Vanilla Ice, Bumpy Rides, and Fifteen Minutes of Fame in LA-LA Land

I left for Los Angeles very early Thursday morning after a frantic week of instrumental juries and exams during finals week. I had been asked by my clarinet maker, Backun Musical Services, to finally do a project that has been in the works for quite some time; a set of educational videos geared toward band directors teaching who are not clarinetists. This has been a major passion of mine, and so I was thrilled to be able to get away for a couple of days and head to LA for the recording session.

As travel does, there were delays and some drama; due to bad weather in Houston where our connection flight was, we were held on the tarmac in Birmingham for what seemed like forever. We finally took off with the pilot telling us that we would be getting to Houston almost an hour later than planned And that it would be a bumpy flight, “and we thank you for your patience!” In all honesty, I wasn’t feeling very charitably toward them as I know the delay meant I would probably miss my already tight connection.

The pilot wasn’t kidding; the plane bounced around like a crazy roller coaster ride for the entire flight to Houston thanks to the rough air. I don’t enjoy flying as it is, and turbulence- though logically I understand it is completely normal, always causes me to sit there wondering when we are going to plunge to our deaths. Dramatic, I know. Dan tells me to think of it as a bumpy car ride, so I put on my Bose noise-cancelling headphones and one of his peaceful yoga mixes and just pretend I’m driving down the bumpy streets of Birmingham.Hotel view…

Miss the connection I sure did, even after an epic mad dash across three terminals and a ride on a malfunctioning train. I got there just after the doors had shut, sweaty and heaving from my unexpected backpack-and-clarinet-laden marathon. Defeated, I got in the long line at the United Customer Service counter and waited. Bless technology; my phone buzzed and there was a message from United saying they had put me on the next flight out to LAX. Hallelujah!LA Sunset…

I was at the back of the plane, and as I got settled in it was looking like I was going to have the three seat row all to myself. Sweet! And then…I saw a strange man in his twenties arguing with the flight attendant who was telling him that he was in the wrong seat. My stomach dropped when the attendant pointed to “that lady back there!” And here came the man, obviously either on drugs or seriously in need of Ritalin.

Sure enough, the scruffy and (now obviously thanks to proximity) unwashed young man scrambled past me into the window seat, moving agitatedly, talking loudly to himself, drumming on everything. He put head phones on and then channeled his inner Vanilla Ice for the entire duration of the three hour flight. He spoke/sang along with the rap music, complete with dramatic hand gestures. Even with my Bose noise cancelling headphones I couldn’t block out the enforced concert. I seem to have a travel curse concerning seat mates, as this sort of thing happens with regularity. I have to say, though, that Vanilla Ice was a first in my travels.

Once we landed at LAX and finally got off of the plane, my next task was to get at Lyft to take me to the recording studio in Pomona. I had never done this before, but I had the App downloaded and ready to go. My ride was coming…but I had no idea where to meet him. One thing I’ve learned from traveling, you just have to suck up your pride and ask for help. A kind policeman directed me to the right spot and there was Xiaohua, my driver. Xiaohua said not one word to me, just gesturing for me to get into his RAV4, as it seems he didn’t speak one word of English. As I don’t speak one word of Chinese, this was going to be interesting.Oh great, more rap music! This time in Chinese. I am in Hell.

It got even more interesting. When I texted the studio to tell them I was on the way, I was told it would best to divert to the hotel…this with a driver with whom I couldn’t communicate and my first time using the Lyft App. Time to enter the 21st Century, Poppins! I got on the App and changed the destination, not knowing how or if Xiaohua would be notified. I tried asking him and his response was to hand me a phone charger. A very nice gesture, but not one that would navigate us to the correct destination. Thankfully, through gesturing and pointing to the phone mounted on his dashboard, I could see that the address had changed to the hotel and knew that we were on the same page. Whew! Travel is never dull for me, for sure.

After checking in with everyone, dinner and conversation, I crashed like the dead at 8pm, waking up super early and luxuriating not having to jump up and run as I always do. I got up and studied my bullet points in preparation for the video shoot. Even though I’ve taught clarinet for thirty-two years, the thought of being in front of the camera made me feel like I couldn’t remember how to even put the thing together. So funny how the brain works…or doesn’t work in my case.

However, when we began the session something changed. I was having fun! I channeled my inner Julie Andrews and just let go, having the best time working with the wonderful crew. The camera man even told me, “You are a natural- seriously, you should be in front of the camera like this more.” I don’t know about that, but I’m grateful I didn’t turn into a deer in the headlights when the camera turned on. It looks like we’re going to be doing more of these shoots in the future, and I am thrilled to get another opportunity to do this again. It’s extra special knowing that these videos can potentially help many teachers do a better job of teaching the clarinet. I love being a part of that.

And now, time to return home to my Dan and our little band of critters for the holidays. I am ready for some downtime and the special traditions and celebrations of Christmas. What a life! I am grateful for it all.

6 thoughts on “Vanilla Ice, Bumpy Rides, and Fifteen Minutes of Fame in LA-LA Land

  1. What and adventure! I’m so glad your recording session was a success. And I think you look smashing in red! (I’m a read head and look awful in reds and pinks so I’m just a little jealous…)

    1. I always say, ‘to each his own’ where music is concerned. Lots of people love rap- it’s just not my thing. There’s something for everyone out there, and that’s the beauty of music. 😜

  2. What a tremendous career accomplishment! A true giving back to your clarinet maker and a giving forward on behalf of all your mentors. I’ve often watched educational videos like this , not for band teachers, but other disciplines , and I never paused to consider the personal and practical challenges the expert faced to make it to the studio ! By sharing your very personal experiences, you’re really laying groundwork for young women coming in to their careers to say, “Hey, maybe I could do that! I don’t have to become perfect first.” You’re doing such important work on so many levels.

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