Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I've been reminded recently of some of the teachings of the church at which I held my first organ job (at the age of 13), a small congregation called the Science of Mind Church for Creative Living. Their favorite sayings included "Thoughts become things" and "As a man thinketh, so is he."

They taught that the way you think effects the way you live; that consciousness of lack attracts lack, and consciousness of abundance attracts abundance. One way you can measure how you think is by observing the language that you use, and one way to change your consciousness (and thus your circumstances) is by changing your language.

One example of this would be the difference between the terms "differently abled" and "disabled," much as that particular turn of phrase has been the source of a lot of derision. One term reinforces your abilities, the other reinforces your lack of abilities. The key, of course, in making this sort of thing work, is that the affirming phrase must be true. "As a man thinketh, so is he" produces bad results when what the man thinketh is a lie.

I can usually come up with something both truthful and positive to describe my situation (eventually, at least). Right now, though, I'm hanging up on coming up with something that's merely true. I don't have a good handle on my situation. "Mired," that's a word that comes immediately to mind. "Stuck." Things like that. Low on energy, low on creativity, low on pretty much everything that I had hoped to have this summer.

At least I get the dishes done, and I made a quiche this evening. I'd rather be writing music, but for reasons I'm not clear on (yet) I'm not even getting started on that.

I used to be able to get things I have to do done as well as the things that I want to do. Now I'm having a hard time clearing the former from my to-do list. Heck, I remember to put things on my to-do list, but I don't remember to check my to-do list, much less do the things on it.

Something's in my way. I don't know what it is. Is it The Disease? I don't honestly know. Is it something upstream of The Disease? I don't know.

Not knowing what's wrong is more uncomfortable than having something actually be wrong.

Acupuncture tomorrow. Answers? Probably not. Different? Almost certainly. How much different? ... Who knows? We'll see.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad combination

I quite literally just got back from attempting to practice the organ. I say "attempting" quite advisedly...

"Out of practice" and "neurological non-cooperation" is a very, very, bad combination.

Being out of practice, I can deal with. Being rusty, I can deal with. Needing to get my chops back, I can deal with.

My legs not wanting to work the way I'm trying to make them work... I'm not so sure whether I'm dealing with that.

Now yes, the organ console I'm using (it's the one I have access to and it's the one I have to perform on next Sunday morning, that's why I'm using it rather than something else) is an ergonomic nightmare. The keys on the pedal board are not proportioned correctly, the whole console's not even vaguely close to AGO (American Guild of Organists) standards, and its proportions in general are pretty weird, and certainly none of that helps even a little bit... but earlier this month I played on a much-closer-to-standard-proportion console and had many of the same problems, so the screwiness of the console only goes so far as a cause for my difficulties.

But what I'm really not processing properly yet... is this: I am neither filled with resolve that "I am not ending my organ playing days now, on that instrument, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get at least functional organ technique back" or resignation that "Well, it was going to end eventually, maybe it's... now?" It's not indecision. I know it's not indifference, I feel too crappy/strange/unsettled to call it "indifference." But I'm somewhere... in between resolve and resignation.

Loss. Or maybe not all the way to "loss," at least not yet. And unwillingness to embrace either rejection or acceptance.

A bad combination.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Stoned (sort of). Or not (sort of).

Go down any list of effects of America's favorite party herb cannabis sativa, and you'll see things like
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to perform tasks that require concentration, such as driving a car
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor coordination
I have all of those. I would feel better about them if I actually had been getting stoned. At least it would be my fault that I was suffering from all the above. And more importantly, if I would just quit smoking it I'd go back to normal. Or at the very least, I might have a bit of the "fun" part of being stoned, rather than simply the "inconvenienced/burnt out" part.

