Picture A Day - Day 16

Day 16: A picture of your biggest insecurity.

Watching myself age hasn’t been easy, partly because I’ve been ill for the past 15 years. But I’m starting to see that some of the premature ageing has reversed. In fact, I look younger than I did five or six years ago. No one ever guesses my age correctly, but then, no one ever could in the past, either. My insecurity about my looks (which I’ve always struggled with) is diminishing though, mostly due to the fact that I’m just not as hung up on outer things as I used to be, so I'm not sure this is an insecurity issue. I don't indulge in that sort of thing too much anymore. I hasten to add that getting older isn't a problem for me. In fact, I'm rather enjoying it since I said "screw it" to growing up.


If You Pour it, They Will Come

It started with a simple private message. A friend who moved away last year will be in town this weekend and she wanted to get together. Will I call a couple of people...

Because I've lately been missing the Friday nights of younger years, when friends would drop in bearing bottles and munchies, I leapt at the opportunity to open our home to an impromptu get together. I texted a couple of people, then created an event in Facebook.

"BYOB and a munchie to share," I said, and now the little get together has turned into a pretty good-sized party. People are even driving in from out-of-state and spending the night in a hotel.

Although it's gray and drizzly, we're promised 75+ degree weather this weekend (90 on Sunday), so that means we'll be using the front porch for the first time this year.

My friends. I love how bohemian and  spontaneous they all are. This is going to be fun!


Picture A Day - Day 15

Day 15: A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently.

Researching, writing, publishing and promoting a book. I had no idea what all went into it and I find it fascinating. People sometimes write to me asking how to write a novel, and I always tell them there’s so much more than just getting an idea for a story. You have to not only put yourself on the operating table, but each and every one of your characters as well. You have to bleed, go in there. Writing a book isn’t just the physical act of writing, it’s keeping your scalpel razor sharp and cutting away at yourself without flinching. This has been an amazing thing for me.


Stepping Up to Make a Formal Introduction

I've mentioned Tobiah in a couple of posts, but it's high time I really introduce you to her. I mean, like, formally. I came to meet her online through my son Micah, who produced her CD, Step Up; when I heard her music I was awestruck. She is such a talented songwriter, and I think you know how picky I am, being a songwriter myself. I heartily suggest you check out her CD. No worries, Tobiah, being the generous lady that she is, allows you to listen to it in its entirety before you buy it. She recently performed (with guitarist Nigel Beck) a live concert. Here is an excellent review, by Indie Showcase, of that performance.

TOBIAH - Thursday 24th March 2011 - The Blue Coconut Club. Pulborough. U.K. 
I was fortunate enough to have interviewed Tobiah on the 12th February this year for Indie Showcase. After having heard her new album "Step Up" many many times preceding the interview and loving it in its entirety, I had exceedingly high expectations of her gig. 
She shared the stage with another talented musician Nigel Beck, whose singing and finger picking skills on his 6 and 12 string guitars were breathtaking. They showcased their own songs individually and some they sang as a duet. Nothing special about the latter you might think, had it not been for the fact they'd only met each other for the first time the day before the gig! One day to rehearse live together but they sounded like they had been a musical couple for eons.  They complemented each other perfectly and I truly hope that this isn't a one-off and that I'll have the opportunity to listen to them live again.
I have to admit to having been put off going to live gigs because of my expectations. Yes, I know it's my fault, but when I go to listen to an artist or a band, I want to be able to hear them and just them. I don't want to hear the tinkle of glasses in the background or the quiet murmurings of people attempting to whisper to each other. At The Blue Coconut Club the owner Mr. Jimmy Lee, himself a very accomplished musician who also played on the night, laid down the rules, gently. This is how a music venue should be, perhaps it helps having a musician as the owner. The regulars knew and welcomed the rules and they were there for the same reason as I, they showed the respect due to artists and there wasn't a sound from them, apart from the well-deserved applause at the end of each song.
Tobiah looked absolutely gorgeous, but this isn't a lady who's just about aesthetics. Her voice, the lyrics and her guitar skills enthralled the audience. I felt privileged to have heard her album already, for I knew what to expect and she certainly didn't disappoint. Playing live shows up artists weaknesses and Tobiah was strong, very strong. 
I expect her to go far. 
But an artist needs appreciation from many to succeed, and we the audience cannot appreciate what we've not heard before. It is for outlets such as Indie Showcase to spread the word, showcase their music. 
I urge you all to listen to Tobiah, there will be the majority of you unlucky enough not to be able to see Tobiah live, but her album "Step Up" is the next closest thing.
Tobiah, I know I will be safe speaking on behalf of the others at the gig in thanking you for a wonderful night.

