Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Carnies are Coming

I dread this weekend.

It's Twins Days.

Not that I don't love Twins. I know several pair and adore them all. But once a year, the rest of them come to my little town and take over parking lots, swimming pools, ball parks, picnic tables, streets, grocery stores. And that weekend has come.

It started on Tuesday. After working late, I headed for the park to walk off my frustration. At the other end of the trail the trucks were already setting up. No parking signs popped up like dandelions all along the street. And tonight, after getting home from work and heading directly for the grocery store there they all were, in the back of the parking lot, settin' up and partying.

Our little town is of course called Twinsburg because it was founded by twins of course, Moses and Aaron Wilcox, identical twins from Connecticut. This region actually was all part of the Connecticut Land Company, and our community was distinguished as Township five in the tenth land range of the Western Reserve. The Wilcox brothers purchased land in the area in 1819. However, the first person technically to survey and settle the area was a young boy from Millsville named Ethan Alling. I do not likely need to point out that young Master Alling was a singleton.

Nonetheless my kids always get a kick out of seeing multiples everywhere. My daughters two best little friends are twins, and they'll be sharing a birthday bash with my daughter at the end of the weekend. We may walk down to the parade this year. It's an odd little claim to fame but people all over the country seem to know where we are because they know someone who hangs out at the festival.

Ethan Alling is not to be confused with Ethan Allen, a hero of the Revolution who claimed Vermont as home but who also was born in Connecticut. I've always thought this tune, The Land That I Call Home, was really lovely. It's performed by Front Range and is featured on the Sugar Hill Retrospective album. I love the bands sweet, smooth harmonies and the song's lilting folk style. Hope you enjoy it as it takes you back to a time before there were Hummers and highways and parking lots and utility bills. Then again, they didn't have indoor plumbing either, which I'll be grateful for when I get home tomorrow morning from my 5:45 a.m. workout, squeezing it in before everyone starts seeing double.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Do W-Ego? Up to the House!

Things continue apace on the Hamster Wheel. Never do I miss, wish for, or envision a new life in the world of music as when I feel so cut off from it, much like the way the Golden Compass series describes the battle to prevent us from being viciously severed from our souls. I left the office Friday at 6:30 and again tonight about the same time. I’m beginning to realize that the people involved in one of our searches, one person ultimately, is going to doom it to failure. There’s not a lot I can do about that, as long as his fellow committee members allow him to continue.

About two weeks ago, though, I felt quite differently, differently enough that I spent a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon right here at this computer, banging out candidate summaries and yelling at my kids because I was trying to work. I felt horrible, and it was a horrible experience, for them and for me. I felt behind and as though I had to get them done, but it wasn’t worth the time we lost, the stress, the unhappy feelings or my bad behavior. Wasn’t worth it at all. What I have learned is that the Shadow of this single, charismatic leader who founded this organization, did nothing to train or develop a successor (and in fact freely states that none of the internal candidates should even be interviewed when they are without question, perfectly positioned to take on the responsibilities) and who is now controlling the process by his constant, overriding vocal objections as a member of the Search Committee (mistake number one) is killing the search process, along with any joy I or my boss got out of conducting the assignment.

A perfectly timed gift arrived quite unexpectedly on my doorstep yesterday. It was a book from Shameless that she said she turns to when her head is spinning. After calling to thank her, I took it to the fitness center and got lost in it while churning away on the bike. Slowly I came back to the conscious realization that I had allowed my ego to resurface during this search project, trying to counter the arguments and prove our point. I would get an email, and I would not hesitate to respond immediately. In most cases, that’s a good thing, unless the person on the other end is a megalomaniac trying to get his way and control everything from behind the curtain. I mistook my action for trying to please the client, when in reality, I fell prey to being controlled and risked the authenticity of the work I was doing by letting my desire to please out of fear or competition get in the way of seeing the truth.

There have been a lot of changes going on this summer and my friends are all equally frenzied. My kids’ dad is getting remarried and I haven’t really explored the full impact of that on my son and daughter, although I get glimpses. I have a new work situation that is almost entirely hampered by this albatross project and one or two other obligations. And frankly, working without any down time, not having a live-in cabana boy to help with chores or pay my rent so that I could actually enjoy my kids is another layer adding to the burnout. But all these feelings of exhaustion and frustration are part of the Ego world – feeling resentful that I have these invasions of work on my private time (I take calls at all hours of the day and night but that’s next on my STOP list), feeling like I have to do it all myself, blah blah blah. That’s Ego talking.

