Tag Archives: music

Catching up

Seems a lot’s been happening here and I didn’t even know it.

My blog is most certainly not earth-shattering or highly entertaining or informative. I don’t usually look at stats. Today I received a “comment pending” notification, which very rarely happens around here. Turns out that someone had commented on one of the “Love Never Dies” posts. Well, duh….the dvd was released two weeks ago, so I’m assuming people are checking it out. So I wandered over here, saw my stats, and freaked out. I’m hoping that “Love Never Dies” will get some decent press. The original production received some bad press, and after memorizing the soundtrack from it, I can understand why. But Andrew Lloyd Webber reworked it while going through cancer treatment, and the new production is so much better. One of the comments I heard at the premiere screening back in March or whenever was “there’s not a memorable song in it.” Tell that to my brain. Every note, every phrase, every melody that Webber uses individually and then combines in the most beautiful and haunting ways….for me, this music will never die.

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One reason I haven’t been here scribbling thoughts is that…..I got a JOB. Well, a (very) part-time job, but what it comes down to is that I get paid to be nice to people I don’t know. I drive people to and from medical appointments. I must admit that it feels good to be needed again. And I’ve met some interesting people, and one VERY interesting person.

Most of the driving jobs are withing a 20 mile radius from where I live, with an occasional one that might go a few miles further out. This job involved a pick-up 45 miles from here, then a drive 70 miles to the appointment, a 2 1/2 hour wait, then the return trip.  Quick math=$200. Then the scheduling people asked me what color my car was. Weird question, but ok…white. The reply: we’ll send details to your calendar (all scheduling is done w/ Google calendar.) Then, nothing. So I assume they found someone closer to do the job. At midnight, I get a text: are you still willing to take the job? I would need to pick this guy up at 8:30, and he lives an hour from me, but hey, it’s $200.

I left in plenty of time to get to the bend in the road that is the town where he lives. I couldn’t find his house…address is a house number on a US route, no mailbox, no nothing. So I called him. He wants to know why I’m so early, then tells me to meet him at a local diner “as soon as my old lady gets back with the truck. Go have breakfast. You can drive from here to my appointment in an hour, right?” Sure, as long as I don’t get caught. So I went to the diner.

He shows up about 45 minutes later. We have one hour and 15 minutes to get to where we need to be and find the doctor’s office. As soon as I pulled out, he called his wife. His side of the conversation went like this:

“Did you kill it?”
“It probably went down under the bridge.”
“What’dya mean, the gun’s not in the truck?”
“OK, I’ll kill it when I get back.”

It was a rabid raccoon.

Then he tells me why they asked about the color of my car: he won’t ride in or on anything red. No car, truck, motorcycle, bike, trike, wagon, NOTHING red. All the other drivers had red cars. Seems he’s had back luck with red vehicles over the years, accidents and what-not.

During the course of the day I learned some things I didn’t know about interstate travel. My passenger was a truck driver, and he loved to talk. I also learned a lot about his family, his injury, his opinions on life, the universe and everything. After relaying some of the more interesting tidbits I picked up to a friend, she suggested that I “might wanna keep a pitchfork in my trunk.” Very funny.

I’m kinda hoping I get to drive him again.

And I’ll think about that pitchfork.

Finding Ramin, Finding Me

Confession time: I have a serious crush on Ramin Karimloo. My goodness gracious, I am over 50, I have the best hubby in the world. But….

That voice. I heard that he was releasing a CD. I was thrilled. Then I heard that it was in the UK only. I was crushed.

So I went looking for him on Youtube. There were several offerings. And I did find the DVD of Phantom, 25th anniversary edition. You know, the one where he plays Phantom. Snatched that one right up.

Back to Youtube. I poked around and found several recordings that were made somewhere in the UK during a concert called “A Night With the Phantom”. I queued them up and was listening while working on errands, and I heard a  song I haven’t heard in ages.

And suddenly, it wasn’t about Ramin. It was about my dad. And about Wubby.

And about me.

