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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

MUSIC AND THE MUSE

"All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music."
Walter Pater 1839-1894 "The School of Gerogione"

A specific piece of music can conjur many memories and set you in the mood for the Muse to speak. I often call on Euterpe the Muse of lyric poetry, or Polyhymnia, the Muse of songs for the gods to inspire me while I am writing.

Sometimes, when I'm beginning a new piece of writing I prefer to work in silence. But often, if I play the right music, something that sets me in the 'mood' and 'place' of the piece I am working on, the words flow more easily.

The music that's played in the Iatlian coffee shop where I often go to relax and jot down notes is always Italian music, sometimes popular songs or folk music and often opera. When I was writing my play The Street which is set in the '50's in Vancouver's East End, I would write lines of dialogue while at the Calabria, because the family in the play were Italian immigrants and being there seemed to give me the right 'flavour'. I used music to evoke memories of that time and as the play is partly autobiographical, I had clear images of events and personal experiences associated with the music we used to listen to.

Some of these songs, a lot of them jazz tunes by Chet Baker, Billy Holiday and Rosemary Clooney, were actually played during the performance or at the intermissions. One song in particular brought me back immediately to my youth and still does. To this day I recall clearly how my boyfriend Jimmy (about whom the play was written) loved to sing "Sweet Lorraine" The memory used to be so strong that often it made me cry as I remembered my first love and those tender years when I was so strongly affected by the tragic events that occured when he became a heroin addict. That song, and other, such as Angel Eyes evoke strong memories of that time in my life.

I am very particular what I listen to while I'm writing my historical fiction novel. In the beginning, when the setting was in Babylon I used to play Persian music. Now I prefer some music from movies, or classical pieces such as those by Yo Yo Ma. If I'm not careful what I'm listening to it can be distracting rather than inspiring.

I found an excellent CD in Greece which I play when I am working on my w.i.p. drama,
House of the Muses, which is about the life of the lyric poet Sappho who Plato described as
"The Tenth Muse." The music is by a Greek composer, Angelique Ionatos, who write it to accompany Sappho's lyric poetry (because Sappho sang her poems accompanied by the lyre.)
"Sappho de Mytilene" is one of my favorite CD's. The songs are sung by the composer
and another well-known Greek singer, Nena Venetsanou accompanied by instruments such as the guitar, our, tabor and oboe.

In the writing classes I teach, I often use music as a prompt and we write whatever imagry that particular music conjurs. And music is also a good way to relax and allow your creativity to take you into other worlds in particular if you are suffering from the dreaded 'writer's block'.

What kind of music do you like to listen to when you are writing? Or do you prefer silence?
A peculiar thing is, if I happen to be on a 'roll' with my writing, I can go to my favorite bistro where there's either jazz or Latino music playing, and will be able to jot down notes that may come into my head completely oblivious to what is going on around me. I guess if the Muse is there, she's going to prompt you no matter what.

"And Music's power obey
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
From harmony to hamony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran..."
John Dryden 1631-1700 A Song for Saint Cecilia's Day 1687 st. 1

"De la musique avant toute chose,
Et pour cela prefere l"Impair.
Music above all, and for this
Choose the irregular."
Paul Verlaine 1844-1896 "Jardins Et Naguere 1884 L'Art Poetique"



Monday, January 23, 2006

POLITICS Greek: POLITIKA

POLITICS: The art or science of government; the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy; the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.

"Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times."
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill 1874-1965 Remark: 1920

Federal Election Day in Canada. I'm writing this with the background sound of the winning party (our new Prime Minister) making his victory speech, interspersed with the cheers of the crowd. No, I didn't vote for this Party because their leader is a right-wing Conservative who opposes a lot of rights such as gay marriages, "Pro Choice" for abortions, and is inclined to favour policies of our Southern neighbour in regards to the war in Iraq and other issues. (See how long it takes before he's in Bush's pocket like Tony Blair.) At least the Party I voted for got 10 new representatives elected who include a fine woman from my district who is always there acting on behalf of the poor, elderly and working-class people.