Shameless’s thoughtful gift reminds me that I have to be careful not to accept other folks’ shadow or Ego games. I have to be careful not to let my own Ego be stirred by the countless stupid things people say and do. When I called X a couple weeks ago simply to set up a time to talk about some to-do items on the Parenting list, he somehow leapt to the conclusion I was asking for a meeting (can some of you even imagine?!) and dragged us down the path of the list while I was frankly just trying to enjoy my walk and get myself on the waiting list for a few minutes of his time. What a mistake! It happened again a few days later when he threw himself in front of the moving train of his own assumptions about something my son had said. Unbelievable, yet regular as clockwork. There is an Ego and a Shadow there that I am lucky did not completely destroy me before I escaped. He is no different from the client who seeks to control every decision, every move, pretends to be democratic among his peers but is quite the opposite.

We all have these Egos in our lives. On top of that, we all have our own Egos to contend with. It is a wonder any of us can get through any day. The book Shameless sent has good wisdom and healthy reminders about these things. Like the story of letting go of fear so I could swing literally over the treetops with my daughter, the story of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth offers a way of thinking about our collective human dysfunction as an opportunity. We cannot change others but we can each be responsible for our own awakening if we are prepared to bear it and the marvelous consequences it can have in our lives.

I just found this great vid of the young Sarah Jarosz performing Tom Waits' classic, "Come on Up to the House." It's a great tune, so true. It says "Aw, quitcherbellyachin and shut the hell up!" in the nicest bluesy way. I'm sending it to Blueberry who gets to say hello to that amazing, talented, wise-beyond-her-16-years Jarosz now and then in that Oasis of a town they share, Austin, Texas. Evidently, some of the folks ain't never heard this tune because there was a good laugh from the line, "Come down off your cross/We can use the wood." Give it a listen. And don't let nobody drag you up on their pile of woe. Just tell 'em to come on up to the house.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bird's Eye View

It's been a pretty heavy couple of weeks and I'm pretty sure I was getting a little close to burnout. So I thought I'd share a funny story about something that happened a few weeks ago and that provided a little perspective.

Readers likely know the kids and I spent the Fourth in Milwaukee visiting a friend who moved there earlier in the year. I mentioned Summerfest, which probably a fair number of music-following folks have been to. It's staged right on Lake Michigan in a big park designed just for the occasion and which also hosts a number of festivals throughout the summer. I was impressed with the investment and energy that Milwaukee puts into running this huge event and the evident commitment it makes to its Lakefront. The kids and I did not see the new Art Museum (complete with the whale's tail solar powered...thingy) but spent almost an entire afternoon at the science center (ours kind of pales out in comparison).

Anyway, the day before we had hit Summerfest. There were probably anywhere from 20 to 30 thousand people milling around all the stages and activities and food. From one end of the park to just about the other there was this skyway express ride -- you know, like a ski lift that goes over the event. Once we were inside the park, getting a ride on that thing was pretty much my daughter's main concern, mitigated just barely by the blue ice cream cone that matched her outfit and the fresh-squeezed lemonade that followed. So I assured her that we'd catch a ride when we were getting closer to the time we'd leave the park.

We strolled around a bit and enjoyed some of the live music by bands whose names I cannot remember. We made it to the far end of the park where the British 60s hitsters The Zombies were fixing to play to a very large crowd of folks just about ten years down the road from me. We hung around for a few moments before turning back.

Finally we decided that my daughter and son and I would take the sky car thing back toward the front of the fest and our friend L would meet us on the other side. So I purchase the tickets for the ride and Little A and I hop into a car with Son of Mando right behind us.

Now, first, let me tell you a little something about my daughter. She is smarter than just about any other person on either side of her family (with the exception of her cousin in Tennessee--together, they are quite a force to be reckoned with), quite small, for the most part fearless, and generally quite a good companion if you enjoy distraction because she is always sharing her observations or asking clever questions. So the entire time leading up to the ride was simply looking forward to yet another memorable mother-daughter moment, something we'd hopefully always both remember.

Well I'll never forget it, that's for sure. The reason is that most of the people who know me well know I have an excruciating fear of heights. Now, if I'm climbing a mountain or going up the side of a building in a glass elevator or at the top of a sand dune, that's cool. But when I'm standing on a lookout platform or, say, hanging 100 or more feet in midair in a swinging school bus seat, I'm a little less comfortable.

But I'm not really thinking of these things because I'm just looking forward to hanging out with my baby girl and taking in the wonders of the view.

