Friday, October 24, 2014

Certain days have their own music

There are certain perfect things that could have happened and this was one: Mike, the owner of the Red Fox, took and break from the bar and sat down with us. I introduced him to my friend Booth and told him that Booth had been playing music, that he had produced an album in the past few years, and that we had been talking about musicians who care so much about their music, their sound, that they work and work and work, and tinker forever, and it becomes so hard to put out an album, to produce something full and you just want to scream, put it all out there, play it, and come back to all the details.

Mike launched into to all the details. He talked about sound equipment and we talked about musicians. We talked about how sometimes it’s worth coming in to a recording session and knowing what has to be done and know that it has to be in a certain time. Sometimes it’s not worth the technological advantage we have to be able to record and manipulate and lay tracks and edit tracks and snip and cut until the final most perfect sound can be produced. Sometimes music can perfectly be a recording of musicians playing music in a room. 

Adam and I woke up with music in our heads that morning. The neighbor who lives above me was loudly playing some record at 9:30 in the morning, the bass and guitar and drums transmitted down through the skin of the floor. We had stayed up late, our waking difficult, the pressure behind our eyes deep, and our moods delicate in those first few minutes. But we soon accepted the rhythms and vibrations; I had never heard any other sounds coming from his apartment and I couldn’t fault him for his suddenly and early decision to listen now.

We woke up and got coffee, the bleariness from our eyes quickly fading. We went grocery shopping and biked around the neighborhood, the weather warm for one last dry weekend in October. And everything just seemed really lovely.

I met Ryan that afternoon for a drink at Red Fox. The afternoon clouds lovely soft and modulated pastel in the sunset. We had seen some really beautiful sunsets this past month, already missing the color in anticipation of the coming months of rain here in Portland.

Ryan left and I stayed over at Red Fox, reading until Booth met me. It seems like there have been so many albums released lately that have excited me. Aphex Twin and Thom Yorke and Caribou. Doesn't it seem like a return to the days when people still cared about listening to albums?

Sometimes it’s nice to just catch up, talk about music. We talked about how he makes music; about his plans for a new album. And I walked away energized, like there was so much to do, so much that could be done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Flight times

A little lift and the earth made two curvatures away from me. The ground beneath me tilted up and then back and sharply down; the sky above paralleled this parabola but with the movement of the plane, the angle and trajectory of the clouds contrasted sharply with the sky’s rocky companion. And my palms began to sweat, yet I was fine.

Sometimes, actually all the time, most of the time, hopefully, for those of us who aren’t neurotic, we don’t even consider the times our deaths are close, our lives immediately more tenuous. Because really, our deaths are always with us, hidden inside every moment, every sudden derrame cerebral, every hidden black widow spider, every gas leak, every car crash, every random mugging on the street.

It’s funny how we have this idea of the TSA security checks as stressful because it’s true. This agent is sweet as he says hello to the pre-scheduled passengers. That agent is reticent, quiet, unresponsive as she checks our boarding passes against our IDs. That one is a little tired and monotone as she reminds everyone to take off their belts, their shoes. I come out past the small-millimeter wave scanner, putting my arms down, the agent barking, okay, this way, and struggling to rapidly put away my computer, put my shoes back on, sling my belt around my waist, and I realize that my heart is beating a little quickly, that I’m a little nervous, that there’s no reason to rush. Everything is fine and really I’m haven’t done anything. I was prepared for the flight; I didn’t bring bottles of liquids; there’s nothing to explain. There’s no reason to worry.

Adam and I drank a bloody mary. It was ten in the morning and this was the beginning of our very short vacation to San Francisco. But really, you know me. I’d drink a bloody mary on any morning, any morning that I didn’t have to be responsible, to report to someone else. And then the flight was delayed: it was fleet week in San Francisco and there was an air show and President Obama had landed at the airport and everything was to be delayed by two hours. It was literally President Obama’s fault that our flight had been delayed.

Michael, the flight attendant, hands us free drinks “on Obama” and asks if my boyfriend and I “going home.”

There are times I become worried, even at home. I don’t lock the door when I step out to get coffee across the street then worry that some stranger has slipped inside the apartment in my absence. I worry that the cat will be run over. I worry that I’ve left the stove on, though I haven’t used it in days, and that the building will go up while I’m at work. A couple got mugged the other day down on Mississippi Avenue and maybe I’m next, maybe I’ll have been listening to music with John at his house late one night and on my walk down someone will take advantage of the hour and my inebriation.

The waiting, the sitting is hard enough, but it’s the constant state of tension that really gets to me while traveling. The tension between gravity and motion that one can distract oneself from but which stays just there at the edge of consciousness. The tension between here and there, between leaving and not yet arriving, heightens one’s sense of vulnerability. I hate to think about what I would leave behind if my life just ended. Suspended in that fluid state I have time to think about how fragile every moment is, how fragile my existence is, particularly as this suspension squeezes through wind and clouds and place and time 30,000 feet over the planet.

How do you stop though? How can you refuse to take this flight, to forego biking to work, to stop leaving the house? I just have to take another sip, wipe the sweat of my palms on my jeans, and beginning writing. The two hours of this flight will pass and we will arrive into another movement, a travel across a city, a difference experience, world without end.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's not just but what can be done?

We all feel so very small sometimes I think. Even here in America.

We’ve seen all these movies about darkly determined futures in which everything is controlled, about future fascist governments that control the population through technology and labor. The US went crazy over The Hunger Games. I don’t think we all necessarily see this as far off, as a warning or prediction. Some of us have fallen for conspiracies, that control is much more far-reaching and complete than we are led to believe. Some of us have fallen for theory. And some of us recognize that in some ways, for some peoples, governments and societies have become more concerned about their own preservation rather than the will or happiness of their own people.

Ilham Tohti, a Beijing-based Uighur scholar, was recently found guilty of separatism in Urumqi, the capital of the western Chinese province Xinjiang. Tohti advocated in his scholarly writings cultural sensitivity and equal treatment for Uighurs, but did not advocate succession from Beijing.

As described by the New York Times, when he was dragged from the courtroom after being sentence, he screamed “It’s not just! It’s not just!”

I was describing this scene to my friends and they seemed unperturbed. He’s a Uighur! It’s Xinjiang! What can you do? These are people who lived in China near the border for years and saw up close how minorities in China are treated. Not just foreigners feel like this – I believe a majority of people in China and in every country feel powerless, have no idea what can be done. We brush these things off because Xinjiang is far away. We brush these things off because we have our own lives and our own struggles and what action can we take that would make any difference?

I think the first thing we have to do is shed our indifference. We all can’t fly to Hong Kong to support the pro-democracy protests there, but we can follow the developments in the news. We can think critically about what is happening in Hong Kong. We can attempt to understand the history of that place and the desires of those peoples. 

I don’t do enough. I don’t support my community enough. I don’t support other people struggling enough. I don’t attempt to express my frustrations. I don’t spend enough time thinking about what can be done. But paying attention may be a first step to doing more. It’s sometimes about being well-informed to be sympathetic then to be ready when it comes time to be active here in our community. Even if there is not a lot I can do about the Uighurs in Xinjiang, I cannot convince myself to be indifferent.