agent provocateur banjo

130am on a boxing day night, 
in the little house on the hills: 
let's see if that banjo is any good?

minnow got this banjo from mr. p. eliotte, a singer/guitarist man from the years gone by (60s) in manchester.  they played together for years, since minnow was a wee teenager with more hankering for 'cooler' music than chets stuff. their specialty was the music of 1940s: ragtime, al bowlley, early country, pre-rock/roll. it was the music of a man who hated the drum kit and yes, the beatles (this, i can concur).  anyways, he doesnt exactly remember when he inherited this banjo, but it's been kicking around rather quietly, without strings and couple pegs which has rusted/rotted away.  it's still loose necked, though with tweaking, it was certainly playable today. as you will see.

when i decided to pick up fiddle playing, i got immensely frustrated with the bow-arm business. i never had to expose my armpits to anyone, nevermind be fixed on such position (i suppose that helps with keeping the pits dry).  my friends, colleagues, random passer-bys all said 'it does get easier,' but i know that with piano training, finger picking (for a guitar, ex) is much easier than trying to manage unruly horse hairs under some tension which makes even the most beautiful wood bend.

so? well, i tweedle with stringed instruments often without bow. just fingers.  i can do alright faking on a guitar or a bass. often i do fool around with the fiddle and a recorder, making noise with pizz, no arco. so it's been on the list of things to do, to revive the banjo- bela fleck being uber cool also helps a bit, i suppose.

we ordered the strings may be more than a half year ago.  then the pegs fell apart. we looked on the net to see what this instrument is- in hope of finding parts, yes, the pegs.  it's a  j. e. dallas, before the company was bought and went into mass production (now called jedson), which dates the instrument back in 1920s.  all original parts. so perhaps getting new pegs were going to be complicated. tonight, minnow took the operation, with some tools- including vice grip that was integral to tuning (without pegs).  it took awhile as there are not so many information on 5-string banjos.

anyhow, it was revived, and  i took it off his hand, just tuned, and after busting head on the wall for a bit, i figured out how to play: I- IV - V on g major. hell ya. great. i can pick strings. i am the genius. i went for it.  this quick success apparently brought out the previously unknown desire of minnow to jam on mandolin with the banjo (this is where it gets boisterous). so we jammed. loudly. a la americana.

yeah, like YOU can play the banjo quietly.

then came the furious knock on the door.

it was the neighbour- who, in his angry rant, apparently just had a stroke last week (we didnt know), whose wife has been ill for years (this, we did know, but it did became a constant at a point), and couldnt sleep because we are too uncivilized and too loud. he mustve really saved up, as things from two years ago have crept up on conversation (though i do have to clarify that this particular example does not involve me nor minnow, but particular offspring while he was visiting me in canada; so much we could do when we are in... another continent).  he was really angry. hailstones. plague. locusts. whichever.

and he left when he was done. how do we know? we heard the door slam.

i feel really sorry about the situation.  you see, for years that minnow/i have been here, there has been zero mention of any noise leakage from either side of the quadplex (we are number 3).  and we can hardly ever hear the old neighbour couple nor the young family the other way with a brand spanking new baby (except the occasional bathtime crying. but then you would expect it as bathroom is usually crazy resonant place). therefore we assumed that may be these houses were built properly with heavy, thick stuff.

and yeah. we forgot that the banjo was made to be bloody loud.

holiday can be a stressful thing. end of the year can be very stressful thing.  especially if one just had a stroke and one's partner is scheduled for a grave internal surgery that she is too weak for.  talking to old ladies for years at the church while i worked as an organist, i think people, after certain age, views this short period between christmas to new year's with much fear, anxiety and regrets.  in fact, i used to everything in my power to avoid people above age of 70 in church during this time, as they frequently called wrath of god upon you, while you are still in the church.  the passage of time must feel differently- elusive, incredibly expensive now, never enough, often accompanied by life things that may burden souls: sickness, aging, loss of people and just plain winter.

there's nothing to be done except to put the banjo away. at least tonight. too bad i really like the instrument. im really not trying to be an asshole but it's got such great voice.  in fact, when i laid it on the couch, it spoke with resonance.  cant ever shut a song bird up, can we- unless we gut it out.  but yeah, it's a granny banjo. it's probably older than my own granny, who was born in 1924.  what a great thing that it found its voice again- it will need adjustments, esp. with the loose neck, but it's got beautiful tone. hand made, back in different era.

and boy, did it give voice to the neighbour.

i hope he sleeps. i hope she sleeps. i wish them the very best of possible days.  however, i am going lay low for a bit. no banjo after 9pm.  that goes for you too, mandolin.  and i will find a name for this banjo. someone suggested widow-maker. i think it's slightly ill-timed...


vignettes through life, slightly odder.

my parents live in a classy buildling.
but with such busy schedule,
surely santa can have one bigmac meal?

last freelancing location recording session,
with new apogee 'geoff',
please refer to craig ferguson show. haha.

and i thought i saw everything in the world now.
i dont think santa should have had large fries.
though children cannot see below his chest on cam,
if the elves arent feeling vindictive...

