Adventures With Volvo In Gigland #3

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on December 11, 2014

The Solo Gig

I felt myself squinting my eyes on the big notes, and getting extra breathy on the verse.

I was trying.

So hard.

Too hard, not to take the whole rendition too far…

but it’s almost impossible not to go the full ham sandwich when you’re singing the theme from Titanic.

Oddly, that is not the reason I was not asked back to perform at Coconut Cove.

I’ll tell you the moral of the story up front:
Sometimes you don’t win the room.

Sometimes the final act isn’t heroic.

Sometimes the whole point is just to show up, and do it.

Then you know you did it. And that belongs to you.

You see, it was evening, and I was finishing up my instant stove-top Palak Paneer at my desk, when I got the call from Sam, asking about the “solo gig”. My first thought was “Hell No!” I’ve never done a solo vocal/piano gig in my life! But then I stilled myself. I could develop this skill, and get better at it. This could open more performance avenues for me, if I could suck up the courage to do it. I looked through my slat-blinds, at the creepy dude across the alley on his balcony. Ever since he saw me accidentally drop my towel after a shower, he spent more time out on his porch. I needed to improve my circumstances.  Maybe I should take the gig?

Let me back up a moment. So, for 4 years I did a gig at a popular place called Coconut Cove in Rowland Heights. Actually it was a family restaurant, full of large groups of parents and babies, and also pods of hip, Asian teenagers, with amazing hair. The restaurant was the tropical jewel of a strip mall, in an asphalt lagoon. It was a flat, stretched out hive of salons and boba places, next to the hulking rush of the 60 freeway, the asphalt ocean.

Felice hooked me up with the gig, because it was a two singer thing, and she was often the other singer. The other regular singer was a girl named Kat, and we all rotated with a few other singers. The band was pretty regular, headed up by a jovial and incredibly cool man named Mo Lincoln, on guitar. Ron was on v-drums, and Ben (who, as I understood it, was kinda famous in Thailand) was on keyboard, and key bass.

It was an easy, low-key gig, but after 4 years there was some kerfuffle on the business side, the place changed hands, and the band was cut.

However, the original owner set up a new restaurant in a location nearby. Really nearby, like across the parking lot, and he still wanted music, but not as big a group. So this was when I got the call from Sam.

Sam was an old Japanese man who always sat at the bar with a mug full of no less than 8 bags of green tea. One of the kindest people I’ve met, soft spoken, with a smooth but freckled complexion. I always thought his complexion was so thin, I wondered if I was seeing through the first few layers of his skin, like bible paper, or the paper of the tea bags he coveted. Sam was close with the owner and close with the band, and he suggested they just have me come back to do the gig solo, vocal and piano.

Ok fast forward again, back at my apartment on the phone with Sam. I turned the blinds down with my hand, to block out creepy balcony man. I don’t usually jump into musical situations, where I might be out of my depth – but I needed to move, and my funds were low. So I asked Sam if there would be a piano there, he said yes. So I took the gig.

Now to figure out how I would actually do it. I had a big jazz chart collection, but pop tunes are a different animal – and I hadn’t memorized the words to most of them (see my previous post about how well I know lyrics to pop tunes), so these charts would have to do double duty as music/lyric sheets.
(for non-musicians, chart = sheet music).
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAYA
IN THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION:

1)    Raya is not the world’s best pianist. She does what she needs to for her own compositional purposes, and for teaching when needed, but when it counts, Raya hires a pianist.

2)    Raya is confident singing, but may have a hard time hiding a certain amount of contempt/mocking-tone when performing songs she feels are high on the cheese scale. It’s easier to hide this with a band.

The Making Of The Charts.


My plan involved binder rings, plastic page covers, multicolored printing to make the chords pop out, and very big fonts. Very big.

I combed through my green, jazz-gig binders, my big blue top-40 lyric binder, and my student binder (full of music I would never run over with my car, let alone perform).

But here I was.

Staring at the theme from Titanic.

Hey, it’s a good theme. A great pop ballad!….for Celine Dion. Not me.

I sat in front of my computer, confusing my Word program. Lots of lines of lyrics, framed on both sides by chord symbols in blue. Much use of Tab button. Took a lot of pages, and I found myself taping edges of plastic sheet covers together to make a 3 page fold. High ingenuity. Low tech.

Putting The Book Together.

