Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chili Cook-Offs and Other Excuses To Sing

Oh Boy ... another chunk of time gone by with no blog entry from me. It's not my fault I tells ya, these are busy times. I got through Thanksgiving alright. I accepted an invitation to dinner at my friend John Zipperer's home. Pretty much showed up empty-handed, and was fed very nicely. His wife Julie made the whole traditional meal, and aced every bit of it. John M. was there, and Art and Tara and Jimmy. Afterward we played music, and were joined by Marilyn Babcock. In a while she and I repaired to the wilds of Topanga Canyon where we ate a little more, and played and sang much more. The musicians commandeered a segment of the house with a very high ceiling, and a stair and balcony arrangement that filled with listeners. I'm blessed (and sometimes cursed) with a voice that projects, and I love a space with a lot of headroom. I can fill it, and did.

It was a good day. And I kept cynicism out of the picture as well as I ever do.

A couple days after that, we did a Backyard Invasion at the home of our friend Glen Duncan down in South Pasadena. Glen is a good egg ... likes what we do, and was happy to have us. He is also something of a wine expert, and was celebrating the completion of the wine cellar that graces the basement of his historic Craftsman home. It had rained the night before, but we had a window of cold clear sky. I hauled the stage, chairs, sound system, but Glen and his brother and sister-in-law did most of the cooking and beautifully. Luke Halpin joined us on fiddle, and Greg and Genevieve were there too. We made a good noise. Phil Ward opened brilliantly, setting a tone I had only to ride like a happy wave. We stayed late-ish moving the song-circle inside ahead of the arriving rain. A perfect day; everything coming easily that food and music can bring.

By day, since then, I've been finishing up the paint-job of my parents' place, pausing for a quick show at Kulak's last Thursday. Then, several days ago, I had to begin in earnest, the ramp-up to last night's event: the big chili showdown, pitting me against Julie Sandoval of The Coffee Gallery.

I have somewhat of a reputation as a bad-ass chili cook. I have to feed 50 to a hundred people on a very regular basis. Sometimes I'll do a beef stew, or a chicken soup, or a lentil stew, or even a pretty great sausage gumbo. If it can be made in one of my four huge pots, and feed a person full for about a buck per, I will cook it and haul it. Together with Alexia's cornbread, Marilyn's brownies, and a salad or two, we bring a feast. My chili has emerged as the most requested entree, and I've got it worked out pretty well.

Julie, ever the rascal, began to refer to her own chili as "better than Dave's", and before you knew it she was selling it in tubs from the fridge at the coffee house with labels that said just that: Better than Dave's. It was decided (probably in the fevered mind of Duane Thorin), that there would be a showdown, a throwdown, a chili cook-off wherein Julie and I would cross ladles, and settle the controversy. Never mind that neither of us cares a whit about winning such a contest or has the slightest ego-attachment to any perception of chili supremacy. Duane thought it would be fun, and Julie and I were too slow to dodge clear of his locomotive energies. There would be a cook-off, and a show, and it would happen on an un-booked Wednesday night in Bob Stane's Backstage. Last Night.

Wednesdays are a tough sell. Particularly if a good portion of your habitual audience lives in either the San Fernando Valley or the West Side of Los Angeles, as does mine. Traffic from say, Santa Monica, to Altadena on a weeknight, is just a straight deal-breaker. And this thing was to happen at 7pm. Good luck! So Julie and I did the best we could with promotion. Donna made flyers repleat with pictures of the angry gladiators. Email blasts were fired off. We bombarded one another's Facebook walls with pictures and trash-talk. Julie sent a photo of a can-opener captioned simply "Dave's secret weapon". I replied that the only can I'd open would be one of whup-ass. She sent a picture of a grocery-shelf stacked with tins of Denison's and Hormel. "Julie's Pantry" was my reponse. And back and forth. I guess we created a little interest. We had a good turn-out, and both big anonymously-labeled pots were empty at night's end.