I'm living in a very uncomfortable state of "in-between-ness." I'm a little dizzy (sort of) when I stand, I'm a little foggy (sort of) when I try to think. I'm feeling "sort of" too tired to do anything, and "sort of" too anxious from doing nothing to unashamedly rest. I have a lot of stuff I want to do in my studio but I don't really have the drive to do it (sort of), but I'm only sort of unhappy that I'm not doing it. Although I'm definitely well into unhappy, just not unhappy enough to press through the "sort of" fatigue and do something.

I don't know which way to go--push on and suffer the fatigue, or assume the fatigue is telling me something important, and honor it and rest.

So much of my experience with MS has been "bad data." I'm not really sure which of my sensations I need to (or even can) believe. Imagine your confusion if you did not know whether you were stoned or not, simply because the sensations were unclear and confusing, and you Just. Couldn't. Tell. If you can actually imagine that... welcome to my world. 

Combatting the fatigue pharmaceutically... well, it was worth a try, I suppose. I was getting some good results from powdered green-tea lattes (expensive but yummy), but I was concerned that they made me too jumpy. My doctor suggested a new stimulant: Chocolate. Just popped a piece (quite nice, with blueberries), we'll see if that does any good. Results so far: Maybe. (Different kind of boost from the green-tea latte, I can already tell that it has different associated/side effects that I also don't really like.) One Hollywood orchestrator said that his favorite anti-fatigue drink was carrot and spinach juice... that's the next thing on my list to try.

Also had some blood work done yesterday, checking for a couple of non-MS things that the family has a history of, some of which might also account for fatigue. And the best phlebotomist in all Christendom, really quite a wonderful person and wonderful technician. You gotta have blood drawn, you want her to do it. She told me that she had actually drawn blood on herself once, when she needed some work done; her colleagues asked her why, and she said "Because if I do it, I know it won't hurt." And she'd be right, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Thought I'd pass along a little something from my doctor.

Every MS patient's experience of The Disease is different. The scleroses are in different locations; the impact of those differences are different. The Disease progresses differently in each patient; and so on.

It stands to reason that each patient's adaptation to The Disease would be different. And this was why he brought this whole thing up.

In one patient, each new setback strengthens her resolve. "I'll just have to work harder to overcome this" is how she meets each new exacerbation.

Another patient's reactions to a new MS episode is terror.

And me... I just think it's stupid. A bit of twisted, dark humor, provided by the universe. 

Great. For me, MS is the "Jackass" of life. Maybe some day, I'll get the joke.

Friday, June 19, 2009


A respite from my usual blogorrhea about Acupuncture Stuff.

I was having a date with my wife tonight--a prescription from our doctor, that we must have a date at least once a week--and this one was just wonderful, an entirely-too-extravagant trip to a local sushi bar that was Absolutely Fantastic.

She and I were talking about how we feel ourselves to be both in a state of flux; in a word, "becoming." Becoming what, neither of us know. (That would make it too easy, wouldn't it?)

I'm having a real drive towards profundity. I want to do something that is deep. It's not about whether it sells, or whether lots of people experience it, or anything like that. But I want it to have power. And I want to do this both with music and magic.

Two things stand in my way: One, the amount of work that It, whatever It is, is going to take, and it's gonna require a lot of dedication and slogging, I'm sure--which I don't mind in the least, but it's Stuff To Do. But also, I'm mired in some sort of fog of Sh-t I Gotta Do. I've been promising myself for at least two years now at least a partial remodel of the studio. There's a desk in the studio (back when it was an office) that's never been of any real use to anyone and has only been a catch-all for crap, that I want gone, and replaced with the 88-key piano synth so I can take that off the desk that's too high for it and put monitors on that, and build new stands for a new 2-octave data-entry keyboard and a separate number pad and mouse pad, something that's ergonomically delightful rather than ergonomically damned... add more sound-absorbing materials so I can do better mastering (or at least closer to decent mastering)... all sorts of things to make it a work space that supports my work, rather than one whose "ergonomics" create a "lifetime employment system" for my chiropractor and body workers. And oh yeah, I've got crap to do for work, stuff that my herbalist describes as "send the monkey up the tree."