We grab our car, the attendant slams down the little latch gate, and away we go.

And about 45 seconds in the ride, I realize what I've gotten myself into, and that because I'm sitting next to my seven year old daughter, there ain't a damn thing I can do about it. I just gotta act cool.

My daughter meanwhile is of course delighted beyond measure at being able to take in the entire scope of Summerfest, because we are flying high above everything, including the stages. I pry my own hand off the bar in front of me to pull out her camera and snap one photo before shoving it speedily back in the bag for fear of dropping the whole thing. The alarms going off in my head force me to shut my eyes for a moment with one arm around my daughter and the other leaving a permanent mark in the bar in front of me.

Finally I open them and force myself to focus -- on my daughter and her myriad observations, on the fact that, yes we really are somwhere between 100 and 300 feet above ground and moving, then stopping, then moving, that there are full cars going in both directions with adults and children even younger than Little A and none of whom are acting the least bit terrified. We took in how many people flocked to each band. We mused as we were stopped over a makeshift beer garden that, what if someone had on flip flops and dropped them into the crowd below and it landed in someone's food? She reminded me that hey, if I am going to take up skiing, I better get used to riding htese things. I agreed but also reminded her that between the extra padding of the snow suit and the slow itself below, a fall from a ski lift might under the best conditions (we're talking Ohio, not Colorado) result in a slightly softer landing than one might experience from where we were.

Then suddenly, we were ever so slowly on our way back down. We stopped a final time near the children's area, where we could watch the kids playing in a makeshift fountain/sprinkler set up, and enjoy the first acoustic band I'd seen. Then it was on the way to the end of the line, where she and I hopped out and raced to the gate to meet our friend, where I confessed privately that I didn't know what the hell I was thinking.

But in the end, I love the memory of my tiny girl next to me in her smiley face hat, high above it all, taking it in stride and assuring her mother that this was what fun was all about. She's right. Why can't I be more like her, a little less fearful, a little more ready for life's great adventures, taking it all in stride? She has her moments like everyone else but she's always ready to catch a big wave and go. She doesn't worry about things, and granted, while that's to some degree because she has a fair number of people to worry about them for her, she seems to have a certain kind of inner balance, at her age a wisdom of what's important and what's just part of everyday stuff.

It was a good lesson for me, and I really will never forget it. I just hope I can get my arms around all that's going on and find a way to not let it take over the all too rare time I have with my children or for my own recouperation. At the end of the day, much of this is self-inflicted, as it is with all of us. I have to remember that most things offer a choice, right down to whether I work, play, sing, train, sleep, stay up, parent, defer, move, stay. And I can either stay on the ground where its safe, and miss stuff, or climb in the car and get high above it all just long enough to see a few things I didn't see before.

Please check out this favorite tune of mine by a true first lady of Bluegrass, Claire Lynch. The words really ring true about being open to the changes and challenges that can make us better people, bring us closer to purpose, and find more meaning in our crazy lives if we just stop and pay attention for a moment. It's called "Be Ready To Sail" and you can enjoy Claire and her band performing it at Bluegrass in the Smokies by clicking here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Oh look! It's Thursday night, 10:15! What a surprise!

Damn, time moves fast. One minute I'm watching a movie Friday night with my kids, the next suddenly I'm eeking every last second out of bat watching while the clock ticks and I know I'll never get my daughter up in the morning for camp.

Where does the time go? What happened to the life I had, when I had time to spend with friends, and my kids, talk to people on the phone, sit and write, sit and tour the blogosphere, sit and do nothing? It's kind of, well, gone. And I don't know why. I really don't.

It's 10:15 on a Thursday night but I'm going to go for a walk around the block before I turn in. Turn into what, I'm not sure.

Just turn in, I guess. Meanwhile here's a slick Blue Highway instrumental that kind of goes at the speed I feel my head spinning.

Three-Finger Jack

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How're Things in Moneyland?

This weekend was filled with luxuries for my kids and I. On Friday night, we went to see the new Disney flick, Wall-e, which was quite frankly a brave little film considering the way it thumbs its nose at conspicuous, unconscious consumption. We loved it. On Saturday, we hit the ground running early to spend a couple of hours at the dentist (beats making three separate trips from Twinsburg to Richmond Heights). We grabbed lunch, my daughter and I took a quick dip in the pool, and then we all headed to the Cleveland Irish Cultural Fest to see friends and family and enjoy a roaring set with Liz Carroll and John Doyle (with a surprise pub-burning number when the duo was joined by fiddler Eileen Eivers and Cherish the Ladies' flutist Joan Madden). Since we forgot to turn the a/c on when we left -- it's been above 90 and extremely muggy the last few days -- the three of us "camped out" on the floor and went to sleep reminiscing about our fun couple of days.

