Monthly Archives: April 2012

Being a woman

I was reviewing my life recently and realized that I have never really fit neatly into those categories that most people label as “feminine,” “girly,” and so on. I thought, “What does it mean to be a woman?”

I’ve always known, from an early age, that I was different from most girls and later on from most women I knew. When I was really young, I couldn’t figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing, but at that time it seemed it might be a good idea to try to make at least some effort to be “feminine.”

I started wearing lipstick at age twelve, to my mother’s consternation, and demanded my first pair of high heeled shoes not long after. I liked lipstick (and still do), but I could never quite get down with the nylons and high heels. I hated long fingernails because I played piano and they would always break on the keys. Nail polish annoyed me because it was always chipping off. Perfume made me sneeze.   I wasn’t really a tomboy,  though, because I wasn’t good at sports. I mean, to be a genuine tomboy you have to like sports, right? Still, I liked boys as friends more than girls when I was in school, because to me they were more fun, they and didn’t gossip and talk about silly things.

Even in grammar school I never cared about the things girls liked, except for dolls — I loved dolls. But I liked trucks, cars and tools just as much. Most of all, though, I liked genderless things like books and painting and music.

A few years ago I pretty much stopped wearing skirts for the simple reason that I find pants more comfortable. I also started buying a lot of my clothes in the men’s department, even though I’m small, because at least they have pants that come up to my waist instead of starting at my pubic bone the way most women’s pants do.

I’ve finally whittled my wardrobe down to what you could call a set of uniforms: long pants and long-sleeved T-shirts or sweaters in the winter and men’s boxer shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts or tank tops in the summer. Shoes? Sneakers in winter, flip-flops in summer, and a pair of sandals for special occasions. I’ve also pared my jewelry down to earrings and a silver ring.

Some years ago I started cutting my own hair. I wear it very short, and figured out a way to give it a nice trim by using two mirrors. Ever since a girl in a Korean salon cut my hair into a perfect square, I have steered clear of beauty parlors. I also buy the cheapest possible cosmetics and have never had a manicure or pedicure in my life.

So does this make me any less a woman? I looked in the mirror today, and I don’t think so.

This is a section that I removed from my book, although I may reinstate it later.   🙂


Filed under individuality, my history, the book

The gazer, part 2

After writing about Braco last week (see link below), I decided to check him out myself. Turns out he was doing a whole series of live stream gazing from San Francisco for $3 a pop, so I signed up. I might add that went into this with an open mind, not with a “well, let me see if this guy is a phony” attitude.

The first session was a little dicey, because the stream kept freezing and the audio kept cutting out. The sessions are 45 minutes long, but Braco only does his thing for 7 minutes. The rest of the session consists of a person talking (which I mostly missed for lack of audio) and some testimonies (pretty much missed those for the same reason).

Then Braco appeared. Nice close-up of him looking directly into the camera. Once again, because of the freezing stream, I couldn’t really get a satisfying sense of his gazing, although it was a relaxing experience.

Anyway, I thought I should check him out one more time because of the technical problems first time around, so I picked another stream close to the end of his USA tour.

This time it was much better. Angelika Whitecliff, who has written a book about Braco, 21 Days with Braco, did the introduction, and the stream worked just fine. After she chatted a bit about how to approach the gazing session (“stand up if you are able to stand, you must be at least 18, etc.”), a few people testified as to his healing powers, and then it was time for Braco to do his thing.

The camera moved in on Braco dressed in a red T-shirt standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Watching him for 7 minutes without any frozen images made it easier to sense whatever it was that he was transmitting (although I think this is extremely subjective). What I felt was this: great compassion, sweetness, impersonal love, sometimes almost a sense of pity (I swear a couple of times that tears were about to fall from his eyes). After the gazing, we heard a recording of Braco’s voice, speaking in Croatian with no subtitles. Apparently some people are affected by his voice, but I didn’t have any reaction to it.

