a little something extra

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

license plate saga

This was another of the major projects I finished off last week, but it became so surrealistically complicated that it deserves its own post. It's even more surrealistic than the lemon. Really.

Once upon a time, in October 2005, I set up an appointment to get my California driver's license and register my car. Or so I thought. When I arrived for my appointment, they had no record of my having requested two services. They were only prepared to provide one, the driver's license exchange -- which, despite my Georgia license being valid, still required a written test as well as a vision check. I passed both, and a week or so later I received my new license in the mail, complete with the ugliest driver's license photo I've ever taken.

Thereafter I was beset by Machiavellian complexities of schedule, which prevented my dealing further with the issue of auto registration for quite some time.

It rolled around to early February. I had a break in my schedule, and my auto registration in Georgia would be up in another month. I made a second appointment at the DMV, this one just to register my car. On the appointed day, I showed up with my sheaf of documents... and they still had no record of my having made an appointment. Nevertheless, we completed the process and my car was finally registered here. They handed me my license plates and off I went.

This is where it starts getting silly. I dropped by Big Hardware Chain Store #1, a few blocks from my apartment. In their aisle of automotive doodads, there were two kinds of license plate fasteners available: metal and nylon. I chose metal, despite my allegiance to Dupont. But when I got home and tried to use the fasteners to mount my front license plate (CA requires front & back), the little bolts wouldn't go all the way through the tapered threaded holes in the bracket that is part of my car. Experimenting with different bolts from the package yielded nothing -- it would have been too easy for me simply to have gotten one slightly misshapen bolt in a package.

So, I went back to Big Hardware Chain Store #1 and asked whether I could exchange the second, still-unopened package of metal fasteners for a package of nylon ones. The nice young woman behind the counter made the exchange, and off I went. Only to discover that the nylon fasteners would also not fit the bracket on my car.

At this point I turned to the Internet. Googling "license plate fastener" and "Honda" didn't net me much, but at last I found a site that confirmed that the license plate fasteners for American cars are a different size than the ones for foreign cars.

So, I went off to visit Big Hardware Chain Store #2, to see whether they had fasteners for foreign cars. No dice. Funny how I see more imports than American-made cars on the roads here, but the hardware stores only stock this hardware for American-made cars. Hmmmm.

I finally ordered the foreign-car-friendly, metrically measured fasteners from a Big Hardware Chain Website. They were delivered to my doorstep a week or so later. The front license plate went on without a hitch. Triumph!!


The back license plate bracket, where my Georgia plate was mounted, was completely unwilling to give up that plate. The mounting hardware was a bit rusty (understandable after numerous Minnesota winters, Georgia rainstorms, etc.) and I had nothing like the right tool for dealing with that hardware in a recalcitrant state.

So finally, finally, I turned this problem over to the professionals. I took my dually-license-plated car down the street to a nearby garage where I'd had an oil change done a couple of weeks before. The guy who runs the garage goes to my gym (I discovered when he commented on my not having been at the gym that morning... because I was wrestling with the license plates).

I handed his minion my remaining license plate and the hardware I'd bought, and said "I need some license plate help." In ten minutes, the California plate was mounted on the back, the Georgia plate propped up artistically in my passenger seat, the remaining hardware stowed next to it... and they didn't charge me a cent. Just said "Don't forget about us, now!"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why is there a lemon in my In box?

I worked from home yesterday. I came in this morning and found in my In box a script that someone else had been reading, the latest issue of a theatre journal I subscribe to, a couple of letters... and a lemon. Seriously. Spherical, yellow, citrusy. Just sitting there on top of everything else.

I asked my assistant K. about this phenomenon. Turned out one of our other co-workers had brought a Meyer lemon for each staff member in our department yesterday.

Now I have to Google for recipes that involve the juice and/or zest of one Meyer lemon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

knocking off projects

One by one, over the past week I've completed several big projects that were commanding large shares of my outside-work time and attention.

First, I signed on with a professional property manager to rent out and manage my townhouse in Georgia. I made the appropriate insurance arrangements and faxed the signed agreement to her last week, so between reading plays today I'll be calling her to make sure she has everything she needs, and see whether there's anything more I need to do from here.

Second, I finished two baby afghans for two friends of mine who are expecting their respective first children this May. One lives in Oregon and one lives in Pennsylvania; both are women I became close to through the online community I've participated in for nearly ten years. So I mailed the boxes off last week, thinking "These women's husbands are going to think this is so weird, getting baby gifts from their wives' imaginary friend..."

