Love Letter to Douglas Anderson

All of the photos in this post were taken by me when I was in high school, and represent (somewhat) my experiences.  

So, I have a secret. It's kind of a guilty pleasure and definitely an alienating kind of thing, as most people do not share it. At all.
...drum roll?

The fountain

I loved high school. There! I said it! I loved loved loved it, I am a completely goob about it and if my high school were a person I would have the hugest crush on it. Inevitably in semi-adult life we will all gather and have bitchfests about our high school experiences, and I can't really contribute anything. I mean, I was just as nerdy and awkward as the next girl but I was in an environment that really allowed me to grow as my own person. It was beautiful.

The courtyard

Of course, I didn't go to your average high school. I went to Douglas Anderson School of the Performing Arts, which is a nationally (and internationally!) recognized arts school. It started off as this piddly little arts school in podunk Jacksonville, Florida and has grown tremendously. Again, it was beautiful. This post has kinda taken a sort of goofy tone, but I am really serious in my passion for this place. I am passionate about everything that the faculty and administration does for its students, and about how every person there seems to be electrified. Just a teeny bit, as if everyone really wants to be there and knows what an amazing thing it is to take part in.

Let me back up. I've been surrounded by music all of my life, as I've mentioned in other posts (here, and here). From the day I was born music has been a part of my everyday life. My parents divorced when I was 10, and I have a very vivid memory from that time of my dad sitting me on his lap and asking me if I would want to try to go to the arts middle school. He explained to me how much music had changed his life for the better, and how much it would mean to him for me to get into the musical lifestyle too. I remember this moment so vividly because I can still see the look on his face, the love in his eyes for both music and me, and when I told him I really wanted to try out a single tear rolled down his cheek. This singular event changed my life more than anything else that has happened to me.

I ended up getting into Landon Middle School, and then I went on to Lavilla when Landon closed. From there I auditioned for DA, and got in with no questions asked or hesitation.

The next four years were a whirlwind of rehearsals and goofiness and teenage angst. From late night poetry readings to parties on the beach in St. Augustine, from crazy [literally insane] Latin teachers to frantic kisses with the first boyfriend out by the portables...I feel like my high school years could have been a book ala The  Perks of Being a Wallflower. I came out a completely different person that who I was when I went in. I just...I wish I could explain better how much I adore those years. Who I was, what I listened to, the exciting feeling of discovering it all. Discovering music, from A Perfect Circle to Radiohead to Broken Social Scene to The Strokes, discovering books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Sound and the Fury, discovering my love for language and my love for geekiness (I was in Brain Brawl and its Latin equivalent, Certamen). Discovering what it felt like to walk to the playground after school with your friends and play on the swings in a light drizzle. Volunteering for anything, everything, just to stay a little later. I remember days where I'd play french horn for an hour and a half in the morning, with an hour and a half rehearsal after school, with a break only to have to perform for a concert. I remember when we would have the big events (like Extravaganza) where we'd be taken out of class for a dress rehearsal, then another rehearsal, then bus downtown for soundcheck and another rehearsal, and then showtime!

I was never as ambitious as a lot of the kids I was in band with as I was mostly there to enjoy the music and the experience, not to become the best player in the band. As a result of that I stayed in the lower band for the first three years at DA. My senior year, however, found me in the top band. My experiences in the top band at the best arts high school in the state deserve an entire post all for themselves, but suffice it to say that the music we played has wormed its way into my heart forever. The friendships I forged as a part of the band's five person horn section have withered but I will never forget what it felt like to be a part of that dynamic group, or the sectional rehearsals we had, or the way it felt to feel the floor shake beneath us during one particularly memorable performance in Indianapolis. There's nothing quite like being one part of a 60-person unit, moving in perfect unison, shaking the ground beneath us. I haven't felt anything like it.

Me (on the far right) with the 3 other senior horn players, right before our last concert

I haven't played my horn since I played at my own graduation, but I can feel the music calling me back.

