100 things: Redux (81-100)

Welcome to part 5 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 ]

  1. Emerging from the darkness
    This.
  2. Knowing someone who likes the obscure things that you like…and becoming friends
    I was going to write that I can’t remember a single friendship that has arisen from us liking the same obscure things, but then I realized my entry didn’t say there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. So yes, at some point, I probably have started a friendship with someone where we later learned – or later both discovered – the same “obscure” things. (See #97, I suppose.)
  3. Overcoming fears
    Not yet.
  4. Herbie Hancock
    See #78. Also, in jazz band that year, we played Cantaloupe Island.
  5. Nailing a musical solo :)
    I debated posting a video of me doing just that, but you’ll just have to trust me. My senior year of high school, we went to Orlando for our music department tour, and I had a solo in one of our concert band songs. When they were giving out awards later in the trip, they announced that one of the individual excellence award was for a flute soloist – cue exaggerated nudging from my classmates – that wasn’t me. But all those people thought it was me, so that was fun.
  6. Being Haitian!
    I posted this video on my aunt’s Facebook wall and I woke up to see a bunch of Haitian relatives had liked it and my aunt had commented, “And now I want all of it!!!”
  7. EPIC WINS.
    EPIC STFU CHRISTINE.
  8. Paying slightly more for MUCH better floss
    I bought HyVee brand floss the other day. It’s fine, really.
  9. Peter Jackson
  10. Keeping busy enough not to worry
    Now it’s less wanting to be buy to distract from my anxiety, more needing to be busy because boredom, for me, means I’m apt to marathon several seasons of a TV show and get nothing done for days.
  11. Living in earthquake country – as opposed to hurricane/tornado/tsunami…
    Probably because I think the strongest earthquake I ever experienced was a 5.0 and I slept through it. Since moving to Iowa, we’ve had tornado watches and warnings, but no actual tornados. (Also, I was very happy to miss this fun-sounding quake in 2014.)
  12. Sunsets
    The Midwest has the best sunsets because it’s so flat here. Quote me.
  13. Being chosen for something prestigious
    When I was a junior in high school, my math teacher needed to nominate someone to be one of the two representatives the school sent to Apple HQ in Cupertino to learn about the laptop carts and new tech stuff they’d be implementing on campus. So, of course, he asked a guys – a friend of mine – if he’d be interested in going. Lucky for the teacher, that guy knew better; he admitted he didn’t know squat about Apple anything and suggested me instead. It wasn’t the most prestigious thing I was ever chosen to do, sure, but it was an amazing experience. Plus I got to make a podcast with the superintendent and my middle school principal in one of the workshops we attended at Apple, and I had to call them by their first names, which was SO STRANGE.
  14. Middle English
    That dark period in my life where I was so into being an English major that I memorized a good chunk of the Prologue to Canterbury Tales is over now. But I still follow @LeVostreGC on Twitter, so.
  15. University of Iowa football
    Well, they had just won the Orange Bowl… But seriously, I am still a fan, bolstered by their improbably great season last year. I never did make it to a game when I actually went to school there, though.
  16. Learning more about myself from a book
    This is so vague that I doubt I actually had a book in mind. But if I were to amend this item today, I’d say that I enjoy books that are so similar to my own (past) life and experiences that I can live somewhat vicariously through their characters. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is a perfect example, especially the “socially inept college freshman” part.
  17. Sigur Rós
    I could talk about how a good friend of mine introduced me to them in high school, and therefore introduced me to Iceland. I could talk about how their film Heima screened in Iowa City and I was one of the first people to get a ticket. But instead, I’ll just show you this video, because it’s the song my husband and I walked down the aisle to at our wedding.
  18. Reykjavík, Iceland
    A.K.A. “the dream.” My parents have been there, and I’m still not over it.
  19. Powell’s Books
    I’ve been here once. In fact, the entirety of my time spent in Portland has been at Powell’s (and in their strange little parking garage). But I do remember buying a Calvino book – after marveling at how many they had – and getting lost in the stacks and adoring the color-coding and just having a perfect time.
  20. Being myself, not anyone else

