August 8th, 2013

cap, captain miss america

Growing up

So, yesterday was my 35th birthday. It feels like it should have been a monumental celebration-- I had a really insane birthday when I turned 30, with lots of people from all over the world coming to New York to celebrate with me, and it lasted several days. This one was much smaller and quieter-- I had a small picnic with a few friends who are not big party types on Sunday, a bigger party at Ward III as has become tradition on Monday, and then yesterday Connie took me on a small lunch adventure to see the Central Park Zoo clock chime at 1:30, and then to a wooden gazebo, and then we got gelato. Then I went and played ukulele by myself for an hour at the park near the Intrepid, and then I met my dad and Angel for a really nice fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant in Hell's Kitchen.

I went home and packed some boxes, called my mom, and played ukulele some more.

My ukulele's name is Elaine. I'm not sure where that came from, I just started referring to it as Elaine. I don't remember who I was talking to, but I was having a conversation about All The Elaines in King Arthur, and I think it might partly have come from that, and partly from the bit where Elaine Romain is one of my favorite roleplaying characters I've ever written. (Elaine, for those who do not know, is a 16-year-old half-Yoruba, half-French, Sea-Witch-in-Training who is calculating, manipulative, stormy, and has an insanely erratic sense of self-preservation.) But I think the ukulele just kind of named itself.

I am so excited about the ukulele, I can't even start to explain. I mean, I'm obviously going to. I played cello when I was a super little kid, and then I switched to saxophone and oboe, and then taught myself fife on the side, but really all the instruments I play are wind instruments and therefore not really good for, well, accompanying oneself. And I want to be able to play my own songs for people, because I write songs pretty much all the time. I think in songs; songs show up in my dreams, there's a constant stream of music in my head.

I guess maybe I've never had the courage or conviction to learn before? I don't know. I because convinced as a teenager that I was already too old to learn to play a guitar or the piano, because I heard the kids who were talking about their piano lessons and how "twelve was really late to start." And I just kept getting older, of course, and then I was really too old to start. But that's nonsense.

Brendan, my boss, once said to me that adults are told that they need to learn certain skills as children, or that children can absorb and learn faster than adults, but that that's not so, that it's just that progress feels slower to an adult, because they have a more refined idea of what "good" is. But you can practice and learn just as well at 35 as you can at 10.

I got this ukulele and was convinced I would maybe learn a few chords and it would sit in a corner and be another testament to my failure to play a musical instrument, but that I had to try. Had to try, you know.

And I'm learning it faster than I ever expected. I know a full complement of major chords, and some of the minor chords. I can read tabs well enough to pick up a song and at least fumble my way through it. I know how to pluck one song and I know the chords for two others by heart. I'm learning three more. I am working through figuring out the chords to a couple of the songs I've written, but I also have come to accept that that might take a while. I am working on a ridiculous project which you will all hear fairly soon.

I think two weeks into having a cello, I could play one note over and over. Maybe two.

I am so excited to see where I am in a month.