Deja Vu

I have a feeling I might have posted a picture of the building below before. It’s in my neighborhood and every time I pass it by I think how nice it must be to live inside there and to look out through all that greenery. From the inside it must look like you live in a forest.

Miles Swum So Far in City Lap Swim Contest: 45 + 105 laps. I might be over-doing the swimming a bit. Last night I walked home from the pool and I felt good, but a bit weary. I might take tonight off. We shall see.


Robin Williams, Depression, and My One Tip

I don’t really have a lot to add about Robin William’s suicide. Only that I went through a severe depression when I was in my twenties, and I remember learning that if you ever experience depression you are at risk for repeat episodes for the rest of your life.

I can’t tell you the terror I felt hearing that. I simply cannot go through that again. I think people who haven’t experienced depression think of it as extreme sadness or something. Not fun of course, but not the end of the world. The reality is, the best way I can describe it is you feel nothing, but it’s the most painful, all consuming, choking, life-draining, horrible nothing you can possibly imagine.

It’s so bad that the thought of enduring it again makes me understand what Robin Williams did. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying I get it. I’ve been lucky. I never experienced depression again. If I went through it repeatedly throughout my life as I hear he did I don’t see how I could last. Far from being weak, Robin Williams must have been a fucking towering monster of strength.

Also, I just realized that when I went through my depression I was young. What would it be like to go through a depression now?? Back then I could tell myself I had decades and decades to work it all out. One more thing, if you drink or do drugs in response to depression you’re doomed. But I am also an alcoholic, so again, if I went through depression on and off throughout my life I can easily see taking up drinking again eventually. (I stopped drinking during my depression and haven’t had alcohol since.) I’d be so beaten down by the repeat episodes I do anything for relief.

I’ve spent a lifetime making lists of things that lift me out of a bad mood. It’s all about forestalling depression. Things like therapy, singing, meditation, doing something nice for someone else, going to the movies, an extremely healthy meal (very effective), sitting by a body of water and reading. But the one thing I’ve found that is the most sure-fire is exercise. I discovered this one late in life and it also took me a while to find forms of exercise that didn’t feel like work, like swimming, my main form of exercise now. No matter how bad I feel when I begin, I’m fine when I’m done. It never ever fails. NEVER.

The thing is, remembering what I was like when I went through my depression, I wonder if I could have made myself exercise while I was right in the thick of it? Depression pretty much completely immobilized me. Here’s what I would tell myself to try to get myself to do it: I know you don’t want to do it, I know you think you can’t, but just do it, just get up and do it, even though every fiber of your being is saying you can’t. As a reward, you can not move for the rest of the day, guilt-free. You’re off the hook. Knock yourself out. Curl right up.

It’s just a theory, but I think if you can somehow manage to make yourself go for a swim (or something else) it would lift you out of that blackness just enough that you wouldn’t want to crawl back into immobility. Maybe pick a movie theatre a decent distance away and walk to it. The movie at the end would be the reward (it’s also an effective mood-lifter I’ve found, even if the movie sucked).

Also very high on my list: pets. (Except then when they die. In which case you must get another pet as soon as possible even though it feels like a betrayal. It isn’t.) Here are my two amazing, wonderful depression-forestallers.


Is Project Runway punking us?

Or maybe they’re the ones getting punked. I couldn’t understand Sandhya winning the first time, but this second time was just plain nuts. Does Tim Gunn still have a blog? Because I want to know what he really thinks of her design for the future. I simply cannot believe that he sees it as anything other than a bad Halloween drugstore costume. I looked. I don’t see a blog for Tim.

For the record, I am thoroughly charmed by Sandhya. I love that she got a great husband through an arranged marriage. How often does that happen? They were so sweet together though. It was so adorable when she was showing her house in the first episode, and she said, “This is my husband, pretending to work in the background.” Then he chirps up, “Hi from me while I pretend to work here in the background,” or something like that. It was very cute. I hope I like her work more in future episodes.

