Thursday, January 31, 2008

Batten Down

Presumably, one of the season's most crippling storms is on its way here right now with the intention of putting a bit of a crimp in my morning drive style tomorrow. The amount of evening chaos we slogged through tonight is probably a good indication that it will all be for naught. It would be ok with me if when I set out tomorrow my kids are still sound asleep.

Readers everywhere probably have been having some pretty weird weather this year. The pattern we are experiencing now for the fifth or sixth time is unseasonably warm weather, followed by high winds, followed in very short order by extreme cold, followed by an inconvenient storm. It's getting old already. But I have one question: as long as weather is treated like the news, why in the hell don't they talk about what is really going on?

I was a little sorry the other day when Sen. John Edwards pulled out of the race. Then I read that he has a 28 THOUSAND square foot house. When he said, "This son of a steelworker is gonna be just fine," he sure wasn't kidding. Now, Sen. Edwards was one of the few people to talk about climate change without being prompted. But, how exactly do you heat a 28,000 sq.ft. home? For someone whose intentions are to erase poverty and help the environment, this is one heckuva way to show it.

More than a couple times this week, I thought about how nice it would be to hit the lottery. But I never can get past not working. What would I do with my time? I'd have to do something. After taking care of my family and a few close friends, I would weather the rest of the storm in some other fashion. I might devote myself to music, and get more involved in a couple other causes. I'd be here for my kids. And that's about it. No 28,000 foot house. Maybe a nice piece of land in the country and a sturdy house with a good furnace and a nice pickin' porch. Maybe a hybrid car. Maybe a better mandolin, one that feels better and is easier to play.

But til then, it's an early night because there's work tomorrow and a storm a comin' tonight.

Old Plug
Bob Degree and The Bluegrass Storm

Monday, January 28, 2008

Same Old Same Old

The other night the kids were watching the movie Patch Adams, the popular film starring Robin Williams as the incorrigible Dr. Hunter Adams, founder of the Gezuntheit Institute. When Adams' exceptional grades are contested, his room mate, played by the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, declares that at the end of the day, being a prick is ok if you save a life or get the job done. Patch's response is that this perspective reminds him of how young his room mate is, " think that being a prick to get ahead is a new idea."

There really aren't very many new ideas, certainly including being a prick to get one's way. But it would be a neat world if only more people really decided that, for one day, being a prick is the exception. I'm not holding my breath, that's for sure.

When my kids and I went to The Kent Stage the other night to enjoy the AMAZING show with Bill Evans, I was struck by how many people mentioned to me what a great thing it was to bring my children to the show. It was genuine! Some folks were amazed that anyone would think to do such a thing, expose kids to the likes of the bluegrassjazz jam fusion we enjoyed from the second row. Some were young Kent State students, addressing my kids with how they wish their parents had been cool and taken them to concerts. (Hey, my mother took me to see the Doobie Brothers when I was like, twelve. I learned from the best.) And as we emerged from the auditorium, Evans, fiddler Christian Howe, and bass magnus Richard Bona all came right up behind us and greeted us as they sprinted for their merch table. It was all like being on another planet for a few minutes.

I wish the world could be like that all the time. Ironically, I find that when I ignore the pricks things do tend to improve on the surface, but I know I'm only fooling myself. Obama seems to be running against Hillary AND Bill, my electric company is raising my rates six bucks a month just for laughs, and banks are still trying to sell subprime loans. The world is just a prick-filled jungle.

But when has it ever been any different?

As I sat and sang along with all my heart to this tune the other night during this incredible jam session with some of the most fantastic musicians ever assembled two rows hence, it hit me just how true it all is.

Same old moon, same old sun, same old race that we've always run.

Same Ol' River

I wish that I cold be an Indian
On a painted pony so fast
No one could ever catch me
I get caught up in my past
I’d ride across many rivers
Too many moons to tell the times
Then I’d tell all the young Warriors
Many moons ago this was mine, all mine!

