05.12.2020

Today, it snowed. Again. In the second week of May. We woke to a brightness that only comes from morning full sunlight on a blanket of snow that covers everything, including the trees. There was enough snow to take out the snow tubes as my husband suggested after breakfast.

I’m glad he did.


With all that’s happened in the last few months since a coronavirus has changed all of our lives, it’s important for me to remember that we are still here, still living, still able to appreciate all that we have to be grateful for (and I know so well how lucky we are, especially given how we started our lives). There are parts of my life I don’t want to ever relive, but I am all too aware that those things made me resilient, still capable of childlike awe, and capable of an abiding love for my husband, who’s helped me so much to become the person I am right now.

Sure, I’m too much of a hermit, but at this point it has become a valuable skill. There was a comic the other day (and I’ve seen a few on the same theme) where a couple is looking at each other on the couch. The talking head on the TV says “officials are recommending social distancing and staying home.” One person says to the other “it’s like we’ve been preparing for this moment our whole lives!” That’s us.


Over the years I’ve talked to so many people who are socially awkward, myself among them. There’s always this overarching bewilderment, frustration, and a sense of failure to achieve socially desired behaviors. We’re the kind of people who use “achieve socially desired behaviors” in a conversation because we’re socially awkward. Diagnoses vary among the ones most people have as a result of paying attention to what’s happening. Degrees of agitation vary depending on how much attention we pay in how many areas.

When you’re socially awkward, you sometimes alternate between being a hermit and trying desperately to be social. For me, I got into an obligation where I had to go out every week – it wasn’t a job, so there was no pressure on that front, but it was something I had to do, out of the house, around other people. Most of the time I enjoyed it very much. But it wasn’t easy, and the drama that happens between people gets to be too much sometimes because I feel like it’s high school all over again. I am so lucky I don’t have to go to work, and deal with being in close quarters every day with other humans and their quirks and dramas regularly. I can’t be the only one.


Something all of this upheaval in the workplace has shown is that there is an ability for people to work remotely that a lot of workplaces failed to acknowledge. My guess is it comes down to control freak tendencies in bosses who want to maintain their perception of power and status by having a bunch of people around, being able to tell them when to work, how to dress and what they must do for a certain block of time. I’m hopeful this will lead to better working conditions someday with a flexibility of working both in location and metrics for performance and payment (ie: get paid for doing your job, not just sitting in x place for y amount of time).

This afternoon before I sat down to write this I was listening to Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” and thinking about music and its ability to evoke emotions. Usually those emotions (when they are evoked by a certain song) are tied to a memory of a specific event or person. Or maybe it’s like when I remember the summer I was in tech school after I first went in the military – the first time alone away from home and feeling like I might be growing up finally, that I didn’t have to just be the child of two people in a place, weighed down by a set of expectations that were your parents’ baggage. Strong emotions come flooding back and they make me cry.

There’s a lot of crying here, it’s not baseball. I’ve always been a crier. It’s useful for stress relief, but like anything that brings relief, overdoing it can bring nasty side effects. Swollen eyes and a sore, red nose from the tissues that are never soft enough when the wastebasket fills up are the tradeoff for allowing the memories and the fear out. Feeling emotions strongly does it, too. We have a joke in our house that there’s a counter we reset to zero regularly for Number of Days Without Crying. It’s good to have a joke when you’re crying to help guide you back.

So music can evoke memories, and then for me there’s Jazz. I’ve only started seriously listening to it since we moved to Vermont. There are no memories, because it started for me in the last two years. The music stands on its own to do what it does to me. There aren’t always words in the ones that really stick with me, move me, make me feel something strongly.

Making music that can evoke feelings in the listener is a gift. Every day I listen to music and am inspired, or amused, or feel comforted…my life is richer for those experiences. I live in a snow globe with my surf punk guy minus the surf (there’s no surf on Cape Cod) and a couple of old cats and a cranky rescued Westie. Every day I go outside and think about where I am and how I got here. How I worked with my partner to pull off this thing that people like us aren’t supposed to have, and people with resources never think to do because they’re busy chasing that paper. I have a balance of live to work that I love, and a husband who is my partner, who is my rock, who is my safe harbor.