I have always been a musical person. From as far back as I can remember, I loved music. I listened to my mom’s LP box set, “Reader’s Digest Guide to Classical Music”. I marched around my room to it. I pretended to conduct. I still pretend to conduct, but you have to watch me very closely to notice when I’m doing it. I’m very subtle. As part of my core requirements for a degree in music, I had to pass conducting 101 with a ‘C’ or better. I loved that class.

There’s something in that last sentence that I need to go back and examine more closely.

Anyway, mom was always musical too, and still is. She played the piano, mostly from the Broadman Hymnal. She sang in a quartet on the radio. But my dad…..bless his heart. He had no sense of rhythm or pitch. He was tone deaf. But he was enthusiastic. He’d sing to his favorite songs, loudly, and very much off key.

And Ramin was singing one of the songs I remember my dad singing quite frequently. It’s from a musical I saw in high school and loved, and then forgot about, Man of La Mancha. It was always one of Daddy’s favorites, maybe because he tilted at a few windmills of his own.

And the song? If you know the show, that’s a no-brainer question. If you don’t, allow Ramin to introduce you to “Impossible Dream”. Daddy loved that song, and he would sing it almost unconsciously when he was puttering around his wood shop, or working on his glass (he was a stained glass artist). I started remembering things about my dad and his off-pitch singing, and oh how I wish I could hear him sing “Impossible Dream” again. Funny, one of his impossible dreams was to be able to sing. And sometimes I think he really could sing quite well, he just kept that part of himself hidden. But maybe not.

I found this quote the other day, or more accurately, it found me:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I sent it to Wubby, because he needed to read it.

Wubby and I both have impossible dreams. Wubby has a lifetime to catch his. But for me, the time is passing faster every day.

Gotta run. I have a dream to catch.

A Visit from Daddy

Daddy stopped by for a visit last night. He didn’t say much, but he did show me a few things.

We have three vehicles. Two are “real” vehicles, while the third is a bottom feeder that needs, and in will in no way pass, inspection. Which is due tomorrow. This is not open for discussion; we had the car checked out yesterday and the estimate to get the car past inspection THIS time (next time will require new brakes as well) is somewhere just shy of $1000. Car is worth about $250 as it sits. Daddy used to love to work on cars, trucks, boats, anything with an engine. In the past he could probably scrounge up some new tires, help with the engine work it needs, or find something suitable to replace the dead bottom feeder car without too much trouble or expense. But Daddy isn’t here anymore, so we need to make a decision about finding another bottom feeder car, and since I’m a bit testy with respect to encounters with folks on Craigslist right now-explain that one later-I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about seeking out another Craigslist bottom feeder.

Daddy was a master, a renaissance man, a genuine jack-of-all-trades. I have a friend that calls me the same thing occasionally, but she has no idea what a REAL renaissance (wo)man is in my estimation. Certainly not someone like me.  I wish Daddy was still here to help me with the car thing, but he had something more important on his mind.

So, in the wee hours this morning, Daddy stopped by. Or it may be more accurate than I went to visit him. I didn’t actually see him because the place I went looking for him is one that he stopped frequenting long before he left us.

When I was in middle and high school, my mom and dad purchased a cabin on the New River. It wasn’t an old rustic cabin; it was a newly constructed outer shell of a partial a-frame cabin, with a small living / dining area, kitchen, bath and one bedroom on the main level, plus a loft. That picture isn’t it, but it was the best example I could find on short notice. I was twelve years old when they bought it, and I hated it. We were there almost every weekend. Mama and Daddy were finishing the inside; I was pouting because I was the only person there under the age of 18. It was at the end of a dirt road that followed the river for a mile or so, then headed up the hill and overlooked the river for the rest of the way to the end of the road, where our cabin was. There were a very few other newly-constructed cabin shells for sale on that dirt road, and a few cabins that other folks had built themselves. One was an old split rail schoolhouse that the owner had moved from somewhere else and reconstructed. He and his wife became my parents best friends, and we all missed them terribly when they passed away. When Daddy first got sick, he tried to keep the cabin up to snuff, keep the grass mowed, the road passable…stuff like that. When his friend also became ill and eventually died, and Daddy got sicker, the work became too much and he and Mama decided to sell the cabin so they could concentrate on Daddy’s health, and just spending time together while they could. I’m pretty sure the cabin was overgrown for quite a while. (Next picture is only an example as well…..I do have real pictures, but they’re down two flights of stairs in a closet filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures. Again, short notice.)