And third, I finally got the last copy of an errant 1099 form, and send my tax materials off to the wonderful woman in Atlanta who has prepared my taxes for the past two years. She has a line of business doing tax returns for artists, and can even do my California state forms since some of her other clients need them too. Since this is the first year I'll have the full tax benefit of owning real estate, I'm particularly looking forward to hearing from her.

Back to work for now...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cathedral Echoes

That's the name of the concert -- three performances of the same program, in two different locations -- that the Pacific Chorale is presenting. We did the first performance last night, in the newly built Performing Arts Center at Cal State Fullerton. Our conductor is in his last year of teaching there, about to retire. It's very nice that this outside chorus, which he has shepherded for 34 years, got to perform in the spiffy new concert hall just after it opened, while he's still there full time.

Then tonight, we did the second performance, at the Basilica of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. Where Meng Hall has unforgivingly lovely acoustics, the Mission has acoustics that will cover a multitude of sins. Vexingly, we actually sang better in the second performance. Still, both were good. The final performance will be a week from tonight, again at the Basilica.

I thought I would share our program of music. It's all a cappella, and all sacred music of one kind or another.

We start with John Rutter's "Come Down, O Love Divine," which is not as loud and boisterous as one might expect from Rutter. It's the first of our double-choir pieces, followed by...

Felix Mendelssohn's Kyrie in C minor, for double choir plus a quintet of soloists. I love that our quintet includes an African-American bass, Anglo tenor and soprano, and altos from China and Korea, respectively. Welcome to California!

The Kyrie begins what our conductor calls an "eclectic missa brevis," meaning he's pulled each movement of the Mass from a different composer in a different style and era, and he's skipped the Credo (hence, "brevis").

The Gloria is probably the most difficult piece we're singing. It's by a contemporary Norwegian composer named Lars Edlund. It starts with a fiendishly difficult tenor solo, then goes to as many as 16 separate voice parts. Plus spoken stuff, in rhythm. And deliberate quarter-tones. Oy vey.

As a palate-cleanser after that, we have Schubert's "Heilig, heilig, heilig," as simple as a hymn tune.

Then for good measure we do another Sanctus and Benedictus, composed by William Walton.

And we finish this section with an Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber -- it's the music of his now-famous Adagio for Strings, set for chorus. I love the Barber, but it's incredibly clear that he was never a first alto. My section has to sing as low as F sharp three ledger lines below the treble staff, and as high as the A above the staff.

We come back from intermission and sing Tchaikovsky's Cherubic Hymn. I was embarrassed to discover that when I sang the same text with another chorus some time ago, we pronounced some of the language incorrectly.

Then comes one of my favorite pieces on the program, Healey Willan's "An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts." Every time I look at the music I think "I'm having an apostrophe!" and have to chase Smee out of my head. But then we get on to the music and I'm fine. This Apostrophe requires a large choral force, and happily, we've got one. Again it's divided into two full choirs, but it also calls for two "mystic choirs," small ensembles of five to seven voices. Very pretty stuff.

Then another palate cleanser, this one a very simple contemporary composition called "Sing Me To Heaven." The composer's name is Daniel Gawthrop. We've sung this piece many times, but tonight in the Basilica it coalesced and stood out as strikingly lovely.

The final section of the concert addresses the American hymn tradition -- first with a Shaker piece arranged by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker. The hymn is "Saints Bound for Heaven."

At this point the women take a break and the men sing a Sacred Harp tune, "The Morning Trumpet." Then the men stand down and the women sing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" by Thomas Dorsey. We reunite and a wonderful soprano soloist pops out for "I Wanna Be Ready," the first of two truly old-fashioned spirituals, this one in a traditional setting.

We finish up with "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord," in a high-energy arrangement by Moses Hogan, whose massive talents were taken too soon -- he died before his 50th birthday.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Not to mention parents

This birthday seemed to be all about the Gifts I Knew Were Coming. I knew what my siblings were planning, as discussed below. But I also knew what was coming from my parents.

My mother knits and crochets. She has made many wonderful items over the years, including a sweater that she made in the mid-1970s that I still get compliments on every time I wear it today (relax, folks, she made it for herself in the mid-1970s, I'm not still wearing the same size clothes I did when I was nine). The birth of Connor two years ago gave rise to a veritable explosion of cute crocheted and knat baby gear from his loving granny.