Order was crucial. You want a mix of ballads and “up tunes” to keep the people with you. Also, I did not have the luxury of another player to take instrumental solos to extend the length of the song (oldest jazz trick in the book), so I needed a quantity of tunes to fill the time.

Practicing On Mom’s Piano.


All I had at my apartment was a synth a la 1995, with non-weighted keys, and pedals I had to chase around the floor with my feet.

I threw my newly compiled “solo piano gig” book in Volvo’s passenger seat, and drove over to my mom’s house to practice on a real piano. I started with some R&B tunes, the kind with about 4 chord changes for the verses, and maybe two chord changes for the chorus. I figured out ways to approximate the grooves, and I actually got into it. When a song has only a few chords to think about, you can focus on your singing more… oh wait a second…

(In the voice of Morgan Freeman: “And that was that moment Raya understood pop R&B.”)

After practicing that set, I had some tea with mom, and discussed the goings on of the local squirrel population. Then we talked about her new book (a newer one can be found here), and how much longer she thought Volvo was fit to take on the kind of mileage I was demanding of him. I said I was sure he’d be fine for years. What, did she think he was going to break down in the middle of an intersection or something? Moms worry. She asked if they had a piano there, and I said of course! Kind of a pre-requisite to a piano/vocal gig? Then she asked if I was scared. My performer’s practiced self confidence wanted to say no, but this was mom, so I let the mask fall. I was honest.

“Yea.”

“That’s alright. Sometimes you need that.”

After tea, I went back to practice the harder stuff: jazz, Bossa nova, some Stevie Wonder, the tunes where I needed to use extra pedal to wash out my lack of improvisation skills. But hey, get those chords wet enough and noooobody knows what you’re getting away with. (pro tip!)

I was starting to actually feel good about the gig. Starting to imagine myself making something out if this. Sitting at the piano, getting all emotional, maybe straddling the bench like Tori Amos, taking requests and adding my own spin to them…finally my weekends might be worth driving an hour each way for $80.

The Gig (observe life-like rendering)


I confidently unloaded my little PA system, my speakers, my stand. I threw Gigbag over my shoulder, with my microphone and specially compiled solo-piano gig book. I was a professional. The room was mine.

The new Coconut Cove was spacious, to the point of being a bit cavernous. Apparently word hadn’t gotten out about the new location yet, so there wasn’t the usual bustle of touristy looking people, and the regular people with amazing haircuts, to absorb the bounce of sound. It was boomy, and everything was shiny.

Sam met me at the door, glad to see me. He brought me over to the owner, who also seemed glad to see me. Everyone was glad. I couldn’t wait to get to the piano, do my thing, and make everyone gladder.

Sam and the owner led me to the middle of the restaurant, where there was an area cleared away, about 20 feet from a section of booths. Spacious. There were other booth sections further away to my right and left, and I swear there was a sound delay from the clink of those dishes to my ears. I didn’t see the piano yet, so I assumed they were going to roll it in after they showed me the place. Then we stopped, next to some unused tables. Sam looked to me.

“There it is.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. He walked me around the group of unused tables, and there it was, the “piano.” I hadn’t been able to see it around the group of tables, because it was too short.

I had no idea what to say, as I faced the smallest, shortest, most 1989-tastic Casio keyboard, I had ever seen.

It made my home keyboard look like a 9-foot grand piano. It didn’t even have 88 keys.

“So here’s the piano.” He said, as if I had no idea what I was looking at –and I kind of didn’t. He showed me the on switch, the volume button, and the drum loop pad, which he clearly assumed I would be making use of. There was also a set of chimes. (I’m just gonna leave that sentence there.)

And then it hit me, even worse than what I realized they expected I would do, was what I realized I could not do – use the pedal. Because there was no pedal! My subterfuge was doomed. All would hear my horrible chord voicings and choppy attacks! I heard my mother’s voice in my mind,

“Will they have a piano there?”

O’ maternal intuition! Why did I not listen to thee!? “Piano” just doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

But I smiled,

“Great!”

and began to set up my music.

“Oh lord.”

I released a quick prayer to the ancient Greek diety, Prechorus, God of Song Structure.

“May the carbs hit them quickly, so I sound better through the fog of calories.”

I sat down at the piano shaped object. It’ shuttered a little when I scooted close. If I’d sneezed it would’ve hit the floor.  I looked over at the orange buttoned, key pad with pictures of various drums and percussion instruments. I looked away.

