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  • August 26, 2005

    Frantic

    I’ve wanted to write a blog entry, but really, there’s not much to say, since my days consist almost entirely of packing for the move to LA. I get up every morning, make coffee, and start packing. On some days, I get little done, as I’m easily distracted. “Oh look! An external hard drive! I should make a back-up of my User Folder.” “Wow – my old cycling glasses! These — hey! That’s not right. The little nose-pad is loose. I should get out my glue gun and fix that. Now, what box is that in?” “Oh look! A cassette of pop songs I recorded off the radio when I was in elementary school! I should unpack and hook up my cassette deck so I can listen to this while I pack.” The examples go on and on.

    But then I have the realization that my entire apartment has to be ready to go by the end of the day on Monday, and looking at it now, it’s hard to imagine being ready. But when that truck pulls up at 8am on Tuesday, whether I’m ready or not, I’m movin’.

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    August 22, 2005

    Another Cabrillo review

    By Jeff Dunn, in the most recent San Francisco Classical Voice:

    “The second Saturday concert introduced two additional composers new to the Festival, John Mackey (no relation to composer Steven) and Stewart Wallace, whose Harvey Milk was performed by the San Francisco Opera in 1996. Both composers provided highly entertaining works, expertly performed by Alsop’s crew. Mackey’s Redline Tango is a true dazzler, eliciting a powerful audience response. “Redline” refers to a limit marked on gauges by engineers. In Mackey’s case, the engine is the orchestra, and it gets pushed into the danger zone right away by frantic pacing, with only hints of a tango to come. The hell-bent engine segues into a flamboyant tango of great inventiveness and humor. Although Mackey introduced himself to the audience as the “least ethnically interesting person in America,” his tango abounds with Latin and klezmer references. The swooping melody is carried on a virtuoso violin part. The theme gets ever more sleazy as it progresses before the piece ends with a reprise of the infectious chase music. John Mackey is a composer whose next visit to California is eagerly awaited.”

    You can read the entire article here.

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    Denial

    AEJ and I are scheduled to move one week from tomorrow. Yes, around 8-9am on August 30, a big ol’ 18-wheeler will pull onto our street, four guys will load all of our belongings onto it (except for Loki and a suitcase with enough clothes to sustain us while we drive cross-country in our new car), and as of that evening, we’ll lock our NY apartment doors for the last time, get in that car, and officially leave the city where I’ve lived for 10 years — essentially my entire adult life.

    I think I’m in denial about it. AEJ and I saw “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” last night, thanks to our friend Damien, who’s the drummer in the show. After the show, we got dinner with him and a few of his friends, and although we talked about the fact that I’m moving 3000 miles away, I kept trying not to acknowledge it. Damien and I have been great friends since the beginning of our Freshman year of college, and we were roommates at Juilliard, and I’ve written almost all of my percussion parts (including my Percussion Concerto) with him in mind. Even though our schedules don’t allow us to get together as regularly as we’d like, he comes over for the occasional movie, or we grab lunch, or I see him play shows. We’ve been friends since we were 18, and we’ve lived in the same cities for almost that entire time.

    I try telling myself that I’ll see some of my NY friends more often once I live in LA. They’ll be there for performances, or I’ll be back in NYC for music events, or… something. I have to tell myself this, or I get terribly sad, and the last thing I want to do is hang out with a friend for what could be the last time for a long time, and let myself break down. Newman wanted to throw us a farewell party, and nothing seemed sadder than that, so I declined. I’m trying to pretend that I’m just going to LA for a residency, and I’ll be right back.

    Watching Six Feet Under last night, the end of the show had an extra, unintented element of melancholy (slight spoiler alert), as Claire said goodbye to all of her family and got into her car to drive from LA to New York. Yes, she was driving the opposite move we’re going to make, but the timing of the episode made her move feel terribly sad. She had a new adventure ahead, but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave the ones you love.

    So, yes, there’s a lot of excitement and opportunity to come, and I think we’re going to love California, but wow… I sure wish our friends could move with us.

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    August 17, 2005

    Cabrillo photos

    Without further delay, here is a photo blog about my recent trip to California… (insert drum roll here)

    First off, this was the first time I’d flown jetBlue. Just as RN had promised, it’s a most excellent airline. DirecTV, plentiful snacks (for free!), and a staff that makes you feel human, this is the best domestic airline. It’s a shame that all of my miles are on American…

    When we arrived in Santa Cruz late that Friday night, we were greeted at our hosts’ home by these balloons by the driveway.

    Our hosts, the Hansens, were absolutely wonderful people. Carrie and Howard, and their grandson Philip who was visiting, couldn’t have been more gracious and accommodating and warm. There was always a fresh pot of coffee awaiting me in the morning, whenever I happened to finally roll out of bed, and Carrie’s hot yeast rolls were just about the tastiest roll I’ve found. (And just ask my sister — I love a good roll.) Sadly, I ate all of the rolls before I could photograph them.

    On Saturday, we got up and headed to the auditorium in Santa Cruz for my first Cabrillo event: a panel discussion, billed as “lunch with the composers.” From left to right, this is Libby Larsen, Kevin Puts, Marijn Simons, Marin Alsop, Stuart Wallace, and me. As you can tell, Marin was being her typically insightful, funny self…

    After the panel, AEJ and I hopped into our rental car (more on that later) and started our drive down the coast, en route to our new place in Los Angeles, which we had yet to see in person. The drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is stunning. I had no idea that places this beautiful existed in California, or anywhere in the US…

    Much of the drive was foggy, but it made it even more dramatic. Unfortunately, much of that is lost on my camera.