I haven't written a single f---ing note of music for more than a month. Yes, I was sick a week (see earlier under "treatment reaction") but most of my life has been spent in a fog of bullshit; I describe days like these as "I had so much to do, I got absolutely nothing done."

Compounding this is, of course, you guessed it, the MS. The "fog of fatigue" that intrudes itself into absolutely everything. As I've said before, most of the time I honestly don't know whether I should push through the fatigue or honor it, it is really, really hard to tell.

I realized one day last week that what's making walking difficult is simply "bad data." I don't know what sensations to listen to, what to ignore, and what to acknowledge but disregard. As I'm writing this now, I wonder if that may not be essentially what's going on with the fatigue; I don't know what "tired" signals are really true, what are sort of true, and what are flat-out wrong.

I used to be able to summon the firestorm, a flaming tornado of energy that would enable me to just sweep through whatever it was that needed doing and get it done. Not any more. And I also haven't quite figured out how to work around that particular loss of ability, either.

Somehow, I think that I'm not asking the right questions yet, and that's why I haven't found the right answers. There is an answer. There has to be.

And the one thing I'm definitely sure of... I am really tired of not knowing how the #@(*#@$ to address this problem. Much less how to solve it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm back (whew)

A great treatment today. With the last two needles, my doctor said "This should bring you back to yourself." He was right. It did.

So here's the deal: Not an MS attack, definitely, even if the MS was screaming in rage. Not a Wind Heat attack, even if those were my symptoms. Not a URI (upper respiratory infection) or a cold or a flu, even if those were (also) my symptoms.

And the answer is: it was a treatment reaction. I've had them before, but usually with different symptoms. Imagine a good, furious, exuberant spring cleaning: You kick a lot of dust up, you shouldn't be surprised if you cough a little; a treatment reaction is the energetic equivalent. And this reaction, according to my doctor, was hardly surprising, considering the "oomph" of last week's treatment. "It kicked a lot of stuff loose," as my doctor said, "It's no wonder it caused some generalized aggravation."

So, I was right about the connection to the acupuncture, and all those times I had this symptom pattern, years ago, the day after a treatment... same thing. (Wish I had known then, wouldn't have spent so much time fluttering in confusion about it, then or now.)

Best news of all, the MS symptoms that had been going wacko have been significantly backing off, and even more rapidly today since my treatment, so I'm back to normal (?) and maybe even just a teeny bit better! Or at least, no longer so concerned that oh crap, is this the first big step towards "the end?" Just how much longer am I going to be able to walk/drive/everything... Don't have to go down that road, just yet. Good. (To say the least.)

So here we are, the evening of the treatment; I don't have quite enough gusto to pop out of the house to do anything, but at least I feel good enough, had I the energy, to do it.

Mystery solved.

What a relief.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An attack... ?

I'm on day 6 of a completely unexplained, and as far as I can tell environmentally completely unmotivated, throat/lung thing. I usually get these things in the winter, apparently triggered/enabled by the dehydration caused by the wall heater. The episode always comes on exactly the same way:
  1. Dry spot, feels like it's maybe the size of a nickel or a quarter, on the upper side of my soft palate.
  2. Dryness/heat starts moving down, creeping down into the throat.
  3. On the way down, it invades the eustachain tube.
  4. Finally creeps into the lungs, at which point it really, really doesn't want to leave.
When it's cold outside and warm and way too dry inside, it makes sense that I'd catch something because my insides were being dried out.

Well, the usual thing happened as always, step after step, just like every time. Except that LA's "June gloom" is keeping the house at 60% humidity, at a "chill" 68-72 degrees.

The Chinese consider this set of symptoms to be an indication of Wind and Heat invading the Lungs. Well, I could have believed some of the other External Pernicious Influences, the most likely suspects this month being Cold and Dampness, but no. (Although my herbalist said that his business always booms when the weather turns weird.)

