April 22, 2011

this just in

some updates:

cristina is back from australia and was here visiting last week. we ate grasshoppers, had a few drinks, played board games, went to costco, and fawned over the cats. you know, the same as before.

in the garden, the tulips are all up.



and I'm sad/frustrated to discover that my queen of the nights, which were supposed to be BLACK or very close, are a very conservative burgundy. ripoff!

they are still pretty. just not as emo as black tulips.

the cold -- I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT -- has been slowly killing my arugula and cilantro. observe.



I think they'll make it, though.

the hyacinths are on their way out already. sadface.


I built a really ghetto trellis for the raspberry.


it only has four long vines (from last season). the rest of the plant is still in the bushy low phase, so there's not much else to trellis. I'll probably get exactly 14 raspberries this year. IT'S OKAY.

the chives are about to produce chive blossoms. MY FAVORITE. flowers that taste like onions!


the rest of my plants came from territorial seed yesterday. 5 tomato plants, 2 peppers, and a flower. they're in my car right now. I'm conflicted about whether I should plant them or not. too cold? probably too cold.


the worm bin is ready. what, you don't keep a rubbermaid bin full of worms under your kitchen sink? I do.


they make really nice compost.


it's kind of like magic! that used to be old produce. occasionally they try to escape.

off-topic: the problem with having a community garden plot is that sometimes you feel really crazy when you've been talking to the worms in your garden and you look up and realize the person in the neighboring garden is there. and can hear you.

outside of the garden, I have been getting to the barn just a little more often to longe Cookie. I bought a set of vienna reins to help guide her to a correct head position. she threw a little baby tantrum the first day I used them but now she's gotten used to her lot in life. she will be NINE in just a few weeks, and she better start being a respectable horse because she has no excuse anymore.

I may get back on said horse this weekend for some very light walking and perhaps trotting. or maybe not.

I continue to suffer from the same level of back/hip pain as ALWAYS AND FOREVER and I did in fact finally break down and lose it last weekend, when I cried through an entire dance show scott & I went to because it made me so emotional to see people using their bodies without pain. I went and had a wicked massage yesterday that was great but immensely painful, and today the skin around my psoas hurts to even brush with a shirt. which I consider a job well done. the massage therapist made me happy when he said, 'wow, you're really muscular!' and then, working on my psoas, 'geez, this thing is AWFUL!'

it is my singular task in life to be over this pain by my birthday. my thirtieth birthday. which is in 37 days, not that I'm counting.

there are many things on the list which will, because of my physical maladies, have to remain undone. I can probably still eat that cupcake, though.

speaking of cupcakes, I have made two attempts at baking cadbury creme eggs, my very favorite candy ever, into cupcakes. both attempts have failed. for the first attempt I just threw them into each unbaked cupcake. they turned into lumps of hard caramelized sugar in the center, and exploded out the top. so next I tried freezing them (I used cadbury MINI creme eggs), but then the batter was too runny and the eggs sunk to the bottom and melted. so on my third attempt -- because I know I can get it -- I'm going to thicken up the batter, use FULL sized creme eggs (which will freeze better), and coat them in flour to help them stay suspended in the batter.

it turns out that one of the hazards of living alone is that you will inevitably eat all the leftover batter out of the bowl, and then you will immediately feel sick and sad about your life.

this weekend's plans include:

standing in the garden hoping something will grow
smoking cigars
drinking whiskey
picking dandelions
riding my horse?
bathing my horse?
making hot cross buns
going to bikram
riding my bike?
cleaning the bathtub (wooo)
opening the windows
feeling homesick on easter, which was one of my favorite days of the year when I was a child
eating too much cake batter (again)

April 9, 2011

The sky always looks like that

portland weather just sucks right now. do you hear me, portland?! IT SUCKS!

seriously. this morning it was 39 degrees. look, I know I lived for six years in upstate new york but WHATEVER because it's warmer in syracuse right now than it is in portland.

it's reached a point where every day that I wake up and it looks like the above outside I just want to pull out a fistful of my hair and go back to bed until july.


