Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yes. No. Maybe So.

Engine, engine, number nine.
Going down Chicago line.
If the train stops on the track.
Do you want your money back?
Yes. No. Maybe so.
Yes. No. Maybe so.

I come back to this rhyme often whenever I am at the crossroads of an important decision, Is this a clear yes, a definite no or that waffling maybe so? It’s the latter for me now as I face a profound life-changing choice. For those who know me, it’s worthy of drum rolls or danger music or sweet violins, some support for the sheer drama of the moment. And so I draw it out here a bit longer to give you the sense of build-up and make you wonder whether I’m talking about something as monumental as retirement from my school after 37 years or moving to Washington DC to raise my grandchild while my daughter and husband work or getting some plastic surgery so I can look in the mirror again. Are you ready?

I’m considering joining Facebook.

For those who know me, I’ll wait until you get back up from off the floor. How did this happen? It’s as simple as this. I was looking at my school’s Facebook page with my colleague Sofia and noted a few comments to the posting about my new book. It was sweet to think of the people I knew (some alums from a while back) offering a word of congratulations. But that was just the warm-up.

Sofia then posted the photo and announcement on her Facebook and within a few hours, there were 60 comments!! People I knew from Iran, China, Thailand, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Austria, Australia, Turkey, Finland, the Orff circuit in the U.S., more school alums. Then Sofia posted it on other Facebook pages of Orff Associations and she’s reporting that the little notes of congratulations keep pouring in.

I am simply, as they say in the vernacular, blown away. Not only from the pleasure of seeing all the names of people I’ve met in this work and curious about the people I haven’t yet met, but more amazingly, how many people are tuned in to Facebook world-wide at any one moment and responding instantly. Makes e-mail and Websites seem antique, this technology of instant connection and available for all to see simultaneously at a button click. To write an e-mail, no matter how short, takes some time and attention, but the attraction here is the quick “Congratulations!” the ease of posting and the sense of participating in this ongoing 24/7 conversation of sorts. There is no doubt that this has become the preferred medium of contact (though some say others already are on the rise).

So as someone involved in public discourse, I have to pause, shake my head and consider—should I join them? On a purely practical level, my book has just gotten tons of free advertising and different from an announcement from me (which I made on my antiquated group e-mail list). It has gotten some kind of affirmation from people from all over, which makes other think that they should be in the ‘buy Doug’s books” club. And, of course, they’re right. You should!

Someone at a recent school meeting said that people are attracted to success—they want to feel part of something that is known and popular and successful, not only to justify their involvement and their investment of time and money, but to identify with success, to feel part of something larger that is working well. Sports are an obvious case in point. It was remarkable how I (and all of San Francisco) was willing to spend so much time with the Giants in the World Series when ordinariy we wouldn’t give them the time of day. When they won and I joined the throngs in the streets roaring for an hour straight, it was as if we ourselves had hit the winning run or thrown the last pitch.

Not that I’m comparing my books to a World Series win, but the eight I have written are reasonably successful by Orff standards and seem to have proven useful and stimulating for those who have bought them. In sheer marketing terms, I’d be a fool to ignore something as potent as Facebook seems to be. Not to mention the ease of advertising my upcoming concert with my new Pentatonics Jazz Group (May 12th/SF School— it is THE cool event of the month! Don’t miss out!). So what are my hesitations?

Again, those who know me can predict. The quick hit of Facebook lends itself to surface sharing—“Just had a great dinner with a fine wine. Yummy!”—and I’m the archaelogist always trying to dig below the surface. If the dinner and wine reminded me of the caves in France where I dined back in 1973 with 40 hippies in the Antioch Chorus and stumbled out to the vineyards singing 15th century motets, that would be a story worth telling. No one cares that I “just brushed my teeth,” but if it leads to a look at fluoride in the water of 1950’s New Jersey or my recent nitrous oxide drug trip at the dentist, then it becomes more worthy of expression. I have loved this blog format that invites me the writer and you the reader to go on the first part of an archealogical dig for whatever subject presents itself. Not what I did, but what it might mean and what it might reveal.

“Well and good” you say. No need to compare and contrast. Handwritten letters are one thing, e-mail another, blogs one thing, texting another, Facebook its own town in the kingdom of Medialand. Pick and choose, use each for what it does well, don’t try to force one mode of expression into another. (Many people have simply not read some of my group e-mails because they’re too long for their e-mail expectation. And this blog is challenging the welcome limits of this format!)

But there is a catch. All of these media tap on the real, ancient, and universal urge to belong, to feel connected, to be social, to be “in with the In Crowd.” And it takes a lot of time and energy to keep up. It edges us towards obsessive addiction to constant checking so we’re not left out of the loop. So if I’m already checking my answering machine, my e-mails, my school e-mails, my blogs, do I really want to add Facebook to the list?  I’ve left cell phones off my list of acceptable media for precisely the reason that for them to work efficiently, they require constant checking. How much is enough? How much can I handle before my life is more about announcing my experiences or documenting them than having them?

So I’ll close with this question:

Driver engine number nine.
Facebook’s yours, should it be mine?
If my life goes off the track.
Will I want to get it back?
Yes. No. Maybe so.
Yes. No. Maybe so.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Express Yourself?

People of my generation may remember the song Louie Louie. My friends and I spent hours sequestered in someone’s basement trying to make out the lyrics, which, rumor had it, including dirty words spoken in slurred, barely intelligible speech. The thrill we got when we thought we caught a phrase is not easily comprehensible to an adolescent in 2012 listening to today’s pop music lyrics. The old taboos are gone and we baby boomers can take the credit—or the shame.

So today driving to school, I passed a young innocent-looking high school student on her way to the halls of education with a sweatshirt that said in big letters, “PULL THE TRIGGER, BITCH!” Really? Is this the reward for our efforts? Is that what the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley was aiming for? Back in the early 20th century, D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller challenged the permissible in literature. blues singer Bessie Smith snuck past the guards at the gate with her brilliant metaphoric sexual innuendo, Hollywood kept pulling up on the windowshades of censorship to show us what went on behind closed doors as essential to the human drama. Later Dizzy and Miles blew trumpets at the Walls of Jericho to tumble the archaic taboos and Victorian repressions. But for what? So this high school girl can carry this message on her sweatshirt into our institutions of cultural transmission?

