Drummers don’t take vacation days. 😉
Drummers don’t take vacation days. 😉
Two weeks ago I was about ready to give up. I wasn’t progressing as quickly as I would have liked (which is code for almost not at all). Granted, I wasn’t practicing nearly as much as I should have either (which is also code for almost not at all). With the help of some friends being driving inspirational motivators, I accepted that quitting was not in me. But something had to change. So I made up a personal challenge: To practice every day for at least 20 minutes. It wasn’t easy. I had to put off my start day because I got super sick, but that only made me more determined. So my first day of my challenge I practiced my timbales while fighting a splitting headache. Water became my best friend. (Hydration is important!)
(Yes, that is a frog tattoo. Yes, it is real. No, the one on my arm is just a henna tattoo.) My instructor had written out the first minute of a song for me to learn and I am beyond thrilled to announce that, after just 5 days of practicing, I can hold my own with the song! THAT was the kind of progress I was looking for! Hello, my name is Kikita, and I am a bad ass drummer chick! 😉
Remember my friend, El Loco, from Vegas?
El Loco: Oye, Kikita! How are you, mi hermanita?
Me: Great, thanks! It’s been a while…
El Loco: I know! Things have been super crazy. Oye, hermanita, I know you are playing timbales now and I know you have your teacher, but I want to do something special for you. I want you to learn from the best and I know the guy who plays for [a local L.A. band] and he plays everything and is very good and lives close to you so he could teach you, but I don’t know if you want to because you have your teacher.
Me: Wow. I… I mean… That would be awesome.
El Loco: So, I don’t know what you want but if you want… Or what?
Me: No! That sounds great! How do we do it? How much does he cost?
El Loco: I’m sorry. If you’re busy and you don’t want to talk, it’s ok. I can talk to you later. Kikita, why are you talking to me like an Americana?
I retracted the question and we proceeded to talk about other things and I redeemed myself. The beginning of the conversation had been mostly in English, but we eventually switched to Spanish. I was already having a hard time hearing him and he was super excited and talking fast and…. let’s just say I’m not really sure what he said but I think it was something like this…
El Loco: So, you know I’ve been doing the quinceñera for my daughter, right? And it’s been getting really expensive and everything so I was talking to my mom and she’s going to help me out and it’s going to be easier if we do it there so KIKITA YOU ARE INVITED TO IT!! AUGUST 26TH!! IT WILL BE MY FIRST TIME BACK IN MY HOME TOWN SINCE I LEFT CUBA!!
El Loco: CLAROOOOOOOOOO!!! OF COURSE! IT WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT YOU THERE? WILL YOU COME, HERMANA?
Me: Of course! I’d love to!
(The Americana in me wanted to ask if I had to buy my own ticket to Cuba and how long we’d be gone, but she had learned her lesson.)
He’ll be in town for the Cuban Independence Day party at Steven’s Steakhouse next Friday. I plan to get answers to all of my Americana questions then.
It was exhilarating.
I SOOO didn’t think I was ready, but it was such an amazing experience anyway!
Plus, playing with a “band” taught me more than I expected. I had to know more than just what I was supposed to be playing. I had to know how all the different parts from all the different instruments were supposed to fit together and then I had to listen and constantly adjust accordingly. Of course, I am not very good at that part at all and sometimes my adjustments were … less than awesome.
What WAS awesome, however, was the part where: even when I messed up, I didn’t stop and found my way back to the right place.
Not stopping is a big deal.
You can’t stop.
Nothing says “OMG! I messed up!” the way stopping does.
Ok, sure, you can make an “OMG! I messed up!” face… but it might look like a different emotion instead.
Personally, I think my “OMG! I messed up!” face says “OMG! I’m playing timbales!”
Performing required a whole new level of bravery.
I had to be OK with not getting it perfectly right.
I completely forgot about the crowd.
I was in a zone.
It was … delicious.
Plus, it felt very cool being the only chick.
I am so excited to do it again.
What I am REALLY excited for is looking back on this first performance a few years from now and seeing how far I’ve gone.
I imagine there will be more cowbell. 😉
Coming back from Miami is never easy for me.
When I’m there, I feel like I’m at home.
When I’m in CA, I feel like a fish out of water.
Knowing this about myself, I made sure to hit the ground running. I had plans just about every night after I landed.
First night back: Date with hot Cuban (who shall henceforth be referred to as Hank Bacardi)
Second night back: rehearsal for my upcoming timbales recital (!) followed by a meal at a nearby Cuban restaurant
(Are you seeing the trend?)
Third day back: finalizing weekend plans
Fourth day back: enjoying left-over Cuban food, café, and sunshine in the morning; enjoying a fabulous Cuban (Cuban leaves grown in Nicaragua) cigar with a good friend; more Cuban food; and then dancing with Hank Bacardi. (Unfortunately, Hank Bacardi was otherwise detained and didn’t make it. My cousins who were to join us also couldn’t make it which lead to me being totally bummed out, but refusing to give in to the disappointment because I’d had such wonderful day.)
Fifth day back: Horseback riding and finishing a good book.
The problem with finishing a good book is that then it is over. It’s like saying goodbye to good friends.
I loved the book, but finishing it made me sad. It made me miss O.D. Churroman because he was the one who first got me into it. It made me miss Kaima because I knew he would have enjoyed it.
Slowly, but surely, missing Miami was catching up with me.
I had invited very few people to my timbales recital and, over the course of the week, most of them apologized and said they couldn’t make it.
The night before my performance I had the worst rehearsal of my life. I couldn’t keep a steady tempo. My teacher looked at me in shock and wondered what had happened to his amazing student. The whole band was super supportive and attributed my issues to pre-show jitters and offered words of wisdom on how I didn’t need to worry and how great it would be.
