night.

Let's face it, this is the worst holiday season in my lifetime, but this concert was the the best gift I could ever receive.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

End of an Era

I'm becoming more Buddhist in my thinking these days. Not actual Buddhism--more like Buddhist lite. Most of my enlightenment comes from movies about Buddhism. Like Little Buddha. There's this scene of some monks creating a mandala. A Lama explains to Kris Issak how, once the mandala is completed, it will be swept away with the stroke of a hand.

Our life experiences are like that. Never go into creating something thinking it is permanent. It will save you a lot of aggravation.

My teaching colleague, with whom I have been teaching for 7 and 1/3 years worked his last day yesterday. He has been hire to be an Assistant Principal in another district at a middle school, where he will make his living yelling at hyper-active 7th graders.

Just kidding about that last part.


So, yesterday, our class had a surprise party for him. Pretty simple, really. A couple of kids put together a slide show of the greatest moments in class so far. Then, I gave all of the students a chance to say something to him about how he has influenced their lives.

Lotsa laughs. Lotsa tears.

He then held a raffle, during which he gave away his school-logo type shirts and a few other items.

I threw in an extra surprise. I had just got an account on Facebook and had started getting friend requests form former students. So I made a secret group and spent a little time hunting down other former students and adding them as friends, then inviting them to join my group. At the group site, I shared the info about my colleague's leaving and invited them to come on campus and help us say good-bye to him at the party.

I got about 30 students. Two showed up in uniform. They spanned our entire history together, going as far back as 2001. It was pretty cool.

Then, we showed another slideshow composed of pictures going back about 4 years, which was put together by another student.

Many laughs. Many tears.

The strangest thing is that all of these former students looked pretty much the same age to me. So I kept forgetting that not all of them knew each other.

Anyway, it was a good time.

I'll have a new partner next semester. Time for a new mandala.