We all know the costs of repression— politically, socially, psychologically. The machinery of denial and the conspiracy of silence is good for exactly no one. What people refuse to talk about or face, as a family, community or individual, is always precisely what longs to be said out loud. Once it is spoken, once a topic is publicly breached and brought into the conversation, the capacity to deal with it is born.

But the antidote of repression is not uninhibited expression. Just getting to say whatever you want and have the T-shirt and bumper sticker people print it and sell it, the music moguls throw it on the airwaves to make their buck, the TV sell sex and violence on prime-time, the movies up the gore and flesh quotient, the Internet put it all at your fingertips with a button click, doesn’t solve the problems of repression. Just creates new ones and when you see children constantly exposed to it all, almost makes you yearn for the “good old days.”

Of course, the answer is not return to censorship (though in regards to children, I would advocate much more protection), but transformation within, making good honest conversation and art with integrity more interesting than flash and dazzle, sensation and titillation. Someone was talking to me about an up-and-coming rapper who seemed talented, but whose subject was the same old tired “bitches” and “hos.” I suggested we look for another talented rapper who’s into gardening and can sing about “ditches” and “hoes.”

Meanwhile, I’ll close with a tip from a friend who I told about the sweatshirt. She said that detectives have testified that if someone is pointing a gun at you, it is a bad idea to invite them to shoot. Taunted like that, they often do. Hope that will never come in handy, but you take your lessons from where you can get them. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The You Below the You

Who are you when you open your eyes in the morning? I don’t mean the one who starts planning the day or stumbles down the hall to the coffeemaker. I mean what is the base feeling you wake up with or go to bed with, the You below the You, your base line of consciousness? Without reacting to yesterday’s events or anticipating today’s, what kind of note is your undertone? A solid steady hum? A joyful opera hi-note? A cool swingin’ bluenote? A crackly, staticky drone?

I don’t have the language yet to talk about this, don’t know any terms from psychology textbooks. The machine metaphor would be the screensaver behind the programs and saved files, except something else gets to choose the color or image that appears when the computer is turned on. Perhaps the ancient Greek idea of four temperaments or humors is a step in that direction—melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine and choleric. Each temperament is paired with a fluid, an element and an essential character, as follows:

Sanguine: blood- air- sociable
Choleric: yellow bile-fire- ambitious
Melancholic: black bile-earth-reflective
Phlegmatic: phlegm-water-calm

I started checking this out on the old Wikipedia and as with any system, it is too complex to easily summarize or apply and as soon as you accept it, you realize there are myriad different systems from China, India or your neighbor next door.

So rather than research it all, I want to stick close to home with the feeling that prompted the question. Without undue pride (since I seem to have had nothing to do with it), it feels like my base camp for the day’s thoughts and feelings and experiences generally tends to be a happy one— positive, looking forward to the day or grateful at day’s end. When all the events and feelings sift down in solitude of a hotel room looking out at the nearby mountains, there's a quiet little hum of happiness. From that base, I know my fair share of grief, pain, stress, anxiety, anger, outrage, disappointment, loneliness, longing, sadness, restlessness, that long list of negative emotion that can press down on me, clothe me in bulky armor or throw me to the ground, But at the other end, this bottom line of happiness awaits.

So when I felt a shift in that background the other day, the sense that everything that brought pleasure and meaning was suddenly flatter, greyer, less pleasurable or meaningful, I got a peek into the screensaver of depression. And it ain’t pretty. In fact, I’m okay with genuine grief and anger often gives me energy in its own strange way, but the loss of the normal color in life felt unbearable. I know that due to all sorts of things— chemical imbalances, genetic inheritances, traumatic life issues or a via negativa spiritual path—many people experience depression (my mother is bi-polar and has been her whole life) and this mild case helped me to be more sympathetic and compassionate about it.

Mine seems to have passed as mysteriously as it came and perhaps just visited to remind me to keep following the places where the world comes alive in three-dimensional vibrant color. I think almost obsessively these days about what signals I’ll get to announce retirmenet from my school and that loss of pleasure in the daily classes will be sign number one. But I can’t think about that now—Spring concert is next week! Now just who should play that glockenspiel part?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Swinging Gate of the Heart

It has been a rough couple of weeks. A friend’s sister passed away and so did my friend from Spain, Luz (see Christmas in London). While trying to feel my own grief, I also wanted to comfort my dear friend and colleague Sofia, who was deeply connected to Luz and so full of sadness. My mother-in-law suddenly seemed to lose her appetite for living and announced she’s ready to check out, no muss, no fuss. One daughter is wondering how to be with the 6-year old boy in her class who survived a car crash that his Mom didn’t, the other is struggling with summer plans with her stepson and both are at odds with their bosses (now where did they get that from?!). I went to greet an old colleague at a recent workshop and she turned away, offended by a remark I had made last week in an e-mail. My arthritic 18-year old cat limps more very day and three of the tender preschoolers burst into tears in my class today because they didn’t get the penny or paperclip right away in our little game. From the tiny disappointment to the unbearable loss, there is a lot of weight on the heart these days.

In my work and philosophical ramblings, I am a staunch advocate of the open heart. Sing and play with vulnerability and tenderness at the core. Dance to the center of your grief and joy, holding hands or supporting the weight of fellow dancers if you can. Write as if every word is a love letter to the world or a farewell note to loved ones. Carry as much of the world’s suffering weight as you can bear. Hear the stories of those in pain with a listening ear and a comforting shoulder. Stay attuned to your own sorrows and look them in the eye. Cultivate compassion.

Well, it sounds good on paper, but really, why would I wish it on anyone? It hurts! Hard enough to bear one’s own trials and tribulations, but when you add all the people you know to the mix, the shoulders start to droop from all that weight. And then if you read the newspaper and you start to hear about all the folks you don’t know…well, frankly, I don’t know how people do it. Every morning I chant the Four vows of Zen Buddhism and luckily, in an ancient Sino-Japanese language. If I realized I was vowing to “save all sentient beings”—all 9 billion of them— I would stay rooted to the cushion, immobilized by the enormity of bearing the sorrows from each.