oh the feeling of fillet steak right along with your ribcage...

i was so happy to get an dental appt and got cleaning done.
surely the sign of aging, i believe.

shaving one sweater. 
enough to make a full grown adult snarky.


vignettes through the city

for the right goodies,
i dont mind looking like stalin.
korean bakery goodie with ms. chung.

sleepy giant taking the last look at the world,
by the time he wakes, it'll be 2012.

cold winter smokers. a few left nowadays.
i wonder if the culture will ever survive?

total non sequitur conversation of street arts.
such direct answer, yes- no?

after three separate trips,
granny gets new walking booties! 
go walk that shoes granny!
no use, you lose. love, c.


we all pop like popcorns!

winter is here!
from the usual night walk with chemist :)

the other day, i had funny feeling that i need to get in touch with chemist, an old friend of mine. weairdly enough, i cant never really tell how long i have known someone without serious computing- so many of my lovely friends  feel as if ive known them forever. how great is that! well, ive known him for almost three years and though i dont get to see him very often, i cant help but to be in contact when that lightening urge strikes.

well well, he tells me that he just had his phd thesis defense and now moving to boston to start the new year as a postdoc! i am very proud of him and it's a shame i didnt get to see him one more time before i left yyz. but you see, it's because that one free evening, i was scheduled to meet up with one of my dear friends from undergrad years, who is also wrapping up her thesis, totally buried and had to make inhumane effort to come above the water- but she did, yay! was a great meeting up in one of city's most colourful places, pomegranate restaurant.
nevermind spelling it, 
i can barely say what it was,
but this quince-lamb stew was...!

while we tucked into our rich persian food and post-pint, i get a short text from  s. cochlan who left nebraska with me (in fact, her dad is still terrified of my driving. i drive, according to him, totally mad) (and he used to work as a fireman, so may be when he feels 'threatened,' there may be a hint of truth...) that she's in just next pub, sneeeeeeky dee's. you see, if she lived in yyz, it wouldve been just nice. but she lives in buffalo, ny. so i really didnt have a choice but to jump ship and see her as well. what a fantastic night.

bookbomber is already in china, doing his tour thing.  a month in the east, he was so pumped about being a pianist and not having to be a carpenter (though i bet he really enjoy the carpentry bits).  dearest friend mr. oore is getting through the month through trudging through confusing medical journeys and belated works- but at least his holiday is also near, where he will get some face time with little nephew :D

we, the accompanists, bought ourselves:
lunch and lunch hours! hooray.

flomak have squeezed me and peter a fare-thee-well-busy-ass-year dinner in midst of juries and juries and juries. happy holiday to one of my fav kiddies, she's popping to west to vancouver to be... a solo piano student, no accompanying for a bit, hooray! *so she thinks, ha ha.  i was lucky to also put in a quick dinner with ms. melody- we go back a long way, back in the times in orford, it's nice to see her around school but it is even nicer to have a civilized lunch when neither of us have sold our soul per hour rate.

and the day before leaving yyz, i luckily managed to have a short meet up with one of the dearest piano kiddies from undergrad prog who is now working hard, teaching hard and practicing hard in indiana.  though it may be a short tea meeting, i was grateful that she made the time for me. how awesome.
and now, i am leaving to cross the pond. i hope mom/dad/granny will be alright and well till i am back, that my bro gets through the mad holiday season alright in one of city's busiest restos and that hills will greet me with some proper winter break. i am thinking beer. is this too simple? i hope not. after all, we arent too far from popping corn kernels, popping in random direction when there's just enough heat and moisture- to be light, free and... tasty!


blurs of december

mrs santa hustling before noon.
i bet she wishes she can take that back at 3pm,
on 2nd shopping wknd of december.

i remember thinking that december, i will catch on with you. i will dig my heels down and think about the important things and put period on every sentence i began this year. i will write cards and see people, catch up with life and thank the appropriate people for enriching my life.

realistically, i didnt get to do much of it! i dont really understand what have happened! school finished a bit early this year and i did take plenty of odd pictures which made me laugh. but the first two weeks seriously flew off.  i learned a new lutoslawski piece for violin/piano. i played for young, ambitious and hard-working musicians in the most pleasant manner. i didnt make it to the bassoon bonanza this year thanks to developing cold. i barely saw some people i desperately wanted to see.

in a sense, i had just enough time to book dental appointments, do laundry, pay bills and pack, sprinkled with a few visits from lovely lovely people. so here it is, a short entry of how life's been, nothing grand but i do take much pleasure looking back and making little remarks, so that i can open this invisible time capsule to relive the nice moments.  soon i be off to england for a proper holiday, hooray. another chapter in monkey life.

75% of kiddies i teach once a week.
i will miss them during the holiday.
though they will be happy having some free time!
they work almost too hard, i feel...

little wee puppy is waiting for holiday, 
'when are we going to have some walkies away from work bench?'

a late weekend evening at the conservatory.
a toy car, now free of its mad master,
left in the big world of freedom,
burns revenge against human kind
(watch out, mr. caretaker!)