25 June 2009

No time for blog, Dr. Jones!

There has been more going on in the last couple weeks, for sure, but here are some quick highlights:
  • been watching plenty of soccer games (from halfway around the world)
  • played a couple shows with the usual suspects (music + friends = happy)
  • watched my friend take charge at The Bluebird ("I'd rather be alone...than wish that I was")
  • asked a girl out on a date (!)
  • went on said date (that's all that I'll say about that)
  • co-lead worship at my church for the first time (pretty special for me)
That is all. This blog is like a feeble, malnourished plant. At least for the time being.

14 June 2009

It's Summer

Friday night I cut my hair. Pretty short.

Saturday night I went with a couple dozen friends to the local minor league ball park to cheer on the hometown Nashville Sounds (AAA affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers). My first game of the season--an extra-innings win, followed by post-game fireworks and more hanging out.

Today I went off to the park with friends to play kickball, followed by my first taste of Las Paletas (I had the creamy lime popsicle).

It's definitely summer.

09 June 2009

I Love Music, I Love Nashville

It's the late end of a long day, so this is short.

I saw a great show tonight at one of my favorite venues.

I had heard great things about the headliner, Madi Diaz, and she and her band delivered. Rock-edged pop songs with great hooks and textures and execution. Good stuff.

Keegan Dewitt (with 4-piece string section) and Jacob Jones were also solid.

But the awesome unexpected pleasant surprise of the evening was Vandaveer. A guy and a girl + one guitar, but with so many colors and so much power and huge vitality. Folk ballads with a cool and varied Euro troubadour tinge. They have an album coming out in August that I am definitely looking forward to. Seeing their set put a big fat joyful smile on my face that I just couldn't help.

I'm kinda wired now. Good luck with sleeping.

07 June 2009

I lost my dignity somewhere outside Atlanta.

Friday I drove down to Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta, with Treva and Ben for a show at Eddie's Attic. I'd never played there before, but I had seen it a bunch of times on various folks' tour listings, so I was looking forward to the mini-road trip and gig. We slogged through some rush-hour traffic, got there, and loaded in while a quality band from South Carolina called Tent Revival did their sound check.

Strike 1:
Within 30 seconds of seeing the other band sound check, I definitely started to feel insecure about myself because they had a pretty killer cellist / electric guitar player who is way better than me. Now, most players are better than me, and I at least project a degree of being ok with that, just as a matter of fact in recognizing my limits. I go back and forth between wishing that I had other people's gigs and being content with where I'm at--in terms of my abilities and the great opportunities that I've already had to make music with my friends. I'm good at simultaneously projecting confidence and self-doubt.

Strike 2:
Within 30 seconds of our own sound check, the sound guy started giving me a hard time and really disrespecting me. After the third remark, I just stopped him and calmly said something like, "I feel like you're talking to me really condescendingly, and you don't need to treat me like that." He mumbled something about how he was stressing out with the craziness of trying to sound check four acts that night, and he backed off a bit after that, though he never apologized. For my part, before and after I called him out, I complimented the sound and thanked him multiple times.

So it didn't exactly make for a fun time in the lead up to the show. I was already a bit uncomfortable cause I was going to be running through the other cellist's setup. And I've mentioned the insecurities. And now out of nowhere, the sound guy was getting on my case. It took a lot of self-control to not go off on him. I knew that would only make things worse, but I definitely wanted to throw a fit and tell him in no uncertain terms that he was being a big fat jerkface. Instead, I bottled up that angry response--which usually means that I'm on the verge of getting emotional--and I just spoke calmly and clearly on the outside. I didn't dwell on it and try to shame him over and over--I just called him out then and there.

Anyway, after sound check, Treva and Ben and I sat down to dinner (at least the venue does take care of its artists with a meal coupon and two drinks), and they both commended me not only for speaking up and saying something, but for saying it kindly (Ben got a bit of the same treatment from the sound guy, too, but I definitely bore the brunt). Praying grace together was a good reminder of God's sovereign presence over us and our desire for him to be glorified even when things are getting messy like that.

The show itself was pretty solid, a couple misses but mostly strong. Though since we didn't really know everybody else on the bill, it definitely had a different feel from shows that you do with your friends as the other acts, where you're really able to make music in community and just be really supportive of each other without agendas. Otherwise, I think the music thing can get a bit mercenary (mea culpa)--preoccupations with swapping shows (you play with me when you come to my city, I'll play with you when I go to your city) and who's playing whose drum set and the order of the lineup and all that business of advancing yourselves.