It so happens that while all these weeks of Campaigning have been going on, I've been delving into the politics of ancient times. While I listened to the political rhetoric, watched the politicians posturiing, making promises that may or may not be kept (likely not); and slamming each other I couldn't help but make a few comparisons. Things don't really change. There's always corruption. Good men get taken down when the populace turns against them.
In the case of my novel, one of the victims of the citizen's fickleness was the military governor of Athens, Phokion, a man of great integrity, elected as stageiros many times, and one who always tried to put the good of the people first. In the end, he became another victim in the power struggle between Alexander's Successors.

In this scene, which takes place in Athens, the City Councillors have just received news that the Macedonian army is approaching the city. They had been issued an edict by Polyperchon, the Macedonian Regent, offering them a return to democratic rule and allowing a number of exiles to return to their homes. (The exiles, mostly democrats, had been driven off their land by the aristocrats who favoured the oligarchies and supported the occupation of Athens by the Macedonian garrison.) The Councillors accuse Phokion of not acting by refusing to accept the edict and insisting the garrison be removed.

"You see!" shrilled an elder Councilman, wagging a finger in Phokion's face. "It is your fault this has happened. You should have made it clear to Polyperchon that the terms of the edict are unacceptable to us."

"Yes!" shouted Chares, a stout balding man, one of his most vocal opponents. "It seems the Macedonians have deployed more troops to increase their military power here. We have demanded that the garrison be removed but you, Phokion, seem to be sided with the aristocrats who are friends of Macedon. Are you a coward, Phokion? Have you lost your spirit?"

Phokion responded to the insult in his usual terse and dignified manner. He peered at them sternly under his thick brows and retorted. "You may call me a coward, Chares, and a man of no spirit because I have refused to act irrationally on these important issues. You can not make me bold, and I cannot make you cowards. But we kow very well what each of us really is."
Charles laughed at his reply. "You lower your brows, Phokion, and put on airs as though you were above us and you show us this by ignoring our demands."

"At least this brow of mine has never caused you any harm, Chares, but the laughter of those who are now sneering at me has given the city plenty to regret. Do not forget that Athena, our city's Patron Goddess, presides over the arts of both war and peace. I have sought to find a peaceful solution, one that will benefit Athens and satisfy Macedon."

One of the staunch democrat senators stood to speak. "We have had enough of Macedonian domination. We want to rule our city by our own democratic laws."

"My friend," Phokion replied. "First, make sure of your own safety. It is better to intercede with the Macedonians than to fight them. It is my recommendation that the Athenians fight using words, in which we have an advantage, not weapons, in which we are inferior."

The Hall burst into a hostile cacophony of hisses and cat-calls.
"You can make me act against my wishes," Phokion said, his voice loud and formidable as a general addressing his troops. "You will never make me speak against my judgement. I will not allow my fellow citizens to destroy themselves even if you wish it so."

He leaves the Council Hall and makes his way up to the Pnyx Hill where a huge crowd has gathered. The General in charge of the Pireaus and the district of Munychia where the garrison is located is about to make a speech.

General Dercyllus height and brawn made him an imposing figure. His booming voice rang out over the Assembly.

"In the past weeks, I have observed a steady deployment of troops from the garrison at Munychia to the island of Salamis. Even as I speak, the harbour at Zea is full of Macedonian warships. It is rumoured that Kassandros will soon return from his mission to Asia Minor with more naval reinforcements. I saw we should seize the port and make it secure before we are surrounded on both land and sea."

The crowd roared their support in a cheer that resounded from the heights of the Acropolis rock.

Dercyllus continues his speech and reveals a plan to arrest the garrison commander and seize the garrison. Phokion protests, reminding the Athenians of how the Thebans and their city were destroyed when they had tried to overthrow the Macedonians.

