[Begin reading with Eyes in the Back of My Head]
In the spring of 2000, I maintained a very busy performance schedule in the DC/Baltimore area and a growing private lesson studio in Falls Church, Virginia. One of the finer details to freelancing I learned after moving to the DC area in mid-1998 was that in order to work, you must work. I know that sounds redundant, but let me explain.
In an area flush with qualified performers, it is vitally important to maintain networks, provide quality and reliable service, and to exhibit a desire to supply that service without any hint of desperation. Nothing makes you less qualified (if only in others' perceptions) than a desperation for gigs, inaccuracy or a sloppiness to detail, or the worse curse - unreliability. The axiom that you are "only as good as your last performance" remains true.
I remember vividly during March 2000 being booked solid with playing gigs. There was one week I was doing some extra work performing at a special convocation at Howard University. This was a good-paying job at union scale. We always want to play at union scale (or above). On that Thursday, I had a massive, snotty-nosed, purse-filled-to-the-brim-with-wet-tissues, ears-plugged kinda cold. The type of cold where others stay clear and you don't even bother trying to approach anybody. A nasty cold.
On the following Monday, I noticed something slightly off with my eyes. It was hard to explain but I called the optometrist anyway. With eyes as near-sighted as mine, I had been repeatedly warned over the years about the dangers of a thinning retina. I got myself into the doctor's office to get it checked out. Without anything obviously amiss, he instructed me to return immediately if it got any worse.
Last same week I was scheduled to perform with the Fairfax Symphony in their annual 'Kiddie' concerts presented for the 4th graders of Fairfax County Public Schools. The county school district is so large that even with busing the children to the 1935-seat GMU Performing Arts Center for the concerts, it took scheduling nine performances to get everybody in for the 50-minute show. That's a lot of 4th graders. The first day of 'Kiddie' concerts was on Tuesday of that particular week.
On Tuesday morning I woke up early to get ready for the mid-morning concerts. As soon as I put my glasses on, I KNEW something was terribly wrong. It looked as though someone had smeared vaseline on my lenses. I called my Mom and began crying uncontrollably. My greatest fear was that my retina had already detached and that it was too late to fix it. My Mom tried to calm me down and offered to take me back to my optometrist's office.
Once there, the doctor performed a standard eye exam and it seemed that all was well, until.....
Next: Red to Brown and the Great Gray Blob