2010 and the decade with no name

1 Sharaf 166 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Untouchables, “Wild Child”

It’s kind of weird to see another decade coming to an end.

A couple years ago, I saw a sign outside a carpet place that said “No interest until 2010.”  It was the first time I’d seen the year 2010 on a sign and it creeped me out some.  It seemed alien to me, like some scary science fiction movie.  “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Now that 2010 on the Gregorian calendar is just a 25 hours away, it doesn’t seem so creepy.  But I still am kind of getting used to writing the year beginning with a “2” instead of a one. It seems like a completely different world in some ways.  It makes it hard to believe I was born in 1967.  It’s almost as if that was a completely different calendar and a completely different world.  The passage of time seems a little bit easier to grasp when I realize I was born in 124 B.E. and it’s now 166 B.E.

I remember anticipating the arrival of 1980, 1990, and 2000 with excitement, as if it were part of some big countdown.  (I was too young to remember the transition to 1970).  Now that we’ve passed the 2000 mark, I’m like, “Now what?’  I know a lot of people are holding their breath about 2012, specifically 21 December of that year.  My hunch is that it will not the end of the world, or a day when the whole world suddenly gets some kind of spiritual awakening.  My guess is that if there’s any change, it will be like crossing from Illinois to Wisconsin—the actual border crossing itself is innocuous,  but after a while, we’ll feel like we’re in a different state.

For me, the most significant event of this decade now coming to an end was when I crossed the border from Illinois to Wisconsin and made Madison my home.  As I said in my last blog post, moving to a new city changes everything,  and it was even more pronounced because my lifestyle changed from apartment living to co-op living.  

I find it funny that no one can really agree or decide what this decade now passing should be called.  We had the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and now what?  The Oh’s?  The Oh-oh’s?  The Ohties?  The Aughts?  The Aughties?  

Whatever it’s called, we’re starting to hear retrospectives of the last ten years now, though some may argue that the new decade doesn’t really start until 2011.  They’ll talk about 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the tsunami, Katrina, Obama.  They’ll talk about trends in music, though the most significant trend has more to do with how music is bought rather than any specific genre.

I do see 2010 as a good time for making resolutions.  I’m making some that pertain to community, finances, and spiritual growth.  I figure that with the transition into a new decade, resolutions made at this time seem to me to have greater meaning.  Though they are probably just as easy to break.

In any case, I hope everyone has a most enjoyable New Year.  Tune in to this blog for more posts during Gregorian year 2010.

seven years of co-op living

16 Masa’il 166 B.E.  (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Transglobal Underground, “Templehead”

I am writing this blog post at a cafe in my old neighborhood of Lincoln Square in Chicago.  I lived in this neighborhood for six of the years I lived in Chicago, and my sister still lives near here.  I’m down here to visit family for Christmas.  

I just got back from the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette IL, where I spent about two and a half hours praying, meditating, and journal writing.  Thanks to a $40 gift certificate from my sister, I was also able to be like a kid in a candy store at the Baha’i Visitors’ Center bookstore, and I made significant additions to my Baha’i book collection as a result.

But I’m actually here to write about my years in Madison—specifically, my reflections on the fact that today marks seven years since I first moved into a co-op house in downtown Madison.  

Moving from Chicago to Madison was a major change in my life.  Practically everything changes when you change cities.  Looking back, I can also now see that 26 December 2002 marked a significant correction in the course of my life.  Since 1993,  my goal had been to live a communal lifestyle, but many things were preventing me from making that happen,  I thought I could create community in Chicago, and a few ways I had limited success.  But many things in my life were distracting me from my goal of community, I had to finally yank myself out of the life I was leading and start a new life.  I had other reasons to move to Madison besides community living, but this has emerged as the most important change in my life as a result of the move.

