I guess I have to say this again.

I’ve said it early last year with my post about needing new artists. 

I’m afraid I have to do the one thing I loathe: repeat myself.

We. Need. New. Artists. At. Jazz. Festivals. 

It’s really beginning to look like what happened with contemporary jazz stations is about to start happening with festivals, and I am really, really not okay with this.

If you’ve forgotten, in 2009-2010, we had a rash of closures that CD101.9 here in NYC has kicked off. It was a dark day for contemporary jazz, because this was only the beginning of a chain reaction that took too many of our stations off the air. As it is, I remember the old CD101.9 of pre-2005 and just before it went off the air, and the difference between the playlists was palpable. The station went from playing a mess of new music from great artists to circulating the same five people each time. It was enough to make me turn it off, even though it was a mainstay of my teen years and the reason why I love jazz in the first place.

But the same thing is happening, though in its own format, with the festivals. It’s been the same headliners time and again.

Look: I. Love. The headliners. I do. They’re great people and amazing musicians. I always enjoy their shows, I love their music, I love and adore capturing their shows on camera. And they’re awesome company to hang out with, and have beautiful families that are a privilege to spend time with.

However.

It’s becoming real repetitive to see the same people on the headliner spot. And it’s a major disservice to both the festivals, the fans, and the genre.

Festivals cannot sustain themselves on the same artists and the same audiences. If there’s no urgency to see an artist because he’s playing the same five fests in the same state within months of each other, why would people bother to buy tickets for it? They wouldn’t. Same thing if the lineups repeat themselves time after time. You will have your loyalists, but you will probably not be attracting new people to the event, because…it’s been the same lineup time and again. Why would people buy tickets for the same time over and over? They. Would. Not. Eventually even the loyalists will ask themselves, “Should I buy this? Same thing over and over.”

And you cannot expect a genre to sustain itself by lathering and rinsing and repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Per Einstein, that’s the definition of insanity.

In the absence of radio stations, barring the troopers who have continued to maintain stations and syndicated shows online, who have talk shows and listening parties – Terri and Michael of Talking Smooth Jazz, you get my hat-tip here for your longevity and your pioneering of new music – the onus of sustaining the genre goes to the promoters of the festivals and the shows nationwide. The way that we know now that someone is up-and-coming and is worth listening to is if they show up in a club in this city or another. The popular launchpads for talent are Spaghettini’s Seal Beach and the Houndstooth Pub. Or DC’s Blues Alley, the iconic locale. SOUTH in Philly is soon to make its way onto that list, I’m sure. But those should not be the only places willing to open their doors to new talent. The promoters now are the gatekeepers of the genre, and while I know their main job is to make a profit, in light of the fact that they’re pretty much the ones who determine the outlook of the genre right now, they should focus less on the short-term profit and a lot more on cultivating and expanding their audience for the long term.

Yes, this means losing money in the short run. But guess what: Better that than penny wise and pound foolish.

We’ve seen this with genre dilution already. West Coast events did their thing with R&B dilution, but they failed to sequester the genres and give them equal weight. This worked for the short-term and put bodies into chairs. OK – but what did it mean for long-term loyalists of the genre? It did not go over well. More than a few comments were left to the effect of, “R&B doesn’t belong at a jazz festival”. And you know what – they’re right! If it’s a tactic to put bodies into seats, it comes with a price: alienating longtime attendees. Not what you want.

I know, seeing as I’m a longtime attendee of Capital Jazz, I may not be one to talk. BUT – go to the fest. Seriously, go to the fest. And you will see two stages. One per genre. One jazz, one soul. And yeah, I am all at the jazz stage, and it’s awesome. And friends of mine are at the soul stage. And because it’s 25,000 people in the Pavilion, we don’t run into one another – which. is. fine. This is a dual-genre fest with no commingling. The cruises, of course, there is always some commingling, but done in such a way that you can have your pick and you do not come out of it disappointed.

Still. Few things infuriate me more than a jazz fest having a lot more of other genres than jazz and then bringing aboard one jazz artist to justify the name. I mean, come on. You’ve got to be kidding me. We’re not blind and we’re not fools. Do not put on an event with jazz in its name with very minimal jazz on the actual menu. Just. Do. Not. Do it.

But I digress.

The fact remains is that no genre of music can or will sustain itself with the same audience and the same offerings time after time after time. It just doesn’t work like that. You cannot expect people to continue coming to see the same show over and over again – eventually, they too will get tired of it. If you want to have a continued survival of any event series, you need variety: in the audience and on stage.

It’s common sense, you’d think, but sadly it isn’t common.

Here’s a hint: check out the sidemen of the headliners for an idea of whom to give a chance! Gail Jhonson has been Norman Brown’s keyboardist for years, but did you hear her band, Jazz in Pink? Probably not. I did, as part of the Getdown Club on the 2014 CapJazz Cruise, and it was great. And her bassist, Robin Bramlett, has a pretty spiffy album of her own. Her harpist – yes, a harpist – Mariea Antoinette. Because why not a jazz harp? And why not Smitty, from Boney James’s band, the bassist? He has a great collection of work. Jay Williams, drummer to everyone who comes through the East Coast. The Grainger brothers, Gary and Greg, who have the Maryland scene on point? Ethan Farmer has been on bass with Lionel Richie forever, but he’s got his own material, and it’s pretty amazing.

And what about the people who had a successful showing in their hometowns and in the launchpads? David P. Stevens. Lin Rountree. Phil Denny. Neamen Lyles needs to play outside of Arizona. Chase Huna is working with Steve Oliver on his debut album at 16 years old. Why not them?

Putting any one or three or four of these guys as openers for the major headliners will not only inject the event lineup with new blood, but it will attract those openers’ families, friends, and existing fanbases, which in turn injects new money and attendees into the events. And as a bonus, there are new careers launched. Who’s to say Generation Next won’t headline a festival in 2-3 years as opposed to them being on the ‘rising star’ showcase?

Right now, I’m waiting to see what will happen with Jazz Fest West. It got shut down, now it’s coming back up. Considering Newport Beach has been going back to an all-jazz or majority-jazz lineup the past few years, I can hope that Omega Events will have the same thing with the revival of JFW.

The point remains the same.

We need new artists. NOW. This isn’t just me railing against it. This is a matter of the entire genre surviving, and it’s a LOT bigger than just my voice and the voices of those who agree and/or do their part to keep it alive.

K.G.

The “We” where it needs not be

So one time, I was sitting with my friend Lisa at dinner – as we are often apt to do, working in the same building – and she brought up a point that it irks her when one person in a couple goes “Well, we don’t [insert here]”. Because last time we both checked, two people in a couple are likely to have different tastes altogether.

I’ve not given it much thought until she brought it up, but you know something? Yeah. It is something I notice. And frankly, whenever a couple does that, I get a slight ring of a Red Alert if the barrage of “we” is regarding something that is not, in fact, a mutual interest of the two people comprising the couple.

