KEEPS ON SLIPPIN' INTO
B A R R Y B R A K E . C O M

 

 

things i did in 05.
a moustache-twisting journal of the few things in my life worth mentioning

12  |  11  |  10  |  09  |  08  |  07  |  06  |  05  |  04  |  03  |  02  |  01  |  2000  |  99  |  98  |  97

 

 

 

 

 

yeah

 

land of smiles.
six weeks honeymooning in thailand

120 days in the valley.
diaries from my cancer journey

go east.
my month in beijing

fast hannah.
a preliminary bit of blizz blazz

mad skills.
bbbbarry thRoWz U sOmE dEeP hOuSe

 

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drank ceylon tea

Given to me by my brother Richard, who informed us on New Year's Day that he was going to Sri Lanka — old Ceylon — in a few days to help out with the tsunami relief effort. He brought back remarkable stories, first-hand experiences of something we only see through the dark lens of media, and a porcelain jar of delicious tea.

 

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went to the cowboy breakfast

One of San Antonio's biggest events, and I'd never shown up to it before. Maybe that's because it's at five in the morning, when the only thing you should be doing is going to bed. Huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, boots and spurs worn by people who need them: it's a cultural feast.     more

 

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celebrated a year of marriage

What's hard to believe is that we've been married such a short time. To both Catherine and me, it feels like we've been a unit forever. In a way, we have. These first months of our life together have been wall-to-wall hardship, wall-to-wall joy, and more fun than I could have imagined. We get to do this for a lifetime?

 

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hit the stationery mother-lode

The first anniversary is the paper anniversary. We figure no one has ever had a better one. Just days after our one-year mark, a venerable store went out of business. It was a sad day, and the end of an era, but man oh man, what a sale. Catherine and I bought shelf-loads of beautiful note-cards, invitations, journals, envelopes, baby announcements, Christmas stuff, Hanukkah stuff, birthday stuff — enough for decades, and all for a song.

 

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stood silent upon a peak in darien

We'd planned on taking an anniversary trip, a month in Italy. After a series of mishaps, and on a day's notice, Catherine and I wound up going to Panama instead. We stayed in a cozy mountain town, breathed the clean air, drank the locally-brewed coffee, smelled the zillion bright flowers, bathed in the natural hot springs, and, early one morning, stood atop Volcan Barú, the country's highest point, to see both oceans beneath our feet.     more

 

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clinicked

Several times last year, the Jazz Protagonists went to school. It's such fun to be together with Greg and Darren, bouncing off each other's ideas and making every event into a party. What joy, then, to turn that chemistry toward sharing ideas and techniques, from overarching philosophies of music down to finger position, with high school and middle school students.

 

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drank chili chocolate

Who would have thought that chocolate and chili peppers were meant to go together? The movie "Chocolat" inspired us to do some experimenting, after which we had a seductively kicky hot drink that actually caused a friend to ask, echoing Judi Dench's suspicion, "Are you sure there's not something else in this?" Ask us about it. We'll let you try some.

 

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watched our car get stolen

Running right alongside our incredible good fortune was its equal and opposite. I was dropping something off at the grocery-store mailbox, looked back, and saw a guy get into our car and drive it away. I impotently chased after him, yelling for help, but it was no use. The car was gone. Ten days later the cops returned it to us, in horrid condition: our guys had used it as a mobile crack house. The cops had found and confiscated drug paraphernalia among the filthy clothes, cigarette butts, beer cans, and assorted junk, which we then cleaned out in two disgusting sessions. It actually turned out to be in decent shape once we had it detailed, professionally shampooed and scrubbed top to bottom. Until Catherine...