After a couple of years in the co-ops, I began to observe how high turnover in many of Madison’s co-ops would often stunt the development of community.  A lot of it is because the co-ops cater largely to students.  It’s a good thing that the co-ops are able to serve students, and many students contribute an immense amount to the co-ops for the short time they’re there. But as someone who has not been a student in many years, I find myself with different needs.  So I began to develop a goal of seeking and helping develop a co-op community that would attract more long-term members.  

When I moved to my current co-op,  I moved in with people who shared much of the same vision.  Partially because of this, and partially because I really like my housemates, I am quite happy at my current co-op.  In many ways, I have realized my goals when it comes to community living.  Having done so, what is next?

I think I need to continue to work on helping develop a sense of community in this house.  To some extent that’s a choice one makes, but it’s also something that needs time to develop.  Another thing I’ve been thinking about is ways to build connections between this community and people outside the community—perhaps something like an “inner community” of house members and a “outer community” of friends who don’t live here, but still feel connected to the co-op in some way.

It’s funny being in Chicago right now—it’s almost as if I’ve traveled backwards in time to a former life.  But this is a good place to reflect on my current life as well.  I’ve often said that I don’t know whether I’ll be leading this communal lifestyle when I’m fifty.  At this point, I’d say that it largely depends on how successful I am at finding community in my life.  I’d say so far, so good.

at last, a co-op christmas tree

14 Masa’il 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Pretenders, “2000 Miles”

Tomorrow I will have lived in co-op houses for seven years.  I feel at home with this lifestyle. The day I moved into my first co-op house was a turning point in my life and  I have no doubt that my life is the richer for it.  Nevertheless, there are aspects of co-op homelife that I sometimes find a little lacking.

This may sound nit-picky, but for years it has bothered me that co-op life has often left little room for a Christmas tree.  I think it’s because the act of decorating a Christmas tree was a big familly tradition for me when I was growing up.  Since I’d like to be able to consider my co-op housemates as being  somewhat like family, I’ve always had the great desire to decorate for Christmas with them, even though I don’t fit most people’s definition of a Christian. 

The reasons for my the lack of interest was understandable—my old-co-op consisted largely of students who would usually leave town for Christmas.  As such, there was little interest in decorating a home if they weren’t going to spend Christmas there.  Nevertheless, I would try to pique interest among my housemates.  Most of the time, though, I ended up hanging some lights by myself instead.

One of my motivations for moving to my current co-op house is that I have wanted to live in a community setting that felt more family-like.  And to a large extent I think we have succeeded in creating that environment.  Last year, for the first time,  I actually celebrated Christmas with many of my housemates.  That Christmas Eve, we lit up the common spaces with Christmas lights, turned off the overhead lights and enjoyed each others’ company.  The next morning, we had a delicious Christmas brunch and played Christmas music.

I’m glad to say that this year, we have a co-op Christmas tree.  One housemate proposed the other idea, and another housemate knew someone who worked for a Christmas tree farm.  A few days ago, she came home with a four-foot Frazier fir and put some lights on it.  A couple of days later, I brought my Christmas decorations down from the attic, added more lights and draped garlands on it.  It looks absolutely beautiful when lit up.  Another housemate draped garland in some of the common areas. 

Ironically, more of us are celebrating Christmas away from home this year, and I’m writing this blog post from Chicago.  I know that in the long run, whether we have a Christmas tree or not makes little difference in the quality of my life in the co-op.  But it does seem indicative of the family atmosphere that we’re trying to cultivate here.

reflections on last night’s dj set

9 Masa’il 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Danielle Dax “Tomorrow Never Knows”

Last night was a very good DJ night for The Different Drummer Soundtrack at the Madtown Barefoot Boogie.  I started with a fairly mellow blend of music to let people ease into the dancing, and gradually turned the energy up.   I was quite consistent about keeping people on the dance floor.  A rather wild energy took over the dance floor at times with a lot of people jumping and skipping around or singing along to the lyrics.  At one point I could even see a train of people going around the room. It was definitely one of my best sets, if not my best overall.

