The Four Letter F-Word

Everyday can be a struggle when you feel that fear has a hold of you.  Fear to move on.  Fear to love.  Fear of the unknown.  When your a child, that fear doesn’t exist.  You trust without a thought.  You love with no regret.  You believe that you can do anything.  So, when does that fear become an emotion that grasps on so tight that it becomes difficult to move, to breath, or to hold on to reality?  Human nature makes us believe that everything is black or white, good or bad, but sometimes there is a grey area that gets forgotten about when people’s actions can be carried by the emotion of fear.  Fear can lead to regret, heartbreak, and resentment.  Why do we allow this emotion to control our actions?  Why can’t our mind go back to our childhood and block out that four letter word?

Society connects with stories about the underdog.  The person that was never meant to make it because of one thing or another.  Is anyone truly an underdog, or do we create these immortal men and women hoping to hold on to something that is better than our own lives?  The people that are important in our lives make us believe that the impossible is possible, but no matter how many people believe in you means nothing if you don’t believe in yourself.  When fear takes hold, you can feel stuck.  Almost like no matter which why you go, what action you make, you are going to fall through that crack in the floor and not be able to recover.

Over the years as I have watched the people around me change.  You notice their personalities change the most as they get older.  You let people go that maybe you should have held on to while others became more important in your life that started out as acquaintances.  You watch your parents, the people that literally could scare you with one look become these 50-something year old people of a totally relaxed mind-set.  The anger that you once saw when you would do something bad is no longer there.  Instead it has been replaced with a calm mind-set that it is now your life and your choices to make.  I have to say that I have been struggling with fear a lot lately.  Not fear of failure or fear of making mistakes, but fear of never being truly happy.  I’m not an emotionally driven person.  I do things based on thought and a lot of planning.  I don’t like to fly by the seat of pants in any situation and I have always thought fifty steps ahead of everyone else in the room if something doesn’t go according to plan.  I usually can tell someone how something is going to play out in any situation and 95% of time I am correct.  This is not me gloating, but more to show you that the people that may look like they are tied together in every way, feel the same fear that you do; they may just be less publicly emotional about it.  In Eminem’s song “Guts Over Fear” he raps:

“Do I really belong in this game? I pondered
I just wanna’ play my part, should I make waves or not?
So back and forth in my brain, the tug-o-war wages on
I don’t wanna’ seem ungrateful or disrespect the artform I was raised upon
But sometimes you gotta’ take a loss
And have people rub it in your face before you get made pissed off
Keep pluggin’, it’s your only outlet
And your only outfit so you know they’re gonna’ talk about it
Better find a way to counter it quick and make it, ah
Feel like I’ve already said this a kabillion eighty times
How many times can I say the same thing different ways that rhyme?
What I really wanna’ say is if there’s anyone else that can relate to my story
Bet ‘cha feel the same way I felt when I was in the same place you are
When I was afraid”

The best songs that we connect with are about emotions that we feel everyday and fear is just one of many, but I feel that it can be the strongest one of all to either make us fight or fall in this world.  Everything you want, desire, and need is on the other side of that fear; so let it go.  Sometimes the best you can do is take it one day at a time and get up each morning to Eminem’s “Not Afraid” because no matter how alone you feel, your not.

“And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, I’ma face my demons
I’m manning up, I’ma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now!”

The 1940s – The Music of My Grandparents

As we were driving down route 10 headed to the first weekend of Coachella in April 2016 I was giving my father directions from the backseat; trying to explain where he was going to be headed as he got off the exit.  Needless to say, when I don’t know how to pronounce a word I still sound it out like an eight year old and sometimes it is totally wrong.  Every street in the Palm Springs area are named after old time 1940s singers.  The area is considered Hollywood’s desert playground.  A place where people of Los Angeles can escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend.  There was a street called “Dinah Shore” and of course I butchered “Dinah” where then my father proceeded to be in shock and make fun of me because I had no idea who this woman was in the industry of music.  So, I dug a little deeper into this 1940s icon and discovered the world of crooners, big bands, and barbershop quartets.

