letter to my youngest kiddies

dear four little monkey-coached kiddies:

i am so sorry i missed our lessons this week.  i tried my best to stay in shape to see you and share things, especially music, but my oral surgery is healing rather slowly and with such pain, i was not able to teach properly that evening.

i thought about taking more medication and showing up to teach. yes, that would have been one way of showing my dedication to your music lessons.   however, i was not physically prepared and i could not take more medication as i took the maximum dosage prescribed.

i wonder what this cancellation meant to me as well as you.  for me, i broke my words. things do happen in life and we all need to make adjustment, but it was a difficult decision to make for me- to make last minute change.  i wonder how you guys felt when you found out the lessons were cancelled- do tell me next week, i want to hear your opinions.

perhaps we could think about each one’s commitment to one’s own actions and activities.  i love working with you guys and yes, naturally i wish you could spend more time on the piano.  but i also understand that there may be other things you find particularly demanding.   would you have a think about what you would like to achieve through the music lessons?  we can work on music but what i would like is to work on becoming a better, happier person.  if practice seems to become a chore, let’s see to that we can have fresh commitment to our lessons/practices- let’s make it about our shared experience and growth, not just another ‘music’ to learn and forget.

i will be coming in on monday instead of tuesday.  as my surgery heals, it is making me easily tired. I want to see you while I am still fresh from the rest (of weekend).  it is also my gesture to show that you guys are important. you are not just someone i teach. you kids, every single one of you, i care for and listen to.  so to make up for missed session, i will come earlier, to catch up, so that we won’t have such a big gap. 

i hope you guys all have a great weekend and i look forward seeing you on Monday.  You are all bright, able and busy persons.  i am grateful that you do make the time for me and what i can share- life and music.  so please, take my appreciation and let’s have a great lesson on monday. thank you.


canned cocktail wiener found in walter hall

today, walter hall was hosting a special event for violists: heidi castleman masterclass. she teaches at juilliard and yes, i think it is quite exciting to play for a different teacher- you can take away so much with you, the inspiration, technical knowledge, a new emotional dimension, you name it. and i was confronted by a special person as well, just not as helpful, however impressive.

walter hall is a busy place. and it's only a natural thing that students want to get in there to practice- it sounds good, it feels good and yes, there is shortage of space at busy times of the day in school. however, it is a performance hall and not a practice room, especially regarding the pianos. the piano technicians work very hard to keep the instruments to meet the heavy demands.  they come way before the students, to yield to the kiddies who want to practice. and yes, they do go home after a day's work.  and because many musical events take place in late evenings, it is important to 'guard' the pianos so that they will be ready for the events.

situation one: an undergrad comes in to the hall, have a whirl, playing schumann.
monkey: hey, do you have this place booked for a dress rehearsal?
kiddie: ur, no?
monkey: we have castleman masterclass this evening for viola students. the piano has been worked on this morning to accommodate for that. would you please refrain from using the piano?
kiddie: ur, ok (packs and leaves)

situation two: 5 sec later, another pair comes in and gets ready to have a violin-piano duo rehearsal.
monkey: would you please leave the hall if you have not booked the hall through the performance office?
kiddie: but im going to be here for only 5 minutes.
m: if you havent booked it, you should not be here. and no, this is not a practice room.
k: what's the problem?
m: there's a viola masterclass this evening and the piano has been conditioned for that event. they should have a well-cared instrument for their event.
k: but i practice here all the time. there was another kid just here playing piano.

yeah, i know who you are. i see you often in the hall. nothing to do with your playing, but if you arent supposed to be there and no one asked you to leave, that's a bonus, not a right. anyways.

m: yes. well, sometimes one is lucky. i did ask him to leave. and you came. so i am asking you to not to have a rehearsal here in the hall with your pianist.
k: it wont damage the piano to play for 5 min.

