Andrei Strizek

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Meanwhile, Over on Instagram ...

Downtown Oklahoma City, OK

Downtown Oklahoma City, OK

Tulsa Union Depot, Tulsa, OK.

Tulsa Union Depot, Tulsa, OK.

I won't say that Instagram has become my favored social media platform, but I do know that since starting the Grinch tour, it's the one I've utilized the most. I'm on a few different platforms, and each has its perks and flaws. When I'm out and about in a new city visiting churches and museums and finding random tidbits of trivia, it's difficult to keep up with Twitter. GIFs on Tumblr practically refuse to load on 4G, LTE, or horrible hotel wifi, so I don't really bother. (And using these apps use up my phone's battery pretty quickly.) Instagram, however, is easy to scroll through and catch up on. People post fewer pics than they do tweets. (And I follow fewer people on Insta than on Twitter.) Being away from the hotel room for most of a day means I'm out & about taking pictures, randomly Tweeting (but not following my timeline), and in general finding things out about a new place. Posting pics of buildings, friends, or myself, is relatively quick and easy to do. And it's a great way to find pictures of places in a new city that are worth visiting.

I am also growing to love Instagram more because of the brief moments of creativity it offers to its users. I not only have the opportunity to change filters and saturations to create a different image than originally taken, but I've noticed that, since using it more, I tend to look at things differently. I see buildings and shapes and shadows more through the lens of an artistic photographer rather than someone taking pictures to show the family over the next holiday meal (or one who takes pictures solely of that meal). Playing the same show 10 times a week can be a little monotonous; not being able to bring my keyboard home with me so I can play some Schubert or Bach in the hotel room doesn't help. It's important to find a creative outlet, and as minuscule as Insta may be - and as much as some my think that it's  a purely superficial app - it's become a pleasant little escape for me.

The beginning of a four-show day in Oklahoma City, OK.

The beginning of a four-show day in Oklahoma City, OK.

There's a part of me that wish I were posting more pictures to Instagram. Well, to any site, actually. I've taking a lot of pictures so far, and most of them haven't seen the light of day. Some of them will find their way onto Instagram, Facebook, or my website. Most probably won't. But that's also okay. I enjoy taking photographs, even with just my iPhone, and it's such a blessing to not have to buy all the film that I used to for my SLR back in the in "old days."

Of course, not all my pictures are amazing. Not all of them are posted "Insta"-ly. Obviously I'll post the occasional selfie, since that is apparently a defining feature of this time period and generation. And sometimes I simply feel the need to post something on Instagram because the image is too dark, and that app's filters are the easiest way for me to use to adjust the picture.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying my pictures are glorious or that I'm at the level of a professional photographer. And Instagram has its faults: sometimes images are grainy when not viewed on a phone's small screen; the square image can be constraining; images don't appear automatically in Twitter's native apps; the filters and other options aren't as powerful as on other apps, etc. But I enjoy using this a lot more than when I would spend time in a dark room filled with the aroma of chemicals. And sometimes a picture can share a lot more about my adventures on the road than a Tweet or a long-winded blog post (oops).

So if you're looking for where I'll be hanging out the most until the New Year, Instagram is most likely the place you'll find me. It's where I've most thoroughly documented this tour and I don't foresee that changing. In the meantime, below are a few Insta pics I've posted over the last few weeks.

Exploring OKC: Remembering Tragedy

It was a nice, calm spring day. I was in 2nd hour 8th grade social studies class when our teacher, Mr Marty, got a phone call and ran to turn on the TV in the front of the classroom. We were suddenly watching a scene that seemed out of an action film: a gaping hole in a large office building, surrounded by rubble, fire trucks, and rescue workers. I remember being shocked by the destruction to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, but I don’t remember much else from that morning. The memories of that morning have faded, not only with time, but - as I'm sure it is with many people - with the larger impact of the World Trade Center attacks of 2001.

Almost 20 years later, whatever memories remained of that morning and of emotions came flooding back, though, as I sat in a nondescript replica of a government office, listening to a likewise nondescript, routine water rights hearing take place. 2 minutes into the tape-recorded meeting, there was a large explosion, followed immediately by sounds of chaos and turmoil. Almost immediately after that, a cacophony of reporters, news anchors, sirens, bombarded my ears. It wasn't like I was watching the aftermath of the 1995 bombing again; this time, it felt like I was a part of it. I couldn't tell you the last time I felt such powerful emotions.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum (housed in the former Journal Record Building), taken from the Alfred P. Murrah Plaza - the still extant plaza for the Murrah Federal Building. Photograph by Andrei Strizek.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m grateful for the time that we have to explore cities while on tour with the Grinch musical. Our first full week of performances was in Oklahoma City, and there were many surprises in town: a wonderful art museum, the First National Building, the American Banjo Museum, and some great stores and restaurants. Yet I knew before arriving that visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum would be something I had to do, no matter what.

While remembrances of 9/11 are doused in patriotism and nationalism, everything at the National Memorial was very personal. Very Human. The event memorialized is obviously very specific, but there is a larger picture presented here: one of human suffering, of good versus evil, and, most importantly, the ability of humans to come together to collectively grieve and support each other at times of crisis.

We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
— The inscription carved on the outside of each gate.

After the shock of "witnessing" the initial impact, the remainder of the museum is much more calm. They chronicle the rescue efforts, memorialize those who died, document how the FBI was able to track down the offenders. It ends with a beautiful view of the symbolic memorial: next to a room that was damaged in the explosion and is kept as it was found, you look out onto the peaceful reflecting pool and Rescuers' Orchard, see the strong elm tree that survived the bombing, and, across the reflecting pool, the 168 chairs representing everyone who died that morning.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial. Photograph by Andrei Strizek.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial. Photograph by Andrei Strizek.

The grounds of the memorial are still and peaceful, even though they're amidst a revitalizing downtown area. Open all day and night, year-round, one gets the impression that this is indeed a place to come and remember and pay tribute to the people who died - many of whom were humble federal government workers, the kind you run into any time you have to fill out paperwork, in countless offices across the country. the kind who come home to their families at 5pm for a night of a home-cooked meal and watching the latest sitcom on ABC. I appreciated that there were no metal detectors to go through. There was no searching of backpacks and handbags upon entering the grounds. In an era of overly-heightened security and fear, this memorial still lets someone come in off the streets and enter unharassed. You can spend time wandering between the 9:01 and 9:03 gates (meant to represent the human spirit before and after the bombing). You can walk up to the individual chairs. You can view tributes left on the chain-link fence, and see a small part of the original building's foundation that is still standing.

From the moment I approached the memorial, I felt that it was done “right,” whatever that may mean. A visitor is given the time and a deserving place to consider that morning, to pay respect to those who died, to recognize the good that can come from a horrific tragedy. Pictures do not do it justice; in a place like this, pictures only serve as a form of meta-memory. Yet that is what I will take with me away from the OKC memorial: memories of an amazing tribute to those overtaken by a large tragedy on that clear spring day back in eighth grade.

There are more pictures of the memorial here. Feel free to share your memory of this memorial or the event down below.


Technical Difficulties

I've been trying to get some pictures posted from last week's production of Songs For a New World, but I'm having difficulties. My computer doesn't read the DVD that has the pictures on it, so I need to use the computer lab at school. I sifted through the 500+ pictures today and started putting a few up on Facebook. When I tried to get them on the website, it said they loaded but they never showed up. I'm not sure if the files are too large (about 10 MB each), and I need to compress them, or what exactly the issue is. I hope to get pictures up soon, and maybe some video clips when I get a copy (but that could bring about a whole other host of difficulties) ... (Read more at
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