I started with Alicia Keys. There was some immediate recognition from the scattered family groups and little teen clusters. I leaned on the arpeggios to fill space. It worked. Then I moved on to some other R&B tunes which relied on short, specific textures. Did a Ne-Yo tune. Even got some some claps.

After 40 minutes, I announced my first break,

“OK, I’m gonna take a little break now, I’ll be back.. in..”

Absolutely nobody was paying attention me. I felt like continuing,

“…in a second after I toss this Ebola fecal matter I’ve got here into the salad bar. Ok enjoy your dinners.”

I went to the bar, Sam seemed unimpressed. Even he, behind his tags upon tags of teabags flapping out of his green tea mug, seemed nonplussed.

“Waiting till the second set to break out the rhythm?” He asked.

I laughed, instead of answering.

Second set, I got into the power ballads. Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Mariah…the good part was that the familiarity trumped all my mistakes, the bad part was I just couldn’t get through “My Heart Will Go On” without snark. Let me be clear, Celine Dion sings her butt off, she’s an icon for a reason – so much so that it is almost impossible not to impersonate her. I sincerely tried not to affect the super quick Celine Dion vibrato, but I was doing it by the time I caught myself. I felt myself squinting my eyes on the big notes, and getting extra breathy on the verse. I thought I had it under control, but when I got to the key change I could not avoid the obligatory hair flip.

“Yooooouuuurr Heeeeeere..”

FLIP.

“…there’s NOOOOOO-THING TO FEEEEEEAR…”

I simply could not play the chord with out it.

Oddly, that was one of the only tunes which got applause.

Second break. Sam was not at the bar.

Third set, busted out my Astrud Gilberto voice. Didn’t matter. I was about as aurally interesting to this crowd as the air conditioning. At the end, Sam came over and handed me my $80 and some food I’d ordered. I knew it was the last take-out I would ever get from Coconut Cove.

Sam said thanks, and walked me to the door. I loaded my speakers, Gigbag, microphone, and self, back into Volvo. I looked through the front glass of the car, through the front windows of the room I had planned on entertaining. I had gotten so ready for this, only to be sabotaged by a featherweight piano-shaped object, with no sustain pedal. The diners could not have cared less that I was there, and I let down some people who thought I had a particular skill – particularly skills with 1989 drum pads – which I did not.

Back on the road, we rolled up onto the freeway ramp, and watched the night dissolve around the 60 West. We drove home through a tunnel of obsidian and headlights. Starless, full of echo. I talked to Volvo,

“Man, that sucked.”

Volvo released an upward whisp through the air vent, asking why.

“Because I wasn’t who they thought I was, and I didn’t give them what they wanted.”

Volvo puffed a warm, frowney sigh through the side vent.

“No, I’m not sad. I actually feel good. I did it…I really sucked, but I played the whole damn night. I played a solo, vocal/piano top 40 gig. And I never want to do it again!”

Volvo puffed in solidarity, and we listened to Steely Dan all the way home.

I didn’t win that room.

My final act wasn’t heroic, but it was courageous.

I guess the whole point was just to show up and do it.

And I’ll always know I did it. And that belongs to me.

Adventures With Volvo In Gigland. #2

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on October 22, 2014

The Wedding In The Hills

(phone rings)

“Hey, there baby.”

“Hey, Red.”

“Hey, what you doin’ tomorrow evening?”

“I’m open, what’s up?”

“Can you do a gig? It’s a wedding ceremony reception.”

“Ceremony or reception?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“ ’Round 5 we gotta get there.”

“Ok, ‘til when?”

“It’s up at the…Jewish place…near Mulholland.”

“The Skirball center?”

“That’s it. It’s a wedding.”

“The reception?”

“Yeah, the wedding.”

“So after the ceremony, or during?”

“I want you to do a jazz set at the beginning, and then we’ll do the Motown and soul set.”

“Ok, two sets.”

“Then you can sing some backgrounds on the top 40.”

“So 3 sets?”

“It’s a wedding.”

“Right. How long do they want us?”

“It’ll pay 250. ‘Bout 2 sets, we’ll do 3 sets of material.”

“So two, or…three…?”

“Alright baby, see you there.”

“Ok, so 5pm to around…”

*click*

“Hello?”