 

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found a needle

Sticking out of her rear, the broken-off tip of a hypodermic needle, used by a known drug user. It had lodged in the passenger seat, and had remained hidden through several goings-over. We dashed to the clinic, waited an eternity, and got a couple of tests and shots. Slim to no chance of HIV, but a very good chance of Hepatitis-C, which is of course incurable and lifelong. We're still waiting for the final tests on that. So I'm getting madder and madder at these guys. What could happen next?     take a look

 

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spent days in the emergency room

This year, Catherine reached critical condition enough times that we began to have a favorite place in the waiting room. We recognized staffers, and they recognized us. All told, we spent right around seventy hours there. Add that to another hundredish hours of scheduled doctor visits throughout the year. Please let this be an unbroken record.

 

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got a new diagnosis

One result of all that doctoring is that we found out more about Catherine's condition. Late in the year, it was settled that she has Crohn's disease, an incurable though containable condition that's related to ulcerative colitis, which we'd thought she had. They often get those two conflated. But, whereas UC exists only in a portion of the colon, Crohn's affects the entire gastrointestinal tract, starting from the mouth, which in Catherine's case is riddled with sores much of the time. With side effects like crippling joint pain, huge lesions on her legs, and blisters on her eyeballs, this beautiful woman is living through her own personal book of Job.

 

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read the abhorsen trilogy

A friend had recommended the book Sabriel, by Garth Nix. To my eye, it looked like garden-variety juvenile sci-fantasy, but Catherine seemed awfully absorbed. When I read it, I became absorbed myself in this meticulously drawn story in which a young necromancer must discover her destiny, all the while whizzing through scenery that's so compelling you wish this fictional world were real just so you could go there.

 

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performed on a children's album

An Elephant Never Forgets, by Owen Duggan. Unlike the computerized jollity that dominates the landscape, this project has an earnest, organic, gently playful feel to it that recalls the kids' music of my childhood. I played piano and melodica. I also stomped my feet, clapped my hands, sang like a farmer, shouted like a sea captain, reveled like a codfish, and co-co-co-produced. The result is delightful: the catchy title song alone should be an instant hit.     more

 

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recorded americana for a folk singer-songwriter

Doug McNeel will sometime soon be releasing The Great Awakening, a recording that seems to include more musical styles than the actual number of songs. All of them, though, fit under the giant umbrella of Americana, a genre I haven't officially done much. I had fun doing the oomcha-oomcha piano part of a Nashville swing, the tinkly riffs of a white-boy blues number, the right-hand-tremolo/left-hand-stride of ragtime. Above all I had a blast working with some of the best session musicians around, including my longtime partner Darren Kuper, picker Hank Harrison of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and award-winning bassist and Asylum Street Spanker Adam Booker.

 

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got an ipod

Good things come to those who wait. In this case, the good thing was a clunky old original iPod with a real-life scrolling wheel, an old FireWire port, and ten gigs of space, which I have only begun to fill with my motley music collection. On a recent road-trip, I recalled bringing along an unwieldy sack of CDs, and smiled at the extreme wieldiness of my new thing.

 

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celebrated a 15th anniversary

It seems like just five years ago that the Jazz Protagonists celebrated our tenth anniversary. The tenth was festive and intimate; the fifteenth was festive and big. We had a shindig at Luna, where several prominent musicians dropped by for the fun; San Antonio's main jazz station also partied with us, devoting a day of programming to the Protags. What fun to flip on the radio on the way to — um, the emergency room — and hear oneself, playing and being described in such glowing terms by the DJs.

 

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netflixed

This was mainly Catherine's doing. She spends quite a few nights at home being a jazz widow. Why not save a bit of money while availing ourselves of a giant movie collection? So, now, we never have to wonder what we're in the mood for; the next thing on the list just magically shows up at our door. The recommendations are always amusingly schizophrenic, their customer being a big Hitchcock/Bullock fan.

 

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painted the entry hall

Doesn't sound like such a big deal, does it? And yet choosing the color was the work of an entire season. The delicious block of mint-green, balanced by a giant mirror and an aunt-blue chair, never ceases to bring delight to us.

