Wednesday, July 17, 2013

alone time

My husband left yesterday for 48 hours.

Pulled a Fantastic Son maneuver and flew to Chicago to surprise his dad on his 70th birthday.  Left to spend rare quality time with immediate nuclear family and gave the wife a couple days of space.  The verisimilitude of solitude.  (Close enough.  I'm still a mom after all.  While one kid is away at sleepaway camp, the other one still lives here.  Whom I apparently yet need to actively parent when he's not attending day camp or superglued to his Minecraft laden laptop.  Or sleeping.)

So it's sorta like solitude.  Which is a lovely lovely gift.  Especially for a musician and writer- right?  Some quality time by myself to walk the dog, lay in the sun, perch on my chair in front of the computer, spend some good snuggly time lovingly fondling the tele (oh, how I wish it felt as organic and sexual as all that...) thereby coaxing the next solid Holly Long rock-and-roll tune from within.

This kind of time seems tailor-made for Creation.  Creation of songs and writing.  Creation of more Me stuff that makes me feel more like Me.  Because that's what the openness of "alone" time away from one's spouse or partner, away from one's normal daily life is supposed to generate, yes?

Well now that I am roughly half way through enjoying my little gift, I feel compelled to share what exactly I've been doing with this time.  Because perhaps in the writing of it- and therefore in the reading of it, we all might learn something about me.  Most of all, maybe I'll learn something about me.

Like the Twilight Zone episode from the second season my son and I enjoyed last night along with a bowl of overly buttery, underly salty stovetop-popped popcorn.

This was the episode about the middle-aged antique-store owning couple who stumble upon a genie in an old worthless wine bottle.  This posh dandy with a top hat- cigarello-dangling from his mouth- genie grants them four wishes.  At the end of the episode, they basically just end up thankfully right back where they started, having wasted their wishes on negative consequence-laden ideas like "a million dollars." (Tax man takes all that they don't foolishly bestow on friends.)  Or being the "powerful leader of a foreign country." (Husband becomes Hitler for about 10 minutes- in the last throes of the war, holed up sweating in his bunker.)  He uses his last of the four wishes to wish himself back to his old life.

In other words, the couple, in going through the process of having wishes granted, learn what is really important to them.  Which was essentially, what they already had to being with.

OK- oldest moral in the book.  But still poignant and relevant.  Especially for me finding myself still so often gorging on the delicious dopamine of "what if" in my not-so-free time.

Turns out- here's what I do when I'm given a bunch of alone time:

1. Troll favorite thrift store with friend.  (excellent decision) Allow friend to buy me lunch as "belated" birthday treat.  Say YES to strawberry frosted white princess cupcake offered free of charge which looks and smells exactly like the cake mom used to make every birthday before age 10.  Delicately eat half in restaurant in front of friend.  Stuff rest in face like a maniacal starving child upon returning home and entering kitchen, alone.
2. Along with remains of doomed cupcake, come home with royal blue and black satin bowling jacket.  Embroidered tigers splashed across back and sleeves along with the word "OKINAWA."  (Kinda love this thing.)  Also come home with vintage pink floral floor length belted coat which, like Maria's homemade play clothes in "The Sound of Music" looks to be made out of the drapes.  (Still kinda love this thing too.)
3. Go on long guilty run after indulging so viscerally in sugar bomb princess cupcake. Also Windex remains from counter.
4. Pick up son from tutoring and take him to what we call "Moving Sushi" restaurant for mommy and me dinner where plates of sushi glide around the room on a little miniature moving walkway.  Swap out usual shared bottle of sake for green tea (responsible single parenting.)
5. Come home- watch two episodes of "Twilight Zone" with son along with popcorn. Consume two glasses of wine.
6. Give dog medicine, put her out for final evening pee, close all windows.  Retire about an hour after son has gone to sleep.
7. Revel in the fact that tomorrow, once son is off to camp, whole day will be spent artistically.  Playing music.  Writing essays.  Productive, productive, productive.

So far, so good!  A great summer afternoon and evening. Not so much generating artistry, but certainly setting the stage for it.