"I warn you, it will be hubris to overstep your authority, Dercyllus. In the past I have always dealt fairly with Philip, and Alexander. And when Alexander was away on campaign, Antipater. I will also negotiate peacefully with Polyperchon. I will not agree to make war on Macedon or to seize the garrison. Remember what happened to the Thebans? They were destroyed when they tried to rebel." He was aware he was trembling, and sweat trickled from his brow in spite of the coolness of the day.

Dercyllus refuses to listen and the crowd backs him up.

Amid their hostile insults and jeers, Phokion stepped down and made his way along the stony path from the Pnyx toward the sanctuary of his home on the Hill of the Nymphs. He felt angry, but reminded himself of his duty. What should he do to combat Dercyllus' threats? He was friends of both men, and it was not in his nature to turn traitor. But he must warn Nikanor of the dangers he faced if he addressed the Council in Pireaus.

When he arrived home, he ordered a messenger to be sent to the garrison with an invitation to Nikanor of Strageira to dine with him that night.

During the course of the dinner, Phokion conveys a warning to the garrison commander.

He spoke slolwy, measuring each word. "I am an Athenian, and you are not. I have lived long enough to know this: nothing is stronger in the Athenians than their will to possess their own city. When Macedon put the garrison here, they made themselves enemies who are only biding their time before they revolt. You can see this now -- that the City is about to erupt. Beware, Nikanor, of malice at your back. The demos is like a pack of wolves ready to take anyone down who opposes them."

"I will keep my guard, Sir, "Nikanor said. "I do not wish to work against the Athenians. We were posted here to protect them."

"Protect them? Against whom?"

"Against themselves, Sir. You know their history. And you remember well what befell the Thebens when they rebelled against Alexander."

Phokion raised his brows. " Is that a veiled threat, my dear boy?"

Nikanor shifted uneasilty. "No, Sir. Just a reminder."

Phokion's gaze met his eye-to-eye. "Then call your Council tomorrow if you must. But let me warn you again. There are many who will not agree to your terms, no matter how beneficial to the City you might believe them to be." He put out his hand to shake Nikanor's. "You know I have always been a friend of Macedon. Both Philip and Alexander treated me with honour and respect. But times have changed, my boy, and I am not so old and foolish to know how the tide can turn even on those we have counted as our friends. Heed my warnings. Do not underestimate your enemies or the civic pride of the Athenians."

They walked together to the gate, then stopped. Nikanor turned to him with a wrinkled forehead. "Are you sure? About my enemies?"

"My boy, I have been a general for as long as you have lived. I know when the adversary is about to strike. " He put his hand on Nikanor's shoulder. "When I was young I studied at Plato's school. I was a friend of the philosophers. Your adopted father, Aristotle and I had a common kindredship. I regard you almost as a son and I do not wish harm to befall you. Nor do I want my people to open the gates to another holcaust such as befell Thebes."

The half-moon had risen late, shining faintly over the olive groves and pine forested slopes of the mountains. It was a mild evening with just a hint of Spring dampness in the air. Phokion looked across toward the steep western scarps of the Rock, Athens' stronghold, and could see a faint glimmer of light glowing from the sacred fire in the Goddess' temple.

The two men exchanged formal courtesies. Phokion shook the Commander's hand and bade him farewell. He watched Nikanor until he disappeared down the darkened path, then he turned and went back into his house.

His wife, Arete, was kneading dough at the wooden table preparing tomorrow's bread. He put a new log on the fire and stood awhile watching as the flames ignited the dry bark His mind slipped back, recalling his conversation with the garrison commander. He had done what he had thought best to do -- given Nikanor a subtle warning, because he knew that General Dercyllus planned to arrest him at the Council meeting tomorrow. Was he wrong to betray one friend for the sake of another so as not to put his city in further jeopardy?

"Oligarchy: A government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it." The Republic VIII 550C

"Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of varieity and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike." Ibid 558C

"When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader." Plato 428-348 B.C. The Republic bk VIII, 566E.