This wouldn't have been worth spending "MS blog" space on, except... something neurological has just happened in my legs; another breaker, as it were, has opened. I knew that something was up a couple of days ago, and today the breaker finally "popped," and something new is stupidly screwy.

And of course, this whole adventure was accompanied by the usual "fog of war," biologically speaking... very much the sort of mental weirdness one normally gets with scary high fever, except my temp hasn't gone over 97 more than once in the past few days. (Last time I was hit with this so bad was two, maybe three years ago, and then it did come with a high fever.)

Although I think I've finally come up with the correct descriptor for my mental impairment. It's not "grogginess," or "dizziness," or "light-headedness," or any of the usual adjectives. The correct term is viscosity. Instead of the (mostly) clear water that is my usual thought/perceptive process, I'm mentally looking through a solution of guar gum, Mythbusters style. Things can't move through it quickly, it's kinda gooey, and clear? Hah! It's translucent at best.

Hit the web for a definition of an "MS attack," and you either get some sort of vague medical double-talk involving terms like "neurological" and "exacerbation," or sufferer's first-person accounts of something going wrong, often in a fog of seemingly unrelated symptoms. One suffer described it to me quite poetically: she said she gets "gimped out." This non-clarity about attacks was one of the reasons I didn't want to have anything to do with the standard MS drugs--their manufacturers say that they'll reduce your frequency of attacks, but (a) they won't tell you what exactly an attack is and (b) they have no way, statistically or experimentally, of determining whether the number of attacks you did or didn't have was due to their intervention or to the disease's own roll of the dice. (Their assessment of their drug's effectiveness is akin to a life-insurance company's actuarial math; insurers know how many people will die over the course of the year, they just don't know who.)

So, the bottom line is: something happened. Don't know what, exactly. The MS has changed, somehow. Don't know how, exactly.

And oh yeah, two more things: Somehow, I think these episodes are triggered by something the acupuncturist is working on. It happened a lot, several years ago: a treatment, usually a powerful, wonderful treatment--and then this exact same set of symptoms, every time. I don't for a second believe I'm being infected by my doctor or his office, but Something's Up. Especially because of the second thing: the herbalist thinks that the MS symptoms have their root in the Lung official, and he described the problem as best as our translators could tell, using the word "scorching."

Something happened. Something's up.

Don't you just love a good mystery?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hidden challenges

Was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about going outside to get--to enjoy--some fresh air. Found the direct sunlight (even though filtered through clouds) oppressive. Had to move the table and chairs into the shade. Then had to go inside to get the A/C power for the laptop, since in "battery" mode the backlight isn't bright enough to combat the general brightness of the outdoor light.

By the time I finally got everything together and sat down, I found that I had no energy to sit up and enjoy the outside, and really wanted to go BACK inside. (Did decide to stay outside, though, which is where I am now, figuring that this was one of those times to push through rather than fold up.) And I am enjoying the air, so that at least is good.

A friend of mine with MS says that sometimes he craves sunshine (he thinks it's his body asking for vitamin D). I never crave sunshine (although I do like it on my legs, rather than my torso or head). I crave air: gently moving, fresh air. Always have. Always. Especially off the mountains or the ocean. Not the beach, mind you, see above under "don't like sunshine," but the air off the water is just wonderful.

Well, just as it took me way too long to sit down to doing this, it took me a while to get to where I wanted to start, but... there you go. And off we go.

A former student of mine is currently going through the usual "settling traumas" in the first week of his summer internship. He doesn't know anything (he says), certainly isn't good enough to be in the company he's in (he says), and so on.

Winona Rider said in an interview that she constantly lives in fear that someday, they'll realize she really doesn't know anything about what she's doing, and it'll be all over. So he's certainly not alone, and OH boy he's not alone having first-day-of-work anxieties. And of course, who among us doesn't have plenty to talk about regarding self-worth issues? But that's not the story for today... I was going to write this directly to him, but it seemed germane to our MS discussion, so I'm sharing it here.

