Monday, November 7, 2011


Somewhere between burrito number one and beer number two, I realized that, if you're in a certain mood, everything becomes a metaphor.

I am a habitual over-stuffer of burritos. I load my tortilla with every ingredient I enjoy (all of them), in exactly the right proportions. I always go back and add more cheese, just to even things out. This happens every time, and I am aware of it. Yet it still happens. (If you came here to read about music, hang tight.)

Just like my burritos, my individual artistic pursuits are often grande in conception but unwieldy, disasterous, even comical in execution. I once co-wrote a 40-minute musical in three weeks because it seemed very important and vaguely possible. (It's no longer on my CV.) I once composed a short piano work mere minutes before my undergraduate senior composition recital began, because I had promised it to myself. (Yes, I performed it.) I once began making snow angels as a finals week stress-reliever, and ended up wasting two hours etching the first four bars of "Twinkle, Tinkle" into the snow... in F Minor. (The staff was five feet tall.) And I once took on a major project that so consumed my life that, for months at a time, I rarely ate dinner at a table, saw friends outside of class, or slept six straight hours next to my wife.

My point is, I get these crazy ideas, and then, whether by desire or lack of clarity or sheer blind will, I convince myself that they are possible. And usually they are. But that isn't the point either. The point is, looking back on the great and embarassing and mediocre art I've created over the past nine years, I can't find ten minutes worth of music I've written that is more important to me than ten minutes with my family, my wife, or my friends. The same goes for school, career, and all those things with which I'm "supposed" to fill my days to become happy and successful.

Tonight's post was supposed to be about the (qualified, non-statistical) success of my CC21 project that ended last month. It was supposed to be about me moving halfway across the country, and working 60-hour weeks for all of September, and being so thankful for the opportunity to do so because this is it, this is what I've been working toward for ten years. But instead it's about stepping back from all of that, as positive as some of it is, and reminding myself, through some stupid metaphors, what really makes me happy. It's about acknowledging and choosing.

Tonight I had a great solution to my bloated burrito problem. I wrapped my strained tortilla... in another tortilla. This kept the ingredients securely inside, perhaps for the first time in my burrito-assembling career. The result was chewy, and carb-tastic in all the wrong ways. It was a step in the right direction, but I know the real solution will require some serious austerity measures. So I'll try again tomorrow. Next time I will keep my portions manageable. Next time I will pay attention to what is in front of me. And next time I will practice actually being there, eating dinner, at dinner time.

As the night inched closer, I reached again for my drink. I stared blankly at the wall while vaguely disappointing thoughts of unmet deadlines and personal responsibilities swirled in my brain. With the bottle an inch from my lips, I realized this wasn't the Shiner Blonde I was expecting. This was the Frank's Red Hot I'd been applying liberally and mindlessly to my burrito supremo. I caught myself, laughed, and made the needed beverage substitution.

If you didn't catch it, there's your second metaphor of the story: If you don't pay attention to what you've put on the table in front of you, you might get burned, and make an awful fool of yourself in the process.

I don't have a good ending for this story. But it's not over yet.

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