Monday, August 9, 2010


note: the following blog post will be split into 6 installments, of which this is the fourth, and each will be posted in roughly 2 day intervals beginning August 1st 2010. your comments are welcome below. As always, click the pictures to expand them if you like.

see the first installment here
see the second installment here
see the third installment here

A bed and breakfast definitely can create an interesting microcosm of people and activity, and we're interfacing with all sorts of odd people, some amiable enough, some bordering on insufferable.

First there's Jane. She is an elderly woman from England that has come back to Maui from England to help take care of her daughter's baby. She has all the stereotypical English mannerisms: very polite, tells un-amusing anecdotes and then laughs at them quasi-nervously herself like they're quasi-funny. She generally has an uptight personna - straight out of "Upstairs, Downstairs".

Don't get me wrong - she's very nice - and perfectly pleasant to have breakfast with (which is when you see the people). It feels stiff though, so I have problems connecting with her, since I have my own stiffness problem when I don't know someone. I don't make much conversation, as my inner morning person is AWOL. Alecia gently engages her in the mornings, asking questions and showing interest in the answers.

Then there's a boarder (a little more long term, I get the feeling) who - if I recall correctly - is Spanish. Swarthy. Neck-down hirsute. The scuttlebutt is he hasn't paid recently and he won't leave. He sunbathes around the grassy grounds a lot (what - like you can't find a beach here?), and smokes as he walks around outside in his bathing suit. He nods and then quickly looks away without speaking when you see him. We rarely see him though.

Finally there's Mike. Mike is here from Los Angeles. He initially comes off - to Alecia and I at least - as a giant pain in the ass. He's gone on and on about some real estate deal he did, talks about his money successes and big screen TVs a little too much (not impressed, dude), and speaks disparagingly to me about a woman who he's here to see in Maui with other people present (in a way that I wouldn't do). Basically he strikes me a nebbish Donald Trump wannabee minus the comb-over.

It's hard to describe here, because it's really more about his tone than the actual content of his sentences. Trust me, he's an eye-roller. A groaner. We generally aren't enjoying his antics. I'm trying to steer clear of him entirely, but Rosemary has a way of engaging him, as she's nicer than I am. As she's speaking to him I'm thinking: "In the name of all that is holy and good...please don't ask him another question!" Oh well, we finally get done with him and after a quick visit to a nearby beach it's off to the wedding.

I was tipped off by Alecia that there was going to be a poster board (as it turns out the other side of the poster seen at right in the 'preparations' picture below) where we will be invited to make a haiku. We've been staying in Haiku Hawai'i, so it's called 'a Haiku in Haiku'. Going with my strengths, I sit down in the room right before we leave and compose a little musical haiku. I've honestly never heard of that before, but someone must have thought of it, right? Anyway, as a haiku I decide it is to be three measures long (for the 3 lines), and while I composed it in music notation software there in the room, I'll write it in hand on the paper at the event. For my method, I interpret syllables as beats. You could argue that rhythm (and not beats) should be syllables, but I won't be debating that point. It'd be way too short then! As it is, it only lasts maybe 15-20 seconds.

A Haiku is 7 plus 5 plus 7 right, right?? Piece done.

Here's my, uh, musical haiku (as it turns out, the first draft):

The idea (in my fantasy mind at least) is about 2 elements existing in harmony, but each with their own autonomy. I did this with the harmonic language, and the element of right vs. left hand. At the start, I made the melody (right hand) outline a C chord which is juxtaposed over a Bb major chord. Then when the left hand chord moves to a C harmony (2nd inversion - don't want to be too obvious now, do I?), the melody moves to a B natural, for a cross relation against the Bb chord. I try to be clever with that kind of stuff. The last chord is a real ring-y pan-diatonic D over /C maj as seen in the examples.

Yes - Blah, blah, blah…pretty chords. If you don't understand it by its description here don't worry, I play the haiku below for them in an embedded youtube video.

Arriving at Ram Dass's house, the preparations are beautifully laid out. There are rocks lining the path, and flowers flowing with the rocks.

A woman opens the ceremony by blowing a conch shell instrument and then singing a hawai'ian song, which traditionally is thought to clear the spirits. Then Gopal will recite a verse, Krishna Das will play a song, Alecia will recite a lovely poem she chose and then a man from India, KK, has a reading and will direct the couple to circle the bowl of incense 7 times while he directs them through some vows.

Ram Dass does beautifully, and even injects some humor from time to time (when Saraswati's response can't be quite heard at the "Do you take this man" part, he says enthusiastically with a smile - "She said YES!"). People giggle.

Every one else does well too:

Gopal's reading is wonderful, which he delivers with quiet intensity in a no-nonsense style (My favorite line: "May this marriage have a fair face and a good name, an omen as welcome as the moon in a clear blue sky." Ode 2667, Rumi).

Krisha Das plays a beautiful song "A Heart as Wide as the World". Even right now, 4 days later the melody flows gently through my head when I'm in silence. It has a little picardy third cadence in there (for some of you music geeks), that never gets old even though it comes again and again.

Alecia's poem, which she recites from memory, is also marvelous and touching - I happen to know she worked on it hard (an excerpt: "There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy, from wing to wing, from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom. " 'From Blossoms' - Li-Young Lee).

Should I have brought tissues?

The 7 circles ritual caps it off nicely. Wonderfully evocative.

