A Day in the Life: Social Distancing with PhasesLM

by - March 24, 2021

It’s been a year since the first shelter-in-place orders were put into effect here in Northern California. I remember the week before it happened vividly.

I work as an aide at a local elementary school, and I’d spent the entire week making copies of homework packets to send home to keep the students busy for the next two weeks - we were told the shutdown would be just two weeks. All the while I had a bad headache, so bad it would wake me up at night. These weren’t symptoms of COVID, so I didn’t worry too much.

Meanwhile, at home, my 15-year-old cat, Furokey, was dying. She’d been diagnosed with cancer the previous summer and had overshot the prognosis of 6 to 8 weeks to live. Sadly, I could see the cancer was finally winning.

Music-wise, I was in pre-production with a producer who was going to help me record a full-length album. We’d been putting together demos since October. I had a friend in Oregon who was slated to play drums on the album, and just the month before, I had recorded some of her ideas with my piano parts. The producer and I had been sifting through these session recordings, deciding what worked and what didn’t.

And then everything stopped.

The first weekend of the shutdown, all I could think about was my non-stop headache and my dying cat. I knew it was time to let Furokey go and I had made a veterinarian appointment for the upcoming week, but now the veterinarian was closed indefinitely. I also came across an article that said sometimes a headache could be a symptom of COVID-19, so I decided I needed to know for certain. Getting tested was still rare at this point, but after I explained how many students I interact with in a day at work, my health care provider set me up with an appointment at a drive-thru testing site.

After that it was just a waiting game. My family and I quarantined for the week it took for my results to come in. I kept hoping my cat would pass peacefully on her own. I‘d find her laying in odd places and she acted anxious and confused at night. By the time I received my negative test results, my headache was gone, and soon after I found a veterinary service that makes house calls and we said goodbye to Furokey during the second week of the shutdown.

A couple of weeks later I reached out to the producer to see if we could start working remotely. He told me he had made a decision to focus on his own music and drop my project. I was devastated. I tried to continue without him, still working with the drummer, but we just didn’t have the resources to get her parts properly recorded from her home studio.

The year kept going. I doom scrolled through Twitter day after day, keeping up with news about the pandemic. Eventually the pandemic news took a backseat to the stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement. Sequestered from most of the local protests, my town was put on curfew for two nights. Not long after there was a local BLM march, and my kids and I participated.

Around this time I decided it didn’t matter what I did musically - there was so much more going on in the world. I could write whatever I wanted, I could record whatever I wanted and I could even release it if I wanted. Who cared? Only me, and that’s freedom! So that’s where my head was at when I wrote about the weird noises I heard in the distance after a lightning storm, and also when I wrote about watching videos of protestors setting fires in downtown Portland.

Things are different now.

I’ve received the first dose of the vaccine and I’m back to work at school. I’m running the Learning Hub, a place where small groups of students can come for a few hours a day to get reliable Internet service and extra homework help if they need it. I have two new kittens, Leroy and Jenkins, and they are beyond adorable and nothing but trouble in a good way. And I’ve released my EP, Out at Night; four songs written, recorded and mixed by me. The EP is mostly instrumental, and the songs range from upbeat and danceable to textural and ambient. I still wonder what I could have accomplished with the full-length, professionally produced album, but for now, I’m happy to share my solo work as a snapshot of my life in 2020.

While practicing social distancing, watch my music video for "Mechanical Dogs":

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