vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm going to a New Year's Eve party and I just read the invitation; it's a wake for a brutal year, and we'll be bringing sentiments to burn and wishes for the new year. It's a fairly standard Yule ritual, and not my first rodeo. But like everything else, as I approach my fortieth birthday, it carries a lot of memories.


I had just finished my first season at the Ohio Renaissance Festival and I was informally engaged to my girlfriend of two years (no ring, but she had asked and I said, "yes"). I was on top of the world, and when it came my turn to express my thoughts on the passing year and wishes for the next I stood tall.

"It's been a year of music and love, and I hope for even more to come!"

It was a sentiment to remind me to be careful what I wished for. My relationship ended in early April, but I booked my first full summer/fall season of renaissance festival work and was very much on my toes with launching my career. This meant that I was fresh meat on the circuit, and I call that period my "summer of love".

A dear old friend still makes fun of me for breathlessly calling every week to exclaim, "there's this girl!" as I repeatedly fell head over heels at a dizzying rate. I look back on that time with fondness and I'm on good terms with several of the ladies involved, but while I'm glad to have lived it I would never want to repeat it.

What a wild ride it was, and now I'm a lot more careful with my wishes. I'll let you know what I come up with.
vinceconaway: (Default)
Having experienced my first Renaissance Festival at Baycrafters (see Origin Story Part I), I went off to college. I was dating a girl in Dayton, Suzzi Bibby, while going to school in Columbus, and I accumulated a lot of miles between the cities. It was she who introduced me to the Ohio Renaissance Festival.

We went as patrons, and soon were going in costume. We would treat the admission fee as a cover charge and spend all day in the pub, watching band after band. Soon we were playing together the music we were hearing, with my experiments on mountain dulcimer (no relation to my now-primary instrument, the hammered dulcimer) being accompanied by her playing on recorder and bodhrán (an Irish frame drum).

We called ourselves the Tweedford Minstrels, since our music straddled English, Scottish, and Irish traditions just as a fictitious ford on the River Tweed would straddle the countries of England and Scotland. Our first and only performance was at the Ohio State University Medieval and Renaissance Faire in May of 1997.

We had broken up the previous January, and the band outlived the relationship only briefly. I was branching out into new music and we weren't getting together to rehearse as often now that we were dating other people more local to us. I had taken up the cittern, a ten-string instrument that had more volume, more flexibility, and more of a renaissance image. And so I went solo.

In 1998 I played a madrigal dinner, and my hosts Mac and Cheri Corbeil insisted that I audition for the Ohio Renaissance Festival. I didn't feel myself to be ready, but I played the Ohio State Medieval Faire again on my own and gathered the courage to audition for ORF that summer.

To my amazement I got the gig.

Everything else I've done followed from that moment. I discovered that my love of performing went deeper than I had imagined, and I learned that there were people who made a living by traveling the country and bringing joy to their audiences. I investigated the Renaissance Festival circuit and began plotting a future, even as I commuted to North Carolina to fulfill an internship with IBM. A stark choice lay before me, and I was strongly considering Option B.

I have never regretted treading the path less taken.


Mar. 7th, 2016 10:07 am
vinceconaway: (Default)
I saw a doppelgänger the other day.

It's rare that I get the opportunity to see bands I like: their tour schedules rarely intersect mine. Whenever I get the chance to see a band with more than four songs that I like and a concert ticket I can afford, I jump. And that's why I was at Austin City Limits with adrenaline pumping through my veins watching Breaking Benjamin.

The woman had green hair and a very familiar bone structure, and it took a lot of effort to realize it wasn't Christi. I'm not sure I ever saw Christi with that haircolor but it certainly wouldn't have been out of character, and while it was longer than I remember that certainly would not of been a barrier that time couldn't have changed.

Except that Christi has been dead for years.

I found her again on MySpace, of all places. We had flirted in college, one of those "what if's" that never quite manage to connect. After I moved away we lost touch, until the miracle of early social media came to the rescue. We reconnected, and I called her for a delightful chat that offered future opportunities to get together.

Maybe explore some of those "what if's".

Two weeks later she was gone: killed by the intersection of acute depression and severe diabetes. It's hard to say whether her self-neglect was part of her typical pattern or a more deliberate suicide attempt, but it hardly makes a difference.

I found out when a mutual friend posted the news on her MySpace page. She was the first person whose passing I discovered this way, but she's hardly been the last. Car crashes, cancer, and HIV have taken their toll, and I'm still not sure what the new mores are for public grief.

