Minstrel Mondays #4

Haha, this is awesome. Pandora is playing Promises Made by Dan Fogelberg right now, as I’m getting ready to write this blog post. Confession: my job pays for a Pandora account for walk-on/off music during shows, and I can’t afford a paid account, so I have my own station. I call it 70s Hybrid because people kept deleting it when it was just called Dan Fogelberg. 70s Hybrid is more accurate, anyway. I do listen to music other than Dan Fogelberg, but we’re not going to get into that right now.

The point of the confession is to let you know that when I’m at work and shows are happening, I still need to listen to music, so I just go on YouTube and find a Dan Fogelberg playlists. It’s basically just background music, and I realize how long it’s been since I’ve listened to a particular song when I’ve forgotten most of the lyrics. There’s one song, though, that has such a great opening verse and it keeps catching my ear:

Dawn, like an angel.
Alights on the step.
Muting the morning she heralds.
Dew on the grass,
Like the tears the night wept,
Gone long before,
The day wears old.

The music is pretty simple, mostly guitar, I think plus a violin or two. The instruments are played so subtly that any time Dan pauses in his singing, for a moment, it seems as though the music has stopped too, although it hasn’t, it smoothly carries on without him. It’s sort of like the euphony of a peaceful mind resting in between thoughts.

This has never been one of my favorite songs, I always found it boring when I was a kid. Also, there’s a lot of nostalgia in this song, which is not an emotion that I’ve ever been super connected to because my childhood was nonexistent. Still, the imagery in the song, especially in the first verse is pretty great. I love the personification of dawn and the night, and the music is pretty if intentionally understated.

I want to post a link to the video but I have my YouTube on autoplay and The Reach came on after I re-listened to The Sand and the Foam so that I could write about it, so now I have to finish listening to The Reach. I think I already wrote about it. It’s my current favorite of his songs. If I haven’t, I will. Okay, it’s over. Here you go:

Face-Blindness Fridays #3

I have to leave for work in a little bit, and am SUPER GLAD that the shows this weekend are actually a film festival. That means a) I can get some work done and b) I won’t be hugging strangers and then checking lineups to figure out who that person I just hugged was. Yaaaaay…!

The thing about having face blindness is that I make friends slowly. I have to first, be able to name you when I see you, which takes about 6-7 times of you introducing yourself. Then I have to know something unique about you to go along with the name and face. Then, we have to have some sort of uncomfortable moment. You can’t be real friends with someone until after your first fight. But, once I love you, I love you forever — or until you cross me, haha…

Generally, for me at least, having face blindness is a relatively minor inconvenience. It’s sort of like walking down the street about 20 steps behind the people you’re with (I’m also a slow walker). I will say, though, that one benefit is that I don’t generally judge people based on what they look like. I mean, I’m as superficial as anyone else. I would prefer to look at a pretty face than an ugly one.

But when you’re not around, and I can’t picture you, what I have to grasp on to, memory-wise, is what it felt like being around you. Was I comfortable? Did I feel safe? Did you make me laugh? Were you nice? Were you interesting? People with visual memories don’t have that advantage. I get to separate, in my mind, who people are from what they look like, whereas for most people, those two things are intrinsically linked.

That’s why, when I don’t recognize someone, even though we’ve met several times, it hurts their feelings. They feel like they’ve been erased completely. It’s really hard to explain to someone that they are a complete, multidimensional person to me — it’s just that the memory of them is triggered when I hear their name, not when I see their face.

Then again, maybe I had a super great conversation with someone and didn’t catch their name. So now, I had a great moment that I will carry around with me for the rest of my life, with someone I will never see again. Unless that person actually brings up that conversation again, I will have no idea that that moment was with that person.

It gets a little abstract, trying to describe it, because there aren’t any visual ways to describe someone’s soul. I mean, you can use colors and stuff, but for me, it’s a sense. Right after my mom died, I missed her. I tried to recall the feeling that she brought into the room with her, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t only get to experience her presence again when I’d dream about her. I don’t know why my waking mind only allows me to partially remember what it was like to be around her, when I dream about her, I get to feel it fully.

