Am I Smiling?

I’m going to be taking a (likely permanent) break from Instagram. I’m the sort of person who, if something is overwhelming, I tend to stall and not engage. What I mean is, the difficulty of posting on Instagram stops me from posting at all, and actually working on other things too. It’s like this one road block that I can’t get around, so I end up just not doing anything, when I could just… go off road, take a different path, do something. Ideas I have include: making videos on YouTube, putting more music up online (easier when I don’t have the riddle of how to promote it on Instagram), maybe even a Substack, and meeting people in the real world and making meaningful connections (I know this one’s outdated but I thought I’d give it a try).

It allows me to spend more time on things like writing here, which I enjoy, even if only a few people are reading it. Also on making music. It’s funny how much energy you spend on not doing something when faced with something you don’t want to do. I’ll add a page on here for gigs, and keep it up to date.

I also want to write more, and do more art. I said this in the last post too. But it’s going to happen!

Life has taken some hard turns recently. Not world-endingly hard, but just tricky things that hit me right in my need to please. It makes me think of resilience. Resilience is something like going through hard things and still carrying on and finding a way through on the other side. When I think of hard things, usually I think of things like physical struggles, like a trainee soldier carrying a pack up a muddy hill at a slow jog on three hours of sleep type of thing. But hard things for me can take a different, more subtle form. For example, breaking something that was precious to someone, and having to tell them about it. Give me the G.I. backpack! Or having to pitch an idea to a big crowd of people. To have to give someone a punishment or discipline them. Please, no! No! A really hard thing for me would be to hurt someone else and have to live with it. That’s where resilience comes in, to get through truly hard things. You can’t take them back, you have to get through them.
I’m trying to think of the best thing I’ve read/seen/witnessed/experienced recently. One of them has to be SmartLess: On The Road. In particular, one bit has become a thing that Al and I do now. Jason Bateman is sitting there with a heavy frown on his face, and Will Arnett starts joshing him for it. “There you go again with that face” (paraphrasing), to which Jason says, “Am I smiling? Is this smiling?” with the frown still very much on his face. “You’re doing the complete opposite of smiling.” “How about now?” (Still frowning.) It’s so funny, but it’s also really hard to do! Al and I keep turning to each other trying to maintain a frown while saying, “Am I smiling?” It’s hard.

Another best thing I’ve experienced is listening to a bunch of music by Duke Ellington. Al and I are in the process of moving our spaces around at home. She’s taken my old music room as a creative writing/art room, and I’ve decamped to the basement until we complete the upstairs, which will be a recording room (!!!). We now don’t have a TV viewing area, as we were using my computer before. At some point we started listening to music over dinner instead of watching TV. This just happened to line up with me getting interested in Duke Ellington and listening to his music on repeat (we have the same birthday, and he also seems like just a wonderful person). So we’ve been having dinners serenaded by The Duke and his orchestra. It’s the most amazing music. I just love it. The chords. Ah, the chords! They are heaven-sent. In my Duke obsession, I watched some YouTube videos of him, and stumbled upon one of Count Basie talking about him. The interviewer asks (again, paraphrasing), “The two greatest jazz orchestras are considered to be yours and Duke Ellington’s. In your opinion, what’s the difference between you two?” Basie responds “class” to raucous applause. After a pause he adds, “He had it.”

From where I’m sitting, they both had it. And while we’re talking about Count Basie, I recommend listening to a tune of his called “Lil’ Darlin’.”