I spent so many hours right here, perched behind my music stand

And I miss it. Sweet god do I miss it.

I miss coming home with my cheeks on fire from playing all day. I miss having loads of music theory homework, and I miss being ridden with teenage angst. Is that weird? One of Margie's friends that is still in high school was telling us about a fight he had with his dad, and it actually filled me with longing. I miss fights with my parents over my bedtime. I miss them telling me to clean up my room or I couldn't go to my friend's art show, or telling me that no child of their was gonna practice Buddhism in their house! I didn't, by the way. But it amuses me now to look back on what a huge deal I thought that was. I miss the hour and a half bus rides to and from school each day- even though we lived 10 minutes away, I had to ride a shuttle bus from our neighborhood school. I hated it (hated it) at the time, but now of course I miss it. I listened to music the entire ride, alone with my thoughts and my notebook. I don't have time like that anymore, time that I can't be doing anything productive to just sit, with my thoughts.

It's weird now to stop and remember that I had this time, those years, at DA. I keep myself involved in art and artistic pursuits, but to imagine a time when artistic immersion was mandatory? It really seems unreal. I regard those years as time spent in the rabbit hole, I fell in with no idea what I was getting into and then abruptly I was popped back out into the real world.

I am incredibly grateful that Margie ended up going to DA as well- she entered as a freshman the year after I graduated. I got to go to concerts and events and drive her there pretty regularly, so I feel like I was kinda weaned off of DA. I feel like a pretty big nerd going on about my high school like this, but I really do geek about it. I'm trying to get my little stepbrother Kevan excited about it, because I feel like a) if he auditioned for writing he could definitely get in and b) that he belongs there, and it would change his life like it changed mine.
I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to go to DA, and I am grateful for everything that has happened to me since as a result of my time there.

I'm going to stop writing now, and finish this post with pictures.

 Science projects in a sunlit lab

Being artistic (ok goofy) with my best friend Alex

Yeah, we had jam sessions at the bus stop...didn't you?

Being a dork after school...with a shirt I made from a stolen Bush-Cheney sign. Yeah, my parents weren't really happy about that one...
The school was TP'ed the last week of school...and us seniors had to clean it up

Yeah, this is how we spent our time during English class...and yes, those are beanbags we sat on

Our library, a mishmash of art projects from years gone by

And I'll end on this picture, one of my favorites. I feel it epitomizes my life as a DA student...looking at my room in the background, you can see all of the different pieces of art that I made/collected, there's a CD mobile and a Ren & Stimpy shirt, and all manners of different posters and things.

I'm pretty sure I was wearing earrings that I got from the thrift store, and I'm wearing my Harvard sweatshirt that I got on the piano department's field trip to Boston. Young and confused, but ultimately very content.
Good times, man. Good times.


Forest Hostel

There's this place in Georgia, near a little coastal town called Brunswick. Hidden in the woods about 11 miles off the highway is a magical little place called The Hostel in the Forest. Once you find the nigh invisible driveway, you drive blindly for 5ish minutes on a tiny path that winds through the woods until you see it. The camp. A beautiful, peaceful, magical little place full of dirt paths winding through geodesic dome houses.

The porch of the common area is the single most inviting place I have ever known

I am writing about the Hostel in the Forest today because I am missing it dearly.
I have been there twice, one in 2008 and then a year later in 2009, and each time I have felt the impact of it on my entire being.

I went in 2008 with my friend Sarah, who is currently living the perfect hippie life as an herbalist in San Francisco. I don't really talk much to her now, and if I could find the words I would tell her it is because I am so proud of her for committing to her dreams...and that I'm ashamed to meet her eyes because I can't say that about myself yet. I'm getting there, though.

The beautiful Sarah

We stayed in Elmo's Bunk, a treehouse lifted up by tall posts. In the morning, when we woke, we found that a chicken had laid an egg on our doorstep. The egg felt like a gift, and in a moment of overindulgent hippie symbolizing we chose to see it as a gift from all nature in general, thanking us for taking the time to come and reacquaint ourselves. And then we ate it. Hey, it was delicious!