Day 2:

1. Drag oneself out of bed- groggy after having been awoken three times previously during the night to deal with dog and her strange coughing issues.
2. Freak out a little bit about dog.  Misplace coffee cup three times.  Get befuddled making peanut butter and jelly sandwich for son's lunchbox. Yell at son twice to get his shizz together so you can get him out the door to day camp, give dog morning medicine a bit too early to try to take edge off of worry.
3. Feel really good about yourself that though you didn't sleep well AT ALL and are feeling woozy and hungover- primarily from lack of good solid sleep- you STILL are planning on picking up son's friend and taking him to daycamp along with son.  You are still a vaguely dependable mother and friend.
4. Deposit children successfully at camp.  Make way to local ghetto Ralph's grocery store.  (Not Whole Foods.  Too exhausted to deal with parking lot and picky consumerism necessitated therein.)  Plog through a small but key list of missing items at home.  Return home- put groceries away- feel a bit sleepy.
5. Decide to shake it off by giving dog, who has now ceased coughing, a walk to local coffee shop.  Hope to ogle/small talk possible muse-producing, mojo-to-write-music-creating hot hipster dudes along the way.  To that end, don some coral lip gloss.
6. On the way, realize yesterday's long run has resulted in oddly swollen and achy left knee.  Return home vaguely limping - unsuccessful in procuring usual dog treat at local coffee shop, or spotting any hotties.
7. Glance at clock- realize it's only 11:35 in the AM.  Decide that it's ok to spend some unproductive time watching TV. Especially since exercise is now apparently out of the question.
8. Flump down on bed and proceed to watch three Netflix episodes in a row of favorite new TV show "Orange is the New Black" about women in prison.  Feel glad to so far not have done anything worthy of landing yourself in prison simultaneous with harboring gnawing suspicion that you may be frittering away your precious "alone" time.
9. Fix yourself entire box of macaroni and cheese for late lunch to make yourself feel better.  Eat most of it.  Feel worse.
10. Change outfit.  That dress wasn't working for you.  Put on rocker jeans and old Mickey Mouse Tshirt.  NOW you can go in your office and create.
12. Turn on computer.  Mostly stay off of Facebook and Twitter.  Open up latest essay in Word.  Re-read twice and stare at remaining white page for four minutes solid before turning it off and picking up guitar.
13. Plug in guitar to sustain pedal and turn on amp.  Plunk away at some underdeveloped ideas.  Sing jibberish along with chords for awhile before deciding everything you're playing sounds like a bad Eddie Money tune covered by Pat Benetar with a cold.  Try unplugging sustain pedal, thinking this may be at least half of the culprit.
14. Turn off amp.  Unplug guitar.  It wasn't the sustain pedal after all.
15. Sit down to write an email- a Facebook update- ANYTHING.
16. Write the beginnings of three Facebook updates before eventually logging off.
17.  Decide to start writing blog, though you have nothing really to write about except what you've done for the past 24 hours....
18. Start writing blog.

Apparently, even the most precious gift of time can't necessarily be "utilized" to creative expectation.  Tonight,  I'm taking advantage of my nanny staying late for a few hours to drag myself and my swollen knee two blocks down to the local club I love to play now and again just to swill a wine glass and hear some music.  Sometimes, this is the best medicine for feeling lack of energy, mojo, structure, connection.  Just being in a room where others are making music, or making merry....makes my time count.

And after all, I think that's what I'm really trying to do here-by myself or with others.  Make it count somehow.  And I guess that doesn't necessarily mean making "something" all the time.   Maybe the cupcake and the OKINAWA satin jacket are enough to allow me to feel my "alone" time was time well spent this past day and a half.   Plus, I did write this blog entry after all.

Alright honey.  You can come home now--

Thursday, July 4, 2013

i am a stalker

So I was just trying to find this guy's email.

This guy I had recently met, and whom I vaguely knew through the tendrils of my west LA music connections.

I had run into him a couple of times out in the world-- had a few conversations with him about music and bands and playing out the role of professional musician in an increasingly tough industry environment.   We had connected as people- I had heard his band's music on line months before when someone else introduced me to them, and had dug it.

So, when we last ran into each other and he mentioned  for the second time that we should try to get together and play sometime...that his band was undergoing some changes- that he was up for jamming and playing with new people this summer, I was interested.  And I told him so.

"That would be great."  I said.  "I'm always really up for co-writing."  (which is true.)  "And I need to get out of the little hole that is my music room more often.  I need to be around more musicians more of the time- I get more creative that way." (also true.) "I'm sure I could fit something into my schedule.  I mean, I'm busy-- but I do have some flexibility."  (not exactly true.  I am mostly not all that busy and I usually have nothing BUT flexibility.)

But I didn't want to appear too eager- too desirous of this.  Because any good coupling, be it romantic or in this case, artistic, needs an equality of partnership.  Each person needs to need the other person equally in order for it to succeed.  And as I have ruefully discovered in times past, when I give out vibes of being too needy as writer- too desperate for work- just as in the world of dating, the pickins suddenly get real slim.  So, I played it cool.