Before I left,  I checked the book where attendees can leave feedback for the DJ.  There was, to my surprise, what appeared to be a rather angry comment about my selection of music.  I can’t remember the exact words, but it said that not everybody likes the categories of music I was playing  I don’t remember the musical categories cited, but one of them was trance.  I don’t really play any trance music–at least not the common definition of trance, which is characterized by very fast, hypnotic beats. 

But I do agree that I could use more diversity in my music.  The bulk of my music was not bought with the dance floor in mind, and probably most of my CD collection is from the 90’s.  I also have a lot of good 80’s music, and I’ve added a lot recently from this decade now ending. 

There is also a real trick to figuring out what will sound good coming through the speakers onto the dance floor.  It isn’t always the same music that sounds good through the headphones.   I’ve experimented with many songs, and some have been hits with the dancers, while others have cleared the dance floor and left me frantically shuffling through my collection to figure out how to bring them back.

I have a certain number of songs which are usually hits on the dance floor.  I refer to them as my “rescue remedies,” because they will frequently get me out of a jam when the dancers aren’t responding.  The only issue that if I play them too often, the dancers will grow tired of them.  Last night I used a number of those songs, not to help myself out of a jam, but because I noticed that there was a really good energy on the dance floor, and I was running out of ideas as to how to keep it going.

It does seem, however, that I’m more sensitive to repetition than the dancers are.  I remember playing one set a few months ago which got a lot of really good feedback from the dancers.  Yet I hated the set–I felt like I’d introduced nothing new and it was just the same old stuff I always played.  Top 40 radio stations understand well that a key to a song’s popularity is repetition, and I think I can see that phenomenon on the dance floor as well.  But then again, I don’t listen to Top 40. 

DJ’ing always involves a tension between what the DJ wants to play and what the dancers wants to hear.  It’s a healthy interplay that can allow both the DJ and dancers to grow.  I could never be a wedding DJ.  One friend asked me to DJ her wedding and I realized I couldn’t because I’d have to cater to such wildly diverse tastes.  Even though my own collection includes pop, punk, folk, country, reggae, various varieties of dance and has about six or seven decades represented, I still couldn’t please the whole crowd in the way that a wedding DJ should.  That’s a real art in itself, but it’s just not me.  On the opposite end of the scale, I occasionally hear criticisms of DJ’s who seem to play only what they want, without any focus on the dance floor. 

So I need to continue to grow my collection and listen to it more often with a DJ’s ear.  The friend who got me into DJ’ing tends to put four hours of preparation into each set, just by listening to music and refamliarizing himself with the “tools” at hand.  We never plan more than the first three or four songs in any set, but knowing what is within reach for any given situation makes a huge difference.

For those of you curious as to what was in my set last night, here is what I remember.  I need to get in a better habit of writing these things down:  Arkestra One–“Into The Light,”  United Future Organization–“The Sixth Sense,” J Boogie–“Oceanic Lullaby,” William Orbit–“Water From a Vine Leaf,” The Orb–“Little Fluffy Clouds,” Bomb The Bass–“Bug Powder Dust Forward,” Moby–“Find My Baby,” Jem–“Just a Ride,” Stereo MC’s–“Connected,” Bebel Gilberto–“Mais Felix,” TransGlobal Underground–“Lookee Here,” Nardo Ranks–“Burrup,” Pop Will Eat Itself–“Bulletproof,” The Soup Dragons–“I’m Free,” Thievery Corporation–“The State of the Union,” Deee-Lite–“Groove Is In The Heart.”

the eighteen-inch blizzard

18 Qawl 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  It’s A Beautiful Day, “Essence of Now”

This time the city had good reason to shut down. 

People had been talking about the coming of this blizzard all week.  Predictions for snow accumulation kept going up–from six inches to ten, to twelve, and even sixteen.  But we’d heard dire weather predictions before that had not come to fruition. 