And in my dreams, my mom doesn’t look any particular way. She’s a vague, mom-shaped blob, but the way that I feel about her is how I know it’s her. I’ve had dreams in which someone I knew looked like someone else. Like I’d be looking at Vin Diesel, but it would really be my best friend, Madlen. Then I’d wake up, and I’d be like, that was weird. I was dreaming about Madlen, but she looked like Vin Diesel. Alternately, this hasn’t happened, probably because it happens so much in real life, but I’ve never, in a dream, had someone say they were someone I knew, and they looked like that person, but I knew they weren’t.

My dreams are the only time I never have any trouble recognizing anyone. In real life, not only do I completely forget what people look like, but I’ll mis-remember their hair color or basic body shape. Half of the time when a comedian is on stage, I’m correcting my memory of what they looked like by observing what they actually looked like. How people can tell when I’ve lost two pounds, I don’t know. They never mention it when I gain those two pounds back, though, which is nice.

Or I’ll get two people confused. Like, there is a comedian named Brian D’Augustine, and his name does not match his face because when he filled out the independent producer form, I was like, “Oh, I know who that is,” and pictured Andrew Duvall. So when I run into Brian, I always picture Andrew Duvall, but I can never remember Andrew Duvall’s name when I’m talking to Brian because he has the name that I think that Andrew Duvall should have. And they don’t look at all alike.

Brains are weird. It’s amazing that I’m functional at all, really.

Minstrel Mondays #3

My showrunner intern is from Illinois and I was eating my dinner the other night as she sat the room, and overheard her talking to a comedian about Illinois. The comedian mentioned that Richard Pryor is from Peoria. I almost shouted out, “So is Dan Fogelberg!” but I showed some self-control.

Haha, just kidding. I just remembered that I was in the corner and nobody was paying attention to me and that shouting out a random Dan Fogelberg fact would drag me into a conversation. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to share a Dan fact. If I know, you should know. That’s why we do Minstrel Mondays.

I think that Peoria puts on a memorial every year for him, too, although I’m not sure, and I’m not going to Google it.

Have a good night.

(Yes, the depression is still strangling me, thanks for asking. And please don’t ask me anything else. And please stop messaging me on Facebook about work-related things…!)

Face-Blindness Fridays #2

I have a cold. That has nothing to do with face blindness, I just wanted to mention it so that you know where I am. I also bought lemon bars at Smart & Final for 1/2 price because they’re expired, and am currently feeding my cold with them. There, now you’re completely caught up.

I have a joke where I say that the scary thing about having face blindness is that I could get mugged, or raped, or murdered, and the guy would totally get away with it because there’s no way I’d be able to pick him out of a lineup. I further joke that the absolute scariest part about having face blindness is the idea that love at first sight is real — what if I’ve met him and lost him already?

It’s a funny idea, right? Meeting someone, falling in love, turning away and Memento-ing the whole thing? It’s a silly joke, but I like it. I used to think that love at first sight was real because I really wanted to meet someone and immediately know that the rest of my life was figured out. I convinced myself that I fell in love with first sight with this kid from 5th grade, and he was my main crush until well after high school. I never said more than “hello” to him, even though we lived in the same apartment building for almost 10 years, and then he married someone else and broke my heart. What was his problem?

Now I’m over it, of course. I mean, I do check up on his Facebook once in a while, but he never updates it. I also have an immediate, involuntary inclination to distrust and dislike anyone I find incredibly attractive.

Okay, I don’t know what else to say about that, so I’m going to go.

Drawing Thursdays #2

So, I’m a garbage person, and that is why you should never ask me to draw anything for you, ever.

My friend’s mom wrote a book and wanted me to draw her a cover. She had an old trophy of her mom’s that she won swimming. She also wanted some of her tchotchkes incorporated into the picture, along with a cabin that she owns in Maine. The book is called Diving Home by Catee Ryan. If you click on the link, you’ll see that the cover is not the one I drew below because Catee unreasonably wanted her cover art done, like, sometime last year. So here, it is 2018 and I finally finished it! Yay!

