Here is the tshirt I swam 27 miles for!

The “early bird” tshirt was a lovely deep shade of blue, and that makes no sense! Ours should have been the blue one, and they should have gotten the orange one (it looks yellow in this shot but it’s really orange).

Deep blue=night sky!

Right? It says Night Owl Lap Swim Around Manhattan. Then there’s a leaf in a circle on the back, saying “Parks,” I think. I can’t check because I have a cat on me and can’t get up. In any case, I am very happy with my shirt, I’m fine with this color.
That logo you can’t quite see is a person swimming.

27 miles!!!

Lap Swim Relay Race and Award Ceremony

So last night was the award ceremony for the NYC Parks & Recreation citywide lap swim contest. It began with a relay race which didn’t go at all as I had expected.

First, I didn’t want to race in the worst way. I wanted to look nice for the dinner afterwards, not like a wet rat. But I agreed to do it and that was that. I put my suit on and psyched myself up.

I get there and 2 of the 4 swimmers for my team have not checked in. You think I’d be happy. I don’t have to race! But no. I successfully got myself all excited and ready for this and now I want to race. I run around. I find one of the swimmers, and then a substitute for the one I can’t locate. “Swimmers take your marks!” We’re in lane 1 and I volunteer to go first …

Because I’d run around corralling my team I didn’t get to warm up. It’s just like any exercise and especially any race, you need warm up in order to perform. Well, too bad for us. The whistle blows and I’m off.

I’ve never swum in an olympic-size pool. I swim with all my might but pretty soon, because I haven’t warmed up, my arms start to go. I don’t want to waste precious seconds looking up to see how much further I have to swim, so I just press on, going as fast as I can. But I’m going slower and slower and I still haven’t reached the end. How much further can it be? Not there yet. How about now? Not yet. Oh god. Not yet. Not yet. Help!

I’d been so worried that I was going to be the one who lost it for our team and sure enough I felt like I was crawling in at the end. When I finally made it to the other side I looked around to see badly I’d done. I wasn’t last! There were at least a couple of people behind me. “What place are we in so far??” I ask, all thrilled that I hadn’t come in last. No one could tell me. In the end, I couldn’t find anyone who knew. Not one person on my team had even kept track!

No one cared. One person on my team swam at a leisurely pace, one person did the breast stroke, the slowest swim stroke of all the swim strokes (I found out later he got a cramp and that was all he could manage, so good for him for even finishing) and one guy tried, but he didn’t pay attention to how we placed either.

So I’d been swimming for the slacker team. Had I known I would have been a lot more relaxed …

This whole thing was about two contests. One was to swim 25 miles in two months, and for that you got a tshirt. The other was for who swam the most miles the first month and for that you got a trophy. There were two divisions at each pool, the “early bird” and the “night owl,” and each of those divisions were further divided out into male and female. I was in the women’s night owl division at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center because who can swim miles at 7 in the morning?? (I just looked at the program, there were more than twice as many swimmers swimming in the morning division!)

I came in 3rd place at my pool with 19 miles. The picture below is Anna Jardine. She came in 1st place at my pool with 54.36 miles. Since that is not even humanly possible I decided Anna must be swimming both mornings and nights to add up those kind of miles. Turns out I was half right. She was swimming in the mornings alright. In the morning division she swam another 57.39 miles for a grand total of 111.75 miles!! MOTHER OF GOD!! She is not human!!

There were super-duper trophies for the man and the woman who swam the most miles in the city and of course Anna easily won the super-duper trophy for the women. The man who won, Gary Weeks, only swam another 8.25 miles, which is not a comment against Gary Weeks, just saying. But congratulations to you both, well done visiting aliens …

Here is my 3rd place trophy. Bleecker is curious …

I want to thank everyone from the NYC Parks & Recreation Citywide Aquatics program. From start to finish this whole thing was non-stop fun (okay, except for one week when I was tired, but that’s not the program’s fault!). I had such a good time. Seriously, this is the best contest I’ve ever been in, and all the people who worked in the program were so nice and wonderful. I learned from the ceremony program that the city has been holding this contest for 31 years! Well, I hope I get to be in it for 31 more years.