Greg is in Europe doing a sound-installation on a Disney cruise-ship, and Genevieve was waylayed by a seasonal acting gig, so I was on my own. Luke's folks, Phil & Nancy did a fine set after Duane's insanely funny reading of his hit "Avocado" (sung to Desperado), and I went on. I did several songs solo, and then brought up John-Michael Kaye, my former and long-time lead guitarist and back-up singer. We hadn't been onstage together in years, and we only played a couple that he knew, but it was great fun, and apparently not so loose as to disappoint anybody.

Lotta laughs. Some great food, and real good music. A lot of faces I'd never seen before who I expect to see again. Who won the challenge? I won't say. But let me ask this. Is it likely that I'd even mention it if I'd gone down to ignominous defeat? If you go to Julie's Facebook page you might see the headstone I photo-shopped and posted before I went off to sleep last night.!/profile.php?id=1702820341

I took the day off today, and tagged along on another Duane-fired adventure. In the interest of brevity, I'll save that for my next post. In general, life is good. Money is tight as it is for so many of us, but not so tight as to cause more than average levels of stress. I've got a worn-out elbow and shoulder getting worse, but neither seems to object to guitar picking. I have good friends and a warm bed. My children are beyond anything I ever earned or deserved. The weather has turned brisk, and Christmas lights are twinkling here and there. I hope you all have reached a similar reckoning with all of this year's challenges as we climb it's last few steps.

Yours, Dave

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving? Sure, Why Not?

I saw an interview on the Today Show yesterday as I poured coffee into myself and prepared for another day of work at the old family home in San Gabriel. It was Colin Firth on to talk about his new movie, The King's Speech. He was wished a happy Thanksgiving, whereupon the interviewer caught herself, saying ,"You don't celebrate Thanksgiving do you?". He being British. He told her no and added that his country was much the poorer for it. I agree, I suppose.

To be truthful, I have never much cared for Holidays. It seems that we are always being directed to feel one thing or another. Be patriotic, people, it's the 4th of July. It's Christmas, time to be rapturous over your Savior or your stuff (take your pick). It's Valentine's day, please try to muster a ghost of the old romantic voodoo. This stuff always makes me feel a little off-put. Being tasked to suddenly feel something specific usually only makes me feel cranky. And it doesn't take much to push me over into the traditional anti-Hallmark rant, that so many of us have always at the ready.

Thanksgiving is a different matter. Nearly all of the wisest people I've known, read, or overheard in coffee-houses seem to agree that of all the many talents we humans possess, Gratitude is perhaps the most lovely.

Looking for evidence, I only have to think back to a previous paragraph. It is not hard at all to find examples of human beings oppressing and killing one another over the mentioned emotions. Patriotism? Religion? Materialism? Romantic Love? Any of these can lapse into the sort of obsession that turns us vicious whether alone or with an army. Properly attenuated, each is okay, but watch the throttle, boys and girls.

I think it's safe to say that most of the emotions kindled by our most major holidays, can leap to awful flame. But Gratitude? Do we have examples of men driven wild by their feeling grateful? Have we pummeled other nations into the dirt because we were overwhelmed with humble appreciation for what we had?

Who ever built a bomb, enslaved another or stripped a defenseless country of her resources out of unrestrained thanks-giving?

No, it is always wanting more that does it. I admit it here; I very often want more than I have. If not things, then attention ... acknowledgement ... affection ... something to pump me up, and convince me that I am better than I suspect that I am. But nothing ever works really.

It seems that some of us do 'grateful' much more easily than the rest. Or maybe they just try harder. Whatever the case, I have known people who don't even wait for the third Thursday in November. They set their cruise-control on "thankful" every chance they have. I've noticed that they also seem to be the happiest of us. Coincidence? You tell me.

So, though I don't feel particularly grateful today, I will drag myself from this warm bed, travel to the embrace of friends and family, and pretend that I do. What could it hurt?

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Jeezus ... it's been a week since I sat down to this. I haven't been hiding, or any lazier than usual; just busy and a little overwhelmed. Let me tell you why.

My father died just over a year ago. it was Halloween day, a Saturday. He'd been struggling with a form of Parkinson's and not enjoying life much. But he'd had a couple of good days; slept well, enjoyed his meals, and it was only an hour till a full day of college football kicked off. He sat in his easy chair, pushed it back to full-recline, closed his eyes, and left our world. I'll tell you about him sometime.

