Piano, friends, and so on

I don’t know what it is about being at home, but I’m just insanely less productive. During the school year, when I return home for weekends I never do any work or reading, and now that it’s break, I can’t even manage to make myself do fun things like piano and cooking. Which also explains why I haven’t updated this journal in weeks, unless you count book recommendations. (See? I have been doing something…)

Actually I’ve been doing quite a lot, not as much as I’d hope but still more than I normally get done at home. So I’m not too upset. Of course one is never entirely ready to go back to school, but I’m more ready than I’ve ever been any other January, so I think that’s a good thing.

I’d tell you what I’ve been up to, but first I think I should finally get to all that stuff I never mentioned back before vacation started, the stuff that’s in aΒ list I made on Wednesday, 18 December. Some of it is completely irrelevant at this point, but since I save these entries for my own later perusal (just as I would an actual paper diary), I want to note them anyway.

First, piano recital. That was truly truly fun. This semester I took a piano ensemble class, and at the end of the semester we had a recital. Although ensemble class recitals are usually casual affairs, because ours requires two pianos, there’s no better place to have it than Hertz Hall, supposedly the most acoustically perfect concert hall… somewhere. In northern California, or something. I overheard a campus guide telling his tour group that once, and although it’s hard to believe, it’s fun to think I played there. πŸ™‚ And since we all dressed up a little, it felt like a real concert. Playing on the Hertz pianos wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, partly because it was not a real concert, and also because the acoustics of the room are such that I couldn’t really hear myself play. That was annoying, but it actually calmed me down (apparently it’s supposed to do just the opposite, but I’m just weird). So Bo and I played our pieces and did them well, and people liked it. We’d arranged the order so that we would play a nice pretty docile little Mozart sonata first, which we do well and which is really a very lovely piece, whatever you may think of Mozart. After that we jumped into Copland’s Danza de Jalisco, which is definitely not what you would call a nice docile piece. It’s feisty and loud, and has clapping in it, which I think startled people as well as amused them. It was really encouraging to hear people laugh at the first set of claps. Laughter is relaxing, but it’s not something you usually want to hear while playing piano for an audience! I think that piece made us as an ensemble more memorable, too. All the other groups were also very good. The two guys who played after us were absolutely hilarious–intentionally or not, I’m not sure, but they were very, very funny. One of them did that militaristic head-bobbing pianists sometimes do when playing interesting rhythms, and that always makes me want to laugh. Needless to say Erik and his partner Lynette also played beautifully. I love their piece, Debussy’s En blanc et noir.

I felt after the recital that it had been my biggest glory moment since… well, I don’t know when. Some of my friends showed up, which was wonderful and supportive of them, especially since they had finals to study for. Prof Nylan came too, which was even more wonderful, especially because she forgot it was at seven thirty instead of eight and thus showed up late. I hadn’t realized before that point just how much I was looking forward to her presence, but when I looked around and didn’t see her I was very disappointed. She told me afterward she enjoyed the concert so much she went out and bought a CD of duets. That’s the best thing anyone could tell me, pretty much. πŸ™‚ And my family came, and brought my high school piano teacher too, which was lovely. They all had a good time even though eleven in the evening is kind of late for them, and they were unused to the ‘Berkeley cold’ (I was wearing a sweater, no jacket, and felt perfectly warm)! All in all it was a practically perfect experience and I loved it. And next semester I’m going to do it again! πŸ™‚ This time Erik and I are going to be partners, so that should be really really exciting. Or painful, depending. πŸ™‚

Second. Finals. I haven’t the faintest idea what I wanted to say about this, except that we had them, and they were okay, and as I now know I did okay on them, too. Oh wait yes yes now I remember. I had three finals in two days, and the first of those days was my birthday. That sounds horrible, but actually it wasn’t at all. I got lucky with my finals because all my professors gave out really nice detailed study sheets beforehand; in history, if you don’t get study sheets like that, it can be just miserable. You have no idea what to study and there are way too many names and dates and events floating around in your head. So it wasn’t so bad that they were all in a clump like that. Also, I think I study better when they’re all grouped together. Normally, I have about two finals in about as many days, and then I have a week or so until my next one. What happens there is I start feeling like I’m done after I’ve finished the first two, so I really slack off on studying for the last final. It’s a really bad mindset. So this way, I study really hard for a little while, and then it’s all over before I know it. It did make for a relatively tame birthday, my twenty-first, but it wasn’t a bad one, and it got thoroughly celebrated later, so I don’t mind at all. πŸ™‚ I did mind the rain that began during my second final and started really pouring down in the midday between my second and last finals. It’s bad enough having to leave your nice apartment to go take a final, but knowing that you’re going to have to slog through the rain to get to it is even more discouraging.

Third, post-finals baking. After finals I was so, so happy to be done with them, but I still had tons of things to do, like cleaning up, Christmas gifting, errands etc. I did a lot of baking especially, because I wanted to make food for people for Christmas. So one morning I put on my running shoes and rain jacket, and brought along my wonderfully reliably waterproof Timbuk2 bag, and trekked to Andronico’s with my shopping list, since I was completely out of flour and sugar and whatnot. I ended up baking a lovely cheesecake, just because I like cheesecake and Erik does too; apricot thumbprint cookies using Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Fruit recipe for pate sucree; and biscotti di prato. I gave large portions of the cheesecake to other people, since Erik wouldn’t let me eat the whole thing (not that I wanted to… exactly… but… maybe?), and also distributed the cookies. Margaret and Christine especially liked the thumbprints, so I think I’ll make those again sometime. Pate sucree is fun stuff, very tender. Biscotti are hard to make. Next time someone makes them for you, appreciate it. You can’t use a mixer because the dough is too stiff, and it’s ridiculously hard to knead because there’s no oil in it and it just falls apart. It’s a real workout. And you have to bake it twice, once as logs of dough, and then as slices. And I don’t even like biscotti usually! I liked mine, though, so I think I might actually make it again sometime, when I start feeling that my arm muscles need a workout, or if I’m really stressed out. πŸ™‚ By the way I who formerly loved cheesecake am now pretty sick of it. Even though I didn’t eat it all, I did eat a lot of the one I made. So I’m temporarily cured of my obsession.