100 things: Redux (61-80)

Welcome to part 4 of “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.” [ Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 ]

  1. Not being a complete idiot
    Sigh.
  2. Leonard Bernstein’s tone clusters
    I was in the pit orchestra of my high school’s production of West Side Story (which, if you didn’t put it together by now, had music written by Leonard Bernstein). The finale contains a couple of fun little tone clusters – not to get too technical, they’re basically a bunch of similar notes all played at the same time – and I evidently liked those quite a bit. In the below video, listen at 1:18-1:20.
  3. My ghetto iPhone :)
    No, Christine. Stop. (This could have been a poorly-conceived inside joke.)
  4. The smell of gasoline
    I just looked this up, and apparently the reason most people like the smell of gasoline is really simple: it reminds them of their childhoods. (Not because it gets you high – it doesn’t.)
  5. Whole numbers
    What?
  6. Sparkling apple cider
    This was my go-to alcohol substitute at all Thanksgivings and New Years Eves. But today, I can’t help but think of this SNL clip with Fred Armisen and Bryan Cranston whenever I consume any sparkling apple beverages.
  7. Itzhak Perlman
    Music of the Heart was one of my favorite films when I was studying violin. It features a ton of well-known professional violinists, including Joshua Bell, the late Isaac Stern, Arnold Steinhardt, and, of course, Itzhak Perlman. I can’t remember why I initially identified with him so strongly, but I think – I think – his artistry really started to stick with me when I watched Schindler’s List for the first time in high school. His violin solo in the film’s main theme is indescribably great…and I’m aware of how little justice I’m doing him with that description. (Content note: The video below contains scenes from the film, some of which are graphic and/or potentially triggering.)
  8. Yellow, blue, black, orange
    In kindergarten, we randomly chose a “Student of the Week” every week of the school year. Now, I don’t remember much of what that entailed, but I do remember we had a few of our friends in the class trace an outline of our bodies on butcher paper and we also filled out a survey answering our favorite color, food, hobby, things like that. “What’s your favorite color?” really tripped me up because even at age 5, I had never considered what my favorite color might be – I liked all of them! So in a moment of near-desperation, I chose yellow, and stuck with that as my go-to answer until college. I’ve since reevaluated my favorite color – it’s now blue – and I think black and orange might be in this entry as well because they’re Giants colors? Who knows.
  9. The haka!!
    Per Wikipedia, “the haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment.” I first learned about the haka on the Lord of the Rings special features DVDs (of course), when the stunt team performed one for Viggo Mortensen and Bernard Hill on their final day of shooting. Then, when I visited New Zealand in 2006, we spent part of our visit to the Auckland Museum viewing its famous Māori cultural performance, which included a haka – it’s absolutely electrifying to see one in real life. The one I’m including below is the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team’s performance of “Ka Mate.” The All Blacks perform a haka before every match to intimidate their opponents.
  10. When plans work out perfectly.
    I’m known to stress out a lot about making simple plans with friends. On TV, when two characters are planning to get together some weekend afternoon and they don’t specify what time they’re going to meet up, I cannot handle it. I need to know not only what time we’re meeting, but exactly where (we’re meeting at the mall? Okay, but where in the mall? Outside which store? *furiously Googles a floor map of the mall*), when we’re meeting, what we might be doing after meeting up, and when we might be done. This used to be a lot worse – I’m slightly more relaxed about this now – but I fully understand why I included this item. When I don’t have to worry at all about making and executing plans, it’s a good day.
  11. Hatchet murdering essays!
    When I was a senior in high school, I had a lot of friends who were juniors who took AP English, as I had with the same teacher the year before. One week, their assignment was to have a peer edit their essay, and the quality of the edits would determine their grade. My friend gave me his essay to edit, and I went a little wild color-coding errors, writing extended paragraphs in the margins detailing what was wrong, and so, so much more I’ve probably blocked out by now. Anyway, instead of turning in the version I had edited, he turned in one lightly edited with pencil, making it look like there wasn’t much work to be done. He received a check (on a check-minus/check/check-plus system) – and then his teacher saw the version I had edited. She likened my editing skills to that of a “hatchet murderer” and gleefully told my friend that he would have received a check-plus had he turned in that version instead. Throughout that year, several people in that AP English class gave me their essays to edit for them, and I kept the moniker as the greatest ego boost I could have ever asked for.
  12. Never having to take math again
    Funny, because I did have to take a statistics class at Iowa for my psychology degree about a year after I wrote this list. But that was the only college math class I ever took (excluding AP Statistics, which I took in high school, though I did receive college credit for my AP exam score).
  13. The Olympic Games
    “Hey, Harrison! Harrison! You’re Olympic champion if you finish the fight smart!” – Jimmy Pedro on the sideline coaching Kayla Harrison, who overcame enormous adversity to win the first-ever Olympic gold medal in judo for the United States, men or women. video of the end of the match ]

