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March 12, 2010 / Brittany Hendrick

Technology! Technology! Keeps you happy (if you prefer frequent, forgettable, tiny increments of info, and ADD)

This post is purposely left without pictures. You’ll see why, if you possess the skill to read through the end.

Can you have a moment to yourself? I mean, for a long period of time. Can you go a day without talking to someone? Can you be alone? Do you know how?

Oh, really?

Well, then. Can you be alone without feeling anxious or scared? How well do you know yourself? How well do you take the time to get to know others? Do you even care?

Technology has sapped a lot of people’s ability to think and act by themselves– not necessarily FOR themselves (separate argument, perhaps)– BY themselves. It has turned people into self-indulgent, self-entitled, rude fucks. Poor listeners with short attention spans. It’s like people can’t be perfectly happy being unoccupied and/or unaccompanied for a few moments. The idea of constantly being connected to people (some of whom you barely know), to some THING– at any ungodly hour of the day, at that– has conditioned people into believing it’s not OK to be alone, to do things alone, to think alone– ever. Oh God, how have my parents gotten through life?!

Figuring out new technology always came easy to me. So, it being “hard” isn’t the problem. Yet a few years ago, it reached a point where I thought, “Keeping up with this isn’t very important to my life.” It’s unnecessary clutter. I am often made fun of for this viewpoint. Wow, it must be so weird to want to live a quiet, low-stress, drama-free, healthy, self-reliant lifestyle without seeking approval, recognition or popularity from my peers on an ongoing basis.

No matter how cumbersome and annoying technology becomes, no matter what parts of it I accept and eschew, I will never compromise my Thinking Time. I enjoy ruminating, pontificating, pondering– by myself, and often. The process involves me lying down in bed– it could be a few minutes, it could be a couple hours. It could be morning, afternoon or night. But it’s not naptime. It’s work. Thinking Time always produces wonderful results. I sort though my day, the day before, the day after, a month ahead, a month ago, etc. I sort out what I want to write about next. I come up with lines of poetry. I generate ideas, brainstorm. I make myself laugh. I hypothesize. I find motivation.

Thinking Time brings to me a lot of grief from people, too. In a Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/iPod/reality TV/TMZ/Wii/smartphone/Google Earth/paparazzi/over-sharing/over-exposed/over-gratified/over-stimulated world, yeah, I’m the weird one, I guess, whatever you say, sure. How can you assess yourself and your life if you’re always surrounded and interrupted by noise and shit?

What I’ve thought about lately are things I should have done throughout my life. This episode isn’t borne from regret or poor decisions– I’m happy and comfortable with 99% of the decisions I’ve made. Just more of looking back and thinking, “Ah, damn! Why did I [not] do that?!” These aren’t things that would’ve made my life better or worse. Just cool little stories that came to mind. There are few:

1) Dropping out of 5th grade chorus
At this time, 1989, my parents separated. They were married 21 years and part of the first wave of people saying, “Oh, shit, you mean I didn’t have to be married at 21 years old?!” I felt like such a freak, because NOBODY ELSE had divorced parents… yet. A few years later, as more divorces started rolling in, the ladies of Lawrenceville (e.g. county sheriff’s wife) would call my mom for advice on how to deal with it. Pretty funny.

Anyway, money became a concern for my family. Three kids, a mortgage, food, mom working two part-time jobs, and dad sporadically contributing meant zero disposable income. No more piano lessons. No eating at restaurants, not even fast food. Reduced cost school lunches. Taco salad was a dinner staple. No more Nike tennis shoes or cute clothes from Macy’s. No more Mommy at home when we got off the school bus.

Determined to continue a music activity, I auditioned for chorus, and made it. Practice occurred after school, so a neighbor must’ve been commissioned to drive me home, because Mom wasn’t able to do it. Three or four rehearsals into it, it was announced that we had to purchase our chorus t-shirts by such-and-such date in time for the Christmas concert. They were 10 whole dollars. Knowing money was tight, I didn’t have the heart to ask my mom for it. Instead, I quietly solved the problem myself: I dropped out of chorus.

Mom probably would’ve given me the money. But a lot of responsibility had been foisted upon me at that time. I thought giving up chorus was one of those things I was supposed to do for the greater good of the big picture, and not have my mom feel bad about it. She never knew what I’d done, until a few months ago.

2) Dropping out of jazz band
This one isn’t as gut-wrenching, but still kind of dumb. In middle school, I joined the symphonic band and played clarinet for three years. In 7th grade, you were allowed to join jazz band. This was appealing to me because this was the FUN band with a pianist, bassist and drummer!

By that time, I’d already picked up and dropped piano lessons again. My former, favorite teacher had moved away. So I began lessons with a new lady who was nice enough, but the chemistry between us just wasn’t there. I was classically trained by both teachers. Also, I was accustomed to playing solo in concerts and competitions (always snagged a score of “Superior”). I would BEG BEG BEG my teachers to let me play jazz, the “cool” stuff.

The favorite teacher had given in once. We got a book of music called Jazz on 88. My teacher taught me ONE song. ONE. Jazz music was not welcome, and I didn’t understand why… until the first jazz band rehearsal.