    Pretty.

    Did I mention that it’s pretty?

    This is from another part of the state (not by the ocean), but it’s still a nice picture.

    Um, those are seals. AEJ thought they were great fun. (Don’t worry; they’re just resting.)

    After 9 hours of driving (the PCH takes a long time, when you can only go about 30 mph most of the time), we arrived at our new home! AEJ unlocked the door…

    The place is great. One room is a bit smaller than we’d hoped, but other things were even better than we expected — like the view from the massive 400 square foot deck:

    It’s nice at night, too.

    That’s our rental car. We went to a special place that rents hybrid vehicles, hoping for the Civic hybrid (they don’t rent the Prius), but all they had was this Ford Escape Hybrid.

    For an SUV, this thing rules. It had a ton of power, and didn’t have any problem getting over the mountains on the drive down to LA. Loads of pickup (great for passing on the two-lane highways in the middle of nowhere), and got great milage for an SUV. At around 30 mpg, it’s no Prius, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the 19 mpg we could have expected in a standard SUV. It was a lot of fun to drive.

    While in LA, we had two celebrity sightings. The first, at a restaurant in our new hood, was Giovanni Ribisi. This made sense to us, considering our neighborhood. (It’s “Indie,” we’ll say. But good Indie, not lame Indie.) The second sighting was Tate Donovan, currently playing the role of Jimmy on “The O.C.” Tate was parking his BMW SUV in West Hollywood.

    On Tuesday morning, we got up bright and early (who knew that 7am even existed?!) and drove back up to Santa Cruz in time for my 3pm rehearsal. (We didn’t take the scenic way back, cutting the drive time almost in half.) Here’s Marin, rehearsing “Redline Tango” for the first time. The piece “clicked” pretty quickly, and by the second rehearsal, they sounded great, and it only got better from there.

    One afternoon, AEJ and I went on the “17 mile drive,” a scenic drive around the bay. At one point, AEJ found these pine cones and branch on the ground. She thought they seemed awfully risque. Dirty, dirty mind… (I assure you she didn’t place them like this.)

    At one point on the drive, it seemed like I should pose for my upcoming Christian Rock album cover. Well, you know — just in case.

    I don’t play golf, but I’d almost consider it when the course looks like this.

    And this.

    AEJ made a friend on the drive. This is Brad, the sea squirrel.

    We saw this house, which we covet. The view out all of those windows is of the bluff and the ocean.

    Here’s the lone cypress, or whatever they call it. It’s pretty out there, all alone, but I kind of felt like they were cheating, because somebody had built a support wall around it to prevent it from falling over.

    Oh, we’re not done being tourists yet. Next up: the Santa Cruz Boardwalk! We had a tasty lunch of fish & chips (which appear to be floating) and Pizza Hut pizza.

    For only 4 tickets each (which converts to about $3), we went on this spooky haunted ride. If we want to scare our children about the dangers of smoking, this sign should do it.

    The ride was one of those things where you sit in a little cart on a track, and it slowly takes you through a dark series of twists and turns where things bounce out at you. Ever wonder what those rides look like when exposed to harsh, bright lighting? Well, thanks to flash photography, I found out. Look out for the creepy spider!

    Watch out for the scary mechanical ghoul! Oh, and the spooky fuse boxes!

    To calm ourselves after the terrifying ride, we had Dippin’ Dots. Yummy, and colorful — but why does the chocolate flavor look so pale?

    I’m a wuss about rides. I wouldn’t even ride this one — meant for toddlers.

    At night, the boardwalk is quite pretty.

    Back in town, we saw what appear to be the mass graves of Santa Cruz. They claim it’s a construction site, but it kind of creeped me out — almost as much as the Spooky Ride.

    The concert was Saturday night, and it was awesome. Apparently, when I introduce my music — and when I work with an orchestra — I get a bit excited. In the lobby after the concert, Marin suggested that perhaps I should cut back on the coffee.
    Back at the house, the Hansens had left us a bottle of Champagne. They really couldn’t have been nicer hosts. AEJ did the honors of opening the bottle.

    It was just about the most perfect 10 days in a long, long time. It was an honor to get to meet and work with Marin for the first time. I loved this orchestra, and their enthusiasm for the piece was more than I could have hoped for. Now I need to write another orchestra piece so they’ll have me back…

    But first, I have to go pack for this move to LA!

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    August 16, 2005

    Cabrillo review

    I’d love to write a big photo blog entry about my recent trip to Santa Cruz — where Marin Alsop gave a kick-ass performance of “Redline Tango” — but I’m so busy packing for the upcoming move to LA (the truck arrives two weeks from today!) that it’ll have to wait, I’m afriad.
    There was a nice review in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s an excerpt:

    “John Mackey’s zippy, amusing ‘Redline Tango’ made a nice curtain-raiser for Saturday’s program, with edgy, caffeinated rhythmic sections framing a deliciously languorous central tango.”

    I’ll take that! And now, back to packing…

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