No wonder most of us treat the heart as a “mighty fortress,” sequestred, protected and armored from the slings and arrows of misfortune. But the closed heart ain’t no good for no one. It allows too much rampant harm to continue unchecked, leaves our fellow humans out in the cold, hungry and unloved, and ultimately, takes its revenge on us, all those deferred sufferings gathering strength and energy to attack us full force when we let down our guard for a moment.

But the perpetually open heart has its issues too. It always feels like it could and should do more, but ultimately can do nothing to heal another’s pain. So most of us are equipped with some kind of swinging gate, available to let another in and hear their story and offer a refuge and haven that accepts salty tears and cries of pain. But at some point, it needs to swing close and tend to its complex mixture of joy and sadness.

Really, when you think about it, it’s a miracle that any of us can be happy for even a minute. But that is the miracle of it, that amidst all the conflict and confusion and chaos, joy awaits its bloom in the spring rain of tears. Relationships are a mess, life sends us reeling, death even more, but be joyful and dance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Fox, the Hen and the Corn

Remember the Fox, Hen and Corn math problem? The farmer has to take all three across the river, but the boat can only hold one at a time. If the fox goes across, the hen will eat the corn. If the corn, the fox will eat the hen. So the farmer takes the hen. But then who to take on the second trip? If the fox, it will eat the hen when the farmer goes back for the corn. If the corn, the hen will eat the corn.

Maybe it has been a long day for you and you’re not in the mood to figure it out. So the punch line is the hen first, then the fox, then take the hen back on the way to the corn, cross with the corn, go back for the hen. Voila!

Out on my bike today, I thought about the contemporary version of this conundrum—the car, the bike and the pedestrian. They’re all trying to cross the road or share the road or share the path and unlike the circular rock-scissors-paper-rock or fire-ice-water-fire, there is a definite hierarchy.  The car is the powerful fox carnivore who has a history of mowing down bikes, pedestrians and other cars. The bike is the folksy transport, like walking with wheels— except for two recent news items of pedestrians killed by cyclists. So far no reports of pedestrians running into cars and knocking them off the road.

The history of cars and its effect on our culture would be an enlightening study. Back in 1979, returning to San Francisco after a year in places like India, Java, Bali, I was simply overwhelmed with how many cars lived on the streets of San Francisco. And I’m just talking about parking. If you stopped to analyze how in a mere hundred years, the automobile has completely transformed the landscape and the culture, you’d be hard-pressed to know whether to call Henry Ford a god or the devil incarnate. Obvious things like the need for paved roads and highways and superhighways, the consumption of and addiction to oil and subsequent decision-making about which war to fight (U.S. fights for freedom in Rwanda?! Forget it. What’s in it for us? Iraq? Now you’re talking!), depletion of ozone and climate change, the death of downtowns and rise of the sprawled malls. Then more subtle things like the factory model of production which provided both jobs and a model of social organization that trickled down into the schools with its whistles, bells, learn one thing on the line and miss the big picture, do what the bosses say and keep indoors out of the sunshine. Then probably the most important contribution of all—necking in the back seat at the drive-in movie.

Bikes are still put together with metal and steel and rubber and grease, but no fossil fuels needed for actual riding. In my childhood, something mostly for kids and my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Shawcross, who biked to work even in the winter. And then walking, a lot of it now on treadmills in gyms to try to regain the average 12-miles a day our ancestors walked so we can remember that our human body is the same as it was thousands of years ago before gyms, mountain bikes and Volvos.

So what’s my point here? Heck if I know, but if I keep typing it might circle back to the fox, chicken and corn and the changing relationship between them. In San Francisco, bike lanes have grown geometrically on the streets. In Golden Gate Park, I noticed a new idea of cars parking away from the curb with the bike lane in-between, the parked cars providing a kind of protective shelter for the death-monsters hurtling down the road. Some paths are designated for bikes only (as they are in Salzburg) and others reserved just for pedestrians. Places to lock bikes on sidewalks have grown exponentially and occasionally, there are whole bike parking lots at events watched over by volunteer security folks. Restaurants are buying parking spaces to put out tables to create the feeling of a pedestrian mall. Change is in the air, as well it should be in this time of diminishing resources. And our bodies and culture are all the healthier for it.

But the most interesting dynamic in the fox-chicken-corn trio is that we are often all three. We may put the bike on the rack on the car, drive to a spot to bike, lock it up and walk. How often have you been mad at a car when on your bike, mad at a bicyclist while walking, mad at a pedestrian while driving? It’s amazing how one second you can be driving and curse a bicyclist as if they’re from the Axis of Evil and then the next second, get on your bike and curse an auto driver!! Here is the perfect opportunity to practice compassion, to identify with other points of view that were your own ten seconds ago— and yet we fail time after time! No wonder world peace is so elusive!

Well, don’t think I exactly tied it together, but I gotta go— time to watch Fox news while eating some chicken and corn. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Second-Hand Smoke

I was driving home from a TGIF Friday, looking forward to the weekend and pondering the mysteries of the universe, when I notice an unusual number of people out and about. Yes, it was a rare hot day, but this seemed above and beyond simply good weather. The crowd increased as I neared my home and as I pulled up and greeted my upstairs neighbors sitting on the front stoop, I asked “What’s going on?” Their answer didn’t help: “4/20.”

I didn’t need Wikipedia to investigate further. A simple “Huh?” was enough to prompt my neighbors to explain that it was in celebration of Weed and I’m not talking the kind you pull out from your garden. Turns out that April 20th is the day to celebrate the wonders of Cannabis and even more exactly, 4:20 in the afternoon the prime time. You hear that, you know there’s got to be a story behind it and here Wikipedia was helpful. Short version is that a bunch of teenagers in San Rafael, CA formed a club in search of a rumored cannabis crop.and decided on 4:20 as their meeting time. These numbers became the code-word for pot-smoking in general. It must have stuck, because that story is from 1971!

SF Golden Gate Park is one of many preferred spots for these celebrations and no surprise why. Hippy Hill, some two minutes from my house, was the hot gathering spot in the Summer of Love and I suspect that Cannabis was in integral part of it. And some of the folks walking by my house on the way to the park might have been there. The rest looked close to their 60’s ancestors— tie-dyed shirts, loose dresses, beards and long hair were in abundance.