Hubby and I had been talking about the cabin a couple of days ago; I can’t even remember why now. There was a small community of landowners there, but it was just a dirt road with a farm gate across it, secured by a Master lock that was changed maybe every two years. Perhaps we found one of the old keys over the weekend; that may have started the conversation about the cabin. OH! I just remembered….Daddy and his friend used to go hunting, or wandering in the woods or whatever, and they found tons of Indian arrowheads and other artifacts. We were talking about that.

Anyway, this morning in my dreams, Hubby and I decided to drive to the river. Funny, we had a dependable car! I just wanted to see the cabin. None of the people we knew back then lived in any of the little cabins on the dirt road now. Actually, the dirt road was gone. We drove over the crest of a hill and came down the other side, toward the river.

What we saw was a upscale neighborhood, complete with golf course, several rows of 3000-4000+ square foot “cabins” with multiple hip roofs and three-car garages. Evidently it had been raining, a lot, because the water hazards on the golf course were all flooding into each other, running downhill toward the river. As we continued to drive down the hill, we reached what used to be the dirt road. It was a very nice four-lane paved road. More large houses, expensive cars, children playing in back yards. We turned right onto the dirt road highway, headed toward what used to be the end of the road where our cabin was. A new house had been built next to the site where our cabin had been, and the owner raised dogs. Big dogs. Big, angry dogs, like pit pulls and dobermans and such. The owner stopped us and wouldn’t let us drive past his house to see what had become of Mama and Daddy’s cabin. He said something about the dogs, and the neighbors not liking them, and his not wanting us to see anything about what his breeding operation really looked like. I could barely see through the trees past his house to the spot where the cabin had once stood. Another large house. Oh well.

We turned around and headed back to the intersection where we’d come down the hill past the golf course. There was a community center building there, a very nice one. There were also lots of cars in the parking lot. Across the street from the center was a pier that extended out into the river, and on the pier was a glass-enclosed observation area that you had to walk through to get out onto the pier. Think “worms and coffee” at your favorite fishing pier, only with no worms, no coffee…just tourists. And they were all crammed inside the observation area, because the river was raging, flooding, completely covering the pier. We looked through the glass, then turned back to the community center and decided to find out what everyone was discussing there, for there were many more cars than there were tourists in the observation center.

As we entered the community center, we noticed that yes, indeed there were a great many people in very heated discussion about something. We sat down in the back and listened, and the subject soon became very clear. The dog breeder was being evicted from the community. He was a little rough around the edges; his dogs were potentially dangerous. They were a threat to the citizens of Cabin-town, particularly to the children. He had to go. Period.

My mind started to wander and then glaze over. I glanced around the community center and saw that, above the main floor, there was an “historical” display of artifacts from the early days of the cabins on the dirt road. Most of the artifacts consisted of intricately carved wooden chairs, tables, lecterns. They were behind red velvet ropes. They were special, not to be touched or used. Only to be admired from the other side of the velvet ropes.

And I knew my Daddy have carved every single one of them.

The thoughts started coming together in my head. This community was supposed to be an escape from what it had become, a bureaucratic mish-mash of rules and regulations and prejudices. I was furious.

But the thing that I was most furious about was the historical display. Those chairs, sitting empty and untouchable, were what finally pushed me to the breaking point. I stood up and introduced myself as the daughter of the master craftsman who had made those beautiful objects that no one was allowed to use or even touch. And the words started coming out of my mouth, and they didn’t stop: “What happened to you people? Don’t you see that you’ve created exactly what the original owners of the little cabins you’ve torn down so you could build your mansions were trying to ESCAPE from? They were looking for a respite from the daily ins and outs of life in the late 20th century, and you’ve created a 21st century nightmare? Look at the river-it’s angry, it’s out of its banks. You can’t enjoy it. You have to look at it through glass. Is that working for you? And your flooded golf course. Doesn’t that frustrate you to no end? You can’t use it, only look at it.

