a new toy to play with, and something to get serious about

18 Sharaf 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Dawnbreaker Collective “Son of Being”

I finally broke down and bought a CD mixer for DJ’ing.

I’ve been DJ’ing now for roughly three years.  Actually I didn’t even realize I’d been doing it that long until I looked up an old journal entry from March 2007 that talked about it.  For most of those years, I really wasn’t sure where DJ’ing fit in my life.  I thought it was neat that I was doing it.  It was a nice thing, and kind of a “cool” thing to talk about.  And, about two years ago, I began to think about purchasing my own CD mixer. But I wasn’t always enjoying DJ’ing.  

The dance floor tests you.  Being able to tune in with the dancers and anticipate what they might be looking for next is a tough thing.  I would have those times when the music takes over and precisely the right songs select themselves, and it’s an awesome feeling.  Then there are those times when it seems like nothing in my bag of tricks is working and the dance floor is empty.  

Furthermore, I’d often want to just veg out after a long week of work, and our Friday night events were often the last thing I wanted to do.  Sometimes I would dread DJ’ing, but more often than not, that feeling would change once I actually got to the Madtown Barefoot Boogie event.  I do usually feel energized after DJ’ing.  

Last summer, I felt I’d reached a point where I needed to either get serious about my DJ’ing or get out. I wasn’t quite sure where I needed to go.  In many ways, DJ’ing is no different that playing any other musical instrument.  I knew that commitment to the craft meant hours of carefully listening to music and selecting new music, and practicing.

But in early December, I decided that I indeed wanted to take this craft seriously and put energy into it. Part of my motivation for changing the name of this blog back to “The Different Drummer Soundtrack,” was that I realized that music was as an important part of my self-expression as writing.  And the inspiration came to me to try to integrate them more, which is part of the reason why “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” is now my DJ name as well.  

The more I think about it, the more that it really makes sense.  As an eleven-year old, I would ride my bike on Saturday mornings to Little’s Record Store on Lake Street in Oak Park, IL, and spend my allowance on a 45 rpm single.  At the age of fifteen, the musical acts I liked–such as Depeche Mode, The Cure, Fun Boy Three, Split Enz, and The English Beat–could be seen on MTV but weren’t being played on mainstream radio. So I borrowed the cassette player my mom used for her graduate school lectures, put it next to the TV speaker, made everyone in the TV room be quiet, and pressed “record” when one of my favorite songs came on.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I discovered the radio shows on independent radio stations that would play the songs I liked, and I would frequently listen on my boom box with my finger near the “record” button. I created over 30 tapes that way.  A few years ago, I converted them to MP3s, and now have them on CD and my MP3 player.  And now I have several CD towers on one of my dressers looking like the skyline of some major city.  In short, collecting music has been a big part of my life, and it’s only natural that I share it, just as I share my writing on my blog after years of writing for myself.

The CD mixer console I got is a Numark CDMIX-1.  It’s the same type of mixer that we use at the Madtown Barefoot Boogie.  It’s not much more expensive than a CD player one would get for a stereo system, and in fact, I have it plugged into my stereo system.  Many professionals use it and like it for its portability.  Now I can have actual practice DJ sessions, and test whether something sounds good to me before testing it on the dance floor.  Which only makes sense–it is, after all, a musical instrument.  Also, I have received a few inquries from people interested in having me DJ at other events besides the Barefoot Boogie, and this will help me do that if I want to.

Even when I decided to be serious about my DJ’ing, I was still on the fence about buying the mixer.  The final tipping point for me was the extra cash I was able to earn from working overtime most of December.  Even then, I felt a little guilty about opening the box with the mixer when it arrived earlier this week.  I consider myself a frugal person, and found myself wondering if this was a little excessive.  But I’m glad I have it, and am grateful to have the opportunity to further develop my skills as a DJ.

it was twenty years ago today–an anniversary of ‘global’ proportions

17 Sharaf 166 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  U2, “Dancing Barefoot”

It was twenty years ago today that over a hundred people from all over the country travelled to L.A. via bus and airplane (and perhaps even thumb) and gathered together in a large field behind a church in Simi Valley, CA.   The purpose was to convene and prepare themselves for the Global Walk for A Livable World.

The Global Walk was a cross-country walk for the environment in which roughly one hundred people walked from Los Angeles to New York over a period of nine months in 1990.  We were a mobile caravan and intentional community living out of tents, walking an average of fifteen miles per day, and stopping in cities and small towns to talk about the environmental crisis and ways to help save the planet.  You can read more about the Global Walk here.

I had the fortune of being one of the staff members for the Global Walk.  I found out I was hired by the Global Walk organizaiton in the middle of finals week of my senior year in college, and at the end of May 1989, I hopped on a bus to L.A. to begin my work.  Between June and August of that year, three of us lived out of a van as we helped map the walking route and establish contacts in different cities.  Then from August 1989 until January 1990, I worked out of the Global Walk office across from the Palisades in Santa Monica. I served as their field coordinator to  follow up further with contacts in developing publicity events, speaking events, and logistical support for the Walk.  We as staff lived very simply, subsisting on stipends of $500 a month and staying for free at the homes of former Great Peace Marchers.

To be honest, it was hard to imagine what kind of creature we were creating in that Santa Monica office. At that point, the walkers existed only as names on registration forms, and it was hard to imagine what kind of people we would encounter once we began to gather in Simi Valley. 

But on January 15, 1990, they began arriving. Some of them stopped at the Santa Monica office prior to setting up camp to help out with last minute mailings and other things.  It was fascinating to finally associate faces with names.  The Walk started becoming something tangible at that point.  What had been an organization with an office and small staff started becoming a community taking on a life and a personality of its own.

We camped out in the field for two weeks.  During that time we had a number of meetings where we hashed out decision-making processes, job rotations and other issues.  People pitched in to help with constructing the interiors and painting the exteriors of the support vehicles.  We also had a talent show, a few dances, and activities to get to know each other.  People tried out their gear and an REI near Glendale, CA offered walkers a steep discount on gear–that is where I got my walking shoes, tent, and sleeping bag.  I still have the latter two today.

I have vivid memories of the sights, smells, and feelings of that time.  It was a time giddy with anticipation and excitement.  In some ways, those two weeks in Simi Valley were a trial run for when we would actually start walking. But more on the start of the Walk in a future post…