"I'll email you,"  I get from him.

"Great.  Talk to you soon."  I wave goodbye.

And then, of course, also reminiscent of dating in LA in my twenties, days turn into weeks, weeks into going on two months, and I don't hear from him.

And suddenly what began as a perfectly normal conversation between two musicians, suddenly jumps tracks in my head, and I'm thinking way too often about when he's going to write me.   Checking my email every morning with the hopes that there'll be a brief, "Hey Hol- here's my number- give me a buzz.  Maybe you can stop by our studio some time this week and we can hang out.  Bring your guitar."

Now, this in part is due to the fact that my poor overworked producer is working two different gigs at once right now.  Tracking one artist, mixing another.  Starting late May, he became unavailable to press on with the current Holly Long rock band extraordinaire album which we are making like every other indie album ever made in the history of indie albums--- on the fly.  One recording session every few weeks.  One track painfully layered tiny bit by bit as weeks turn into months.  I'm not used to this way of creating a record, but I took the process on because I knew in my gut the finished product will be worth it, and I chalk up this tedious chapter to the continual education of myself as self-produced artist.

In the meantime, I'm hungry and bored for more musical stimulus.  More input.  More sounds and sights and ideas and words. There's nothing quite as impotent-making as the role of creator ready and wide open to the influence of what appears to be a blank-slate universe.   Where are my muses?  Where are the new experiences to pull from in order to think, to feel, and ultimately- to write?  The angsty teenage element that is my Creative Energy gloms onto anything that looks even remotely like a new avenue with some semblance of a pot o gold at its rainbow end.

So this guy.  This guy who is the only thing my universe has begrudgingly provided these past few weeks that seems to be a hint of a new road suddenly takes on greater significance than he should, and greater significance than I want him to.

But- not to be daunted by my own back-burner seething- I decide to do what any other normal, driven person with a goal would do without any information to begin with.  I start diving around online.  I start looking anywhere and everywhere I can think of to drudge up this person's contact info.  All I need is an email address.  That's all I need.

And this short trip also leaves me nowhere.  Unlike myself who is registered- signed, sealed and delivered up all over the online music world in service of allowing potential fans to connect with me and my music, this guy is pretty much nowhere to be found.  I'm starting to wonder if I've made him up.  But no- the band is there.  There's those couple of videos I can access via Youtube.  And a few more tracks on itunes.

Ok.  Ok.

So that's when it hits me that there are ways people have of finding people online.  People tracking websites-- methods I have never utilized before.  And I decide- ok- let's go ahead and check that out.  My stalk-o-meter is not yet going off because I tell myself- I'll just look at it, and if it's too expensive or creepy or in any way weirds me out, I won't do it.

I find myself on the first tracking website google provides me with.  Looks professional enough.  Mild mannered.  Well, except for-- "Looking for police records?  Past employment history?  You've come to the right place!"   God-  no- I think.  I'm merely looking for an email.  Just a little old email address.  That's all I want.  So I can craft what will hopefully turn out to be a short, concise missive stating Hi.  You guys. me. music. Let's get to work!

And one of my current dreams may come just a little closer to being realized.  For some time now, here smack in my forties,  I've decided I want to JOIN a band. An outfit that I don't have to be in charge of.  Something already in tact- with a small track record.  Somewhere I can just show up with my little bag o tricks and leave at the end of each rehearsal without having to lug all the gear, wrap up all the cords, pay the rehearsal studio, write all the songs, book all the gigs, send out all the promo emails...

See- I'm looking for the buzz without all the responsibility.  And this guy and his band seems like just the right soda flavor...

So then I scroll down to the price points on this website aimed at locating someone who doesn't know you're trying and maybe doesn't really want you to locate them.  Turns out the special trial offer is really cheap- something like $4.95- and they promise me name, address, phone number, and email.  Great !  I think.  That's way more than I need.

I click on this link.  And I type his name in the proper blanks.  And city of residence.  Because of course, that's really all I know about him.  And within a few minutes- I have a result!  I actually have four names the site says fits my search criteria!  Awesome- I think.  It was just that easy.  And I still don't really feel all that gross.  Just five bucks.  No biggie.

Turns out, of course, the FOUR names really only boil down to TWO.  There's only two names that are the SAME name I typed in, and actually only ONE of those entries has an address in the West side of Los Angeles.  Ok- I think- it's got to be him.  Great. So I click on his name and code....and...and....nothing else.  No number (which god knows, I'd never have called anyway) but most importantly- NO email.  Which was the whole reason I DID this thing in the first place.


