Monthly Archives: September 2012

Is it because I’m creative, or am I just a slob?

Today I was remembering my college English professor, Emily Brady, who used to tell me that it was like pulling teeth for her to stop herself from going into to her kitchen to wash the dishes when she knew she was supposed to be writing. More often than not, though, she’d force herself to the typewriter, and the dishes would keep accumulating in the sink.

Then an old friend, Hartmut, came to mind. He’s an German architect in his 70s who’s been living in Brazil for many years. The last time I saw him he was still very active, jumping into the ocean for a swim every morning, playing in the bands in the Carnival parades, and always working on some architectural project, for profit or not. He lives in a tiny apartment in Copacabana that looks as though it’s never been cleaned. And Hartmut is blissfully unaware of the filth. Aging dust bunnies occupy every corner of his living room, and the one time I went into his kitchen he was cooking something in a pot that was encrusted with years of previously cooked meals, on top of a two-burner stove that had never been blessed by the touch of a scouring pad.

As I thought about this, I realized that I’m a lot like these two people. Well, probably more like Emily (is it because I’m a woman?), because I’m often tempted to go clean something or empty the garbage when I know I’d be better off practicing the piano or writing something. I don’t really think I’m a slob, and as I look around my apartment, I see that it looks more or less orderly. By that I mean that there’s not a lot of clutter around, magazines thrown on the floor, clothes hanging from doorknobs, stuff like that. But I also know that even though it doesn’t look like a mess, I couldn’t say it’s actually clean. I rarely wash the floors (although I’m often tempted), so I have to clean my feet in the bidet before I go to bed (I like being barefoot).

See, it’s really dirty where I live. I’m on the third floor with a big window overlooking a very busy street, and all the black dust, mixed with ocean spray, comes in the window and sticks to everything. Sticky, nasty black dust. Yeah, I know it’s just an excuse, but seriously folks, I have more important things to do than run a rag over my dirty floors every other day (which is about how often I’d have to do it to keep them clean).

As I was pondering this pressing issue, I recalled an incident from when I was a teenager. I had gotten a job doing some house cleaning for a friend of a schoolmate’s mother. She had me dust and vacuum every day, and wipe off all the surfaces in the kitchen with a damp rag. I thought it was really dumb to do that every day, because nothing was ever dirty. I mentioned this to my schoolmate, and what did she do? She went and told her mother’s friend what I’d said, the little snitch. How did I know this? Because the next day at work, this lady said to me, “You know, if you clean up every day, then you don’t have to deal with a lot of dirt. It’s much simpler.” Well, I was relieved that she didn’t scold me, but secretly I still thought it was dumb.

I thought, “Why should I waste my time doing this when there are better things to do?” And then I realized the truth of the matter: I actually like to clean things when they’re really dirty. For instance, I like to tackle an encrusted stove and scrub through layers of embedded grease until it’s all bright and shiny again. I find that much more satisfying than mindlessly running a rag over a surface that’s already clean. I guess that’s pretty much my philosophy about housekeeping. Or maybe it’s just another excuse. I don’t know. But I know that if I don’t stick to my guns about it, then I’ll be tempted to grab a broom or a dust rag every time I know it’s time to sit down at the piano or the computer and do something creative. Housekeeping is creative you say? Well…you’ll have to explain that one to me. I have nothing against it, and there’s actually something kind of appealing about the mindlessness of it—it can even be relaxing. And that’s where the temptation lies, at least for me.


Filed under individuality, Uncategorized, work

Do you like Anne LaMott?

If so, then I think you’ll enjoy my book, “Getting Down to Brass Tacks – My adventures in the world of jazz, Rio and beyond,” which will be in online stores (Amazon, B&N, iBookstore, etc.) in early October.

At this point, the book will be sold only as an e-book. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can download a free Kindle app for your computer here:

Why Anne LaMott? Well, I think we have quite a bit in common in terms of who we are (free spirits, perhaps?), what we’ve gone through in our lives, in our spiritual searches, and so on, although there are differences, too, of course. If you’ve read any of Anne’s books, you can tell me after you’ve read mine if you agree or not.  🙂

Anne LaMott

At this moment I’m doing the ABSOLUTE FINAL, LAST read-through of the book. It will be done in a couple of days, and then off to BookBaby it goes. As soon as I give a thumbs-up to the final proof, they’ll send it out to the stores. When it’s actually in the stores I’ll make and announcement here on my blog and also on my Facebook author page:

Of course I have to shamelessly confess that I think you’ll like my book even if you don’t like Anne LaMott! Thanks and love to all my readers here!


