Friday, January 12, 2018

HOLY CRAP! THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?!!

A post shared by Nelson Velazquez (@nelson_velazquez_) on

Last night the first show of 2018 where I was the musical director happened at Crown Point High School where I played piano for the Stray Dogs Improv team.  I've had this illustrious position for almost 4 years now.  Originally, I was playing guitar for them because I was not a piano player; however, the need for piano was gradually added as a result of choices the kids would make for their senior showcases.  So, I started plinking around on the keys (white keys only and everything in the key of C) trying to fake as if I knew what I was doing during rehearsal and shows. Eventually, I was forced to take the idea of MDing on piano more seriously when I was teaching/directing more musical improv elsewhere.  I never really thought of myself as a piano playing MD seriously until now.

I've learned a few more pleasant-sounding chord progressions, got my hand position more comfortable on the piano, and have practiced a lot more since last year so I walked into last night's show a little more confident than in the past.  High school parents are quite a bit less discerning about the piano player being there playing for their kids than having a room full of my peers at an improv theare having heard and seen more accomplished players do a lot more on the keys.  So, the pressure to perform something incredible wasn't there for me.  I did want to show off what I had learned so I kept things rolling as the show went on.   The kids did really well with many having performed for the first or second time ever.  We pimped a few kids into singing actual songs and I was able to give them super simple foundations to sing over.

But there was this one moment last night that happened that changed things for me.  I was supporting a game the kids were playing and noticed that I had to play something somewhat majestic sounding in nature.  So, I went for a standard chord progression and as I played it, my fingers slipped into a cool sounding chors that made "sense" in the progression.  Now, I can suspect what I thought that chord was but at the moment, I couldn't tell you what it was other than it sounded "pretty good"  In the chord progression I knew instantly what had to happen - this has to build and end on a major chord, but I didn't know what the hell the next chords should be so.  So, I said "Eff it." - and let go of my analytical brain and trusted the musical improv gawds to make it sound good.  I used my instincts to find the next two chords and IT WORKED!  I had a huge grin on my face.  Not only did the scene go super well and the music supported it so the kids looked like rawkstars, but I also made a personal musical triumph in the journey getting there - I felt like a "real" MD for a few seconds.

I'm going to hold onto this feeling for as long as possible.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Getting What You Wanted

Last night I performed a show with Los Improviachis.  We opened up for our friends in Pimprov and we did a very good, fun show.  Afterwards we took pictures with different people and I had someone come up to me say, "Did you host a show opening for such-and-such about a year ago at Second City?"

I thought for a minute.  "Yes," I responded. "Yes I did."

"I saw you that night and you were amazing," she replied immediately with a twinkle in her eye and genuine enthusiasm.  "You did such an amazing job hosting that I've wanted to tell you that ever since!"

I was dumbfounded.

I've spent a better part of the last 10 years trying to get some respect and some light-weight fame from doing improv/sketch comedy.  I dream of the day when I walk outside my cozy home and local people recognize me for the things I've done on stage, film, TV, and in the community.  Companies would try to reach out to offer me all kinds of incredible opportunities to raise their profile and mine because I've earned the privilege to do so.  People would start wanting to pay beaucoup bucks for the chance to see me in a show let alone try to get an opportunity to talk to me.  All of these things are big goals for me.

So, when I finally got a little recognition from this lovely lady for something I did artistically a year ago, I all of a suddenly got really warm, started blushing, put on a silly grin, and profusely thanked her all the while holding onto a feeling of hubris mixed with a bit of embarrassment and insecurity.  "This is what you wanted," I kept telling myself.  So, WHY DO I FEEL SO WEIRD?!!

How To Be Humble
In a segment on NPR's All Things Considered, Keegan Michael Key, an actor that I look up to and admire, made an interesting comment while promoting his new Netflix show "Friends From College" that really resonated with me:
On never believing he deserved success, and how that reflects a broader American tendency
I'm from the Midwest, so I always assumed: Well, I have to think badly of myself, because that's being humble. And where I'm from, you get points for being humble and you get an extra special big house in heaven. That's the rule, right? Now, you have these dirty dreams in the back of your mind: ... What if there was the first black James Bond, and it was me? You're going to hell. You're never allowed to dream that big.
Cot damn.  He's right.  I find myself trying to ruining these type of moment with my insecurities because I feel that if I fully enjoy them, I'd become a big-headed, arrogant jerk and start doing stupid things.  I was trying to be humble but I really just wanted to lose my head right there and start babbling like an idiot.  That strange governor that I enacted on my reactions was in full effect.

I'm gonna work on staying humble by being humble versus hating on myself. 