Disclaimer here: common interests are one thing, and okay, I’ll exclude that. If you are a couple and share an interest, okay, fine. You get a pass. But when one side of the couple begins to monopolize nearly every aspect of their lives under the umbrella of “we”, I start asking certain things.

Look, folks. I’m a student of human nature. No two people are alike, and no two people have the same tells, but the general nature of human behavior is, unfortunately, predictable. It rarely, if ever, goes over well with me, as well a lot of people, when a couple is so wrapped up in their couple-ness that it suddenly becomes a barrage of “we” this and “we” that. Bonus points if the friends of the people comprising this couple are pushed by the wayside, or are the ones subjected to the constant “we” to the point where they start to wonder, “What is this?!”

Such as:

1. Since when is it that the identity of a couple, or being coupled, is more important than the identity of the individual people?
This is a huge, massive pet peeve of mine, and it ties into the “we” factor quite a bit. At no point do the two people in a couple stop being themselves just because they’re together. It’s the same thing as a woman thinking that she’s in a couple just because she had sex with a man, and the man may not necessarily be on the same page. But nope, it’s the couple identity that’s more important. The same happens if a man believes he’s heading somewhere long-term with a woman who has no such intentions. Same-sex couples too have some guilty parties in it too; this is not limited to hetero. The couple-mentality comes out, and for the person pulling it, it’s like there’s no identity other than the couple-brain.

STOP!

Seriously. I have no idea how many times it needs to be made clear: no one stops being who they are just because they’re having sex with someone. Just because you are in a relationship with someone, the other person is NOT going to give up their identity and personality, which is what makes it all the more important to choose very fucking carefully whom you’re with.

And this brings me to the second question I ask:

2. What does the other part of the couple think?
This is something that, to the “we”-ing individual, honestly doesn’t occur. Very often in watching and talking to the couples who pull the “we” on too regular a basis, the other person is nowhere near as thrilled to be doing this. In a restaurant, when someone says, “Oh, we don’t eat that” – look very carefully at the other person. Look for the telltale signs of discomfort: shifting, lack of eye contact, furrowed brows, sometimes the lips are set a little tightly. Chances are, you’ll see some or all of the above, and this should be a definite sign to you that maybe not everything’s as rosy as the “we” implies.

And when I notice that, I inevitably get pretty cheesed off at the person pulling the couple-identity. What that person is doing is devaluing the very individual they’re in a relationship with, as well as themselves, in favor of the identity of that person as one-half of the couple. It’s the same reason why I immediately get irked when someone is introducing themselves as “so-and-so’s other half” – turtledove, the person you’re with is a whole person on their own. They’re not half of anything. Stop pulling that shit.

What does any person look for when they want to couple up? They look for someone they can be themselves with. And how does it make them feel when the person they chose is basically putting the couple as the forefront, rather than acknowledge and encourage the individuals therein?

Yes. Exactly. It completely defeats the purpose of the relationship, and devalues the identities of the people therein.

3. Why such a concentrated effort to prove you’re in a relationship?
It’s okay. We all get it. You’re in a relationship. We understand. We’re happy for you. But really, think about this major aspect of human nature: if a person is genuinely happy, there’s no need whatsoever to put forward that much. It doesn’t require an effort to show you’re happy, and you won’t need to lose your identity in it.

While Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were a disaster in the making, if for no account other than the scientology thing, I will never deny for a moment that Tom was, genuinely, in love. I’ve seen Tom act often enough to know when he’s acting, and that was nowhere near it. He loved her to the point of irrationality, and in that interview, he talked her up as herself, as her own person. The fact that scientology made him a stark-raving-nutcase aside, the way he talked about her and the way he behaved made the point clearer than Venetian glass. What happened after – you already know, but that’s beside the point. The point is, he did not need to act or put on airs of any kind to show how he felt. It was obvious and apparent.

The one thing that always makes me pause when someone starts the “we” routine is to watch how far it goes. If it’s innocuous, and once in a while, I let it slide, but if it seems like every other statement is a “we”, I ask myself what’s really behind the scenes. Because again: why put so much effort into proving you’re together? If a couple is happy, they don’t need to put on the airs. There’s no need to wrap up in the couple identity if both individuals are happy with one another.

People, really: don’t try so hard. And please, for fuck’s sake, don’t use the words “we’re pregnant!” when you’re making the announcement. Simple reason: only one of you is actually pregnant. Until males give birth, let’s not do that.

When you use the “we” thing too much, it makes me wonder just how happy the couple really is. The person using the “we” is demonstrating that they’re together – but why? There’s no need for it – unless of course, they’re trying to convince themselves that this is a relationship that’s going to work.

I’ve been a long proponent of the Gut Feeling. It never lies. In every relationship, there comes a telling point as to whether or not it will actually work out, and that telling point comes to some relationships sooner rather than later. Some people, when they meet a person that they later get involved with, know right when they meet the person.

Listen to that feeling. Because when it hits you, the worst thing you can do is disobey it.

Take it from someone who did disobey it, and paid for it.

K.G.

And this, ladies and gents, pisses me off.

Jazz is tied with classical as the least popular genre in the US.

The sound you hear is my rising blood pressure, but I truly wish I could say anything but that this is not news to me.

Classical music has been enduring for over 400 years, and you know what, it still has an audience. Hell, it has an audience that I’m willing to bet is at least partially younger than jazz – and why? Because parents who understand the value of classical music teach it to their kids, and the kids carry that on.

Jazz is growing to have a similar situation in its New Audience acquisition. Parents, especially parents who themselves have grown up appreciating and knowing the value of jazz, pass it onto their kids, who grow up to be jazz lovers in turn.

Yes, that’s great, but it’s also a hugely dismaying thing to have. While jazz has always been a niche, this basically insulates it from outside fans coming in on their own. Lack of radio doesn’t help, but I’ve waxed analytical about that before. This is crippling.

Why? Because look at what doesn’t require enjoyment by inheritance. Look at the styles of music that are currently popular, and tell me that it doesn’t demonstrate something to you about the general population. What does it say about the audience when they’d rather listen to manufactured Autotune than they would listen to music that, let’s face it, doesn’t require Autotune? Right now, people get into music by having it pushed onto them ad nauseum, and if it takes five writers and three sound engineers to record Nicki Minaj singing “You’re a stupid hoe” or something similar and have that be a hit, but a jazz – oh, no, I’m sorry, instrumental pop as certain committees dubbed it – song can’t even get the time of day in the mainstream, what does that tell you about the state of music?

Let’s not wave it off with “This is the way it is”. It got this way. It didn’t have to get this way. Classical has endured, and jazz – the American classical – needs to endure too.

Perhaps this is my opinion, but I find that people’s ears have grown lazy with this manufactured sound-machine known as “pop music” of the day. They’re getting lazy and they’re getting complacent as a result. If they don’t have to think, they never will. Just like kids in school would ask the teacher, “What do you want me to say?” on an opinion essay, right now people are not even bothering to ask themselves, “What am I listening to?” Their ears are lazy. The music is manufactured and produced in such a way that they don’t have to listen to the message it sends as long as it’s catchy and has a rhythm (hence why music with absolutely despicable lyrics is popular), and they don’t listen into it to hear anything of the person singing it. Chances are the person singing it wouldn’t even come close to sounding like they do on the recording if they were to sing it in person, but that’s beside the point. The point is, people got used to not thinking about their music, and they hear it without actually listening to it.