In the introduction, Angelika mentioned that this gift was not something exclusive to Braco, and that others have it, although they may not be aware of it. After watching him, it came to me very clearly that we ALL have it…if we can get ourselves out of the way enough to express it. I’ve seen this look in other people’s eyes besides Braco’s, people who are exceptionally loving and spiritual minded. It’s an unmistakable look, and you can’t help but feel good when you’re in the presence of it.

But what about all the healings that have supposedly taken place during or after a Braco gazing? It seems to me that a person with a great need and a strong desire to be healed, after being in contact with that loving gaze, could very well be healed through their own faith in the unconditional love he transmits.

Kind of reminds me of some of those people running after Jesus and getting healed, and he would say, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” Not that I’m comparing Braco with Jesus, mind you. I do think, though…let’s just imagine this…that if everyone in the world looked at each other the way Braco looks at people, maybe there’d be a gradual shift in consciousness away from selfishness and other nasty traits toward more love and brotherhood.

I don’t suppose the “another sucker born every minute” crowd will ever see Braco as anything other than an opportunist, but that’s OK…I can’t say I’m a convert, but if Braco is helping people, I’m fine with that.

In case you missed the first post about Braco, here’s the link:

And here’s the link to Braco’s site:


Filed under spiritual

Fix it! Now!

Have you ever noticed how humans have a tendency to want a quick fix for just about everything? Sometimes it seems that nobody can wait for anything.

I used to be that way, too, but I’ve found out that no matter how much we push, whine, insist or scream for things to get fixed RIGHT NOW, that there are times when they stubbornly seem to refuse to get fixed, and we’re forced to take a closer look at what’s really going on.

For some years now, I’ve been discovering that when we’re forced to wait for something… whether it’s a change of careers, an improvement in health, a new place to live, better relationships, whatever…we can learn some valuable lessons about ourselves and about how things really work. We may even come to the conclusion that there might be something beyond our own will that is controlling everything, and if we’d just get ourselves out of the way for a minute, we might see that it actually does quite a fine job!


Filed under individuality, spiritual

Artist or pragmatist?

I had thought of myself as an “artsy type” from quite an early age. I loved music, drawing, painting, reading, and so on, and wasn’t fond of things like sports and mathematics.

I had a friend in junior high school who to me epitomized what it meant to be “artsy.” Even her name, Damaris Low, sounded artsy to me. Both of her parents were artists, and Dandy, as she was called, was very different from the other kids at school. Back then, in the fifties, most of the girls had medium to short hair, usually permed. Dandy had long, silky blond hair that she wore in a tightly pulled back pony tail that hung below her waist. She wore circular skirts, ballet slippers and tights. Tights! Nobody wore tights back then, especially under a skirt! She was such an original, and since I felt pretty different myself, it seemed to me that we had a lot in common.

One day after school I went to Dandy’s house for a sleepover. Her parents had gone out somewhere, so she was there by herself. Her mother had left her a casserole in a pyrex dish with instructions to heat it up in the oven so we could have dinner. Dandy put the pan in the oven, and when it was ready, she reached in to pull it out as she was rattling on about one of her favorite artists. But her hands slipped, and it fell to floor. The pyrex dish broke into pieces. She called her mother in tears. I don’t remember what the outcome was, but I do remember that I thought, “How could she be so careless and distracted?” And as I think of this today, I realized that I reacted exactly as my mother — a practical, pragmatic non-artsy woman — would have.

Then there was the time when Dandy challenged me to try to interpret a painting. She knew a lot about art and I didn’t know much, although I thought I had an “eye.” I looked at the painting, which consisted mostly of what looked like a bunch of matchsticks in cross-like shapes. I had no idea what it meant, so I sort of hemmed and hawed, and she finally said in exasperation, “It’s a CEMETERY, silly!” At that moment I didn’t feel artsy. I felt dumb.