But in addition to items of clothing, mom makes afghans. Now, I already own one afghan -- my late grandmother made it for me as a high school graduation gift. It's royal blue, with yellow-gold stripes, the colors of my undergraduate alma mater. I have moved that afghan across the country many times, I treasure it, and will keep it forever.

However, when I moved out here I bought a new sofa and armchair for my living room. They're solid red. The blue-and-gold afghan gives rise to a Crayola Decorating Effect that I thought could stand some improvement. So I asked Mom whether she would like to make me a throw that I could keep in the living room to pull over me while I watch movies or read, and I would put the blue afghan in the bedroom instead. She said, "Heck, yes!"

At Christmas, we went shopping together for yarn. I picked out a rich walnut brown with flecks of gold in it. I thought that would look nice against the deep red upholstery. I also picked out a pattern that was textured with big curving waves. Mom took it all home with her and set to work.

Shortly after New Year's, she let me know that she'd mastered the pattern, but the dark color of the yarn was hiding the full visual effect. A lighter color would show the highlights and shadows created by the pattern's heavy texturing, but the dark brown flattened it out. We consulted, and she picked out a lighter oatmeal color, and earmarked the afghan for finishing and delivery around my birthday.

And today, the UPS man (in a truck about the color that the afghan would have been!) delivered a box containing the beautiful product of her work. The yarn is heathered with black flecks and hints of Williamsburg blue, the pattern looks great, and as Mom said on the phone "it's been beta-tested for warmth" as she worked on it.

But the box didn't stop there. It also contained gifts my folks chose on their recent trip to Australia and Tahiti. They sent a pareo in such delicious sorbet colors that I am tempted to hang it right up on the light green wall of my office. They tucked in a pair of delicate moonstone earrings which I will wear often... I mean, frequently! And there was a lighthearted birthday card with a handwritten note to top it all off.

Good thing nobody requires me to decide whether I am more delighted by the Gift I Knew Was Coming, or the lagniappes I didn't expect.

And brothers too

A couple of weeks ago, brother Joe called me to float an idea for a birthday gift. The family has a habit of creating Communist plots ("from each according to his resources, to each according to his needs") around gift-giving. One memorable year we all gave Erin some professional lawn care; there have been various other grupengifts over time.

So this birthday, I was to be the subject of a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy consisting of my three sisters, two brothers-in-law and one brother. My parents were left out of it only because they already knew what they were doing for my birthday. They get their own post.

Anyway, Joe called. He'd had the idea of getting the sibs and in-laws together to give me an iPod for my birthday. He thought, because my commute is so boring and coffee is off-limits, it would be nice for me to be able to plug the iPod into my car's existing sound system and enjoy some music during commuting times, drives hither and yon to see shows, trips to the airport, etc.

It was a very thoughtful gift idea, but even more thoughtful, Joe ran it by me. He knows I'm not a huge gadget person, and he wanted to make sure I'd enjoy this gift. It was very nice to talk about. But then the next day I emailed him a follow-up idea. Ever since a friend of mine put satellite radio in his car three or four years ago, I've been carrying around the idea of doing the same in mine.

I floated that idea back to Joe, and the siblings ran with it. At some point soon, I'll add that technology to my life, and think of my siblings and brothers-in-law every time I use it. Which will be a lot, given my current lifestyle!

Sisters rock, part 3

Most people, when confronted with an unexpected overnight-delivery envelope with a law firm's return address, would turn pale and rapidly scan their recent memory for what they might have said or done that would get them sued.

But not me. When an overnight envelope was dropped at my desk in the middle of the morning, I knew just who had sent it.

Rather than let my birthday card arrive late, Colleen overnighted it from work.

Sisters rock, part 2

Erin said...
And she is ...

Musical in thought and voice
Empathic, you know?
Garrulous in the best of ways
Adept at many things, and so a true

(And they called your vocabulary complex, hee hee hee...)
Have a great birthday!

Sisters rock, part 1

It's my birthday, and my sisters Shannon and Erin scooped me by posting birthday-related comments under my last post before I was up and at 'em this morning. Here's what they wrote...