And you know something? Jazz requires active listening! It doesn’t need “understanding”, or “the right notes”, as one particularly imbecilic video put it (sorry but not sorry), but it requires active listening. It requires someone to not just hear it, but to take some time and listen to it, listen into it, let it talk to the ear. Right notes have never once been a requirement of it, but some participation on the listener part is. It’s a music style that, much like classical, and much like instrumental rock, speaks without words. But you have to actually listen to it.

And when your listeners forget how to listen, then you see a sharp decline in popularity.

Doesn’t help that the advertisers who have previously invested copious funds in jazz stations have taken their money elsewhere because “it’s not popular” without thinking that the radio stations aren’t helping in the matter by homogenizing the lineup into an unpalatable mess, doesn’t help that the radio station formats have flipped en masse because “listenership has dropped” – when they themselves have engineered this drop in listenership – and certainly doesn’t help that too many people in the US don’t even know what jazz is. The video of “just play the right notes!” sums up the average view of jazz succinctly, and it’s the sort of viewpoint that drives me to drink.

Interestingly, if and when I introduce someone to jazz, the reaction is nearly always, without fail, “I had no idea this is what it’s like!”

At risk of sounding crass, no shit!!! This is what happens when you hear something without actually listening to it; you forget what it’s like to actually listen, and you’re amazed at what you hear when you re-discover it again.

Outside the US, we don’t see such an attitude with jazz music at all. Japan is a hugely popular market for American jazz. Eastern Europe is also jumping on the bandwagon. We’ve seen the massive popularity of Mallorca Jazz Fest and Smooth Jazz Augsburg. Don’t tell me there’s no market for jazz; there is. But then again, outside the US, people are taught to actively listen into music, and understand it.

Huge, massive difference in education and, even apart from education, in thinking.

And of course, the R&B dilution at events, to where it’s not even possible to call it a jazz event anymore, is not helping matters either.

Don’t even have to go too far for an example, too. San Diego Jazz Fest is unrolling its lineup, and you know something? My opinion of the promoter completely aside here, the lineup is a perfect example of what I was talking about when I wrote about Jazz Fest West’s collapse, and the importance of having new artists and *gasp* actual jazz musicians on stage at a jazz festival. San Diego “Jazz” Fest is pretty much a classic example of why jazz isn’t taken seriously. Sorry but not sorry, and not mincing words on this for a moment. Where Capital Jazz will separate out the stages and not commingle R&B and jazz, San Diego just throws in all R&B headliners and calls it a jazz event? That does not fly, kids.

Jazz is not “least popular” – certainly, it’s a niche and always has been, but it has never been this cloistered before, and it certainly did not get to this point without outside influences. I assure you of this: had CD 101.9 survived in NY, as well as all the other stations whom we lost in the Grand Shutdown of 2009, then articles like these wouldn’t exist. Nor would the mentality of “just play the right notes” in the general public. There’s more than enough new artists in jazz, more than enough new music all around. Know what there isn’t? The same consideration and PR machine as there is for pop, hip-hop, rap, soul, and R&B.

But, we soldier on. Because where would we be without Our Music?

This is why it’s hugely important to buy tickets to jazz events, buy CDs, finance Kickstarters, etc, so on, so forth. Because right now, jazz is depending on its people. And that means us.

K.G.

Money 101 For the College Grad Paying Loans

I know it’s a little bit of an odd title, but it occurred to me that, really, my peers need all the help in the finance department that they can get. I won’t kill the time waxing ranty about how their parents, the baby boomers, are at least partly responsible for their financial quagmire, and my opinions on student loans are no secret. I will also say that the first person who will bitch about the “entitled millennials” will get the smackdown of a lifetime; the only ‘entitlements’ they/we are asking for is the same thing that their own parents took for granted: employment, cheap tuition, and the ability to live on one’s own without breaking the bank. I don’t know when that became an entitlement, and if you call it that, then get the fuck off my blog.

But the bottom line is this: with crushing student loans, there needs to be some financial chicanery done in order to survive, and I’m not saying ‘ramen noodles every night’. Hell no.

Hang on tight, peers of mine, whether you’re Generation Y or millennial, a little older or a little younger, I will give you the tips they won’t teach you in school.

***DISCLAIMER***

I am not a CPA in my own right. I am studying to take my EA exams, though.

I am not a CFP (certified financial planner) either.

I am, however, employed in the accounting field, and have long experience in being broke and trying to survive while broke. I’m still paying student loans. And I’m also really, really good on managing with little money. Not to mention I learned some very hard lessons by example and experience alike. And what I know, I am very happy to share, especially if I feel some good will come of it.

ALL the tips written here here is strictly based on my own experience, and is not to be taken or acted upon without consultation with a finance professional.

That said…

Continue reading “Money 101 For the College Grad Paying Loans”

A look behind, a look ahead.

Another year coming to a close.

Now’s the time that I generally sit down and just do a reflection post, talk about what happened this year, and I find myself unsure of what starting point to pick. There’s been a lot happening, and a lot of it is stuff that I’m still processing. You’d think, this girl’s got enough time to think, right?

No, not really. I’ve been in a runaround, busy-as-hell, keep-it-moving lifestyle, and this makes for a weird situation when it comes to actually not having something to do. Which is actually what I’m still processing.

I got temporarily laid off from my CPA firm not long ago. And no, it’s not the CPA firm where I spent five years and earned a mild case of PTSD as a chaser; no. I landed with a new accountant in 2013, and that job has been, honestly, my first example of a Good Workplace. I learned plenty, even though I was upbraided a good bit for when I got something incorrect, the pay was good, and most of all – they worked with me just as much as I worked with them. It was, in all, a dream location for a job. But they laid me off due to lack of things to keep me busy.

And this is, really, the first time I’ve ever lost a job for any reason. I don’t know how to digest that. I was so secure in that place that I even mapped out my next year’s budget under the impression that I was going to keep working there under the same conditions. That was a rug pulled out from under me, but not altogether terrible, because I know I’m coming back to that office. It’s already been worked out.

It did, however, shock me into thinking that I need to put in some work into getting my own accounting practice off the ground. I don’t say this lightly; I have made more money in accounting than in my any other venture. I’ll never give up my book series, nor my photography, nor the music world, but the fact remains that accounting is, truly, one of the most lucrative businesses in this country right now, and it doesn’t hurt to know my way around a tax return or ten. I’m thinking a lot more in terms of my own financial security.

So I’m studying for my EA exam. I’m researching the requirements, the exams are upcoming, and I need to at least muscle through another tax season before I’m ready, but this will be the step necessary for me to eventually become self-sustaining.