As the years went by, I started to realize that, in spite of being a musician and having a great affinity for the arts, I also had a rather stubborn practical streak. I was sure that I was more like my father, who was definitely an artsy type, but I had to admit that I also seemed to have inherited my mother’s practicality and pragmatism. Carrying what seemed to be these opposites around inside of me actually drove me nuts for years. It always seemed to me that my practical side interfered with my artistic expression, and that my artistic side made some people view me as a “loose cannon.”

But much later in life I discovered that being a musician actually involved a lot of grunt work that demanded practicality and attention to detail. It wasn’t just about being creative all the time, with my head happily in the clouds. Composing music, for instance, involved getting the stuff down on paper, or later on into the software notation program, where there were endless details that had to be fiddled with. Then there was the business of promoting oneself, which rarely involved anything remotely creative. I discovered that to be a musician, unless you had a secretary, you had to be down to earth and practical as well as creative and intuitive.

I remembered when I was a kid and used to help my mother with work she’d bring home from her office. One day I was busily filing cards into a little metal box, and I said to her, “You know what, Ma? I want to be a secretary when I grow up!” Only a few years later, I forgot about that and decided I wanted to be a jazz pianist.

So now, instead of tearing my hair out because I’m not a “pure” artist, I’m grateful, because I honestly think that both my creativity and my practicality have served me well.


Filed under art, music, my history, work

The gazer

I had never heard of this guy until yesterday. I stumbled across him while reading some blogs. There he was: a Croatian man who supposedly heals people of all sorts of problems just by staring at them.

Well, the term that is used when describing what he does is actually “gazing.” His name is Braco (pronounced “Braht-zo”) and he spends his life traveling around the world and standing in front of groups of people, gazing at them. They gaze back, and have amazing experiences, according to them. I found a video of him in action on YouTube, and quite a few people in the audience were openly weeping. Others were smiling beatifically. When it was over, they claimed their lives had been transformed, just by Braco’s gaze.

Braco also does virtual gazing sessions where people can watch him from their home computers, so evidently his physical presence isn’t needed to feel the effects of his gaze.

I did a little research and of course found a bunch of sites that said he was a fraud. That he’d dreamed up the perfect get-rich scam — all he does is stand there, never saying a word, and he collects $8 from each sucker, so they said. My response to that was, whatever…I’m more interested in why he seems to have this effect on other people. Is it just mass mesmerism, or is it something else?

The first thing I did was look closely at his face. His eyes are kind and gentle, and there’s something totally non-threatening about him. When he stands in front of a group of people, he looks like a little kid, guileless and innocent. But what stood out to me most in his pictures and in the YouTube videos was the love he seemed to exude. This was my impression, at least. He just seemed so darned compassionate.

So I started thinking about the people who go to his sessions. Most of them seem to have problems of one kind or another, of course, and each one I saw interviewed had a slightly different take on what they actually felt in his presence, but there was one comment that was fairly consistent: they said they felt the presence of divine love.

That was when I realized that this is what these people are really looking for — a sense of love that doesn’t come and go, that will never abandon them, that will always comfort them. Maybe they’re just imagining that they see this love in Braco’s eyes and feel it in his presence. I don’t think that matters as much as the fact that this is what thousands and thousands of people are longing for in their lives. It outweighs all material goods, personal satisfaction, career ambition, relationships, and so on. It’s the one thing people still hunger for when they seem to have everything else. I think it’s a sign of the times that people are turning in this direction, and a very hopeful one. If Braco is helping to bring this out with his simple, embracing gaze, then I say good for him, and I hope it will lead to more searching on the part of his devotees to find what is really satisfying in life.


Filed under spiritual

Careless talk

Have you ever found yourself in a social situation, either in person or on social media, where you start chatting back and forth sort of automatically, just to fill up time/space?

Somebody says (or writes) something, and you say something back, and you’re not really thinking…you’re not fully engaged either in what you’re saying or what the other person is saying?