I haven't strung the twine yet but I've finished the pole bean trellis. it's 8 feet tall. I feel pretty good about it, although other peoples' are prettier. whatever, other people.

Pole bean trellis

I'm mostly finished the pea trellis, which looks totally janky but will do the job. it turns out chicken wire is like the single most frustrating material on earth. it rolls back up on itself, won't stay bent the way you put it, and will cut into your finger when you're not paying attention. my mom built two chicken coops by herself and while I already thought she was a rockstar, I did have to call her and go, "sweet jesus, really?" after I finished the trellis.

here it is before the wire went up. after I took this picture I had to pull all four stakes, weigh down the wire with various rakes from the toolshed, and painstakingly nail the mesh into each stake. because I didn't think to ask if a certain someone has a staple gun until I was already working on the trellis, and stubbornness/impatience wins out every time. of course, he does. go figure.

my hyacinths! they are up! I can't take a good picture to save my life so here's a bad one for you. you're welcome.

I planted hyacinths because they smell similar to lilacs, which are my favorite flowers in life and which of course I can't plant in a community garden plot.

my lettuce seedlings are up. they are so wee.
Littlest lettuce

this is what I meant when I said the raspberry is plotting to take over the garden. as long as I get some berries, we're cool. unfortunately most of the fruit will come next year, since all those little sprouted canes are from this year. (raspberry is a 2-year perennial: new vines one year, which produce fruit in year 2). I need to stake last year's canes or I will get, like, one berry.
The raspberry expands

at home, my seedlings are not faring so well. the tomatillos, fortunately, were slower growers and are doing ... okay. the brussels sprouts got really leggy and most of them fell over. I rigged up this contraption. I didn't take a picture of the final precarious arrangement but it involves several pillows, the wires from two paper lanterns (but no shades), two CFLs, a curtain rod, and the pipe cleaners. I might have to plant a second round of brussels sprouts but I'm secretly hoping these guys will pull through. they're not dead yet.
pipe cleaner gardening

the peas are sprouting but they're also constantly getting the soil they're planted in washed away, so that every time I get to the garden I have errant pea seeds all over the place. thanks, rain.

it should be time soon to plant pole beans and broccoli and a bunch of other stuff but it is TOO COLD. I think I might put in a row of kale, though.

also, every time I've gone to the garden in the last three days -- EVERY TIME -- it has started hailing. I hate you, portland.

April 8, 2011

a dirge

earlier this week, the SSO filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Syracuse Symphony Orchestra will file for bankruptcy, board announces

I managed to only read one page of the comments before I closed the window. because what is the point.

so, now back to our regularly scheduled garden photos, horse angst, random musings, and occasional opera talk.

April 5, 2011

rant, part 2, plus more info about the SSO

I've momentarily recovered from my rage-induced blackout and have remembered something I really want to say: part of what makes me so angry is that there are so many people who think the symphony is comprised of a bunch of rich stuffed shirts who snootily believe that classical music is better than anything and that the general public at large should be responsible for paying their exorbitant salaries. except nothing could be further from the truth. the SSO musicians make less than $30K a year. I'm sure most members of the SSO staff make the same, or maybe just a fraction more. they are not buying mansions or big-screen TVs for every room. they are likely working a second job or teaching on the side. they are probably tired a lot.

I resent the mistaken notion that musicians are somehow rich because, once again, I am one of them. and let me tell you something. I might like to garden, but I grow my own food because I have to. I might have incidentally enjoyed mucking stalls for the last three years, but I shoveled that poop because I had to in order to keep my horse. I don't have cable TV, I don't have home internet, I spend ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH on groceries. I squeak by. I keep coming to my job at the opera because I love what I do. and because I am surrounded by people who, on most days, love what they do. they are a joy to work with; I have nightmares sometimes that I am leaving them. like the SSO musicians, and like me, my coworkers and colleagues both here and across the country have made a financial sacrifice to do what they love.