Musically speaking, though, it has been eventful. This year, I got a taste of working as staff for several photo gigs, and I loved every second of it. It’s very, very vastly different from being an audience member with a camera, and it is a certain sense of being in the grist of everything. Behind-the-scenes education is an ongoing thing, and especially in a business that’s as capricious and changeable as music, it’s important to keep an open eye, and an open ear. In the past year that I’ve been a photographer – staff photographer as well – I feel like I have achieved a new level of professional education. It’s been one of the best things for me.

I also learned the importance of Just Going For It.

Let me be clear: I’m a very brash person. I’m a very brash and open person; I do not hesitate before saying exactly what’s on my mind. I have no problem talking about personal topics, especially if I feel that my experience may teach or help someone. I’m one of those people without a brain-to-mouth filter, and I’m afraid that’s to my detriment, but it’s not something I have any intention of curving. But the one thing I have always had a massive problem with is gathering up the nerve to take action, especially if the change is drastic, and if it takes me out of my comfort zone. It’s not that I don’t like change or I try to avoid it, it’s more that it takes me a lot more than most people to gather up the nerve to take action, even if it takes me no effort whatsoever to speak up about something I don’t like.

Except this year. This year I had a single situation where I threw all my habitual caution to the wind, and the gamble paid off. Regardless of the situation, the number-one thing is that I took the initiative and did something, for once. It’s more than what I can say for myself in relation to being at this point a year ago, but it’s something that I am hoping to iron out of my system completely by this point next year. I cannot afford to not take a gamble, and not to take a chance. Life’s too short to have regrets and I have, unfortunately, far too much experience of having a regret at not taking the initiative and doing something about what I wanted at the time.

No more of that. No more what-ifs. If I have to throw my dice onto the table, then I’d rather throw them, because I know for a fact I’ll lose by default if I never take a bet.

Traveling is still my greatest love. I can’t tell you to which extent I have fallen in love with it all over again. No matter how much I hate getting up and out of the house to travel, I can’t tell you how much I love being in a plane and watching the world under my window. This year is four cross-country flights – four!!! – and while I’m a wee bit too broke at the mo’ to consider doing that again, I would certainly not object to this again, and to more destinations. This year was a glorious trip to San Diego, Phoenix, coming up on spending New Year in Tucson… what shall it be next? Chicago? I’d love to. London? Oh, good mother of cheese, please and thank you. San Francisco? I have some friends I need to visit. Likewise for Seattle. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, Atlanta. The possibilities are endless.

It got me thinking that this, the above paragraph, is pretty much the best thing about being on the edge of thirty: there’s enough experience behind my belt to curb, if not completely cripple, the remnants of blind youthful optimism, but still enough of that optimism left to make me look forward to the years ahead. I’m not yet such a cynic that I shut myself off from the world, and definitely no longer the girl I was ten years ago, who was coming out of a sheltered and convoluted upbringing and through yet another final quagmire to learn the harsher lessons of the world, and who knew absolutely nothing of the real world. But I learned, and learned to love it. I love the adventure and the devil-may-care of my life, but I’m not so reckless anymore that I rush into it head-on without thinking ahead. I do have a strong reckless streak, but one that I learned to control with a heavy hand. There is a lot of living, a lot of reckless adventuring, a lot of love left to experience, and I am glad, as I am letting this year wrap up and look forward to kicking off my thirties, that I am, in fact, looking forward to it and living it at my own pace, without worrying about where I am along the LifeScript (which I kicked out in the first place) or how I match to my peers (which has long stopped mattering to me). There are a lot of great things about this particular decade cusp, and mine are going to be peppered that much more with travel destinations.

I’ve long stopped worrying about where I am compared to my peers, though sometimes, I check what the generation is like. The only thing it reminds me of is that I’m much happier being in my own lane. I learned to work for what I want, to occasionally take my caution and tell it to shut up, and to go for it if it’s something I want badly enough. It’s something I’m still learning. I’m still a work in progress, though I like my progress very much.

And forward we go…

K.G.

The Obligatory NaNo Post

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve taken a break from writing this year.

I really don’t want to have to admit this, but there’s simply not enough time in the world to make everything happen the way you want to. I’m swamped with my photography work; I have not yet unburied myself from the cruise photos – still have to go through the 70s Night and comedy show shots, and that’s the second half of the cruise…so maybe, progress? – and I have two more post-cruise shows’ photos to get through as well. Next week I have two shoots. The week after I have another shoot. It’s also concert-planning season, so if I’m going to have gigs, now is the time for me to think about where they will be and send off portfolios and samplers to make it happen.

Where does writing fit?

Oh, and I’m still toying on that translation I’ve started last year. Yes, it takes a year to translate three books by hand from one language in another, and it’s something I love doing.

It’s not something I like admitting, when I can’t do something, but this year’s NaNo may well prove to be a bad idea in the regard of my overall creative workload. I won’t say that I don’t like it – I love every minute of it – but I simply do not have as much time to contribute to it as I have before, and that’s something I’m loath to admit. I love my series. I love my storyline. I don’t love not being able to give it the time and devotion that I want to allocate to developing it and making it grow.

The reason I love NaNo so much is because it motivates me to be industrious when it comes to the series. I do the bulk of my storyline exclusively during NaNo, and the wordcount requirement makes it imperative to get as much of the storyline down as possible. It’s absolutely fantastic for when I’m trying to get a big story out, such as what was with Books 3 and 4 of the series. Most of the plot was put down during NaNo, and it made for an easy edit job and an easier publishing down the line. I chose the two most complex characters to do a background on – Rhyssius and Morrhia – and this is going to take me a lot of time. I have set up the bulk of the story, but I need to put two and two together, and bridge them from two individuals to what they had ended up. The problem is, there is a lot of back story there, and there’s also a side-story to weave in about how the quaint semi-medieval world had ended up becoming connected with the rest of the universe. A lot of continuity that I had hinted at before needs to be brought to fruition.

It’s just…time! All of this takes time! And time is something I have precious little of. Taking on an incredibly complex storyline – hell, continuing it, all considered – is not an easy endeavor when you have a job, a business, and a backlog affiliated with the business.

How I’ve ended up with a word count that’s a full day ahead of schedule, I don’t know, but it’s good insurance because I would need to be ahead. One of my shoot gigs is actually an all-day endeavor, as opposed to me just being a weekend warrior for it and writing on the go with my laptop. So if I’m not writing for an entire day, I’d at least have a good cushion that will keep me on track.

After all, in the eight years I’ve done NaNo so far, I won all eight times. I want to continue the win streak, else I’d think myself extremely remiss. My entire life as I know it had changed ever since I wrote the first book – how much will it change if I keep at it?

K.G.

Trials and Tribulations of Traveling, The Series

You know what, you guys may as well have a laugh or two at my expense. Seeing as I’ve been on a plane a lot more frequently this year than most others, the likelihood of Murphy’s Law coming into play is that much higher.

That and, because I’m on a plane a lot, you may as well learn a couple things from me as you go.