I’ve been out of the loop since around 1974, but still was curious about it. So I decided to join my neighbors on the stoop and report on the event flowing by. There was a familiar smell in the air, much of it drifting my way and suddenly, everything was looking rather groovy and everyone was so mellow and…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shoveling the Basketball Court

When I was in 8th grade, I was obsessed with basketball. I ate, slept and dreamt basketball. My fingers itched for the moment when I could hold that orb in my hands, my ears ached for the sound of the bounce and the swish of the net, my eyes grew wide when I passed a basketball court. I began to feel restless and out-of-sorts when the ball was not in my hands and at home and fulfilled when it was. It was so bad that when it snowed in my wintry New Jersey town, I’d go so far as to take my shovel to the court in the park three blocks away to clear off the snow and sneak in a few shots. And here I became initiated into the fine line between addiction and fulfillment of one’s genuine longing.

So much of our life is fueled by our desire. The word comes from “de sidere” —“of the stars” and suggests that our desires both lift our head to the heavens (think of the song When You Wish Upon a Star) and also come down to us from above— another etymological version of the word translates as “awaiting what the stars will bring.” Yet despite all the airy associations, desire roots itself in our earthly body, gets the fingers itching for basketballs or piano keys, the tongue anticipating its sweet or savory reward, the legs pounding the pavement or pumping the pedals, the loins…well, you get the idea. Our longings may be addressed upwards or rain down on us from above, but they manifest in this body, make themselves known through the body’s cravings. In some ways, each itch is a love note from the gods, pointing us toward our passion.

Desire is the engine that drives us and also drives us crazy. The Buddhist notion of Nirvana as the cessation of desire is appealing in the moments when we are driven off the road, but boring when we’re in the thick of the pleasure of both longing and fulfillment. Desire activates the Soul and our particular desires reveal our particular Soul’s journey. What we long for, from the plucking of the guitar string to the sanding of wood to the embrace of our beloved, is both who we are and who we will become.

Desire is also Nature’s strategy for survival. It turns the infant’s mouth to the breast, directs our feet to the café, invites us out to the dance floor and adds a subtext to every meeting between the sexes. Our appetite for food and sex is nature’s strategy for replicating itself, from the amoeba to the human being. In the plant and animal kingdom, most of the script is written. All have an intuitive sense of the limits of the appetite and will rarely mate, kill or eat beyond their basic need. Not so in humans. Enter addiction.

We use the term addiction so casually—addicted to chocolate, to jogging, to Seinfeld re-runs, but according to Wikipedia, addiction is something more serious. The tone is a negative one, accenting “continued use of a mood-altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences.” The drugs or alcohol addictions are pretty clear and pretty clearly bad news. But what about that behavior we continue “despite adverse consequences?” That could define a lot of our relationships, our jobs, our eating habit. Let’s face it—seen in that light, we are a walking bundle of addictions!

Then Wikipedia goes on to describe what happens in the absence of the object of one’s desire. “Symptoms of withdrawal generally include but are not limited to anxiety, irritably, intense craving, nausea, hallucinations, headaches, cold sweats and tremors.” Hmm. Sounds suspiciously like falling in love to me.

Like just about everything in the human drama, the heights and the depths are kissing cousins. The lines between desire and addiction are blurry. I always imagined Charlie Parker’s drug addiction could be explained psychologically as a man battered by a racist culture seeking escape and sociologically by the Mafia’s program of creating junkies. Both have a twist of truth, but perhaps there’s another dimension as well. The guy practiced his instrument for hours on end, “addicted” to achieving the depth, complexity and beauty of musical expression and also longed for and desired release from the brutality of a world that stood in marked contrast to his musical universe. The visionary poet William Blake felt pity for the man whose passions were so weak that they could be controlled. On some level, we simply are at the mercy of our desires and our job is to walk that narrow road between extravagance and restraint. If any of you have figured out to do it, let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m going to shoot some baskets. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coins on the Floor

When I was a kid, my Dad and I had a little game. Sometimes when he picked up his pants draped over the chair, the coins in his pocket would fall onto the floor. When I heard that jangle of metal hitting wood, I would run from my bedroom to try and pick them up. Any coins I could swoop up before he did would be mine to keep.

Like most men, I also keep loose change in my pockets and don’t always remember to take it out each night to toss in the coin bowl. So occasionally it falls to the floor and my first reflex is to say out loud “Dad!” Never fails. He left us five years ago this summer, but it’s one of those threads that keep us connected. It happened this morning and gave me the sweet opportunity to remember him yet again.

Like most fathers and sons, especially growing up in the 50’s, ours was a difficult relationship. His job to provide conditional love meant much judgement and disappointment, as well as the 50’s working father absence. As a young adult, it was my turn to be disappointed in him, especially when he stopped painting, composing little pieces on the piano and eventually stopped playing the piano altogether, giving himself over to way too many hours of mediocre TV. Then came the slow climb back to acceptance and forgiveness and ultimately, deep appreciation and enjoyment of the few places where we did meet. From both sides.

My sister, a modern dancer, and I once gave a concert in which I played one of his compositions and improvised it on while she danced her choreography to it. Both he and my Mom attended and that was a proud moment for us all. Likewise, he was proud of my modest success in my chosen field and when he and Mom finally moved from New Jersey to Novato in 1992, he enjoyed his Grand-dad role, came to the kids’ piano recitals and school plays that I directed, to my own concerts and dutifully read all my books. It was a ritual to always call before taking off on a worldwide “Orff tour” and we always ended our conversations the same. “Thanks for calling,” he’d say, and I’d always reply “Thanks for being there” until one day, he wasn’t. Like the coins falling to the floor, the moment before leaving for the airport is another time of ritual remembrance, a marker of the simple fact that I miss him.

I overheard someone talking the other day about a children’s book about Heaven. The book suggested that Heaven was just like here, but the housing is more affordable. You get to stay in your house for as long as someone on Earth remembers you. This would explain most culture’s ritual remembrances—Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day, Memorial Day, Chinese New Year, Bon and all the festivals that honor the ancestors and keep their presence vibrant. Without those collective memorials, we are left with our own personal recollections that don’t appear by calendar, but by those small markers of phone calls before flights or coins falling to the floor. One can imagine our departed loved one starting to fade until their name comes up in a dinnertime story or their image appears in the sounds of quarters on hardwood floors and then they take on a more solid shape and form.