After getting a phone call from Red, I was always more confused than before the call. Not just about the subject we discussed, but a kind of existential limbo – the “staring into the space between the wall, and the dust particles on your eyeball” kind of limbo. Red was the type of band leader who could jovially train wreck any musical situation he was put in charge of. And the audiences loved it. (more…)

Adventures with Volvo in Gigland. #1

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on September 5, 2014

The Manhattan

I willed my weary body up the stairs to my apartment. My butt was asleep. I opened my apartment door, and the late night, LA dry-cold wheezed in. The door hinge whined as it opened, bitching that I woke it up after 2am. Then it closed behind me on the hem of my dress.

“Fuck.”

I was done.
I unzipped the frock and kicked out of it, leaving it hanging in the door. I twisted my feet out of my turquoise heels, and did the post-stiletto hobble to my bedroom to dial my boyfriend. After three rings, he startled onto the line with a crusty eyed voice, “Hon?”

“Yeah.”

“I though you we’re going to call me by 11?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“I accidentally drove to San Diego.”

(more…)

Right in the middle

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on July 4, 2014

My black Volvo and I rattled up to the intersection borderline. The light turned green. The smell was coming through the body of my car now, like I was cooking strips of corpse bacon on the hood. I pleaded with my machine,“C’mon, dude, we can make it down Overland.” The car in front of me turned, and I pressed the gas.
Nothing.
“What? C’mon babe.”
I pressed the gas again.
Nothing.

Volvo gave up the ghost at 5:45pm in the middle, the geometric middle, of the intersection of Palms and Overland. In rush hour.

Not on a side street, nor twisty Motor Ave., no. My car stopped like a dropped anchor, right in the crotch of the intersection. It was obscene. It was flat out surreal. I was on the traffic equivalent of the gallows in front of a crowd of hissing townspeople hanging me for witchcraft.

And AAA had me on hold with Muzak.

Let’s go back an hour or so.

I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment, my ladyparts doctor to be precise, as a follow up to my recent baby-having. Said baby was at home with her dad, tranquil for the moment, but if you have one of these, or even know someone who does, you know the tranquility is more of a stay of execution. My parole was temporary, and daddy had business people coming over. Volvo and I had our mission parameters: get there, get poked at, get home. Hopefully before the full tilt, double screw of baby meltdown and rush hour.

The scorched smell first ghosted over my senses as I was crossing that part of National Blvd which splits, momentarily, into the Quantum universe. The smell registered in my brain, but my brain was navel gazing about the nature of the Blvd. and we ignored it. My brain was conjuring Morgan Freeman’s sturdy, celestial, timbre, from his Wormhole program, telling me that National Boulevard is more a theoretical concept than a street, because it exists in more than one place at a time, and disappears and reappears unpredictably. I agreed with my mental-Morgan, because on one occasion, years ago, I dared to wave my ass at the space-time parameters, and followed National boulevard on its full, mysterious, path. I followed National past the freeway, along the train tracks, through town, away from town, and I ended up perpendicular to another street:
National Boulevard.
I stopped at the light, and heard my laughter bounce off the dash board, and a silent scream bounce off my inner scull.

Back to the mission at hand, I rolled under the 10Fwy and into Cheviot Hills, as Morgan Freeman continued on, in my brain, about the nature of LA intersections in general. He said that they are something akin to singularities, fizzling with a kinetic insanity which only froths at the mouths of those gaping urban holes, in urban sprawl, in Los Angeles county, in rush hour. They twitch towards their own inevitable potential chaos – orgasms of vehicular absurdity DAMN there’s that smell again…and I noticed an odd tone whirring from the front of my car with the funny smell. Hot funny. The stink of burning money for car repairs funny.
I pulled over.

Maybe it was some other schmuck’s car, somebody who had foolishly left their oil unchanged and unchecked. I’m not that fool. I often think of changing or checking my oil. No, I haven’t actually done it, but it’s the idiots who don’t even think of it who get in trouble. I think about it all the time.

The smell dissipated, the light greened, and I pedaled the engine back to life. The smell came back. I checked the temperature gauge – just below the red, ok. My Volvo, in all the 8 years we’ve shared, has never overheated on me. We’ve foraged for gigs all up and down the 90 freeway, the 101, the 10, the 110, we’ve parked and rotted together on the 405, when some lunatics decided to crack the chest of the highway at 3am in Orange County, to service the road in front of an army of late commuting zombies. Volvo slogged with me at 5mph passed the construction crews, crept up the asphalt with me, upheld a mantra of pistons and fine Swedish engine craft. Never once did he burn.