what part of 'unintentional damage' is incomprehensible? i hope no one plans to damage things like concert pianos.  but it does happen. and yes, technicians do go home. what happens if someone breaks something and just leaves without notifying anyone? what if there's nothing to be done? who would take the responsibility? would you want that for your own recital? haha, i bet not.

m: ... so to eliminate such possibility, students are not to practice here.
k: then why dont you put locks on the pianos?

are you serious? 

because you intend to not to respect anyone and you cannot be trusted, you think everyone should not be trusted? ridiculous.  well, there is a reason why both pianos arent locked.

m: ...for instance, it is student's responsibility to arrange to get the piano key for one of the steinways.  but often, students havent read the policy and they may arrive to the hall with no keys in after-hour. there is no one in the office to open it for them. they would be left in the dust. pretty big loss if that was supposed to be THE dress rehearsal.  so rather than leaving one in the dust, one piano will not have a lock on it, it's a grace room.
k: well-
m: if you have more variants of same protest, please bring it up to the performance office please.
k: do you work here?

why does it matter?
what you are doing isnt right and youve been confronted and perhaps feeling a bit small-penis-ish. (sorry that it is so visible. how weird such small thing can be so visible, i wonder)

your arguments are self-centered and illogical. there is no actual argument but only of selfish complains and immature reasons... and im not your mother, which makes this highly inappropriate. 

you dont respect yourself and you expect no one else to respect anything (though you seem to think you should be respected by this 'unknown stranger' who is asking you to leave).

you think and say things should be just locked (alarming). it would be the same mentality that in shops without security guards, you should be allowed to shoplift. or that if you see a score you want from the library, you should rip it out and take it because they dont do bag checks in the library.  

this is a hall and no, it is not a practice room. these rules are set for everyone's benefit. but of course, being young and bull-headed, you want to 'argue' about rules that you arent even aware- have you even checked out the use-of-hall policy? i bet not. if you did, you would not have started what you thought was discussion and what i thought was series of nonsensical yet spectacular display of immaturity. 

however, after all has been explained to you reason-by-reason, your only come back is: 
if ( i ) work here? 

i wish you would realize how ridiculously silly you are. if it did not seem too cruel, i would have had no qualms about using your real name as you were obviously proud, stubborn and 'smart.' haha. geez. what would happened if i dont work here? would that make your statements 'right'? but... how?

m: yes i work here.

im sure i will see that kiddie again in the hall. and i am sure kiddie will think that stinker is here again to 'disturb' my practice in the hall. i will have to think once again about the simple difference in english words 'performance hall' vs. 'practice room' and the fact that if one cannot distinguish the difference, perhaps this is not the biggest challenge in their lives, oh dear. 

im so grateful that st. lawrence quartet was just here the other night in the same hall. without 'real' music, sometimes 'music school lives' vignettes can be quite tragicomical.


i know better than to say sorry

i have THE best mother.

though, she's got a bit of issue with time management.  her aim of doing her very best often means that she's out of time- so she always takes piece of her own time to give to someone else, or rather, to someone else's wish that may be trivial for them, but not to her.

a passing comment may result in days of efforts, perhaps a sure surprise for the recipient, who was completely clueless.  i cant help but be exasperated at times,
come on mom, they arent going to notice-
why are you wasting time? you only go to work from 5am till 10pm-
she simply says: it's never a waste.

she also simply say: im dead tired.
mother's a hearty stock, she's a real working donkey.
she carries the weight of the loved ones in her heart, all the time.
even the wee one who left this world a bit too untimely.
i bet in recent chaos of granny heart fiasco, she cant help but to think the little marker on the ground, of her little one, who wouldve been all over the family members, dictating and making noise, as if he have healed granny, of course, with a sly wink.
her eyes may be red and teary
but she wont say anything real.
she'll simply say: im dead tired.

last couple weeks has been demanding,
may be im not doing it right, may be i should be smarter,
more efficient, work harder,
but at the moment, i am failing a bit,
loose ends here and there, tempers get better of me at times.