 

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didn't drink coffee shakes

I just love the taste of those wonderful frosted coffees I began creating a few years ago. But, in writing this year's summary, it hit me that I went an entire calendar year without ever making even one. Why?

 

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learned css

I'd only had the most voodooistic understanding of Cascading Style Sheets, the ingenious development that brings depth and flexibility and ease to putting together a web page. Then R.B. Blackstone showed me a tantalizing example of what you can do with them. I vowed that I'd learn the craft; since then, I've come up with some pretty cool new things, including some I've never seen before. You may not even notice any change in my sites, but the code is gradually becoming more elegant. This brings me geeky pleasure.

 

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hung with the cool cousins

as several members of Catherine's vast family are called. We spent a week or two with them in California last summer. All in their twenties and early thirties, they've known each other forever; conversations are dense with layers of in-jokes, genial humor, loose irreverence, and a confident affection for oddity of all kinds.

 

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visited the getty museum

While out west, we dipped into LA for dinner with dear friends and a dose of culture. The Getty is, like many new museums, more famous for its architecture than for what's inside. Though the art collection is impressive, it's scattered; meanwhile, the buildings and grounds of the place are simultaneously simple, grand, and inviting.

 

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got rid of the needles

For some reason, I'd never thrown away all the hypodermic needles I used during the cancer episode, when administering shots to my own stomach. It's illegal to throw them in the regular garbage: you have to take them to a hospital so they can be disposed of. And all the times I'd been to hospitals over a period of — can it be? — two and a half years, I'd never remembered or bothered to do it. One day, though, I passed by the ever-present box, and thought, "No more."

 

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lived my 2000th week

Which, of course, corresponds to my 14,000th day. I usually spend such days doing some remarkable thing that's worthy of the milestone, but this time I decided to spend the entire week in celebration. I got rid of those needles. I also went in for a cat scan, and meditated on where I'd been and how far I'd come. I tended to Catherine, who had been feeling more and more terrible, in spite of her new meds, the whole week before. I played jazz at a fundraiser for Katrina victims, gigged at glitzy ribbon cutting, and, to top it off...

 

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reunited

It just so happens that my two-thousandth week came to an end with my high school's twenty-year reunion. There were more of the right people there than I'd figured on. It seemed perfectly natural to sit and eat with all the folks in our lunch crowd from the early Eighties. And it seemed natural that no one had changed much at all. Catherine enjoyed meeting all these people she'd heard about in bits and pieces, and I basked in the repeated Aha of renewed friendships.

 

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continued melding households

I know you've cherished this all your life, but do we really need it? I've cherished that all my life, but we don't really need it. I don't like this at all but you cherish it, so let's keep it. What a continual process of learning to like, or live without, things, activities, places, even people. How freeing, that one can modify oneself so dramatically! In marriage, as in all redemptions, old things are passed away, and all things are become new.

 

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had a wilson-kidd holiday

Our foreign exchange brother and his family, whom we've kept in touch with all these years, do things right. Their move from England back to New Zealand was a six-month peripatetic adventure, with stopovers in France, Italy, Morocco, and, for a month, Texas. We wined and dined with Peter and Julie, played with Alexander and Francesca, and told them they really didn't have to go when they did. The gift of chosen family!

 

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designed some bookplates

Jason and Erin Young have turned out to be great couple-friends with Catherine and me. He's a fellow composer, mountaineer, and woodworker, and one of the few people I know who gets as rhapsodic as I do about a thing well done. A while back he mentioned the desire for some really nice bookplates. No more needed to be said. I lifted and modified some Florentine designs from some of Catherine's favorite stationery, and came up with something I thought both of them would like, a good balance between the stately and the florid. They did like them, and so did Catherine and I, so much that we made some for ourselves.    take a look

 

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what a year. dedicated to the glory of god.

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so, what did you do?

 

 

12  |  11  |  10  |  09  |  08  |  07  |  06  |  05  |  04  |  03  |  02  |  01  |  2000  |  99  |  98  |  97