I have two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree. there are a lot of other things I could have done with myself. likewise with these musicians, who chose their profession not because they had no other talents but because they so loved to be a part of the orchestra. with the exception of just a handful of orchestras in this country -- cleveland, cincinnati, new york, probably L.A. -- being a symphony musician is a financial sacrifice. but the passion that produces great musicians is not, as so many would like us to believe, a crime.

what has happened in our culture? why are libraries fighting to stay open? why do teachers -- teachers?!?!? -- have to so adamantly fight for every penny they so rightly earn? why do we think that learning isn't important? since when is an institution only worth something culturally if it's for-profit? why are people so mad at the perception that taxpayer money has been wasted on the SSO, and yet aren't mad that huge corporations, who rake in billions -- BILLIONS! with a B! -- of dollars in profits don't have to pay taxes on those profits?

I don't want to get into politics on this blog, although of course all of this is about politics. it's just ... I just don't understand, I really don't. how can we justify the vilification of teachers? how can we pooh-pooh the existence of libraries? how are we possibly supposed to progress as a nation when education is being cut across the board? how can we be proud to have a major league soccer team in portland but not feel the same about the ballet? how can syracuse spend over a decade trying AND FAILING over and over again to create the next fucking mall of america, which is supposedly going to be the crown jewel of the city, and not care about its orchestra? when did our priorities go so far astray?

because you know, there is one other important thing I forgot. as part of the SSO, the SSYO -- the syracuse symphony youth orchestra -- is no more. the kids played their last rehearsal on sunday afternoon. many of them played through tears. my old orchestra director, graduate advisor, boss and friend conducted them. they were rehearsing for a concert in may. the SSYO, like many other youth symphonies, is a top-notch orchestra that kids work very, very hard to get into. there are rigorous auditions and they are expected to know their music just as the adults in the SSO are. for many of these kids, playing in the SSYO is the highlight of their grade school lives. but who cares, right? after all, it's just band camp.

I wish that every person who wrote a jackass derogatory comment on the post-standard's article could just once, just once sit in the middle of a 60+ person orchestra as they are playing the saint-saens organ symphony, as I did as a young twenty-something in college. I wish they could, as I did, watch the violins sawing away and feel the floorboards shaking with the force of sound from the low brass, and grin in sheer, utter, complete and total delight as the organ pipes open and rock the shit out of a concert hall. I wish they could know the elation, as I have, of spending 6 hours a day in a practice room, wood-shedding a section of music, only to finally play it flawlessly in rehearsal. I wish they could feel the overwhelming pride of watching a beloved friend and colleague play her last recital. I wish they could understand how I felt, one day in early 2000, when I sat at a concert in the darkened setnor auditorium and thought, 'if I didn't have this, who would I possibly be?'

More information:
SSO board votes to suspend operations; season canceled, no refunds planned
Final concert for Syracuse Symphony Orchestra?
A swan song for a shortened season: The Syracuse Symphony plays once more, with the future uncertain
Making Music: The work of a Syracuse Symphony Orchestra musician isn't as effortless as it sometimes seems
Diminished: Syracuse without a symphony is hard to contemplate
Symphony shutdown: Young family really wanted to stay in Syracuse
Symphony's collateral damage

it was this darkened concert hall, for the record:

April 4, 2011

the death of a symphony

last week, syracuse symphony orchestra announced that it was canceling the remainder of its 2010-2011 season performances and laying off all 60+ musicians and most of its 20 staff members, effective yesterday. this came after several months of attempting a "save the music" campaign, which they hoped would close a financial gap of about $700,000. as of the shutdown date they had raised close to $600,000.