So I was optimistic. I kept going. Past the mansions, the other golf course, Fox Studios, right on Pico, and left on Doheny to face the Hollywood Hills in the bleary North. Then I heard a rattle. “Just old car sounds” I told myself.

Volvo and I arrived and parked at the office of my ladyparts doctor to follow up on my recent birth. (Not my recent birth, my baby’s recent birth. Every doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had has been a follow up to my birth.) My appointment took my car concerns off of my mind. We were mostly making sure that I was still not pregnant anymore. We assessed this immediately due to two compelling points of fact: 1)There was not a baby in my body 2)There was a baby at home, who we assumed is the one who used to be in my body. We agreed that this evidence was sufficient to calling the birth a success, and I went back down to the parking garage. (Note: this was a slightly abridged version of my doctor visit, although all facts stated above are true).

I drove Volvo back out of the garage, and turned left opposite the bleary Hollywood Hills. Morgan Freeman reappeared in my brain, continuing his talk on Dark Matter governing downtown congestion patterns. I had forgotten about the smell and the whirr, but now it returned like a grey olfactory fog . Volvo began to take on a heave and a shake, like the phlegm which vibrates through the chest after a virus. Morgan Freeman paused, and I started making deals with God.
God, let me get home before my 1 month old daughter starts screaming, and I will finish reading a book instead of Facebook updates. God, let the traffic be light, and I will take shorter showers…

Finally I made it back to Cheviot Hills heading toward National Blvd. – but by now the rattle had turned into a shake, and I could feel it through my shoe every time I pressed the gas.

I crossed National and Motor, but still had a ways to go, so my engine just had to keep the dream alive. Had to find the fear of God and keep churning. I started talking to my car. “C’mon man, we’re almost home, you know the way.” But Motor Ave. started creeping because 5:30 in the evening is “Every Asshole” hour in LA, because Every Asshole in LA is trying to drive somewhere.
Right in front of you.

So Every Asshole in LA was between me and my house, and my car was losing the dream. I couldn’t hear Morgan Freeman anymore.
I turned off Motor Ave. heading towards the intersection of Palms and Overland. This intersection seems like an upstanding bit of road, but it’s a sociopath too. It’s another vortex where laws of physics do wrong things, and good people make bad lefts. Where people cross the streets in late-80s colored pants, and drivingpeople notice this, and become confounded, and make slow decisions, and horns resound, and Every Asshole misses their turn. But I had no choice, I got in line.

Volvo and I rattled up to the intersection borderline. The light turned green. “C’mon, dude…” The car in front of me turned, and I pressed the gas.
Nothing.
What?
I pressed the gas again.
Nothing.

Volvo gave up the ghost at 5:45pm in the geometric middle of the intersection of Palms and Overland.
The car behind me began to beep, the cars which were stopped at the red began to beep, the cars 4 cars behind me began to beep, and I started scrolling in my phone for the AAA number.

The dude behind me starting yelling something, so I made the universal signal for vehicular non-compliance. You know, you look up into the rear view, and extend your limbs into flappy-arms on either side of your body translating to “I have no power over the current situation of my vehicle!” And you mouth the words as if they can see you. I made this tribal gesture several times before the cars began maneuvering around me. Then the cross traffic started towards me and I sat, in the slowly swarming sea of Every Asshole.

In the cross currents of horns, obscene hand signals, and indecipherable hurled insults, I had a moment to reflect. Wow, I was that guy. That guy, who’s car is in such an obnoxious situation, that Every Asshole who maneuvered around me went home and told their friends/family/pets about that human zit who was stuck in their car in the middle of the intersection. They probably started by talking about what a shit-storm it was, and then moved on to what kind of an idiot winds up like that, probably somebody who didn’t even think about checking their oil (which is wrong, I often thought about it), and then moved on, in a moment of self congratulatory, high-mindedness to hoping that I ended up ok and get my life together. “Man, that poor asshole,” said the asshole, to his friends and family and pets who nodded over their quinoa or designer cupcakes.

