Delayed Spring Cleaning

Salzburg – Vienna – Prague Wrap Up

The last tour with Toccata turned out great.  There are a ton of memories, but I think I just want to lay out the ones that still are sticking in my brain after all this time.

First one: I got sick.  For the first time in 5+ years I got an actual cold.  The illness landed on me the day we got to Vienna, and pretty much knocked me down until we got to Prague (3 days).  Cathedrals in Europe do not have internal heating or air conditioning.  So I sat through 2 performances with chills, fever, and no heating (average daytime temperatures were around 40-50 degrees F).   I lost an entire day to sleeping and high fever.  I think the most hilarious moment of the entire illness was racing through the streets of Vienna with my newfound friend Hope at 6:30 PM in a cab trying to find a pharmacy that was still open so I could purchase the Austrian version of NyQuil.  Bless our cab driver – he was yelling into his radio the whole time with his home base getting addresses of pharmacies still open.  If I wasn’t running a high-grade fever, I would have recorded the whole thing for posterity.

The next notable part of the trip was making friends!  On my previous trip, I met Marcia and Mary Anne.  They came again on this trip (YAY).  This time Elizabeth brought her friend Hope.  And we all 5 bonded.  I still am marveling at how you meet the best people in the oddest places.  I got to know Liz better, and I got to meet Hope. I was traveling buddy-less on this trip, so having the five of them to spend time with made the entire excursion that much better.

The last notable part was the oboe-ing itself.  I got to play the Bach duet again with Liz and Allison (they doubled the part to match my awesome output, haha).    The next best part of the music we played was the arrangement of Amazing Grace we did.  I had played this before – it starts off with an oboe intro (meant to mimic bagpipes).  I usually make Rebecca play it with me (our other oboist), but on this trip I was alone.  I thought it would sound wussy, but park an oboe in the middle of a cathedral, and when the sound comes bouncing back, it sounds like bagpipes.  Someone actually wrote an email to our orchestra saying it was the coolest thing they had heard in a long time.  I made people happy.  That makes me happy.

More Orchestra Stuff

Beyond all of that, I returned from the trip, had a few weeks, and then I was back into orchestra.  I seriously feel like I haven’t had a break from my oboe in MONTHS.  It’s just been a cycle of making reeds, doing performances, and then working through the next set of music.  It’s our busy season (summer).  I did get to do some fun stuff.  I generally get copies of my performances on DVD, so the audio quality is not great.  This time around I got a smidge smarter and just ripped the audio track raw and uploaded it to SoundCloud.  So here you are:

I think in the future I’ll stick with SoundCloud – the audio quality from the DVDs could always be better, but raw audio trumps compressed audio + video on YouTube.  I got a DVD of me doing the 2nd movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony (English Horn), but it’s outdoor so we’ll see how that sounds before I bless you with that.

The Tooth Fairy

Fractured my tooth way back in October (I have this thing about clenching/grinding my teeth). Two surgeries and several dental appointments later, I now have a post and crown.  Dentists didn’t lie – it feels like a regular tooth.  The only problem I’ve run into so far is I’ve had to ease my reeds up a bit, otherwise my jaw gets sore after about 3+ hours of playing.  Still working through that.  Also, I may be one of the few patients on record to have a panic attack when getting fitted with a mold for a crown…

Gardening

As a result of the Europe trip + orchestra-in-the-face whammy, I didn’t get half of what I wanted into the ground this year.  I have 3 very healthy cucumber plants, 3 jalapeño plants, and 4 tomato plants.  I’ll just roll with that this year. I see pickles in my future.

The Townhouse

I don’t even know where to begin.  I own a townhouse in Vegas.  Lived in it for 5 or so years.  Moved away from Vegas.  Rented it.  It’s had its ups and downs.  Well, it hit a slump.  My tenant was evicted for non-payment of rent in April.  Less than 48 hours after the tenant was thrown out, squatters moved in and demolished the place.  My property management company (Robinson Realty) has given me a property manager that can’t be bothered to ever answer my emails or phone calls or get work done on the place so it can be rented out.  I’ve been fighting with this for two months, and I think my brain is about to explode.

Bike

After years of running, I finally hit a wall.  I stopped running earlier this year – I was out on a 4 mile run and just realized it was no longer fun.  I hated thinking about it, I hated doing it, and when it was all over I hated the idea that I’d have to do it again.  Not a healthy place to be.  I tried walking for a while but it was too slow and ultimately unsatisfying.  So I bought a bike.  Aside from a 10 day gap in June, I’ve been out on that thing 2-4 times a week.  It’s enjoyable for me – just long hauls in any direction I want.  I get the same amount of time to think, but it’s not interrupted by my knees or hips hurting me.  I’m still slow, but I’m getting faster.  And the time I can go is much longer.  I’m up past an hour now (yay).  It’s still a challenge carving out 1-1.5 hours in the morning to get out there, but I’m trying hard to make it happen.