My mother, who had been stricken with dementia of a sudden type just that year, and was bed-ridden with a broken hip, was nearly unaware of his passing. The live-in care-giver had left only days before and a fill-in had the sad job of calling the family. A lot changed at that moment. It was suddenly clear that we had to find a place for Mom, and after a search, did just that. She has now been happily settled in a family-run home for eleven months. I'll tell you about her sometime too.

And all that time, our family home - the house where we all grew up - has been sitting vacant. It costs more money for my mother's care than her social security can cover, so we've been in the red every month. We, my sisters and brothers and I, knew that we would eventually have to rent the place out. She isn't coming home. We came to it slowly, but finally got the important stuff stored - antiques, heirlooms - and let the siblings take what each wanted.

That's a funny process. None of us is very materialistic, and anyway, my Folks never were, so there was nothing of particular, objective value. We took things that for some reason meant something to us. Little things mostly. My younger brother asked to have a very old, and never expensive flour sifter. It's the old kind with a trigger handle that causes a scraper to scuff back and forth across a curved screen busting up lumps and making the flour perfect for baking. I guess my mom let him man that machine when she baked at Christmas time and he was a little boy. He took it home happily. One of my sisters searched in vain for the only thing she really wanted, an old steel comb that my dad had for years, a shiny utilitarian thing we all remembered and assumed was still around. She remembered standing behind his chair as a little girl, combing his thick dark hair with that metal comb. I was sorry that we couldn't find it. I took his casual jacket. The two of us had shopped one cold fall day eight years ago, and liked the same one. We bought two of them, his a bit smaller than mine. It's the jacket I'm wearing on the cover of "A Little Farther Down the Line". I later lost mine. Now I have his. It's still too small, but I'll shrink a little.

A lot of it, kitchen items, small appliances, some office gear, a couple of televisions and Mom and Pop's matching Armoires were left. Last weekend we held a yard sale. We stuck little stickers on the things we'd grown up with, collected dimes and dollars, and sent them off with strangers. I don't like things much. Mostly I try to avoid buying anything that I can't make music with, but I felt a pang or two. Oh ... the Pyrex measuring cups. Oh, the living room lamps. Oh. Oh. Oh.

That was last Saturday. All five of us were there. Since then, I've been there alone each day. The job now is to ready the house for a tenant. So I am painting the interior, thirty-two hours so far. Today I finished his bedroom and her bedroom, I did them as a pair, and the hall that connects them. First the washing, then off with the hardware, then scraping and sanding the windows, patching wall cracks, putting a coat of primer on the woodwork. Finally I covered the colors they had each picked last time I painted there. And they are gone from those rooms. Now a lovely, subtle color scheme, cozy and neutral, awaits whoever comes to live there. It'll take me another week; there's a lot more house to make even more vacant. But the hardest part is done.

That's Enough, Dave

Friday, November 12, 2010

So Why Bother?

It's 5:25 on a Thursday evening in early mid-November. I'm semi-prone on the couch, not yet settled into a position where typing is comfortable, but getting there. Behind me is the big window that is, if anything is, the focal-point of the living room. It's open as it's always open. It's one of the old-school casement windows. Two separate windows, 2' x 5' each, hinged to open inward. When closed one latches to the other and the other to the sill. When open they swing wide, allowing the whole 4 by 5 window to open onto the yard.

It's cool out, quiet except for the occasion susurration of cars down on New York. Somewhere far away a siren wails and a dog barks, just barely audible. It's still warm enough that mine is not the only open window, and I just now hear the hollow clank of pots as a neighbor sets to cooking. My stomach speaks at the thought and I think that I might put something over a low flame. But I wait on that. I feel like writing, though I am sure that I have nothing of great interest to tell. This is new for me, this blog, and I suppose I am like a boy riding a new bike in circles on the driveway. No particular place to go, but liking the feel of the vehicle beneath him.