  14. The Simpsons Movie
    My Instagram username is “clapforalaska” for a reason.
  15. Parkour
    I guess I watched a lot of parkour videos on YouTube, because there is literally no reason why else this might have been on the list.
  16. Being able to help those less fortunate
    Abortion funds forever.
  17. Mindfucks! (www.shitbrix.com)
    Smooth, Christine, including a LINK on your HANDWRITTEN LIST. (The website does still exist, by the way.) I think this was before I discovered the thriller genre, so now I can get my fix by watching movies or TV shows instead of looking at silly Internet photos of hidden creepy faces.
  18. Dancing the macarena to Kool and the Gang
    Every year when I was in high school (and then scattered years after that, if it didn’t fold sooner after I graduated), us in the music department had a chance to volunteer at Sonoma’s annual jazz festival. Freshman year, my friend and I ushered at the Mavis Staples/Isaac Hayes show, sophomore year another friend I worked parking, and senior year the jazz band – of which I was a part – got to perform every night on one of the smaller stages, which meant we also got free admission to the shows (Kool and the Gang, Herbie Hancock, Al Green, and so many more). My friend – the same one with whom I ushered – and I, in spite of not being the type of people to do so, took over the dance floor during the Kool and the Gang show and did the Macarena dance. I have no idea what possessed us to do it, but being children of the ’90s, I don’t think we needed a reason.
  19. Singing melismas
    A melisma is singing a bunch of notes on one syllable of a word, and Handel’s Messiah (which I spoke about singing previously) has some amazing ones. Listen on the word “born” in “For unto us a child is born” (especially the fun one us altos got from 2:18-2:27):
  20. Breathtaking photography
    For your consideration, my Flickr favorites list.

100 Things: Redux (1-20)

On January 19, 2010, I made a handwritten list called “100 things that make me happy.” I originally uploaded the photo to this blog so I could link to it when I made a brand-new list. But when the draft of this post sat in my “posts” section, untouched for months, I decided I needed to find a new angle.

Instead, I will split up that original list into groups of 20 items, and devote each post to briefly summarizing each one. Why might it have been on the list in 2010? Would it still be on my list today? Why was I such a strange 19-year-old?

Without further ado, please enjoy part 1 of what I’ll affectionately call “This 25-year-old revisited her teen years. What she discovered about herself will shock you.”