People like Buddha and Bach, Dickens and DaVinci must be long-term residents, renewed each time someone chants, plays Prelude No. 1, reads Oliver Twist or sees the Mona Lisa. (In this scenario, sad to say, I supposed Ghengis Khan and Hitler also share the condo apartments.) But for most folks, their immortality is tied to the mortality of their friends and descendants, good for just a generation or two. Perhaps that’s when they’re ready for another roll of the karmic wheel and come back to be re-incarnated.

Well, it’s all speculation and a luxury to think about. But no time now, I’m too busy rushing to get all the coins on the floor so I can keep them. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Acorn and the Oak

Just back from a Memorial Service for a friend’s sister. A lovely event, just the right mixture of tears and laughter, trying to summarize a life that is impossible, as all lives are, to wholly capture. What struck me so forcibly was the slide show, with select photos from early childhood to her final year at 76. All those faces with the same soul behind them. I’ve always loved the faces of children, wide-eyed in wonder, explosive in natural laughter and unposed for the camera. Then the young adults at graduations or weddings, palpably gazing out into their unknown future with such confidence and excitement. Then come the faces starting to look a bit weather-worn in the thick of it all and somewhere along the line, an invisible line is crossed and the gaze is more backward than forward, some wisdom in the cracks and crevices of the skin. Each face so different from the stage before or after and yet precisely the same. (This would be immediately obvious if I could show these photos from the show side-by-side. Makes me wonder if anyone has done a photography book with beginning/middle/end photos of different people.)

My job at the service was to play some music as people filtered in and then again at the end as they made their way to the refreshments. Only when I sat down to play after the last speaker, I quickly realized that the people were sitting and listening. The host began the slide show again just as I was finishing the introduction to Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I ended up being the soundtrack for these evocative photos tracing a soul that was born, grew, developed and died, but at the core, was simply itself during all those stages. And I’d like to think it still is continuing to fulfill its own image in the next stage. I segued into Embraceable You and then Time On My Hands, these tender jazz tunes in honor of someone who was trained to sing Mozart and was equally happy to sing Broadway showtunes. How happy I was that such songs are now part of me, no pages to shuffle, just pouring effortlessly from the fingers as I watched the show. The last slide coincided with my last note, a moment of silence and then the murmer of the folks turning to greet each other and keep the stories going over crackers and cheese.

I’ve mentioned James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code before in these blogs and I’ll mention it again. It is a modern articulation of an ancient idea, that the blueprint for the oak is wholly contained in the acorn. As the tree grows, wind or squirrels or disease may give it unique quirks of character, but its essential qualities were present from the beginning and remain to the end. Oak acorns have no choice but to be oak trees and humans are, of course, humans. But the variables are so many and the choices so daunting that to stay true to your particular image, that acorn of your soul’s undertaking, is a difficult path indeed. I didn’t know my friend’s sister well, just crossed paths at occasional events throughout the years. But I could see so clearly the same spirit shining out of the eyes of the little girl, the young performing singer, the middle-aged social worker, the elder woman even as she suffered from Parkinsons and back operations. As people spoke about her, you could feel that here was someone who stayed true to herself.

No one really knows what we’re doing here on this spinning globe, but if we have to invent meaning, we might as well pick a good story. The idea that each of us is an embodied soul sent here to become wholly itself is a noble tale and worthy of our efforts. The world needs many eyes and ears and minds and hearts to praise it and love it and create a parallel beauty through a living art or an artful life. We don’t get to wholly know what our soul’s image is or why it chose us, but we can pay attention to its call and amidst all the pulls and distractions, follow it wholeheartedly. To keep that same smile you had at the beginning in the middle and the end is indeed a worthy victory. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Secret of Teaching Revealed

Driving to school (and stopping carefully at all stop signs), the secret of good teaching came as a revelation. It was 7:45 Friday morning and I was wishing it was 5:00 Friday afternoon and wondering just how I would make it through the grinding gears of my full day’s schedule—6th grade, 8th grade, 8th grade, 5-year olds, 5-year olds, quick lunch, 100 kid singing time, 4th grade, 4th grade, carpool duty, visit Mom. Each class its solar system with its own particular combination of revolving planets and gravitational fields and pulls between them. Each class working on different pieces from different places on different combinations of instruments, all of which I had arranged in my spare time. Each class peopled by 12 to 15 mini-universes, every one with their own micro-climate, biorhythms, needy needs and—let’s not forget it—wondrous gifts. Every one of these hundred plus folks needing—and worthy of— attention and care. Which means keeping each in my heart, imagining them while writing the notes to the arrangements and planning the classes, attending to them during the class, reflecting on them after the class. Driving to school, I was grouchy with the guy in a recent social gathering who, tongue-in-cheek, said my work didn’t count as work because “I was having so much fun.” If only he knew.

So with all of this spinning in my brain, some inner guide kicked in to remind me that I was now ten minutes away from my next class and on survival alert, the imagination kicked into gear and began reviewing the day’s planned classes. Some nuances emerged and new ideas surfaced and suddenly the armored body preparing to simply get through the day softened and looked forward to it all. My first class began with some good-humored banter with my 6th graders and off they went to play “Canta canta pajarito, canta canta tu canción, mira que la vida es triste y tu cantar me alegra el corazon.” The song claims that in this sad life, the bird’s happy song makes my heart glad. And sure enough, it did and does everytime I hear it. As did every song, dance, game and piece I did with all the different ages today. Maybe that fellow was right— it’s all just too much damned fun to qualify as work!

At least, until you try to do it. Bobby McFerrin, a former school parent, once told me how he took the 3rd grade to a recording studio for his son’s birthday to record a song and came out from the experience looking up sanatoriums in the phone book. He confessed to me, with an admiring tone, that it was—and I quote—“the hardest work he had ever done.”

It’s now 6 pm and I not only made it through, but enjoyed just about every moment of it. The weekend awaits with all its glory, well-deserved and hard-earned. Never mind the school auction fund-raiser tomorrow night, the piano lesson, the concert related to my field, the organizing the chaos of the week’s papers and preparing the next week’s classes. It will be nice—and necessary—to have some space and some relief from the constant chatter of the little darlings.

