Sunday, July 22, 2012

Follow Your List

When the world finally wakes up to the worth of music teaching, I’ll be prepared for my Terry Gross interview.

“Doug, tell us, to what do you attribute your modest success?”

“Well, Terry, I can answer that in three words: ‘Mead memo books.’”

The memo book is a nifty piece of technology made by the Mead Company in Dayton, Ohio. It offers 60 sheets of 5 by 3 inch lined paper between cardboard covers, spiral-bound at top or side (I prefer side) and available in various colors—red, blue, green, black. When I started using them in the mid-80’s they cost $0.69.  Now the price has risen to $1.19. They have ridden with me faithfully in my front
shirt pocket these past 25 years, shared with my Niji stylist pen and in the last decade or so, my reading glasses.

In my desk drawer are some fifty books, the treasures of a memorabilia miser available for posterity, though probably the first thing to be thrown away in a post-mortem houseclean. But fascinating to see what I was up to in the day-to-day twenty years ago, try to remember the people whose phone number I listed, recall when I got such-and-such done. I picked one out of my drawer this morning and found some haiku written by the Calaveras campers! Serenditipous!

Here’s how it works:

• On the inside cardboard covers, important phone numbers—personal, inside front cover, business, inside back.

• On the pages from front to back, my list of things to do. A random example from 1987:   
            1) Call Lisa
            2) Dub tape for Avon
            3) Decide Xmas play story
            4) Make business card
            5) School reimbursement
            6) Guinea pig (What was this?!!)

When I finally do accomplish an item on the list, I cross it out. Sometimes I circle one if it rises in importance or I keep putting it off. When the page is full and all are crossed out, on to the next page.

• On the pages from back to front, inspired ideas for classes, workshops, articles, musical compositions, those little things that come to me at random moments and would fly away forgotten without my Niji pen and memo books. Also on these pages are directions to places, temporary phone numbers, notes from talks or concerts, etc.

Each book generally last around six to eight months. When it’s done, I go through it once more, sift out the inspired ideas from the mundane and re-type on the computer and move on to the next, usually a different color. And that’s it. The right tool for the right job for the right cost. Easy to carry, easy to store, no buttons to power off or on. Of course, I’m well aware that I’m a quaintly obsolete dinosaur in the brave new world of Blackberries and i-Phones that can do all of the above and so much more. But since it ain’t broke, I see no need to fix it and keep both the local Five and Dime store and the Mead Company afloat with my two books bought annually at a total cost of $2.38.

During my vacation time in Michigan, my memo book lay unopened on the table. But now back home with things to attend to, it’s back in its familiar front pocket reminding me to book my next flight, prepare my notes for next week’s Orff course, call the piano tuner and get fried tofu in Japantown. How do people get by without these lists?

Back in the late ‘80’s, my sister gave me a sweatshirt with a Joseph Campbell quote: “Follow your bliss.” A friend trumped her by making a custom-made T-shirt (in my own handwriting and as a surprise gift—no small feat!) that said, “Follow your list.” We need both. A list without the bliss is mere busy work, but to reach your bliss, I find the list indispensable. And so on to the day.

1.     Write today’s blog.
2. Fried tofu

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