It was the decade that music was starting to really come back to life after the depression.  After the stock market crashed in 1929 music died a little.  Dance halls were empty and musicians couldn’t find work, but by the mid 1930s the economy was starting to recover and the 1940s crooner superstars (Bing Crosby, Cab Callaway, Eddie Cantor) started to hit the scene hard.  There was also the return rise of big bands such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw as jazz and blues artists were becoming national sensations – Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  Then you have Dinah Shore who hit on another level.  After failing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman and Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey she struck out on a solo career leading to a string of 80 charted hits between 1940 to 1957.  She was one of the first singers of her era to achieve such success.  She was Taylor Swift before there was Taylor Swift.

1940s music was filled with brass, big sound, and a voice that could sooth any rotten day.  The voices of this generation seem gentle, soft, and hypnotizing.  Getting lost in an era of musicals, where men acted liked gentlemen, and woman had more drive and ambition than taking the best selfie for Instagram.  This is not a knock on the Millennial generation, but I sometimes wonder where the magic went in this world.  When did image and beauty begin to matter more than substance or talent.  There is no mistaking the talent of these artists and musicians.  There was no machine back then that could hide voice or instrument mistakes or imperfections; recordings were honest and had truth behind the words that were sung.  Even instrumental big band music such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller –  their music has power to bring you back in time as an underlying woodwinds carry the brass horns to tell a story of two young lovers being torn apart by war.

Maybe that is why this music is so special.  It was created during a time of bombings, air raids, and being exposed to horrific deaths at a young age.  Your best friend could be next to you one day and gone the next.  The music has a stroke of blues even in the up beat songs (i.e. Sing Sing Sing).  Benny Goodman’s song “Sing Sing Sing” is iconic.  Even if you don’t know 1940s music this song has been used in movies throughout the decades since its creation.  It goes up and down in moods from jumping and jiving to slow and bass level waves in notes that get a little too personal.  That bass drum remains its constant heart beat throughout the whole eight minutes as saxophones and trumpets slither in and out of quick and smooth music bar lines taking the listener through a party scene of people feeling different emotions and the rollercoaster that we call life.

Click Here for some my favorite 1940s music!  Better yet watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” plays in the background.

Coachella 2016 – The Good & Ugly of A Festival Attendee

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The people we bonded with at the Festival on Saturday night.

People attend Coachella for various reasons. Some go to be seen in the latest fashions, celebrities go for the free publicity, and others go for the music. Attendees spend an exorbitant amount of money over the course of the three days each weekend and this past year was no different. Every year it is a guessing game of “which weekend do I want to attend.” If you are lucky you can go to both, but very few people have that kind of money or time to burn. You risk missing special guests when you chose one weekend over the other, or purchase tickets based on rumors that may never happen.

For the second year in a row my brother and I decided to attend Coachella but this year we did weekend 1 instead of weekend 2. It seemed in years past the special guests have been more exciting the first weekend then the second weekend, when in reality neither weekend is better than the other; you always miss someone you wanted to see. This year the two big conversations surrounded the reuniting of Guns N’ Roses as well as the possibility of Ice Cube reuniting N.W.A.

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Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses did not disappoint. Even though Axl Rose was set up like an invalid with his broken foot, the band made sure the crowd was visually entertained. Richard Fortus jamming on his guitar as his long hair and opened shirt continued to rock out with each song as a series of facial expressions made attendees get a little more lost. Slash on the other hand was calm, controlled and cool with every note that whaled out of his guitar you couldn’t help but think “God I want to be that cool.” The band brought out a rock guitar legend Angus Young from AC/ DC. His school boy charm dressed in an all blue shorts suit is infamous as is his fish like mouth opening and closing in an “oh yeah” fashion throughout his playing.

