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:)))

Today’s been one of the happiest days since moving back home. And I want to soak in this feeling while it lasts.

I’ll write more about it next time because I need sleep.

In the meantime, enjoy this video!!! It gives me LIFE and the three oba-chans (peep the middle one) are goals.

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Politics

When a fire starts to burn…

Content warning: police brutality, state-sanctioned violence, white supremacy

Amid the outright disorder that is the current 45th president’s administration, a string of incidents occurring locally and nationally has been particularly difficult for me to process.

At the local level, yesterday afternoon in Anaheim, an off-duty LAPD officer instigated an altercation with a 13-year-old boy, eventually firing his gun at the scene. It all started with the officer yelling at a girl to get off his lawn, and the 13-year-old boy confronted the officer in defense of the girl…

At the national level, the state of North Dakota ordered an evacuation of the resistance campsite at Standing Rock, where a demonstration against the Dakota Access pipeline construction on indigenous land started back in April 2016. The movement sparked a wave of resistance across the country and throughout the world, exposing environmental racism that has disproportionately affected indigenous folks, Black, and brown bodies for decades. Let’s not forget that the Army Corps of Engineers rejected the original pipeline route that would have been built through Bismarck, a city with a predominantly white population.

Seeing the videos and reports of the militarized police forces demanding indigenous people and water protectors to overwhelms me. Either they leave or get arrested for defending the very resource that sustains all of us on this earth. Silencing the water protectors allows for state-sanctioned genocide to continue.

As someone who went to Standing Rock for several days last September, I feel so fucking heartbroken. (Pardon my French.) A space where all walks of life gathered out of love for the people, the need to defend the sacred, in one place to combat white supremacy. I’m eternally indebted to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that allowed me to stay as a guest, as well as to the indigenous people who fed me and my friends. I’ll always treasure the friendships and camaraderie that developed from the beautiful folks I met during my time at the resistance camp.

But I carry Standing Rock with me. Like the hundreds who have been at Standing Rock at some point within the past ten months, we’ve carried back to our own communities a piece of that fire that ignited at Standing Rock– the flame that brought all of us together. In fact, Standing Rock is everywhere, and we must speak up locally to spread the fire, to tap into public consciousness…

Once a fire ignites in me, it can never be put out. Try me.

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Dreams, Erika's Weird Dreams, Music

It was all a dream, or was it?

I’ve been seeing interesting dreams lately. In the most recent episode, I played my sax in front of my friends and a large crowd at a dimly lit, yet spacious venue. Velvet draperies decorated the interior. I was a bit nervous at first, simply blowing air through the horn, playing a one-note melody, keeping it as simple as Miles Davis soloing in “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” Next thing I knew, the accompanying bassist, drummer, pianist, and I grooved organically to each other’s sounds and motion. My friends cheered us on as my solo intensified. I felt alive.

But it was all a dream. I woke up and thought, “When’s the last time I felt that alive?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had countless ecstatic moments over the years. The last time I felt that particular way was June 2012. My high school jazz band performed our final concert of the school year; for me, my last performance as a high school musician. For background, my jazz band dealt with serious conflict that had me and several other members wondering if we’d make it to the end altogether. Looking back, our band drama could have been a prequel to the 2014 film Whiplash… except rated PG and without any band mate getting into a major car accident on the way to a competition.

For this final concert, one of our numbers was Charles Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle.” Since we performed this tune at festivals and concerts all year long, and on top of the drama, we were so done. As planned, I was one of the soloists for the song.

Unlike previous performances, we had an alum on the drums since our regular drummer had quit before the concert. Despite all the drama that went down during my last year of jazz band, I decided to let go all of the stress and enjoy playing the music for one last time.

As planned, I improvised within the usual 16 bars or so. Then, without prior rehearsing, I started trading fours with the drummer. Akin to a conversation between two people, we played off of each other, anticipating what sounds would come out of us in reaction to our improvisation, culminating in the most energetic moment…ever. And, like the aforementioned dream from last night, I felt alive. Adrenaline rushing through my body, through my fingers pressing down on the keys, through my breath vibrating within the bell of my horn. My friends and family in the audience felt me, too.