I've been off work now for almost two weeks. Much of that time has been productive. I had many promotional tasks to accomplish gearing up for my first real tour, and most of it is done. Enough, anyway, that I feel generally good about myself. There is paid work lined up for weeks once I give myself back to it. And this, what I am doing now, this writing just to write, is not entirely divorced from a greater goal. The idea has come up, mostly in conversations with my friend Duane Thorin, that an on-going web log might be an important component of a touring life.

Duane has become friends with a young woman named Danielle. She is a Canadian, and a performing singer-songwriter of considerable talent. Duane is deeply involved over at The Coffee Gallery, both in cooperation with Bob for shows produced in the Backstage listening room, and also in a number of projects he has initiated in the coffee house proper. Over the last year, Duane has established several nights a week of entertainment out front. He's over-seen the building of a stage, cobbled together a respectable PA system, and encouraged the video and live-stream experiments of others who have been swept along by his energy. He has become something of a leader here in town. Every week more people find his open mic nights - two a week - and some matriculate upward into more focused showcases. His efforts have brought people together and enabled friendships to bloom where none would have.

I could write this blog about Duane, and will re-visit him later, but I want to talk about blogging itself. How Duane figures in, is that somewhere in the flurry of activity, several months back, Danielle arrived. Maybe she was drawn here by the renown of the backstage. I don't know. Whatever the circumstances, she got here. From Canada. And she got here on a motorcycle. I'm not privy to the why of that. I asked once, and she turned the conversation sharply away. Whatever her motivations though, she has taken to the road with a vengeance, criss-crossing the continent several times. And she's been and gone and come back again several times. Duane has given her a stage and helped her find an audience here.

She's traveling, that's my point, and traveling a lot, and in an interesting way. And as she goes, she blogs. Duane read some of her posts, and he shared them with me. He saw how this online journal enabled Danielle's friends and fans to stay connected to her. And as importantly, to connect to adventure through her. This got my attention.

Now Alexia (my friend and partner in the music) and I had spoken several times about this. Early this year I was threatened with eviction (long story, neighbor dispute), and it seemed that I would soon be homeless. I had been toying with the idea of an RV for some time and I figured, if I did get tossed, I'd go ahead and get a motorhome. Of course, we had yet to do much of the work we've done since, so I was not ready to grab the guitar and pursue a gig-schedule. I would have been stuck in So Cal for a while, and forced to roam from place to place until a safe haven presented itself. I was spooked by the idea, but also intrigued. And Lex and I thought, if you have a change like that forced upon you, you might as well tell the story. To blog it every day; share the humiliations, and triumphs, and just all the mistakes and tricks learned, would probably be of interest. Particularly in economic times like these.

What happened instead is that the dispute died down, I refused to go, the landlord re-thought his position, and the crisis just blew away. The months since have been busy and meaningful for me. But a lot of what has happened would not have lent itself to public exposure. We've had some real breakthroughs in how my music is being heard and accepted. But how do you write about that for a general audience without coming off as a self congratulatory tool? Also, I went through the dissolution of a friendship that was also a key professional relationship. That little drama has thrown such a shock-wave through my little musical community, that I've had to withdraw and stay away from places where I used to feel completely at home. I feel wronged, and the other side probably does too. A bad end to a good run. And how do you write about THAT? I've done a lot of 'keeping my own councel' in the last months. I would have had to leave everything interesting out of any personal journal except a private one.

That is something else that Duane and I have discussed: how do you write honestly, and take on the ideas and insights that you are really interested in, without running afoul of other people all the time? Without hurting their feelings, or just pissing them off? It's a real question, and I am thinking about it long and hard. The last time I did this, oh about 5-6 years ago, it only took half a dozen posts to start feeling the pressure. I found myself leaving a lot out. And what I did tell, was starting to receive a nice positive spin. I'm no different than anybody else. I want people to love me. Or, short of that, I need to know that I am not costing myself too many opportunities or worse, triggering some sort of saboteur's instinct in people. But lying, or becoming Mr. Sunnybrook Farm is not interesting to me.