“But what angers me more than anything is that ‘historical’ display up there. Don’t you know who made those things? MY DADDY. And he made them to be USED, not to be admired from a distance.”

And before anyone could say another word, we left, my heart broken for what had been, and was no longer. I woke up.

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Sometimes when God speaks, when the universe acknowledges the seemingly insignificant feelings we have, we hear whispers.

Other times we’re being shouted at, and we are too occupied to stop and listening. Or we outright refuse to listen.

Either way, the message is important and if we don’t listen to it now, it’s just going to come around again, and again, and again….

So, here’s what I’m hearing. It might be right; it might be completely off the mark. Either way, it’s important.

First and most importantly, Love Never Dies. No matter how badly I mess things up, make mistakes, hurt the ones I love the most-intentionally or accidentally-the ones who truly love me, still love me. I have value in this world, because I am a child of God, of the universe, of creation. And I was created for a purpose.

The cabin shell: the structure of who I am is sound. It is most definitely overgrown. There are weeds that need to be pulled, and quickly, because time is fleeting.

The ostentatious mansion: Sometimes I think I’m supposed to be that kind of person. This whole music business thing, for instance. I’m supposed to be Juliard-stamped and approved. But what I think is not what is true.

Here’s what is true: I have a purpose, and it’s high time I get to it. It may be music; it may be something hovering on the outskirts of music, or it may be something totally unrelated. But it’s there, currently placed behind the red velvet ropes, untouchable. It’s probably going to be difficult to get my hands on it until I STOP trying to. It’s like the blind spot we all have. Try to see it, right now. Hard to find? But just wait until you’re driving in traffic this afternoon. That blind spot will be camouflaged, but the minute you try to change lanes it will became glaringly obvious, as will the horn honking at you from the car you just jumped in front of because….it was in your blind spot.

The universe didn’t just whisper; it screamed.

But the blind spot isn’t a good example. I have a better one. Yes, the blind spot is there and we don’t notice it when we want to because, duh, it’s a blind spot. But when we stop looking for it, sometimes it will appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and we will be stunned by the beauty of it, the “right-ness” of it. And we’ll know that it was there all the time. We were just looking for it a bit too hard.

So, I’m going to stick with the cabin metaphor and show you what I think I’ll find, just as soon as I stop looking for it.

Now that I think about it, I’ll bet that’s what the cabin in my dream, the one that I couldn’t see because of the angry dog breeder and his dangerous pets wouldn’t let me,  REALLY looks like. Slightly camouflaged, because it was designed to fit effortlessly into its surroundings.

I’m not saying that the construction of Falling Water was effortless, because I’m married to a Frank Lloyd Wright aficionado, and I know better. What I am saying is that the amount of effort it took to make Falling Water look like it magically appeared out of the earth was worth it.

Stop looking and start making some effort. And let the magic of Falling Water appear.

the music of the universe

So, I found this joke floating around on Facebook last week:

C, E-flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, but we don’t serve minors.” So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished, and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes in and heads for the bathroom, saying, “Excuse me; I’ll just be a second.” Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, “Get out! You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight.” E-flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, “You’re looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development.” Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural. Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he’s under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.
Very witty stuff. I’d like to add to the humor, but I spent Saturday going through my knitting stash and organizing things, while watching and listening to two 25th anniversary editions of major musical works: Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve been in an extended rest period since then.

Saturday morning before the organizational extravaganza started, I was poking around on craigslist looking for something, most likely something horse related…like a dressage saddle, or a horse? Anyway, this thought popped into my head: “Wonder if anyone around has a grand piano they want to trade for an upright?” I’ve considered selling my piano several times in the past couple of years, for several different reasons. So, why this thought, and why now?

Well, the now part is obvious. I’ve listened to more music in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years, and maybe some synapses are trying to reconnect or something. “Love Never Dies” just keeps getting deeper and more intricate, and it overwhelms me at times. I’ve tried to listen to “Til I Hear You Sing” without weeping. I can’t. Lots of catharsis in there that needs cathart-ing I suppose.