Ice Cube’s set was a little disappointing. The rumors swirled over the previous months that N.W.A would be getting back together for a performance at Coachella. He brought back DJ Yella and MC Ren, but Dr. Dre was missing. The heart pounding excitement that formed as I watched them perform “Straight Out of Compton” and “F*** The Police” bubbled up, but it would have been more of a celebration if Dre was there and they brought another artist in to sing Easy E’s parts. The second weekend got that treat and I am beyond jealous. Dr. Dre did not sing on the original N.W.A recordings as he was primarily the producer for the group. At the show he came out and performed “California Love” and they had Easy-E’s son come out to perform “Boys N’ the Hood.” It was a full-blown N.W.A love feast full of every guest that truly needed to be there.

Rapper and rocker fans are no different to boy band fan-girls. No joke I have never witness a bunch of 20 and 30 something year old boys lose their shit when Tim Armstrong of Rancid come down from the stage to sing right in the crowd. Being a girl at the front of the gate as a bunch of men reached to touch the coat of their punk rock idol was not only a laughable moment, but one where I could see the inner fan-girl on every outer boy’s face. Lord Huron received a different kind of worship where everyone in the vicinity knew all the lyrics to each song and proceeded to dance with one another as the L.A. Indie folk band played songs ranging from their six year repertoire.  Personally never heard of them, but I felt like I was in the middle of a cult that I didn’t truly understand yet.

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Chvrches

Disclosure and Chvrches were some of the best electronic music and bands that were at the festival this year. Unlike Calvin Harris’ music which all sounds like a Jersey Shore after-party they had music that actually says something. Maybe it’s because Disclosure studied all styles of musicians in college and from their musically gifted parents from funk and soul to hip hop and dub step that intertwines with electronic beats. Maybe it’s because Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches) had a career in journalism where stories were her livelihood and now lyrics hold that place. Not every artists that dabbles in electronic music is good. The best artists in electronic music usually have a background in playing more classical instruments and have a deeper exploration in rhythms, beats, and how it all intertwines.

Alessia Cara was one of my personal favorites at the festival as her sound is still honest and pure. Her set and wardrobe were simple as her band knew every lyric and drowned the audience into the synthesized sounds of guitar, bass, and keys. Her songs are poetic. “Seventeen” is something that I have been able to relate to lately. Turning thirty in the next few months I sometime wish that time could be simpler. It’s not about not wanting to be an adult but to be able to have some moments where time can stop. Where life doesn’t have to move so fast.

“My view with a looking glass won’t catch the past
Only photographs remind us of the passing of days
Oh nothing stays the same from yesteryears
See I recall being afraid of the dark
And holding on to teddy bears
I’d wrap myself in blankets just to cover me from fears
That was then and now I’m here
And the night is mine

So hear me scream
I was too young to understand what it means
I couldn’t wait til I could be seventeen
I thought he lied when he said take my time to dream
Now I wish I could freeze the time at seventeen”

In consideration of attending the 2017 Coachella don’t let anyone try to fool you that weekend one or two is better than the other. More special guests do attend weekend one – Sam Smith and Lorde with Disclosure, Angus Young with Guns N’ Roses, and O’Shea Jackson Jr, Snoop Dogg, DJ Yella, and MC Ren with Ice Cube. Weekend two may surprise you and have such a huge event blow up like a group reuniting that hasn’t performed together in years (N.W.A). There is no right or wrong weekend only an enjoyable one full of memories where you wish you could freeze time. Make music your refuge and curl up into the space between the notes as you fall into the perfect sound.

**Be on the lookout for a video coming soon**

A Soundtrack for the LA Commuter

3608475365_189200eaa5The normal Los Angeles commuter usually consists of people spending hours in their cars, by themselves, driving five days out of the week to get ten to twenty miles to work.  We waste an exorbitant of time alone, miserable, and constantly in a hurry to get nowhere.  It amazes me that in Los Angeles people are in such a hurry behind the wheel of a thousand pound bomb, but walking they have no sense of urgency.  Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I can’t handle walking behind slow people.

Communing on the Metro you get experiences that you will never get to experience in the comfort of your own car.  Like a homeless man sleeping sprawled out over two seats, a father and a child who carry all their possessions with them in a baby carriage, or a woman passing around the same story everyday at the same time saying that she hadn’t eaten today, but will never accept food given to her only money.  In Los Angeles, I’ve learned to appreciate what I have and as I people watch on the train, moving in slow motion, you see that society is nothing but a big giant high school full of judgements.