I have found my forever home.

 

09.03.2019

After a year of living in the woods of Northern Vermont, I can report that I am still really, really happy that we moved here.

We had a winter with a lot of snow. The locals say it was the kind of snow they remember from when they were young. The spring came a couple weeks late, and summer had maybe two weeks where it got hot enough to consider using the A/C.

Living somewhere where it gets cool at night in the summer is a welcome change from the days of heat island swelter on city summer nights.

Living somewhere I can see the Milky Way spread across the sky like a cascading cloud is still awe-inspiring. Every night I can see the stars (sometimes there are clouds) is an opportunity to remind myself how hard we worked to get here and appreciate where we landed.

The house has gotten a new heating system (replaced an oil boiler with much more efficient propane heat) and is getting a second bathroom in a couple of weeks (the part plumbers have to do – we’ve been working on the actual carpentry and electric for a while now). I’ve been staining shingles we got from Maine (they actually came with a truck and delivered them to my house) and we’re almost ready to install them on the first part of the house we’re re-shingling. The windows and sliding door in the basement are in the process of being replaced – two windows down and a door and window left to install (in the place of the opening where the sliding glass door is now).

Did I mention we’re doing most of this ourselves? We spent the first year getting the feel of the house and updating the heating system. We’ve started the projects we want and there are a lot of them. But we’re also enjoying life, listening to a lot of jazz (did I mention I got a couple of saxophones and am starting to play again?) and trying to keep ourselves as sane as possible in a crazy world getting crazier every day.

 

 

Looking South.

Home.

…to get where you want to be.

So we moved to Vermont.

The Northeast Kingdom, more specifically.

We finally did it. Years of vacillating between staying put and moving where we really wanted to live.

Actually, I wish I’d put it like that to myself years ago, but sometimes clarity comes in hindsight. Definitely, in this case. Obviously, we would want to be where “we really wanted to live.”

For us, that was up here, within easy driving distance of our northern neighbors. Out where there’s space, where the neighbors are nice, but far enough away for our hermit tendencies. No neighbors with crying kids or parties. Just the loons (there’s only one pair, the lake’s too small for more) and the occasional turkeys coming through to eat apples that fell from the tree in the backyard. Acres and acres of wildlife refuge with dirt roads barely suitable for cars, but perfect for Princess Penelope (the CB500X) and KLaRa (the KLR, of course). Sixty mile rides on dirt roads and under power lines where you only see three people – on a Saturday. In September.

We live here.

Every day, one of us says this to the other – and there’s a dazed giddiness, a feeling that we put one over on the man by managing to pull this off. So let me tell you how it went down:

Back in the spring. The Spousal Unit (hereafter referred to as SU because DH drives me up the wall and seems way too cutesy for me to use with a straight face) and I finally had that conversation about “where should we move to and can we afford it on our budget” and ran the numbers….and they worked. I’ve read that Gen Xers are the last of the generation that will probably benefit from this whole boom and bust cycle of home ownership that’s coming around again – and I’m the exception that proves the rule. Or maybe I’m not an exception. But either way, I realized I could sell the house we’d fixed up and sell it for more than I paid for it. And have money left over for moving and settling into a new house.

This led to over two solid months of tackling a slew of projects around the house neither of us had been motivated enough to complete (or even start, in some cases). We replaced a utility sink, a bathroom vanity, a bulkhead that had rusted away and the crumbling concrete around said bulkhead. I painted so many rooms – rooms I’d never painted since I lived there. I joked to SU more than once that our house would have been much nicer to live in if we’d done that stuff sooner.

We put so many of our belongings in storage – all those boxes of records and CDs, books, extra clothes, tools….so many things. We ended up needing a second storage unit after we filled the first. There were also two dumpsters that we filled – and I mean filled.

