Thursday, September 19, 2013


I'm scared of flying. But I also really enjoy flying sometimes. I'm most scared of take off and after that I can get some pretty good work done during the actual trip. That is, if I'm not clutching the armrest and trying my hardest to see through the clouds out the window and try and understand why the plane is shaking up and down, left and right. I know what causes turbulence and I know that turbulence alone never puts the airplane in danger. It just feels so damn scary! Over the last few years I have read many books on flight, aerodynamics, a book called Stick and Rudder - which explains the basics of flight and is and a great read; I've read pilots' blogs (which I find fascinating) and I also receive a Fear of Flying newsletter every Wednesday. Having the profession that I do - concert violinist - I have no choice but to get on a plane. But I never know how I'll feel during the flight until I'm on the plane. My emotions have ranged from tearing up crying on takeoff; very shaky and sweaty hands for a good while; panic; screaming out loud; to perfectly calm; no butterflies and feeling really excited about being up in the air and seeing the ground below me in this amazing way!

Yesterday's flights were ok, though after not flying for nearly two months I was a little shaky. The first flight was on a 737-800 (738). I like those planes fine - they're near the top of my favorite planes to fly. I'll talk about the top ones in another post. The takeoff from Philly was a little bumpy like it always is but thanks to a good friend I call lorazepam I wasn't terribly bothered. I thought about the heavy, hot fuel swooshing around the fuel tanks only a few times. :) Our Captain (or First Officer) was a man of few words....I heard him utter three sentences to the cabin. "Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff", "I'm turning the seatbelt sign off, but please keep it on while seated", and "prepare for landing". I don't know about most people but I like it when the pilots talk to the cabin and give us information such as our altitude, possible turbulence in our path, what states or cities we're flying over, or just say "don't worry, even though the turbulence feels really scary, we're not going to fall out of the sky..." ok, so maybe they never put it that way, but that's how I take it. I like hearing from the pilots. It reassures me that everything is going fine up there in the cockpit. I often think that if I were able to sit in the jump seat of the cockpit for a few flights I would be cured of my fear of flying. But unfortunately short of becoming a pilot or flight attendant, that is now impossible. I once bought two DVDs of cockpit views from Lufthansa flights over the Atlantic and watched them in their entirety. Well, it wasn't the same as being in the cockpit. Not that I would know....except for one very lucky time, when I was 12 and was let into the cockpit mid flight on an Austrian Airlines flight just to peak - it was awesome!

Now where was I - my second flight yesterday was on an ERJ145. I am NOT a fan of regional jets. I don't like them and if I can avoid it I won't book myself on them. Luckily the flight was pretty smooth. Turbulence in a CRJ or an ERJ is pretty awful to sit through. Once I was on a CRJ700 and the turbulence was so bad (probably felt like light chop to the pilots but to me it felt much worse) that the flight attendant told me to stop panicking, that I was scaring the other passengers and also asked me why I fly if I'm so scared of it. She was quite condescending and not at all pleasant, and part of me really wanted to tell her where to go and what to do once she got there, but I refrained. I'm sure those four-letter words are best when not used in an airplane, or directed at a flight was a regional airline, which brings me to another dislike about flying - regional airlines. But again, another post. I arrived to my destination then as I did now and that's the most important thing. Now I get to perform one of my favorite pieces this weekend - the Korngold Violin Concerto - and I couldn't be happier about it. That is, until I get on the plane for the return trip home. Then I'll be shaky again. 

Until the next takeoff, 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Christmas Present

Photo by Pete Checchia

It was exactly seven years ago when I was first a participant in the String Seminar. I was sitting third chair of first violins with Lexi Preucil as my stand partner. Every now and then, Jaime would give the two of us a look after we played too many "unique" fingerings, usually involving high harmonics...