When my solo ended, I was breathless, I was euphoric. The drama no longer mattered, everyone let loose, and we made it to the end. Everything turned out okay 🙂

…So I bring up that anecdote from almost five years ago (oohmygoodness I’m old!!) because I woke up this morning with that exact feeling from my last high school concert. Riding on the dreamy wave of excitement, I fixed myself a small breakfast and sat myself down in front of my piano. I sight-read some tunes from a book filled with piano arrangements from Studio Ghibli films. Being a lot more literate with treble clef than bass clef, I saw the sheet music for the first time and played with my right hand. I even sang along to the Japanese lyrics written within the bars while my fingers pressed on the black and white keys.

Although I bicker about being in the suburbs, I am thankful and privileged to have plenty of time to play the piano, to train for the marathon. Experiment in my creative side without the pressure of weekly deadlines or having to mold my words in dry academic language. Let my body digest food and water well enough before I run or workout without rushing myself in between work, school, and studying.

I’m working towards reaching that point of euphoria, but who knows how that will manifests? Someday, I hope to find a healthy balance of all these things that fulfill me.

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Music

Music Monday: Four Tet

I don’t listen to electronic music very often, but when I do, it’s Kieran Hebden a.k.a. Four Tet.

“Parallel Jalebi” is my current jam. From his 2013 record Beautiful Rewind, Four Tet names the track after a deep-fried sweet snack popular in North Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. It’s moody, it’s sensual. Take a listen if you will…

If you ever get a chance to see Four Tet playing near you, DO IT.

Fortunately my friend had an extra ticket for his six-hour DJ set at a Far Away show in L.A. last October. During this set, he was on a roll with saxophone solos on funk tracks that hit all the falsettos. One sax solo held a high note long enough that people around me looked terrified and disgusted; the looks on their faces were priceless. As a saxophone player/lover, I was pleased.

My appreciation for Four Tet grew when he recently curated a Spotify playlist featuring artists from the seven countries listed under the travel ban enacted by the 45th president’s administration. With over 30 hours of music, his selections range from Syrian oud player and previous collaborator Omar Souleymann to Iranian songstress Simin Ghanem. His reaction is one of thousands in the U.S. and around the world condemning a policy motivated by xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism.

Four Tet’s own form of resistance against the 45th president gives me a bit of hope amid all the mess.

Check out Four Tet’s Spotify playlist here. [Side note: he continuously adds music to this ever-growing playlist, which started back in September 2016]

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Running

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The most impulsive decision I’ve made since moving back to my hometown suburbia after graduating college? Signing up for the L.A. Marathon.

When I signed up, I was in no physical or mental shape to handle a full marathon, let alone a 5K. I usually put a lot of thought into my decision-making process, even going as far as carefully brainstorming a pros and cons list. During my last year of college, I neglected my physical health, often eating compulsively as a coping mechanism for my stress.

I was a mess.

But there’s several factors that compelled me to go for it…

  • The early bird registration rate was about to end on the day I signed up, so I wanted to take advantage of the discount.
  • In 2014 I raced and completed a half-marathon with my best friend who I lived and trained with during that time.
  • I dug myself into a destructive black hole since moving back to my old home.
  • The little voice inside me, which I pushed away for the longest time, insisted I had to get out of said black hole before it was too late.

Plus, my friend Megan inspired me. Funny enough, I was rolling around on my couch while mindlessly sifting through my social media newsfeed. Amid the endless images and texts, Megan’s post caught my attention. She wrote about her commitment to train for the L.A. Marathon, which was about five months away at the time she posted about it. I thought, “Wow she’s so bad-ass!!!” Until that point, my only exercise consisted of walking to and from my fridge and taking frequent naps.

I knew I had to do something. I knew I could do better, be better than this. A Gemini can’t sit still for too long.

Since the beginning of November I’ve been training. It’s empowering yet frustrating. As I started adding mileage and gaining confident with my physical endurance, my lower back started hurting to the point where I had to hold off training for about a month. I’ve had lower back problems since 2013 so I anticipated it at some point. After much-needed rest and recovery, I got back into running and working out regularly. I’m not sticking to my original plan, but when do I ever?

I’m still battling my personal demons that have existed long before I signed up for the marathon. One positive result so far is reclaiming my self-control. When I hit the pavement or dirt trail, I tune out everything around me. I focus on my breathing, making sure I’m breathing in and breathing out in a 4-count rhythm, always starting with my left foot. (Thank you, marching band, for ingraining rhythm and physical motion in me. No, I don’t run in an 8-to-5 stride.)

The L.A. Marathon is in 30 days (!!!). I’m nervous from thinking about the stretch from Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica Pier. I think I can do it.

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