But I do know that it hurts, even after 10 years and at a rock concert.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
She commented on a post after I did: I was surprised to see her name in my Facebook notifications and stunned I haven't been blocked. But I was also surprised that a lot more emotion came flooding back than I'd ever expected to find.

I don't talk about her much. There's my occasional self-deprecating comment, "back when I was an adulterer", but very little about my actual wife and many friends have been surprised to find out I was once married. Of course, many of my friends made jokes about her being fictitious even during the relationship: such is life when only one of you is on the road.

It also made cheating very easy. But I don't do that anymore.

We'll be ten years separated in September, nine years divorced in April. I'm sure she'll come up a lot in my musings as those dates approach, but I find it a hard topic to discuss.

Thanks for bearing with me.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Only one friend tried to dissuade me.

I heard a lot of "do what you have to do", and even "it sounds like time" (from the officiant who married us with the vow "for as long as love shall last"). But only M really tried to change my mind.

"You need to decide whether you want to be an oak or a butterfly".

And suddenly the choice was easy. The gavel fell, we sold the house, and I fluttered away.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
There are three films that live on my phone that I watch repeatedly: Closer, Up in the Air, and Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. Closer is a pretty decent approximation of my marriage, and the ending (which differs from the play) struck me as a bad future scenario and helped lead to my divorce. Up in the Air is the best representation I've ever seen on screen of both the joys and the despair of an itinerant lifestyle, with bonus points for my role being played by George Clooney. But words cannot express how much I love the movie Scott Pilgrim Versus the World.

That said, I'm now going to try. If you haven't seen the movie, or didn't like it, this is going to be a very dull post for you.

I never got into the comic, so I can't make any comparisons except to say that it does seem like a better fit for Knives to end up with Scott rather than Ramona. However, that doesn't change any of the things that I love about the movie.

I first saw it at Scotiabank theater in downtown Toronto, and the place went nuts when the movie was unapologetically set in that city. I saw it with a new lover, who had recently helped me overcome part of my own past, which only made the message of the movie that much more powerful.

The idea that we need to overcome the baggage of a lover's relationship history is expressed in the most powerful metaphor I've ever seen: supernatural combat with every ex on the list. And, at the end, that lover must fight our own past as well. But those exes can also end up being powerful allies, and while your demons may be your greatest foe they don't have to be.

I love love love this stupid movie.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
That's the million-dollar question, now isn't it? I'm happy with the direction my professional life is going, knock on wood and not taking the future for granted, but my personal life is a mess. And a lot of it is because I don't really know what I want so I can't ask for it.

Food for thought on my drive to Montreal tomorrow; not to mention numerous drives, several flights, numerous trains, and a ferry ride coming up in the next few months.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Every now and then I worry that someone in my life feels shortchanged because our relationship never got physical. It can be an awkward elephant in the room, but the stars have to very carefully align for that to happen with me. Small things can easily derail romance: the most common is timing, but it's not the only factor.

I have never in my life approached a potential romantic partner with a checklist, and I never thought I had a type. Looking back over past relationships, however, I've identified four traits that seem important (but I'm not going to tell the internet what they are). I've never excluded someone from my affections based on predetermined criteria, but everyone I've ever dated has met at least three of these conditions.


Twenty years ago I made a friend in college, and we're still in regular close contact. There was an attraction but things never lined up for us to date, and it's always been an unspoken might-have-been between us.

Still, she's outlasted a half dozen serious relationships, none of whom are in my life as she's remained. Her presence has been a rock, and I wouldn't go back and change things if I could.

I love my friends, and they're vital to my well-being. That's the important part of any relationship, and I think the physical side is overemphasized.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
It's far too soon to make any long-term judgments, but I've been spending the past few months putting into practice decisions I made this summer. I was feeling lonely and decided to reach out more to my friends, and I'm very pleased to say that it's working brilliantly.

I just spent several days with people I hold very dear, and while I'm overstimulated to the point of needing to step back for a little bit, I feel very loved and supported by my network. I'm deeply thankful for the many wonderful people in my life, who share so much with me.

I've been listening to Sondheim's Company a lot lately, identifying very closely with the main character. I was introduced to the play last winter, when a friend said it reminded her of me, and I must say that in some respects she was dead-on. In others, however, she was less accurate: having been married I have a clearer idea of both the ups and the downs than Bobby* does.

Mainly, I reject the ending of the play, where Bobby* wants to give love as much as to receive it; I have a great many things to care for and to look after. I like to think I'm a supportive friend and confidante, and I'm well-married to my career. Essentially, I'm in a ménage a trois with my Muse and the Road.

*bubi Robert darling
vinceconaway: (Key West)
I love this, just a little.

