Stringing my Life Together: Purishpa takini, takishpa purini.

Mariachi Jam
2008/10/26, 19:43
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday a colleague from the mariachi group, Sally, invited me over to practice some of our mariachi repertoire (I guess you can consider us the noobs in the group, relatively)…anyways, it turned into an entire day with a circus atmosphere!

First we went to Candelas Guitar shop, which was awesome (and of course I did some browsing for Gio since I’ve become an amateur guitar expert ever since meeting him).  Amazingly enough, they had a backyard mariachi bash that day, so we had some Mexican food with music.  Then we went off to order some moños (little bowties to wear with our trajes). East LA was a great mix of Mexico, Roosevelt Ave in Queens, and California palm trees!

Back to Santa Monica to practice, with lots of crazy LA driving and her 13 year old son and friends being goofy middle schoolers.  As a refresher, Sally made me some iced coffee blended with butterfinger ice cream…very tasty!  Definitely a day with a circus/zoo vibe.

When the day ended, my face hurt from smiling and laughing and speaking in Spanglish.  I’ve decided I really need to get out more on Saturdays!!

Time for work and the LA Galaxy game on TV 🙂


Flights, flights, and more flights.
2008/10/23, 03:10
Filed under: Moving

It’s midterm season…I’ve been MIA due to a healthy double dose of work and having had Gio visit two weekends ago.

Having Gio here was great, although it wasn’t long enough.  We were able to celebrate our 4 year (well, 3 years and 11 months) anniversary together.  For our dinner, Gio took me out to Bubba Gump on the Santa Monica Pier because he knows I love the movie Forrest Gump (and he has always wanted to go to the Pier because he would watch the Lost Boys all the time…something I’ve never seen and don’t have a clue about).  We got off the bus at the wrong stop, so we had a LOOOONNG romantic walk down the beach in almost complete darkness.  Hah, whoops!

Besides that, I’ve just been doing work, work, work, and trying to find deals for the holidays for flights, which I’m finally finished with.

FYI: For flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas… $769.10.  Ouch, talk about a chunk out of my savings.  Looks like next year I’ll be having a sunny, palm tree filled Christmas  😦

Advice #7(8,9,10? I forget):  When you move out of state, DON’T EXPECT YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS TO BE HONORED.  I had one that should have lasted until February.  I spoke with my doctor about how I was moving, I spoke with a representative at the graduate student orientation here, I spoke with the pharmacist here…NOWHERE along the line was there even a hint that my prescription would not be honored from New York.  Go figure.  I found out only when I was trying to refill it a week before I needed it.

Alright, I’m hitting the books!

Celebrating four years at the Santa Monica Pier

Celebrating four years at the Santa Monica Pier

YoYo Ma at the Hollywood Bowl, the REDCAT, and CLUELESS
2008/10/08, 09:26
Filed under: Uncategorized

So during the last weekend of September (Rosh Hashanah time) Sierra came to visit Tara and I.   It’s always fun to have someone visit and force you to do the “sight seeing” things that you normally wouldn’t when you’re living and experiencing the daily grind in a place.

The weekend started with me trying to meet Sierra at the airport by bus.  It wasn’t bad.  It was a lengthy trip, and even worse when we got on the wrong shuttle TWICE to try and get home!  Ugh, reminds me of getting lost at the Barajas airport in Madrid after I Elizabeth and Laura off.  Both in Madrid and here, I ended up on buses that went to employee parking lots.

Advice #4 (I think??)…make sure you take the right bus, and don’t rely on asking people because they had no clue and didn’t understand what I meant by the bus terminal for some reason.  If you’re ever at LAX and need the bus terminal to catch the Culver City or the Santa Monica Bus Lines….go to the bottom floor, and make sure you take the shuttle for LOT C.

After we got home, Sierra and I grabbed a bit to eat and headed out to Hollywood and the Hollywood Bowl where we had tickets to see Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (one of the professors in my department plays with them, he played the Nay flute in the Al-Kindi ensemble).  We first took the #2 bus along the “private” gated mansions on Sunset Blvd. to get to Hollywood…got off and walked around.  Saw the Chinese Theater, and we saw about three Mickey Mouse stars and William Primrose’s star on the Walk of Fame (I was probably the ONLY person who a) knew who W. Primrose was at that given moment and b) was excited that I saw his star).  Sierra and I were able to find a cute little café to grab a coffee before the concert since we knew it would be a late night, and then hiked up to the Hollywood Bowl (the largest outdoor amphitheater in the world!!)  When we arrived, we were confronted with mayhem.  The electronic tickets for orders did not print with barcodes and were not considered real tickets, only confirmations.  About 600-700 people or more bought tickets like we did (last minute), and there was ONE box office window open for Will Call tickets.  We stood in a line so long that even being 15 minutes early made us miss half of the concert and we walked in just in time for intermission!!  It was close to pandemonium.

Advice #5: Will Call doesn’t always work so well.  We would have entered more quickly had we just purchased tickets on the spot.  Either do Will Call and go a few HOURS early, or go extra early and buy a ticket.

Advice #6: Bring fun foods and BLANKETS to the Hollywood Bowl…the seats aren’t all that comfortable and it gets chilly.