I have so many things to say about this, but most of my thoughts are incoherent. most importantly, the news is devastating. the SSO holds a very special place in my heart. in college, student rush tickets cost us $5. I went to easily half of the concerts in any given season. my friend tami and I felt like their biggest fans. we knew all the musicians by sight, including the section string musicians. we joked about how we wished there were trading cards we could buy. we were desperate to be better performers; we would leave and half-jokingly exclaim, "we're running out of time!!" as in, we're running out of time to get better, to practice, to make something of ourselves. very often we would go straight over to crouse college, the music building, and lock ourselves in practice rooms.

it's devastating, also, because I know many of the musicians personally. they were my teachers in college. in some cases, they were my friends. the librarian there, also a violist, is a colleague of mine. now all those people are out of their jobs, at least for the remainder of the season, if not forever.

I don't know what happened in the SSO to get to this place. management has been in negotiation with the musicians for months, but up until very recently those talks seemed like they were pretty successful; the musicians had agreed to a number of concessions, including a pay cut and a decrease in the number of full-time contracted players. the media reports that the cuts added up to about $700,000. yet somehow those concessions weren't enough. management came back and requested further cuts, and now they're blaming the SSO's fate on the failure of the musicians to accept the newest proposal, coupled with poor fundraising this season.

I don't care to get into the business of accusation, although I do think it's notable that in this case the musicians understood that they needed to make sacrifices and seemed to do so willingly in order to save the organization. I don't know what's happening in the books that made those sacrifices so inconsequential. I'm sure in the next few weeks a lot more information will come to light.

but there is something really important happening in this discussion. I'm sickened by it. I'm absolutely disgusted. it's this:

SSO board votes to suspend operations; season canceled, no refunds planned

April 02, 2011 at 9:39PM
solverx wrote:

April 03, 2011 at 7:42AM
bored329 wrote:
Taps" is a famous musical piece, sounded by the U.S. military nightly to indicate that it is "lights out".
Bye Bye

April 02, 2011 at 11:01PM
Slingblade wrote:
Bye Bye !! Get more funding from the limousine libs that listen to it

March 29, 2011 at 11:00PM
59 Bluesman wrote:
As I said before, who the hell decided that "classical" music was the only music anyone should hear? Who said it was better than rock, jazz, country or blues??? There is your elitist attitude. We don't "deserve" to listen to the SSO??? YEEE HAAAA!!!! Why should anyone that doesn't care about it have to pay for it??? SSO, go fund yourself!

April 04, 2011 at 6:17PM
time to give it up the FAT Lady has sung.
Bye bye.

March 30, 2011 at 1:24PM
acuser wrote:
Hey SSO, thanks from stealing from the people you so desperately begged for loose change. Time to find real jobs like the rest of us, band camp can only go on for so long.

March 29, 2011 at 9:46PM
2muchtax wrote:
SAD but it's all about the money - no union concessions. Maybe they should form a volunteer SSO and play for the gate or pass the hat since they want us all to have culture. No refunds - sounds like a last minute hit and run - maybe the State Atty General will investigate refunds. The eulogy reads "The Fat lady has Sung"?


I'm sorry I'm going on and on with these, but I can't help it. there are currently 279 comments on that article and I've read every single one of them. I want to tell myself that people who comment anonymously on the internet are pretty universally assholes, but in this case I know better. the majority of the comments on this story read like the ones above. people are fucking RELISHING the collapse of their wonderful arts organization. why? because of attitudes like this:

March 31, 2011 at 10:56AM
tonyb wrote:
Give it a rest. They can't support themselves because there aren't enough snooty people left to dress up in their finery and show themselves off. The rest of us don't want to pay for your overpriced toy. If you want to listen to classical music buy your self some CDs and sit down and listen to them, but please sit down and shut up give everyone else a break.

I read every single comment partially because I couldn't stop; it was like picking a scab. but I also did it because it feels important for me to understand this mentality. these beliefs are the enemy of organizations like the SSO -- and like mine. and they are everywhere. they permeate everything, particularly our politics. and it's a belief system that's self-sustaining. it goes something like this: intellectualism = elitism = you think you're better than me = bad. it's attitudes like this that are responsible for the loss of arts programs in schools, and the closure of libraries, and the collapse of orchestras like the syracuse symphony and baltimore opera. and without exposure to those libraries and music classes and arts institutions, young people don't experience what those institutions offer, don't understand them, and don't appreciate them later in life. they don't see the merits of those institutions, and so those institutions don't get funded.