(Chorus) Same ol’ river
Same ol’ Sea!
Same ol’ water rushing over me
Same ol’ moon Same ol’ sun!
Same ol’ race that we’ve always run
Same ol’ race that we’ve always run

I wish that I could be a Pirate
I’d sail the ocean blue
Way before the big liners
Started sailing them too
I’d bury most of my treasures
So I would leave a big hole
And the only real sense of pleasure (that I’d get)
Is to sail free of my soul!!!!

(repeat Chorus)
I wish that I could be a Slave
It doesn’t matter what kind
I’d sing a song for fallen angels
Try and be free in my mind
Then when no one wasn’t lookin’
I’d drop my heartless plow
I’d find my own contemporarys
And I’d wipe the shame from their brow!!!!

(repeat chorus)
I wish that I could be an outlaw
Runnin’ from the law sometimes
No vigilantle against the seasons
But I can’t help but read whyI’d always keep my revolver
Steady and fast at my side and I’d rob a train bound for glory
Cuz I thought I needed a ride!!!!(repeat chorus)(add once more)
Same ol race that we’ve always run
So many things I ain’t never done

Friday, January 25, 2008

Confluence of Wonders

These few days we here in Northeast Ohio are in the midst of a musical aurora borealis the likes of which I haven't seen in a while.

There was the show last night of Three Girls and Their Buddy, which was PACKED, a wonder in its own right given it was Cleveland, a Thursday night, and about 5 degrees.

But the confluence continues.

Tomorrow, not only is Bill Evans bringing his Soulgrass to the Kent Stage, but, I somehow overlooked The Infamous Stringdusters visit to the Happy Days Visitor Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

But I can't be in two places at once, so all I can do is make sure all y'all know what a good time you can have in Northeast Ohio even if you think there's nothing to do. 'Cause there is.

If that's not enough, and you want something with more local flavor, you could visit Tremont's Prosperity Social Club to catch local Hillbilly band Hayshaker Jones. I haven't caught 'em yet, but they sure sound like fun.
As for last night's show, I don't know what was more surprising. The crowd, the temps, the fact that I keep running into a couple of friends of mine in all kinds of odd places, or Buddy's confession that he walks a little tiny dog that wears a pink sweater. Somehow, it all made sense.
Like a perfect storm.
The show ended with an encore of the Band favorite, "Look Out Cleveland." Considering all, what else could they do?
Have a good weekend. It's runnin' right up on you, y'all.
from the self titled album, The Band (1969)
Look out, Cleveland,
the storm is comin' through,
And it's runnin' right up on you.
Look out, Houston,
There'll be thunder on the hill;
Bye-bye, baby, don't cha lie so still.
Was Wedn'sday evenin' when first we heard the word,
It did not come by train nor bird.
T'was when Ben Pike stepped down to say,
"This old town's gonna blow away."
Look out, Cleveland,
the storm is comin' through,
And it's runnin' right up on you.
Look out, Houston,
There'll be thunder on the hill;
Bye-bye, baby, don't cha lie so still.
Chain lightnin', frightnin' as it may seem,
Must not be mistaken for just another dream.
Justice of peace don't know his own fate,
But he'll go down in the shelter late.
Look out, Cleveland,
the storm is comin' through,
And it's runnin' right up on you.
Look out, Houston,
There'll be thunder on the hill;
Bye-bye, baby, don't cha lie so still.
Hidin' your money won't do no good,
Build a big wall, you know you would if you could, yeah!
When clouds of warnin' come into view,
It'll get the ol' woman right outta her shoe.
Look out, Cleveland,
the storm is comin' through,
And it's runnin' right up on you.
Look out, Houston,
There'll be thunder on the hill;
Bye-bye, baby, don't cha lie so still.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fit as a Fiddle--Someday

Yesterday, with temps hovering around 4 degrees and windchills that took us well below that, I gave up on the ski thing and did the unthinkable.

I joined the fitness center.

Yep. I plunked down hard-earned money for three months of self-torture intended to make me a healthier, stronger, somewhat slenderer me. With, of course, the emphasis on the healthier and stronger part. I tested the track, set my sights on the weight room, and dreamed of pounding out my work-related frustrations with another lap in the pool. All this, I reasoned, will help me really be ready for the strain of the slopes when I do finally get out, hopefully before the season ends.