The snow started really coming down once it got dark yesterday afternoon.  A few of us were working late, putting in overtime, and we were calculating how late we could work and still miss being bogged down by the weather.  I left at 5:45 and got the timing just right.  My bus was only a couple of minutes late.  It was a bit slick, but the accumulation was minimal, and I have to hand it to Metro bus drivers–most I’ve encountered are good at navigating through inclement weather. 

I got home and saw two housemates shoveling, even though barely an inch had fallen.  I knew that a lot more shoveling would need to be done later.  As the evening wore on, we heard about cancellation after cancellation–Madison Public Schools, suburban schools, the University of Wisconsin, and others.

Right before I went to bed, I checked the Madison Metro website to see if the buses would be running.  I’ve heard that it is rare for Madison Public Schools to close, and if they did, Madison Metro likely would, too.  But they said that service was expected to be going on the following morning.  When I turned the lights off to go to bed, I noticed it was unusually bright in my room because of the snow.  Every now and then, I would wake up, look outside, and notice that the snow was piling higher and higher on the railings, and even the phone lines were covered with snow.

I woke up at 5 a.m., and the first thing I did was to check the Madison Metro website to see if the buses were running.  The site hadn’t been updated since the night before.  I listened to the radio and began to check some of the local television station websites to see if there was any news.  The authorities were telling us to stay home if at all possible.  At about 5:40 a.m., about ten minutes before I would have left for work, (I was coming in early for overtime)  the website for Channel 27 said that Madison Metro was delaying the start of service, waiting for clearance from police.  Finally this information appeared on Madison Metro’s website as well. 

So I waited, and checked email and Facebook.  Six o’clock turned into seven,and I realized that I wouldn’t make it into work on time.  So I called work, and let them know that I would be delayed.  Seven turned into eight, and each hour the update was the same–Metro service delayed pending clearance from authorities.  Finally, at about 9:30, the website announced that Metro service was cancelled for the whole day.  I would have a day off work.  I called work again and this time I got my supervisor on the phone.  Three out of fifteen people had come into work that day, and one of them had to leave early.

I looked outside.  The world was transformed by walls of snow that had not been there the day before.  The plows had gone through and cars were buried.  The sidewalks were unusually crowded with people.  Everyone was staying home, and shoveling. 

Today was productive.  I sent out a few emails I needed to send out and I put together some devotions for the Friday night devotions that are in my house.  I relaxed, meditated, and then in the late afternoon, I began cooking the house dinner because it was my turn to do so.  It was nice not to have to hurry up with cooking.

The Metro website now says, “as conditions allow, service will resume on Thursday.”  My guess is that I’ll be back at work tomorrow, further behind than we were before.  But it has been nice to slow down and take a breath in the middle of the week.

four years of blogging, and the soundtrack is back

15 Qawl 166 B.E.  (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Cocteau Twins, “Know Who You Are At Every Age”

Sometimes your first or second thought is the best thought.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the first post on The Different Drummer Soundtrack.  My first entry talked about getting used to the online tools provided by Squarespace, the home to this blog since its inception.  I also started the tradition of including the byline “Soundtrack in my head” and listing whatever song was going through my head at the time. 

Prior to starting this blog, I’d been keeping a journal for over fifteen years, and by 2005 I felt that it was time to write for more than just myself.  I also had the desire to write about co-op life, and promote the spiritual organization of Mahikari.

Many changes have occurred since then.  I left Mahikari in the fall of 2007, and became a Baha’i.  The following spring, I began to add the Baha’i calendar date to the byline. But with such a significant shift in my spiritual life, I decided to change the name of the blog to “A Colorburst Prayer” in the summer of 2008. 

However, for some reason, I kept on renewing my ownership of “thedifferentdrummer.net” domain name.  And in the summer of 2009, I suddenly felt called to restore “The Different Drummer” name, while keeping the word “Prayer” in the name

And today, on the blog’s fourth anniversary, I’ve decided fully restore the blog’s original name, “The Different Drummer Soundtrack.” 