In the middle of it all arrived this gem from Del McCoury, the well-timed Moneyland. My copy arrived Saturday just in time for us to head out. It's got a fabulous lineup and of course a spot-on message. Funny how we're all getting poorer and the handful of folks at the top don't even notice? The other day I spoke with a colleague at our community's major food bank. The enormity of the demand they are experiencing compared to years past is pretty staggering. And frontline agencies like theirs are getting hit from three sides: donations are down, expenses and demand are up.

Meanwhile, as Dr. Don noted in his recent post, the last bastions of American manufacturing, like the automakers, literally spin their wheels, ignoring the alarms while scheduling shutdowns and layoffs and, rather than redirect research and development to come up with more fuel efficient cars that Americans will buy, they are keeping an eye on their hefty severance packages. None of them will feel any pain.

I kind of like what the Continental Airlines exec decided to do. Since his airline isn't making as much money as it needs to stay in the air, he's forfeited his salary for the rest of the year. What a novel idea. Unfortunately it looks like he's a lone wolf out out in CEO wilderness.

A portion of the proceeds will be used to support homeless programs in the US, so if you were of a mind to buy something this week, think about making it this terrific effort featuring Del and his Boys, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Bruce Hornsby (with the Fairfield Four), and even the late President Franklin Roosevelt. For a limited time you might be able to pick up a signed copy. This tune, Breadline Blues 2008, features Tim O'Brien, Del, Mac Wiseman, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings. Some folks will notice that the tune smacks awfully like another blues tune you might be able to catch here.

Whatever you have to push uphill this week just to put bread on your table, I hope the load is a little bit lighter, and the bread's a little bit sweeter, and if you're lucky that you'll have real butter to spread on top.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lighting the Darkest Hour

Last night I did something I've never done. I've not ever been one for crowds, but at the last minute -- in fact, late -- I decided to go to the second community vigil for Josh Miktarian, the officer who was killed in my tiny quiet town Saturday night.

I went for selfish reasons, initially. I wanted to see who was there--in other words, I wanted to confirm my suspicion that this poor officer's death was the first stumbling block in a trip down the steps into the basement of race relations. I wanted to see what my community was really like. I was stunned and moved to see a sea of humanity of every race, paying rapt attention to the words spoken by those who had known Officer Josh Miktarian.

It was a beautiful night, too. As I gazed up and over the hillside covered with people, I looked up at the stars and took a little comfort that maybe, when we die, we get this feeling of relief for a brief moment before the flame goes out. I think it might be kind of cool to fly around with just enough of a shred of consciousness left to take in a scene like that last night, a swath of land covered in flickering bits of light from the vigil candles.

As sad as it all has been, everyone knows that at some point, you hit the bottom and then come back up. And we all know someday we'll draw our last breath. We don't look forward to that, necessarily, and it's never easy on the ones we leave behind. I can't imagine what this officer's family must be going through. Somehow I stumbled into this music during a time of my own deep darkness, and so some of the old gospel tunes brought real comfort, and still have meaning even though my perspectives have changed. I hope someday that this community finds peace, that the officer's family will be able to find a little light, a new dawn for them so that they'll take a satisfying breath again.

This beautiful old Stanley tune is even more beautiful delivered by Emmylou Harris in the video here. Enjoy one for a moment called The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Whither a Wondrous Love

I just got back from a blissful afternoon under the trees at Hale Farm and Village playing music for close to 5 hours with total strangers. I wasn't going to go as it had rained all morning but at around 12:30 the sun came out, I called a buddy of mine, and we met out in the old Western Reserve for a day of music.

While there he told me he'd heard about a shooting in Twinsburg. A police officer had been killed. I thought that was mighty strange. Nothing much ever happens here and if it does it's a big deal and yet somehow I missed it.

When I got home, I fixed myself a beautiful late supper of salmon with spinach salad with a glass of fume blanc wine. Then I opened the news. The officer, Josh Miktarian, 33 years old, was shot and killed right by the grocery store where I bought the food I'd eaten, a few hours after I left the store. He had pulled over a driver and his K-9 was in the car with him. Nearby residents heard yelling and then a shot rang out. And that was the end of Officer Miktarian, dad, husband, owner of a pizza joint, guitarist in a local rock band.