I had my week all set -- Tuesday walking, Thursday a real workout -- until I realized that this Thursday when I'm supposed to be learning how to use the weight room equipment, I SHOULD be at the "Three Girls and Their Buddy" show at The Allen Theatre in downtown Cleveland. Some of the seats are only $10 -- less than it will cost me to get downtown and pay for parking. How can I skip it?

After all, I've gotten my exercise. I worked out my fiddle muscles both Saturday AND Sunday nights. I did dust off my little hand weights and used them tonight for something other than doorstops. I can skip one little night, right? Just one.

Meanwhile the snow will still be falling and the kids will be calling me to try to get up on my skis. I'll be a little bit more prepared, and I'll have even more tunes in my head from Thursday's show as my soundtrack.

Click here for vid of Buddy and Emmylou singing a classic, "If Teardrops Were Pennies", at a Porter Wagner tribute last fall. Hope to see some of y'all on Thursday night.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

B-Section Blues

Well, I'm a settin' here tryin' to thaw my biscuits. It's about as cold as it gets here in Ohio, and it's gonna be colder still tomorrow. Today I was sort of "stood up" on an informal ski engagement, so I went out into the woods to get myself moving about. It was still something of a nice day, if bitterly, bitterly cold.

So it's a good night to stay in, maybe light a fire, and learn a new tune. This one is a favorite, it's called Goodbye Girls played here by Rayna Gellert (from the Digital Library of Appalachia archive). So I've learned, it's not to be confused with Goodbye Girls I'm Going to Boston (played here by Art Stamper, from the same blessed archive). Anyway, it's a terrific tune which Rayna writes in the liner notes for Starch and Iron comes from North Carolina. It's been under my skin for about a week, so today I decided I'd give it a shot. After listening to it over and over, I'm still stumbling over the second section.

Oh my poor neighbors.

This might be a job for a slow-downer. I haven't broken down and gotten a slow-downer yet, but unless I do, it's gonna be a real downer to learn this tune.

Anyway, do give it a listen. And if you love trad music, the DLA is one site your favorites folder just can't do without. And if you like Rayna's fiddling, you can go to the DLA music archive, type in "Rayna Gellert" in the search field, and come across the same performance (see photo) at Warren Wilson College featuring John Hermann (banjer), Phil Jamison (guitar), and Meredith McIntosh (bass). Tons of tunes rare and not so rare. All stellar.

Meanwhile I'll be here trying to pull this tune apart for a little while longer until I decide it's time to throw in the bow and crawl under the blanket again with a book. Goodbye Girls will still be here and still under my skin tomorrow, most likely.

Stay warm, wherever you are, and whatever you play.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

24 Hours Is Ridiculous

I used to feel like I got everything done and then I would sit down and blog a storm. Nowadays, it's, "How much more can I get done before 10:30?" There is no way 24 hours is enough, but it's all we've got. I try to make the most of it, but I find that music is slipping away from me, falling off the cart I'm riding.

The other night, I had the most splendid experience. I went out with my skis and boots on, and my daughter showed me how to ski. She is amazing. So tiny, I've never seen her as confident as when she is on her skis. She knew exactly what I needed to do, and remembered everything she was ever taught about ski-ing. She is my little Picaboo-boo. I cannot wait to really learn so that I can be out there with her and with my son.

So I am busy, increasingly challenged at work and having a good time with my kids, but I miss music. I was writing to a friend tonight and told him I realized that in the last couple of months, I've all but fallen off my path toward my dreams. Even some things my sister has said call attention to this shift. I'm consumed by just getting through the days, which are rich and full of good things but exhausting. And there's always something around the corner.

Tonight I offered to my daughter that next time she's around, if she wants she can stay home with her brother and play instead of going to hear Sam Bush with Bill Evans at The Kent Stage (Jan. 26). But she said she wants to go to the concert. I hope we can all go and have a great time. And I hope it inspires me to get my head more back into the music and into the future.

