Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Scratch the Itch

Why do we travel? We humans are an itchy, restless lot. I know. I'm a piano teacher for the 12 and under sector and believe me--sitting still is not an inborn human skill. We need to move: to run, roll, leap, wander, graze, aimlessly amble and fearlessly fly away. We need to 'get out of here' and be 'here' somewhere else.  We need to fling ourselves out into the chaos of chance occurrences and synchronistic serendipities.
Last winter my itch brought me to the high elevations of Peru, where by intent, not chance, I set off one day to purchase a small 10 stringed, round backed guitarito called a charango. Life was all mystery and magic that day as it seemed that every single soul I conversed with along my path turned out to be a music teacher!


One was a tall fellow traveler from Chile who I randomly tapped on the shoulder because of what he had slung across it. "Is that a charango?" I asked him. "Si," he replied with a magnetic smile. He, his companion and I had a brief and cheerful lunch before they had to run to catch a flight back home, having satisfied their own itch. I went on that day to purchase my own charango, and we have travelled some distance together already. 
The Chilean (Camilo Gomez Camblor), it turns out, is somewhat of a virtuoso at this little foreign instrument, and he became my teacher via skype lessons, and now I can call myself "charangista" as well (one who plays the charango). 

If that weren't odd enough, a year later he and I have launched a Music Teacher Exchange project, and if all goes well, my itch will bring me to his hometown of Valparaiso, Chile, this February on an educational and cultural exchange. The following summer he and his charango will hit the scene in northeast Canada, just in time for festival season.

Until then, fund-raise, promote, scratch the itch. You just never know where youre going to land next. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/music-teachers-exchange-canada-chile--2#/

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Buena Onda

Dear hungry readers looking for their next Horak Snack!  Here is the main question

What is "Buena Onda"?
Only a prolonged exodus from Canadian winter across southern borders could legitimately inspire such a question, such a pursuit, or such a revelation. Which, of course, I have done once again! 
 
And so, in 'ingles', I shall attempt to explain Buena Onda to you.

Buena= good.  Good like, all is well, wonderful, warm and chili con carne (or sin carne if you are a vegetarian).  Buena as in "buenos dias!" ("good day"), buenas tardes ("good afternoon"), or "buenas noches!" ("good evening") all uttered as communal intention, driving toward a positive spin on things.  Why is this?  Why is everything so linguistically bueno down here? Maybe because most days the sun does shine, or maybe because faith in the cultural backdrop of the stronghold of the catholic church, is implicit.  Or maybe because being positive is simply part of the good manners that people generally have south of the border.  Even the police, extorting money from tourists in rental cars in a shifty speed trap (not so bueno from the tourists' perspective), are extremely polite about it.  But back to Buena Onda, which I shall now capitalize, as it is an entity in an of itself, and worth our discovery.

Simply put, Buena Onda has to do with finding or creating a good atmosphere, good vibes, cozy, pleasant, charming, lovely people, places, or events.  Anything or anyone can have or make Buena Onda, even in the deepest of shithole moments.  A welcoming smile, an infectious laugh, soft lighting, nice food being shared, music or singing of any kind, or any particularly lovely moment between people that injects light into a dark
situation, or maybe even a not so dark situation, qualifies.  Simply put, we should all pursue Buena Onda, follow it, create it, subscribe to it, maintain it, and even dedicate ourselves to it, above all else.  What did you do for Buena Onda today?  Notice how good your toothpaste tastes, mmmm Buena Onda.  Do a little dance in the kitchen with your kids, or alone, YEA Buena Onda, right here at home.  Take a stretch or two, even if you don't make it to Yoga, mmmm Buena Onda.  Reach out to someone, pay it forward, make it fabulous, go the extra mile, all them great clich├ęs.  Hang loose and groovy and celebrate each day.  Don't linger in bad vibes-ville for anyone's sake.  Don't be too cheap, don't be too rigid, don't be controlling, don't over-react.  Stay where your creativity pops open like spring tree blossoms and take your leave where the environs are depressed, constraining, or too heavy/not silly enough. 

Oh!  I almost forgot.  Onda= ripple, or wave.  Once you are on this good wave, once you are in the groove of the good ripple, the most natural thing to do is to stay with it.  Get on the pulse of Buena Onda and life becomes primarily a pod of positive vibration, even in troubled times.  And it does not depend on any chemical, plant or vegetable inhalant to maintain.  You put your eye on it, and it takes you for a self-sustaining ride. 