Then there were the house listings. Combing the ones in Vermont, this time. I started in the central part of the state, but kept not finding what we needed to find – a solid house, in our price range. Nothing fancy, but with a little bit of land. A few acres. Some privacy. Hopefully with high speed internet to the house. After a while looking there (and a couple of trips north in February and March), I realized we needed to look further north. SU concurred and we found a few possible candidates for our new home. I had a hilarious first call with a realtor who ended up getting us into our new house and even coming over to help me scrape the eaves on the garage when we were painting it….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, we wind down our activities in the house where we were living, and then picked a few houses that were likely. We cleaned the hell out of our house and got the pictures taken to put it on the market. Then we cleared out of the house with our dogs and put the house on the market while we went up to the NEK to look at our candidates. We weren’t sure any of the houses for sale would work out for us, but we were hopeful. We arrived in northern Vermont on Friday afternoon and stayed next to a river in a beautiful house with such a clear view of the nighttime sky that I could see the Milky Way.

On a Saturday in mid-May, we went to look at our first house. It was the one we’d felt had the best possibility of working for us, and when we drove up and saw the view from the yard in back of the house, we were amazed. It’s really a beautiful yard with a million dollar view. Only 4 and something acres, but so private. The house was built in 1968 by the seller’s father. It’s a solid ranch with an open kitchen and living room floor plan and a walkout basement. When we finished walking through, we got outside and told the realtor we didn’t need to look at the other ones.

But what we’d also just found out was that we had a full price offer on our house. It had actually come in on Friday night, and I think it was the first or second person who actually looked at the house. All those years of our game of “what’s the catch” when looking at all the real estate listings paid off in making sure our house was clean and set up and had nothing that “wasn’t in the listing photos” because we knew what we wanted to see when we looked at houses on the real estate listing sites.

We accepted the buyer’s offer, and the seller accepted ours. The next month was a crazy blur, but I managed to finish all my loan paperwork and jump through all the necessary hoops to get the loan done.  I’d started the application process in February – so grateful to my loan officer and processor at NFCU for all the help, and a special shout out to the VA for their guaranteed loan with no down payment. I’m still surprised that there are so many veterans who don’t know about it – but if you’re a veteran (honorably discharged), you can likely get a VA loan. It’s not a benefit unless you use it, kids.

On June 20th, we sold our house in Massachusetts. Two days later, we bought our house in Vermont. That view in the header up there? That’s the view out our living room window. We’ve got a garage with the same footprint as our former house, and a house that’s even bigger. No stairs to the bedroom, and the bathroom’s on the same floor. It needs a metric fuckload of updating, new shingles and windows and a real bathroom because this tiny one isn’t going to do it for us. Who’s doing all that work? We are. With the skills we had and those we also learned making the addition on our last house (and all those repairs before we put it on the market), with a judicious usage of licensed plumbers and electricians for the things we’re not able to do ourselves, we’ll make this house our home.

But first, we’ll take some time to live and enjoy now that we can breathe again. So much rushing around, but we did it. We’re still not sure exactly how two people like us managed to pull this off, but we’re here and we’re staying. Come visit.

Love,

DJ Muse

 

PS – everything here is under construction. on the website, i mean.

12.15.2016

So, I mentioned I’m working on my studio. Actually, I think I mentioned that I was *going* to upgrade my studio, and I’m doing that.

For a few years now, we’ve been going round and round about whether we wanted to sell our house and move out to the sticks or stay here in the “big” city. There were pros and cons each way, but we both really liked the idea of having more privacy and quiet. So we could make our own noise, of course, but our quiet. It sounded like a great idea, we felt like we had the tools and skills to upgrade the house we’d probably be looking at due to our budget and where we wanted to live (western MA or VT).

But then the election happened. I remember watching the result and feeling like I was going to throw up. The world was totally thrown off its axis for me. I was scared for my friends. My privilege (white, female, housed/fed/clothed/car/income/spouse) was showing, but it’s all so tenuous. After a long discussion, we agreed (we being me and my husband) that we were going to “shelter in place” as they call it in disaster preparedness.