The view from Elmo's Bunk

I wrote this, in our bunk:
It's hard to describe this place, as it already seems so natural to me. Like something you see everyday, its many details escape the title of extraordinary. I know I will miss it greatly when I leave, but at the same time I know it will feel like I never came.

I am laying belly down on the bed, staring out the plate glass window that makes up one wall of our cabin. I feel like this is all there is or ever was, to walk among the giant spiders, to strip down and plunge into the lake, with young nubile bodies. We are fresh and hopeful, full of love and energy, playing plinky guitar and creating drum circles out of arms and hands.

I am down for adventures.

-In Elmo's Bunk at Forest Hostel, 8.1.08

I am down for adventures. Man, am I down for adventures.

When I came back in 2009, I came with Corey. We were only a few months into our relationship, but I already had the distinct suspicion that he was the one I had been searching for..but he had to pass the Forest Hostel test. For many years now I have been feeling myself stretching and molding to fit this ideal life I have in mind, full of words like self-sustainable and organic. I needed to know if Corey could mold with me as the changes take place, and taking him to Forest Hostel proved to me that he could. We stayed in the Dragon's Lair this time, and connected so deeply together in the land of the giant spiders and the beating drums. We spent hours on the octagonal dock in the middle of the little lake, swimming and canoeing and talking. Feeling the little nibbles of tiny fish that could swim into the netting of the dock. At the vegan dinner, he tried a bunch of foods that he never would have ordinarily given a chance, proving that he had an open mind. We made a circle with all of the staff and guests, holding hands, and each took a turn expressing our thanks for something in our lives...we both thanked life for each other.

Inside the Dragon's Lair

Running barefoot down the dirt paths past the gardens and the chickens, wearing a bare minimum of clothing, there is a large sense of peace. The type of feeling when you feel no guilt, no worries, no insecurity and no fear. Every where you turn there are little pieces of art, little painted signs and stones, dreamcatchers and garlands; these are all of the people that have been there before you and the sense of community from past and present overwhelms you. If there is ever a place of true and unadulterated validation, the Forest Hostel is it.

The mirror reads: "Remember you are a golden shining eternity."

If you want to make some music? Make some music. If you want to go swimming? There's a pool AND a lake with canoes. Do what you want. Every night the entire staff invites the guests to help them prepare a 100% vegan dinner made of vegetables grown on their land. Every morning eggs are collected from the chickens and left in a basket in the kitchen so that guest can make a scramble if they'd like. The showers are all outside (in varying degrees of privacy) with Dr. Bronner's Shampoo for all. And everything (everything!) is decorated, beautiful, adorned in peace.

In the common room there is a place for music, with guitars and drums and a piano.

The pool is murky and filled with tadpoles, but beautiful just the same.

There are chickens EVERYWHERE! I loved it!
You can also see the extensive recycling center here.

As I grow older I place more and more value on getting out of the consumerist lifestyle. I feel guilty everyday because of my eating habits and my spending habits and basically every habit that I have grown up with as normal. I maybe be 'normal' now but I am definitely not right. I dream of a day when my hands have created everything I eat, where if I want to eat meat then I will hunt and kill the food myself. I want to eliminate waste, I want to raise my kids with an inherent respect for everything that lives and for the world we all live in. The Forest Hostel is an inspiration for me, and Corey and I are planning to escape there the weekend after our wedding, as a preliminary honeymoon of sorts.

I can't wait to get back and breathe it in, to feel the happiness of people living a guilt-free existence. I just can't wait.


Now we've stolen their 16 bars

Ok. I have a story to tell. Buckle in, this one will be a little lengthy.

Corey and I went to a hip hop show this past Sunday (again at the Burro Bar- what can I say, I find something I like and I stick with it), a show that I have been VERY excited about for a couple of weeks...but I came out of the show with mixed feelings and face full of drunken tear tracks.