Filed under the book

The Popinator

Have you seen the Popinator? Check it out:

A few days ago my friend Mary posted this on Facebook. I was, well, kind of underwhelmed about this exciting new invention. Our conversation about it follows:

Me: ONE piece at a time? No way! I have to stuff a whole handful in! The guys who invented this have waaaay too much time on their hands!

Mary: Yeah, but if you’re typing, you won’t get your fingers all greasy. Save the handful for the movie theater. 🙂

Me: I could never catch them…they’d probably end up in my ear or up my nose!

Mary: Hahaha! That’s what I was thinking, too! It’d be nice to have at the desk, but that’s the only place.

Me: I couldn’t possibly type and concentrate if I had to be yelling “pop” every two seconds!

Mary: Sure you could! And, wait a min…earlier today you posted something about cooking lunch and something else…you are indeed a multi-tasker. “Pop!”

Me: True, but I still can’t see myself typing, yelling “pop” and trying to pick popcorn kernels out of my nose and ears all at the same time!

Mary: LOL!LOL! No…b/c you’ll be catching those popping kernels with your teeth!

Me: I think that would take a certain amount of practice…like YEARS! 😀

Mary: It looked pretty effortless in the video.

Me: Amy Duncan Yes, I noticed that! Ha! I’ve tried catching peanuts in my mouth before, and I never caught even one!

Mary: Practice makes perfect!

Me: Yes, and I really think I should set aside all my work and unimportant stuff like that so I can learn how to grab popcorn kernels in the air with my teeth! Sounds like a plan to me!


So….will you be ordering your very own Popinator soon?

OK, enough silliness for today…  😀


Filed under food, social media, Uncategorized

Nighttime wakefulness

Every couple of weeks or so I have a night when I don’t seem to be able to get to sleep. Or I sleep for a little while and then wake up and can’t get back to sleep. My mind starts racing, thinking of a lot of different things, and the more I think, the more energized I become.

I refuse to call this “insomnia.” First of all because it sounds too clinical, as if it were something abnormal or wrong, and second of all, because I actually enjoy these nights. I never stay awake all night long—it’s usually only for around a couple of hours, but I make the most of that time.
My usual routine is to turn the light on, get out of bed, go to the kitchen and make a glass of chocolate milk with peppermint flavoring. Then I get my laptop and sit on my bed. That’s what I’m doing right now as I write this.

Often during these nocturnal interludes I get new ideas about a variety of things—maybe something to write in my blog (like I’m doing now), or an idea for a musical composition. Sometimes I’m inspired to take a closer look at the way I’ve been thinking about or doing certain things in my day-to-day life and come up with a better solution.

When i first started having these sleepless episodes awhile back, I was disturbed by them. I’d try to force myself to lie still in bed in the dark, but I’d always end up getting up because it would drive me nuts. Then I asked myself one night: Why are you getting all bent out of shape just because you don’t feel like sleeping? Who cares? So I decided to enjoy these times instead.

OK, I have to admit that I might not be so cavalier about it if I had to drag myself out of bed at 7 a.m. and commute to a job. But I do all my work at home, so it’s not a problem. And I’ve also discovered that I’m not able to sleep all that late the following morning, so things adjust themselves naturally by the next night.

All righty, I’m off to check Facebook, my email, and a couple of websites. Sweet dreams, everyone!


Filed under Uncategorized

I love trains!

I’m almost always a forward-thinking kind of person. I love all things new, especially technology. But there’s one “old” thing I absolutely adore: trains.

I say “old,” because even though trains still exist, things just aren’t the way they used to be, at least in the US. And here in Brazil you can forget about trains. They’re awful, and most people try to avoid using them.

Here I am, riding the train!