The next thing you know, things are getting more personal than you’d realized. Maybe the other person asks you something about a relationship, or your work, or whatever, and before you realize it one thing leads to another, you’re giving out information that really isn’t anybody’s business but your own. But you’re not even aware of what you’re doing…you’re just aimlessly chatting.

But when the conversation is over and you’re by yourself again, you think, “Why did I say that? I really didn’t want anybody to know about that!”

People talk about privacy all the time, about how they’re concerned about not having their privacy invaded, but the next thing you know, they’re the spilling the beans themselves about their personal affairs. Maybe they’re not giving out their bank password or their credit card number, but they might be unwittingly “sharing” something that they feel in their gut isn’t really appropriate to share.

Has this ever happened to you, in person, on the phone, on Skype, on Facebook, etc? What do you think about it?


Filed under Uncategorized

Categories! Categories!

Feeling a little “duh” here…I couldn’t figure out how to arrange my blog posts in categories, and was even thinking that it was too late since I’d already written them!

Well, I’m not a quitter, so I sat down and figured it out today…and proceeded to categorize my 85 posts.

Now you can find things a lot easier. During this period when I’m not posting every day, if you feel like browsing and reading some of the posts you might have missed, it should be a little easier. I’m planning to refine the categories more as I go along.

Anyway…glad that’s done!

I MISS BLOGGING here every day, so I may be popping up more often as I plow my way through the final couple of readings and revisions of my book.

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Filed under the book, writing

A little piano music

Here’s a little music for my blog-readers and book-waiters:

L to R: Keith Bailey, Amy Duncan, Marc Johnson

Amy Duncan, piano – Marc Johnson, bass – Keith Bailey, drums

Recorded around 1983 at Fred Hersch’s studio in Manhattan





Stella by Starlight (Victor Young)

Don’t Murmur (Amy Duncan)

Alice in Wonderland (Sammy Fain)

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Filed under jazz, music


Wow…what a concept.

It came to me yesterday. Rejoice. Just rejoice! “About what?” I thought.

No, no, never mind that. Just rejoice.

I took a look in the Bible, because I know that word is in there more than once and guess what I found? The word rejoice is mentioned 224 times in the King James Bible, and quite a few times as a command.

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” (Psalms 98:4)

Note that it doesn’t say rejoice because you just won the lottery or rejoice because you’re the best looking dude on the block.

It also doesn’t say anything about NOT rejoicing if you’re in some kind of a mess, whether it’s about your finances, your relationships, or your health or whatever.

No. Just rejoice.

I thought I’d give it a try. I said to myself all day long, “I’m rejoicing right now! I love to rejoice! Wow, it feels so good to rejoice!” I did this when I was feeling good, not so good, and I even did it almost stubbornly when human reason screamed there was no reason to rejoice.

And you know what happened? After awhile, it became so natural that it took on a life of its own. It felt as if the rejoicing was me, not me doing the rejoicing. So I thought: this is a law. It’s got a whole energy and life of its own. By the end of the day I was feeling really happy, downright joyful in fact.

I recommend rejoicing. You don’t have to be a Christian to rejoice. You can even be an atheist and still rejoice. A law is a law, after all. Use it! Enjoy it! Rejoice!


Filed under spiritual

Sticking to one thing…

“She’s a musician and composer, a writer and editor, and she also works as a Portuguese to English translator — wow, she’s really a multitasker!”

Well, yes and no.

It’s true that I do all those things, but in my heart of hearts I really like to do one thing at a time. To concentrate on one thing and give it all the juice I’ve got.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible for me because of pesky little matters like having to buy food and pay the rent. But somehow I still manage to lean more heavily towards one thing when I really have a strong urge to do it, even if it’s not the thing that brings home the bacon.

Right now that thing is my book. Everything else has become sort of back burner, although I do have to turn those burners on at least for awhile every day and not just leave them dormant. But I’ve got the gut desire to finish this book and so that’s the thing that calls to me every morning: “Here I am! I’m not done yet! Get busy!”

So I do.


Filed under individuality, work