  1. My handwriting (sometimes)
    Sorry to start off boring, but this is still true. My handwriting is basically a disaster yet I tend to love it.
  2. LIGHTS MB
    This was a message board I joined in 2009 where I met the majority of online-only/online-first friends I’m still in contact with today.
  3. Major league baseball
    Case in point: I was recently trying to decide if I should buy an MLB.TV subscription, since the season begins soon. The single-team subscription gives you all out-of-market games for your team, excluding games that are blacked out in your region. Which, as an Iowan, means I cannot watch the Giants if they play against Minnesota, Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Chicago. That’s only 20 games I’d have to miss – and, realistically, I won’t be watching all 162 games anyway – but I still love baseball so much that I posted several bitter tweets about this injustice.
  4. My musical aptitude
    While this still makes me immensely happy, I play so less often now that I find myself not leading off my answer to the question “What are your hobbies?” with “You know, music and stuff.”
  5. Handel’s Messiah
    When I attended Gonzaga University, in my second-ever semester in choir, we sang Handel’s Messiah. Religiosity (or lack thereof) aside, it remains my favorite experience in choir.
  6. Keeping in touch with good friends
    Fewer now than when I wrote this list, but I don’t think that’s thr point. For example, I recently reached out to someone with whom I would frequently get into Angry Politics-Related Arguments on Facebook several years ago. We were friends most of the time, but our arguments could be brutal. I just wanted to say hi and apologize; I wasn’t expecting a reply. They were happy to hear from me, accepted my apology, and even apologized themselves. We haven’t spoken since, but that conversation was more meaningful to me than most I’ve had in at least the past year.
  7. Patrick Watson’s voice
    Still relevant. That is all.
  8. Being passionate about something
    I’m not sure what it was when I wrote this. Music, maybe. Now, it’s definitely writing. The two creative writing classes I’m taking now have especially rekindled my love for it, mainly due to the freedom the professors and graduate instructors give us to write about whatever we want.
  9. Tim Lincecum <3
    I hope a nice team picks him up. <3
  10. YouTube
    In 2010, I spent a good amount of time on YouTube ensuring that I saw each video from my subscribed channels on the day they came out. Charles Trippy, ShayCarl, Michael Buckley, Philip DeFranco, all those people who were among the first to make a living off their YouTube videos. Nowadays I mostly visit casually – if I’m in need of a good Vine compilation or “newcaster fails” montage, for instance – but I won’t lie, I do sometimes get a little nostalgic for the old days.
  11. Self-serve frozen yogurt
    My friend worked at one of these places before they came to my hometown. I used to go visit her at work, buy a cup of frozen yogurt and a root beer, and watch her do her Real Adult Job while I was on breaks from school. And when I lived in Iowa City, Yotopia was the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights if you couldn’t get into the bars. When I learned that its owner was escorted out of a Donald Trump rally earlier this year, my respect for the business increased quite a bit.
  12. Singing in French
    Pretty sure the only French song I know most of the words to is still “Champs Elysées,” which we listened to in my high school French class a few times. (I regret that I cannot count Air’s songs here – while we also listened to this French band’s songs in that class, they sing in English.)
  13. Old Mary-Kate and Ashley movies
    Shhh.
  14. Gonzaga basketball
    I believe what I meant by this entry was “Gonzaga pep band,” since I probably wouldn’t have attended a single basketball game if not for being a member. (Not that I dislike basketball, let’s be clear. It was just a Goddamn Ordeal to get a student ticket, but if you were with the band you got in through the staff entrance.)
  15. Peanut butter M&Ms
    I mean, they’re not awful. But out of all the candy in the world, would I put peanut butter M&Ms on a list of “100 things that make me happy” today? Probably not.
  16. Owning Lord of the Rings trivia
    I assume I meant “owning at Lord of the Rings trivia,” not “owning the physical Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game,” which I do, but that’s not the point.
  17. David Archuleta singing in Spanish
    This song, specifically. I don’t remember why this is on the list, to be honest. I think I just had a crush on him.
  18. “Comme D’Habitude”
    Oh, right, we listened to this in French class too.
  19. Being in a vocal ensemble
    See #5. I don’t have another video, or I’d post it here.
  20. Adam Lambert
    He’s just SUCH A GOOD SINGER. And I’ve seen him live twice, so, I mean, I feel especially qualified make that assessment.

Miss you already, Christopher Lee

I don’t know how you’ve been spending your December-based holidays since 2012 (and all the time in between, to be honest) if it hasn’t been with the recently departed Christopher Lee’s holiday metal albums. In spite of the fact that we are five-plus months removed from the “acceptable” period to listen to this type of music (holiday, not metal), I hope you’ll take two and a half minutes to honor Christopher Lee’s non-acting work. Truly, listening to his work is one of the highlights of my year.