I wish I could have been there, I knew I was missing something very special. But, good news! She has expressed that she might like to come to the States to perform!

Picture A Day - Day 14

Day 14: A Picture of Someone Who Inspires You.

Since the evening I met director Larry Weinstein (Rhombus Media, Toronto), I’ve been inspired by him. There are few people who have had that kind of impact on me—Maestro Salazar may very well be the only one, come to think of it. Working with Larry was pure joy for me and I’d leap at the chance to work with him again, even if it meant just sharpening his pencils and emptying his waste bin. If I were younger, I’d ask to intern for him. Just being in the same room with him is inspiring. And he's a darned good friend as well. I just love him.


My Favorite Waste of Time

I'm thinking that my inner self just knew there was an important anniversary taking place. Why else would I have posted two entries about Ville in one week? Today is the 25th anniversary of the day we met. Wow! Twenty-five years!...


Picture A Day - Day 13

Day 13: A picture of your favorite band or artist.

Was there ever really a question?


Season Between the Seasons

There is a blessed space between the Spring and Summer seasons here, when it's too warm to leave the windows closed and it's too cool to turn on the AC. For about a month we can sleep with the ceiling fan on and a window open. This is something I've quite gotten used to. In California, I never kept my windows open at night. Well, in Ventura I did, because I lived in a top-floor apartment; perfectly safe, and perfect for catching the cool ocean breeze that came up the hill from the beach.

But all of this perfect 80° weather reminds me that it's time for me to get outside with the hedge trimmers and the gloves; there are flower beds to prepare for summer. If I had a tractor mower, I'd mow the lawn (it's a huge yard). The landlord is supposed to do that, and he does a good job once he starts coming out every two weeks, but he hasn't started that routine yet and our yard looks like crap...


Picture A Day - Day 12

Day 12: A picture of something you love.

I have to confess that I’m a big sap when it comes to the love songs of the 1980s and 90s. You know the ones: Cant Fight This Feeling Anymore by REO, I Just Fall In Love Again by Anne Murray, When He Shines by Sheena Easton. I love ‘em, I love ‘em, and they always bring me to tears and fill me with a delicious, temporary melancholia.

I never bought any of the albums these songs are on, or anything by these artists, but I loved the "soft rock" stations we used to get back then. When I was a performer singer-songwriter, this genre of music was called MOR: Middle-of-the-Road. I even wrote a lot of songs in this style. I swear these love ballads release infatuation endorphins into the brain.

As much as I love real Rock (I could listen to Zeppelin's Dazed and Confused all damned day), I equally love MOR.


Picture A Day - Day 11

Day 11: A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without.

My talented, eccentric, mutually supportive, full of life and love family. Yes, we're blended, but like the perfect margarita, we're blended in all the right ways!

(Left to right: Pot Pie, Joel, Heather, Nathan, Micah, Nettl, and Lauren.)


Picture A Day - Day 10

Day 10: A picture of the person you do the most ****** up things with.

I don’t know about ****** up things, but Ville and I have certainly done a lot of weird and wonderful things in the 25 years that we’ve known each other. Some things we’re proud to pants ourselves (and each other) with, and some things we’ll take to the grave.

The one thing (although there were many) that drew us together when we first met was that we're both prop comics, camera hams, spotlight stealers, and improv artists. We'll upstage you in a heartbeat and won't even mean to. In earlier days a party didn't start until we walked into the room, and few people could keep up with us once we were there. Those that tried usually got left in the dust. We can't help it. We're just kinetic when we get together. Libra and Gemini, you know? We spark off each other and inspire each other to higher and higher levels of idiocy. Then we pay for it the next day. I've always compared us to Lennon/McCartney, Pats/Eds, and Groucho/Chico Marx.

I can't decide on just one picture for this one, so you get three, not counting one at the top, which was taken on New Year's Eve, 1988. And while drinking on New Year'e Eve isn't particularly ****** up, I think it's pretty clear that we were ****** up.

Are You In, Mr. Miller?

Have you heard? Henry Miller's Pacific Palisades house is for sale. The five-bedroom traditional has been updated, but much of it remains the same as when Miller died there in June of 1980. As I looked at the pictures of the house on the real estate page, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live there, especially as a writer. Working in the study would be awesome. But that's not liable to happen since the place has a $4.5 million price tag. Gak! There is no mention of its famous former owner. What makes me cock my head though is that the house is situated in a housing tract.