Monday, January 16, 2006

WHERE IS NOAH WHEN YOU NEED HIM?

"Make thee an ark of gopher wood." The Holy Bible, Genesis 6:14

"And the rain was upon the earth for forty days and forty nights." Genesis 7: 12

"Oh it rained, rained rained, forty days and forty nights
And the animals in the ark walked to and fro..." lalala....(a song I used to listen to when I was a kid.)

This entry is going to be nothing but sheer whimsy because my brain is soggy, my feet are now webbed and I've been quacking angrily at my bird all day today!
Yesterday the city had hoped to exceed the 28 day record set in 1953 for incessant rainfall. However Saturday and Sunday the sun peeked out shyly from behind the clouds. It did shower briefly yesterday just as I started my long-awaited walk on the sea wall, but as it didn't rain at the airport, we were not able to count that for the recrod. For us, it was 27 days of straight downpour. And guess what? Today it is pouring again and forecast to last another week.

I was reminded of that wet year of 1953. It must have continued through the Spring, because on the first day of summer that year it was raining buckets. I was a young teen working as a copy-runner for the newspaper. They dolled me up in a homely-looking bathing suit and fur jacket and posed me down on the beach holding an umbrella. I still have that picture and if I knew how to post it, I would.

So this past week, aside from staying in out of the cold, wet weather, what do penniless writers do for entertainment at times like this? I did, in fact, make some notes and a first draft of a new chapter segment for my novel. I even made notes as I walked the sea-wall yesterday, and today have completed a 'rough' draft of the chapter to workshop at my critique group tonight.

The rest of the weekend was spent listening to good music, dancing and hanging out with friends. In spite of being broke I needed some respite on Friday night so after two days of work I went to the L.Q. I'd been absent for over a week and decided I should make an appearance. The kind bar girl always lets me run a tab but in this case a friend paid so that was a bonus. Then Saturday, my girlfriends and I met at the Cottage Bistro where my son hosts the Blues jam. They were treating poor-little-penniless-writer-me. These are gals from my past (you don't know about the Shipping News stories) and one is a long-time work colleague from daycare days. We have been getting together at least once a month for the past year or so. We have such a wicked time together.

On Saturday we were enjoying the excellent music and especially the tastey young musicians, in particular this sax player who was like a young Greek god. My oh my! I suggested we could have been charged for lusting after a youth, but the joke was on us as he admitted to us he was actually 35! (maybe he was lying!) I have this thing for percussionists and sax players so it certainly made my day as there was also a drummer playing who is mighty sexy! Needless to say, fun was had by all.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, I couldn't resist passing by the LQ on the way home. After all those pints of beer I switched to ouzo. Well, two would have been enough. However one does get 'carried away' at this moments and as I was having a swell time dancing with one of A's friends and chatting to other acquaintances who were there, I'm afraid I slightly overdid it. Will I ever learn? In all, it was quite a magic evening.

Anyway, when the sun came out yesterday (though briefly) I made my way to the Park for a long, brisk walk and along the way stopped to make notes for my novel. I tend to be a 'walking writer' and get some of my best ideas while I'm walking, especially walking on the sea wall. So today I had a good start to finish this chapter. It's kind of rough but I'll see what the critique group says tonight.

I'm writing political stuff and it's complicated. Last night I watched a very good docu titled "The Fall of Fujimoro" (Peru's president) and it was quite interesting to see how politics today is just as corrupt as it was back in Alexander's time. Things don't change, it seems.
And on this subject, I see there was a woman elected to office in Chile. I am almost certain A. would have known her and her family so I'm sure he'd be pleased with their choice.

We're in the midst of an election campaign here and to tell the truth it's mighty boring. I'm not impressed with either of the two top contenders and will not vote for them. At least I hope my minority party will pick up a few more seats.