Miles Swum So Far in City Lap Swim Contest: 39 + 3 laps. The contest for swimming the most miles ended last Friday. I wasn’t able to swim the last few nights of the contest, but I should be able to find out tonight if I finished in 2nd place. I’m pretty sure I did even with the missed nights.

Another shot from my night at Lincoln Center, watching Mark Morris’s Acis and Galatea. (That person on the lower right looks happy to be there too.)

Mark Morris, Acis and Galatea, Lincoln Center, New York City

A Great Mood due to Great Art

The upside of living on a modest budget is when someone has an extra ticket to something you could NEVER afford, and you walk down to your seats, and they are three rows from the stage, just off center, it feels so great you just have to scream (as quietly as you can manage, and with your hands over your mouth)! It wouldn’t have felt that delicious if I spent every Friday night like this.

My choir friend Barbara, who appears in my singing book, offered her extra ticket to Mark Morris’s Acis and Galatea.

I could see the faces and expressions of the orchestra, the choir, the dancers, and the stars/singers. When the conductor Nicholas McGegan turned around to so charmingly smile at the audience while he was conducting, I was close enough to try to catch his eye when I smiled back. There was a lot of humor in the expressions of the dancers that I’m sure I would have missed if I wasn’t so close.

Everything was perfection, the dancers and the choreography, the music of course, I love Handel, but the orchestra and the choir! (Major envy, by the way. Imagine being good enough to make a living by singing in a choir like that.) And I fell in love with each of the singers. I can be very picky about sopranos, but Yulia Van Doren has all the qualities I want in a soprano, she was marvelous. Oh, and the lighting, and the set, and the costumes (Isaac Mizrahi). Every element of this production worked wonderfully.

Thank you Barbara and Mark Morris and everyone involved in this production. How lucky I felt to get to sit back and enjoy all this enormous talent! Just right there in front of me. I have a sense of how much work went on behind the scenes to bring us to this night. I honestly felt the love and joy, and the creepy part, although hard not to fall for that tall, handsome, and funny baritone anyway. I loved when he lazed about on the floor, ignoring Damon’s advice for wooing Galatea.

Here they are, taking their well-deserved bows. Mark Morris is way to the right and out of focus in my shot so I didn’t include him!

Mark Morris, Acis and Galatea, Lincoln Center, New York City

What Would Beethoven Do?

I just heard about a documentary titled What Would Beethoven Do? From their website:

“What Would Beethoven Do?” highlights recent innovations that are breaking down the genre’s highbrow perception and introducing classical music to a broader audience. Despite some institutional reluctance about maintaining the “purity” of the genre, many musicians and artists are taking risks to reinvent classical music for a new age. The classical music world is at an exciting crossroads “What Would Beethoven Do?” focuses on individuals and organizations that are taking classical music to the next level and paving the way for future success.

I’ll be curious to learn about what various people are doing. I know they interviewed Britlin Losee, a composer I’ve written about.

I did want to point out though, that you always hear that the audience for classical music is small and shrinking. The producers of this documentary make this point in their trailer. But when I was researching my singing book I learned that the National Endowment for the Arts, who has been measuring participation in the arts for close to three decades, found that “nearly 75 percent of adults attended arts activities, created art, or engaged with art via electronic media.” This was more than twice the percentage of adults who went in-person to concerts, plays, the ballet, or museums. And of all the art forms people were involved with via the internet and other mobile devices, classical music was the one they were engaging with the most.

That doesn’t exactly refute the point about classical music, but maybe it does, and it certainly indicates that things are already getting better. I still want to see this documentary though! I know I’m not up on all that’s going out there in the world of classical music.

People hanging outside Gallery Ho, where my friend Marianne Petit currently has a show. (For the record, there are a lot of galleries in this building, in addition to Gallery Ho.)

Outside Gallery Ho, New York City