Mind Your Connecting Flight

Believe me, it’s not as much of a pain as you may think to get a flight with a layover. If you’re a little Joint Challenged, like me – nice way of saying your knees hate you if you sit for too long – then a layover is a welcome, if not a wholly necessary thing. I’ve had a couple of experiences flying directly from NY to CA, and frankly, I’d not care to repeat the experience. JetBlue legroom was good, Delta inflight Internet also, but to be frankly honest, I would have liked to have been on the ground midway through. So I was pretty glad when Delta switched me to a layover flight for the second cross-country go.

But more than that, you have to mind your gates if you’re booking a layover.

I learned this lesson the hard way – ironically, on the last CA trip. What happened was that I had a transfer in either MSP or SLC – can’t remember which – but the fact is, the terminal layout was in a C-shape. Likely it was SLC, then. But anyhow, I got a text as I turned my phone on, of the gate of my next flight. I look out my window and…there’s the plane I’m supposed to board right there at the gate.

Except, well…I’m in the back of the plane right now, and I need to hotfoot it to the other one.

It takes about a half-hour for the plane to empty.

I have to board the next flight in no more than…say…twenty minutes?

…Problem.

I did what any reasonable traveler would do: I tapped my neighbors on the shoulder, and told them, “Look guys, I’m very sorry to do this, but my connecting flight is about to start boarding, and it looks like I have to run across the airport to get it.” They were very gracious about it, and let me pass through – all the better that I had next to nothing for carry-on. I then proceeded to set a land speed record for sprinting across an airport. Seriously; I made it across the terminal from one arm of the C to the other in no more than 10 minutes.

I got to learn the same lesson very recently coming back from Phoenix. MSP-NY leg of the flight. I come off my first plane, come over to chill out and have a meal, and I’m thinking, I’m in the right terminal, yes? And all’s well, yes?

Uh….not really. You see, when you’re tired and flying all day, it’s pretty easy to confuse Terminal G with Terminal C, and if you’re in one and need to be at the other, the last! thing you may want to get is a phone call from Delta Airlines, telling you your flight is going to leave twenty minutes early.

Whoever invented those electric carts needs an award, because if not for a gentleman who drove that thing across the airport, I would not have made it home in time.

This, of course, leads me to…

If it’s worth it, pay extra for it.

Look. I’m not just saying that. Let the above scenario be a lesson to you: if you want to make a connecting flight, or if you think you need to get off the plane earlier than usual, then the first thing you do is plan ahead for it.

I’m not saying fly first-class. We ain’t got that kind of money, honey.

I am, however, saying that if Delta or A.A. or any airline lets you have a pick of the Economy Comfort seating, or Business Class and the price is in double digits only…take those. They’re usually situated in the front of the plane, and they are exactly what you need if you are, say, getting into a long-haul trip and you’re expecting to be off the plane fast. For instance, the next cross-country I’m set to take, I’m supposed to transfer in Atlanta. Wouldn’t be a problem, it’s a quick little flight…you know, except the fact that Hartsfield Airport is enormous and I’ll be lucky if I’ll make it to my gate and have the time to grab a pre-flight drink.

And while my seatmate flying home this past trip told me that he can’t possibly imagine planning things out to this sort of a detail, might I remind you fine readers of mine, Murphy’s Law is indiscriminate.

K.G.

Six years ago.

I can’t think of a better title for this post, because it’s one of those kinda-personal and kinda-not-really things, where you just write it out and let the chips fall where they may.

If you read my childfree post before, then you know my desire not to reproduce is no secret. I make no bones of it and speak frankly about it. It’s fair game – no one ever asks people why they have kids or why they want kids, but a decision to not have any seems to give other people the license to try and “convert” us the childfree to their way of thinking. And sorry, folks, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and if you put my decisions under a magnifying glass, make sure yours stand up to the same muster.

I am also very frank about the fact that I’m sterile, and Sept. 12th marked the six-year anniversary of my surgery. I turn 30 in May of next year.

And I think it’s pretty fair to say that the past six years, even with their pitfalls, have been pretty damn good to me, and if they are any indication of the future, then I will say that this has been a pretty fantastic investment.

There have been many “studies” – and I use the quotations, for reasons I shall explain shortly – about regret for tubal ligations. The reason I use the quotations is because regret is a very arbitrary feeling, and there’s no universal category for one person feeling regret for the same thing as thirty or forty others. Considering that the “tubal regret” statistics are nearly all trotted out only for the reason to assure women seeking sterilization that they’ll “change their minds”, I really wonder how many of those studies were actually conducted by any means but an Internet poll.

As I said before, and I said time and time again, there’s a lot more thought that goes into the decision to not have a child than some people put into their decision to reproduce. A pretty sizable chunk of my peers either have kids, or are thinking about what to name them. All I could think of is, “Before you start of thinking of the positive pregnancy test, how about you first think of the world you want to birth your kid into!”

But they never question themselves. I, however, get questioned left and right, on the only account of going against the grain and actually asking myself, “Am I cut out for the job?” I look at my peers, and I’m thinking, “Did you think this through?” “Can you really handle this?” “How are you going to pull it off if [mitigating circumstance]?” And I also think, they should be asking themselves all of these things. Most of them do not, but those who do, and who come to the conclusion that hey, risking becoming a parent is not the right thing to do, are suddenly made the pariahs because they put to question what so very few others do.

I often say my tubal has been my best investment. I paid only my deductible at the time. A thousand bucks to ensure I’ll never reproduce.

What did I gain?

Financial security: it takes over $200,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18 without college costs as of today; that alone is cost of a house – and it’s money I will not lose over my lifetime. I may not be in my ideal living situation, but I have started putting away for retirement, and while my peers and I jointly suffer under the yoke of student loans, I have the potential to break free of mine so much sooner.

New horizons and experiences: because I am CF, I can pick up a suitcase and jet off to anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice if I’m called to a gig. I can carve out the time to read a book, or take additional classes to pursue interests. I’m free to move to a different part of the country, if I so desire. I’m free to travel – which is a passion of mine that I indulge often. I can go out to dinner to an exotic cuisine.

Professional advancement: because I don’t have kids, I can put in more hours at my work or business, which results in more income for me and my future. Yes, this means that I have to pick up the slack for my childed counterparts, and I make it work for me – neither my bosses nor my clients overlook my hard work. I can keep learning and expanding my skills and business, and invest both time and money into new technology to further it.

My health and peace of mind: never minding the enduring hell of pregnancy and childbirth, I am one of those people who don’t deal with stress very well, and the one thing I treasure is my quiet time. I am a worrying person by nature, and while I worry over my friends a bit, I trust them to take care of themselves. As a result, I can take much better care of me.

And most importantly: time. I will always find the time to nurture my friendships and connections. I invite my friends to dinner, to shows, to explore with me. I always have the time to set aside to get some more sleep – something I don’t do because of the workload, but the fact is, that time is there. And most of all, I have the time to put towards my creative pursuits.

If you want to call me selfish – please, go ahead, but ask yourself at the same time: how is taking care of my life and business selfish? And while you’re at it, please give me the reasons that you had children, that do not start with “I want” or “The bible” or “because that’s what you do”.

I’ll wait.