"But there are two very primary, elemental reasons why, I think, an artist is an attractive bedfellow for us citizens—us non-artists. For one, who doesn’t want to be the muse?"

"...this pervasive “muse complex” isn’t the only reason why artists are attractive to us. Last winter, Bret Easton Ellis had Kanye West as a guest on his podcast, and part of their conversation centered around the reality of being someone who creates things. Kanye mentioned that he felt particularly self-aware of the artist’s tendency to oscillate between periods of inflated ego and periods of self-loathing. It’s an intense life — there’s the pain of creation, padded by periods of downtime where one feels compelled to escape reality. And stereotypically, sex and drugs have been sedatives for that intensity. But that oscillation can make for a charged romantic relationship. One minute the artist appears so amazing and confident that you can't help but open your legs, and the next minute they suddenly plummet and become vulnerable and insecure, and need you to open your arms to comfort them...And this is why the artist is appealing not only to those seduced by rebellion and celebrity. It’s also attractive to the nurturing type. Some people love a fixer-upper."

I've been artist, I've been muse. I've heard my phrases come from actors onstage and my sweet nothings have been set to music. I've also heard my flaws and fights in song, and a manuscript is circulating for publication whose major theme is what a horrible person I am. Thankfully, I'm a composer of instrumental music so there's an extra layer of abstraction between my inspiration and my audience.

On endings

Nov. 26th, 2014 10:12 am
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
A friend is having serious marital issues, and I feel sympathy instead of envy. This is a big step for me.

It sounds odd, but historically one of my clues about current relationship status has been when a friend has issues and I wish I had those issues, too. It's a bad sign to say, "why can't I be breaking up instead of her?"

Right now relationships are blowing up all around me, long-term business and personal partnerships and marriages lasting decades. And, after a really emotionally turbulent summer, it's a bit of a relief to truly think, "I'm so sorry".


Oct. 18th, 2014 07:42 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Years ago I realized that I could save a relationship by embracing alcoholism: I really loved our time together when I'd been drinking. I was seriously tempted, but in the end decided against it.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
It was the tail end of a dying relationship, and four years in she still hardly knew me.

I have chronic and terrible insecurity, you can tell because I'm a professional performer. One of my biggest defense mechanisms is to self-deprecatingly and sarcastically augment my natural narcissism, (which is also given away by my being a performer). She took me seriously, referring to my self-aggrandizing comments as if I meant them, and I realized how much of the previous years she must have misinterpreted.

And it was all my fault.

I often worry that I'm an open book, my motivations and feelings clear to the world. Apparently this is not the case, and is radically compounded by my massive intimacy issues. I always thought that my relationships petered out after 4-5 years because familiarity grew boring, but I was wrong: once novelty wore off I had done so little to build a real emotional connection that there wasn't enough left to sustain things.

So now I'm delving into terrifying vulnerability; I owe an apology to the women who've dated me and I'm trying to do right by their successors.


Oct. 2nd, 2014 02:16 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
We were fighting in a hotel room. We did everything in hotel rooms: as two professional entertainers we met whenever and wherever we could arrange to cross paths. And, like many things in that intense relationship, things got vicious.

I threatened to leave, and noted I was already packed. I never unpacked, living out of a suitcase for months at a time. Until that moment, at least, when she very firmly took everything out of my suitcase and put it into drawers and closets. And, in the process, forced me to come to terms with the present instead of living in the future.

I still do that too much, live in the future and run from the world. But, ever since that night, I'm a lot more willing to unpack my suitcase, my car, my life.

And sometimes even my emotional baggage.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I'm a musician, a professional performer, which is to say that I'm superstitious. I've misinterpreted the odd sign without losing faith, but one time stands out when I was convinced that the universe was telling me what to do and taking 180 degrees the wrong message from it.

I was out for a walk when I took the call. It's said that you should never make a promise when happy (or a decision when angry) and there I was, quite literally in my happy place: the seaside of Genoa's medieval Porto Antico.

She was breaking up with me, that much was clear. She needed "a break" after a lunatic month of breaking up, making up, and all the head games we'd come to play. But as I walked by the music store anchoring a converted warehouse I heard my sign: Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence.

"All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in your arms."

And I promised fidelity, to wait for her, without listening to the next phrase, "Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm"

Exactly one week later I was dating someone else, which caused no end of heartbreak and headaches from my foolish promise. And I damn sure hadn't noticed the second verse:

Vows are spoken
To be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
Pleasures remain
So does the pain
Words are meaningless
And forgettable

On hubris

Aug. 27th, 2014 08:54 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

It's a very pretty picture, and I'm aching to go back. It's Dubrovnik, Croatia and, with all due respect to Italy, the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

There's a pier in the foreground, and a walkway around the turret that guards the inner harbor. I took a stroll there one stormy evening, watching the waves roll over that walkway mere feet away from me. I wanted to wade out, trusting my memory to find the flagstones beneath my feet, and I knew it wasn't the familiar urge to take my own life but merely my sense of adventure run amok: I am invulnerable and I can take it.