So why bother? Well the idea is simple. What I do is communication. I process the best and worst of what happens to me, somehow turn it into songs, and sing and play them for people wherever I can, hopefully delivering an experience worthy of the modest offerings I ask. Whatever else a song may be or do, it has got to communicate something. And that something has to be relate-able to the listener. I'm throwing my perceptions out there. The reactions I have had of late have made me feel pretty confident that the way I see the world ... my emotional response to it all, strikes a chord in a wide spectrum of people. Wide enough. Some of us are comfortable revealing all the squirmy vulnerable stuff hidden just beneath the surface. To do it is a service to those who aren't. If it's universal stuff, of course. And reasonably entertaining.

Is this, then, a good companion to the songwriting? I don't know. Will this more fully flesh me out, cementing me as an important voice in people's lives. I don't know. Or will writing so much at such length just remove whatever mystery I may have possessed, and wear my welcome out. I don't know.

I suspect that  it will mostly stay hidden in some dark corner of the Internet and cause no stir at all.

I feel compelled to do it though, so I guess I'll just do it and hope for the best.

Yours, Dave

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mr. Dave's Neighborhood

Hey All,

I wrote my last post from the glamorous confines of the Laundromat Did you know that my word processor automatically capitalizes Laundromat? There it did it again. I guess at one time it was a trade name. Strangely, the program is cool with windex. It tells me it's misspelled but doesn't cap it. Let's try this ... Kleenex! Capitalized. Against my will. There must be a story there, but I'll leave that for you.

What was I starting to say? Oh, location. I am now in the local coffee house and community hub. This is where I come to argue politics, religion, art and whatever else a cup of coffee has persuaded me that I know something about. There is an octagonal table in the front-most area, where such discussions are held every Saturday and Sunday morning. I can often be found there. It's called the "Round Table" in spite of it's eight corners. The current table showed up shortly after the new owner shit-canned  the one we had. That one was larger, wobblier, and actually round. The public outcry was such that Julie, the new owner, grabbed this one somewhere and stuck it in. Now we crowd in a little closer, our newspapers overlapping and bagels fighting for space, but the quest for truth goes on.

So I am there now, only just managing to find a little quiet. A local woman with whom I have had several spirited debates - usually not ending pleasantly - tried for a while to engage me. I futzed with my computer, pleading "Work". She then sat at my immediate left and made a long and noisy call. But I hung tough and ignored her ... and she has gone. Sweet.

It's a funny little town, Altadena. We sit just north of Pasadena, just upslope. If you watch the Rose Parade on New Year's morning, you will notice that the cameras all shoot northward. This shows off the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains to good effect. Much of the rest of the country is, by then, huddled inside their snow-banked bunkers, cursing Currier and Ives and that mall-artist who makes being snowed-in look so picturesque. They stare through the window of the TV into California where tawny horses high-step and a million flowers bloom into gaudy wheeled sculpture, and they say "Why? Why are we here?". The hills that march away toward those mountains is where I live. Altadena.

Many years ago the town was made mostly of cabins and artist shacks. The normal folks stayed down on the flats where they built neo-old-money mansions in Pasadena and San Marino and thousands of tract homes for the worker-bees. This was a place for mis-fits; folks who weren't real fond of rules. That ethos is still alive and well, though as LA and consequently Pasadena grew, some of the money eased up the hill. I live at the fringe of maybe half a square mile of homes clustered around a country club. Some grand houses there. We've got 'em surrounded though, and they mostly keep to themselves.

The Altadena that I know is exemplified by a clutch of businesses along Lake Avenue. This is one, the Coffee Gallery, and it's Backstage where music is presented almost nightly by the famed Bob Stanes. The Gallery At The End Of The World is another; a found-art explosion of creativity which Ben McGinty and his merry pranksters endlessly morph into a thousand visions of an art collective.

That sits six blocks north of where I am writing, and immediately north of that is our bar, The Rancho. This is sort of the dark sister to the Coffee Gallery, a place where real alcoholics go to do their work. I myself spent many a wasted night there, soaked in booze, learning again and again that a small-town tavern possesses every bit as much political intrigue and danger as a Kandahar hookah lounge.