Rest in peace, Saruman/Dracula/Count Dooku/so many more I haven’t seen…

On the camaraderie of high school band

My transition between eighth grade and high school was a lot more disjointed than I feel most others’ were. I feel like the summer assignment I had to complete for Honors English 9 didn’t quite give me the “introduction to high school” experience for which I’d hoped (though it did provide some uncomfortable foreshadowing — I hated the book I had to read for that class, and I disliked many other required books during high school. But, I digress). The assignment was a simple, five-paragraph essay; something I’d been doing in my sleep since seventh grade. So when I handed it in, along with an accompanying poster about the book, I felt secure that I would maintain my B+ average that I’d had throughout middle school.

For reasons I still can’t discern, my teacher gave me a C- on the poster and a D on the paper. (Yes. A 70% on what was assigned as an art project.) I was furious, but even more so, I was embarrassed. I wasn’t used to getting below a B on anything in my life. Even though I’d only started receiving letter grades in sixth grade, I had sort of gotten used to receiving As and Bs. To this day, my sole 4.0 GPA came from the second semester of my seventh grade year. I pretty much had it made, until this Honors English teacher came along and started me at a D+ average for my first semester in high school.

But, much as I’d still like to almost 10 years later, this post is not about this particular teacher (though I believe she was fired within a couple of years anyway). Instead of dwelling upon my first big blow to my academic career — which turned out to be worthless in the grand scheme of things — I’m going to talk about the first class in which I truly felt comfortable.

Any guesses? Because, clearly, it was band.

After some initial distress, having signed up for the class not knowing I’d have to march at home football games and miss the second half of my JV soccer games that season, things finally started falling into place. I made 4th chair flute out of 12 or so of us, I became friendly with some classmates from middle school band who I didn’t speak to back then, and I picked up on marching without any issues. Our field shows were solid, there were a lot of great musicians that I could look up to, and my director may have remembered my name once or twice (which is an accomplishment, considering she only tended to memorize the names of unruly or musical-prodigy-type underclassmen).

At that point, I didn’t know much about the other groups in the music department. My freshman year was the last year the school marched with a flag corps, but there was also the jazz band and two choirs: one auditioned, one not. I knew a few people from my middle school in the groups, but not well enough that I could ask them about it.

I think the most exciting part about band was somehow just learning that they traveled to festivals every year to perform. And when I saw all of the articles in the newspaper about our own music department’s trips, I wondered how I had missed them in the past. They’d been to Orlando, Anaheim, Vancouver, and even London, and had picked up several top awards during the events.

Having anticipated four years of new adventures, in the end it was a little disappointing that the four tours we took were all places I’d visited before (I know, #firstworldproblems or whatever). Freshman year, it was Anaheim. I’d actually just visited a month before the school year began, also with friends, but I remember that trip being one of the most fun I took with the music department.

Taken on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We were so cool. (2005)

Taken on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. We were so cool. (2005)

Sophomore year, it was New York City (and, incidentally, I had just been there the summer before). All I remember from that trip is how tired everyone was. We took a redeye flight from San Francisco to Newark that ended up being delayed three hours, so we didn’t make it to Newark until almost 8:00 the next morning. Most of us hadn’t slept on the flight. We bleared through breakfast at the hotel, bleared through Beauty and the Beast on Broadway (which is quite good, by the way), and bleared through our dinner at a strange Italian restaurant with lots of singing and dancing on top of tables wearing napkins. I think the highlight of that trip was performing at the Riverside Church, which had a bowling alley that we were not allowed to use. We were cranky about that because we were all so tired, even though there wouldn’t have been a chance in the world anyway.

Look how prestigious we are, going to Juilliard. (2006)

Look how prestigious we are, going to Juilliard. (2006)

A terribly unattractive photo of me (and my not-at-all-unattractive friends) at Ellis Island. (2006)

An unattractive photo of me (and my not-unattractive friends) at Ellis Island. (2006)

Junior year was Anaheim again, as we traded off between “big trips” and “small trips” (a.k.a. Anaheim) every year. I like to refer to this trip as the “Pokémon Trip,” since Pokémon Pearl and Diamond had been released months earlier and so everyone brought their Nintendo DS systems and played the games during our downtime. My highlight of the trip was beating the game, if that tells you anything about how little I remember about the rest of that trip.