I knew it wasn’t that. I have no problem performing.
But not being able to shake it off and play the way I wanted too was only compounding the problem.
It finally became too much for me and I needed a release.
What I probably needed was a good cry, but I can’t cry on command and watching some movie to make me cry felt a bit too contrived.
With such a long day to follow, the last thing I wanted was to be hung-over so drinking was out of the question.
Not really sure what else to do, I reached out to a certain Yellow Shirted Conundrum: I either need a good cry or a good … *ahem* So, what are you doing? Want to help me cry?
Being the gentlemen that he is, he responded in such a way as to bring a smile to my face.
It took enough of the edge off that I pushed through and had a fabulous recital.
I messed up, but not too horribly and was able to recover.
I was definitely on a high afterwards and went out.
And after I went out, I went dancing.
It was one of those magical nights where I didn’t stop dancing and every dance was a good one.
It seemed I had staved off the tears.
The magic had taken away the need to cry.
The next morning I was reading and enjoying breakfast when I got a message from Kaima: I miss you too.
The dam broke before I realized what had happened.
I told him about how great my playing had been and that I rocked.
Kaima: Of course you rock.
And then he was off to bed and “Have a super day, goldilocks.”
The tears would not stop after that and my mascara caused them to be black tears.
I had no plans.
Like I said, BIG PLANS for my Friday night.
I got caught up at work, though. And found myself leaving at around 7:30pm which had me arriving a mi casa around 7:45pm.
(Why is this important? Because Mami had picked up Abuela at around 4, which means my house had been empty for around 4 hours.)
When I opened the door, the house smelled like someone had been cooking, but cooking something odd.
I shrugged and went to the kitchen to rinse my empty mug of café.
That’s when I smelled it: Gas.
I glanced at the stove. The burner was on, but there was no flame.
Off went the burner. On went the fan. Open went the doors and windows.
I figured I’d just run to the store and then I’d be fine.
My mistake was calling Mami just to double check…
“GET OUT OF THE HOUSE NOW!! CALL THE GAS COMPANY… FROM OUTSIDE!”
Nothing like an over-protective Cuban mother freak-out to bring drama to a Friday night.
I called the Gas Company. They would send someone out, but could not give me a time frame. Awesome.
To the garage I went and practiced my timbales for an hour. And then read. And texted Mami every ten minutes so that she knew I was fine.
At 9:30 Mr. Gas Company shows up.
He was a strange little man. Very nice, but talked a lot. And fast.
He pulled out his gas detection device (I swear it looked like he got it from the movie Ghostbusters) and got to work.
After having me explain what happened, he mentioned that he couldn’t smell gas anymore. I agreed.
Next he had to check behind the stove… which meant we had to pull it out.
It turned out there was a ridiculously tiny leak that had “probably been there for years.”
And he fixed it within 30 seconds. And was all happy that it was a super easy job. His last job for the night and it was so simple.
As we were pushing the stove back into place, Mr. Gas Company noticed the oven bar was loose so he grabbed his screwdriver and tightened it.
Me: Wow! Thank you! It’s been loose for a while, but I only notice when I’m actually USING the oven and it’s too hot to fix.
Mr. Gas Company: I TOLD you I would impress you.
And he explained that the gas I had smelled would not have hurt me, but it was good that I called anyway, if only because it ended his night on a good note. He handed me “An informational pamphlet… I don’t know.”
The man was cracking me up. Definitely an odd bird… I don’t think he had Asperger’s only because he was able to make eye contact, but maybe at his age he had learned to make some eye contact. Who knows?
He thanked me what seemed like a thousand times and left.
6 minutes later, he knocked on my door.
Mr. Gas Company: Sorry to bother you again. I just wanted to let you know that the gas you smelled was natural gas and it just rises and dissipates so just leave a window open for a while and you should be fine. You have nothing to worry about. It’s just natural gas that rises. It rises and then it dissipates.”
Me: So I don’t have to worry about blowing up tonight?
Mr. Gas Company: Shhh. We don’t like to use that word. But really, it just rises and dissipates. Would it be alright if I saw your drum set?
So I showed him my timbales and explained how they were Cuban drums. And made a short little sound on them…
Mr. Gas Company: Shhh! I didn’t ask for a demonstration! I don’t want your neighbors to get upset with you on my account! Thank you though. They are very beautiful. Sorry for the imposition! Thank you! Have a great night!
Me: It’s Friday night. I’m sure my neighbors are fine. Thank you, Mr. Gas Company!
Meanwhile, my mother had not stopped texting me.
Her new stove had arrived, but they couldn’t install it yet.
Mami: When was the last time we texted STOVE pictures back and forth?? All good?
Me: RIGHT? Yeap! Aparentamente the gas I smelled wouldn’t hurt me.
Mami: I didn’t think so, but then I’d hate for those to be famous last words. “I don’t think the gas smell will hurt me….” KABOOM! I’m glad it’s over. Also, I’m going to call you KABOOM from now on.
Just another Friday night Kikitiando con KABOOM.
Now that I am the proud owner of bad ass timbales, I pity my neighbors.
I spent every spare moment practicing.
But, I’m kind of like State Farm… I’m a good neighbor. I won’t practice after 8:30 pm (ok, sometimes 9 pm) on a school night.
And I try to practice in the middle of the day on weekends.
But I’m practicing.
And my instructor could tell. Again, his face said more than his words….
Him: You’re doing REALLY good! You’re already doing better than my congas guy, and I’ve been teaching him longer!
His Face: DAAAAAAAAYYYYYUUUMMM!! Girl’s got skills! WAAAAAAY BETTER than last week!
Look out, Sheila E!
(Really, it is more like “Look our, Armand Assante!” because THIS SCENE – 11:51 – is my inspiration)