There are, of course, other businesses, all of them small. A few restaurants, and a few liquor stores. Tobacco store, hardware store, brake and tire joint, couple hair salons. An old drugstore that dominates most of a block was a kind of general store containing a pharmacy, stationers, Hallmark shop and a bottle shop all stepped down the hill in sections, and connected by passageways, now walled off by warring heirs forcing patrons to walk out to the street and back in another door. The Ralphs super-market here is so small it has no deli or even a proper meat counter. It is scorned by the country-club yuppies and the intelligentsia as beneath contempt. I shop there, and at a still smaller Armenian corner-grocery, and at a big, rollicking market on our western edge called Super King, where potatoes are a dime a pound, and onions only twice that, and gorgeous red and yellow bell peppers cost a third of what they'd nick you for at Whole Foods.

We have no Starbucks, and don't want one. No Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Staples. The Blockbuster is teetering on the brink. Wal-Mart would giggle if we invited them here. We are the classic hillside town; not on the way to anywhere more important than a hiking trail, and inhabited by people with congenitally low stores of ambition.

It's perfect. It's a neighborhood. I moved here eight years ago. My marriage delaminated suddenly, and while doing a stint at my folks' guest house, I found myself here more and more. I was booking Sundays at the Backstage and hiking every Saturday. A friend clued me to a bungalow for rent, and I crashed the party full-time. I live in one of those little horseshoe arrangements of cottages around a grassy courtyard once so popular in California. People move in and out. I always know most of them pretty well, but nobody knocks on the door very often. It's quiet and private and I'll miss it when I go.

I'll miss the people, and the sense of belonging that, as hard as I have fought it, has permeated my calloused skin.

Just this past weekend an event took shape here that would be unlikely in a lot of places. One of our own, a man named Leslie Perry, has published a book of his collected stories and plays, and the community turned out to celebrate him. Leslie is a performing storyteller who has lived an artist's life; writing, teaching, keeping alive the lore and oral history of Black Americans and all Americans. Two years ago he noticed a certain mutinous behavior in his body. It wouldn't always do what it was told. Eventually, he was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, the same ailment which has sidelined the beloved California singer-songwriter Eric Lowen.

Leslie's first impulse was to throw a benefit for the ALS association. I participated, along with many others and we raised some money and had a ball. Later, as she watched her friend and customer slowing down, Julie (she of the Round Table caper) made up her mind that Leslie's works would be published. A fund was created, and another benefit held. A publisher appeared (local Quesadilla Press) and Leslie and his helpers pulled together a fine beautiful book.

Sunday marked it's release. Bob donated the Backstage which bulged with people. Julie and others cooked. The cream of So Cal storytellers read excerpts, Ross Altman sang and finally Leslie took the stage. It may be his last performance. Or maybe he has a few more in him. But he will never forget that day. It was moving stuff, and typical of our little lopsided town. This is a place where you can be old or fat or sick or black or gay or mentally askew or even white and male. And nobody will spend a minute on it. If you hold your hand out and behave yourself mostly, you're in.

I will most likely trade my little place for one with wheels before too long. The adventure, hopefully, will carry me far and wide and give me friends everywhere. But I'm taking some Altadena with me.

Take Care, Dave

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coupla Nomads Keepin' It Clean

Hey All,

So, here I am in the Laundromat. No, I am not out of town again, I am just at the Laundromat. The little shit-hole bungalow where I live doesn’t offer a washing machine. Not even a shed with a couple broken down machines and dryers for the tenants to share. I could have bought one of those stacked units when I moved in, but figured, hey, it’s only a few bucks a week to go down the road, and besides, I get to hang out with strangers wearing the most unsightly, unpresentable ensemble they own. Every decent thing, of course, being in the washer.

I’m tapping away at my lap-top, looking, I assume, like some loser writing a screen-play that will never be produced. Whoever assumed that would be wrong, demonstrating their callow inability to spot a loser writing a blog that will never be read. Let that be a lesson to them.

There is at least a scrap of intentionality here though. A while back I noticed a gentleman cruising the neighborhood in a pretty clean, early-nineties vintage RV, an A-Class (the type not built upon a standard van front-end). I was out walking, and he slowed to let me cross, before continuing slowly down a side-street near my shit-hole bungalow. I, being tuned into such things, pegged him as an urban nomad. It’s legal to park overnight on the streets of little Altadena, and he was looking for a curbside refuge I thought.