As to the ‘why’ am I wondering if someone might have a grand piano that they want to down-size….turns out, there was one listing within a one-hundred mile radius of my house. It’s actually 20 minutes away.  Someone with a vintage Lester baby grand who is looking to trade it for an upright. The listing had been there since January. And, Craigslist being what it is, chances are that the listing individual forgot to delete the listing. But, there it was, so I sent the email Saturday morning.

Sunday afternoon the response came back: yes, I still have the grand and I’m still looking to downsize, with a request for photos of my piano. I took a  couple of phone pix and emailed them. Again, the email came back. “I’d like to see your piano.”

So today, I have guests come to look at and play my piano. She plays entirely by ear, mostly gospel, and sings. I read, am classically trained and have only recently-like for the past 15 years or so-started to become comfortable with lead sheets. Pure improvisation, even less comfortable. She played my piano and sang a little, very timidly. I totally understand that. I sing wonderfully when no one is around, and I’m sure it sounds great inside my head. My cats would disagree with my assessment. They think I’m exercising cat-speak.

The she asked me to play something for her. I played Schubert, stuff I learned in high school. It was obvious to us that I probably own the piano the universe meant for her to have, and she just might have mine.

She and her husband left, wanting to discuss their next move. He bought the piano for her as a gift and she may not want to part with it. Or he may not want her to part with it. But he did enjoy listening to her play and sing, and he also seemed to enjoy listening to me play my little Schubert.

I bought my piano after selling the vintage Baldwin baby grand my parents bought for me when I was in the ninth grade. My piano teacher at the time know the Baldwin’s owner, and knew that it wasn’t being played. I remember going to the woman’s home to see and play it. She had purchased it for her daughter, who never really took to it. It was beautifully placed in her living room, the lid covered with family photos. It hadn’t been played in years. I played Beethoven. She didn’t really want to sell it, but after we left she contacted my teacher and told her she wanted me to have it. I sold it almost 23 years ago, when I discovered I was pregnant with Wubby. We needed a house more than I needed a grand piano, but I didn’t think I could exist without one in my house.

All these years later, Wubby is grown and on his own, sort of. And Kate will be here for one more year and then…..empty nest.  This particular baby grand may or may not be the one the universe has waiting for me.

But I’m beginning to think that there IS a baby grand out there somewhere, with my name on it.

the psychic ipod strikes again!

IF my ipod had been in the general vicinity of my computer when I downloaded the piano music from iTunes Friday night, it might make sense. Maybe. But my ipod wasn’t anywhere near the computer. It wasn’t even in the house. It was in the car.

Saturday morning we debated over what to do with the day and settled on a trip to Costco for food. So we jumped in the car and headed into the frenzy that is greater downtown Mall and outlying shopping meccas. While hubby drove I grabbed the pod and tried to figure out what I was in the mood for. Since nothing immediately came to mind, I took a chance and put it on shuffle. I don’t do that very often because, for some reason, the pod likes to play Christmas music in shuffle, and I have LOTS of Christmas music. (Dear Apple ipod Geeks: can you maybe add some options to shuffle, like include/exclude by genre, perhaps?)

First up: Chopin Waltz, A minor, early opus. One I wasn’t familiar with. Then. I’ve gotten familiar with it since then, and it’s the first official entry in my recital program, along with a B minor waltz that I played ages ago. Next, a Borodin string quartet. I used to love string quartets. We had a quartet-in-residence when I was in college, and they were good. They played an outdoor recital at the vineyard owned by my library employer Myra, in July of 1983. I remember that because it was hot, my future sister-in-law came with us, I wore my new engagement ring in public for the first time, and the quartet played Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which is an entirely different work when played by only four instruments.

Last night at church one of the music guys and I were talking about a song I want him to play. He said it was kinda hard, and I told him to just play the chords that follow the bass line and not to listen to the extraneous stuff going on over it. He said that sounded like a good idea, picked at a few chords on his guitar and thought about it, and then said to me, “Do you play any instruments?” I was crouched on the floor in front of him when he said that, and I just dropped the rest of the way down and sat there looking at him. The other music guy said, “Yeah, she’s a pianist.” Music guy number one wanted to know why I hit the floor, and I told him. He said, “Sounds like a God thing to me.” then he announced to everyone that the Christmas party will be at our house so they can sing carols at my piano.

