Just some thoughts: dinner, attention, and stick tape.

I have about 30 minutes between getting off work and samba rehearsal on Fridays.  Just 30 minutes to stabilize my blood sugar; and I was a little worried about what I was going to get to eat.  S at the office suggested that I walk up to Gray’s Papaya on 8th Ave and order three hot dogs.   I expressed some concern that eating three hot dogs might turn me into a white dude, and then there was an extended dream sequence where eating three hot dogs turned me into a white dude, all the different repercussions and eventualities..  S is imaginative.

I ended up at New York Suprema Pizza, and ordered a “Hawaiian” Pizza, which at nysp is real slices of real baked ham and chunk pineapple from a can.  I thought for a moment about how back home, they use Canadian Bacon.

And then I thought that if they really wanted Hawaiian pizza, it should be kalua pig with pineapple, which would be delicious.  And THEN I thought… it should be Spam in on the pizza with pineapple.  And then I got excited, because that is exciting.  With furikake of course.

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You know when people are needy and they demand attention?  People always say “just ignore him, he just wants attention.”   Do you ever notice how that never, never works?  You should, because it’s a dumb strategy.

If you’re thirsty, and you need water, then you do what you gotta do to get water.

The same with attention.  People are not greedy for attention, that’s not the expression. The expression is that they are dying for attention.  And if you feel like you’re dying you do what you do to survive.  And if you ignore people when they’re dying the best you could possibly hope for is that they will grow hateful and resentful of you, and they will bother someone else.

When I used to be a classroom teacher, and I had an attention-starved student disrupt my class, I just told them… I’m trying to get through the class, do you need attention, are you attention-starved?   When the answer was yes, some invasive direct eye contact was usually enough to do the trick.  After a few seconds, they look away, and then turn back to find me still staring at them.  They ask me to stop, and I don’t.  They ask me what I’m doing, and I say I’m paying attention to them.  They ask me to stop, and I don’t.  Finally, they take a breath and tell me they don’t need attention anymore.  I ask if they’re sure, and them move on with the class.

That’s usually enough to calm them down, but in the rare cases that doesn’t work, I usually lift the front legs of the desk an inch off the ground and then shake it side to side for about 20 seconds, saying, “I’m paying attention to you.”  Totally works.

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Samba rehearsal has been a lot of fun this month, I’m getting my chops back, and I’m no longer the worst person in the section.  Some of the others complimented me on my technique of all things on the walk to the subway after rehearsal.  After years of American-style marching percussion, I have this very relaxed, comfortable grip, and an extremely consistent stroke.  What’s hard for me is a) not screwing up the rhythm, and b) making my hands physically move fast enough to keep up with the frakking warp-speed tempos that get counted off every once in a while.  Meanwhile, I’m looking at the other players; they are all kinds of arm, hitting the drum in a different place every time, with a crazy grip I can’t even understand… but they’re able to do the rhythm AND do it at super-speed.

I’ve only gotten a few notes in the loop, and one was to hold the end of the stick.  The end.  Another note I got was to use my arm to whack the crap out of the drum.   I was pretty reluctant to do that, since I have a really strong stroke as it is… back in high school once cracked an ear-splitting gawk on the way to the equipment room, and the instructor turned around and said, Villanueva, no extra beats.  And I said, dude, it wasn’t me!  And the guy next to me said, sorry, it was me.  The instructor turned around and said, no, that was Villanueva.  The guy next to me said, how do you know?  and the instructor said, “I know.  You can’t play that loud.

Anyway, so back to this week, I got a note to whack the crap out of the drum.  So I started just beating out the rimshots as if my life depended on it, and I totally expected him to tell me to back off.  An hour later, I still hadn’t been told to back off, and my arm was seriously getting tired from whacking so hard.  In fact, I could start feeling that little muscle to the side of my bicep starting to pop.

Here’s what my sticks looked like after rehearsal:

Notice how the tape on my right hand stick (blue stripe) has turned to mush, while the tape on the other stick is like new.  Underneath that mess, I could feel how the wood was pulling apart.   That’s after one rehearsal.

Here’s what happened when I took the tape off:

Sawdust and shredded stick fell all over my bedspread.  I have no understanding of how anyone can play with untaped sticks.

Anyway, so I re-taped my sticks, which brought back fond memories of the stick taping and polish sessions we used to have back in high school the night before a big show.

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I really like my samba group.  Today after rehearsal there was dinner and drinks at Aura Thai Fusion…. I ordered this:

WG5. CHAR-GRILLED MOO YANG 9.95
Grilled marinated pork; served with spicy jim-jaew sauce,
som-thum (papaya salad) and sticky rice

… which looked like this:

I’m going pretty hard core at this samba thing at the moment, but I’m not sure how long it’s going to last.  S from the office is trying to talk me into taking an Improv class.  We’ll see.

Tomorrow the group is playing at the big Earth Day thing outside Grand Central Station; afterward we take the train to Jersey for some gig at a banquet, and then after that is a Brazilian party.  I miss the old Undertones crew right about now, but I guess everyone has moved on… it’s time I did too.

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