Weeks prior, we were given sheet music for “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess. I practiced at home, and felt good about my progress. The arrangement wasn’t difficult. I could read the notes, key and time signatures, remembered the accidentals… By myself, it was easy. Playing with a band, NOT SO MUCH!

Not ever having played with other people, coupled with total jazz inexperience, presented a problem. This was not for me. Good thing there was another pianist, an 8th grader, who apparently was jazz trained. I left him to it.

I am not a quitter per se– you practically have to turn off the lights and tell me to go home on most things– but I am aware of my limitations, and JAZZ BAND was one of them!

It’s OK, though. A few years ago, I spotted the jazz piano virtuoso on the Gwinnett County registered sex offender list (hey, you have to check these things when there are little ones in the family). Whoops!

3) Not writing for the high school newspaper and literary publication/taking a journalism class
Where in the world was I?! On my own planet, that’s where.

By the end of middle school, I was intent on joining marching band… until I was told that I couldn’t participate in fall sports AND band, because of conflicting schedules and time commitments. I chose sports, thus ending my music study altogether.

So many other activities kept me busy, though: Beta Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, Spanish Honor Society, softball, track & field, bookkeeping for the boys’ basketball team, an internship, a paying job, and whatever else I did. Homework occurred somewhere in there, too.

All this busy-ness left me with little time to be concerned about where I stood amongst my peers, where I “fit in.” I did my own thing, so lost in my own world, that the glaring obvious didn’t become obvious to me until it was too late. Of all the things I participated in, not one of them involved writing or literature. Sports, academics, music. That was as far as I could see.

4) Not attending Belmont University
Belmont is a well-renowned music school in Nashville, Tennessee. The original plan was to get a music business degree from there. Belmont accepted me. But my practical side took over. Why pay to go to Belmont, when I already have an academic scholarship in the bag for any school in Georgia? So, I ended up at Georgia State University. I dunno, my life would be way different had I attended Belmont. Like I’d probably be unemployed from the music industry way sooner than last year.

5) Not calling that photographer
Freshman year, GSU, living downtown, at the North Avenue MARTA train station, on my way to class. I must’ve been in a hurry, because I know my hair wasn’t completely dry, not styled at all, and not a bit of makeup on my face. I remember what I was wearing that day, too.

While waiting on the train platform, a big black man with a big black bag, with a big black camera lens peeping out one side, approached me. His name was Theron Calfa, and he was a professional photographer. I’m pretty sure he was legitimate. I’m also pretty sure he was gay. He told me he mostly photographed drag queens in the area, and was friends with a lot of them. Also, he hung out at the Leopard Lounge, which, if I had to guess based on its midtown Atlanta location alone, was a popular gay (as well as straight) hangout.

Our train arrived, and we chatted for a bit. Theron was interested in photographing me. He gave me his number so I could call and we’d meet in a public place. I’d been told many times in the past that I should’ve gotten into modeling (you know, the tall and thin thing), but my headspace was elsewhere (sports, academics, music, remember). But since I was approached by someone who wanted to do something with me, I thought I’d go with it.

My family was not happy when I announced my good fortune. All the “what ifs” were brought up (I encountered a similar problem that same year, when I announced that I wanted to attend SXSW). This was before widespread cell phone usage, of course. My older brother, being older brotherly and all, talked me out of calling Theron. He’s not a real photographer. He’s lying. He’s just trying to get you in a weird situation. He’s going to hurt you. Blahblahblah. Back to academics, music… A few months ago, I ran across that tiny piece of receipt paper with Theron “T” Calfa’s home and pager numbers, neatly written in pencil. I wonder what happened to him.

6) Not DJing for GSU’s radio station, WRAS
Almost forgot this one! Again, what universe was I in? Oh yeah, my own. For being the encyclopedic music geek that I was, DJing should’ve been a natural thing for me to do. Alas, fulltime work took up my free time when I wasn’t in class. Not to mention a touch of shyness, which isn’t so bad now except in new/large group situations (I overcome it once I get to know people better).

However, a few years ago, an opportunity did arise for me to be on-air. One Saturday, the venerable Beau Johnson was doing a Catherine Wheel freeform. I am probably the only Atlanta resident with the most comprehensive Catherine Wheel music collection, spanning cassette, CD, 7″, 10″ and 12″.

I emailed Beau and asked if I could join him in the studio, ensuring that I had some rare stuff for him to play, including a single from a CW side project of Brian Futter and Neil Sims, 50 Foot Monster. Beau graciously obliged. In appreciation, I gave him an extra copy of CW’s 30th Century Man 12″ EP that I had. It was so much fun to talk over the waves for a little bit and talk shop with Beau.

Thinking Time, technology…

That’s the culmination of recent Thinking Time. Time without technology. If you read everything through this point, congratulations– you have what I consider to be a normal attention span. Either that or you’re defiant (or a cheater and skipped to the end) and just wanted to prove me wrong. Which still makes me right… or maybe just long-winded and boring. 🙂

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