Later, my suspicions where confirmed when, again at the Laundromat (the one with the big parking lot and more bustle than the one where I sit writing), I saw the same gentleman pull in. He parked and as I sat watching, rapidly losing interest in an LA Weekly article about recidivist youths being aged-out of the foster-child system, he began a ritual that I vowed someday to emulate.

First he opened up all the doors of the RV. Then he got some funky music going. Then, visible through the open side door, he wrestled an enormous gaping duffle onto the floor where he topped it off with his last attractive bit of clothing, while cloaking his own fit form in a circa 1985 mesh T-shirt that he musta rocked at Venice in the day. He came in, grabbed a cart, and went to fetch it all to the waiting machines. This guy filled six washers. Then, the cool part … he went back out and after disappearing into the shadowed interior of the motor home for a second, emerged with a step-ladder and a bucket full of cleaning supplies.

I guessed that he had visited the quarter-car-wash earlier, because what he did now was the detail work. A proper windexing for all the glass, stretching from the top step of the three-foot ladder, a quick once-over to round up unsightly water spots not cycloned off by the trip here from there, and finally Armor-All for the tires and window rubber. He even cracked back the wipers and ran a rag wet with rubber preservative down their blades. He had it down to a science. Not a science so much as a ballet, choreographed crisply to a seventies-funk soundtrack. He finished the exterior just about exactly in synch with the six red lights of the washers blinking off. 1-2-3-4-5-6 … and he’s got the bucket and ladder stowed and he’s strolling in out of the sun.

He had the dry-cycle similarly sussed, but this bit of work happened inside the RV and out of my view. Oh sure, I figured how I might pass by for a closer look. I had to go all the way to the corner market and buy a diet-Coke, but a snoop-job is a snoop-job. It seemed that my friend was doing for the inside what he’d just done for the outside. Windows, dash, countertops, coffee-maker … the mix of automotive and domestic chores that an RV suggests. He finished by backing out on hands and knees through the side door finishing a good sponge-off of the linoleum kitchenette floor and leaving it to dry (he wore cut-offs that were, I think, Jordache). I could hear his dryers thumping to a halt one by one as I drank his health with a frosty, possibly carcinogenic soft drink.

I got a folding station as close to his as I could, and passing asked, “You a full-timer?” which is code for a guy who no longer has a mailing address.
“Naw”, he said, “I got a girlfriend and some other spots”.
“Cool”, I said. “I been thinking of getting one myself.”
“I was sure glad I had it when the shit came down.” He said this while smoothing a shirt and slipping it neatly onto a wooden hanger. I didn’t ask which shit in specific. Didn’t matter to me.

I don’t yet have a motor home, though I am searching and researching, or I would be out in it, maybe dusting the blinds or some other chore only the laundry ritual could make pleasant. Instead, I am using this time to make a blog-entry, which feels to me like the leading-edge of my traveling life.

I had no intention of writing about that, but now that I have, I suppose that I’ll just hit PUBLISH and let it go. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how my friend Dwayne escaped his limitations Monday night and became a singer. It nearly made me cry.

I fold up my lap-top and sigh with self-satisfaction. I'm wearing flip-flops, ancient gray sweat-pants, and a deep-vee fleece with no under-shirt. I look gooood. And my dryer is … wait for it … off!

Bye for now,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Off To A Stammering Start

Hey All,

So ... I got the website up, and I got the blog account, and I figured out how to stick the blog into a frame on the website so it opens there, and you all can read the blog and still be inside the website where run-on sentences like this are just one of the many thrills available to your anxious eyes and ears. Now the hard part ... actually writing something. Why bother, you ask? Wow, it didn't take you long to turn on me!