Well, that's my mindless ramblings for this blog. I'll try to compose something more brilliant next time when I'm feeling less water-logged and we see the sun again.

"He that has and a little tiny wit,
With hey, ho, the wind and rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
Though the rain it raineth every day."
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 King Lear III, ii 76

Sunday, January 08, 2006

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR CHARACTERS?

"When I find a well-drawn character in fiction or biography, I generally take a warm peronal interest in him, for the reason that I have known him before -- met him on the river."
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemes) 1835- 1910

Who are these characters who occupy every day of my life? Characters, even though 'fictional' (or, in my case, from ancient history) are people, human beings and it's up to the writer to make them live like real people so our readers will come to know them and care for them as well as they know themselves. Even dispicable characters have to have some aspect of them that interests the reader. (Nobody is 'born bad'. How did they get that way?).

Part of what fiction is about is to give a better understanding of human nature and human behavior and the characters we choose to populate our stories with must be interesting and believable. Even minor characters have an important role by advancing the story line, relieving tension or conveying information before they fade into the wings.

There's various ways to find these characters. Some of them may be drawn from real life, people you've met or read about, or perhaps they are composites of several characters. Writers need to hone their observation skills, because just by observing strangers (on the street, on buses or in coffee shops) you can build ideas for your characters and put a 'real' face on them, having them act and move like living people, so they will come alive in your story.

Some authors have been known to use friends or family as models in their stories. I've done it myself. But be careful because this can sometimes lead to bad feelings. Remember, what 'actually' happened doesn't always work in fiction. It's what likely would have happened that makes a better story. So, if you do use 'real' people you must discard many details.

Whatever method you use, make sure your readers get to know your characters as well as you've grown to know them. Most importantly, imagine yourself as your characters. Draw on your own experiences. (Even if your characters is a cold-blooded killer you need to be able to imagine what it would be like to behave that way.)

How to I find my characters? My two-act play The Street: A Modern Tragedy is somewhat autobiographical. I wrote the original script when I was 18 as a cautionary tale for my peers after my boyfriend and his two pals became addicted to heroin. Of course, as I was still involved in the situation, I drastically changed the story. Besides, my parents censored what I wrote so I had to make it a tale of redemption which wasn't, in truth, the case.

So when I rewrote it in the late '90's I wrote it with far more truth, right from my heart. I still changed some things: Johnny (Giovanni) Festa, the male protagonist's family became Italian immigrants (the real person had a Scottish father and French Canadian mother). There were many new immigrants in the area where the play takes place at that time so the change worked well. The character of Sally Verstatt the street kid, was based on my former foster sister who, at age 14 been in the original cast as a party goer. She had left the security of our home shortly after that and died in prison, age 17 because of heroin. The role of Angela, was based on myself. And although I changed some things I did use some lines of dialogue that only I would remember had been actually spoken.

The play ran successfully for three weeks and each night in the audience there were people who had known some of the real characters. And the most interesting thing was, the young man who played Johnny looked so much like the real person that, after many discussion with me and expert character development he made the character really live. (note: The real person unfortunately had died two years previously as a result of his years of addiction.)

For my w.i.p. Dragons in the Sky: A Celtic Tale, the narrator, Olwen, speaks through me so I almost get the sense that she is an incarnation of me from another time. (This novel, a first-person narrative, takes place in Celtic Britain 4th C. B.C.) Teag, the young silversmith who she loves is based on a friend of mine. Sholto, the renegade chieftain's son is also based on someone I knew. And Elidi, the sailor from Byzantium is roughly drawn from life as well. Her Auntie Essylt is a composite of a couple of wise women I knew. That story is pure fiction but I feel so close to the characters, it's almost as if it really happened.

