Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preparing for the Cold

Come November folks will begin assembling emergency kits for their vehicles, non-perishables for home kitchen cabinets (the kind you donate to food drives, not necessarily out of generosity, but for admission to some local function), loads of antifreeze for their various fluids, be it in a car or home -- all in an effort to sustain when immobilized.

I've started early, with the only goal being to prevent boredom. I'm not planning to parade around downtown donning a snowsuit and I am totally unacquainted with snowmobiles. I don't own a 4x4 vehicle, or any vehicle at all actually, and I don't plan to purchase one anytime soon, so I do expect a lot of downtime indoors December through April.


My gramma met her best friend, Nellie, over fifty years ago. They owned large wood-paneled victorian homes two doors down from each other on Twelfth St, one block from my family's church, St Vincent's, and half-a-block from our favorite chocolatier, Oaks. My gramma migrated to Oshkosh from Little Rock to marry my grampa, and Nellie came all the way from Belgium to marry Ralph. As was typical in most '40s romance films, those darn men in uniform swoop into town and BLAM! you are married and with child.

I meet with Nellie on Mondays and Thursdays for two hours. The first half of our session is a french lesson and the second is reimbursement: company. Yesterday I also brought along oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, which I baked last night, for her. I was confident at age ten that I wanted to learn the French language. At that time schoolteachers were advising Spanish, as it was estimated that the US Hispanic population would be growing. Not that I could have been bothered with practicality at that age anyways, or now, really. I was in love with Gay Paris, or at least everything I saw in my favorite Hollywood classics.

I dropped my french class in high school. It is rare that I quit a project, but I was falling behind from missing classes and I had no one to practice the language with at home. It'd be cool if the schools offered free or discounted classes to parents unacquainted with their child's studies, so that they could provide more encouragement and involvement at home. Like the Head Start literacy program, which provides texts and reading guides aimed at both children and parents.

So here I am, almost 29, and without any actual use for the language, but still deeply in love with an idea.


I'm still playing piano a bit, but not as much as I feel I should. I think the problem is stemming from stiff wrists (I need to get my butt in to see a chiropractor, pronto) and boredom with repertoire. A friend gave me the last addition to my library for my birthday last year, a compendium of Chopin's Mazurkas, the Henle edition pictured left [the best, in my opinion]. Before that, I had browsed Patelson once with a friend I have now lost touch with. I purchased the sheet music to Rachmaninoff's Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano. My friend played the upright bass classically and offered to transpose the cello score for his instrument, but that never happened, and since I never enlisted a cellist either, I can only putz around [but also play with a lot more freedom than I could have otherwise]. I put this book on my Birthday Wish List, hoping for inspiration. I need to get Henle's edition of Chopin's Nocturnes and Waltzes as well--I eat that kind of stuff right up. Listless melodies for a melancholy soul.

Once I find some kind of part-time work, which will lend some residential stability, I plan to advertise my services as a piano instructor. I prefaced this in a previous blog entry. I cannot ignore the coincidence of encouragement I have received in the last month to pursue this lifelong passion. I always thought I'd end up teaching in my later years, perhaps as a mother or grandmother. I took a pedagogy class in college [I graduated with a music minor] and did some private teaching to daughters of family friends during my summers off. It was so cool to see kids light up at the touch of sound, so proud of their creation. To most it was more a forum for open expression of all kinds, not just musical. The girls would confide in me secrets of every sort. So I suppose 'mentor of appreciation' would be a better title for my previous services.

It's my experience that the Piano Adventures series is the preferred curriculum for children, just fyi, for you future mommies and daddies. In case you'd like to teach yourself, I've had success teaching adults with the Alfred's series. I'd like to take on five students or so as a test trial. I need time to add [write my own] supplemental theory, history, appreciation and composition lesson plans. No way in heck I'd feel OK introducing the instrument and method without the whole kit and kaboodle. It infuriates me that so many folks out there are allowed to teach without; what a detriment to the children. Hopefully there are some, not turned off all together by the practice, who seek out more information as teenagers and adults.


If I haven't given myself enough exercise in sitting, I have been compiling a book list for lazy mornings. Other than writing for this blog, I haven't spent much time immobile; I'm always running outside or around the house to do this and that. I have assumed the role of 'maid' here, and least we forget that a woman's work is never done. I have a fantastic list of 18th C. Gothic Literature to pull from. I stumbled upon Melmoth the Wanderer last year, and, wow, it is probably one of the three best surprises in all of art I have experienced. I just started The Monk but have to interrupt for Russell Brand's recent memoir, My Booky Wook, which I'm reading for my two-person online book club.


I almost just continued on with pursuits equally interesting and worthy, but face it, that could get overwhelming. I could pile on the world and still find more things that seem urgent to explore. I'm bookmarking this page btw, for the days when I'm in a sour mood and have 'nothing to do.' Maybe you will too. I encourage you to check out recordings of the music I listed, and the books, above.

This is what's going on in Oshkosh, in my little part.


  1. Thank god for the Internet (when you want it). Every-known-thing's first Google hit informed me that Breton considered Melmoth the first surrealist novel, and then it linked me to the entirety of the book to sample, *and* this locus of Gothic energy (be sure to check out his other sites):

    What are the other two surprises?

    Chopin's cool enough, but what I wanna know is the name of Henle's graphic designer. And if those covers come in poster-size.

  2. (How did you know there were two?)


    I was of the dinner-in-a-restaurant or -deli variety in NY, but have refocused in the kitchen here.

    I basically follow recipes 'to a t' right now...although some creativity and confidence are starting to my goal for the year is to get comfortable enough with the nuances in the kitchen to forgo detailed instructions altogether.


    I absolutely stink in all areas of traditional visual art, but I love coloring, haha. I enjoy drawing 'really fast' just for a laugh, and attempting to paint epic scenes of glory and fear. The latter usually come out looking pretty neat, if indistinguishable. I'd like to find some kind of consistency and maybe uncover one tiny bit of talent.

    Chopin is pretty cool.