So what happened? Well...

So this rapper that we went to see is named One Be Lo. He is legendary on the underground hip hop circuit, for his own soulfully intellectual tracks as well as from his foundations as one half of the classic hip hop duo Binary Star.

Now I am in love with One Be Lo's style. I've written briefly about him in the past on this blog, and he has been in constant circulation on my summer soundtrack. When I saw in a local paper that he was coming, I literally squealed out loud with joy. And, well, that's part of the problem. But- let me not get sidetracked.

So, Corey and I get to the show and watch as the people pile in. We play some pool, drink some beer. I see One Be Lo sitting by himself while the opening acts are playing, so I decide to go over and say hello to him. I offer to buy him a drink, and tell him how much I love his music and that I just bought his new mixtape and can't wait to dig deep into it. He was really nice, and seemed like he appreciated my coming over to talk to him, so I asked him if he was planning on playing E.T. (my favorite song). He said he actually was, and then I told him it was my favorite, and he thanked me, yadda yadda I go back and sit down.

I went back to Corey in a fit of absolute fangirl glee. I just talked to one of my hip hop heroes! But, I couldn't keep that two-beers-in doubt from creeping up. I happen to know that One Be Lo is Islamic, and therefore doesn't drink or anything like that. I wondered if he could smell the beer on my breath, did it upset him? Did it upset him that I (a little white girl wearing short shorts) was the only one to come up to him? I totally said the name of the mixtape wrong, didn't I...oh well. I mean, whenever I start to go through the bad-thoughts cycle, I just have to shut myself off. So, I did, and I enjoyed the rest of the show.

2nd act: Jacksonville artist Arsun Fist

One Be Lo comes on the stage, and just tears it up. His delivery was spot on, he played some of my favorite songs, and I was just enjoying the shit out of myself. I am pretty passionate about life in general, but I am particularly in love with moments like these. A dark bar with colorful lights, a little bit of a buzz, and music that fills up my body and my spirit with the hum of all of humanity. I fucking love it.

One Be Lo in all his blurry glory (Christ I need a new camera)

Finally, One says that this next song is going to be the last. I get all excited because I'm sure that this is going to be it, he's going to play E.T., oh my gosh oh my gosh. Except...the DJ starts the opening bars to E.T., and One Be Lo turns around and makes a motion for him to cut it off...and then he launches into (what I presume is) a freestyle about fruits and vegetables.

What? A freaking freestyle about fruits and vegetables instead of my favorite song, the song I've listened to easily 847 times since March?

Uh...what the ever living crap. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was a REALLY good little bit of acapella rhyme. But Buzzed Keri had turned into Drunk Keri over the course of One's set, and I must say that Drunk Keri has WAY less control over her moods and faculties than Sober Keri...and so the butthurt began. I mean, I was just so disappointed that I temporarily forgot about all of the awesome that was placed in front of me for my consumption, and I also forgot that maybe (just maybe!) in the process of, yknow, getting on stage and putting on a show, that he may have just forgotten. Simple as that, no insult intended. (Sober Keri is currently choosing that line of thought.) Corey, in his concern for me because he knew my feelings were hurt, offered to buy me one of One's CDs and get him to sign it. One was standing by himself by the stage but I didn't even want to go up One again because I was embarrassed by my reaction, so I dipped out and went to the bathroom. When I came back, Corey was standing there holding a CD looking awkward while One had his back turned to him, talking to the two emcees that had performed before One.

(Let me throw out a disclaimer: the feelings I am about to describe should in no way reflect on One Be Lo or any one else at the show. These are my own feelings, caused by deeper rooted issues that I am about to explain, and more than likely these issues are just made up and I'm being a silly head. It is entirely possible, I am silly a lot. Anyway...)

I had a sinking feeling in my gut, that One was ignoring Corey. I went up to Corey and pulled him aside, and just told him I wanted to go. We left, and in the parking lot I exploded into tears.