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Post Op Blues

It's been a few days after my lingual hernia repair operation. The procedure went well but the post-op recovery has been more problematic than originally anticipated. I had to deal with the mechanics of determining whether or not my kidneys were working properly as a result of a mishap when inserting a catheter for the original procedure. It's been 5 days since that issue got reconciled (I'm fine) but something weird happened tonight.

I had the uncontrollable urge to cry.

I decided today I would try to go without medication and let my body get used to functioning without them.  I was able to work, run errands, and even audition today. I got home and after s few hours, a freight train of emotion hit me inexplicably. I couldn't regulate my emotions. I just felt very useless, alone, and vulnerable. I wasn't "sad" per se - more just "wounded"than anything else.
So for half an hour I cried. Not bawling or sobbing. Just cried quietly on my bed with my wife beside me. I couldn't stop. I wanted to. I used the mental gymnastics I've built over the years of how "men don't cry"and they were useless. I just rode the waves of emotion the best I could.
While this read happening, I wondered if it was a reaction to the lack of medication or maybe I was having an anxiety attack. I look them up and tried self-diagnosing. Neither one came back with much. I then asked if this was a normal reaction to coming off general anesthesia. I then learned about the "post op blues".

It turns out that it's not uncommon for people to sense a bit of depression after surgery. Granted, the more intrusive the surgery, the longer the recovery, the deeper that depression can go. My operation was an outpatient procedure; however, I believe that it messed me up more than I realized. The recovery process didn't totally start until 8 days afterwards due to the kidney-related problems. So, I couldn't focus on what I sent in for until later. I think all of the stress of the operation, being bed ridden for quite someone afterwards, and the fact that at times I felt completely useless to people because I couldn't do my normal activities got to me. It just found an emotional outlet tonight.

I decided to write about it because I want to remember this. I want others to know that his they may be feeling is normal. Hopefully it's just a short-term thing and I can bounce back to where I was after giving myself more time to rest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It Takes Two To Ruin A Classic

Target put together this travesty:

Don't tell me this song or video is a good remake or brings something original to a hip-hop classic. 

First of all, it's put together to promote Target.  Now, I know there's a lot of commercialism in hip-hop as it is but this is so blatant, the entire video reeks of sanitation by executives who have no clue as to what hip-hop is all about.  Whatever good there is artistically in the shot (dancing, choreography, visuals), it's washed out by the fact that it's just a really long Target commercial.

Secondly, LIL YACHTY and CARLY RAE JEPSEN???!  Neither of these clowns grew up on 80s hip-hop.  Lil Yachty famously couldn't name any Biggie or Tupac songs let alone an obscure gem from Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock.  Carly is to hip-hop what Yachty is to rock n' roll - unrelated.  There is no artistic contribution or validity either one of them bring to the song.  Yachty raps like all other mumble rappers out there - tons of Auto-tune and slurred speech.  The original song requires a little bit more diction and inventiveness to perform and his performance on the remake sounds uninspired, contrived, and strained - as if he never really studied the original.  Carly feels like she's there for eye candy in the video and to sing the hook.

Lastly, I dont get the whole idea of what "it takes two" to do in Target.  Why do we need two people to make Target awesome?  Nowhere in the song do they actually go into depth about what two people would do at a Target.  Shopping is better with two people?  Consumerism is better with two people?  What?!!!

Pull The Cord!

I logged onto Twitter this morning and saw the following Tweet in response to a #POTUS45 tweet:
With that statement, I dug a bit further into his timeline and found this gem:


Uhhh, unless you're a Congressman or a member of the Oval Office, their ain't jack you can do.  I had to ask myself, "What makes him think that he personally can invoke the the 25th Amendment, Article 4?  Does he even know what it is?"  I decided to educate myself quickly on it:
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment stipulates that a president who "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" can be removed from office. The vice president and either a majority of Cabinet members or members "of such other body as Congress may by law provide" need to communicate that wish in writing to the Senate president pro tempore and the Speaker of the House in order for the sitting vice president to become the acting president. However, if the president resists and deems himself capable of fulfilling his duties, the matter heads to Congress: A two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate within 21 days means the vice president remains the acting president; a lesser vote returns the powers to the president. 

Are You Mental?
Does this guy feel that he has any direct influence on his Congressman to what he wants (unless of course he has donated heavily in their campaigns and now owns them)?  Does he actually believe it's easy to go through the mechanics of removing a sitting president with an unprecedented maneuver like invoking the 25th Amendment?  Does he think #POTUS45 will just roll over and not fight it?  If invoked, I fear it'll tear the country apart.

Don't wait for Congress to deal with an out-of-control problem with your leadership.  #Resist