Friday, April 30, 2010

fare thee well, bay ridge

Well. I did it. I cut the chord.

I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet, leaving home. That’s what it feels like when you’ve lived in the same place you did as a kid, a mere 23 years old. It seemed like such an adult step back then - moving to the city, finding roommates, getting a job, paying an electric bill for the first time…

I’d found my way to Bay Ridge when I was suddenly ousted from my apartment in Washington Heights (long story for another time). So that I wouldn’t have to commute to my li’l desk job from Poughkeepsie, my good friends Mary and Mark benevolently let me crash on their living room futon here in the neighborhood. In that month’s time or so, I fell in love with the neighborhood. It had the perfect blend of suburbia and accessibility; deep roots, multi-generational households, family owned businesses … great food. There is an utter lack of pretension or longing to be current with urban trends - I was/am often the hippest gal on the block - (no. really.)

Like most, I found my apartment by way of Craigslist - suspiciously cheap for being in the center of all the 86th St. action, I had my doubts. Turns out, it truly was a lucky find. 3 ladies of about the same age were here to greet me. I remember feeling so instantly cozy with my initial family of girls. Parties, drama, laughter, tension, friendship … this was 516.

As roommates and sleeping quarters rotated over time, the dynamics shifted further from what had made my life here a comfort --- drifting more toward a place where I simply hung my hat maybe a little too far from the city. Having been financially dependent on the relatively low rent, I stuck around until I had more means and stability to make a real move. I'd also been attached to the convenience of Frank living nearby, so late-night recording sessions weren't an issue ... and then he abandoned ship for Staten Island.

And so, with all signs pointed toward "it's time", the day has come and off I go.

I found an adorable (albeit much smaller:) apartment in one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York - Park Slope, Brooklyn. Not exactly an enormous leap (an 81 block leap north, to be precise), but certain to be an adjustment -- one that I’m equally apprehensive and thrilled about. The swift commute alone just may send me into shock (related, I anticipate more frequent, less travel-weary visitors)

I have a month to make the transition - and I don’t know where to begin on the accumulation of 7 years here in this once home. I suppose I’ll begin with boxes and bags and lots of them ... doing my best to bat away the range of emotional triggers from the past.

I’ll soon no longer be the coolest kid on the block (that title belongs to Maggie Gyllenhaal) but I trust I’ll find a little pocket to squirm and settle into - calling this apartment and neighborhood a place I belong before long.

And I can’t WAIT to be all up in that park.

All in all, a positive change … I look forward to the fresh view.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Helpless? We hope!

While Ben selfishly ditches our lesson schedule to tour and make a living, my homework is to both sing and play Helpless by Neil Young, start to finish. Complete with less-than clunky strumming.
In a few weeks, I may even post a little recording for your ears to feast upon. Don't worry, I'll post discriminately. Applause-worthy milestones only.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

but if you D sometimes ...

When it comes to music lessons, I’ve been known to be an impatient brat when not instantly Monk or Stevie Ray Vaughn. At the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I have a life history of being a natural - dancing, singing, writing ... all skills I proved to possess innately at a young age - skipping the beginner phase before I’d even begun. I’ve still done the work and continue to educate myself - but it’s long been from a more advanced place I’ve sought progression.

To put it more simply … when I suck at something, I don’t like to do it. I own this flaw entirely. But in recent months, I decided enough was e-f’ing-nough.

So I’ve begun guitar lessons. Recruitment began a few weeks ago for a brave soul to tackle the monster alongside me. The search ended at the doorstep of my very good friend, Ben “Cartel” Rosenthal (of The Benjamin Cartel and indy duo KaiserCartel) With great enthusiasm, he took me under his (talented, funny, positive) wing.

And, well … I suck. The “songs” I play are virtually unrecognizable. My fingers hurt. There are so many dissonant vibrations, it sounds like I’ve taken up the Sitar. I have to climb itsy-bitsy-spider style to each chord. I have almost zero natural talent for this fickle beast of an instrument. But I’ve managed to unearth a surge of motivation to get better and remain disciplined - and it’s really exciting. I’m (finally) very much okay with having to really work and be patient with the journey being a slow one.

Ben is an excellent teacher. I should plug him here, in case any of my 5 readers are considering private lessons. He has the patience of a saint, he’s your biggest fan, and the “pick an easy song and we’ll learn it” approach works much better for me than getting bombarded with scale after chord after scale. It’s important to have context you can connect to. The repertoire will come over time, there’s no plan to become a master of music theory inside of a month or two.

Our song of choice to kick things off was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” a.k.a. C--F--C--F--D--F--C! My favorite is D, in case you were wondering. (I haven’t exactly put Mr. Richards to shame, but we’re gettin' there …)

The next step was to get my clunky, long unloved Cort guitar in more playable condition. I was a little apprehensive of getting up-sold with repairs I didn’t really need, but an additional plug goes out to the fellas at Street Sounds in Bay Ridge for only doing what was necessary for my level of playing.
They did a beautiful job adjusting the action, re-stringing with lighter, more finger-friendly strings and making it all shiny and pretty. Thanks Rocky!

My goals here are to a) become a better student ;) and b) build a stronger foundation for my relatively new place in music; this goes for writing and especially for singing. It feels increasingly ridiculous not to know what notes are coming out of my mouth, or how to find harmonies other than by ear-guessing.

So there’s no plan to take over for Frank on lead … but I can’t say it’s not a fun rock n’ roll fantasy. :)