That's when I look at the price list again (conveniently printed at the right side of every page on this website) and notice that for an additional $19.95 I can get more info on this particular entry.  I can get previous employer information, previous addresses, and EMAIL address, if there's one available.   Well, shit, I think.  I wish you woulda told me that at the beginning- then I would have gone straight for that tier.  I wouldn't have wasted no $4.95 on this useless search which basically just gives me an ADDRESS.

So, now like an idiot vacationing in Vegas who has just gambled away her last $20 at the roulette wheel, only to make a swift beeline for the ATM to withdraw another $400, I sort of blindly move ahead and pledge more money onto this people locator site to bring me deeper into this entry.  It's only twenty extra bucks, I think.  It's only an email address I need, I think.  This is important to me!  I think.  This is me morphing and changing into the new musician I am becoming in this decade of my life!  I think.  This is going to work!

And so of course- like anyone can tell you who's been betting on red all night, only to have the table come up black...and then to switch to black the moment before the ball lands on Red 4...this didn't work out for me at all.  My twenty dollars yielded me nothing more than a previous employer for the name of this westside dweller whose name matched my desired search name.  Still no phone.  More importantly- no email.  Just the name of a tech company in Simi Valley where the man I was searching had worked from 2004-2010.  Sigh.

Not the right guy.

My guy was never working for a tech company for seven years.  He and the band were on the road during at least three of those years.

And now I realize I've just spent $25 of my hard earned money finding out small bits of totally useless information about some techie guy who lives in southern Santa Monica.  Sigh.

And to boot.  I now get daily emails from this website I so blithely and stupidly joined.  Prompting me to run other searches on other random people.  "Now you can get the most up to date arrest information!"  Clearly this site is really only appropriate for HR departments, PIs,  and really really bored people.  And I am now a card-carrying member.

Well- if Snowden is indeed correct, someone in the NSA is right now adding that particular juicy bit of information to my ever- expanding file.  Not that they're actually reading it, mind you, just filing it away.  If in fact I do become some sort of a terrorist or a threat to society in any real way far off in the distant future.

Who knows- if my musician writer's block lasts much longer-- there's no telling WHAT I'll do....

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It's not so much a bad day.  Not an abnormally dark or desolate landscape of a day.  Not particularly sunny or bright either.  Perhaps that's just what brings it on the hardest... the complete normalcy I feel encased in moments before the chasm opens.  And I fall through.

See- these last few summer days for me have been spent connecting with my husband and one kid (the other is whooping it up currently at sleepaway camp.)  Followed by attention paid to self detail- the pedicure, the yoga, the gym, the intake of vitamins and more vegetables than usual, the hair appointment on the calendar..  Yesterday it was the high-end food truck fish taco at 4pm followed by a glass of Rose at local Venice haunt- me replete with my legal pad and pen (yes- you laptop toting motherfuckers- legal pad.)  Nine pages of writing commenced at the bar.

Whoo Hoo!

I've been feeling pretty good about things.  One week out from a successful band gig.  Three essays now in shambling order toward the long-term goal of becoming something like a "book" eventually or a "one-woman show."  One demo whipped up 10 days ago on a whim and sent off to my pal and co-producer in Chicago with a breezy air.  Something may be made of this...or not.  But what fun it will be!

In other words, I am doing my work.  I have put my head down and focused on the small tasks at hand.  I have mostly stopped complaining, bickering with my poor husband, kicking back three to four glasses of wine a night.  I have found some consistent purpose and balance as of late in my "job"- paid or unpaid- as artist.  As writer and musician and performer.  I'm doing ok!  This could be the greatest year ever!

And then all I have to do, really, to topple this hard- earned, carefully cultivated solid ground, is choose to procrastinate for 14 seconds.  All it takes is one mildly poor decision.  And that is to log onto the WORLD WIDE WEB.  I'll type in the Rose-dribbled contents of my weathered legal pad, I'll work on one of those two essay edits from last week, I'll finally begin ONE of the tales for that scary story book I've been orally composing with the kids in our hot tub in Ojai... I'll do all of those things.

Right after I check Facebook.

And you'd think by NOW I'd know not to do this.  Because it happens every time.

EVERY TIME- when I choose to log on at this particular fragile moment in the arc of my work, and in the fledgling stage of burdgeoning self-esteem, I will find myself unfailingly, inexorably knee-deep in the most toxic of what Facebook has to offer me.