There's "head" learning and "hand" learning. Head and hands learn things different ways, and at different rates. Head learns things in a flash. I'm not talking about grinding/memorizing, I'm talking about understanding. There's some point where you go from "I don't understand" to "I do understand," and although understanding depth takes time, understanding things goes quickly. "Oh, look at the dates, that's why William Billings sounds so much like x, y, and z composers... " "Oh, accelleration is rate of change of velocity, even though velocity is the rate of change of something, that's how it works..." Click, and you got it. It may take a while to get the switch to click, but once it clicks, it's there, and you "got it."

Hand learns things through repetition. That's the only way. Hand can't "understand" its way out of something, it has to learn by doing, over, and over, and over. I asked a sushi chef once how he learned to make rolls so nicely. He said, "Roll five thousand." My kyudo teacher's response to questions like "how do you learn how to do X" (as it is to so many questions we ask him) is inevitably "Shoot again."

We who live in our heads have a hard time accepting our hand's learning curve. We think we should just "get it" in a flash, and if we don't, we're "dumb." Or worthless. Or at immediate risk of exposure as incompetent boobs, and thus at immediate risk of termination, and thus fated to live out our days under a bridge eating newspapers and drinking Woolite and other people's urine (seasoning the newspapers, don't you know).

We don't remember that when we look at all those people "so much better than we are," you're not seeing their first attempts at anything. That they got where they are the same way you did: by screwing up their first attempts, figuring out what was wrong, and then doing it again. And again. And again.

I've heard Mozart K. 1, the first piece that Mozart ever "wrote." (The "K" numbers were assigned by Koechel, the guy who made the catalog of Mozart's works, and the numbers are assigned in order in which the pieces were composed.) K.1 sounds like Mozart dropped the cat on the keyboard and had almost caught it in time to keep it from bouncing. Nobody performs Mozart K. 1. Nobody, except oddball musicologists who like to collect composer lint and fingernail clippings, remembers or even cares about Mozart K. 1. One of Mozart's most popular symphonys, the "Haffner," is K. 385. Gee, you think maybe that writing the three hundred eighty four other things might be why thing #385 is so good?

Head learns by getting things right. Hand learns by getting things wrong, then eliminating the wrong until only the right remains. Head doesn't like this method at all; Head doesn't like what it feels like to be in the state of "wrong." (Hand doesn't care, it just notices and tries again.)

And Heart... simply understands. "Understanding" is one of the many things Heart does better than anybody else.

Which brings us back to MS. Living with MS is a craft more than an art, which means it's a "hand" rather than "head" task. Which means that if you want to learn how to walk when your leg is malfunctioning, you need to walk. And get it wrong. And do it again, until you can eliminate the wrong and only right remains. But that takes time, and repetition; neither of which Head enjoys.

Oh well.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wind Heat

This last week will be, perhaps, remembered as "interesting" in retrospect.

Wednesday: a very profound acupuncture treatment. I could tell while I was still on the table that he was working a completely different level.

Thursday: nasty, nasty sick. I had maybe 18 hours to enjoy my profound acupuncture treatment, until my health took such a dive that you could hear its screams dopplering as it plunged into the depths.

I'm still nasty sick. I'm thinking it'll probably be at least another full week, if not longer, before I'm operating at what's come to be "normal." I managed to leave the house today to spend ten minutes in fresh air in the back yard. If I had a hammock, I'd still be there, but having to sit up was too much of a strain.

What's interesting is that this sort of thing happened a lot, years ago: A really good acupuncture treatment, followed immediately by this particular set of symptoms. While I don't for a second think that I'm being "infected" by my doctor or his office, it's interesting that some treatments seem to trigger this set of symptoms.

What's also interesting is that my herbalist and Qi Gong practitioner see the problem that may very well be at the root of my MS in the Lung official, the Lungs having been "scorched," as my herbalist put it, by Fire, something my five-element acupuncturist is constantly shepherding.