Shannnon said...
Happy Birthday to Megan! 5 Great things about Megan (because a good idea should always be shamelessly plagarized- if I could post this for you I would - I hope you do so others can kibitz and keep this from being a limited list)

1. She is courageous - whether it's picking up and moving to a new place away from family, friends & network, or confronting the larger questions through her art, she doesn't shrink from the unknown.

2. She is versatile - She offers a clear-eyed, clearheaded analysis on a wide range of topics from caffeine addiction to amaryllis farming to spirituality to the emotional impact of home cooking, she draws our attention to the larger impact on the world and the inner impact on our own emotional lives.

3. She is spiritual - instead of either rejecting the concept of faith outright or falling into the faith she grew up with out of habit, she constantly searches for the right blend of community, expression and social justice to match her own carefully considered and very cohesive belief system, without judging others.

4. She is available - I don't mean that in the "last resort" way either. She makes herself available for volunteer projects, programs that will grow her artisitic & professional community, and on a personal level for her friends and family in a way that you know she is totally committed.

5. She is an artist - in the way that her talent makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up ion end. Y'all know what I mean.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

weekend projection

Tripp posted his plan for what looks like a very busy weekend, then asked what his readers' weekends look like. Here's what I expect of mine:

Friday: Lots of people were out of the office, so I finished up early and went out for happy hour with a friend and still got home before full dark. In the evening I made a very simple but yummy pasta dish with spinach for dinner, watched an episode of Colonial House (thank you, Netflix) and worked on an afghan I'm making for a friend.

Saturday: Laundry and errands in the morning. I need to pick up the hardware to install my shiny new California license plates, and I need to get groceries. I also need to get home by 11:30 so I can change my clothes and be out again by noon. On that trip I'll stop at work for a couple of minutes, probably drop off my recycling at the recycling center, then meet my friend Marya in Long Beach. I'm considering moving up there at the end of my current lease, and she's offered to show me around the neighborhoods. After that I'll continue north to Burbank where I'm meeting other theatrical literary people for dinner, then seeing a production of The Glass Menagerie.

Sunday: Service at the Church of What's Happenin' Now, then no further travels, unless I decide to stop by the farmer's market. I'll put the license plates on, cook chili-glazed tofu with asparagus and rice, work on the afghan, and watch either the Oscars (which I don't really care about at all) or the Netflix disc of The Music Man that is scheduled to arrive today. A director I like is plotting an unorthodox production of The Music Man, and I'm thinking about trying to weasel my way onto the production team.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

this one's for you, Ben

This blogger has posted a delightfully well written, funny post about the use, misuse and abuse of the term "objectively." I think it will appeal to your ranting linguistician's soul.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

musings on racism

We've just completed another African-American History Month, and while I try not to limit my active attention to just February, the annual reminder to look more deeply into African-American history and experience is not lost on me. I thought I'd share a little of what's been going through my head.

First, I have a working definition of the word racism that I've never seen in any dictionary. I think that racism includes the standard definition of prejudice about another population of human beings based on race (and yes, race is a social construct without any significant biological basis, let's take that as a given). But I also think that it's racist to believe that one can predict the thoughts, feelings, history or behavior of a person based on his or her race. So it's racist of me to fear black teenaged boys more than white ones. It's also racist of another person to assume that I'm the descendant of slaveowners based on the color of my skin. It's racist to assume one can predict another person's politics, spiritual beliefs or opinons on anything under the sun, based on that person's race.

There are people who say "Everyone in the U.S. is a racist" to mean "Everyone in the U.S. participates in a system of government, economic and social culture which is permeated by institutional racism." I find those to be two very distinct statements. In my opinion, it's only appropriate to call a person a racist based on his or her own individual actions. I freely acknowledge, and actively oppose, the institutional racism in our culture. But to stick the "racist" nametag on every individual currently living in the United States is, in my opinion, inaccurate. As with every debate, the person who defines the terms wins the argument.

There are also people who say "It's impossible for a black person to be a racist." I disagree with this point of view -- and again, that goes back to the definition of racism. It's possible to define racism as strictly a white problem, but I don't agree with that definition. Nor is the whole discussion limited to black and white. In the state where I live now, the Latino/a and Asian-American populations are much larger than the African-American population. Any person from any background is capable of making the mistake of believing he or she can predict another's behavior, beliefs or feelings based on that person's race, and in my lexicon, that's racism.

I'd love to hear y'all's thoughts and feelings about that, about what I've written and/or your own thoughts about the subject of race and racism.