Finally got through to AAA, and selected the “I’m fucked, save me” option from the voice menu. I was then transferred to the holding music. So I listened to the Musak, sitting in my one ton automotive shell, in the middle of the intersection. I didn’t think that this would ever be a thing, but now it was. And I was in the thing, and I couldn’t find my hazard light, as if I needed to alert anyone that this was a hazard.

Then a non-LA thing happened. A dude actually ran out into the intersection and offered to push my car out of the street. Really? So I put Volvo in neutral and he and his friend pushed my car to the shoulder of Overland. I got out and shook his hand, what a kind thing to do, just above and beyond the call, a real selfless act.
He must’ve been Canadian.

So the Musak finally ended and the AAA person asked me the questions, and I forgot the year of my car as always. They told me they’d be there in 30 minutes, and I sat back to ponder what my Facebook post for this would be..wait, would that go back on my deal with God to read less Facebook? Is the deal off since my car broke down anyway? What if I post that on Facebook- BANG!
I craned around in my seat, expecting to see some road-rage fallout from my car drama – some Asshole for whom I was the last straw, barreling towards my dead Volvo with the precision of a lit turd – but what I actually saw was another car, ANOTHER car, spin out into the intersection, and skid into the stopped cars on my side of the street. All traffic stalled.
The intersection held it’s breath again. No sooner had I gotten pushed out of the middle by that nice Canadian man, than the roads had claimed another. I heard the Morgan Freeman voice return: “another vehicle has fallen victim to the pull of the gravitrons in the eccentric quantum vortex of the urban sprawl intersection.” It was at this point when my emotional meter became overburdened, and everything became funny.

I stepped out of Volvo, and walked towards the corner, where the other car was dented and smoking. The driver (not hurt) was standing by with her phone, making the “what did I learn in Drivers-ed about this?” face. Then the tow trucks began to arrive, and got confused about who went to who, then the fire truck, full of firepeople looking around at my black, broken, car – and the other black broken car, stopped around the corner from each other. I made the universal arm-flappy, shrugging gesture for “these are two separate incidents!” and the fire people tilted their heads.

While the professionals sorted everything out, another wave of odd began, since this corner happens to contain a convalescent home. Like a scene from a B-horror flick, all these people with walkers started dribbling out of the building and gathering around the event. The corner looked like a mid-80s patterned couch from a Florida motel – the bright greens of the firepeople’s vests, starched white of the AAA shirts, pale pinks, yellows, and florals of the seniors, the purples of the caretaker’s scrubs, and the incongruous red and orange flare of the emergency trucks. It was a chaos salad. My nerves were shot, my car is probably finished, my baby is definitely throwing a fit by now…and all I could do was laugh. A lady in orange crocks looked at me sideways as I giggled behind my cell phone.

So Volvo got hooked up to the tow, and away we went to my local mechanic. I looked back at my ride and thought to myself, “the intersection had its sacrifices,” the wormhole was closed. I looked out my right window and saw the crowd dispersing, traffic returning to flow, and down at the edge of the block, I saw Morgan Freeman wink and walk away.

My very coherent, not drunk at all (one glass, whatever), thoughts on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” Video:

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on September 12, 2013

( after seeing an onslaught of tweets and Facebookings on the subject, I decided to give it a look-see. These were the immediate drippings from my head-sponge)

Ok.

First off, Those nails were impractical for the handling of large hammers. Second, when doing construction work, boots alone are not enough for proper safety – although the tiny tank and undies certainly offer free range of movement and good ventilation. I assume the lipstick was flame retardant and SPF 30 or above?

True analysis:
As for proper wrecking ball etiquette/best riding practices, nudity is not common any longer. Nude wrecking ball riding was abandoned in 1896 after a Mrs. Betty Smythson of Cincinnati suffered what was referred to at the time as “the pink twerk” (no doubt the inspiration for Miley’s other musical exploration) which was the colloquial term for clitoral injury.

Mrs.Betty Smythson,
“ball rider,” in her

Cincinnati home, 1895
After the unfortunate ride of Mrs. Smythson, wrecking ball saddles or “Ball huggers” were instituted into common use and considered standard (although true standardization was not instituted until 1900, when the production of wrecking balls intended for riding was taken over by the Ford Motor Co.) Clitoral guards, or “vag-vests,” became somewhat of a fashion statement and status symbol for upper class women who could afford the luxurious accouterments of the Wrecking Ball set.

