Day 277 - Layne (2nd person I approached)
October 04, 2014 - I chatted with Layne as we both waited to cross the street. She was wearing bright red and white striped, knee high socks, with her trousers tucked into them. I complimented her on the choice of socks. She smiled at me and said she had just been to an event and she was wearing them for that. Layne was just coming from the annual ‘Walk for Farm Animals’ which raises awareness for animal welfare. (*Fact Check - see link below.) Once we got to the other side of the street, I figured I’d ask Layne if she’d chat with me for The Stranger Project. I had already gotten a sense she was outgoing and very personable. She agreed on the condition that it would only be five minutes. Another rule about to break…
Layne was born in Bakersfield, California, an agricultural region located one-hundred kilometres north of Los Angeles.
“I had an older brother,” she said.
“He passed away in 1992 from lung cancer. There’s a lot of pesticides in Bakersfield. We were close as small children.” Layne started playing the piano when she was seven years old.
“My mother wanted me to learn. She played the violin and piano herself. I wanted to play in the school orchestra. There wasn’t room for another pianist. The teacher gave me a double bass (bass violin), locked me in a room and I had to learn that. I had an instructional manual, but I pretty much started learning to play by myself. It took me about three months, and then they let me loose in the orchestra!” said Layne, her eyes wide.
“I was thirteen, and I remember being on stage, there were nine other bassists and we were playing Wagner. It was like being in the centre of a flower that is blooming,” said Layne, recalling that pivotal moment when she realized that she was playing in the orchestra.
Layne continued in the school orchestra throughout high-school.
“After I finished high-school, I went to Bakersfield College and studied music. I did two years there and then transferred to UofW (University of Washington) to continue studying music. With the two years I had at Bakersfield, I got my undergrad degree from UofW in two years,” she said.
“Then I went to Stanford and got my masters in Music History. My parents told me they would only pay for my Masters if I went to Stanford, so I worked hard, and went there,” Layne said with much modesty.
“In my second year, my parents were having some financial difficulties. I worked throughout the year. I had a job as a ‘resident assistant,’ that was like a mentor and assistant house mother in the dormitory. I also worked in the library and I got a job playing the piano for a musical theatre company. I managed to pay the entire tuition for my second year, by myself,” said told me.
Layne met her husband while she was at Stanford.
“He was studying for his PhD in English, and teaching there as well. Once we both finished, my husband got a job in Chicago and we moved there. We had our first son as well. This was around the time that the Cold war was going on and the race riots were spreading across the States (United States of America). We wanted out. My husband applied to every college in Canada. A mentor of his had told him that UBC (University of British Columbia) was the second best in Canada. He got several offers, but we chose UBC, and Vancouver. He taught English there,” said Layne. They had their second child, another son.
“I started playing with the Vancouver Symphony. I did that for seven years,” she said. Layne and her husband separated.
“I was on my own for almost forty years. I met a wonderful man, a few years back and we’ve been spending time together," she said, smiling sweetly. Layne went on to tell me that he’s a wonderful, talented man, how she admires him and is delighted with his company. I remarked that her outlook on life probably contributes to her lively character and warm personality.
“Well, I think it keeps me young, yes. That and being a vegan! I’m seventy-eight. I became a vegetarian in the 1970’s. A friend came over to the house and cooked dinner, all vegetarian. I was amazed. It was so clean and tasted so wonderful. It was delicious and cheaper too!” she exclaimed. Layne has been a vegan for the last ten years.
“it’s important to me. I have never wanted to look back,” she said.
“I still teach music, privately. My sons are grown and doing their own thing. One son is a computer technician, and the other one is a musician,” she said. I asked if she felt that she had imparted the joy of music to her son the way her mother did for her.
“Well, we approached it differently. My mother stopped playing once I learned. I pleaded and pleaded with her to play, but she never did. She stopped altogether. She told me that I was so much better than she was and that she felt she couldn’t play for anyone. It was really rather sad. I was named after her violin teacher, that’s how important music had been to her. She denied herself so much by not playing,” said Layne. I could hear the sadness in her voice.
“My son and I have completely different tastes in music. He played rock for so many years. Then he went to India and everything changed for him. He’s interested in Middle Eastern and indian music now. He’s living in Europe making instruments, and other kinds of music,” she said. There was an almost comical, light sense of disbelief in her voice and on her face.
I wanted to be sure I had the information about the ‘Walk for Farm Animals’ correct.
“I got involved maybe six years ago,” Layne told me.
“A mutual friend of a friend told me about it, and I decided to go along. It’s a really enjoyable event. They have entertainment, and music and people dress up. It starts at the Vancouver Art Gallery and we walk through the downtown area, raising awareness,” she said. They raise thousands of dollars each year for Farm Sanctuary, a leading farm animal protection organization.
“It really is a fun event and they do important work. That’s why I have these socks on. It’s part of my costume. I went dressed as chicken, complete with webbed feet and everything!” #notastranger
*Fact Check - http://liberationbc.org/projects