 

…and we are back. In Europe. Again.

After a crazy set of circumstances, I’ve found myself in Europe again.  This time I’m in Austria (Salzburg, next Vienna).  After that, we head to the Czech Republic (Prague).  Then home.  I’m with the orchestra.  I was promised many solos.  I think I’ll get to play about half of them now, but whatever, I’m here and I gotta do what I gotta do.

Let me get some whining out, then we’ll do the funny stuff.

Short story:  last trip I boosted my seats on British Airways to their premium economy thing.  I got huge spacious seats, more legroom than I could use, and all kinds of fancy service.  I was impressed.  I had read an article somewhere about how Delta’s Comfort+ was better than BA’s version.  So when I had the tour folk book this trip, I asked for that.

Guess what?  It’s not better. It’s like economy with 5 or 6 extra peanuts in your bag, and maybe an inch or two of extra room.  Oh, and the plane we were flying was older, so I was trying to stare at movies the size of a postcard on an old screen that looked like it was about to fall out of the seat.  On top of that, the headphone jack was jacked up (hurr) so if I or my neighbors touched the screen, I got all kind of weird feedback.  Food was exactly the same as my last trip two years ago.  I am kind of peeved that I paid extra for that.  I’m seriously so disappointed that I’ll insist I never ever fly Delta again for the rest of my life.  Gawd.

Ok, now the fun stuff.  Let’s start off by just stating that I have been WHOLLY unprepared for this trip.  I barely had time to read anything about Austria or the Czech Republic.  Unlike Italy, I didn’t spend a couple of months with Duolingo trying to get at least a baby comprehension of phrases/basic instructions.  This is due to the fact that the decision to go was last minute.  I signed up at the end of February, then had a concert series, then got my post put in (ongoing tooth face destruction).  Recovery, panic practicing, then omg I am leaving in less than a week PUT ALL THE THINGS IN A BAG.  So yeah, I did that and now I’m here.  And completely clueless.

I am also writing this blog with about 8 hours of sleep spread out over 2 days, so there is some degree of delirium.

Once I settled in the hotel, I thought I’d go on an adventure. I walked down to the little grocery store down the street.  I drained my account for some precious Euros, went in to pick up some stuff.  I was mostly collecting water, snacks, and a couple of baby bottles of the local vino to try.

Oranges were easy.  I found and threw a couple in my basket.  Then I tackled the water.  As a reminder, I have spent ZERO time getting familiar enough with German to navigate my way verbally or linguistically out of a paper bag.  As a result, I spent way too long staring at the water bottles trying to figure out which ones were sparkling, and which ones were not. After a lot of staring, some confusion, and at one point considering using my precious international data plan megabytes for google translate, I realized one bottle said “Still”. Using my jet-lagged brain logic, I picked the other bottle.

TL;DR:  Prickelnd = sparkling

I spent some time ruminating over the untranslatable german language wines (see note above about not wanting to burn precious megabytes).  There was a gal next to me staring down the sparkling wines.  I guess when I walked up and started reviewing baby bottles and either evicting or adding them to my basket, she determined I knew what I was doing (the tour guide did tell us to be assertive here).  So she started to ask me in German (I presume) about her selection of sparkling wine.  And I had no idea what to say other than “I’m sorry…”.  She then said (again, I presume) “oh, it’s ok” (I did hear the work “ok” in there), and grabbed a bottle and ran.  I hope she picked a good one.

mystery wine – I will get around to translating it.  Decided to sample first.

So I purchased my selections.  Much like SF, they make you buy bags for your groceries. Luckily I was traveling with a backpack, so I loaded it all in and headed back to the hotel.  In that brief time I was in the grocery store, it started snowing.  AGAIN.  Instead of heading out into the historic areas I decided to camp inside.  I have a good chunk of tomorrow to walk around when I’m less tired to do that.

I thought I left this….

Not much else yet to report.  I’ve been here for about 6 hours at this point.  Spent some time with Mary Anne and Marsha.  Tried hard not to fall asleep during conversations.  I’ll be fine after a full night sleep tonight.  Maybe.  Steel yourself for more updates in a day or so!

Oh, this thing

I suppose an update is in order about my tooth issue.  I arrived home from my glorious vacation (really, aside from the tooth problem, it was amazing).  I booked an appointment with the dentist for the day after my return.  When I got there, they did x-rays, poked around (without any valium to chill me out, that was stressful), and the dentist pronounced I fractured my tooth.  Not any fracture.  A fracture in four places.  In other words, I bit down hard enough to crack my tooth in four places, and one of them down to the root.