I mean, it came out pretty cool, only 8 months later than Catee needed it. Catee let me take some pictures with my phone of her tchotchkes and of the trophy, and she gave some a photo album with her cabin, so I used all of those as references for the drawing. In real life, the cabin is a reasonable distance from the water, not hovering over it, and of course, the railing doesn’t open in front of the doorway like that.

Anyway, I loved the tchotchkes and had a lot of fun drawing those. I took pictures of a lot more than two, but I chose the gnome because I love gnomes. I especially love that he’s reading a book. He was fairly simple, I basically just traced over the photo I took and resized him for the finished drawing. The otter (seal?) was actually a pain in the ass. The photo I took of him came out blurry and he doesn’t have a ton of detail to begin with, so he started out just looking like a blobby blur. I almost gave up on him but ended up Googling seals and otters (I still don’t know the difference) and ended up with something pretty cute.

The statue was my favorite. The look of determination on her face is awesome, especially considering the mold she was made from was probably done in the 40s when women weren’t taken particularly seriously. I also like that the artist didn’t sexualize her. I Googled 40s swimming statues and couldn’t find the exact one that Catee has, but I found a male version that is nearly identical.  I’m assuming it was the same artist who made a male and a female. I imagine that is why she isn’t posed like a pinup, and I’m okay with that.

Here’s a photo of Catee’s statue: 

She’s beautiful, isn’t she? I took photos from every possible angle, including the back, trying to figure out which angle I should draw from, but I loved her face so much that I ended up going with this one. I mostly traced her. Translating bronze into black and white lineart isn’t the easiest, but fortunately, I’ve been drawing chicks since I was a teenager, so I mostly used the photo for perspective because I could not figure it out by trying to copy the photo with a pen.

I’m not a trained artist, I took Art History in high school and a design class and one Drawing class in college, so I’m not great with perspective and whatnot. One thing I do remember David Attyah (great artist, teacher, human) saying was that you don’t have to have the thing you’re drawing be in the center of the picture, so I put the girl in the top right corner.

The door was super important to Catee, too, because she painted it those colors when they bought the cabin. I don’t know a ton about art, but I made sure that all of the straight lines helped frame the girl, and the splash of color draws attention to the figure. I also like that the lines of the house are a harsh but perfect contrast to the organic elements. That, honestly, is due more to my laziness than anything, but I think it works, and that’s all that matters.

I actually had the top part of the picture done about a month after Catee asked for it but got stuck on the bottom. For a while, I tried to have the house hovering over waterfalls, but I couldn’t get it to look right. Since I knew that Catee had already chosen another artist and another cover, I wasn’t in a hurry, and I let it go, but a few days ago, I opened up the picture again, gave up on the waterfalls, and went with a less grandiose water feature.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. It’s definitely the most complex thing I’ve drawn lately. I don’t generally even deal with backgrounds because I don’t have as much interest in them. I did use Photoshop brushes by redheadstock for the water and plants, which is how I got that part done in an afternoon instead of several more years. Because the composition was black-and-white, I used the pencil option and it took very little experimentation before I had a result I was pleased with.

Minstrel Monday #2

I woke up one morning with the lyrics, “Death is there to keep us honest / And constantly remind us we are free.” playing on a loop in my head. This was about 15 years ago. I immediately asked my mom what song/album that was from. She promptly answered, “Ghosts from The Innocent Age”.

I didn’t believe her because at that point The Innocent Age was one of my least favorite albums and I didn’t think I’d heard any song on that album enough to have the lyrics from it running through my head, it had probably been a year since I’d listened to any song on it. But she was right, of course, and for a while, that was my favorite song.