Although Cyrus was somewhat lambasted for her “sparkly onesie” from the VMAs, it is important to understand that it was not, in fact, a “onesie” but a historically accurate “vag-vest” of excellent quality.
A 19th Century doctor
attends to a woman suffering
the “Pink twerk”
Lastly, the handling and licking of the hammer, though clearly an homage to cold war propaganda communist murals, seemed a bit blatant, but not to be hasty on judgement, it is probable Miss Cyrus meant the gesture as a public service hint for Tetanus awareness, reminding us all to stay on top of our booster shots.

.

and…Good night.

Before I meet the cast…(countdown to the show)

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on May 23, 2013

It’s been this way at this time of night lately, when I’m puttering around the house with no goals lasting more than 30 seconds before they dissipate and I forget why I’m in the kitchen. I’m walking in odd geometry, no economy of movement, I’m literally bouncing off the walls.
Very, very slowly.

…..aaaaAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaa!!!…….

You see, it’s been 3 days since the casting calls have gone out for NOSWOV (“North of Sunset, West of Vine” my musical), so I actually have something tangible to wait for. It’s all been in my head, on my own schedule, making words and tunes for my imaginary people, and now they’re going to be real.

I’m going to meet them.

I’ve never been on this side of the casting table. My director, Mary Jo Duprey, says it’s really fun, but I don’t see how I can avoid having sympathetic nerves for the auditioning people. I was always nervous for auditions.

The music is almost done…I mean it was done being composed a while ago, but now I’m tasked with actually making legible, the stuff that rolls out of my brain through my mouth. It’s more complex than I thought. And drippy.
Many 16th notes (it wasn’t just the caffeine), but a lot of it is also open to interpretation by the actors, that’s what they do, and it will be so exciting to hear my tunes rolling out of someone else’s brain and through their mouth.

Lo…and behold the 16th notes. Actually a very slow song, not scary.

So here I am. The end of Wednesday night, with nerves like it’s opening night, wandering in shuffles with excessive blinking.
Turning lights off obsessively, then on again when I come back to do something I already forgot about.
We’re not up for a month (June 28-30)I should probably smoke a joint but I never got into it.
I should meditate. Last time I did, my chakras were full of old emails.

Ok. Time for the inner house cleaning before I meet the cast.
More soon…

Italy Impressions #6

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on April 23, 2013

….Sei vivo?…

Italy impressions #9:One moment in Siena

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on April 19, 2013

From the top of a medieval tower in the Piazza Del Campo (center of town, “plaza of the race,” Siena has yearly horse races), we could see beyond the old city walls, into the rolling fabric of Tuscany…but it was a hard won sight.

The Torre (tower) del Mangia, in the Piazza Del Campo (more…)

Italy Impressions #8: Leaving Venice – I came to see you.

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on April 16, 2013

Some places lay beyond the veil. If you don’t know what I mean, go to Venice.

We were there four days, but I hadn’t been able to write about it.
I had no idea where I was, and I still don’t.

We arrived by train in the evening. Out the window, the land smoothed to water so quickly it seemed like an illusion. Lighting posts in the water. A train station. Seemed like any other train station.

Weary, we crack-a-lacked our baggage through the station, to the exit, where I expected we’d get a taxi to our hotel. Faintly, through the exit I saw a bus go by, I asked if we should take a bus instead, Bear said, “that’s not a bus.”

I don’t think I’ve stood with my mouth agape, so shamelessly…ever. (more…)

Italy Impressions #7: The Train To Venice

Posted By Raya Yarbrough on April 14, 2013

4/7/13

Goodbye Firenze.

I’m  on a train from Firenze (Florence) to Venezia (Venice). I was looking forward to a relaxing ride, with my head back, enjoying the passing countryside…didn’t realize this was a high speed train which spends most of the trip in tunnels. Nada much to see so far…so I’ll talk about somehting else for a second.

Ok other things.

Well, the sun was out in Florence today, so we sat by the river, in sight of the Ponte Vecchio.

Ya know, just hangin’ out lookin’ at the Ponte Vecchio (that bridge over there).
No big deal, whatever.

I also bought myself some Florentine fleur de lis pins to mark my trip.

Now we’re leaving the station after our first stop, a suburb of Florence I guess, I missed the name. It’s the other side of the tracks literally. Tall, monochromatic, cement monoliths, with laundry lines, and graffiti, splashed on every stone surface. Industrial. Not  Da Vinci’s World anymore. (more…)