Now, I have had a mouth guard (custom) for several years.  I clench my teeth.  I do it when I sleep.  I do it when I work.  I lost it about 3 years ago.  I had this awful habit of pulling it out in my sleep – it was this little piece of resin that fit over my front teeth.  I pulled it out one night in my sleep, and it vanished.  I think the cat batted it into some random place never to be seen again.  So yeah, never got it replaced.  And as such I resumed my bad sleep-teeth-grinding-clenching habits.

As a result of this new fracture, I had three choices:  try to let them fix it (would not work in the long term), have them replace it with a bridge (NO – it would vibrate when I played oboe), or replace it with a new post and crown ($$$$$).  I went with option 3, only after they swore up and down I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference when playing.

I take valium to go to the dentist, even for simple cleanings, because of my anxiety.  I now had to go to an oral surgeon and let them pull out a tooth and do a bone graft.  Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I had the option to be put completely out for the procedure.  Not that it really stopped the anxiety. When I arrived, I had to sign a sheet that basically listed every worst case scenario from being sedated.  As I sat in the chair, all of that ran through my head.  I was shaking and terrified when they put in the IV.  The most humorous part was as I started to go under. I remember feeling each new effect of the sedative and asking if I was going to die.  This was the conversation:

Me: “Ben” – he was the doctor – “I feel dizzy, am I going to die?”
Ben: “No, you’re fine”.
Me:  “Ben, I feel like I can’t breathe, am I going to die?”
Ben: “No, we’re watching your vitals, everything is just fine”
Me: “Ben, it’s getting hard to talk, am I going to die?”
Ben: “That’s normal too, just try and sleep”
Me: “BEN! I AM SLEEPY AND I AM GOING TO DIE????”
Ben: <muffled words – I was out at that point>

An hour and a half later I woke up, and his assistant was greeted by me asking “I can’t see the hippos anymore, where are they?”

Suffice it to say, I felt like the world’s biggest dork later on.

Anxiety is a pain in the ass – the most normal sensation always means YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.  It’s so hard to explain that bit of anxiety to someone.  It’s kind of like going into your house and seeing a crack in the wood floor, and automatically assuming the house is going to collapse on you.  There’s no in between.  There’s no logic in place to say “yeah, crap, crack in the floor”.  It’s always, ALWAYS, worst case scenario.  This bleeds into everything in my life, and quite frankly makes it really difficult.  I live like this since my mid-20s.  I’ve developed ways of dealing with the anxiety, but it is always there, under the surface.  So I cope.

So back to the tooth.  Everything went normally.  Destroyed tooth was yanked.  Bone graft done.  I healed up just fine, although it took about 3 days to get back to eating solid food.  I had a minor complication with a fragment of bone poking out, so I was banned from oboe-ing for about a month total until it settled back where it belonged.

Right now I’ve still got the gap there.  I am playing again.  Net side effects from the hole are excessive drooling when I play. Seriously, I collect so much water in my horn now, it’s gross – I have to keep swabbing and blowing out the upper joint.  Second weird effect is the tooth behind the gap resonates when I play a D above middle C.  It buzzes a bit, and my inner ear itches.  Luckily, oboe is not a long-note holding instrument so when I’m plowing through Bach the feeling is fleeing.  Long tones are a bitch, though.

I go back in one month to get the post put in.  I was promised the heal time will be less than a week.  After a month, I’ll go to my dentist, get a crown, and VOILA.  New fake tooth.  After all of THAT is done, we’re getting me a nice mouth guard for sleeping (again), and hopefully my sleep tooth clenching will be a thing of the past and I won’t have to live through all this again.

It’s been one year and 10 days since the last time I was told what a horrible person I was. It’s been an interesting year.  I tried hard to let that little awful anniversary pass, but I couldn’t.  Next year will be better.  And the year after that I’ll remember it without hurting.

Today, however, I was reminded by The Man Friend™ (ok, more than a friend, shut up) that I am wanted and needed.  Maybe I’ll remember that more next year than the Awful Memory.

 

 

Melting Brain

My big goal this last few months has been “making space for myself”, per my therapist.  Finding who I am.  Doing what I need to do to feel comfortable.  And I have been doing that.  Until orchestra hit with a vengeance.  I was doing just fine balancing work, the new Man Friend™, and daily practicing.  A few weeks ago my peaceful balance was disrupted by orchestra-related performances.  I’ve pretty much found myself on almost a month straight of rehearsals, concerts, and panic reed making to replace the reeds I ran into the ground this last series.

But hey, I got my face on a poster so there’s that!  Said poster:

oboe

Anyway, I’ve kind of felt a bit of a crunch, and find myself back at my “old” stressed out self.  Lashing out.  Feeling tired.  Feeling super overwhelmed.  I do have much better mental tools to handle it now, so when I hit those walls I’m able to push back and pick up without crumbling.