Here's a little tune that I first heard on a John Hiatt album. It's called Memphis in the Meantime, and it's a lot of fun. It's a little bit about being stuck, or needing a fix, or just cutting a little bit loose so you can get yourself right. And it was recorded in Telluride, which has a bluegrass following that far exceeds that in my own backyard. And the skiing is, well, a lot better out there. No reason not to add a new hobby if it can mesh with an old one, right? And knowing my daughter, she'll be playing banjo-uke while coming down some big summit on one ski, that little powder hound. More power to her.

Maybe that's what I need to be about right now more than anything, and so the rest is soundtrack.

For now.

By the way, MARK YOUR CALENDARS for Appalachian Uprising #7, June 5-6-7 in Scottstown, OH. Sam Bush will be there, along with The Grascals, Bobby Osborne, Melvin Goins and Windy Mountain, and many more. Now I just need my son to teach me how to camp!

Monday, January 14, 2008

In Search Of

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine."
And so began one of my favorite television shows from my childhood. Who could resist Leonard Nimoy's call to examine the unexplained? Who better to lead the way for us?
Life is a mystery, and we're all "In Search Of" virtually all the time. There's always a quest, an unanswered question, a perplexing conundrum. If there isn't, chances are we all know someone who will spoil our reverie by raising some sort of mystery out of the dead of nowhere. And before long, we're engulfed with an inextinguishable hunger to know why, why, why, WHY?
Now there's a lifestyle that's a choice. I can see having maybe one or two great mysteries in a lifetime to worry about. For me it's, well, where is that Holy Grail anyway (besides in all of us, I mean), and, gosh darn it, where is my next live music fix going to come from?
There are a heap of good shows coming up. I haven't been to a live show since my birthday, although that was one heck of a show and really, how do you top Tim O'Brien and Mountain Heart on your birthday? So it's a good thing it was near the end of the year. But now I'm getting antsy and playing tunes isn't enough. I need live music on a drip directly into my wilting veins.
There are of course a few options. One of the best is next Thursday night at the House of Blues, a venue I'm not crazy about except that Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Patti Griffin and Shawn Colvin are all going to be there for the "Three Girls and Their Buddy" tour. Tempting. Then, two days later, Sam Bush joins Bill Evan and a whole bunch of other top shelf players for a bit of jazz-infused acoustic madness at The Kent Stage. Also tempting, and I am highly unlikely to miss Sam Bush crossing the street let alone playing a gig if he's in a 50 mile radius. Richard Thompson's 1000 Years of Music comes to the Stage soon, as does Richie Havens, and a host of smaller bands hits The Beachland Ballroom. In between there are all kinds of new little places to explore.
All of this, of course, leads up to festival season. And I have to get me some live outdoor music complete with picking and gathering and jamming this year, because there ain't gonna be a whole lot else to do this summer.
I am soooooo envious of dear Blueberry. Soon, South By Southwest will descend on her home town of Austin, TX. Something like, a bazillion bands in a week. I might have to put it on my list for a future year, when I can finally get up the nerve to go to Texas. It's big, and they have big flying bugs. And, per Blueberry, spiders, lots of big spiders.
But in the meantime, I better keep an eye out here so that I can get out and get my acoustic fix sooner than later. If I don't take my shadow out on a date pretty soon, she's gonna get mighty restless. And we wouldn't want that now, would we?
Buddy Miller, from Universal United House of Prayer

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Anything's Possible

Tonight my kids and I watched one of my son's favorite movies, "October Sky." The story of Homer Hickam and the "Rocket Boys" of Coalwood, WV is a classic tale of "against all odds". Just 24 hours ago, I felt like Homer descending for the first time down into the mine. In my head and heart, I had made a concession of sorts, an admission, that some things will never change, and may even get worse, and that no matter how much particulate matter I may have to inhale because of it, if it's considered "in the best interests of my children", it will continue.

And another day came. Despite the temperatures being well above normal, my daughter had ski lessons and it was a thrill and a gas to watch her zip down the hill on the heels of her instructor. Since the conditions were somewhat dubious I left my own skis at home and took in some much needed chill time with my son who despite my coaxing chose not to ski. I did not finish "The Golden Compass" which is going to make seeing the movie tomorrow kind of a cart-before-the-horse matter. But after my daughter finished her level and moved up yet another level, we came home, goofed off a while, made a beautiful meal suggested by my daughter, played a game, and then enjoyed the movie all curled up. As I write, my daughter is camped out on my floor for a special sleepover; she's probably already fast asleep as I soon will be, too.