What's additionally interesting is that the set of symptoms from which I'm suffering correspond to an attack of "Wind and Heat," two of the External Pernicious Influences in Chinese medicine (the others being Cold, Dryness, and Dampness) from which I usually suffer in the winter, when outside is cold and inside is warm, but warm and dry, and usually just turning on the heater in December is enough to bring this condition on.

And now it gets really interesting: the bedside themo/humidity meter says 72 degrees at 60% . It's only vaguely warm (hardly seems to qualify as "heat" in either the western or Chinese sense of the word) and it's definitely more than humid enough. And yet, I can definitely feel some sort of "scorched" going on in my physical lungs, much less my Lung official.

And oh yeah, my legs are freezing cold from the knees down to the tops of my feet. Bottoms of my feet are too hot. (This, in particular, drives the herbalist nuts. Too warm, he can cool you down. Too cold, he can warm you up. Parts of your body too warm... "Very difficult case," he says.)

I will be very surprised if there isn't some deep energetic connection going on here. There are too many coincidences. Every person I've worked with on the Oriental side of the medical-care world has told me that I have to be extremely careful with the "temperature" of treatments. Too warm, I boil over; too cold, I freeze up. "Always balance," my herbalist says. Well, temperature-balanced is one thing I am most definitely not, right now.

'Course, doing something about it is another matter.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


An... "interesting"... weekend. The two biggest end-of-year events at the high school at which I teach are the Baccalaureate service, which I "tech" (setup/run sound/lights), and the commencement, at which I both steer and "am" the music for the ceremony (something I've done for the same school since 1973).

It was very clear from what I had to do, and from the "ease" (insert howls of derisive laughter and smacking of head on the table) with which I distinctly did not do it, that whatever "it" is, I don't think I can do "it" any more.

Baccalaureate setup involved, among many other "fun" activities, dashing from the very back of the auditorium to the very front, multiple times, cane and all; and way, way too much last-minute how-can-we-possibly-get-this-under-control scrambling for all sorts of stuff, including a desperate search for the podium microphone that somehow buried itself inside a pile of cables under the lighting board, which we had to do without and did not find until someone else performed a hands-and-knees search two days later. (We did develop a "plan B" with remarkable alacrity, so we did have sound, fortunately.)

Commencement involved many moments of personal, er, let's call it "excitement," such as repeatedly (read "way, way too many times") stepping into and out of an "organ pit," the organ console having been lowered below the level of the stage so that even though it meant that I could barely get on and off the console and could neither really see nor hear what was going on, the flowers at the edge of the stage could be seen. Ya gotta have your priorities, I suppose...

But anyway, after I creamed my foot very, very badly on the edge of the organ pit during one attempt to climb out, causing me a very "special" kind of pain, pain that oozes its way through the nerve damage to make you think to yourself Y'know, I think this should be hurting a whole lot more than it does... that's probably not good, after which I started crawling out of the pit onto my hands and knees because that was really the only way I could get around safely... and that sort of thing just doesn't make the conductor look (or feel) particularly professional, you know?

And then there was the organ playing. It's a truly marvelous instrument, possibly one of the world's most famous theater organs (it was the world's only portable theater organ for a while, touring the country in five vans) and right now, the folks at the Pasadena Civic tell me that I'm the only one who plays it nowadays, nobody else uses it but our school for our graduation.

But I had a very, very difficult time with the pedals, I just don't have the fine control I used to have, my feet have been pronating (technical term for rotating outwards, Charlie Chaplan's "Little Tramp" style) which means that they want to squish multiple pedals instead of one pedal at a time, and what used to be very, very easy now just... no longer works. I don't think anyone besides me noticed my discomfort or distress or pedalling issues; if there's one thing I've learned how to do, it's to "be convincing," but I noticed. I really noticed.

I very much want to keep the "organ thing" going for as long as I can, and it's going to take some work to do it, and I really really want to keep it up for at least a few more years because pretty soon, I will have played for more than half of the graduations that this school has ever held. But I wonder if last Sunday I didn't see not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the one at the end of the organist's road.