I am struggling so hard to write about this. like I said before, my thoughts on this are really incoherent right now, and colored by emotion. after all, this is also what I do. there but for the grace of god goes my job. and these are people I love.

I get so mad I find myself near tears. the idea that people think these musicians are snooty and elitist, the idea that the symphony is like an overpriced toy; the forgotten reality that there are over eighty people losing their goddamned JOBS. there's this infuriating notion -- one I encounter a lot -- that if you love your job then you should be happy making less money, because after all that's so important! that's worth more than money, right?

I'd like to clue those people into something: Safeway doesn't take warm fuzzies as payment for your fucking groceries.

I have so much else to say on the subject but I just cannot. get. past. stuff. like. this.

March 29, 2011 at 11:13PM
tonyb wrote:
At least there will be one less group looking for taxpayer handouts and that is good. Did the country already kick in their part? The "no refunds" is the last "screw you" message from this arrogant group. Bye, bye. Don't get your tux tail or fur coat get caught in the door on your way out.

so thank the lord for people like this--

March 29, 2011 at 11:20PM
whatevernoway wrote:
Yeah I'm sure the $0.50 a year per citizen, or whatever it would have taken, that we won't have to spend collectively to fund a priceless cultural institution will do all us a great good during the recession. I would have driven out to give you two quarters to listen to a single concerto.

March 30, 2011 at 9:45PM
KJM2000 wrote:
You have just showed everyone more than you can possibly understand about yourself. How many hours a day do you practice after you come home from your "real job"? I'm sorry for you if you can't appreciate a symphony, but if you can't take time to enjoy it, why do you take time to put it down? They didn't "steal" from anyone. Remember those bailouts and bonuses in what was it...2008? Those are people with "real jobs" stealing. These ARE people with real jobs who work harder than you can imagine. Whatever your "real job" is, no one would care one bit if you were laid off, and I'm sure whatever you work on can be funded by something else. If whoever hired you went under, you wouldn't say the salary they paid you so far was "stealing" because you didn't continue your job without pay. I feel sorry for you that you can't appreciate art, I know you won't care one bit about that, and I'm sorry that, from the way you commented, you don't think you should be able to enjoy a "real job" as you seem to think that an orchestra musician's life is fun and games of "band camp". However, I can say that there is a good chance that I don't care one bit about the things you enjoy as we seem to be very different (what do you enjoy? Sports? Cars? are you a "music lover" of pop?) and, not that this would ever happen, if those things needed funding to stay afloat and were resorting to fundraisers and drives, I probably wouldn't help them. However I would at least have the common respect to understand that there are those who do enjoy them and because of that, their jobs are indeed "real jobs", even those of the football players you probably love to watch. I don't say that they are "stealing". Someday I hope you borrow money from a good friend and just don't have means to return it. If that friend is anything like you, you'll have lost a friend, and from what I can tell I fell even sorrier that you probably won't care.

March 30, 2011 at 6:42AM
cusegrad00 wrote:
They did give concessions and offered more. I think you were the one who said something about the blood content of stones. I love the thoughts of folks on here who think they should just play because they love music. They do love music; but love doesn't pay the bills. They are highly trained and skilled workers. Obviously right now, the support is not there. They should not be expected to support their family on puppy dogs and moonbeams. Anyone who ever dedicated to their life mastering a craft should at least be empathetic to their stance.

I have so many more things to say but my head is a jumble. let me just say this: last year, companies like GE and Bank of America managed to cook their books in such a way as to avoid paying US taxes altogether. The tax bill that Bank of America deferred is estimated at 1.9 billion dollars. The money from just that one year of taxes would fund my beloved opera company at their current yearly operating budget for 254 years.