The song starts with a ghostly piano, and then Dan comes in his, voice soft and breathy:

Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Then we get the same instrumental that the song started out with. The repeating melody is haunting, and the lyrics create murky, creepy images that build. Then we go on with:

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door

Dan’s voice gets stronger and louder as we move with the lyrics through the same haunting melody. After Dan sings, “door”, we get our first non-piano, and it’s a drum, and then continue on with the same melody:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery

Another drum and then:

Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

The drumming plays over the melody until we hit “freeeeeeeeee”, and Dan elongates the word, and adds oomph to his voice and we hit the drums some more and now an electric guitar comes in as back up but we lose the piano. And now it’s only the guitar with a drum keeping the beat for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind
Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

At some point, a soft chorus of ghosts come in with the “oohs” to back Dan up as his voice builds on the second “behind” lead into a guitar solo, still with the drums back it up. After the guitar solo fades out, we abruptly move back to the piano melody that played for the first part of the song. We go back to the original lyrics, too:

Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Then we drum guitar (losing the piano again) into:

And every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there to keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Switch from piano to guitar for:

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days that we’ve left behind

Ghostly chorus jumps in again, softly.

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of dreams that we left behind

Another guitar solo and back into the opening melody, ending with a crescendo of piano and drums backed up with more ghostly “aahs”.

I’m the first to say that I’m not a musical person at all, I haven’t studied it, I don’t know the terms or the chords, I just like it. I love this song for the lyrics and imagery and I find the composition evocative and beautiful. I never really analyzed the song before, so I didn’t even notice before that we switch from piano to guitar or that he was backed up with the ghost chorus, even. I just liked the song.

My favorite part was and still is the acknowledgment that our own limited time on this earth sets us free from societal conventions. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, particularly in regard to writing. I have such terrible social anxiety. As I write this, I’m flashing back and internally shuddering at an awkward exchange I had with someone last night that makes me think that he for sure hates me now. It’s stupid to think that, and I’m 98% sure he doesn’t, but that ass ache of constantly fearing losing someone else’s good opinion of me is pretty debilitating.

I like the theme of this song because of that struggle and because more and more lately, I just have to let myself be hatable. Not that I AM hatable, most people seem to really like me for some reason, but I try to let go of that white-knuckled NEED to be liked. I have no control over how anyone else feels about me. I could throw my best personality at everyone I meet and still have them hate me. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve definitely had people see the worst parts of myself and had them love me anyway.

But I constantly remind myself that my life, in this form, at least, is finite, and it really does help me to let go of some of that anxiety. I wouldn’t say that this song created my current rebellion against the idea that I need to be liked by everyone, all the time,  but it definitely has let me know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with the same societal boundaries and limitations.

Face-Blindness Fridays #1

I figured out that I have face blindness a few years ago. I always knew something was wrong but I just thought I was stupid or self-absorbed when I couldn’t recognize people that I had met multiple times. When I was eight, in foster care, my mom came to visit and I thought she was a kidnapper. Over time, having a kidnapper mother came to be my new normal (that sounds weird but my life hadn’t exactly been going smoothly before that) and I stopped thinking about it.

Eventually, from time to time, I’d remember that odd, short period in my life in which I didn’t think my mom was my mom. Probably about a decade ago, my mom and I were watching 20/20 and there was a story about a young man who was convinced that his parents had been replaced by pod people. He’d been in a bad car accident and the connection between the visual memory of his parents and his affection for them was severed. When he’d talk to them on the phone or picture them in his mind, he knew that he loved them. When he saw them in person, no longer felt that rush of affection and therefore thought that his parents were imposters.

When I saw this story, I remember telling my mom that that was similar to my experience when she visited my brother and I at Mrs. Lewis’. I know what you’re thinking — why didn’t you Google it before that? Here’s why: I was born in 1978. I remember when the internet was basically useless. The “information superhighway” was built fairly quickly but it did take a decade or so for it to be close to what it is today. I did eventually track down that 20/20 story. That kid was diagnosed with Capgras delusion, but a lot of his symptoms didn’t apply to me, so I kept looking and found out about Prosopagnosia.