Oh, and I promised the secret revelation of teaching. Well, no big surprise that it all boils down to our most over-used and ambivalent word— love. Love for the kids, love for the subject, love for the whole nine yards of whatever your passion, hopefully wedded to your work, may be. No matter how exhausting the demand is, love is both the fire within and the constant guiding star. It all is endurable and often pleasurable and sometimes extraordinary when love is at the helm. And being the fickle thing that it is, we can’t depend on it to be as constant as we would like. When love fades, our work suffers and we suffer and if we’re teachers, our kids suffer. When it begins to glow again, ain’t nothing we can do to capture it and make it stay. Just be grateful for the grace.

Happy weekend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Lost Art of Browsing

It was a rainy Tuesday night, the kind of evening that invites you to the couch with a book serenaded by the pitter and patter of raindrops.  After a long and satisfying day’s work, what could be more pleasurable than settling into someone else’s story and letting the imagination roam? I was ready for it all, except for one minor problem— I had just finished a book and my night-table was empty. So out I went in the harsh weather to Green Apple bookstore to see what I could find,

And though not exactly my couch, the aisles of the bookstore were inviting and it struck me that here I was again, where I have been so often before nearly my whole adult life—browsing through the stacks watching and listening for what was calling to me. How many hours I’ve spent thumbing through books and flipping through records/CD’s, not knowing what I was looking for, but knowing that something was waiting for me. Sometimes it was a false alarm, but I came to trust that process of looking and listening for what I needed at the moment. Many times I had the sensation that I was bringing home something that was necessary to my future, even if it took 15 years—as it sometimes did—to have its moment.

Such adventure in the looking, whole worlds hiding behind two covers or inside a record sleeve, waiting patiently for you to traverse them. I’ve never been into fishing, but I imagine the process is similar— hook your bait, cast your line and wait patiently for a nibble, grateful and surprised by whatever you reel up. And just as half of fishing is simply being outside at the lake or stream, so did I so thoroughly enjoy the walk to the neighborhood and the small bookstores/record stores with such character and sometimes characters as well. (If you’re from San Francisco, you may remember the 9th Avenue bookstore, Cover to Cover, a Clean-Well Lighted Place or Aquarius Records, The Magic Flute, Streelight Records, Tower Records, all relics from an almost by-gone era. But hooray for Green Apple, City Lights, the Booksmith that have survived the blitz and Amoeba Records, almost the last of its kind left standing.)

Then that moment of returning with your treasures, putting on the record or CD or settling down with your new book. Finding a place for it on the shelf and admiring your growing collection, a testimony to all the selves you've built through your choices. For there is no question that each new book, each new recording, “unlocks a faculty of Soul,” as Coleridge once sort of remarked. We are what we read, what we listen to, are shaped by those sounds in the air and words on a page. The word “story” is related to storehouse and indeed, each new poem, story, essay, adds to our storehouse of images and experiences and insights and shapes the way we think and feel. Music as well creates a storehouse of emotion captured in sound and the wider the listening, the more nuanced our feeling life. If invited into someone’s home, one way I get a feeling for them is to look at their books and record collection. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.

Now we’re in the digital age, where so much is just floating out in some nebulous cyberspace, captured briefly on the Kindle or downloaded from i-Tunes. We all know what’s gained in terms of speed, convenience, storage, etc., but from this old guy’s perspective, much is lost. A record, CD, book, is an artifact capturing a universal and timeless artistic impulse in a particular time and space. We know in our bones the difference between The Freewheeling Bob Dylan and Blonde on Blonde, between Revolver and Seargant Pepper, between On the Road and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Back Country and Turtle Island.  Each had a distinct and connected character that was lost in the Greatest Hits compilation, each song in its slot as if it could only be played before this song and after that one, or this poem only placed before this and after that. Now the whole show is a floating nebulae with everything mixed together. Such a pleasure to hold the record/ CD in your hand and read the liner notes, to feel the pages of the book and the weight (all weighs the same on the Kindle), to identify it as a whole being with heft and smell and identifying artwork and—well, character. Not the same as the scrolled words on the Kindle or tune-list on the computer. And how you come to get it, that art of setting off into the neighborhoods, entering the store, conversing with folks and noticing the others looking for their piece of adventure, in short, that art of browsing, is also lost to those under 25 years old.

What Kindle and I-Tunes and Amazon and the whole culture of instant access, speed and convenience are missing is that the journey is as important as the destination. Or rather an indelible part of the destination, the living the whole life, the difference between growing some of the vegetables, tending them, picking them, shopping at a Farmer’s market for the rest, chopping it all by hand, stirring, salting, tasting, tossing, setting the table, ladling into bowls and arranging on plates and lighting the candles and then sitting down for the meal, the difference between the pleasure of each step of preparation and anticipation and getting take-out or TV dinners and eating from cartons watching TV. We all have times when we need the latter and even enjoy the contrast, but the art of eating is in the whole deal.

Well, who knows? Perhaps books will survive after all and records come back and we’ll meet each other browsing in the stacks. Meanwhile, I found what promises to be a great book and the couch awaits me.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Heave Ho Matey!

There have been sublime moments in my life when I’ve heard music coming from somewhere and my step quickened and my heart beat a bit faster, drawn to it like moth to flame. Ghanaian drumming at Cazadero Music Camp, sutra chanting at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, Carnaval practice in a favela in Recife, singing in the gym at the U.C. Santa Cruz Orff Course—I’m stepping out of the car or changing the direction of my walk and the music is like the ancient Sirens, compelling, inviting, necessary. But instead of calling me to my doom, it's welcoming me back home.

And that’s how I felt last night ascending the gangplank to the Balclutha boat moored on Hyde St. Pier in San Francisco. I could hear the lusty singing of sea chanteys and when I stepped through the door into the room, I was lifted up on the mighty wave of the sound and gently set down in my seat for one of the more delightful evenings I’ve had in a long time.

I have to confess that normally in a situation like this my judgemental mind is hard at work scoping out all the things that make the experience less than what I think it should be. There often is a quality of “special interest nerd” that rankles me—folk dancing groups, recorder gatherings, bird watchers, etc. (No intention to offend here—just my perception.) But that judgemental mind was swallowed up in the power of the gathering, folks of all sizes and shapes and beard colors and lengths singing so beautifully and so soulfully. It was a Gospel choir without the offbeat, a church choir without the dogma, a hootenanny without guitars and all of the above and more.