I will say this, though, that there is a lot of resentment towards the childfree people from their childed counterparts. Particularly over the aforementioned financial security and the free time. The free time most of all, and the resentment is most palpable from parents of young children, usually under 5. And to this I have to ask, did you not consider that before having kids? Did you not think of all that you’d have to sacrifice when you bring a baby into your life?

Turns out, a lot of my peers didn’t think of all of that.

While I will always be for giving parents some sort of a support system, having seen friends with children struggle through their early days – and being there for them – I will also be an even bigger advocate of planning in advance. The old saying, “Failure to plan on your part is not an emergency on anyone else’s part” is callous, unfeeling, and 100% true.

And six years ago, I made the rest of my future happen.

K.G.

 

 

A John Mayer song comes to mind…

I’m not exactly what you call a John Mayer fan, but if someone were to ask me to photograph a concert of his, I’d do so gladly. But the one thing I like about Mayer, apart from his voice, is the fact that his lyrics are relatable in a way that very few people’s lyrics are.

I will talk to you, dear readers, of Gravity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about depression in light of Robin Williams, and some thoughts about my own history with that coat came to mind. Mainly how I used to delve into music headfirst in my teens to escape everything, a habit I maintained into adulthood, just with different music. Of course, back then I was routinely yelled at for “having my headphones on all the time”, but the fact is, what was in my headphones was a huge contributor to me coming out of the coat.

Gravity didn’t come out until I was past my teens, and I didn’t hear it until maybe 2007-2008. The lyrics of that song elicited a response in me that was akin to me hearing Down to the Bone for the first time: I stopped and paid attention.

What made me pay attention is pretty much the John Mayer signature: his lyrics are very earthy. He talks about just how people feel, and he doesn’t dress it up. In the world of manufactured performance masquerading as pop music, John Mayer’s reality is refreshing.

What I didn’t think about before, which I think about right now, is likely that John Mayer spoke of depression in the lyrics for Gravity. Either depression, or the overwhelming need to find oneself in a world that cares little for authenticity.

Oh, I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away…

It’s this bit of lyrics in particular that I thought about today.

How many times does depression make actors of the best people in the quest to hide that something is not right? And how many times people get so fed up with how they feel on a daily basis that there is no limit to what they will do to escape? How many of us have felt that we could just up and pack everything in a case and go out on the road, and let the chips fall where they may, if it means that what’s going on inside our heads will finally shut up?

It’s not that we are not loved…we are. All of us. Whether we realize it or not. But it’s the fact that we, when we are at our worst, cease to see that, that is one of the hallmarks of the coat. As I said before, one of the more insipid features of the coat is that it confines. It confines your physical movements, it confines your thoughts, and it confines your perception. You don’t see things as you used to, and you don’t see things that may be the way to unbutton the coat. Or, worse, you will see them, but have no strength to move to get to them.

There’s a semi-truthful joke that says, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s better to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle”. Honestly, I see a lot more people crying in their Mercedes, to follow along with the joke.

No, really. Depression among the affluent is a lot more easily noticeable. Whatever my personal feelings on wealth aside, the one most common thing I see if someone makes over a certain amount per year is that their earnings are pretty much in direct correlation with their misery levels.

I see it all the time. I go to work through Penn Station, and every day at 9am, it’s chock-full of people rushing to get to work from their outlying suburban homes. My old job took me through Grand Central, where the populace was largely the same. It’s basically a sea of transient regulars, all rushing from one train to another, from the light rail to the subway, and if you stand still and focus on faces, you are hard-pressed to find many smiles above the smart suits. Most of the times, they wear the same look, the one that says they would rather be anywhere but here, that they would rather do everything and anything to not go to Penn Station every day, to not go to work, to not make their living… $300 suit, impeccable accessories, all the trimmings of wealth, and none of that is enough to keep the coat at bay. The coat doesn’t discriminate.

Twice as much, ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain, like one-half could…

Well, come to think about that, I can also bring forward the lyrics of Johnny Cash’s, “A Satisfied Mind”. Money is not an answer. Money can buy you the trimmings, but what good are the trimmings, if they have nothing to adorn? What good is gilt cover on the outside when the inside is spent charcoal?

Is it any wonder, then, when someone goes on a bender that is seemingly completely unexplained and unexplainable from the outside?

Truth is, it’s perfectly explainable. And very easy to understand…if you’ve been in that position.

Only those who were on the inside of the coat know that when someone snaps, they have basically Had Enough. That bender, that binge of behavior that sometimes ends in police activity, court appearances, or sometimes worse, usually roots from the simple point of that the person just got plain old sick and tired of feeling the way they feel. It’s the point where no amount of antidepressants, money, self-medicating, what-have-you works anymore.

Though on another thought, it does strike me as a song about unfulfillment. Both ways, the lyrics are relatable and apply both ways, in both situations. But in truth, how many of us go through life without at least one of those moments where you want to just up and get away from it all?

This is why self-care is important, folks. If it’s an annual trip to a tropical island, sitting on a bench in a park and watching the clouds float by, drinking a coffee…whatever your method for getting in touch with your peace, do it.

Just keep me where the light is…

K.G.

The Experienced Jazz Cruiser’s Guide to Jazz Cruising

I was sitting down with one of my best friends at dinner last night, and she told me that she’s heading to her first jazz cruise, and after our talk, it occurred to me that considering that I’m embarking on my sixth jazz cruise this year – fifth with the same production, Capital Jazz – that it may be a good idea to do a post on what to expect on a music charter.

Mind you, while I’m a jazz cruiser, there are other music charters, and this can apply to any such a charter cruise – at least, that’s what I’m hoping to write out in here.

Before I get into the tips and tricks, though, keep this in mind:

A Charter Cruise Is NOT a Regular Cruise. It’s anything but.

I should perhaps say that a jazz cruise is not like any regular cruise. But nor is any other music charter. For those of y’all who don’t know, a charter cruise is basically a boat that’s rented out to do a theme cruise. 7-8 days of nothing but X theme, with activities and various other things to do.

Charter cruises are priced much higher than ordinary cruises, and for a reason: apart from just your cabin, you’re also paying admission for all those events and shows. They’re all included in your price.

And it’s worth it.

Your cabin is going to be little more than a crash pad to sleep, shower, make quick plans with friends (and you’ll make them if you haven’t brought them), and jet right back out the door. You will be doing things aboard the ship and off the ship pretty much every waking minute. The highlight of a charter music cruise is, naturally, the music. On board the ship, you can also expect workshops, Q&As, classes, parties, theme parties, and jam sessions.

A typical day on a cruise looks like this:

9am: dock in port, people come off ship to explore/do excursions

12pm: party somewhere on the island, or on the boat, or a choice of both

3-4pm: back on board! And a Q&A on the ship.

5-8pm: prep for dinner if you have early dining,* or the concert** of that night.

8-11pm: concert**/dinner for late dining.*

* The dining is split into sets: if you have dinner at 6pm, then you see the 8pm show, give/take an hour for prep/drink. Likewise, if your dinner is at 8pm, you attend the 6pm show, then go to dinner.