The soloist for the Christmas Eve concert was Gil Shaham, playing the Dvorak Romance and Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso. By the second day of rehearsals Jaime told the orchestra that Gil couldn't be there until the day before the concert and it would be great if someone from the orchestra could play the solo pieces during the next rehearsal. He asked if anyone knew them and wanted to volunteer. Allie Osborne raised her hand saying she knew the Rondo Capriccioso and could do it, but nobody was volunteering for the Dvorak Romance. Finally, I raised my hand and said that I didn't know the piece but would be happy to learn it (overnight!!!!) if someone could get me the music. By the end of that rehearsal, there was a brand new copy of the Dvorak Romance waiting for me. Once I looked through the music and it hit me that I would have to play this piece TOMORROW, I called my teacher Ida and said in a voicemail "Um....I sort of volunteered to learn the Dvorak Romance overnight and rehearse it with the orchestra tomorrow...hope that's ok with you..." That night, when everyone else was enjoying Christmas time in New York, I was back in the hotel room frantically scribbling fingerings and bowings in my music - anything that could help me the next day. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the orchestra as the opening tutti started. I can’t put into words how magical, meaningful and memorable that rehearsal was to me. It still stands out very vividly in my memory. 

It’s now seven years later and tonight I will be playing the Christmas Eve concert at Carnegie Hall - the Bach Double with Jaime, as well as the Dvorak Romance and Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso. When the opening tutti of the Dvorak started in the first rehearsal a few days ago, I teared up a little. So much about that rehearsal was the same as seven years ago yet I’ve changed so much since then. It was very reflective somehow... It has been just as exciting and special rehearsing those pieces with the New York String Orchestra and even more so this time, because I get to play the concert! I just want to smile the whole time I’m playing on stage. It is by far the best Christmas present I could ever wish for and if someone had told me seven years ago that I’d be the soloist tonight I don’t know what I would’ve felt....probably disbelief.

I cannot wait to walk out onto the beautiful Carnegie stage tonight and play those three great works!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A frequent flier and still nervous...

I was flying out of Philadelphia a few weeks ago on a dark, rainy night...The plane was an MD-88 and I was in my usual window seat - 13E, face pressed against the plexiglas window, trying to make anything out in the rain. Whenever I'm flying I will not rest until I see the flaps and slats come down. Usually they do right after the tow truck is disconnected but some smaller planes wait a little longer...On some planes, like a CRJ-200 I'll have to rely on shadows to see that the flaps are down since there are no slats on the leading edge. Or if I really can't see - I'm a nervous wreck until we're well up into the air. Once in the air, there are a whole other lot of things that make me nervous, but that's going off topic too much.

Back to the MD-88: I noticed something on the right wing next to the speed brakes that was sticking up. It looked like a fully deployed speed brake, though deep down I knew that it wasn't - it was a little too close to the wing's tip. We were moving very slowly toward the end of the taxiway and I kept staring at the 2-foot long piece of metal, sticking up at a 45 degree angle and trying to decide what to do. After agonizing about it for 10 minutes, I rang my flight attendant call button. The flight attendant couldn't have been nicer! She came over to my seat and asked if everything was ok. I told her that to me, it looked like the speed brake was up. (Again, I was pretty sure it wasn't the speed brake but I didn't know what else to call it). As luck would have it, by then we had taxied into a dark area and with the glare from the rain, she couldn't see it. She said she would inform the Captain and sure enough, I saw them raise and lower the speed brakes - the piece of metal I had my eye on didn't move. She came back to my seat and I told her that yes, I saw them raise and lower the speed brakes - the part I was talking about is next to the speed brakes - and it is still sticking up. I told her that if she went back a few rows, she might be able to see it - the light might be better. At some point she asked me if I was a pilot and I apologetically said "No, I'm not - but I read a lot about aviation." By now, quite a few passengers had turned around either to glare or just to see who is causing the commotion. One asked me "Is it something on the engine?"  I almost impatiently wanted to answer "of course not - the engines on an MD-88 are mounted on the tail of the plane and can't be seen from up here."  But I settled for a simple "no." She went back to the front of the plane and next thing I know, the First Officer was coming towards me. I could feel my face turning red in the darkness and as I tried to sink lower in my seat.