It's sad, certainly, and unnerving, and I'm pissed off, too. What the hell is going on in this world? The other day a guy in Cleveland was shot and killed while standing in his bedroom just as he was about to lay down and go to sleep. Well, the fella, a postal worker, is sleeping now for good.

Wondrous Love, performed in perfection the other night at The Kent Stage by the amazing Blue Highway, has kind of grabbed me over the last couple of days because it was a hymn from my childhood. It also is eerily appropriate now.

I had written earlier in a comment that when the guys got done with this, my jaw literally was hanging open, and it's true, it was. There was a lot of levity and a lot of fast-acting bluegrass up to that point, and usually at a bluegrass show the band will offer up a gospel tune or a quartet, and it's usually some standard off of one of their albums. This hymn tune, the title track of their gospel recording, Wondrous Love, was presented in layers, lead vocalist and bass player Wayne Taylor setting the stage with mando player and vocalist Shawn Lane. Tim Stafford came out next on the next verse, then the band's banjo player Jason Burleson, and finally Rob Ickes. (See the band's profiles here.) But it was so subtle you didn't really know what was happening, you just had this impact all of a sudden. And I've heard a lot of great singing over the years, but this was really exceptional singing. You could have heard a pin drop. I suspect a good many of the folks in the audience were holding their lower jaws. Hear the studio version here, or go back to yesterday's post and click on the link near the end when I mention about Sunday quiet time for a YouTube video.

The last time I heard this hymn, I was a little girl, probably not more than 10 years old. My mother used to take me to church with her in Dillonvale, Ohio, literally almost a one-stoplight town. We were Catholic, but somehow I never took this hymn for being like any of the others. And it's not, it comes from the shape-note tradition, and the words are anything but Anglo-Roman mass fare. But I always liked it, as a kid, because it was haunting and unusual. Now more than 30 years later I appreciate it much differently. But I had certainly forgotten all about it until Blue Highway performed it the other night. Suddenly I felt captured, exposed --oddly graced.

I leave you with this tune and hope that something of it resonates with you. I wish that we could believe in a wondrous love that would explain away the wasteful side of human nature, the power of shadow to take a life, ruin one's own life and so many others in the taking. My loss now is that innocence when I could turn to this song or so many others and just put my trust in it, in a higher love. Now, all I have is the hope that at some point humanity will right itself before self-destructing. How I miss the days of my innocent belief.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Sound of Unwinding

Ahhhh. Today was the BOMB. An absolutely butt-kicking, barn-burning night of music last night at The Kent Stage totally and truly DID turn my spirits around -- despite being completely mentally baked I could have gone on with those bee-loved Bee-Liners and that collection of bluegrass deans, Blue Highway, 'til well into the wee hours. Oh! And the bonus of the night was to see Casey Henry step out with the Bee-Liners! She stepped in for banjo player Sam Morrow for the weekend and did him proud. The crowd was terrific and the show was really phenomenal, one of the best in a good while. I am so grateful that both those bands took a chance on Northeast Ohio and turned out for us. And it was refreshing to see a closer-to-full house with lots of happy bluegrass fans! We had a good time all the way around.

Something did happen overnight. Part of it must have been the music and the laughter -- Brandi and Buddy Beeliner and Friends kept it pretty lively with a clever set of their best plus a few rarely heard old standards, and I have to say, Blue Highway's Tim Stafford does a pretty mean Slingblade impression, and a downright spooky imitation of Ralph Stanley -- he also does a few variations on Stanley's well-known (thanks to the flick, "O! Brother, Where Art Thou?") "Conversation wtih Death". I woke up early, at around 7, and just got on with the day. I felt like the person I remember a few weeks ago who had energy and some kind of a game plan. By noon I had paid bills, worked out, changed all the beds, dusted, cleaned the laundry room, pulled weeds, washed the kitchen cabinets, and gotten the bad news about the new furnace likely in my future (not that bad, really, but necessary). The rest of the day was really all mine, and I spent it intermittently playing a little music (hoo boy am I RUSTED), playing out side when it wasn't storming, grocery shopping, making myself a delicious dinner, reading during my brief visit to the pool, and barely catching up on the blogs of my other pals. Somewhere in there I even got a little nap, more than I can say for those artists who were all on the road bright and early today.

I feel I am beginning to unwind a little. So much has been on my mind about work, and we've been constantly on the go. A day like this, when its "Gee, I think I'll sort clothes and then watch it rain for five minutes" is such a pleasure. The phone didn't even ring. It was perfect.