Henry Miller. Housing tract.

Nope, can't work that out in my head. When I think of Miller, I picture him in either Paris of the 1930s, or in Big Sur, definitely NOT an over-priced tract home in L.A.

What would you do if you lived in a house that once belonged to a hero of yours? If I owned this house, I think I'd hold monthly book readings/signings by independent authors.


Picture A Day - Day 9

Day 9: A picture of something you want to do before you die.

I want to record again, preferably an album. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or complicated and it doesn't have to be released publicly, just something to give my family and friends. I have some really good songs that I’d like to get down before my voice starts to weaken because when I'm gone, the songs are gone.


Picture A Day - Day 8

Day 8: A picture that makes you laugh.

Ville has a habit of sticking things under her nose and holding them there. I’ve seen her hold eating utensils, cigarettes, guitar picks, pretzel sticks… I can’t begin to remember everything I've seen stuck under her nose.

On New Years Eve of 2007 Nettl and I had a Tiki Lounge party. At one point, at the exact same moment, Ville and I each put some popper streamers under our nose and looked at each other. Fortunately, someone had the camera. What you might not be able to see in this picture is that I was trying very hard not to crack up.

This picture always, without fail, makes me laugh. I’m laughing now, just writing this.

(Ugh. I like my hair so much better long...)

Review: A Freewheelin' Time by Suze Rotolo

I’ve always wished that I’d been born in the right place and time to have experienced the Greenwich Village of the early-to-mid 1960s. Although I wanted to be a rock star, my true inspiration as a singer-songwriter came through folk music.

A little too young to immerse myself in the music of Phil Ochs, Odetta, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Ian and Sylvia, I found my true mentors in Bob Dylan, Donovan, Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, and Gordon Lightfoot. These were some of the first folk artists whose music legitimized the genre, thanks to Columbia Records’ decision to sign Dylan in 1962. I was only 11 at that time, so I still had to wait a while for folk music to come to me...


Picture a Day - Day 7

Day 7: A picture of your most treasured item.

It's very hard to see in this picture, but this is an heirloom ring that has traveled through my matriarchal line since the 16th century. Well, not the ring itself, the stone. The story, as it was handed down to me, goes something like this:

Five-hundred years ago, one of our mothers, while walking on a beach in southern Ireland with her younger sister, saw a stone shining up from the sand as a wave receded. She took it to a jeweler, who cut it into this spherical shape and had it set into a ring as per her explicit instructions. It brought her such good luck, and intuition when she placed it under her tongue, that she handed it down to her eldest daughter on her thirteenth birthday. Thus it has continued until it came to me. It has been set into numerous rings, its current being a simple gold band, the stone held by four prongs. The stone spins in its setting so that it can be set according to the moon's phases.

I don't know how much of the legend is true. Firstly, I know the Irish and our love of spinning a good and mysterious yarn. Also, I can't find any evidence that moonstones occur in Ireland. My mother told me that her mother, Nora, received it on her thirteenth birthday from her mother, Anna, who came from Ireland during the days of the immigration. Nora handed it down to her eldest daughter, Helen, on her thirteenth birthday. When Helen died it was given to my mother, who gave it to me when I turned thirteen. I tend to believe a lot of what I was told about the ring--I'm quite aware of the pagan leanings of my Irish matriarchs. Nora herself was an herbalist, concocting all kinds of medicines for her family. She told my mother stories of the "Little People" of Ireland, stories that my mother passed down to me.

I'm not really sure what I should do with the ring when I pass. I have no blood daughters or granddaughters--no females of any kind in my blood clan. It all ends with me. A psychic once told me that I was the woman who found it on the beach, in a previous life, and that it should be buried with me, having completed its cycle.

Who knows?


Radio Interview

Next Sunday evening I'll be interviewed on WBKM's Paradigms, by Baruch Zeichner. We'll be discussing my book and playing some of the great music that inspired it. Tune in!

Date: Sunday, March 20
Time: 8pm EST, 7pm CST, 6pm MST, 5pm PST


Picture a Day - Day 6

Day 6: A picture of a person you'd love to trade places with for a day.