** There are always two shows: one in the main theater, one in the aft lounge, and I hope you can powerwalk if you want to make both!

11pm: drinks/get seats for jam session

12am – last man standing: jam session. Last man standing usually translates to anywhere between 2-4am.

And the next day, you get to do it all over again! On sea days, you can sub in the land excursions for more Q&As, parties, concerts, events, etc. but you get the gist. You do not stay idle.

FOR SEVEN OR EIGHT DAYS.

You do not take a jazz cruise, or a music cruise, period, if you want to get some rest. This is a party cruise. You take it to listen to awesome music, meet and mingle with the artists, and have a great time. You will sleep when you’re on your flight home.

And I’ve been doing this annually, so I offer to thee, my dear readers and future cruisers alike, my guide to Jazz Cruising 101.

1. Pack a sweater and/or flannel pajamas.

If you’re going to the Caribbean, as most jazz cruises often go, you may be asking, why a sweater? And I answer you: the air conditioning on the ships will turn your cabin into an igloo. This I speak from hard-won experience: last year, I got sick due to my hotel a/c being too strong, and the cruise-ship a/c was no weaker. I turned the knob to heat, and it was still a cool 60-odd degrees in my room. Trust me: the flannel pajamas I packed were a godsend. Know what else was? My running jacket, which I often wore to shows. The theaters get c-o-l-d. That air conditioner is no joke. Trust me: pack it now and you will have no cause to regret it later.

Speaking of unexpected illness…

2. Every ship has a med bay comparable to a small hospital. 

And it’s a lot cheaper than you’d expect, and the service is impeccable. That said? Pack a sampler of basic medicines just in case. My personal favorites: Advil, Benadryl, Dramamine, and cough drops. Bring any and all of your prescription meds as well.

If you are unwell on the ship, don’t be afraid to drop down to Deck 0 and ask for help. There’s a fully stocked pharmacy and a small but functional ER. Be healthy, that is first.

3. You need not worry about motion sickness too much…and don’t worry about the storms either.

These ships are bleeding enormous. Most of the time, you don’t feel the motion. The one time it got bad was in 2012, when my ship was behind that little storm known as Hurricane Sandy. That wasn’t pretty. That was the only time I ever hugged the walls to try and walk down the stairs. That is also a massive exception. Most of the time, the ships are very steady, and should a hurricane crop up on your route, the ship is often rerouted to avoid it. Bring the Dramamine anyway, because if you won’t need it, someone you will meet just might.

4. PACE YOURSELF.

This is the Rule #1 of the Capital Jazz Supercruise, and it’s with good reason. There has been more than one instance where I’ve seen people fall dead-to-hell-asleep in the casino lounge, in the aft lounge, in the atrium lounge, anywhere there’s a soft and cushiony seat, and why? Because they tried to do too much in one day. And I’ve been one of these people; I’ve had folks shake me awake in a lounge after a late-night jam sesh before. I’ve had someone scoop me out of a chair because I was too dang tired to move. You need to allocate some nap time between your activities, or forgo this or that show, because you can, and will, exhaust yourself.

Which brings me to…

5. Coffee is your friend.

Needs no explanation. There’s a reason I get a cappuccino at 11pm between aft lounge show and jam session, without fail. It’s a tip that people told me they picked up from me. Glad to be an influence :) but if you love jam sessions, you will, without fail, need a doppio espresso.

6. Yes, the ship has laundromats.

And I suggest you use them. There is, guaranteed, at least one self-serve laundromat on board every major cruise ship. And few things suck like going home after eight days with a suitcaseful of laundry. Valet service is available with your stateroom steward, but it will be about $20-40 bucks per bag, depending on your item list. Self is cheaper. Either way, it’s necessary. If something like Hurricane Sandy happens again, and you’re in a city other than your hometown, clean unmentionables will be essential.

7. Budget 1K for your onboard spending – and believe me, the amount is with good reason.

This is actually pretty important. As I told my friend, you will be very surprised at how quickly it all adds up.

This is what’s NOT included on a charter cruise:

– Any and all alcohol (and no, don’t bring your own, it can and will be confiscated)

– Steakhouse reservations (which are worth their $30 a pop, but…) – reservations only, not the food itself

– Gift shop stuff

– Shore excursions

– Artist CDs and merchandise

– Exercise classes (sometimes, this varies ship to ship)

– Spa treatments (and their cancellations!)

– Internet access

– In-cabin telephone usage for calls home

– Valet laundry service

Spa treatments are my personal Achilles’s Heel. I love massages on cruise ships; they are exorbitantly expensive, but the way they are set up, it is worth every. last. little. penny. However, I have to obey Rule #4 and indulge myself in a very limited fashion. I learned the hard way as to what happens when I don’t. My budget for the year ahead generally does NOT thank me if I go overboard, pun intended.

The reason why I say plan for a thousand bucks is because that is, realistically, an average amount that I had of onboard spending at all my cruises. If it’s not the spa, it will be other things. Drinks onboard a cruise are an average of $10 a pop. If you have two with every dinner, it’s $20 a day, or $80-100 for your entire cruise. Double that if you also have two drinks at each show. Triple that if you also partake at the bar. Quadruple that if you’re buying other people’s drinks, and add some more for that delicious bottle of wine. Before you know it, that’s $500 on just alcohol.

You may or may not use the Internet plans on the ship, but if you have a laptop on board (I generally take mine, because writing + photo work = need!!!), then it may actually be a good idea to invest in a bargain plan. The cheapest per-minute option is usually about $130, which is like 20c per minute. And again, before you know it, you just might use it all up. So there you go, now you’re up to $630.

Add your merch/CDs/gift shop stuff, and maybe toss in a shore excursion if you don’t buy one in advance…and you’re at $800!

So plan for 1K of onboard spending. Whether or not you end up actually spending it is another question.

And of course: if there’s anything that you can book and reserve in advance, when you’re doing the online check-in for your cruise, do so. It will drastically improve your onboard budget. Some cruise ships actually will offer you a discount for advanced booking. DO THAT.

8. Know your cabins.

This is something that I am passing along to you as an experienced cruiser, moreover as an experienced solo cruiser.

I travel alone for many reasons, and as I learned, I’m at a disadvantage in doing so. Why? Price. Most cruises price their cabins at double occupancy, anticipating two people per cabin. Myself, I travel alone, and this is why I love Capital Jazz: Capital Jazz actually offers singles pricing, and marketwise, theirs is easily the most reasonable price tag for a single. The trouble with that is, you may be limited in your cabin choices, and that is okay. It’s not as though you will be in your cabin all that much anyway – with all that’s on the ship to do, you will only use your cabin to shower and sleep, most likely.

However: there are some cabins to take and to avoid, as I learned.

To Take: If you’re OK with an inside cabin, and you like a little extra room, take something at the very nose of the ship.