All it takes is a little "www.fa" plugged in my browser window and the computer knows right where to sling me. I am suddenly awash in amazing papparazzi photos of my old college roommate accepting a 2013 Saturn award for her role in America's most watched zombie television show.  I am accosted with my OTHER college roommate's status report on the interview she just gave on one of my hometown radio stations in support of her new book?  Webcast?  Album?  All of the above?  she is creating.  Another of my high school friends is taking the dream trip of his life across America by train.  And probably filming it, seeing as he and his brother are Academy Award winning documentarians.  A neighbor is directing her self-written, full-length feature film in Croatia.  Another is scaling some mountain in Nepal.

And then there's the slew of mothers I've Facebook befriended who are just yards and yards ahead of me in the parenting race.  Women whisking their children away to Africa for three months to take part in a work camp.  "Off to get Malaria shots today!  Wish us luck!"  their status report chirps.  Others are relaxing in their Montana ranches taking in the fresh air and learning how to milk a cow.  A college acquaintance of mine just purchased a horse for her daughter. A. Horse.

And I haven't even mentioned the slew of musicians I know out plying their trade on the road.  "So vibey here at LIB!" (Lighting in a Bottle- one of various summer westcoast festivals.)  "Phoenix was awesome- heading out to Sodona tonight to play in the oldest-known western saloon still standing!"

And of course after the bombardment of such VISIBLY SUCCESSFUL LIFE CHOICES OCCURRING IN THE REST OF FACEBOOK AMERICA'S WORLD, it doesn't take much else to kick this dog who has suddenly and completely fallen down.  All at once my little, reasonable, daily humdrum win of making a healthy stir fry for my family after a day of pedicure, gym and writing seems vastly, horrifically under-par.  Nothing to write home about, much less POST on the Facebook.

It's at these times that even the barrage of photos comprising what folks are eating (which I've never really understood) won't fail to douse whatever is left of my own mojo about my own life. The pics of the aged cedar logs they've just bought for the grill tonight---which they built with their own hands-- and you know because you were privy to the past two months of photos of them showing how painstakingly they constructed it-- these photos are the nails in the coffin of what minutes ago I would have called my happiness.

And--- close the book. Turn off the computer.  I am done.  I am a huge failure and a depressive freak who at every turn has done nothing beyond undermining her own progress simply because she lacks some "Go-Git-Im" gene every other Facebook friend appears to have elegantly decorating their collective DNA strands.

A fellow local musician and friend of mine, Tom,  has over twice the amount of friends I do on Facebook.  Maybe more by now since he is a working musician- paying the bills with his music.  Which means he's on the road six to eight months out of the year both nationally and in Europe.  A few years ago he wrote a song called "I'm Not A Ghost In This Town" about feeling completely invisible in one's own surroundings, which I especially hold dear.  And applaud him for penning.

Because I, with access to a mere 1,053 Facebook friends' stellar Status Reports on a daily basis can only imagine what being privy to over 2500 publicly shiny lives might do to me.

Granted, both those numbers are miniscule when you calculate the human world at large.  And keeping that in mind, I'd like to think that somewhere in that 7 billion, there are a few more souls like me who are just trying to find worth in the simple small things (that stellar fish taco I ate yesterday, but didn't photograph.)

Ultimately, in order to drag myself up from the bottom of the ego well, I am reminded to put in perspective what Facebook is for:

After all, no one is posting the grueling eight-hour traffic laden drive home from picking up their daughter's horse.

My TV star ex-roommate has not made mention of that time last season in Episode 4 where the director screamed at her so viciously for missing a cue for the third time, it caused her to flee in tears and hide in her trailer for the rest of the day.  Nor the string of bad dates she's invariably had to endure over the years seeing as she is pushing her mid-forties and still very visibly single.

Academy award winning documentarian doesn't find the wafting vomit smell from the motion sick 12-year-old seated behind him on the train worth posting into posterity.

And as awesome as the oldest saloon in America sounds, the band probably didn't take Facebook- ready shots of the seven people who actually witnessed their set because they were afraid the flash might awaken what appeared to be the oldest looking bum asleep at the end of the bar whose incessant snore drowned out even the most lively of their songs.

Facebook is for dressing yourself up and taking yourself out.  I suppose we all know this.  And somewhere deep in the well of me that houses my flickering self esteem, I know this too.  And I can get over it and get back to writing some shit down.  Which is what, as a paid and non-paid writer, musician, singer and perfomer,  I am invariably drawn to do.  In my pajamas.  With the dishes clogging the sink. And the bed unmade.  And a little sleep crust still in my eye.

There's my status report for all yalls.  Enjoy feeling vastly superior to at least one person on Facebook today!