benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Category: PLAYING

RATCHET AND TRIFFLING

I finally sat down and learnt Come Rain Or Come Shine and The Man That Got Away, two Harold Arlen tunes that I have always loved but didn’t have either the technical understanding or the musical focus to access until recently.

I also successfully completed, with ease, a German Volume Training sequence of 10 sets of 10 reps of squats at 135lbs, that I failed at, miserably, a few months ago.

So when a nice guy asked me out on a date one night, I was optimistic that it would go a lot better than the awkward string of men I had been meeting lately.

We arrived at the bar at the same time and were both dumbfounded that it was closed, without reason or explanation.

At this point, another much better looking patron showed up, and wondered out loud where he was supposed to go now.

So I suggested another bar, and we all regrouped there.

When the first guy went to the bathroom, I slid my phone over to the second guy and asked for his number, which he programmed into my phone immediately, agreeing that we should, most definitely, meet again.

Then when he returned from the bathroom, I told the first guy that I was tired. He offered to walk me to my car, where we said our goodbyes.

Except that when he drove off, I got out of my car, went back into the bar, and proceeded to spend the rest of the night making out with the second guy, a flight attendant on layover in Detroit.

I may be finally learning the repertoire that once eluded me, and lifting harder than I have before, but some things just haven’t changed all that much.

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THE CRUCIBLE

I don’t remember what song I was playing when it happened.

But I do remember the indignant look on his face when the busboy presented the accusation.

“Did you know that he was on the sex offenders list?”

Another busboy, idle of time, had been running names through a sex offenders registry online, and one of my sub-contractors came up.

This link was immediately texted to other employees.

I told him that I had not known, advising everyone to stop talking about it, given the heightened charge in today’s social climate.

Then, I was blamed.

“How can you be so sympathetic? We have children as guests here!”

I had a quiet word with management, reminding them that this sub-contractor in question had never been inappropriate on the job, and then listed the numerous ways in which he had been an asset to the restaurant.

I’m awaiting their judgment call on this matter, hoping that I provided a strong enough case, and that prejudice does not prevail.

POWER

I experienced my very first brownout today.

Which meant that I still had a little bit of power coming into my place.

I couldn’t turn on the air conditioning. But I could take a shower in the half dim lit bathroom.

More importantly, all my weekly food prep was still being kept refrigerated. And I could even quickly pull out a Tupperware of poached chicken breast to reheat in the microwave as my pre-work meal, like I do everyday.

So my gratitude quickly turned into full fledged annoyance and irritation when a quick text to a neighbor on break between sets at work led to the information that we had digressed to a complete blackout.

Without power, I couldn’t do my daily morning run on the treadmill, and my eating schedule for training would be completely disrupted.

And as I sit here writing this on my phone to post on the blog, on another set break at work, I just have to take a deep breath.

I may not have electrical power.

But I do have power.

The power to believe in my own ability to make alternative plans.

And the power to trust that I will be provided for, in spite of myself, always.

IF EVER I WOULD LEAVE YOU

Since I chose to record it a couple months ago, considering it to be a stronger part of my repertoire, I had not played this tune.

 

So when I played it last night for the first time since then, it shocked me to discover that I had completely forgotten all the chord changes in the bridge of the song.

 

I fumbled my way through three passes over the form and eventually had to settle on finishing this fiasco with the most lackluster of an embarrassing ending.

 

Immediately, I pulled up the lead sheet on my iphone and stared at the chords, trying to jog my memory.

 

But it was like this was the first time I had ever seen them.

 

I was literally sight-reading something cold.

 

So the first thing this morning, I sat down at the piano with the score, and slowly relearned the song.

 

And it all came back to me in a matter of minutes.

 

It’s a relief to know that this song, if only momentarily, never really did leave me.

 

It’s a joy to know that even when challenged, stuff like faith and love won’t leave me either.