And this is what I learn down south, every single time. That's Buena Onda.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bright Lights, Big City

Hurrah for the municipal leadership of LaPeche who has once again trumped its own idiocy with the installation and activation of 20 some streetlamps in the village centre and lit them up in a flourescent blaze that would blind an already blind driver right off the road.  Piercing beams of halogen hit me right at eye level as I turned onto the main drag one evening last week in a bright lights big city assault on our little paradise lost.  What I assume was an attempt at quaint, old England style lamp posts to add a warm glow to our dark winter nights in the village square has failed miserably.  Now gone, not only the night sky, the moonlit view of the water, and twinkle, twinkle, little star, but with it any driver`s ability to spot a pedestian, dog, or other moving creature who might step casually off the sidewalk and into the flow of traffic.  Gone also to the average pedestiran is the ability to `see anything at all`, as one villager said to me recently, so overwhelmingly bright and tightly spaced together are these quaint blemishes on our decreasingly rural landscape.

Oh sure, failing the yellow spray paint brigade that could dampen it down with a series of well aimed spritzes at bare glass (hint hint), we will get used to it.  Turtles won`t.  They will creep off elsewhere to compete for safe haven as big city mentality, and hence, action, claims more and more of their wetland, dark sky, and quiet country roads.  In our quest to `beautify`and `civilize` have we humans forgotten the value of natural rhythms of light and dark, night and day?  Have we scrapped the romance of a low lit night stroll holding hands, or a quiet snowy walk home from the bar?  Walk down any dark road if you can find one, you will be suprised what tones of grey emerge out of the darkness, and what your non-visual senses will pick up on as they open to another kind of seeing;  and experience the activation of our natural motion detectors that don`t react with a terrified blast of police spotlight on anything that stirs.

It is my fantasy that citizens will put pressure on the powers-that-be to turn down the (light) noise on Main Street.  Its simply not necessary or appropriate to light up downtown Wakefield like Times Square. Even the Styrorail plant`s outdoor night lighting is more demure than our new lamp posts!  For over a decade light pollution has been a well known part of public discourse in planning and environmental circles.  Meanwhile our municipalities gun their engines for a rip-roar up new asphalt, lit up waterfronts, new condo developments, industrial zones and the like, and incredibly, turn a blind eye to the blinding light they are proposing.  If you can handle the resulting circadean madness, more power (sic) to you.  The rest of us may eventually have to crawl into the mud for a decent night`s sleep.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Brainicide and other Pre-Menstrual Dangers


Hello, dear reader.  Yet another communique from PMS land (see post from June, 2011, "The Angels Singing"-- http://www.horaksnacks.blogspot.ca/2011/06/angels-singing.html).  Warning, this post may contain violent language and scary imagery.  And kids, don't do this at home...


What is Brainicide?
Brainicide is a kind of uncontrollable self-mutilation that happens in your head, with negative talk of all kinds surfacing simultaneously from every moment of self doubt and poor self esteem you have ever had.  It can build in a slow crescendo or erupt suddenly without warning into your neurological synapses.  It hammers at you as mercilessly as a TV crime series:  violent, bloody, relentless;  next episode, next episode, next episode... it self perpetuates and is hard to interrupt.  Next episode "I will neeeeever be loved"; next episode, "I will neeeever find someone"; next episode, "I'm so faaaat and ooooold"; next episode, "I'm soooo loooonely!"; next episode, "Oh why, god? (dramatic sigh)"; next episode, "I'm soooo STUCK!"; next episode, "Move over asshole!  (Man I'm such a hater...) next episode, Blah, Blah, Blah!!!  The guy is being tortured, the girl is running for her life, there are kids being beaten in the back alley, cats being boiled for sport;  Brainicide is vicious, and cruel, and shows no restraint, remorse or release (you gotta watch the break out of jail shows for that...).  One must clench ones teeth and somehow live through it.
Brainicide masks itself as normal life thinking, which is its main weapon.  But if you name it for its psychotic self it has a little less destructive power.  Maybe put off some decisions, reschedule a hard conversation with that friend/colleague/dater/client... don't subject yourself to much expectation during a Brainicide bout and try not to commit any 'cide of any other kind including suicide, homicide, pesticide, cyanide... Don't blame anyone for Brainicide: not yourself, not him or her, not god, not the dog, not the kids, especially not the kids.  Brainicide exists because hell exists, because evil exists and one only has to keep patient terrorized brain vigil until it passes on to other phases, which it inevitably does.  As for mitigating remedies, lots of protein, staying warm, exercise if you can manage it, and screaming and crying in moments of private release will all help.  You've got to parent yourself through this shit-- whatever your Brainicide be, this is the time for maturity, wisdom, and faith.  So call it forth, trust and yield to Brainicide's nasty medicine to a reasonable degree, and hope to god your head will not explode.