Thankfully, we didn’t miss the main musical performances, and I enjoyed those very much.  I really liked the Whirling Dervishes and watching the fiddle players, and seeing YoYo Ma was way better than seeing Bob Barker when I went to the Price is Right (I’m half joking, but as musicians, Sierra and I were particularly excited).

After the concert, Sierra and I had NO clue how we were getting home, because we originally thought we would take a bus, but the concert went later than we had planned (and we did not want to miss any of the little we were going to be able to see).  When the final bows were taking place, Sierra and I booked, weaving through the crowd down towards the buses to see if there was a chance of us paying for a Park & Ride bus ticket to come back towards Westwood.  We got down to the line of buses and saw a giant yellow charter bus with someone holding a “Westwood” sign next to it.  Sierra quickly asked them if they could help us figure out how to get there, and they ended up shoving us on the bus to fill the last two seats!!

It all happened so fast.

At first I thought, “Oh, they’re going to ask us for cash (which neither of us had) or a ticket and then won’t let us stay on,” but they didn’t.  We headed out almost immediately after we sat down.

Next I had a mini panic attack inside because we took highways that I didn’t know of, and I had the dreadful thought of…”What if this bus is taking us to a Westwood CITY in California, and not the neighborhood near campus!?  Are we going to be stranded in an unfamiliar place in California at 11:30pm??”

As fate would have it, the bus went to campus, and dropped us off at a parking lot close enough to Westwood Blvd, where we were able to run a few blocks down Wilshire to catch the LAST bus of the night headed from UCLA to my apartment.


The following day, our other musical venture in Los Angeles was downtown at the Grand Avenue Festival.  One of my peers from Potsdam is studying at CalArts and was playing a Latin Jazz gig at the RedCat (adjacent to the Walt Disney Hall where the LA Phil plays).  I purposefully did not tell him whether I was going because I wanted to surprise him with not just me catching the gig, but FOUR of us total who he went to school with (and we all pretty much had the same professor as a mentor, Marsha Baxter).  Nate was floored, his ensemble was amazing, and the food was pretty good!

Other than that, us girls hung out (and I started my first full week of grad classes).  We also rented the movie Clueless (which I haven’t seen since high school!!)  What a classic movie, in a very, contemporary teen-flick sort of way (I think I would put it up there with the Breakfast Club and Mean Girls…Clueless has a lot to say about American attitudes and teenage-dom culture).  The funny thing was that I understood SO many more of the innuendos and jokes, and the Los Angeles references.  For example, the step brother Josh says he found an apartment “near campus in Westwood,” which would be UCLA.  Also, when the girls go shopping, they go to the Westside Pavilion (the mall that I pass every day when I take the bus to campus).  I’m not necessarily star-struck here, but it is neat to have a reference of where these places are in LA that are mentioned.

Having Sierra stay with us really made all three of us feel nostalgic for our Liverpool teaching days last year.  But the time came for Sierra to head back to teaching in NY and for grad school to come hurdling at me!!

Mariachi Rehearsal…learning on the spot!
2008/10/04, 08:19
Filed under: Uncategorized

Currently Listening to: Caminos de Guanajuato, and Khaled ‘Oran Marseille’  (if you haven’t heard Raï music, you must check it out sometime… )

Currently Craving:  Moroccan cuisine (I think it has become one of my favorites of all-time!)

The last week has been insanely busy.  Sierra came to visit and we did all sorts of exciting things (which I’ll try to write about later this weekend)!  Assignments consisted of hundreds of pages of reading and several pages of writing to do, along with listening (I still have a ton to do, but that’s what I’m here for!)

Today I spent most of the day in the library skimming three books and taking notes.  Then there was mariachi rehearsal.  My second one with the group.  It’s intense…I’m trying to memorize (let alone learn!) about 20+ songs in a week for our first gig!!  It’s really interesting to go from almost a strictly classical background, in terms of ensemble experience and reading music, to this type of atmosphere and rehearsal.  Peer learning is a necessity, and it’s a real challenge to LISTEN and commit the music to memory right away, how it works with the other players’ parts, technical issues with the violin, style, rhythm…I find myself trying to form deeper understandings of the music and make sense of it all, grasping for whatever my brain can retain while in overdrive (or in various gelatin-like states). It’s not that I’ve never learned this way before…before I had summer lessons I would spend hours learning things on the radio by ear…but a 3 hour rehearsal with 90% of music I don’t know is an entirely different level of intensity for me!

I think the most fascinating thing I have experienced while learning in this manner is that…it’s easier to memorize the music when I’m just using my ears and not using the notation as a crutch.  Listening and watching really makes me internalize it much more than if I just sight read something (like how you could read a sentence in autopilot and not put any thought into what it means).  I’m a very visual person and visual learner, however, music is a different ball game for me, and I think I have relied too much on notation when it’s there in front of me.

I would really suggest to any and all musicians that they should try learning this way sometime.  Pick up your instrument and dive head first into what you’re learning.

Abandon any inhibitions and just be immersed in the music.

I’m hoping by Thursday I’ll have the tunes down enough (and whatever I don’t, I’ll be able to fake convincingly enough…like I did when I was in youth orchestra as a youngin’) where I will be able to perform at the gig in the Fowler Musuem.  If you’re in the LA area and are interested in Mexican Art, come check it out!