mom carefully called to ask how the meeting with home visit with the social worker. all i could think was the fact i had to repeat the same things over and over again in recent weeks, as i had to translate, then discuss, translate back, only to report back hours later.

of course, if she had the time to do it, she wouldve done it. there's no doubt.  she is, however, at work, 5am to 10pm. inhumane schedule. perhaps inhuman. i really wanted to call her after the meeting, but the day took better of me. chasing after people, scores, dropped notes (why i now really have to work better and faster- i just dont really know how... who shall i ask for a guidance? i feel rather stuck)-

when she called, i was on the backstage of the hall, feeling a bit skeptical: really, i do this for how much? is this what im worth? i cant even take mom's call? i didnt even have the time to call her during the day?

*for reference, today was:
09-10 nurse meeting
10-11 get to school
11-1230 desperate practice
1230-2 rehearsal
2-3 getting lost and then found for reh.
4-430 reading with heron lady
430-530 audition playing stuff
630-945 backstage
which left: 3-4 and 530-630 for emails/score binding/finding things/calling/food/sanity/etc.

so at 10pm, with her careful question: please, do tell,
i just lost my sanity for a bit: do tell about what and where and how?
and it went, the rage, for couple minutes.
then sobering silence in my head.
like a big gunshot.

i am sorry mom.

i will be better tomorrow.
shit, i am already trying to be better.
sorry ma, im still nothing like you.
you say it's okay,
i say it's not.
i promise that i will try to be better.
like you.
i am sorry i cant promise i will be better.
you give so much and i see that.
then i should give you something back at least.
so that you wont be so empty and worn.
i dare not say that i love you.

not in the way that i can smile and speak.
but i hope you know.
i am sorry-
i will try to be better.
we dont know if there'll be tomorrow,
but i know
that i can always do better.

i do love you mom.


5 dollars worth of humanity

there's been much going on since the new year began: full-length chamber concert, return back flight to yyz, 3 recitals and mountains of music, new music festival backstaging, and yes, granny's wee heartattack. just like that, no space between heart and attack, all those 't's and 'a's are making it uneasy to look at. sharp, oblique and complicated.

it involved much shift in logistics for everyone in the family- but thankfully, after a big test, she was cleared to return home, if a bit fragile. i think the priority should be focused on getting her strength together again- she can either come back stronger and keep marching happily to the end of her days, or dissolve into fine dusts, a paler version of her oldself.  i do not think she should necessarily live long. i think she should live up to the very last day with the most vi tality she can gather and process. wits. wishes. wants. all nice natural things as a living human being.

we have been offered a in-house help from the govt healthcare, who will come once a week and help with personal grooming- mainly bathing.  the bathtub can be a quite a dangerous place- minnow presented granny with a brand new bath handle for christmas.  but the personal helper has asked for a bath chair.

getting granny to accept personal care assistance has been a bit of difficulty.  i will have to start talking to her slowly and from far away, as 1924, in near future so that i can write out her stories. so that when she may leave us, we wont have to make anything up!  but one core thing about granny is the fierce independence.  after the korean war, she went to work, to feed not only dad and herself, but also for her sister-in-law (as granny's bro was also killed in the war), who had brood of four kids.  she never bothered to re-marry, as she wanted the best for dad, and the possibility of step-parent-friction was too much to bear.

and now, at age 87, to ask her to let some stranger assist her with simple thing as bath is a difficult thing. but we must- we must do it so that rest of us can feel a bit more assured. thanks to granny for the sacrifice- esp. for mom.  you see, my mom lived with granny since day one of her marriage. by now, she's spent more days with granny than her own mother.  to think of the world without granny is difficult enough to put a weight on her chest, says mom, without thinking, not aware of the love that she holds for granny. another corner of my mind is stained with simple love that mom for granny. these are the little bits of sustenance that i will consume little by little as life gets difficult at times- aint i lucky!