I’d love to trade places with the main character of my rock and roll trilogy. Gordon Hammond lives on a country estate is Royal Tunbridge Wells and when he’s not in the studio, touring, or making business deals for his group, Tuppence, he strolls his estate in Wellies, followed by Chester, a large, ginger Siberian cat. He meditates by a duck pond, or in his Victorian solarium, pulls fallen branches from the stream, then goes back to the manor for a nice cuppa and a chip butty. In the evening he sits with his friends around the large kitchen table drinking wine and jamming. Yeah. I’d trade with him for a day, gladly!


Picture a Day - Day 5

Day 5: A picture of your favorite memory.

I earlier mentioned growing up with the Harris kids on the ranch in Solvang. One of things we loved most was sliding down our favorite hill on cardboard in June after the grass turned yellow. California turns golden in the summer, which makes for dry, slick sliding.

The hill was pretty damned steep, as I recall, with a dry creek bed at the bottom, but we’d learned how to bail right before we went over the cliff. The angels that watch over kids must be exhausted!

(By the way, all of these pictures embiggify when clicked.)


Picture a Day - Day 4

Day 4: A picture of your night.

Not much to say about this. Bedroom, Facebook, dinner.


Picture a Day - Day 3

Day 3: A picture of the cast from your favorite show.

This is the cast from the first three seasons of The Lovejoy Mysteries, a British series that I watched on PBS in the mid-90s.

I recently discovered I could watch every episode of every season on MrLovejoy86's channel on YouTube. I haven’t gotten through them all, but I’m working in it!


Picture a Day - Day 2

Day 2: A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest.

This was taken of Cathy Harris and me in the spring of 1969. I was a senior in high school and she was a junior. Over the break we’d written a dozen or so songs together—silly, comedic things based on TV commercials—and a couple of them weren’t bad...


Picture a Day - Day 1

Over in the Facebook neighborhood there's a meme going around that I thought I'd like to feature here on my blog. It's called Picture a Day. The premise is easy. Post a picture and some verbiage each day for 31 days.

These won't be my only posts; you'll still get my usual crap as well.

Day 1:  A picture of yourself with ten insignificant facts (I added the insignificant part).
  1. I'm not lactose intolerant, but I am allergic to the gases that plastic milk containers emit. You don't want to know me after I've had a glass of milk.
  2. Waking up and going to sleep are the hardest things I do all day.
  3. I really don't like phone conversations. Please email or text me instead. This does not apply, however, to people who live a great distance from me.
  4. Not to complain, I live with chronic pain, and have done so since 1997. Without drugs. Consequently, my pain tolerance has increased and the pain doesn't get to me like it used to. This will come in handy when I'm really old. One of my worse fears is being drug dependent like my mother was at the end of her life.
  5. As much as I dislike phone conversations, I love getting mail and email. I miss snail mail and I'm thinking of getting back into it this summer; there are a couple of people I'd rather write handwritten letters to than email.
  6. I love Bollywood movies. But then, you probably already knew that.
  7. I don't give a crap about what celebrities and politicians do in their private lives. It's none of my business, and I don't understand people who keep up with such things.
  8. If I could have the car of my dreams, it would be either a Mini-Cooper or a Jeep.
  9. The thing I miss most in my life right now (besides money) is a dog. I've never not had a dog and it's been 10 years. I want a dog, but our landlord doesn't allow them.
  10. As much as I talk about England or Vienna, if I could afford to live anywhere I want, I'd go back to Ventura.
If you want to play along, here's the list.


What a Day That Was!

It started out like any other day... Actually, it didn't. I hadn't gotten much sleep because the evening before, plagued with a bad headache, I took some Excedrin, which kept me wired until 4:30 am. Then I kept waking up (I forgot to wear my earplugs, so I heard the garbage truck, the boom-boom cars on their way to school... I heard everything. I finally fell good and asleep around 8:00, but was soon wakened again. Can't remember why. I got up and plugged in the coffee...


Giving Credit Where it's Due

Sometimes I might complain about living in a smaller town than I might prefer. Stillwater isn't really all that small, actually. During the school year there are upwards of about 50,000 people. That decreases considerably during the summer when the university students leave.

Anyway, one of the pluses of living here is smaller businesses, which means faster, friendlier service. Yesterday, for no apparent reason and without any warning, our DSL modem went dead. I waited about an hour, then called Chickasaw, our local telephone and internet company. No automated system, no being transferred from one desk to the next, no trying to understand the Hindi accent, no hassles. The girl took my information and within 15 minutes the tech was at our door. Cost us nothing, and 10 minutes later we were up on the net again.

So bravo, Chickasaw! Here's to you!