Otherwise, hanging out with Treva and Ben was great, the food and drink were solid, it was a treat to hear a bunch of live music in a listening room environment where the audience is really attentive to it--but it was still a lot to process internally. I know that I'm still a bit hurt/angry for the way the sound guy treated me. For the fact that he never apologized or even offered me a perfunctory "hey, nice job, you guys sounded good" just to openly push the reset button and try to start over. Like I said, I reached out a couple times--thanked him right after our set, but he didn't even make eye contact with me that time, then thanked him again outside in the parking lot at the end of the night. I don't even remember what he said back--maybe "sure thing"...?

Treva and Ben saw me go up to him that last time in the parking lot just before we left, and when I got back to the car, she said something like, "You're a sweet man, Hitoshi." And all I could come up with was, "No no, I just know the transforming love of Jesus Christ, and that makes all the difference." And yet, I hyper-analyze, and I am way too thin-skinned--I wish it were easier for me to just let go of crap like that and brush it off. But it usually leaves a mark and can be hard for me to move on a lot of the time. To be honest, given the opportunity to play there again, I wouldn't want to go, at least not right now. So pray for me, if you're inclined, that I might let this go, truly forgive and make peace in my heart in the face of all this stuff.

That's only the half of it, of course. Somewhere in the whole mix of all that craziness going on, seeing the other band and their cellist, it really did bring up so much self-doubt, to the point where I was overwhelmed by an acute feeling that I had nothing to offer God right then and there. I'm trying to figure out what about that is true and what isn't. I think at least part of that is something to be ok with: if I were stripped of everything that I have--even the good things that I might use for the building up of God's kingdom--and all that I were left with was Jesus, that would be ok. He is my life and my praise. And only I can give God the praise the he desires of me.

Just as we started playing our first song, I felt pretty helpless (useless?) and prayed to God that somehow this would bring him honor and he would use this to be glorified. It doesn't make sense to me that my shortcomings and all my lack can be used to bring God glory--I feel like I have to play well and not make mistakes and create beauty as best I can. But so often, I just can't, can't do it well. At the least, even if no one else is blessed by my not-super-awesome playing (and I mean that in a very straightforward way), and even if no one else can see it, I trust that he is doing a work in my heart--maybe something of what it means for me to worship him in spirit and in truth.

01 June 2009

Another Day in the Life

Today after work I ran some errands with some of my Nashville family. It was the usual mix of the planned and the unplanned. Intersections of poverty and healthy food choices and limited resources and budgeting. And I didn't especially think of it in these terms before, but Panera is definitely a middle-class institution.

Anyway, the most unexpected moment was when I was with a child in a Chinese restaurant. We were waiting for a take-out order that we had just placed, and the child first asked me if I was Chinese. I told them that I was Japanese. A few minutes later, the child asked me, somewhat tentatively (I had to ask again to be sure that I heard it right), "How come all Chinese people look alike?"

I rhetorically but gently asked back, "How would you feel if I asked you, 'How come all black people look alike?' Do you think that all black people look alike?" I said a few more things about how I didn't think that all Chinese people looked alike, or all black people or all white people for that matter, and how if you see more and more of them, you start to see the differences. I'm not sure that the child got what I was getting at, but I think that the child's mother did get my point, so there's that, at least.

I honestly wasn't that offended, and I appreciated the little teaching moment that presented itself. But it was a reminder that you have to learn to engage with difference--it's not something that just comes naturally. Granted, it was a child who asked the question, so perhaps it's not as sad as if an adult had asked it. But the thing that struck me, in part because it was a child who asked, was that it points to how, from the start, we don't by default look at others the way we look at ourselves--I don't say about my own people group, "well, I think we all look the same." We don't recognize the common denominator of our being made in God's image--all of us uniquely (and beautifully). And on an everyday level, that's something that I lose sight of plenty of times, not just with strangers but even with my friends whom I can judge and look down on for whatever reason at any given moment. Mea culpa.

Otherwise, the Chinese restaurant was also an interesting little side lens on the immigrant experience in America: there was a seating area near the main entrance where the tables had been set up with a portable DVD player and various toys for keeping the employees' children occupied while their parents worked.

Eventually I came home and went for a short run.

And then watched Conan's first show.