Ram Dass at the ready:

Cousin Ronnie walks the bride down the aisle:

The happy bride during 7 circles:

The first kiss as husband and wife:

Dear friends share a heartfelt moment:

After the ceremony we head to a lovely restaurant called 5 Palms which is on the beach to see the sunset and then have dinner. But on the way in the car, I'm told that a haiku is actually 5 plus 7 plus 5.


I'm a little freaked out (seriously, like anyone's gonna know?…). Still, when I get to the restaurant, I take out my laptop and start revising furiously, sitting on the beach while the sun is setting. Krishna Das walks by as I'm working, and seeing me on a laptop he says, "writing a letter?" When he sees it's music though, he's intensely interested. How cool is that? Well, I guess a score is, after all, a visually beautiful thing.

2nd and final draft:

Ultimately, I'm happy with this because I think the second effort is better. Unfortunately, when I finish in about 5 minutes - by that time everyone is seated. Even worse, I also went and did the piece in hand first before sitting, since I needed room on the paper. Now I've got no place to sit…except the kids table - the REAL kids table.

Yay! I see a place at the bride and groom's table - too good to be true, I start to walk over...someone sits down…wait there's an empty…nope…how about…

It's high school all over again! Actually, I had a little more luck with this in high school on the first day, but that's another story for another time…

Well, I finally found a seat and it was fine, but again I'm a little uncomfortable. I sat with a group that were all living on Maui - locals you could say. Once I got over my initial nervousness I was OK. Very nice people. Still, I couldn't hear what some of them were saying all that well though, so I found myself just nodding and smiling a lot. I wish I could blame it on dialect...Is my hearing on its last legs as well?

It's at this moment that the exact low point of the trip comes for me. I'm sitting here with my folded-up body language, nervous, not knowing what to say. Saraswati and Raghu pass by, saying their hellos to all, and mention that their friend is going to serenade them with her guitar, and if anyone else would like to play…

OPPORTUNITY! Deep down, I know I could create a magical moment, really give Saraswati and Raghu a serious present. I know it, but do I believe it? Also - let's face it - it could also be my instant ticket out of nowhere-land. This was the instant 'get-out-of-beating-free' card when I was 12. The friend gets up. There's two false starts, which she blames on the surf/noise distractions. I can't think straight. I'm not paying attention.

I start to think about a couple of songs I could do. I'd have to sing - too noisey in this environment for solo guitar. Hmmm. The first song that comes to mind is "Little Wing". Perfect description of Saraswati. Yet it's a little high for me, but only about a half step. "What if my voice cracks?", I think. "Is there a guitar pick? I could tune the guitar down"…but I'll need it at concert pitch for the second thing I think of (an obscure but quaint little Duane Allman song called "Please Be With Me…"). "It's low, could I make myself heard?"

"I haven't practiced singing in weeks!"

I'm frozen, completely up in my head watching this moment pass by in slow motion like a car crash - and then the opportunity dissipates without being seized…people start eating - some wander about…the moment is lost…


Shyness. I don't wish it on you. In the end, the friend's false starts (which to me - the music professional - should be the only viable justification for the continued administration of capital punishment) were nothing worse than charming to the attendees of this gathering. There's something to be learned from that.

Later, I confide in Alecia about it. She's kind and supportive to me, but inside I remain pretty pissed at myself despite her kindness. If there's in good news in this matter it's that the confiding itself is a small victory, as is mentioning it here.

This was so easy for me when I was 12 years old...what happened? Lack of threats of physical violence? They oughta have an emergency room with nothing but therapists in it. I could've been hauled in on a stretcher at that point.


Not long after though, one of the highlights of my trip comes at the end of the dinner. I have a good talk about music, and life, with KD. For someone who has such a following, he is quite kind, full of humility, and generous and respectful to me. I tell him about my projects, and we end by promising to be in contact and possibly work together. My heart fills a bit.

.....the universe taketh away, and the universe giveth.....I guess....

At the wedding with KD before heading off to the restaurant:

…and here is the final version of the haiku, which I recorded in this video for Saraswati and Raghu once I returned to NYC:



Saraswati said...

"Neck down hirsute"?
"Emergency room with nothing but therapists"?
You are seriously killing me!

In honesty, your note does kill me a little- and in full disclosure- I really wanted you to play. I wanted to ask you to play something weeks in advance. But I guess I got stuck in my head too. I actually thought you might feel... 'used' or something. I just mainly wanted you to be there as my friend Reed, not as this hugely talented guy.
I should have been honest with you.
Actually, I had asked Judah to play something and he said 'no', that he wasn't comfortable with it. SO I was worried to ask you too- that it would be awkward if you said no.

The part of the story though that really leaves a tearful burn is that Little Wing just might be one of my all time very favorite songs.

As you said, all these little confidings are small victories, even though what you have confided feels very painful. I really applaud your self-reflection. I think it is from consciously seeing our habits, we then have the chance to interface with them and work to deconstruct them.

Bravo to You.

Reed Robins said...

Ah Saraswati,

This comment is so greatly appreciated, because it feels like I'm not out in the wilderness with the challenges my thoughts provoke. I feel understood and appreciated.

It also makes me present to the fact that I was indeed there as your friend, and that's really worth acknowledging. Opportunity NOT squandered.

Thank you for your thoughts, and for your supportiveness.