Photo unrelated, albeit taken at an airport during a band trip. (2008)

Photo unrelated, albeit taken at an airport during a band trip. (2008)

Senior year found us in Orlando. Highlights of this trip? I suppose being chosen to accept the concert band’s award was pretty nice, even though we managed a fourth straight silver (a score of 80-89 out of 100). I also had a pair of neat solos that year, and it was the first time in my musical career that my anxiety melted away while performing. Otherwise, the Hulk roller coaster at Islands of Adventure was pretty neat.

Oh, and this.

Oh, and this.

The first time I felt solidarity with my senior class was that year, actually, when a bunch of fellow seniors and I made sure to attend fundraising meetings at the beginning of the school year to try to figure out how we could get the group to London. It was a much smaller group than the one they had taken several years before, which could have been a plus, but the department just couldn’t put enough effort into raising twice as much money as usual. Which was sad, of course, but at least we got to travel to Orlando (and make fun memories in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport on our layovers there).

The second time I felt solidarity with my senior class was at the end of that year. As seniors, most of us had spent all four years taking this class together, so most of us felt more connected with our fellow band geeks than anyone else at the school (and we’re talking 18 people out of our graduating class of 350). It was customary for the senior class to give gifts to the director right before the last song we played as a group (not counting graduation, but I’ll get to that later). So I spearheaded secret meetings where the senior class would discuss what to get our wonderful director for putting up with us, and we ended up getting her a gold-plated whistle for marching band (with her name engraved on, of course) and a bag of M&Ms with personalized messages like, “Lunch is over!” — something she’d always say to those who were still hungry and decided to eat during our class, which took place after lunch. Of course, the gift-giving was a huge success, and we were all very pleased with the gifts we chose.

Jeanie, my fellow flautist, and me at a weird post-tour, pre-spring concert.

Jeanie, my fellow flautist, and me at a weird post-tour, pre-spring concert in 2008.

The third and final time I felt solidarity with my senior class was at our graduation. And while you, lovely reader, might think I’m finally talking about the entire senior class, you are sadly mistaken. It was always rather humorous that the last song that the seniors in band played was a) at our own graduation, b) motherfucking “Pomp and Circumstance,” and c) not even completed, because we had to rush away to make our entrance with our class.

Of course, this moment wasn’t as particularly fulfilling. As one could reasonably assume by now, the concert band had to play at graduation every single year. So after freshman year, sophomore year, and junior year, it felt like I’d already graduated three times. And until the end, that’s how it felt this time as well. I sat in the chairs of the graduating class with people from band, the only things missing our instruments; I also don’t remember much of the ceremony, much like the three where I was not 1/350 the center of attention.

Jeanie and me at graduation!

But when it was all over and the seniors went back to retrieve our instruments from where the band had set up, that’s when it hit me. This was the last time I would put away my instrument after a performance at this field, for this school, in this city. I was months away from moving to Washington for college, and while I had already been offered a spot in the wind symphony up there, I knew it would never feel like this. I would never have packed up my instrument at the end of my very last concert and thought about how much I would miss the solidarity within my class. Because while the classes are somewhat defined in college, the only thing you really do as a group is freshman orientation. If you don’t make friends with certain people there, you’ll probably never see them again.

I’m not saying I cried after my high school graduation or anything, but it definitely made me think for a few hours after the fact…and then again now, I suppose. We were always outcasts by default in band. Not that many of us didn’t have friends in the “mainstream” crowd (not an official name, but you’d probably know who I’m talking about), but we all had something in common that no one else at that school did. The band alone made up roughly 4% of the school, had just one class together most of the time, and yet were afforded the incredible opportunity to receive an education in the arts that was unlike any class offered at the school (with, in my biased opinion, one of the best teachers in the district).

I really hope music departments like this are still around when my children are in school, because the future seems bleak at best right now. But, that’s another entry for another day.