Must say, I loved our visit to Milwaukee last weekend and to Summerfest, and I have a fun story about that I'll share some other time. I'll also have some fun stuff to share about a project my son and I have taken on -- we're officially addicted to But right now, I'm just hanging out. Time to soak my toes and play a tune. Tomorrow I'll treat myself to my weekly Sunday iTunes acquisition, and I think it's going to be Blue Highway's 2005 release, Marbletown. From that effort, here's one called Nothing But a Whippoorwill. A damn fine tune (which we all enjoyed in an extended jam version) but also reminds me why it's good to be single. ;-)

For those who still perform a little Sunday quiet time, I recommend this. Sometime I'll post about the history of this hymn tune for me personally and about how my jaw was literally hanging open at the end of this number.

Happy tails, happy trails, clip your nails, don't eat snails.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Best of Buzz

Following a four-day car trip -- or was it, five? Yeah, I think it was five -- with the kids, only to return to hit the ground running all too early this morning, I am beside myself with longing for this Friday's show at The Kent Stage. I'm counting on those feisty favorites of mine, The Dixie Bee-Liners, to turn my crabgrass back to blue. And if that doesn't do it -- unlikely as that is -- I'll have to hope for the best when Blue Highway takes the stage.

DBL is one of those rare bands that comes along once in a while to smack upside the head those folks who say things like, "I don't like that bluegrass kind of music." There are a lot of semi-conscious listeners out there who really don't know the depth and breadth of bluegrass and how, being a young form, it has its roots and its branches, to borrow an overused term at this hour when I should be asleep.

Blue Highway is a solid, more traditional band but with a message quite contemporary. Several tracks on the new release get at what is going on in this country right now. All I can say is, people who would tell me that I can't both oppose the war and support the troops are a sad case.

My mind has been turning and like my pal Shameless I've been running on fumes, but finding the time to set a spell and write just doesn't come easy, if at all. And there are so many things, despite rising before 6 and going the whole day, there just isn't enough time. Balance. I know there's got to be a way to get a better balance. Before I know it, the week will be gone, and another, and another. It makes it so hard to sink my teeth into anything. I haven't played an instrument in a few weeks. My soul needs a recharge but I'm out of batteries. If I could stay awake, I'd call my friends whom I miss so much. I feel guilty but at a loss.

This pensive tune from Blue Highway's latest release, "Through the Window of a Train," is a bittersweet take on that feeling of time slipping away like water through your fingers.

Where Did the Morning Go?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Three Days in July

As usual, the night before a trip I'm trying to cram in this chore and that errand and still manage to get to bed at a "decent" hour. How funny that, with the world literally crashing around us, we can get hung up on our insignificant worries, our self-inflicted overdoing. Talk of GM going completely under and the market firmly gone "bear" and I'm concerned over whether I remembered to pack something or if we'll get on the road at a reasonable time (in my Subaru).

There have been worse days. On this night exactly 145 years ago, lots of Americans had a lot worse on their minds. Things like, "Where are my boots?" Or, "Where are my feet?"

The Battle at Gettysburg raged on from July 1 to July 3, 1863, culminating in the fiercest losses of life on American soil, and supposedly turning the tide on the War itself. (I never understand this; the war raged on for another couple of years. If I had been Gen. Lee, I surely would have turned my sword over to Gen. Meade.)

So we are, 145 years later, in the middle of another bloody war, this time far away from home. In some ways the Civil War was a just war. This war we're now in is just wrong. Men and women of the armed forces, not to mention tens of thousands more men, women and children of Iraq and Afghanistan, are losing their lives for no particular reason that anyone has given, really. And at home we wage war every day to get and keep our jobs, to fill our gas tanks, to put bread on our tables, to raise our children and keep them safe and alive through another day.

And I'm worried about getting enough sleep.

This tune is a grabber from the Infamous Stringdusters brand new and fabulous self-titled release. "Three Days In July" tells the story of one night from one young man's point of view. Boys my son's age were part of a youth "brigade" that made up as much as 15% of the soldiers on both sides. I'm sure as the song says, they learned things they never knew, and we surely never will. Maybe we should. Maybe if we really understood some of the things that used to be, we'd treat each other better and take more seriously our roles as citizens. We can only take the next few days and over the holiday think about what about this country matters to us, why we celebrate our "independence," and what we can do to get back some authenticity for our busted-up, beleaguered, midlife-crisis nation.