Aug 27, 2009

Hives, Guitars, Saori, Canalscape

Let's see.... what's been going on lately....

Hives: I had an odd outbreak of hives about two weeks ago. I'd never had hives before, so I had no idea what was wrong with me. When I woke up, I had big angry wheals on my legs and arms. No other symptoms to speak of. I'd eaten some prepared roe from Japan the night before, so that's what I assumed set me off, although with a food allergy, it seemed like it should have struck me immediately after eating, although I didn't really react until the next morning. At any rate, I went to a TakeHealth clinic at a Walgreens, was saw immediately by a PA who diagnosed it as an allergic reaction and sent me home with some perscription steroids and directed me to aisle 1 to pick up some Wal-Dryl. A bit surreal. Anyway, that cleared my hives up after about a week. However, my hives have returned a bit over the two weeks, more irritating than serious, but patches of red itchy skin and small clusters of bumps that form and dissimilar. I really really really hope I'm not developing an allergy to cats. Or an autoimmune disease. Anyway, I've scheduled another visit to the doc (an actual MD this time) to try to figure this out.

Guitars: Among Saori's other musical instruments, she had a guitar that she never played. Apparently she got the guitar from a friend of hers who went back to Japan and understandably didn't want to lug the thing along. He got the guitar because he was taking a class in Scottsdale on guitar making, and he apparently bought a guitar for the express purpose of disassembling and re-assembling it. Saori got the guitar and it hung in our closet for awhile until I started playing around with it, and in one misguided attempt to tune it, I snapped a string, which were pretty old by that point anyhow. Anyway, I was driving around one saturday, when almost on a whim, I stopped in at Ziggy's music, a old brick music store on 3rd st and Osborne. I wanted to get the guitar fixed/ restrung whatever, and I saw a sign for guitar lessons. My weekends have been painfully free (see Saori's item below) so I went in thinking, what the hell, I've always wanted to play guitar.

Ziggy's music is a great little shop with accordions everywhere and guitars on the wall. Apparently, its one of the last places in Arizona where they can fix accordians. The few customers browse instruments, but mostly chat with Dionne, the woman behind the counter. Under the counter, more accordians, dusty CDs of music, and few black cats which prowl around the store. There's an old rack with "Guitar for beginners" from 20-50 years ago, along with boxes of guitar magazines. In a small room in the back, I see a guy playing an accordian.

I ask about lessons, and Dionne directs me to another gentleman, Raul. Raul looks strikingly like a laid back version of William Shatner, but he takes me back to his tiny office where there is room for just himself, and an empty chair for me. We sit down and talk about what I want out of lessons (the basics, to start with), when's a good time (30 minutes on Saturday works for me), and the cost (pay a month's lessons in advance, and its $15 a session. Fantastic cut rate), and I go ahead and commit to come in later the day for my first lesson.

I return early, bringing the guitar. Dionne helps me pick some new strings, cleans, and restrings my guitar for me while I take my lesson. The basics, you know, this-is-how-you-hold-a-guitar, this-is-how-you-hold-a-pick, and a few chords to start. C, Dm, Am, Em, F, G7.

I also get to pick out a guitar pick, which makes me kind of excited. For some reason it hammers in the point, I'm going to be a guitar player. I ask what kind to get, and Dionne asks Raul if I should get the $300 pick or the $400 pick. Raul suggests a medium pick, which ends up $0.25.

After the lesson, Dionne prods him into tuning my newly restrung guitar for me, and he does so, admonishing me to practice at least 30 minutes a day. And I have been. Saori's gotten into it too and we take turns playing, (it helps that she's very musically gifted and knows a lot more chords). She can actually play recognizable songs. At this point, I'm still struggling to connect the chords, but the callouses forming on my left fingertips indicate I'm closer to my goal.

Saori's new job: Saori got a new job, which is fantastic. She really likes the people she works with, the long hours go by quickly, the amount of time she spends running around and lifting makes the time go by, but she's also noticed shes slowly losing weight and gaining more muscle. Best of all, the people she works with and her coworkers adore her. She was going to be nominated as a company wide award winner except she didn't qualify for the short amount of time she'd been working. The major bummer of the job is the hours. She works very early in the morning to very late at night on both Saturday and Sunday, so I've been really missing her on the weekends. It's been hard as the weekends don't really feel like weekends without her. I know what she must have felt, the long months where I was at work and she at home during her job search.

I got involved in a valley-wide design competition called Canalscape through some co-workers. Saori was also invited to join, and we made up a team of five (technically six) designers. The competition was to design a development at the intersection of a canal and a street that would 1) attract developers and 2) celebrate the canals of Phoenix. The driving force behind Canalscape is Nan Ellin, a woman who has spent years working with ASU and city officials to make more of the canals of Phoenix. To be fair, Phoenix's canals are seen as ugly, stinking, filthy infrastructure and we should be doing more to celebrate the near miracle of the water that makes the city exist. However, Nan's track seems to be "lets make Phoenix Venice, or Amsterdam." Last time I checked, California had not fallen off the map and flooded everything west of Apache Junction. We are in the middle of a desert, and to tell you the truth, Venice's canals ARE as bad as streets. Filthy and also ignored as much as possible, the canals of phoenix should aspire to more. I'll post a photo of the board we entered to the competition sometime. We didn't win, although we'll be in the newspaper this sunday (I think).

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.