 

 

 

 

BENCHMARKS

The very first songs I play everyday when I sit down at my bench in the restaurant are a medley of hymns.

 

The hymns are chosen based on the devotional reading from the publication Our Daily Bread.

 

Last Sunday, a woman gently tapped me on the arm after Amazing Grace-Old Rugged Cross-Crown Him with Many Crowns.

 

“That’s exactly what I needed to hear,” she said with tears in her eyes.

 

And I know, with absolute certainty, that I am supposed to me on this particular bench, at this very specific moment, for an important reason.

 

A few days later, I’m on another bench, at an unfamiliar gym, because my home gym has a power outage.

 

The head judge of most Michigan bodybuilding competitions is training a client right next to me.

 

And because the bench press has always been the weakest of all my lifts, I’m hesitant to begin.

 

“I’m the smallest guy here,” I whisper to my coach.

 

“That doesn’t matter,” she tells me, “You have the biggest heart.”

 

With that, I begin.

 

In the end, it wasn’t a personal best kind of workout, but it wasn’t the worst either.

THE WORLD ON A STRING

Turning 41 this week was not as big a deal as I thought it would be.

 

I know exactly who I am, and I am in love with a life where I do not have to apologize for it.

 

I’m just so incredibly grateful that I’ve got the world on a string instead of holding on to it by a thread.

 

 

THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY

“Today was supposed to be my wedding day.”

 

She states it simply, and softly, in my ear, without a single trace of emotion.

 

She is wearing a gown too fancy to be a Friday night going out dress.

 

It’s not white. But it’s close enough, like a very light ash color.

 

“Will you play Unforgettable?” she asks.

 

Her father is here, and along with the courageous act of a very public dinner, she still wants to go through the motions of this traditional dance tonight.

 

So I play it, and everyone turns to stare at the mesmerizing duo, who have clearly been practicing a long time for this moment.

 

They thank me and return to their table.

 

Her server tells me later that evening that I totally made this woman’s night.

 

She was crying at the table.

 

I didn’t know if the secret was mine to divulge.

 

That those were certainly not tears of joy.

BACK-ASS-WARDS

I took a screen shot of a lead sheet from the iReal Books app on my cell phone, emailed it to myself, enlarged it in Photoshop, then printed it out to put in my binder for the gig I’m playing tomorrow.

 

And because management wasn’t co-operating with my advice, I convinced a bride that we move the piano into her room, knowing with absolute certainty that this was the best solution to having multiple musicians work different gigs simultaneously within the same venue.

 

I’m always just plain grateful when problems get resolved, back-ass-wards or not.

SWEAT

On my first day back at the gym since the cold, my trainer took a new approach to getting my strength and stamina back.

 

She loaded up a bar and set the timer.

 

“We’re going to see how long it takes for you to squat one hundred reps and sweat the rest of this cold out of you.”

 

True enough, at the end of it, I felt better than I had been feeling all week.

 

So it should be no sweat then to play this Cinderella Tea event next weekend with a singer friend.

 

All I should have to do is practice with my sheet music at least one hundred times.

 

Trust that rehearsal goes well.

 

Pray that the children will be well-behaved, receptive and attentive.

 

Hope that I won’t have any technical issues with the microphone.

 

Believe that the singer will be in good voice and arrive on time with no problems.

 

Depend on management to handle all the other events that day to ensure no other conflicts.

 

I’m sweating it just a little.

COLD

I’m just back from urgent care.

I have a cold.

The sinus pressure started last night in the middle of my first set at work. By the end of the night the post nasal drip was making my throat slightly sore.

Since there isn’t a fever or body aches, and the strep test came back negative, the doctor assured me it was a simple cold and would be gone in 5-10 days.

I have antibiotics to knock out the 20 percent chance that this might be bacterial (versus viral), and a decongestant to help break up the mucus.

I’m well enough to play.

But too under the weather to lift.

And that, even though I know I’m doing the right thing by resting, leaves me cold.