Peace.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bad seeds, good apples

A few weeks ago, in an early burst of spring cleaning, a most interesting item rose to the surface:  a zip-lock bag of semilla de marijuana, donated to me in a jestfull moment at a "Bakefield" (ie, Wakefield, stoned) garage sale last summer, or maybe the one before it.  Despite repeated yet fleeting ruminations over the years of supplementing my piano-paltry income with an illegal grow-op, I have yet to stoop so low, or so risque.  After all public image is a factor for a piano teacher.  So I have thought it best not.

Plus, my relationship in principle to the wacky weed has grown to be a contentious one at best.  Whether this is for actual reasons or just to be different in a sea of stoners is up for grabs, as usual.  But the power of planting hormones overtook me.  So I lovingly embedded my garage sale seeds in little round pots of black earth and placed them neatly on the sunniest windowsill.  Maybe I had grown harsh and snotty in my I-don't-agree-with-you-John-Akpata anti-marijuana polemic, and this horticultural experiment would soften my soap box wee(d)totaller vigilance through a slow sprouting mother-offspring love relationship that watching something grow inevitably inspires.

Bad Seeds?
There is something very exciting about planting those very first seeds during an April cold snap, when you are chilled to the bone and tired of all things winter.  Whether they are tomatoes or onions, cucumbers or strawberries, or marijuana seeds, these pots of dirt become promises you want to believe in.  They are a gesture of faith and hope at the trailing edge of a long Canadian cold, and you become that desperate soul who checks for inbox messages from god in the form of green shoots more times per day than you would like to admit.  It doesn't matter if those pots of dirt survive to hit the tongs of your fork as a juicy red tomato, or if they dry up and get thrown in the compost.  They serve to get us through.

Mine didn't make it.  They never sprouted.  Bad seeds I guess. 

Good Apples?
Luckily I was distracted by another wave of horicultural urge while visiting my father's apple orchard on the family farm in New York.  He has been an apple grower for decades now, and most of his prize trees were created by grafting from other ones that bore prize winning fruit.  Over a half century he has nurtured a diverse orchard of fruit bearing trees into existence, that all started with some sticks and a tar can.  Its a very slow process, requireing a different sort of approach to time and totally different interpretation of patience.

            So I clipped some twigs from my favorite Horak apple tree and smuggled them across the border in a wet paper towel.  A few days later, I climbed up the stepladder with a tube of silicone and did my very first grafts onto the scrubby crabapple tree in the yard, no knowing exactly what I was doing, but hoping the delicate cambrian layers would touch, and the silicone would provide an adequate seal for the grafts to take.  Three weeks later I am happy to report, the twigs are not dead.  We're having a spring heat wave and the crabtree is pushing out its leaves in a hormonal explosion.  I have tossed the dried up marijuana pots and am focusing on the apple twigs.  By far I prefer a good apple to a bad seed.

Meanwhile, my sister writes from Florida.  She just dug a huge bunch of unexpected potatoes out of her compost pile.  Some things spring to life on their own, unplanned, in a most joyous harvest 'sin trabajo'.  Others take patience, intention, and work.  And still others well, they just won't grow.  So let go!  And keep planting.  And let nature do the rest.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Yo' the Man, I'm the Man

I am becoming the man I didn't marry.  "Stop saying that," protests a male friend, apparently noticing my breasts more than my tongue in cheek.  "But it's true," I say.  Look at me:  dog-tired feet up on table, ripped and muddy jean shorts and smelly T-shirt, favorite well worn work boot odor wafting up from below, swilling a beer before 2pm.  I swear, I am as woman as they come, but lately I've been mindfully, aggressively, obstinately chinking away at the gender mystique barrier like pro-capitalist German's at the Berlin wall, and I'm as sore as an athlete.  Its a big job and as I'm still living with the Phantom Man, its gotta be me, or the job ain't gettin' done.