Fourth: Fourth Street. (I did not do that on purpose.) After my finals were over, and after Jennifer’s were too, she suggested we go out to celebrate my birthday. I decided it would be nice to return to O Chame, since I hadn’t been there in years. Then I realized it would also be nice to shop on Fourth Street, so we went and shopped and bought nifty things and had a super dinner at O Chame. I highly recommend the Grilled Eel and Belgium Endive appetizer, if you ever go. πŸ™‚ The highlight of that dinner, though, may have been the restaurant’s ice cream spoons. The waitress said apologetically that she thought the owner bought them in Japan, but I found them online at Sur la Table and have since ordered them. They’re on backorder, though, so I won’t get them for a while. 😦 It was really fun to go shopping with Jennifer. We both drooled over all the stuff at Sur la Table, and Jennifer bought a gingerbread house book. (She made me one for Christmas. πŸ™‚ ) I got a delightful wrapping paper at Goodnight Room, a cute children’s store: it’s very simple, just wide stripes of pink, chocolate brown and white, and it looks absolutely like Neapolitan ice cream. Ying said as much when I showed it to her. πŸ™‚ We’re going to have to go back to Fourth Street, though, some other time, because when we got there it was kind of late and many of the stores were already closed by the time we got to them. In particular, now that Jennifer has a cat, we need to go to George…

Fifth, Bongo Burger. Margaret and I went out to breakfast–I think it might even have been the morning after I went shopping with Jennifer–and on our way to Ann’s Kitchen a man came up to us and asked for change so he could have some breakfast. At first we said no, but he was very persistent, and I think we both were thinking, but what if he really does just want to get something to eat? So I asked him where he was planning to have breakfast, and he said Bongo Burger, and I said oh, we’re going someplace else, and I pointed to Ann’s Kitchen. He showed us that it was closed, so we decided to go to Bongo Burger. The man’s name is Anthony, and he had breakfast with us, which was interesting. I must say humbly that for all my liberalism and my articulateness, when faced with an actual homeless person I don’t know what to say. Much as I wish this weren’t the case, I think I really might be one of those people who is liberal in policy but personally scared of people who are different. I don’t think it’s necessarily my fault, since we’re all just products of our surroundings (like people who are for equality in principle but still can’t help but cross to the other side of the street when they see someone of a different race? it’s not racism, it’s fear of and uneasiness with the unfamiliar). I kept thinking, what can I say to this person that doesn’t completely reflect my upbringing and my lifestyle? He’s going to think I’m stupidly middle-class. But wonderful Margaret just chatted away very nicely, and in the end we were all talking comfortably. Thank goodness for that.

Sixth and seventh, Rick and Ann’s, and College. The day I left Berkeley, Dana treated me to breakfast at Rick and Ann’s, as her birthday present to me. That was really fun, because Dana had never been there before, and I hadn’t been in almost two years. After breakfast, she dropped me off on College. I hadn’t calculated my time very well and was left with an hour and a half before I was supposed to meet Christine, so I thought I’d get a haircut, but then I didn’t have enough cash and Panache doesn’t take credit cards, so I shopped instead. I bought some presents for people, then splurged at AG Ferrari on a Gubanza, a fruity nutty cake soaked in four different kinds of liqueur; a box of wonderful chocolates; and a bottle of Vin Santo to go with the biscotti I’d made (I finally tried the Vin Santo on New Year’s. As it turns out, I hate the way it tastes alone, but the biscotti tastes great dipped in it). Then I had to use the bathroom, so I made my way to the public library on Ashby, and ended up reading there for half and hour and then checking out the book (a good one, though not quite stunning enough for my list. Amy Bloom’s Even a Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You). I found a delightful, quirky store called Tail of the Yak, and bought something there and got a free wall calendar (which is now hanging in my apartment)! Then I took a bus to La Farine to meet Christine. In the end it was lucky I checked out that book from the library, because Christine couldn’t make it, so I was waiting for a while. Actually, it was a pleasant wait, because I had a madeleine and some lovely apricot black tea and read my book. Then when Christine called and told me she couldn’t make it, I went by myself next door to Heartfelt, the store I’d wanted to show Christine, then after I finished, took a bus back to campus. Erik had just finished his last final, so I went to meet him. On the way I ran into our piano teacher, Michael Orland, and we talked for a while. This made me really happy because I like him, and also because earlier in the day I’d found Prof Nylan and talked to her, and she is also named Michael, so I was pleased that I’d been able to visit with my two favorite Michaels on the last day before vacation. πŸ™‚

Okay, that’s everything I wanted to talk about that happened before vacation. I’m sure I’ve left out a lot of stuff, but oh well. Hopefully I will remember to update again before too much time has passed, to get to all the stuff I’ve done since then…

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]