That belief has been one of my strongest virtues but simultaneously my greatest weakness. And, like similar traits with me, it's most manifest in my relationships: I don't need you, I can take it.

Except I do, and I can't

I was smart enough not to walk on the pier that night, but I've been dumb enough to let some amazing people slip through my fingers. I only hope that this time I caught it early enough, that I saw the pattern before it became immutable. Time will tell.


Aug. 12th, 2014 07:19 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I have a fear of dependency: few anxiety triggers are as reliable as the idea that I might need any given person or thing. It's a massive barrier in relationships on several levels, by both discouraging me from fully committing and compelling me to escape when I do. But today I want to talk coffee.

I'm addicted. I try not to be, with one day designated caffeine free every week, but the past few weeks have been an adventure too intense to pause (post forthcoming). I've subtly increased my dosage without the requisite time off, and today my head is killing me. Four days off, here I come: if 72 hours can kick heroin I figure 120 hours should be a good start on beating this.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It might sound very strange, but after three months in Italy I really needed a vacation.

I'm in the DC area visiting my girlfriend Moira ([profile] pictsy), and I am having a fantastic time!  Friday we took a trip into Baltimore, hanging out at Fell's Point (it's so funny to see a historic district that's only two hundred years old), visiting Poe's grave (I remembered the cool cemetery from a high school trip), and going to the art museum (that's right, even after overexposure I'm still really into it, especially sculpture).  The day was stunning, which helped make it even better!

On Saturday Moira had a performance as a Living Statue, which went really well.  It was her first time performing as one, and I was really impressed.  I've never done it (I can never stop fidgeting, which may be why I took up musical instruments), but she was as good as many I've seen over the years.

Saturday night we went to her friend Telf's birthday party, which was a lot of fun (featuring a rather tipsy Telf).  Sunday we met up with another group of her friends at the zoo, including several people I know from the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and then had dinner with her family.  Today she's headed to work while I try and get my life back in some sort of order, and then the adventures continue tonight as I join her book club to discuss a book I'm about to rejoin.

I am having a spectacular time, and it's such a pleasure to see her again!  I'm getting little culture shocks here and there (coffee house?  restaurant?  In Italy this is an airport hanger!) but it's nice to be back :)
vinceconaway: (Default)
Whew, I'm not sure what to write, it was all so fantastic. When I think
back on the last week it comes out a bit stream-of-consciousness, and
these are the images that stand out.

Hiding from the pouring rain in the ruins on Rome's Palatine Hill.
Pointing out pitches I've used in the past, sometimes with accompanying
anecdote (...that's where I first played in Rome...that's where the nice
cops let me play an illegal set in front of the Pantheon...that's where I
wrote Il Ritorno...). Our Florence hotel room, from whose window we could
have hit the baptistry with a thrown gelato. Introducing Moira to a
shared Italian hot chocolate, so thick that it could serve as pie filling
in another country, and drinking it on the steps of San Lorenzo in
Florence. Wandering the streets of Siena together, exploring the city and
admiring the symbols of the neighborhoods frequently embedded in

I miss her already, it was hard to let her go.
vinceconaway: (Chuckle)
I'm packing up to head out to DC this afternoon to spend the weekend with my sweetie.  I'm really excited about spending time together before I head to Italy, especially since we'll be in the neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia where we had our first date.  It's a little bittersweet, of course, but mostly I'm just thankful that we've been able to spend as much time together lately as we have.

My preparations for Italy are almost done, which kind of surprises me.  In order to really enjoy the weekend I need to have all my ducks in a row, so I've done almost all the work for that trip during this week as well.  The main part has been a serious packing list of things which I'm hopeful will all fit into my luggage, and just having that reference point is incredibly comforting.

So I'm pretty jazzed about everything, and checking the extended forecast for Rome (highs in the low fifties Fahrenheit next week) on the best weather site I found for Italy last time, ; Fat Tuesday is supposed to be a little chilly but still buskable; anything much below 10 C/50 F gets unpleasant.  It's also nice to see that my prospective itinerary is pretty weather independent because in southern Italy the east and west coasts are pretty similar (in the north they are radically different because they're separated by the foothills of the Alps).  All in all I'm only mildly nervous, and quite excited, to be getting ready for liftoff!

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