2202 was my cabin last year, and I’ve stayed in 1202 on a previous sister ship. Both times, the cabins were nearly twice the size of any other cabin (had 1251 on yet another cruise; also an inside, and it was a good comparison point). They both fall under singles pricing – and if you like your cabins roomy, they are an absolute steal for the cost. The thing is, if you’re traveling as a single, pretty much any cabin will suit you fine, but the nose cabins will be much roomier.  

Drawback? …where do you think the anchor chain is? Expect rattly wakeup calls on port days. Still, holy hell, the room. The room! It’s like one and a half of any other cabin.

To Avoid: Unless you are good at sleeping through noise, avoid cabins by the stairs, or above and below the casino, theater, and lounge.

Been there and done that. My very first cruise, not with CapJazz, I was under the theater. Even if I didn’t attend the jam sessions, I attended the jam sessions. This year, I took a porthole cabin and ended up near a staircase…and it’s right under the theater. But, you know what? I picked it, and I’ll stay in it.

One thing I strongly recommend avoiding: anything near a utility room. Oh lord, the 6:40am rattling of service carts. Gah.

Which brings me to…

9. ALWAYS! pack an eye mask and earplugs.

Eye mask will have you sleeping soundly if your cabin has a porthole and you’re crawling in just as the sun is coming up. Earplugs will protect your hearing if you’re sitting near the speakers and/or when the late-night party folks walk and roister past your cabin door on the way to theirs. Trust me, both are your best friend.

And while I’m talking about packing, let’s revisit the essentials.

10. Toiletries – don’t skimp.

Shove them in your checked luggage and take all that you may need, plus extra. Reason: it gets pricey if you buy your essentials in the ship’s gift shop. I will say that their sunscreen is pretty excellent, and that’s the one thing worth splurging on aboard, (and my skin gets persnickety quite a fair bit…as my Cali friends can attest, having seen me lobster-red a few times!) but really: prep ahead. That and you’re on a ship for a week; not every port will have a CVS. St. Thomas had a RadioShack and a CVS, and both came in handy one year. But that also taught me to never, ever hesitate before packing something extra.

Oh, and ladies, take your own hair dryer. The one in the cabin is crap. I have a hot brush (dryer with a round brush attachment) and I rarely go on a long-haul trip without it.

A tip from my friend too: take a straightening iron in lieu of a clothing iron. They don’t allow clothing irons on board, but hey: if you gotta press something… :)

Another tip: portable humidifier. I gotta invest in one of those that can work from a simple water bottle. That plus a little peppermint oil will mean your respiratory system will be healthy.

11. Comfy clothes

You will need to dress up only for theme parties, dinnertime, and shows. All other times, comfort is king. Sweats, bathing suits, yoga pants, tees, etc. Trust me, comfort is a lovely thing.

12. Travel surge protector/outlet splitter. No, not a big power strip, those are not allowed.

Think this one from Belkin. It’s the best $20 you’ll spend, and let me explain why: nearly all staterooms have only one electric outlet.

It’s something no one tells you and something I learned the hard way. If you’re sharing a room, this little surge protector I linked will actually go a long way. Plus, it comes with two USB ports, which is handy for charging your mobile devices. Trust me: worthwhile investment.

13. The artists are people too. Socialize and mingle, but please respect them and their space too.

This I write as a friend to many artists, and as someone who had to step in and do the job of a handler to a couple of them as well: they are people too.

Yes, this is their job: play music, sell their music, socialize with the fans. But if they’re on board with their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, children – please respect that. I’ve seen some questionable behavior in my six years of cruising, and believe me, they need to have some rest as well.

14. DO NOT MISS THE BOAT.

They tell you, at each port you dock into: set your watch to the ship’s time. EVERY year, without fail, there were people who were left stranded on the pier because they couldn’t make it back to the ship in time, even though they tell you, at every port, what time the ship is set to leave.

DO NOT MISS THE BOAT. You do not want to be That Person, who will later end up as comedian fodder. Trust me.

But just in case…

15. Spend the extra hundred bucks getting trip insurance.

I never travel anywhere without it, and definitely don’t go on any cruises without it. A recommended website is InsureMyTrip.com, which will give you quotes across several insurers. You can pick the coverage you need and want (trip cancellation, trip interruption, etc.) and it will give you a price.

And if you are the person who ends up stranded on an island because you missed the boat, this insurance can, and will, without fail, save your skin.

16. The final night of the cruise – be ready.

Cruise debarkation is every bit as tedious as the embarkation, but seeing as the party doesn’t end on the last night, here’s a couple of tips:

– Have your Travel Outfit laid out.

– Have the barest toiletry essentials still unpacked, and no more

– Have a small tote/beach bag at the ready.

This is how debarkation works: usually, you have two options to get yourself and your bags off the ship. Assisted debarkation, wherein your bags are collected the night before and you claim them on a carousel a la airport style, or self-debarkation, wherein you wheel off your own. Sometimes, the ship will forward your bags along to your hometown as well, so by the time you land, you claim your bags at the airport.

My favorite is the assisted debarkation, because that’s when I don’t have to worry about the big suitcase, and I am prepped in advance well enough that by the time I’m off the ship, all I do is zip to the airport and go home.

Which is why I say: make sure you have the Very Barest Essentials and your Travel Outfit ready, and a small tote bag.

Suppose I’m in a dress for the final show of the night. I put out my suitcase at around 10pm-midnight. That’s when they’re collected. I’m not going to the airport in my dress, so I keep my sweats, contact lens solution, and sneakers out of my suitcase. By the time the porters haul away my suitcase, what do I have to carry off the ship? My camera bag, my little tote that contains my dress and shoes from the night before…and I’m dressed in my comfy sweats. When I reunite with my suitcase, I stuff the tote into the suitcase and to the airport!

The best thing about all these cruises is that you will make a million new friends. I mean it. I met a lot of my current clients and friends on board the cruises. Even if you come alone, you’re never alone. You become A Family on the ship, and it’s a family that, if CapJazz is any example, is several thousand people strong.

At least once in your lifetime, do a music cruise. It’s so well worth it.

K.G.

ETA, w/THANKS TO MONICA: 

COMFORTABLE SHOES.

Ladies, this one is for you. If you’re like me, then chances are, you have some Nice Shoes. I have a stellar pair of stilettos that make me look awesome…but they’re staying home.

Why?

Because, and I came very close to learning this the hard way…you don’t want a sprained ankle. The ships lurch. Your balance shifts. And heels that may look good may not always turn out so good when it comes to walking around a ship that’s about a mile from nose to stern. Moreover, a lot of the thresholds on the boat are just slightly raised. Yeah, problem.

Fold-a-flats are a saving grace. So are flip-flops.

ETA #2, with thanks to LaVonna, whom I chatted with about those…

This may be a little ridiculous, but trust me, when you’re going on a cruise, a little handheld scale for your luggage will be an excellent accessory.

I touch on packing in my follow-up post. The thing about that is this: if you’re taking a second bag to avoid overage charges, it would really pay off well to make sure that the bags fit the weight restriction.

Check this little scale out, by ConAir, available at your local Walgreen’s.

Also…check out this video, maybe or maybe not linked above: how to pack like an engineer.