Yesterday, there was a man on the train probably in his 60s, long white beard, balding, and kind of looked like Santa Clause who hadn’t taken a shower since last Christmas.  He seemed sad, empty, lost, and smelled a little funny.  Everyone that was sitting in a two foot vicinity moved to the opposite end of the car; except me.  He watched everyone move away and it made him sadder. He looked at me, and was waiting for the same reaction, but all I did was smile.  He smiled back and then got off the train at the next stop.

A few weeks ago there was an African-American man in his 20s that sat next to me on the train.  His friend told him that he scared me.  So, he looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was scared.  I told him that very few things scared me anymore.  We had a long conversation about work and our lives.  He grew up in LA and worked with children in the inner city and teaching them to play basketball.  I guess my point in this post is to listen to everything and everyone around you – smile, talk, and laugh with people you don’t know.  Sometimes we are so connected to technology that if the world unplugged for the day I don’t think any of us would really know how to have a normal conversation; how to truly slow down.  Society judges people based on appearance.  We are brought up in a world where people who look or dress in a certain way are more worthy of our attention.

Sometimes music can be a basis of conversation.  Full of understanding our feelings.  We never truly understand what people are going through on the outside.  Someone could be smiling and laughing, but be a complete and depressed mess on the inside.  So, I leave you with this playlist full of fifteen songs that I hope encourage you to look at people a little differently.  To slow down in more ways than one.  Change does not happen over night.  It takes year of practice.  Full of critical mistakes, being stressed out, and scars to your beautiful self, but with a little bit of real friends, images of when life was simpler when we were young, and developing close functional relationships, we can all change the way we think, act and do.

Check out the playlist here!

Jahna Frantziskonis – Insta-Dancer & Rising Star

imageJahna Frantziskonis, one of San Francisco Ballet’s corps members and an Audrey Hepburn look-a-like, is exploding on the dance scene with her behind the scenes access of the ballet world on Instagram.  The saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words.  Her photos and videos capture more than a backstage glimpse of dancers, but a gaggle of young people having fun, living their lives with friends while doing a job they love.

Born in Tucson, Arizona Frantziskonis started dancing young.  She began her training with Mary Beth Cabana at the Ballet Arts Tucson.  She explored and developed at various summer programs including School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School.  She danced in the corps for the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) for three years before joining the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) corps in 2015.  At the PNB, she was in feature roles for Justin Peck’s “Debonair” and Twyla Tharp’s “Waiting at the Stations.”  Her elegant jumps, effortless looking pirouettes, and commend of the stage draws an audience view straight to the corps.

In 2014, she began her exploration in choreography as apart of a collaboration with another PNB ballerina, Angelica Generosa.  Featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s Professional Division, the duo titled the work “Jaja Y Qua” which highlighted three couples set to three movements by the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Generosa and Frantziskonis made the perfect team as Angelica was the idea person and Jahna was the detail-oriented coach.  Her choreographic aspiration has been pushed to the back burner since 2014 as she made her transition to the San Francisco Ballet in 2015.  Her time has been dedicated to the stage due to the busy schedule she began to keep at an international dance company.  She says, “This career allows you to gain knowledge each step of the way.  SFB does a lot of touring and there are alternating reps for each season program.  A dancer can be a Shade and in the same week dance Forsythe.” She has flourished at the SFB as this past December she dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the “Nutcracker.”

Frantziskonis says, “Dance serves to connect with something bigger than ourselves.  Where there is potential to create what we imagine.”  As a dancer and human you can see in her photos her dreams to change the course of dance.  She has a light in her that resinates through through her eyes, smile, and excitement as she rehearses and waits in the wings with her fellow dancers, choreographers, and friends.  Just like Audrey Hepburn, she shines from the inside out as she is figuring her place in this crazy dance world.

Check out Jahna’s Instagram here!