The Sea Chantey is such a powerful form, balancing the story and style of the solo singer with the booming participation of the response, easily learned and simply sung. There was a song leader of sorts at the center of the event, but it was also democracy at its best, opening the floor to anyone who had a song. And at least twenty people did. No introduction to the song or short personal resume, someone just starts singing and the group jumps in. If the song is new, there might be one sentence—“This is the chorus”— and next time it arrives, the group has it.

I was particularly moved by the range of ages there and the number of children as well. And—miracle of miracles!— not a single one with a hand-held electronic device!!! They were actually participating or simply engulfed in the sea of sound and hopefully feeling as I did—“Something important is happening here.” Something that they may store away in the treasure chest of memory to take out in the dark nights to come and be warmed all over again. 

That experience of true community, all ages gathered together, is universal and timeless and the first thing I admire about cultures that haven’t gone over too far into machines as their center of public discourse and specialization as the yardstick that measures every corner of creation. We in the land of office cubicles, planned communities, targeted youth markets and affinity groups are used to segmenting society so each is a kind of gang member hanging out with like-minded and like-aged peers. But here, instead of the usual grey heads at the symphony or jazz festival concert, pierced faces and tattooed bodies at the rock happening, preschoolers belting out Bingo or elders in nursing homes eking out Bye Bye Blackbird, we were all united by these rollicking, rowdy, boisterous, lusty songs born from the rough life of sailors singing to pass the time or organize their work. The egos and judgements and differences between us were all checked at the door without any reminder needed.

At the break, we were treated to hot cider, the twinkling lights of Ghiradelli Square through the masts and the rigging with the moon rising and the water lapping. Look to the right and there’s the beckoning Golden Gate Bridge, off to the left, more glittering from downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. The hum of light conversation in the air, the bite of the evening chill warmed by the hot tea and cider. Beautiful!

Sometimes it’s best to keep such things secret, but there is also the desire to share the riches. So if you live in San Francisco or are planning to visit, call the Hyde Street Pier and get your name on the list for the next gathering. Always the first Saturday of each month. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

Yo, ho, matey, heave ho and shiver me timbers! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mercury in Retrograde

I’ve driven the same route to school just about every day since 1982, but yesterday I went through a stop sign as if it never had been there. And it just so happened that a car came out that I almost hit. And it just so happened that a police car happened to be right there. And so it happened that the sirens went on and I’m sitting on the side of the road wondering how to pay for the $400 ticket. The policeman was nice enough and though I did mention the sun glaring in my eyes—and this was true and perhaps partly accountable— it didn’t convince him that a warning would be sufficient. It was just one of those things. I blew it and had to face up to it. Then the monkey mind started jumping around, from “you idiot!” to “well, think of all the times you overparked or didn’t wholly stop at the sign and got away with it” to “it could have been so much worse. Thank goodness you didn’t hit that car! You should be grateful,” but no matter how I spun it, I felt terrible. And even worse that there was nobody or nothing to blame it on. Or so I thought.

Today I went to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to play piano for a jazz demo CD. Long story, but the thought of being in the studios where so much remarkable music I’ve loved over the years had been recorded was thrilling, to say the least. I arrived there to find the band members in the parking lot. Some communication glitch and the studio was double-booked. Darn! We were able to re-book the date for later that month, but still we were all disappointed. So we decided to go out for lunch and drown our sorrows in beer and burritos. Off we walked to Juan’s restaurant—and it was closed. So we got in the cars to another restaurant and it was open. But they were out of beer.

And that’s when the light went on. One of the guys announced to us that “Mercury is in retrograde” and things are going to be weird until it gets out. Damn! Wish I had known that when I talked to the cop. Sun in my eyes and Mercury in retrograde! He definitely would have let me slide! And at least I could blame it all on the stars and planets. If it hadn’t been the stop sign, it would have been something else.

So, my friends, be careful in the next few days. And let me know if you have any tips on good traffic schools. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Boys with Sticks

It has been a typical week at school. Outside in the yard, three boys in trouble were seated on a bench. In the art room, boys were making stuffies to look like grenades or are drawing explosions of every size and shape. Down in the adventure playground, there were a pack of boys roaming around with sticks while girls were huddled heads-together talking on the garden benches.

Well, all I can say for my generation is that we tried. We imagined differences between genders was all social engineering, fixable by forbidding gun play, getting boys to sit in circles and talk about feelings and inviting the girls out to the soccer field. We put boys and girls together in the cocktail shaker and mixed all the ingredients of masculinity and femininity to make the unisex blender drink of the future.

And partly it worked. My son-in-law is presently Mr. Mom while my daughter is out working. I was the cook and shopper raising my daughters while my wife asked for a new drill for Christmas. One of my alum girls is on the wrestling team with the boys and another alum boy likes to knit. No question that it makes for a more interesting human being, free to explore all sides of human potential without restriction.

But let’s face it. When we stop shaking the cocktail, certain ingredients settle back to precisely where they were. Boys with their outwardly projectile gender love roaming around with sticks and girls with their interior counterpart huddle together and talk. As my friend David Adee has commented so astutely, “Boys ancient urges require them to go out hunting rats and we try to get them to sit down at a desk and be still.” The hunters are out in the unpredictable, dangerous and exhilarating wild, stalking their prey spread out apart from each other. Silence is part of their survival strategy—no one cares how your hunting teammate feels while stalking. The question is will he get the food on the table or not. Hunting boys and men thrill in the slow build-up and quick release, as do their sexual bodies, the moment of explosion when the projectile hits its mark. They have a zest for invention, eager for the next advancement in spears, and a fascination with numbers and statistics, notching their kills on their belts. Even in my “sensitive” men’s group, the default setting for conversation is usually machines, money and real estate. The rest takes effort.

Meanwhile, the girls are the homemakers, creating a safe protected space designed to keep out the wild and domesticate both the land and our impulses. They necessarily lean toward the conservative, knowing that one night of wild pleasure can lead to a long nine months followed by a couple of decades of child-raising. In the hearth, woven baskets hold the household items and the very home is a womb of sorts designed for comfort and rest from adventure. Their comfort with convention is deeply imbedded, for the home is a place of steady routine and life-protecting, life-affirming habits cultivated over time.