Let me back up a bit and explain. As a white girl who loves hip hop, I am hyper aware of the stigma in the hip hop community against fans such as myself. Being a white hip hop fan alone is enough cause for some ridicule, or just cause to not be taken seriously. It really sucks. That attitude is all over the place, especially at some of the reddit forums I frequent (r/hiphopheads). Perhaps that forum is why I am so sensitive...heh. Anyhow, Corey had been in the middle of telling One Be Lo all about how he loves the albums he's put out AND the work he did with Binary Star, when the two [black] emcees come up saying how they'd never heard of One before but they loved his set...and One switched all of his attention over to them. So, yeah I was kinda upset.

I was bawling into Corey's chest in the parking lot, half-laughing and half-crying, sobbing "I'll never be black, I'll never be black enough for my favorite artists!" I say I was half-laughing, because I was aware of how ridiculous I sounded and how ridiculous I was being for being upset over something I can't control. I can't control the color of my skin anymore than I can control the kind of music that hits my heart. I spent the rest of this week turning these concepts over in my head, that I'll never be the fan these guys want. It's weird.

THEN. Yesterday. I was reading about this [white] rapper out of Seattle, Macklemore, and decided to download him and give him a listen. I put it on when I got home, and lo and behold the very second song I played was all about this exact same topic. I almost cried listening to it because it so clearly and concisely explains the roiled feelings of inadequacy I was feeling, in the face of helplessness (I can't help that I like what I like). I've gone on to listen to his other stuff and I'm immediately smitten, but I keep coming back to the lyrics of this song.

Appropriate lyrics from White Privilege by Macklemore:

Where's my place in a music that's been taken by my race?
Cultural appropriated by the white face
And we don't want to admit that this is existing-
So scared to acknowledge the benefits of our white privilege..
Cause it's human nature to want to be part of something different
Especially when your ancestors are European Christians
And most whites don't want to acknowledge this is occurring
Cause we got the best deal, the music without the burden.

This song was a much-needed band aid for the confusion and guilt I've been feeling all week.



All year long I've been enjoying a free Moose calendar from one of our vendors.

This past month has been especially enjoyable, and in changing the month today I experienced a pang of sadness that completely took me off guard.

I'll miss you, Angry Moose. You'll live on in my dreams, and you shall find immortality on this blog.
Goodnight, sweet prince.

Haha for real though I am loving every minute of this crazy ass calendar.


I love you in a special way

This weekend found us at one of our favorite spots in the city. I've blogged about it before, but it never fails to inspire a certain brand of happiness within me...the happiness that comes from being a part of my city's local culture.

I am of course referring to Chamblin's Uptown.

We ate outside, drinking some delicious sunny-afternoon beer and eating our wonderfully delicious local food. I love Chamblin's Uptown because it is the downtown add on to Chamblin's Bookmine, which is about 20 minutes away on another part of town. This new location makes it so much more convenient to pop in and grab a book or some food, and it's smack dab in the heart of downtown facing old brick churches and right by the river. Our city does not have the most developed urban core, so any little bit of 'cool' deserved patronage to help our city life grow. I love feeling like I'm doing my part!

Oh, and we brought Clem!

She enjoyed scraps of my roast beef wrap and some water in a bowl. We don't take her out with us near as often as I'd like, she is such a great sidekick.

After we ate, we took turns going inside so we could each pick out one goodie to take home with us. We are on a tight budget what with the wedding planning and all, but Chamblin's (being a used bookstore and all) is so cheap that we can afford to "splurge" on a $5 book and a $5 cd. Corey always beelines straight for the music aisle, while I like to go to the literary classics. We ended up leaving with Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes for me, and Corey picked up Prefuse 73's Security Screenings. That's pretty indicative of our tastes- I go for the ponderous and reflective books, and he goes for the same in music. Gotta love it.

In fact- I love it a whole hell of a lot.
I love that cafe, I love that man, I love that dog.
I love this life.