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! 😉
A Cuban musician friend had asked me how my timbales playing was going. I told him about meeting Ramoncito Ramos and that he’d offered to teach me if I didn’t live so far south. My friend proceeded to call over his band mate, a timbales player. He said the guy was a fantastic musician and asked if he would be willing to show me some things. The guy asked who I had been learning from and admitted that I didn’t have the best teacher. He agreed to teach me what he could and gave me his number and told me what days were good for him.
My Friend: Kikita, you know I love you and I just want you to succeed and be happy. You are amazing and I am so glad to know you. Just don’t forget me when you’re famous.
I was speechless. I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the moment.
I had confessed to this friend that I had the beginnings of a crush on one of the newer additions to our group. We are pretty close so I’ve confessed more than just new crushes to this friend. We have real talks about hopes and fears and everything in between. I had mentioned to him on more than one occasion that I was starting to worry about getting older and being nowhere near getting married and having a family. He has two sons that are the light of his life, but he admits that he wishes he wasn’t that far along yet and that I should enjoy my freedom and singlehood.
Later, I was basking in the sound of our little group of friends talking (because, is there anything better than the sound of Cuban men conversating? No, I don’t think so.) when my crush asked how many kids my friend had…
My Friend: I have two boys. They are trouble makers, but amazing and I adore them. What about you? Do you have kids?
My Crush: No, not yet. Hopefully, one day…
My Friend: No? You know, Kikita here doesn’t have any kids either, but she’d make a great mom. You two would have beautiful kids together.
I’m not sure which was worse, that he said it, or that the rest of our circle agreed with him so vocally.
I had no idea my dreams meant so much to my friend.
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)
I found an awesome set of timbales on Craig’s List.
I sent the ad to a friend of mine. He said it was a great deal and that all I had to do was make sure the sides weren’t too messed up, but otherwise I should go for it.
I went for it.
When the guy opened the door he looked at me in surprise.
Him: Kikita! We have friends in common. I’m sure I’ve met you before. Do you know Jason?
I know Jason.
Granted, I haven’t SEEN Jason in FOREVER, but I guess that doesn’t matter. I know Jason and Jason must remember me and this guy who is about to sell me timbales recognized me.
I really can’t get do ANYTHING without someone knowing who I am.
So much for keeping my timbales playing a secret… I guess I’ll have to work hard to be bad ass so that when I’m recognized and invited to play, people will not be disappointed.
I have been practicing my timbales.
I’ve had a 30-minute lesson every week for a month now.
Every week I ask my instructor to be honest with me and tell me if I really suck because if I am no good, I’d rather go find an instrument I AM good at. If I ever let anyone watch me play, I want them to think, “Wow. She was definitely created to play that.”
Tonight his face said way more than his words.
Him: You’re doing good. You’re familiar with the music and rhythms already because you’re a dancer and you’re not a little kid so I can just tell you want you need to fix and work on… I’m cutting you some slack because I know you don’t have your own set of timbales at home, but you really should get a set and start practicing. Every day. AT LEAST 20 minutes. Even if you’re just messing around on them and not practicing the patterns I’m teaching you.
But his face said: Dude, you really need to keep practicing because … yeah, you’re not doing very well.
What was I thinking? Sure, I’m Cuban, but (as some people won’t let me forget) only 1/2. And it feels like my white girl 1/2 is trying to sabotage me.
Of course, I found a set of timbales on Craig’s List and plan on buying them and practicing.
I’m giving myself to the end of the year… (Ok, maybe to the end of January) and then I’ll really decide “si tengo sentido” for this or not.
Wednesday night I thought to myself “Maybe I want to take voice lessons…”
Thursday morning there is a Living Social deal for voice lessons.
I made an appointment with the coolest sounding Russian lady ever.
I knew I was shy about certain things… Me? Shy? I know, right? But it’s true!
Like the drums. I’m SUPER shy about them! I’ve only shared that secret with a couple of people.
And this one? I haven’t told ANYONE.
I knew I was extra shy about my singing voice and that taking voice lessons would stretch me (and I’m talking about more than just my vocal chords), but I still wanted to try it.
Stella, the Russian voice teacher, was SUPER cool. She asked e to sing something so she could get an idea of what she was working with and I did, but I hated the way it sounded. I was only supposed to have an hour lesson, but she spent two hours on me and then a third just chatting.
She had wild, red curly hair and bright blue eyes and a devil-may-care attitude. She was intoxicating to be around. She had been through some incredibly rough times, but she was happy. She inspired me.
She also gave me homework.
Homework for drumming AND homework for singing when I get home between 9-10pm every night and have to be quiet makes practicing for both really difficult.
Thank God for my car. I could practicing drumming on my dashboard (oh yes I did) and I could listen to a song on my phone and sing along as loud as I liked. And I did. And I still do, but only when I’m alone in the car. I haven’t quite gotten over that shyness.
I knew the voice lessons would stretch me, but I didn’t realize how far or how much. Or that it might be too much.
But after both lessons, I left crying.
See, to get the right sound, everything has to be open.
That was the word of the hour “Open up! Open your mouth! Your throat! Your chest! Your stomach! Open everything! It all has to be open!”
I’m not quite ready to be that open yet.