There are so many things that are better.  I can now go and face people in person.  I feel this driving need to get out of my house at least once a day – even if it’s just for a run.  I can be social.  I don’t feel so crushed or broken.

I’ve run face-first into some memories from my previous relationship lately.  It wasn’t the whammy I was expecting.  I’m not hurt anymore.  It doesn’t cause me distress.  I’m more analytical.  And today I threw out something that’s been nagging me.  And you, you unfortunate reader of this blog, will get to relive some of what I had put up with.

So when you move someone into a very small house, you find you need places to put shit.  In this case: the bathroom.  It’s super small, and not a lot of storage.  So I got this rack to put in the bathroom.  Stuff went on it.  It was good.  Until the other person comes home blackout drunk at 1AM.  He went out and got trashed, came home, decided he had to pee.  Because he could hardly stand up straight, he grabbed the rack, and then he fell over.  And took the rack and everything on it with him.  Oh, and somehow on the way down he pulled the lid off of the toilet.  So after the racket woke me up, I went into the bathroom to find the rack knocked over, all of the stuff on the floor (or broken), and the lid from the toilet shattered.  And a very blasted man who should have thanked his lucky stars he didn’t break his neck.  I was lucky that day to not be treated to another angry drunk tirade.  He went to bed and passed out, while I got to clean everything up.  Since then, I’ve looked at that rack and hated it. I hated the memory.  I hated that it was there when I didn’t need it anymore.

Today it went in the trash.  That felt so good.

So on to some updates:

  • Yep, shit ton of orchestra
  • Duet with Josue went amazingly well.  He’s the best duet partner, tons of fun!  We have one more performance, then we put Bach to bed
  • Man Friend™ is definitely a thing.  I’ve introduced him to a few of my friends.  He’s fun.  I enjoy the time we have together, even if it’s brief some days.
  • My yard is a disaster.  Oh god, a huge disaster.  I need help!
  • Running is still spectacular.  Improvements are very tiny, but overall I’ve cut off tons of time per mile, and tons of weight.  Definitely a correlation between how much weight I carry and how fast I can run.
  • Weight in general is under control.  I’m still on the chunky side, but a lot thinner (two sizes), and I’ve got stamina for days.  I feel good.
  • Salem has not run off again. She’s less grounded now, but I keep an eye on her.  She also managed to “lose” two of her collars.  Pretty much the worst cat.

That’s all I have to say today.  I know the post meandered, but my reminder to write went off this morning so this is what you get.  Enjoy!

 

What was I thinking

Everybody makes poor decisions.  I’ve made plenty, however I am just fine with laughing at myself over them.

On Sunday I ran 3.75 miles.  Got home super energized.  I had planned on making breakfast when I got back (eggs, toast), however my endorphin-charged brain decided that was an insufficient meal.  So I cleaned up, chugged some v-8, and headed to Trader Joe’s.  Begin poor decisions.  Everything looked SO DELICIOUS.  I wound up buying several good for me delicious things.  And a lemon cake.  And a container of ice cream.  I will be running a lot to make up for it.

Spring came back.  I’m thinking we’re out of the overnight freezes.  My goal this week is to get the sprinkler system up and the sprayers working, and start prepping for planting this weekend.  I had to buy a new hose for the front yard.  The cheap one I got last year lasted exactly one year.  This would be why I don’t buy things from wal-mart.  And probably why I shouldn’t drive over it to get into the garage.  And probably why I should have unhooked it for the winter.  In my defense, the previous hose lasted far longer!!!

On to better decisions…

I agreed a couple of weeks ago to play a Fasch concerto for flute and oboe, with me doing the flute part.  It’s a bit high.  Ok, a lot high.  However, I saw it as a challenge and got to work.  Current assessment:  definitely high, but manageable and sounds pretty decent.  It also has the added bonus of giving me some quality time with that range on my oboe.  I don’t get to exercise it much with baroque music.

In addition to that duet, I’ll be playing another one with Josue Casillas.  We’ll be reprising the Bach duet I did with Elizabeth Pitcairn back in February.  I expect my face to fall off at the end of each concert, but I think I’ll be in good shape and ready to attack it when the time comes in June!

I found a 20 week marathon training program and started it this week.  This is the easy portion (4 runs a week).  I can do that.  So the big question becomes, which half-marathon am I going to tackle?  I haven’t figured that out yet, so until I decide I’ll probably be repeating sets of weeks until I figure out what I should be doing.  Or I might just pick a set of weeks and repeat them endlessly.  I’m not in a huge rush either way.  The important part for me right now is just the running part – it’s been a significant portion of my therapy.  It’s just nice to go out and pound the pavement until my problems fade away.