My first junction box!  Booyah!
What is the 'Gender Mystique Barrier' of which I speak?  Back in the '70's we had Friedan's 'Feminine Mystique', Gloria Steinem, the Equal Right's Amendment, some very nice tea, and much more to ponder.  Four decades later, I can solidly claim that there is nothing that mystical about the 'feminine', except perhaps that it's based on money, or leisure, or man-power (literally), that I don't have.  Afternoons sipping mint juleps with the other desperate housewives while admiring each others' pedicures, complaining about our husbands and bragging about our above-average children is not an experience I've had the privilege to enjoy.  My toes are not that clean, nor do I have much time and energy for fashion, except the Reno-Depot kind.  But mostly, the problem with the feminine is that its not practical.  It doesn't get the trench dug, the wood stacked, or the shelving installed.



First attempt at framing-- requires attention to detail.  Shit!
Yet it is expected of us.  Without it we are sexless spinsters wearing pleated pants and sentenced to eternal loneliness and abandonment by normal society.  My more cat-like sisters have figured out how to play coy and helpless as some kind of currency on the gender market, as a sort of feminine crowbar with a plunging neckline, but I am just too bow wow for all that.  Yet my gender socialization holds me in its talons despite my willingness to forgo the manicure and says, "well ma'am, you just can't do that."  What is it exactly that I can't do?  That part is not entirely clear although it most often involves wiring or levers or some kind of power tool that is only available on the man market, transactions made in the back room of the bar, or behind the garage, when we ladies are not looking.  But wait, who said that I can't do that?  Was it my father?  My brother?  The guy at the hardware store?  Well, sometimes it is and for some strange reason, I believe them.  There is nothing worse than a trip to the man-store to hammer in my gender insecurity.  Hours and hours I wander around, looking for supplies, interviewing staff and customers, trying to make decisions, totally ineffectively and at great cost.

A very nice monkey
But a few months of observation, layers of dirt and cash out later and I am slowly learning, a monkey could do most of this stuff.  A few of the right tools, some common sense, and a bit of background with legos and tinker toys are enough to qualify anyone, including me.  You wouldn't believe some of the mistakes the monkeys make.  Hot water in the toilet?  Vapor barrier-- whoops, we forgot!  I love and appreciate my monkeys but from now on, I'm doin' it myself. 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Tweet Tweet

I got an iPhone yesterday, why am I capitalizing the P?  It wants me to tweet.  I don't want to tweet.  Maybe I should tweet!  Everyone else is tweeting.  How did tweet become a verb?  Can I make up a verb?  I want new verbs like I want new foods.  But I don't know if I want this gadget in my life.  First of all it has no geography.  No buttons.  I like buttons, you can find them in the dark.  The fake buttons on the iphone are too small for my fat, square, guitar player fingers.  Hey this thing is a racist, it presupposes pointy slender fingertips.  Well maybe not a racist.  But you know.

It wants me to make a lot of decisions about how it controls my life.  Buzz, superBuzz, or MegaBuzz.  Expresso with that ma'am?  Buzz when I get a text, a call, an email?  I can't get any of this shit to work anyway.  How do I put it on fucking silent, just tell me that!  So far the iPhone is making me very grouchy!  Do they have one that gives massages?  I'm in.

I have 14 days to decide if I want to march down this road with all the other tweets I mean twits, and if I have enough wherewithall to guide this tool towards making my life easier and better, not let it guide me to having my head face down in the little gadget all the time.  I remember boycotting Facebook for about 5 yrs.  Since caving, it has led to some positive events.  A rideshare.  An event I didn't know about.  Some little box typing communication with someone I actually really know and like who I wouldn't otherwise be 'talking' to.  Discovering how we are all linked through chains of acquaintance.  Stalking my favorite local celebrity.  Planning a hit on a local politician.  But I digress.

The point is as everyone says to get technology to help us, not control us.  So where is the silent button on this thingee?