We’d had ideas of leaving so far as to start packing things up. We’d looked at a house out in Rowe, but didn’t jump on it for various reasons of cracks and water infiltration, especially where you don’t want it (in the electric service line). I have very mystical friends among the many I know, and they would say that was a sign. That happened not that long before the election, and then afterward we realized we were better off staying here.

So, I decided that I would finish redoing the wiring in the front room – used to be living room, soon to be studio. I took the time to re-wire everything, including the light switches, and did a new subpanel to accommodate future wiring upgrades in the rest of the house. My current studio location had three prong plugs that weren’t grounded, so I had noise problems and it sucked. Now I’ve done it myself and know it’s right.

There are now three hardwired network connections in there, so I can hook up my studio computer and anything else I need (DJ laptop, etc).

Look at all that light – and those properly grounded outlets and high speed internet drops. Sexy!

Then my carpenter (the spouse) helped me pad out and install the drywall in the wiring cutout to match the depth of the existing wall, which was drywall covered with a thick layer of plaster, making it a strange depth.  I’ve been doing all the drywall compound work for almost two weeks now (time consuming) and in the next few days I plan to begin priming and painting the walls.

The blue is old wall, the underneath white is the new drywall and leveling patching compound. Apply, let dry, sand, repeat. Did I mention time-consuming?

The new studio is going to be much larger and has a lot more light than the old studio, which was originally a dining room when I moved in here ten (!) years ago.

Daytime, blinds closed, needs flash. Also, most of my gear is packed in the closet while I do the renovation. New studio will have excellent cable management – because this nest of wires sucks.

Records and some CDs. The bulk of my CDs are packed in boxes upstairs. The packed items include all the A/V gear that was in the old living room (which will be in here when we’re finished). We really won’t use this room much, which is why I decided to move my studio into the bigger room.

This is definitely a work in progress. There’s a long way to go. But I’m making that progress, and when I’m done I’ll have a new, bright, welcoming studio. Thanks so much to my husband for being my best friend and biggest cheering section. His support (and carpentry and setbuilding skills, not to mention his ability to plan for the unexpected) is so vital to what I do. If I’ve got to survive the next four years of the orange, tiny-handed despot, I know my husband will keep me as sane as possible. Hopefully I’ll be making music at the same time.

 

12.04.2015

Nope. I try, but really I just get sidetracked.

There were some decisions to make about where we wanted to be long-term. Many considerations, and the world is just so crazy these days. It made me question a lot of things, and I had to decide where I wanted to be for my own well-being and long-term stability. Yes, the idea of picking up and moving away to the country is crazy, and the idea that I could even do it is an indication of how fortunate I am in many ways. Most people live where they are as a result of circumstances of family, of employment, of “that’s just where I ended up.”

Family. My family is all married and found – so many people I chose to be part of my life because they were someone I wanted to have in my life. Again, I’m fortunate. I choose well these days, the result of so many errors in discretion and judgment when I was younger. Luckily, I eventually learn from my mistakes. I chose music as part of my path, and writing as the other – and there are so many amazing people in those areas who became part of that circle I call friends and family. We support each other. We cheer each other on. We share information and inspiration and music.

So, I’m trying to set up my life so that I create more, noodle more, play with music more. Write more. My husband thinks he’s the only one who reads my page, and he might not be far from right. But I’m going to try writing here every day or as close to it as I can get. Expect things about my life, the projects I do around the house, and my music. Fun stuff about the music I’m encoding from vinyl, that ongoing, never-ending process. Maybe some links to the songs, especially when I have trouble finding them on YouTube (those end up on my Facebook page a lot of the time when I find something I want to share). Basically being more forthcoming with what I’m doing on a more regular basis.

Right now, I’m still doing the Seven Hills Slam on the first Sunday of each month. There’s talk about expanding the reading to more nights (like making it biweekly) and I’ve verbally committed to adding those nights when they happen. I’ll try to keep the gigs page updated accordingly.

So, let’s see where this goes! Feel free to drop me a line at my djmuse address. I’ll write back, I promise.