The novel I am finishing now, Shadow of the Lion follows a historical plot so most of the characters are non-fictional. However, how I interpret them, based on research and what I have observed, is fiction. I have managed to put a real face on most of the characters. I met Alexander's General Perdikkas one day when I went to the post office in the northern town of Asprovalto. It was him. I knew it! I made several trips back there to observe him and my character became alive. I caught a glimpse of Alexander one day too, in the train station at Thessaloniki. I worked for a time with a young woman from Afghanistan and met her sisters. They became my composite models for Roxana, Alexander's Soghdian wife. For his little son Iskander, I have observed many children but in particular one 4 year old gifted boy at the Chinese daycare where I used to work. He became my model for this exceptional royal child.

I had to invent a couple of fictional characters for this novel in order to balance good-guys/bad-guys. So I created the Magus, a Chaldean priest, patterened in some ways after my own father. And Nabarzanes, the Persian Court Advisor, Royal Cousin of Roxana. What a surprise I got one evening when I saw him walk into the Latin Quarter, the bistro that I frequent. I observed this tall, atttractive man for a few nights, figured out that he most likely was Persian. Got introduced, and was amazed to learn he is an Iraqi -- Sumerian, he says, from Baghdad (near ancient Babylon where Nabarzanes lived.) We have become great friends, the Babylonian and I. He's an artist and an exceptionally gracious man, just like my Nabarzanes.

So, where do you find your characters?

A character study:
"Her feet beneath her petticoat
Like little mice, stole in and out,
As if they feared the light;
But oh, she dances such a way!
No sun upon an Easter-day
Is half so fine a sight.
st. 8

Her lips were red, and one was thin,
Compared to that was next her chin,
Some bee had stung it newly."
st. 11
Sir John Suckling 1609-1642 "A Ballad Upon a Wedding" 1641

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BRINGING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH TAMBOURINE AND DRUMS

"Hey! Mister Tambourine Man play a song for me,
I'm not sleeping and there is no place I'm goin' to..."
Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) 1941 -
"Mister Tambourine Man" 1964

I'm going to begin this blog by cheating a little. The following story was written previously by me, but it pretty well explains a lot of what made my New Year's Eve special.

HEY, MISS TAMBOURINE GIRL,
PLAY A SONG FOR ME!


Before she married Dad, my mother was a nurse in a Salvation Army hospital. She played the tambourine in the Salvation Army band.
Perhaps that’s what inspired her that Christmas when I was four years old, to teach me to play the tambourine. We were living in Lloyminster Saskachewan where my Dad was the pastor of a Baptist church. Because it was then a small railroad community, all the local churches went together at Christmas to produce a Christmas concert. That year, Mom decided she would dress me up in her Salvation Army bonnet and show me how to play the tambourine. She also taught me a verse to recite for the concert. It was to be my debut on stage.
I don’t remember my exact role in this Christmas pageant, or what other children would perform. I do remember, very clearly, being coaxed onto a stage in front of what seemed like an audience of hundreds of strangers (probably just twenty or thirty.) I was absolutely terrified.
I stood there, dressed in mom’s oversized S.A. bonnet, my hair coiled in Shirley Temple ringlets (a procedure done the night before by Mom, each hank of hair wrapped carefully in rags). I was probably wearing one of the lovely hand-smocked dresses Mom made me, and those horrid brown ribbed tights (because it was a freezing Prairie winter day). I was carrying a large, jangling tambourine - the same tambourine Mom used to play with the S.A. band.
As I stepped (or was gently pushed) onto the stage, I heard a long, audible gasp from the audience.
“Ah...” and “Oh...”
Bewildered, I stared down at that vast sea of faces, frozen with stage fright. Someone from the wings prompted me, or possibly it was Mom herself coaxing me to perform.
I gave the tambourine a few tentative shakes and sputtered out my lines. “I will shake my tambourine for the Lord.”
To this day I remember those exact words and how I felt at that moment. Mortified and scared stiff!
A titter from the audience; another loud chorous of : “Ah...” And, whispered audibly behind hands. “Isn’t she cute...”
I could have died on the spot of embarrassment. Instantly I burst into tears and ran off the stage into my Mom’s arms.
Segue ahead four years. I’m eight years old and it’s Christmas Concert time at school. By now we are living in Brantford, Ontario.
I suppose because of my ‘experience’ I am chosen to play the tambourine in the class rhythm band for the Christmas concert.
We are dressed in red pill-box hats and capes and paraded onto the stage.
In the photograph taken of this performance, I am crowded, tiny and shy, in behind the bigger kids. I am not smiling. I probably had stage fright. I do not look happy to be playing the tambourine. Possibly I had hoped to be a drummer or triangle player.
Why then, did my career as tambourine player follow me all the way into my adult life?
Segue again, many years into the future, the 1970’s. I am living in a communal house with my kids and a renegade band of hippies. There is always music in our house. My son, age 14, has become an ardent guitarist. There are always musical instruments at our communal gatherings, including a tambourine.
Inspired by the beat of the music, one day I picked the tambourine up and began to tap and shake it to the rhythm of the rock beat. The tambourine player in me was resurrected. From then on, I practiced and always played the tambourine at parties.
Eventually, one Saturday afternoon at the jam session at the American Hotel, I got brave enough to get on stage with the band and play. I was good, so good in fact there was one particular drummer who would always request me to accompany him.
By now, my son was an accomplished Blues musician. He said he was going to play at the American Hotel jam session.
“I play the tambourine there on Saturdays,” I announced.
He looked at me aghast.
“You mean you get up on the stage and play the tambourine?“Yes!” I said proudly. “And I’m good at it too!”
“But you’re my Mom!” he sputtered.
I don’t think he knew it was my Mom who had taught me how to play
the tambourine in the first place, at that Christmas concert so long ago.