anyways, bath chair. i looked into buying a new one, in a shop, then online. it wont be here by friday if i order online. in shops, they were fetching top dollars. so i looked for used one. and voila, lucky me:

1. i had to take granny to hospital appt today at 10am, finch/yonge
2. someone was selling a bath bench near finch/yonge, 20 bucks

i wrote to the lady: could i have it for tomorrow morning as i go up north to take granny to the doc's? in that case she can have it for friday and she wont have to be scolded by personal helper in the language she cant even explain the situation.and lady said she has to ask her husband, however, she'll try her best.

so last night at 11pm, weve decided that mr. can come back from night shift, wait for me at a street near doc's office (their house was about 30 min away walking and with bus schedule, it wouldve taken even longer, so i asked if somone can kindly meet me at a neutral place).  i put a twenty dollar bill in my wallet.

then i took it out.
i went and found an envelop.
i signed a simple card.
i put in an extra 5.
thanks for helping me out.
it was sealed and packed.

this morning, at 945am, there it was, a blue odyssey van. the car door opened, a smiling yet tired man came out. clearly you work non-regular night shift, how hard it mustve been for you to delay your sleep, only because i have asked you for a delivery to a third place- i felt so glad that i had put in an extra 5.

'hello, are you mr. greg?'
'aha, yes, (monkey), how is your grandmother this morning?'

i was so touched. as if he simply dropped the deepest red ink into clear water. a simple greeting. but you see, he meant it. it was a big greeting. he wanted to know and he cared. he doesnt even know who i am. didnt matter. he knew that i also have an elderly who needs a bit more love, just as he does (he's got 90 years old mom whose graduated to a bit more serious gear, hence selling the chair), which was enough to open up so easily and gracefully.

'thanks sir, she's well, i am going to see her at the doc's!'
'well, here it is, please do check it, if it's not right- '
'this is perfect. thank you, here's the payment-'
'it's cold, can i get you a lift to the doc's?'
'thanks so much but youve missed your sleep-'
'it's alright, my wife said you are nice, she thought we should do it this way'
'aha thanks so much-'

my knees were buckling, thanks to his kindness. i had to look away in order to not to well up.  ah, mr. greg, do you have any idea who beautiful of a person you are? your wife? you delayed two hours of sleep after a long night shift only because i asked you two politely and that meant that i was a nice person? and you are offering to go to the opposite direction, just to drop me off, not knowing how far the doc's office may be, all because you want to help?

anyways, as it's only a few blocks away, we shared good wishes for the respected elderly ladies and departed. then came car honk, and he got out of the car, running up to me.

'you put in too much money! there's 5 extra!'

'sir, i put it in there for being so helpful-'
'but no, we agreed on 20, 20 is plenty-'
'you had to stay up for hours, just for me-'
'i know, but it's okay, we arent doing it for money-'
'i am not trying to insult you, i wished i had more time so i couldve brought you something to share with your old lady- bag of candy perhaps, but i didnt have the time. only thing i can do is may be put in a drop of gas on your tank. without your kindness, granny wouldve been chairless, which wouldve got a word or two from the worker lady-'
'but we wanted to do this for you, because we also care-'

for measly five dollars, we pulled and pushed. not because no one wanted it, but because we both want the other to take it.  how often does this happen in the world? especially when you are buying things off from the internet? such typical inhumane transaction turned into such a heartbreaking moment.  he took the fiver reluctantly and said:

'if i knew, i wouldve at least brought you a coffee, it's a cold day'

thank you sir, for your kindnesss.

as i carried the chair to the appt, i felt so cared for.  a stranger couple who decided to be not just a seller on the big wide net, but who became good friends for me and granny, my family.  and the silly pull - push of five dollars.

the world is a beautiful place and yes, there is enough love in the world to mend granny's slightly worn heart.  who knew that i was going to be offered genuine altruistic human gesture- all through a simple bath chair.  days like today, i am thankful. for all my friends and well-wishers. for myself, my family and my friends. for my world.  much love to you all.