Well, alrighty then.

The tuner is supposed to be here in four hours. The house is a mess, and I need to go buy horse food. I’m not touching the piano until its tuned. It’s hard enough to be rusty and dusty; playing an out-of-tune piano just makes it worse.

I think I’ll go buy horse food, come home and remove the large dust bunnies from the music room and move the several piles of music on the piano and on the floor around the piano out of the way so Mr. Tuner can do his job, and find something to occupy myself with until he leaves. Then I have a date with Frederic.

The Legend of 1900

Read the description for this movie last Saturday: an orphan spends his entire life aboard an ocean liner as a piano prodigy.

Do what?

How did a baby wind up orphaned on an ocean liner in 1900? What a silly premise for a movie.

Then I watched it. Two and half hours later, with tears streaming down my face, I watched the retired ship burst into flames as it was imploded and sunk.

And I got it.

If you haven’t seen this movie, find it. If you love music, piano in particular, find it NOW. The score was written by Ennio Morricone, world-famous composer of movie scores for over 50 years, I suppose. If you’ve seen, or heard, “The Mission”, then you know his music.

The last movie that touched me musically in this way was “Somewhere in Time.” Yes, it’s a syrupy love story / time travel thing, but the music…..Rachmaninoff and Morricone. It doesn’t get better.

The first time I heard Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini it was by accident. I bought an LP of his works, looking for a piano concerto movement, but I didn’t which concerto it came from. So I put this album on the stereo and sort of half-way listened to the music. It was just ok at first, then the very “russian march” variation came out of the speakers and grabbed my attention, demanding to be heard. Next came the Deus Irae…how did that get in there? Then the music turned all misty, eerie, like it was wandering through fog-shrouded woods at sunset. The key shifted from minor to major, the sun came out, and there it was….the 18th variation. In all the world, I don’t believe there’s a single piece of music any more breathtaking than this one. It’s not very long, maybe a minute or two, but when it drew to a close I was on the floor of my parents’ living room sobbing. This is what I wanted.

But I knew I wouldn’t get there. It was out of my reach. Maybe I could have tried it then; certainly not now.

Then, last Saturday, I heard “Playing Love” from The Legend of 1900, music by Ennio Morricone.

And I sobbed again.

Immediately I came in here and started crawling all over the ‘net looking for it, and discovered that there were lots of  other pianists crawling around the ‘net looking for it too. But it was just out of my grasp. I’d find references to it, only to discover broken links.

Until I tripped over a website in China, dedicated to sharing Morricone’s muic. Yes, they had the piano score, free. But you had to e-mail them to get it.

E-mail someone I dont’ know in China, to get music I really wanted. How do I know this is really a site that supplies music? There were a couple of links to .pdf files of other pieces so I grabbed those. And they were good. There’s a very sultry rag (sounds incompatible, but it works) written by Jelly Roll Morton, a historical character who is instrumental to 1900’s plot.

But, do I dare e-mail them for the rest of the score? Most of the site is in Chinese, for heaven’s sake! Even after you hit the translate button. I debated over it with myself, and after several hours of negotiating, decided to give it a shot.

Obviously, my computer still works, so I didn’t get wormed or virused or anything. But, no music either. I figured, what the heck, it was a shot in the dark anyway, no harm no foul.

Monday I got an email from someone named HAN, in badly translated english, that said “Dear Lady…” and had a link to a site where I could download the score.

My computer still works, the score is in a new folder called music/legend of 1900, and two of the pieces are fresh of my printer.

Think I’ll go play.

Quick post

October 31, 2008 concert in Kernersville, NC

October 31, 2008 concert in Kernersville, NC

I was in Cielo last week hanging out with the Dominican (and American) ladies. It was a great week, exhausting, lots of highs and a couple of lows…..tons of pictures to process and words to write.

For now, check out this interview with my awesome cousin Brian.