* * *

Okay, so this is what happened on New Year's Eve. I went to a party at my friend the Babylonian's house. He's my Iraqi artist friend and he always has interesting people, including his room-mates, attending his parties. This was no exception. There's always music at these parties and this time there was also a selection of percussion instruments: bongs, congas, maracas, a tambourine, triangle, shakers and flutes. The music they had taped was exceptional, everything from exotic Afro to Middle Eastern to hot dance numbers. You could jam along using any of the instruments provided.

I started out with the maracas then tried the triangle. Except for kid's rythmn bands I'd never played a triangle before and it was interesting to really get into the music and make the dings and tinkles at the correct time. I got right into it! Then, the tambourine ....

Well, it's been twenty-five years since I last played the tambourine and I wasn't sure if I could still do it. It's not just a matter of standing or sitting and rattling it, but you have to get your whole body into it, dancing while you play. It only took me a few minutes to get over my inhibitions. I kept thinking of that absent chileno percussionist who was looking on (A. knew I used to play the tambourine but he never saw me do it) so I dedicated every piece I accompanied to him. I played with all my heart and soul. I greeted the New Year joyously, playing the tambourine. It was an amazing night, vibrant, happy, full of good cheer.

The next day I got up early to catch a ferry to the Island where I spent New Year's day with my three wonderful cousins and their families. It was an excellent New Years celebration. I truly believe that in spite of still trying to cope with my emotions over the loss of my chileno friend, and the usual stressing over finances ((I'm virtually penniless at the moment) there is a lot to look forward to and I'm sure 2006 is going to be a highlight year in many good ways. For starters, when I got home today, there was a call from A's daughter inviting me to dinner. This is one of the blessings -- that I am now included as a friend of his family. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get a call in to work this week or next at the daycare.


"So there are no more words and all is ended:
The timbrel is stilled, the clarion laid away:
And Love with streaming hair goes unattended
Back to the loneliness of yesterday."
Joseph Auslander 1897-1965 "So There are No More Words." 1924

This seems a sad verse to end this blog on, but I was thinking of him...and how his musical instruments are stilled now...but we can carry on making music like I did on New Year's Eve and somewhere I'm sure he's smiling and dancing to the rythmns he loved so much.