But, to be at least semi-serious, I've been feeling the urge to do this. Some of you may remember that I did a bi-weekly column-sort-of-thing several years back. I sent the link out to my friends, and sometimes they shared it with their friends. I had some interesting adventures around that little thing, which we now know was a blog. I would live free-form for a couple weeks, and then sit for most of a day turning the events of those weeks into a piece of writing. I'm not sure exactly why I felt that I should; why I thought that my life was interesting enough to snag anybody's attention for the time it took to read. I guess I wasn't thinking too hard about that at the time. I was sort of preoccupied with the doing of it. The life ... not the writing. And it just felt natural to write it up and send it out.

But as often happens, the impetus to start a thing wears off. If the impetus to continue a thing fails to arrive on time and with sufficient energy, the thing begun becomes one more thing abandoned. We all live this scenario out. One of my constant bafflements is knowing people who always push through and continue what they have started. I admire their fortitude, Dude, but I have much different wiring wadded into my skull. If doing something, anything really, stops paying off ... I set it down and back slowly from the room.

The pay-offs for the writing I'd been doing - I referred to it as a 'Memoir in Real Time' - might not have been obvious to others. I wasn't given money for it, and I certainly never achieved the sort of notoriety that we now see given to a few of the millions papering the 'blogosphere' with thoughts profound and dopey. But there were rewards. Sometimes somebody would write to me saying I had triggered a memory, and to thank me for that. Sometimes somebody would send a story as long as my own, recalling an episode similar to mine from their own experience. And on occasion, a friend would introduce me somewhere as a writer. For reasons that will become obvious should you follow this blog, that was an appellation that I was surprised by, and as eager to try on as a boy with his father's hat.

Beyond those though ... those responses, something else was happening. I had begun to pay close attention to the dramatic, and comedic properties of my own little life. This happens when one assumes this challenge: 'Write something interesting on a regular basis, using only your direct experience as material'. It's a bit different than say, a political blog, where you would pore over the events and ideas of the public moment, and after some synthesis, tell 'em all what you think. No, when the politics are personal, the crises local in the extreme, and the triumphs, however small, are one's own, the important things have a way of leaning forward from the rest. The interesting stuff starts emerging like bas relief from the flat surface of everyday life. I miss that awareness, and I've been wanting to get back to it. Why did I stop? I'll tell you later. I'll save that for the moment when the circumstances re-occur. I'll use talking about it to 'push through'.

For now though, let's just declare the effort begun. As some of you know, I have begun to travel to far-off places to sing my songs. This has been a long time coming. Too long? Maybe. But I don't think so. At any rate, I am going forward. As that kicks in more, the stories will undoubtedly become more interesting, or at least more varied in their settings and casts of characters. Till then I will try to establish this character, the point-of-view character, the narrator if you will ... Me. I'll set down a bit of who I am, where I came from, and what, in general, I think and feel about the world in which I find myself. I hope to have you with me.

In closing, I want to acknowledge my friend, John Zipperer, who I ran into last night at Kulak's Woodshed where we both had gone to listen to Severin Browne's First Friday band. John has a way of underestimating his value as an artist and performer ... always seems a little surprised that we all like him as much as we do. Maybe there's a little shtick there - we all have public personas that we get comfortable with - but mostly, I think, he hasn't stepped fully over the line dividing 'can be' from 'be'. I hope that makes sense to you. Anyway, interacting with John always reminds me that I struggle with the same thing; the notion that if it comes from me, it must be somehow a minor thing. I know that that is bullshit as it applies to John, and he seems to think the same of the idea applied to me. It made me want to come home and write. Here's the thing: for now let's assume that our lives have meaning, that we are each of us unique and interesting, and just get on with telling the tale.

See You 'Round the Yard,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Website, New Blog

Hey All,

It's November 3, 2010. I've just posted a new website. I've started touring around with my music, and it looks like this will become more and more a central focus of my life. And it occurs to me that, as I travel, I might occasionally have something worth saying. So, a BLOG page seems to make sense. This, then is the first, and entirely inauspicious posting of my new blog, Seasons To Run.

Now I have to figure out how to make my BlogSpot pop up when somebody clicks the button on the website. Yesterday, I spent much of the day learning how to hack the MySpace music player so that I could embed it on my site. Not hard once you know how. Today I got some videos up. It's beginning to look somewhat like a website.

Anyway, I ought to get back to work. I will post again soon.

Love, Dave