I explained to the First Officer the same thing I had told the flight attendant and again said that "no, you can't see it any more from my row because of the glare from the rain, but if you go back a few rows you'll probably be able to." He looked, came back and very nicely and patiently explained to me that the part I was seeing was in fact the aileron and that once we sped up and airflow increased over the wing, it would return to a flat position. Sure enough, that's what happened. And then the Captain himself made an announcement to reassure the other hundred-and-some passengers why the First Officer had come into the cabin.

I know that if I hadn't said anything I would've been more of a wreck than usual...And while I kept apologizing to the flight attendant, she kept reassuring me that it was the right thing to do and they were happy to look into it. The rest of the trip was uneventful except for a few spots of turbulence. Many thanks to the crew of that flight for being so nice!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hotel rooms

Recently I was staying in a decently-sized hotel room, but the bathroom was one of the smallest I’ve ever encountered. The width of it was just about narrow enough for me to stand... I actually used the sink as storage space for my toiletries because there was nowhere else to put them. And when I needed to use the sink, the floor served as a pretty good storage space as well. The small space didn’t bother me, but I imagine that it would bother some people and hotel management must’ve thought that as well because the walls were lined with mirrors. Floor to ceiling mirrors which certainly gave the illusion that the bathroom was larger than it actually was. To make a short story longer, that’s how this picture was born. I probably should’ve been practicing during the time I tried to take a cool, “artistic” picture, but I guess I felt the need for a break. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Knitting and Kimchi

I didn’t think that my first blog entry would be about knitting or kimchi but well, here it is. It’s been so cold lately that all I’ve been wanting to do is sit cuddled up in my armchair, knit and watch Battlestar Galactica. Perhaps I should’ve mentioned that in the blog title also. “Knitting, kimchi and BSG.” Kimchi is my comfort food (part of me must be Asian) so I’ve been eating it in different variations over the last few days. Pan-fried with chicken (above), pan-fried with rice cakes (dduk). Now I’ve run out and I’ll have to see when I can go buy some more.

I’m knitting fingerless arm warmers for myself (can anyone tell that I’m cold?) This way I can use them while practicing. I have the right arm finished and had knitted half of the left arm before I realized that I hadn’t made the switch in the pattern and was actually knitting the right arm again. A few hours of work were ripped off in mere minutes and I started on the left arm again, this time correctly. Hopefully the left arm will be finished tomorrow (or rather, later today since it’s past midnight) and then I can post pictures of them.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wellington, NZ

The little things that make me happy on the road.

Nothing makes one appreciate the act of doing laundry as much as living out of a suitcase for five weeks. I did my laundry today at the hotel in Wellington, and doing laundry has NEVER made me this happy. Obviously I had washed small things in my hotel rooms throughout the tour, but this hotel has washing machines and dryers, and it made me so happy to do my laundry! A real joy!!!

Another comforting thing to me was my stay in the hotel in Auckland. The rooms are set up like small apartments, with a mini-kitchen, a dining table, a living room area and the bedroom is separate. I very much liked keeping the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door for the full three days. That way, whenever I came back to my room, everything was exactly the way I had left it, and it was like being in my own apartment. Not having new, perfectly folded towels every day was nice, but I think what really made it feel like a home away from home was coming back every night to see a clumsily made bed instead of a bed that had been made to perfection by housekeeping.

Today was a very tiring day for some reason. Perhaps playing the Prokofiev 1st Concerto with the APO last night, getting only six hours of sleep, and then having the following schedule had something to do with why I’m so exhausted right now…

7:30am - Wake up
8:30am - Meet Michael and Christine Hill for breakfast
10:10am - Hotel pick up to go to the Friends of the APO luncheon/interview
10:30am - Friends of the APO luncheon/interview
11:15am - Drive to the airport
12:30pm - Flight Auckland-Wellington
1:30pm - Pick up at Wellington Airport to hotel, then to NZ School of Music
3pm - Rehearsal with Diedre
6:15pm - Drive back to hotel
7pm - Start laundry
7:45pm - Move clothes to dryer
8pm - Dinner
9:30pm - Pick up clean, dry clothes from laundry room
10:30pm - Lights out