The main reason is that it simply felt right.  What’s in a name anyway?  Actually, my original working title for this blog before I started it was “Deluge of Sound.” But “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” suddenly came to me, and when I discovered that “thedifferentdrummer.net” was available as a domain, that sealed the deal.  I took several months to come up with the “Colorburst Prayer” name, but after I changed the name of my blog to that name, I found that as I talked it about it, it simply did not resonate with me.

And “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” simply kept growing on me.  I’ve always known that things that suddenly come to you often do so for a reason.  I realize now that the name fits me. I didn’t find the name–it found me.

For those who are not familiar with the literary reference of the “different drummer,” it comes from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. He said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I am a “different drummer” in many ways–in my choice of lifestyle, in my choice of religion, and the way that I tend to question everything.  As a DJ, music has been part of my life since an early age, so it makes sense that a “soundtrack” be part of the name.  I also think the name is fitting for my intended audience for this blog, which not only includes Baha’is and people who live in co-ops and intentional communities, but also friends, family, non-Baha’is and non-co-opers who might have some curiosity about the lifestyle I lead.

In fact, I’ve grown so comfortable with the name that I’ve decided to make it my DJ name (without the initials DJ in the front).  So The Different Drummer Soundtrack will now be a DJ alongside DJ Geek Boy, Moebius, and Richard Aviles at the Madtown Barefoot Boogie.

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on this blog over the last four years, and I hope to continue to offer provocative, stimulating, and quality content on “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” for years to come.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the Different Drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

(Henry David Thoreau)

the one-inch blizzard

12 Qawl 166 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Drumbeat in my head: Badly Drawn Boy, “Epitaph”

It took me one hour and fifteen minutes to take the bus home from work today.  All because of one inch of snow.

I worked an hour late, and when I went outside to wait for the No. 16 bus at 5:45 p.m., traffic on Broadway was backed up in both directions.  Roads were slick and nary a snowplow was in sight. 

I waited ten minutes after the bus was supposed to arrive and then called Madison Metro to see how late the buses were running.  I waited on hold for fifteen minutes, with a message every minute saying “Thank you for calling Madison Metro.  An agent will be with you shortly.”  Then finally, I heard a message saying “The Metro customer service center is now closed.”    They close their customer assistance center at 6 p.m.

A little while later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a No. 11 bus.  By this time, it was 6:20 p.m.  The last No. 11 was supposed to have come through the area more than an hour before.  I boarded the bus, and commented that I didn’t expect the No. 11 to be running this late.  The bus driver said that the roads were bad in many parts of the city.  She described how a four-minute trip down Whitney Way took her 25 minutes, and that the road was so slick that she was driving “mostly sideways.”  I was glad I didn’t have to travel that far.  She drove very carefully and methodically.  The bus dropped me off at Capitol Square and I was able to take a No. 6 home from there. 

My old home of Chicago has a very fast and efficient snow removal system.  I think it dates back to when a mayor lost a re-election bid in 1979 due to issues with snow removal.  It’s rare for incumbent mayors to lose elections in Chicago, so when this mayor did, it apparently put the fear of God in every city, state and municipal official within sixty square miles.  As such, snowplows and salt trucks there start their engines when so much as a snowflake falls.

Not so in Madison.  I used to live on one of the main thoroughfares in Madison, and the street would still be only partially plowed twelve hours after the snowfall stoppped.  As such, even a one-inch snowfall might feel like a blizzard here. 

But few people here complain.  I’ve heard some people say that it is the rugged nature of Wisconsin.  I think I would look quite rugged if my face went through a windshield.  Some say it’s a question of knowing how to drive in this weather.  My question is this–at what speed is it safe to drive on black ice? 

So, I really have no choice but to grin and bear it until March or April.  People ask me how I can stand waiting outside for the bus in the winter.  I reply that I much prefer it to driving on the roads in the winter.  It’s times like these that I’m glad I don’t own a car.