I hope she knows, and that my son knows, that anything really is possible. I told them of the little girl down the road from me, and how poor she was, and that she wore the same dress sometimes for several days to school. I told them I remember UMW strikes, and how difficult it made everything. Even though my neck of the woods was not owned by the company, it was still poor, and is poorer still today. But no matter where you come from, if you have someone who believes in you, and a few people willing to make a little effort to help you succeed, great things can be accomplished despite all odds.

Do you remember the people who helped you most? My mother was always there, and through my life my brothers and sisters have always been there. I have good friends who stood by me, and I work for a couple of people who have great faith in my ability to accomplish anything I set out to do. All of us have those people, but few of us trust ourselves enough to hear what they have to say.

After the movie we went upstairs to get everyone ready to bed down for the night. While I was sorting laundry (of course I'm doing laundry at 11 p.m., it's what you do after a powerful movie, isn't it?), I happened to glance up at the sky. Too comfortable and sleepy to throw on coats and stand outside, we shut off the lights and gazed at the stars. Skittering across our field of vision was an airplane. The kids laughed and said, "Look! Sputnik!"

Anything is possible, don't you think?

Only appropriate to look into McDowell County, home to the former Coalwood, WV, for this evening's music. Meet a band called South 52 out of Welch doing that old ballad, Wayfaring Stranger, with a slightly new beat behind it. Hey, it's Welch, WV. What else are they gonna do, build rockets?

Yeah, well, maybe. But I hope not with that dobro.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Before the Chip Gets You, Think Back

I close my eyes. I think back to when I was a little girl, wild with the love of being outdoors as much as possible. It is summer. I'm surrounded by an enormous homestead, sideyards and groves of trees and grass tennis courts separated by more trees, and more yards that are more like manicured fields, like the ones for polo or some other lawn sport. It was vast. It still is vast, to me, but I am remembering, as if I am a child, the gargantuan bed of peonies next to the house, and the barn across the driveway and down the hill; the barn was built into a hill that led into a smaller field that was bound on one side by County Road 5.

Now I am standing in the back yard, a huge swath of land by today's standards, broken up by an enormous rose garden on either side of a stone walkway. From there I can see past the barn and if I look very closely I can see a car winding down past our field along 5. If I am on the back porch, outside our kitchen, I can watch the car as it rolls up and over the hills and out of sight. At the bottom of the hill in the back, there is a bed of poppies, fiery and with heavy black pods mysterious to me with their milk and funny smell.

All along the fence that separates the tamed and untamed pieces of our property, but more copiously on the western end of the property, are black raspberry bushes. In July my mother would harvest buckets of these juicy dark purply orbs and turn them into jam, or more remarkable, a pie that would set the meanest heart to melt. If I think hard enough, I can smell it, and the bit of milk on top, and feel the warm sweet berry juice tangled with the pastry and the milk in my mouth.

I smell the barn. Hay, and motor oil, and old wood wagon wheels, and stalls where horses would have waited to work. I remember the windows, the not really stained glass windows in the top half of the barn, the creaking heavy double doors, the wasps, the smell of hot dry hay and old, old wood floors and dust and time.

I remember once I decided I would run away. So I packed my small Barbie suitcase, and bid goodbye, and got somewhere beyond the barn when I realized that beyond the barn was the road, and along the road were places I knew but that I might not properly remember, and I had no money once I got their for clothes or a place to stay. So I returned home. But I remember feeling kind of excited to think about going.

To sit here now and recall these smells and scenes and the texture of the hay and the barn door handle in my hand, and rolling down the little hill along one of the tennis yards, and watching the cars on the road in front of the house, it's almost unimaginable that I had that life. We were not wealthy. My parents simply were smart and loved old things and so we ended up in a house built by Quakers who were buried in the little cemetery that still sits only a few hundred yards from the barn. When my mother sold it after my father's death thirty years ago, I doubt she received a third of what I paid for my small, ridiculously underinsulated, three-bedroom condo on a plot situated in a development that would have fit inside the borders of my childhood home.
Last night after an unfairly long day, I opened an email that contained this:

Frightening and disturbing, but in the course of the evening I relegated my thinking about it to the rear and carried on with a little dinner, and a little reading.