And that, for want of a better word, would suck.

But, as I said the day I got my diagnosis, and this was quite literally the first thing I said: "Well, it was going to be something, eventually." We do not all necessarily arrive at "disabled," but we all will eventually arrive at some form of "no-longer-as-abled," each in our own time. And MS is, in many ways, simply the human condition, just writ so large that we can no longer pretend that such a road is not the one we're already all traveling.

And as my doctor said, "Disease goes straight for attachment." I'm definitely attached to being an organist. I love it. It's going to be very weird dealing with no longer being that. Fortunately, I don't have to deal with that loss today.

But precisely when I will have to deal with it... may not be a time of my own choosing.

And is that not the first lesson of "the human condition?" And thus, the first gift of MS?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lesser Palace

I'm still contemplating the reconnection I talked about in my last entry. What with the craziness endemic to the end of the school year, I haven't really been able to do anything about it (I'll have a few hours tomorrow before the first of the Big Events of the weekend, at least I'll get something done), and I'm feeling a little like I've been pissing away a golden opportunity, but that's they way it goes sometimes. I did get a lot of other things done, including taking my bow out of the back yard (where I've been shooting at close distance, firing into all sorts of unlikely "targets") to the archery range for some distance shooting... Learned some interesting lessons there, definitely--more about that later.

Saw my Qi Gong doctor today, he did a wonderful treatment (especially nice on the legs, which have been bothering me a lot lately), but at the end of the treatment he said something to me that I didn't quite hear (some noise in the office at just the wrong time), but I'm quite sure I got his meaning: Something different happens when I talk about, and do, music. Something special. Something important.

I can't "not do" music any more. The dry spell has been too long. I have to make music. Not even if it's "just for me": especially because it's "just for me."

But the ideas are starting to flow. I'm starting to hear things again (for a composer, that's a sign of normality returning, rather than fleeing). I. Have. To. Write them down.

Just writing about this... I sure feel stupid that it has taken MS to drive this particular point home. Oh well. Another gift of MS. Go figure.

Oh yeah, the "Lesser Palace"... More acupuncture lingo. It's the Fire point on the Heart meridian, another one of those wonderful but nasty palm points. There are a lot of "palace" points, and the "Lesser Palace" is a special place of refuge and rejuvenation. A friend of mine had one of those at his workplace: Showing me a nice, large, formal and extraordinarily tidy office, he said, "This is where I bring visitors... and this" (he opened a door to a small, hidden, and delightfully cluttered, room, with a dartboard at one end) "is where I go when I really want to get things done." Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan would have called it his "place of power."

The path before me is, for now, clear. Now, we'll see if I can get off my lazy ass and walk it, bad legs and all.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I went to an orchestration workshop this weekend put on by the Film Music Institute, all about how to orchestrate that Big Hollywood Sound. (What we talked about helps you orchestrate pretty much everything better, but it's specifically about making that Big Hollywood Sound.) And of course there were plenty of entertaining stories about various Famous Composers and their compositional habits and talents (or lack thereof, in many cases), and a good time was had by all.

But about an hour into it, I felt a very deep internal "click," like a switch being thrown--and for once, closing a circuit. Making, not breaking, a connection. And a very quiet feeling of "this is where I belong."

Not film music specifically, good Lord in Heaven no! But creating, and specifically creating powerful and beautiful things, whether or not I have a customer asking for something--what has more often than not being what got me started creating things. I need to create things anyway, because I need simply to create. And more importantly, I felt like I can.

I was not filled with a caffeine-achiever drive, a throbbing compulsion to "Quick, start writing, now," or anything like that. Simply a very quiet sense that, like the Obama slogan says, "Yes, I can."

And the ideas are starting to not flow, but sprout. Now, my job is to water them properly and make sure they get sunlight and fresh air.

We'll see what happens.