School is a place more comfortable with convention then zesty with invention and though profoundly unnatural for all children, it is particularly strange for boys. How often we teachers have remarked that the very kids who drove us crazy during the school year were the delights of the school camping trip. With more space to roam around in in the wild, they were in their element.

No punchline here, no solving of the Mars/Venus conundrum or pretending to wholly understand it. The best I can say is that it keeps things interesting. I’d like to explore my feelings about it, but right now, I’m too busy looking for a good stick. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mr. Small's Large Ideas

A few months back, I found out that a man I had much admired—James Hillman— had passed away in the Fall (see January 22nd post “Raise High the Roof Beam”). Today, I heard of another who also died last Fall and neglected to inform me, a musicologist and author named Christopher Small. Mr. Small and Mr. Hillman shared many things in common. They both left us in the Fall at ages 84 and 85, they both were the “bad boys” of their chosen fields, shaking up people’s too-easily accepted assumptions with their fierce, razor-sharp thinking. They both sought to enlarge the conversation and think beyond the narrow borders of their subject’s “-ology,” yet while looking far beyond the established horizons, could pin an idea like a dart hitting bullseye with the precision and specificity of their language. Hillman hit Oprah late in his career, while Small lived as an ex-pat in Sitges outside Barcelona, known to only a passionate few. And I was one of them.

I first heard of Christopher Small when a fellow Orff student back in the ‘80’s recommended his book Music, Society, Education. Had I been writing blogs at the time, I certainly would have titled one, “I Hate Christopher Small.” For not only did he steal the title of the book I wanted to write, but he elaborated on the theme with breathtaking articulation and eloquence. I didn’t get around to reading the book until some 15 years later and by then was well-entrenched in trying to explain to seatmates on planes what the Orff approach was about. And always—and still today—with great frustration. Because it was clear that to understand what I and my colleagues were trying to do required turning inside-out and upside-down our notions about what music is and what education is and what a healthy society is. Small wrote in that first book:

“Art remains a commodity whose production remains in the hands of experts, which we purchase when we feel the need of it and in whose making we have no more hand than we have in the manufacture of our breakfast cereal. We can perceive now that a true regeneration of western music and western society can come only when we restore the power of creation to each individual in our society.”

To “restore the power of creation” to make “music in the present tense” is indeed a cornerstone of inspired Orff education. In referencing non-Western musical upbringing in the village, he applauds the way children “increase the fluency, expressiveness and naturalness of their playing, not through technical exercises, but through constant playing and exposure to musical experience within the framework of society.” I always say that I’m not teaching a music curriculum in my school, but aiming to co-create a musical culture. Today we said goodbye to a beloved visitor and sang through the year, from the opening ceremony through Halloween and Winter festivals and Martin Luther King Day and Valentine’s Day to send her off. 100 children who knew all the words to the songs and all the reasons for singing them and all the skills to sing them with great gusto and great beauty. Music. Society. Education. One piece.

Back to Mr. Small. I went on to read his other superb books, Music of a Common Tongue and Musicking and felt like this was a man I would like to meet someday. His words hit bullseye after bullseye, describing what I experienced and aimed for others to experience in an Orff workshop. As many people have commented, we can’t enter territory for which we have no language. And I agree…but. The dancing body and singing voice have their own dialect and as many an Orff workshop can testify, you can enter a new land through their portals. And then search for the descriptive words after. Since we need both the direct experience and the language to describe and shape it, I always thought it would be a great combination if I could share the practical work and he could talk the theory. It was a far-fetched dream. 

But my moment came when I was giving a workshop in a conference in Barcelona and heard that Mr. Small would be presenting as well. I was doing my usual shtick, everyone up slapping their bodies and singing and smiling at each other in a sea of movement with great musical power when I noticed an elderly man enter the room and sit in the back. When the workshop finished, my host announced that Mr. Small would begin the next workshop and up he rose from his chair, walked to the front, arranged some papers at the podium and looked out at the group. Now I know I’m not going to get that Honorary Doctorate from Harvard. Punished by Universityland by spending so much time doing mere practical work with three-year olds, no college students are studying the Doug Goodkin Body of Thought Regarding Music Education. But imagine my pride and delight when Mr. Small looked out at the students, gestured to me, and said:

Everything that I’m going to talk about, everything that I think is important and vital in music, education and culture, you have just experienced with this man.”

Thank you, Mr. Small for your loving, caring and insightful body of work. I hope you’re out there somewhere organizing community harp choirs and philosophical study groups with Mr. Hillman. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wholly Foolish Holy Fools

It’s April 1st and I woke up in the jet-lagged morning and did something wholly foolish—I began the day reading some Mary Oliver poems. Then I stepped out onto the sunlit deck and noticed the wisteria announcing the first notes of their purple Spring song. There is the wise, holy fool and then the foolish fool, the one (that’s me) who keeps missing the treasures because he thinks his life is so interesting and important and necessary to the world and thus, labors incessantly with his little lists and avalanches of e-mails, busies himself with scheduled appointments and electronic distractions and misses it all. The first robin singing “I’m back!”, the plum tree dressed in its dark red work clothes after its pink-blossomed debutante ball, the bees and birds flittering here and there delivering their pollen messages. I’ve been a week away from home and most things look the same, but nothing is. The leaved branches have stretched one inch closer to the sun, the sun sinks into the water just a little bit further to the right, the creatures are afoot prowling with the stir of sexual longing. There are all sorts of calls criss-crossing in the air that the Internet doesn’t pick up, but the migratory birds, whales and salmon do.

Sometimes I wish I could be as wise a fool as Mary Oliver, who daily tunes herself to Nature’s frequencies, turns her dial to the botanic bandwidth, foregoes French coffee and drinks daily from the fresh, sparkling waters of the babbling brook, listening to the jazz of its changes under the bird call riffs without any hard plastic in her ears.

Yes, it’s April 1st and for once, I have had the good sense to wait before attending to the tasks of vacation’s end—the laundry, the shopping, the class plans, all the etc. of our two-legged life. I remembered briefly to look and listen and love what the World offers, the complex simplicity and simple complexity of the day unfolding with its breezes, birds, bees and blossoms. To follow the path of the Holy Fools and be wholly a fool on this Spring day glistening with promise and fulfillment. 

Happy April Fools Day!