The Golden Compass. A brilliant work by Phillip Pullman that of course everyone is talking about because it's been turned into a movie. But the book is absolutely brilliant. And it's absolutely disturbing. And as I read and my mind wandered into the mind of little Lyra, an adventurous girl always curious about the parts of the world ruled by men -- as I always was as a little girl, always mesmerized by the mysteries of the old church and old colleges and, a spot still dominated by men, the conductor's stand -- I was brought back to my own little world, and realized, as Lyra fell into the hands of a well-concealed conspiracy, so might we all like little children wander under the spell of the wrong sort of person. Suddenly we are at Its mercy, writhing in misery under Its inhumane weight.

I realize I haven't gone conspiratorial in a long while, but at the same time, I often find myself wondering or writing about what might cause otherwise ordinary looking, entirely unremarkable and even uninteresting people to be so intensely mean, so entirely filled with unnatural hubris as to imagine that they have absolutely no reason to account for anything. From the late Ken Lay and our current most embarrassing Leader of the Free World all the way down to the pointy-headed brutes in our daily lives, existence is peppered with what my sister has more or less termed "the morally bleak" with not a care in the world except for themselves.

Why live like that? Well, because you think you know something the rest of the world doesn't, and you think that makes you immune to the laws of human grace and dignity. Why save for college if it's all going to be in Ameros? Why teach children about saving money when as my own kids have heard, "'s all going to be on a little card anyway"? Why worry about what a silly little piece of paper says, like a court decree or the US Constitution, when eventually we'll all be implanted with a little microchip that will dictate our behavior? Eventually, if we get out of line, point out a flaw, point out an injustice -- The Enormous They will just flip off our chip and we'll be penniless, homeless, nameless, powerless. Meanwhile the perpetrators, not unlike those everyday brutes afloat on the wild wave of denial, wallow in impunity, and it gets harder and harder to teach children things like cooperation. Gratitude. Decency.


Sure it sounds a little 1984. I'm skeptical, but already unsuspecting parents are implanting their babies with chips because they succumbed to the fear implanted in them by their doctors, the media, the government. It's not all that crazy. We all do a lot of stupid shit because we're afraid of what happens if we don't, or what happens if we do something else instead. Does anyone really believe this War will ever end? Hasn't it ever occurred to anyone besides Al Gore that the war is just a cover up for the tonnage of steaming fecal filth the government is heaping on us?

So this is my year of Do Something Else Instead. What could happen? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, says I.

So my brazen "WHATever" to this unseen ugly force began with my eyes closed and by reliving everything I could about a sliver in time when I could inhale all the glorious green rush of my boundless East Ohio landscape. That world is untouchable to these New Order Monsters and it will feed my soul, my sight, my words, my love, and my music.

Like this tune, Lands End/Chasing Talon. Turn away from the Pied Pipers of Doom and catch the wave of this compelling and intoxicating live wire from Tim O and Casey and those other guys. Rolled up in one they're like your own armored bear.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My Windows Are Open

It's January. January 7. I live between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. And tonight I came home and realized, I had left my window open all day, and it smelled good.

But 65 degrees on January 7 is not really good. When I left my building tonight at nearly 7 p.m., even the doorman remarked how "it's just not natural." Clyde, you got that right.

On the other hand, my windows were open. And I needed that. I was cooped up last night, feeling really pretty miserable with what I think was the onset of a sinus infection. My throat was on fire, I was hot and cold, I woke up all night long from crazy dreams and with a clogged head. By morning the sore throat had abated a little, gave way in the hot steam of the shower. My head was pounding but the steam and a dose of Sudafed set the world right so I could work for close to 12 hours. But I came home to a room that smelled like the middle of May. Good and bad.