06.29.2015

…to update.

Got the Seven Hills Slam coming up again. There’s also a fundraiser in the works and I believe I’ll be doing something for that, as well. The slam team has been chosen and they’re going to nationals in Oakland, so they need to raise money. There’s a regional slam the first weekend in July and that should be fun, also.

Here’s to summer, friends and music.

06.09.2015

So, I’ve been doing the monthly poetry DJ thing at the Seven Hills Slam, and it’s been great to get out again.

I’ve also been encoding vinyl and finding things I’d totally forgotten I had. With hundreds of records in various crates and bins in my house, that’s not surprising.

I’ve also been cleaning up my music files and consolidating from three different computers over the years. One of my discoveries in that process was an old mix I did probably around 2002. I don’t even remember what the release name was, but its working name was “Boom.” Lots of breaks and some old gems from the Chems and the Propellerheads that still make me want to dance. No matter what I do, I’m never quite satisfied, but I have to say that mix came out pretty damned good. Going to post it up on the Mixes page and post a link on r/breakbeat because the kids need some good “old” music.

xoxo
DJ Muse, aka Grandma Funk

01.25.2015

Oh, yeah….

by DJ Muse

..I forgot to mention – I have a new monthly. It’s the poetry thing again. This time, it’s the 7 Hills Poetry Slam in Worcester. Next one is February 8th (Sunday). A featured poet, an open mic, a spotlight feature and a slam. I play in the middle of all that stuff. I’ve been reconfiguring my live gear so it’s a bit more streamlined and I don’t have to dismantle my studio every time I got out to play. Enter the new gear!

So now I’ve got new gear with fully midi mappable surface. I’m working on tweaking it to have more control with Traktor beyond the standard midi map for it and find myself using more of the creative functions (like looping and cue points). Having the buttons rather than having to click everything makes a huge difference. I guess I’m just a huge nerd at heart.

 

11.21.2014

Living Life

by DJ Muse

Sometimes I get busy with life. I don’t post here as often as I should, and I really don’t know how many people actually look anyway. But I’m still plugging away at my music organization, talking to other people who are more active at the moment, and finding a lot to enjoy while still living my life.

My record collection is a monster. There are well over a thousand records of all kinds. Then there’s all the CDs, which I have mostly encoded and backed up. There was a large chunk of mix CDs and compilations in my collection that I still haven’t digitized (in FLAC format – I had to go back and start again because I realized MP3s, even at their highest quality, weren’t good enough for me). I’m actually to the point where I’m trying to digitize my vinyl now. It’s time-consuming, but also rewarding.

A technical problem for a family member brought me their cast-off laptop, which was an extremely nice piece of hardware with a defective hard drive. Luckily, my past life as a computer person enabled me to replace/upgrade the hard drive and now I’ve got a new, non-mac laptop for my DJ software. The last few months have found me trying to carve time out to manage the collection of music on that laptop. I basically dumped my entire collection of music onto a partition of the hard drive (which pretty much filled the whole thing) and am now culling out the tracks I don’t see myself needing when I play out. That work will probably continue for a long time.

Playing out – that would be nice, and I’ve actually started thinking about it more and more. I’d love to do a weekly sort of gig like I had at the Java Hut back in the day. Making connections with interesting people in the community will eventually lead to the right bar (it would have to be a bar!) where I can play that weird variety of music that I’ve got for people who’d like to listen and enjoy.

In the meantime, I continue with my life. Sometimes I think about moving to Finland. One of my grandparents emigrated from there, and it’s an option for me to apply for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Even though I’m only a quarter Finn, I feel like I’m all Finn at heart. I love the cold, snow and skiing. I’m also a bit reticent around strangers and take a bit to warm up – I’m told this is also a Finnish thing. Living somewhere that’s a Social Democracy where people have a sense of responsibility for their fellow citizens and aren’t just looking out for themselves really appeals to me. Lately I’ve felt more and more like a freak who’s ill-equipped to live in our society. I feel physically uncomfortable about being anything less than truthful, and I have a strong desire to see people do the right thing (and expect that of myself). I don’t mean that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I try my best to do the right thing and treat others as I’d like them to treat me. Maybe what I’m looking for is community – people looking out for each other, not trying to make divisions and tear each other down. That whole PLUR thing from back in the rave days might be pie-in-the-sky, but Peace, Love, Unity and Respect seem pretty damned good to me.