In the cat world, what cannot be explained must be bitten. Here is Bleecker, testing to see if my trophy is edible because if not, it must be destroyed. I’ll try to get a picture of me in my tshirt later. (I rescued the trophy.)

More Defense of Miley Cyrus

I only had two problems with Miley’s performance. The first was it felt like play-acting. Madonna was like this out of the box, hell, I imagine Madonna was like this since the day she was born. All her early videos feel completely authentic, even when she is clearly acting. This is/was who she is. Miley was playing dress up. That said, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re not quite sure who you are yet, try a few different roles on for size. Find your place. If some of the things you tried didn’t work out, big deal.

Second was the horribly unflattering fit of the bottom half of her costume. There’s nothing wrong with her body, it was all the outfit.

Other than that I thought she was overall adorable. She’s incredibly charming and charismatic. Okay, her tongue is scarily long. But she was extremely entertaining to watch.

Except this: I remembering noticing her backup dancers and wondering what her point was and then promptly forgetting it. One woman’s take here.

Sunday all the parents of NYU kids were helping them get set up in their dorm rooms. I felt such a wave of nostalgia (although my parents didn’t help me, they just put me on a plane, but that was exactly what I wanted). NYU also had “upper classmen” (nobody uses that term anymore, do they?) there to welcome and guide them.

All around NYU various businesses and churches set up welcome tables and signs as well. It was incredibly sweet. This was a church across the street from one of the dorm buildings.

It Takes a Choir

I wrote about the British conductor Gareth Malone and his reality series The Choir briefly in my book, and I’ve been talking about him and this show in almost every radio interview I’ve done ever since. The reason I keep talking about the show is this: in the most dramatic and moving way possible, it shows how wrong people are when they think they can’t sing.

It always begins the same, Malone finds the most unlikely people to be members of a choir, and then talks them into auditioning. Most of the people in the auditions can barely sing, some can’t seem to sing at all, and a few people sound great. In just a few weeks however, everything changes. Everyone gets better. In particular, the people who couldn’t sing at all sound just fine, and together everyone sounds amazing. It’s impossible to watch without sobbing. To see the looks on their faces when they hear the undeniable beauty of their aggregate sound, and to hear it yourself, after having watched them face down their fears and insecurity in order to do this in the first place, only to be rewarded in such a marvelous way, not with just sound but with this group they are now a part of, this community—again, you’ll be bawling like a baby when you see it.

Here’s a great quote which sums up what they are feeling and the gift this series has give them:

“The power of such experience is so great and its satisfactions so deep that those who have shared it are likely to be changed fundamentally in their relation to music. For such people music inevitably becomes a source of some of life’s deepest rewards. This is no small matter, given the universal need for such satisfaction and its rarity in human life.” —A Philosophy of Music Education, by Benett Reimer.

Malone is bringing his reality series to America! Here it will be called It Takes a Choir and it’s premiering on the USA Network in November. Woohoo!

I took this yesterday. I was drawn to all the shades of blue and red. The little dog was just a lucky break, and so is the guy in the red shorts, echoing the reds in the rest of the photograph, and the other guy in the blue shirt!

Feedback from Morten Lauridsen

I’ve been so nervous about how the living composers I wrote about were going to feel about what I said about them. (So far I’ve heard from two out of three of them and I’m choosing to believe that the third one is busy and hasn’t gotten to it yet, and he is very busy!) Morten Lauridsen emailed me though, the most gracious and wonderful email.

Dear Stacy.

I am just now back in the San Juans following concerts and talks in Philadelphia, Albuquerque and Seattle to find your new book, “Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others,” waiting for me.

I just read the chapter on O Magnum Mysterium–it’s wonderful, Stacy! Beautifully written and deftly organized around thoughts by me and others about this piece, which has affected people throughout the world so deeply.

You are one terrific writer!! I look forward to perusing the rest of the book.

Thank you so much and congratulations!!

Morten Lauridsen

In my book I talk about the things I write in my music, and how I pencil in asterisks over my favorite parts. Sometime I write astericks at the beginning, next to the title, to indicate that the whole piece is my favorite part. This is my score for Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.

Marten Lauridsen, O Magnum Mysterium