My sister is right. Pretty soon, Ohio will be the New Zone 7 and I'll be able to have flowers and vegetables all year. But ultimately t's not good, everything, the bugs and the plants and the birds and the amphibians, everything is confused. But the chance to open the windows, like a chance to open the heart and take advantage of a rare moment, is one I'll usually take even though I know we'll pay for it down the road. If the window comes slamming down on my fingers, it will smart for a bit but at least I tried.

Something In The Wind
by The Seldom Scene

Saturday, January 05, 2008

On Balance It's All Downhill

After putting in a few more hours at the office this morning, I did something kind of crazy.

I took the skis and bindings left behind by Souncreative, and the pair of boots I picked up at the local Ski Swap, and left them in the hands of people who will make them work. Ok, maybe that's a stretch. They will assemble them and tune everything up, and I will attempt to make them work.

I have a friend who swears he can teach me to do this. According to him, he took a complete novice from never-having-skied to down the slopes at Aspen within days. Given that we're in Ohio which is nothing like the Colorado ski-scape, I'm hoping his skill and patience with working with athletically-challenged people like me will make the odds even greater that I will be able to do this.

I'm not an athlete, but I'm not a blob, either. I love to be outdoors. Except, of course, during the winter. When my kids' biodad got them into skiing last year, I determined that it looked like so much fun I'd have to try it myself. Next year.

And so next year is now this year.

There are two reasons I see for doing this. The first is that my kids are doing it. I spend a lot of time with them, and this gives me one more thing we can do together. The second is I need to do something new for me, especially with all the extra hours I've been putting in at work and as a mom. Sometime during the last 20 years I must have been taught that doing something for myself is against the law. But now I'm livin' in a new land, and I make the rules. I need the exercise, I need a good winter activity for out of doors (besides hiking in the snow which I also love), I need the release into an exhilarating and challenging new activity to take my mind off my constant challenges, and I need to prove to my kids that I can do this without totally embarrassing them. Actually, already being fairly low to the ground and possessing reasonably good, if underused, musculature in my legs, the odds ar better than I give myself credit for.

Now if we can only solve climate change, we'll be in business. Today, when my daughter was supposed to have had her first lesson of the season, it is raining and nearly 50 degrees in Northeast Ohio. I'm wondering if the kids put on wet suits and went innertubing instead. It might be better in the long run to take up water skiing but I'm making the investment, just in case.

So wish my friend luck. If it doesn't work out, I can always go back to hiking, maybe pick up a pair of snow shoes, and spend my evenings picking by the fire -- indoors. Or maybe I'll start a movement to have live music at the Lodge. After all, there's a lot about bluegrass and skiing that are alike -- speed, skill, the ride up and the thrill coming down. Check out this favorite old Monroe tune of mine here done by the masterful Tony Rice Unit and you'll see what I mean.

Jerusalem Ridge by the Tony Rice Unit

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

January the Second, With Resolve

Greetings and Happy New Year to all y'all.

I'm sitting here with my son, checking out a little documentary narrated by Martin Sheen about Andrew Jackson. Well, you know what's coming up in about a week but I'm not going to run that tune right now.

I'm getting ready to put my head back in the work helmet. Truth be told I've never taken the helmet off even while at home with my younguns for an all too brief few days. The time together sure does go quickly. And it seems to go just as quickly when we're enjoying 12 hours together as when we're enjoying a fraction of that time together during the school week.

Last year, I made only two "resolutions": to become a better musician, and, to help the couple I work for grow their business. Despite my expectations to the contrary, I've done both. Maybe I wasn't ambitious enough, but, these are two things I consider important. So I figure I'll just keep those two on the list, and add a couple new things, like, become more recognized in my field, save more for my kids' college educations (based on my ability to date, this is also not very ambitious), allow myself to be surprised by new love. Am I ready? Probably. Do I have time and inclination? Hmmm. That's a choice I have to make.

Whatever you have resolved, I hope it comes easier for you than you expect, and that music is part of your plans for 2008. This tune from a 1964 recording by the Kentucky Colonels is just long enough to enjoy while you come up with at least one idea for personal change this year. The tune goes by another name that referred to President Jackson, "Old Hickory." It's pretty short, like the list of good things Andrew Jackson did before he went berserk. Speaking of, let's hear it for 2008 all the way 'round.

Old Hickory