04.10.2014

Too Much Music?

by DJ Muse

Been thinking a lot lately about how there is so much music at our fingertips in the internet age. Go into the studio, grab a record, play it. Think about how your friends might like to hear that, so you look on YouTube for the song – find it, and then post it on your FB. Even going back to when I started getting serious about vinyl (around 1996 or so), it was hard to find certain records. Hell, a lot of records, really. If you were buying DJ singles, you had to hope the record store had one. The popular ones sold out fast. Online record buying was just starting out around then (or a bit later, really) and you’d have to hope they took the time to encode clips of the single so you could get an idea what you were buying.

Go back further than that – to the stone ages when I was in high school. I lived in the sticks of North Central Massachusetts, separated from the “metropolis” of Boston and its radio stations by hills that made any station other than the strongest nothing more than tantalizing snippets through the static, no matter my antenna contortions or adornments with tinfoil. One day that sticks in my mind, I heard “Der Komissar” by After the Fire on the radio. I’d heard it before and loved it, so I rushed to hit record on the integrated tape recorder to capture the song so I could figure out what it was and listen to it repeatedly. This was also before the Walkman became readily available and I could only really listen to it holed up in my room. There was no looking on the internet to figure out all the related acts and what that genre was so I could wallow in new music. It was probably the perfect environment with easily distracted, probably ADD me, because I had to concentrate on one thing. It gave me time to examine and absorb things, and make connections to what I already knew. Granted, at that time, all I knew was classic rock and maybe a tiny bit of hip-hop from going to the skating rink (Rapper’s Delight!), but it was something new. I know if I grew up in NYC or LA, it would have been totally different, but to most of the world was stuck like me – having to find the music by accident or through friends. There weren’t many friends who were musically savvy in my neck of the woods.

I remember a friend in the Air Force (late 80s) who was from NYC and gave me Depeche Mode and the Cure to listen to for the first time (Music for the Masses and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me respectively). It blew my world wide open and led me down the rabbit hole of clubs and electronic music and I’ve learned so much. Hearing that music at that point in my life, it really made me feel like I’d found “my” music. It fit where I was emotionally and was just right for me where all the other stuff I’d listened to felt like my mother’s hand-me-down clothes (which it kind of was).

Today, you can stumble across a song from a decade ago and find a whole subgenre of music that you never knew existed. I’m thinking about all the dance music I’ve been exposed to in my adult life – I see such a wide array of styles as I try desperately to wrestle my vinyl collection into some semblance of order. There’s stuff that I try to categorize and fail. There’s music like 2-step that existed for a brief period of time and nestles into another style (house, with hints of breaks) but is its own unique flavor. Personally, I have a kind of tunnel vision and try not to get too involved in every song and style of music that happens around me – it would be too much and I have to focus a bit to even get by. As things get more fragmented and blown wide open stylistically, I feel like part of what I can do as a DJ is be a curator of music. With so much music available, it’s harder to focus it and find things that you’d like, in a group that you can listen to (YouTube playlists are great for this).

As I mentioned, I’m trying to organize my vinyl these days. It’s going slowly. I wanted to make a mix for a friend who’s a similar age of a bunch of the songs we listened to when we were younger. My husband has never even heard some of the stuff I’m pulling out, because he grew up on Cape Cod in the same time period as me, and he didn’t even get the stations from Boston out there. He went the punk route, and I went the art fag route. Grin It’s been fun to teach my spouse some new musical tricks, as he has taught me more than a few. There’s always new music (and old music) to learn about. Not sure if that’s just too much or that I need to get busy learning more of it. 🙂

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