I have wonderful memories of train rides from the time I was just a tot. I loved the rhythmic sound of trains moving along the tracks, the changing views outside the windows, the sleeper berths for long trips, and especially the dining cars with real waiters, white tablecloths, china and silverware.

And I love freight trains, too. I often think how great it would be if all the big trucks on the highways would just go away and we could get back exclusively to freight trains. So much nicer for drivers, and kids could get back to counting the freight cars, one of my favorite pastimes years ago.

I longed to have an electric train when I was a kid. We couldn’t afford one, but my sister and I did have a windup metal train with tracks, which was a pretty good substitute. And when I was really little I had a tiny wooden train with rubber wheels and cars joined together with little metal hooks. And of course one of my favorite books was “The Little Engine that Could.”

Do you wish that trains would have a comeback, too?


Filed under my history, Uncategorized

The Seed

Have you ever sensed

Something deep inside—

Even if it’s just a teensy seed—

That there is more to you

Than meets the eye?

Oh yes, much, much more,

More than you think,

More than you imagine,

Just waiting for the gentle rain

To make it sprout and grow.

No need to push and pull,

Wish and want, hope and strain;

That little seed is much grander,

And contains much more

Than dreams can or ever could.

Fear not! The powerful force

That makes the seed sprout

And then burst into flower—

Wild, colorful, fragrant, sweet—

Is bigger than heaven itself.


Filed under poetry

My record reviews

Here are some recent record reviews I wrote for Jazz History Online:





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Filed under jazz, music, writing

News about the book!

My author’s page is now up on Facebook!

If you’re on Facebook, please check it out…there’s lots of information there about me and the book, as well as some festive photos. And you can ask me questions, too.

This is my cool “author” photo

Oh, by the way, the book should be in the online stores before the end of the month, if all goes well. I’ll keep you posted here and on my Facebook author page.

So far it’s an e-book only. I want to have some paperbacks printed later, but I need to figure out the dauntingly complicated process of doing print on demand first! Arrgh!


Filed under the book

Pop music is awesome!

I’ve been a jazz musician for nearly 60 years. I used to be a “jazz snob” when I was younger, and wouldn’t listen to anything else. Or at least that’s what I told my friends.

But the fact is, back in high school, I secretly listened to the likes of Smokey Robinson, the Crewcuts, the Everly Brothers, and the Chordettes in the privacy of my bedroom.

And I never stopped liking pop music, although I kept that fact to myself until I was mature enough to admit it.

Jazz is all about sophistication, improvisation, hipness, coolness, and not appealing to the masses (at least after the demise of the big band era). Pop music is the opposite. A lot of pop tunes may be here today and gone tomorrow, but while they’re here, they have a tremendous impact, and people are drawn to them like a baby to cotton candy.

Pop songs are really brilliant, when you stop to think about it. I’m a composer, but I have to confess that I am incapable of writing a pop tune. Pop tunes have hooks. They have catchy choruses that stick in your mind for days, for better or worse. I don’t know how to write a hook. Nor am I capable of writing one of those catchy choruses. I can write an arrangement for my band, Brass Tacks, or a nice tune for a jazz trio, or even a standard-type song with lyrics, but writing a pop tune is completely beyond my ken.

Maybe that’s why I admire pop music so much. It’s a big mystery to me—the unknown and unreachable. I have nothing but admiration for the people who write pop songs and put together arrangements and videos for them. And I’m not immune to going along with the crowd, either. I can get stuck on a top 40 tune just as much as the next guy.

Does the fact that some pop tunes don’t last long mean that they’re no good? Not necessarily. People just like to move on to something new, that’s all. Catchy hooks don’t need to last—there’s always a shiny new one around the corner. You might say no, no, for music to be valuable and significant, it has to last. Well, that might be true for certain kinds of music, but does it have to be true for all kinds? What difference does it make, after all? I’m sure that every kid or adult who is totally hung up on the latest pop tune thinks that it’s valuable and significant for them—right now.

Anyway, I know I’ll never be a pop music composer, and that’s all right. We all have to find our niche, and that’s not mine. But I’m still in awe of it all the same.


Filed under music

Nutella Haiku

Please pass me a spoon

Please pass me the Nutella

Never mind the spoon




Filed under poetry