Friday, December 21, 2012

Just Beautiful Music

Wednesday night I attended a musical event featuring the Rondout Valley High School Concert Orchestra and Chorus. It was one of those evenings that left me with a feeling that in spite of everything, all is truly right with the world. I'm a sucker for young voices singing American classics, in harmony, and interludes of music by a serious, full-scale youth orchestra.

The peppy choral director is Dr. Barbara Wild, who had the 60-voice mixed choir singing folk songs, hymns, and Aaron Copland's evocative American music. She immediately won the audience over with her upbeat style and her request to "take a picture now, not after we start. This is a human, non-electronic program." The brass ensemble, under the direction of Randolph Loder, led with a rousing "Fanfare for the Common Man" and the orchestra played such heartwarming Americana as "Shenandoah"as well as a smattering of selections from early American composers.

I was sold on the content, but what really touched me was the verve of the singers and musicians. I could hardly take my eyes of a certain singer of the bass section, who happens to be my 15-year-old grandson. Andy cut a striking figure onstage with his glowing complexion and earnest approach to the work. Andy plays goalie on the school soccer team and the demonstrates the same charisma on the field. But to my mind it takes a lot more guts to sing in the concert chorus than to play a sport, any sport. I might be a little prejudiced. I'll admit it.

Living in this area, I'll be able to watch him and his brother develop in the next few years. Different as brothers can be, I've always had a special place in my heart for Andy, the little one who could sing "This Old Man, he played one..." before he could really say the words, and announced to us that when he grew up he would be a "ballet singer!" Over the years, the self-consciousness of the world eked its way into him and he said he couldn't sing, but he gravitated to the chorus. He won't take a solo assignment at this point, but says he loves singing harmony to classical music. He has a gift for languages, too, and something in me sees the opera in his future.

His brother is thriving in his first year of college, and we all can't wait to see what he will make of himself there. One of those smart boys who had no patience for high school, he had a few brushes with life-threatening situations and always bounced back as if nothing has happened. At this point he has nothing but good to say about college and his grades are mostly A's. This is after one semester, mind you. We don't know what to expect. This is me talking, and I say there is every reason to expect good things. A glimmer of the possibility of greatness in both grandsons. And a rising wave of support from all sides, including having Grandma near to consult with. If only they will.

It's the reason I moved up here, this beautiful music of family, possibilities, and hope. Wednesday night was a good beginning.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Now, My Self?

I'm staying temporarily in an apartment without cable, internet or telephone service. Otherwise, it's quite comfortable, but it is not where I want to be.

I thought it would probably be good for me not to have access to the invidious intrusion of television, and in light of the recent wall-to-wall (I assume) coverage of the national tragedy in the Sandy Hook CT elementary school, it probably has. I would have time to think, to meditate, to shake off what I fear has become a form of geriatric ADD as a result of too much information, most of it wrong.

It's awfully quiet in my temporary digs. I start the day at a chain breakfast place that offers wi-fi access so I can check my email, write and review the traffic on my blog(s), and play with Facebook. Then I go home for lunch or grab a sandwich somewhere, and later on visit my daughter's and mooch her wi-fi until I go home for supper and four hours of reading and listening to NPR. The surprise is that I'm ready for bed at 8 P.M. and the hard part is making myself stay up for another hour and a half. I'm up at 5 anyway if not before, and usually wake up in the night for an hour or so. It's just so damn quiet!

This morning before I left for my morning coffee NPR had a segment about how easy and successful it is to create an eBook. I've heard this one before. Interviews with writers who have made a bundle on their eBooks, almost immediately snapped up by a major publisher and soon to be a major motion picture. All the author has to do is pay an editor, an artist to design the cover, a web designer to create a beautiful website, and wait for the money to roll in from sales of the book.

It didn't happen that way for me. I spent a couple of years hacking out my novel That Was Tomorrow, going over the product with two editors until I felt it was as good as I could make it. I envisioned it making a beautiful movie. After I'd paid all those who assisted me, paid for the formatting of the book into an eBook, and gotten the word out through my Facebook network, I sold about 75 eBooks and all sales ground to a halt. I approached all the groups and individuals I thought would be touched by the content and style of the book and one by one I've sold a few more. There were good reviews in the local press surrounding Fairhope, the locale of the book. But there seemed to be no interest there. Many people responded to my urging that they read That Was Tomorrow by saying they had no means to read an eBook and no intention of ever getting same. Others didn't even respond to personal emails. I was able to garner 13 reviews on amazon dot com and the response was universally good, except for one self-styled writer who took it upon himself after reading a few pages to critique the book as "far from your best writing." I never attempted the Great American Novel, but this is a guy who begged to read it in hopes that I was the next George Elliot. I'm not kidding, he did that.

Well, it will all be a tax write-off, as my other books have. Check out my writing and my website if you'd like to see for yourself why self-publishing is sometimes not profitable (your comments are welcome here), or if by some chance you actually want to read my eBook or buy my other books.

I'm excited to be starting a new life in New Paltz in a couple of weeks. Will I write more? Will I take some university-extension classes that expand my horizons and inspire me to move in another direction? I'm almost sure of it. Will I get cable TV? Almost certainly. And I'll unpack, hang my pictures, and meet some new people. Will I get a new website and self-publish more books? Not bloody likely.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Kingston, but on my way

There's something empowering about having the morning to yourself in a strange city. This morning I awoke to below freezing temperatures, a car covered with frost, and a few errands to run. I needed to find an Internet hot spot, of course, and I got to Starbuck's at 8:50, which was before it opened. Just down the mall a bit was a Panera Bread that opened at 6, so I found my way there, glancing into the windows of Pier 1 and Coldwater Creek on my way. When I got through with my morning check of the New York Times online, looked over Facebook and posted a pithy note or two, downed a coffee, and was ready to move on.

By now my car had thawed out. I found the nearest supermarket and bought supplies I needed for lunch and a few more meals. Weaving about in traffic I felt empowered. No big deal. I have a lot to get done and everything seems to be falling into place.

I'm getting organized here. I expect the closing on my Hoboken apartment Friday or early next week at the latest. Soon I'll be flush and in three weeks I'll be moved into my new apartment in New Paltz. 
I can't wait until I have Internet service and cable tv in my own place, and have my stuff there, unpacked, sign myself into a gym and get into a comfortable routine again. In the meantime I have Christmas and New Year's Eve to deal with. I can handle anything.