I shared the definition in a previous post but here it is again: “Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. Prosopagnosia is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. The term prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words for “face” and “lack of knowledge.”” (Wikipedia)

Prosopagnosia is a disorder that affects people to varying degrees. I’ve taken online tests that suggest that I have mild prosopagnosia but I think that that’s partly because I’ve taken the tests multiple times, but also because I trained myself to look and make mental notes of prominent or interesting facial features. I can actually draw decent portraits of people if I have good reference images and spend a lot of time on them. Here’s a portrait of my mom I drew from one of her favorite photos of herself:

I’d classify my face blindness as moderate because I can learn to recognize people based on their facial features, it just takes way longer than it takes most people. I also easily confuse similar-looking people with each other. If I haven’t seen someone in a long time (2-3 months), they may have to tell me their name before I can recognize them. Ditto if I run into someone I’m not expecting to see, particularly in an environment in which I’m not accustomed to seeing them.

When I didn’t recognize my mom at Mrs. Lewis’ house, I hadn’t seen her in at least a month. Also, in the blurry image I had of her in my mind, she looked basically like the photo above. When she visited at Mrs. Lewis’, she’d gained weight, her skin was gray, and most of the blonde had grown out of her hair. Also, this was the first time she’d ever visited in foster care in which she wasn’t identified by someone who I knew knew her. I remember walking past her in the courthouse when we met for the custody hearing but at the time, I put it down to there being so many people in the hallway that my gaze just bounced off of her too quickly.

People with face blindness tend to identify people by other physical traits; weight, height, voice, gestures, walk, etc. When my mom walked into Mrs. Lewis’, she carried herself differently than I remembered, and even her voice sounded defeated. I really thought she was a new social worker at first, before realizing that she was trying to pass herself off as my mother. And as far as I knew, Mrs. Lewis had never met my mother before, so how was she supposed to know? My brother wasn’t much help because he didn’t reject this woman, but he also didn’t run over and hug her. In fact, he would barely look at her.

Okay, I think that’s enough on face blindness for now. In the future, I’ll get into social anxiety, potential racism and the bland, daily terror of living with face blindness.

Minstrel Monday #1

The reason why I know too much about Dan Fogelberg is because my mother was convinced that he was her soul mate. I grew up thinking that he was going to be my dad someday, so learned as much as I could about him (mostly from my mom) as a kid could without an internet (Wasn’t invented yet. I know, I’m old.).

I have a terrible memory for melodies and songs but I can sing along with about 90% of his songs, and a few of my favorites I can sing at least partly from memory. He’s rarely an option at karaoke, though, except for his bigger hits like Longer, Ald Lang Syne, Leader of the Band, Power of Gold, Run for the Roses.

I like Longer and I loved Leader of the Band before I heard it about a zillion times. Power of Gold still hits me with its gorgeous composition and is as emotionally manipulative as any classic Queen anthem. I didn’t like Run for the Roses when I was a kid, although I have more and more of an appreciation of it as I age.

My current favorite Dan song (it changes every few years or so) is The Reach from the album, The Innocent Age. The Innocent Age is currently my favorite album, as it consistently has, song for song, the prettiest compositions and the most vivid imagery of any of his albums. There are a couple of songs on The Innocent Age that I don’t like, but Ghost, Nexus, and In the Passage are all the best in lyrical poetry. And Hard to Say is just a straight-up awesome WTF-is-love ballad.

A few years ago, I had my heart broken pretty severely and I had to choose a new favorite song. It couldn’t be a love song, and I didn’t really want it to be a bitter song, either. I wanted something nice to focus on. That left out Tucson, Arizona (Gazette), even though it’s not a love song. It also left out Sutter’s Mill, another clever and kind of funny, but ultimately depressing song.

The Reach is about generations of sailors and their relationships with seasons and the ocean. The lyrics are haunting, and the composition still makes my heart ache and stomach clench at certain parts. But don’t take my word for it — now that you have a fully biased opinion in your ear, listen for yourself: