Wednesday, October 29, 2008

(Not Quite Ready For) First Snow

I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked out the front door this morning and saw Son of Mando's handily carved Jack-O-Lantern wearing a white hat.

All I'm gonna say is, it is WAY too early for this tune, but, it's a FTLOB tradition.

First Snow
(Tim O'Brien and friends from the Grammy-winning album, Fiddlers Green)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Through the Window of a Train

A couple of months ago I posted a piece about the conflict I had with my son over being asked to give my permission for him to ride to school with another boy. I remember asking for time to think about it, which didn’t go over well with him or the other parents. It turns out that almost two months later, the young driver still does not have his license. Obviously, I feel set up. It's really a testament of how far things have unraveled and I must have contributed something to it, because people don't just wake up one day and decide to do things like this for fun.

I’ve been thinking again about my attachment to figuring out this stuff that's been happening in the last year either to me or others, and am realizing that, maybe it's not worth trying to figure out, because some of these things may not be about me after all. I’m learning that there are times when you have to accept being a spectator, being removed or without responsibility no matter what the temptation is, and just let it stop there. Just stop. Stop the train of destruction or it will run over you and the people you care about.

As I mentioned I've had the iPod on Shuffle and one of the things on there that I don't frankly listen to often enough is a workshop by one of my favorite writers, a Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron. Her writing has always brought me around when I've been struggling with difficult things because rather than set forth these lofty goals of enlightenment, she breaks it down into little bits of advice. The recording that popped up is a gift from Shameless, titled "Don't Bite the Hook." Eerily timed, the segment that came up yesterday during my drive home was one about knee-jerk reactions.

I think we are all trained to have knee-jerk reactions -- in school, on the playground, later in board rooms and at family gatherings. I have had my share when feel I have to defend myself or see an injustice. I had one a couple of weeks ago and I regret it because it came back around to bite someone I care about right in the tookus, which was of course not my intention but once we have taken an action and can't take it back, no matter how "justified" we feel it is, we have no control over what happens next or how it will be used to further the destructive behavior we think we have the power to stop.

More and more, in different areas, I am starting to see how pulling back, even when a situation involves the people you love most, is the only way to truly be able to bring about more peace in the world. As Pema Chodron says, the buck has to stop somewhere, and it might as well stop with you, as hard as that might be. Maybe it won't make a huge difference, but it will make a difference in how we feel about ourselves. It's a sort of "detox" program from our own knee-jerk tendencies that ultimately destroy not just our own health and happiness and progress as people but it is a real downer for the rest of the folks in your world.

My daughter last night retold a story that her father told her about an injury she got when she was a very little person, not quite two. I remember the incident because I was there, discovered she was bleeding, knew that she was not consolable even with breastfeeding, so we took her to the ER and she had a stitch put in. She was never told to go to her room as it was described to her; she was too little to have been sent to her room, and too upset. But apparently I was not even in the story; who knows how I was repainted by the storyteller. This is the kind of thing that people do to each other when they want the bad feelings to continue and engender some kind of negative action or reaction. Even writing about it is a rather negative reaction on my part but it's part of what I am processing and it validates why I have to get off that train and get on a new one.

In these situations, you have to extract yourself from the intimacy of the experience and look in on it as though you know nobody involved. It doesn't mean I love my children less or worry for them less, or that the things my friends and family might go through are not serious or important. But when we are so entwined in the circumstance, are we really able to help the person we care about? We can step out of it and watch things unfold as though we were a passenger on a train and this is one of the things witnessed on the journey. Now, certainly if there were any real danger, most of us would probably decide to step in. But how often is that really, truly necessary? Not as often as our knee-jerk instinct might lead us to believe.

This Blue Highway song, the title track from their latest release, also has been on my mind for a couple of days. I believe it received a Song of the Year nomination from IBMA. The more I think about my experience in discovering music like this and meeting the people involved, the more I believe and feel I am on the right track. I've never felt as comfortable and "right" as when I am around these folks. Music just has a way of evening things out, of giving us an important outlet for our feelings and allowing us to express strong emotions without hurting other people. Earlier this week I put my earphones in and played through this tune and a bunch of others and it felt wonderful and sounded not too bad! I hope you find the time this weekend to enjoy the things that help you express yourself and bring you some peace, too.

Through the Window of a Train

Everybody drives the same old roads these days
Don't see a thing, but they know the way
Every mile's a marker, every town's the same
Another place to stop but not to stay

Daddy was a brakeman on the L&N
Sometimes he'd let me ride along with him
No matter where we'd stop along the way
Everybody knew his name

A different story down every line
People workin' hard just to live and die
I saw it all once upon a time
Through the window of a train

Then we started back the way we came
Like people moving through a picture frame
Seems the whole world's further down the track
But I'm always looking back

I don't expect you all to understand
Or see the country like a railroad man
So many things you'd never realize
Unless you saw 'em with these eyes

Birmingham to Jackson, hear the whistle call
And the sun goes down like a big red ball
In my memory I still see it all
Through the window of a train

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh the Mendacity!

Sunday afternoon I took a little time to myself and went to a screening of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at The Kent Stage. It was truly fun to watch a young Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor doing what made them so famous. And it was, like most Tennessee Williams plays, another family drama where you never quite know what the motivation is until it all comes out in the wash at the end. Or, not.

I was a fan of Williams. I enjoy his writing and in college very nearly decided I would take on his work for my senior thesis. In the end I was swayed to a different dramatist from a far off country. But, as with my affection for Faulker and his long, loose dramatically painted lines, Williams' writing breathes and oozes the brutal honesty of the South.

I've learned that brutal honesty is just not always all that popular with northerners, or city folk. My own boss, who himself grew up in rural Louisiana, has always had to struggle with "speaking truth to power." But once you've done it, it doesn't matter if it falls on death Northern cityfolk ears. When you don't apologize for the truth, or for being a person who tells it, that's just how it is.

I don't know if this is part of what makes me uncomfortable about Cleveland. It's always seemed that there is an overarching long and drawn-out passive aggressive nature to everything. My friends all joke that my mother was very good at it, but not quite to the degree that I witness it around here; there's a difference between suggesting that someone might want to put on a sweater, and not answering an email for four weeks despite reminders. I'm trying to be more discreet, well mannered. But I'm not a faker, I suck at veiled anything, I'm not a shallow person, and not much of a game player. I don't find the challenge of manipulating other people all that interesting, at least I haven't for a very, very long time. It's not worth risking their trust, and I have no reason to. As a recruiter, people are my bread and butter. It's because of my interest in people and my ability to relate with people that allows me the privilege of making my living the way I do.

I've been through a lot of weird things and tough times with my own family, which is fairly spread out across Ohio, down on into Tennessee and then again as far east as Baltimore. We all have our moments, all our families do. As much as I worry for my own children being torn apart while caught in the barbed wire of unpleasant family business, I'm sure I learned a few tricks growing up myself from situations that weren't all that perfect. A sad compromise: if I can't stop what's happening to them, can I teach them how to use the lesson? If I could, what exactly is the lesson?

I've had the iPod on Shuffle for about two weeks. Just as I was driving into work this morning I thought, "I bet Donna Hughes has a song for this post." And just almost at that moment -- no kidding, now -- this tune popped up in the rotation. I've posted it here before but it's a song most of my friends recall from days gone by when we were all kind of fond of Cyndi Lauper. She kind of got out in front with her own thing and had this sort of honesty about her, a way of being herself at a time when music was just busting open with the video age. "Time After Time" is one of those songs everyone kind of knows, I think. It always makes me think of my kids; lines like "If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting...time after time" are sentiments that are always on my mind. It's also a good standard tune for unconditional friendship and love, something that is surprisingly rare when it should be the standard, time after time.

Time After Time

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Consensus

It finally got cold enough this morning for me to turn the heat on, to just take the chill out. I was sold on holding off on the heat as long as I could, if possible until the new furnace comes in about a month from now, but I figured it would just ease the house into fall.

Not too bad, actually, that it's past the October midpoint. We've been kind of spoiled, I guess, with the warm weather last weekend and then the week before I was in Nashville where it was around 85 degrees when I left. Even most of this past week it was nice.

The hard part about turning on the heat, as it will be for many folks, is, how will this affect my bottom line? I was quite surprised to open my gas bill and find it had been lowered almost $20, which I don't quite buy. I've heard gas and delivery charges are both going up, so how can they lower my bill another $20 a month? Hm.

As fall comes on, we are in the worst economic condition in history. I'm girding myself for all kinds of swings in expenses, from utilities to groceries. Fuel prices are down at the moment, but after the election there's no telling what will happen. Nobody can agree on how all this happened, nobody can agree on what to do to move forward, nobody can seem to come to any consensus. Until it stops being a blame game nothing will change.

I was hoping to find a recording to share with you of a song I heard at IBMA by a band I had not had a chance to hear before, Special Consensus. This band started out in 1975 in another favorite town of mine, Chicago, under the leadership of banjo player Greg Cahill, the current volunteer president of IBMA. The song is called "Our Little Town" and I hope you'll go out and check it out; it's all about the uncertainty of these times and what will happen not just to individual families, but entire communities like the one where I grew up. And it will happen while Washington is trying to execute its big bailout strategy, just the same old "trickle down" economics in a different suit. It will take months before people and businesses in places like Smithfield Ohio see any help from that.

But finding this video of "Special C" at this year's Nashcamp event at least took the chill off for my morning and reminded me that there will be a time when this is behind us, one way or another. If there is a heaven, for me, it would be like this: folks gathered on a warm June night to play and hear live music on the porch -- complete with birdsong. It's how I hope to spend my summer evenings someday when we get through this and other train wrecks. Hope this warms you up and brings you a smile wherever you are.

Ten Mile Tennessee

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wild, Wonderful and Just Fine with Me

The pace of things has been pretty high since I got back from Nashville and so I’m still unpacking a few of my IBMA experiences on top of still kind of settling back into my “normal” life in Northeast Ohio. Getting past what Pie referred to as that “WTF” feeling – she helped me realize that I go through that feeling every time I pull off the turnpike or pull out of the airport parking lot -- has been a little more challenging this year perhaps because the visit home did hit the sweet spot in so many ways.

I think my trip home, though, actually started while I was in Nashville, not only because I got to enjoy so much time with my sister and her family but also because the last show I saw on Saturday night took me entirely by surprise. The lineup for the weekend featured two performers who really are known as country stars – Vince Gill, and Kathy Mattea. I was kind of lukewarm about catching either show but felt I needed to just see what they were about. Gill was pretty terrific and a good showman, although his voice is not as bell-like as I remember. Ms. Mattea, on the other hand, absolutely shut it down for me. There was one more set on the lineup Saturday night, but there was no point because I had become totally enraptured in Mattea’s performance of songs from her new album, “Coal”.

Mattea is a Mountaineer, and although she has had sort of a pretty successful country career, she handed out each of the songs from “Coal” like little drops of chocolate-covered gold. From start to finish, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed not just the songs but her self-effacing delivery. She admitted that these songs really changed the way she thought about singing, not to mention her life, and I think for the audience they changed they way some folks, myself included, see her. Maybe they changed the way she sees herself.

That's part of what's been happening over the course of the last five or six years with me. My parents never talked about the Jamboree and we never went, even though the biggest stars in country and bluegrass music stopped through there. My guess is that one or both -- probably one, probably my Dad -- felt the music was beneath them and so it never made it to the Friday or Saturday night rotation on the stereo. But no matter, years later I found it anyway and really in the nick of time as I began to unpack myself after years of trying to please other people and pretend I was someone else. Part of that was realizing that just because I grew up in the country doesn't somehow make me "less" in any regard. On the contrary, if anything, it makes me "more." More of who I am. A classically trained singer and a bluegrass fan can indeed inhabit the same skin. Someone who enjoys a well-executed chamber piece and a good barnburner don't have to be different people. Someone who can have a chat with the general manager of a Group 1 orchestra and enjoy a 1 a.m. conversation with a bluegrass fest organizer would be the anxious to introduce them to each other. I no longer try to hide that teensy little bit of "twang" when it comes out in conversation with someone from Philadelphia or New York or LA. They don't seem to mind, so, why should I?

This tune kind of sums it up. Someday I hope I can get a crowd of down-home, closet Ohio Valleyans to join me in a few rounds. In the meantime, I sure get where Mattea is coming from when she sings this one called "Green Rolling Hills." Enjoy.

Green Rolling Hills

Oh, the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

My daddy said, don't ever be a miner
For a miner's grave is all you'll ever own
'Cause the hard times everywhere, I can't find a dime to spare
These are the worst times I've ever known.

But the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

--- Instrumental ---

So I'll move away into some crowded city
In some northern factory town you'll find me there
Though I'll leave the past behind I'll never change my mind
These troubled times are more than I can bear.

But the green rolling hills of West Virginia
Are the nearest thing to heaven that I know
Though the times are sad and drear and I cannot linger here
They'll keep me and never let me go.

But someday I'll go back to West Virginia
To the green rolling hills I love so well
Yes, someday I'll go home and I know I'll right the wrong
These troubled times will follow me no more.

Yes, someday I'll go home and I know I'll right the wrong
These troubled times will follow me no more.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Jamboree Journey in Time

This weekend the kids and I took a badly needed escape to visit the part of the state where I grew up. They hadn't been down there with me for a long time, too long. The motivation behind the trip was to enjoy a concert featuring Tim O'Brien and the Steep Canyon Rangers, but at every turn, even at the concert, we got more fun than we bargained for.

There has been a lot of curiosity about family since we started doing this family tree stuff so part of our planned visit involved cemetery stops. It was actually kind of nice, in a way, to stop at Mom's grave -- we really were kind of fumbling around for it in this giant cemetery in Wheeling, and lo, my daughter spotted the family name as we had almost given up. We also climbed to the top of Riverview Cemetery in Martins Ferry -- an experience of driving up some steep inclines with impressive views that my daughter, the skier and fearless one, did NOT like in the car.

The centerpiece of the visit was live music -- live and on the air. That part kind of eluded me in the planning. I figured we were just heading out to Brush Run Park to hang out with my brother and sister in law and catch some live tunes real cheap -- $15 for the three of us since the kids were FREE. But it turned out to be a real barn burner of an evening with four bands all broadcast live from our little Ohio hilltop around the globe at Pretty cool. The show was great fun, very old-fashioned Jamboree USA. (Once upon a time, WWVA was right behind the Opry's WSM in reaching audiences with live bluegrass and early country music.) We had a chance to hear the Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band which has put bluegrass music education on the map with a recent trip to Japan. Tim O'Brien had a nice long solo acoustic set; his 95 year old dad was in the crowd along with a few other friends and family. The headliner band, Steep Canyon Rangers, were an exceptional delight. Out of Asheville, they were much more high-steppin' than most of the Asheville musicians I've become acquainted with. They did a couple of my favorite Monroe tunes, Tennessee Blues and, with Tim joining in for a double fiddle fest, Wheel Hoss. An incredibly talented lineup and a heck of a night of music making.

One of the best parts of the trip was the drive back to my brother's log home that sits on the lower part of what was once our family home. It was so peaceful to drive along the river and then up into the hills at night, so my son could take in the Valley's twinkling lights and the quiet struggling beauty of it all. Once back at my brothers, we sat up into the wee hours around a cozy fire under the stars. We talked about the family business, about picking, about everything. It was truly good in every way.

Other highlights of the trip included an impromptu trip to my high school (it graduated it's last senior class in May, having been unable to catch up financially), and lunch at "grandmas"--we parked our car in a spot in the parking lot just about where her wonderful kitchen used to be and then picnicked in the shade near the Betty Zane cemetery, where my son and all my nieces and nephews spent lots of time as little kids.
After wrapping ourselves in this wonderful blanket of welcoming familiarity and a longing to be back in the company of people and places that meant so much to us, it was not easy to head home. We are exhausted, but feeling a little girded up by this rich state of re-connectedness, a bit more grounded having reclaimed a little piece of home planet. Sure, it's all about the journey, but sometimes we need the destination, too.
Take a look at this YouTube of the Steep Canyon Rangers doing a tune we enjoyed called Lovin' Pretty Women.
Here's hoping you have a chance to reconnect with your roots soon.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Workin? Great! Me Too!

This economic crisis really is terrifying but overall, I was doing fine -- until I opened up my kids’ mutual fund reports. The hits in the economy have gutted my kids already fairly thin savings, and I really don’t know how I’m going to pay for college. At least they have their whole lives ahead of them and haven't lost their retirement savings like so many have. Just have to keep plugging away and hope they can get loans (although I have higher hopes for my daughter) or that I can sell my house -- which thankfully is still worth more than I owe on it.

I have not been a saver like I should be as a single mother. Then again, as a single mother, I’m lucky, I guess, to save anything at all. I’m operating on a two-mortgage-payments-on-standby principle, and it probably should be more. I put a little something away every month for the kids but I know it isn’t nearly enough, especially with one kid queueing up for college in about 3.5 years. I focus on jettisoning debt, which other than my primary and secondary mortgages – the closest I came to buying into the subprime market was a second mortgage my lender sold me to increase my downpayment, probably not a wise move but hey, at least I can deduct it – is now thankfully relatively small, and I really hope I can keep it that way. I save nothing for myself or my retirement; at this point I’ve decided I probably will work until I die and this is fine with me as long as I can keep doing something I love. Fortunately, that has always been the case and I don’t expect it will ever be different. I love to work at something worth doing.

When I look at the horror stories of other ordinary Americans and what they are going through, how much they’ve lost, it’s devastating – and somewhat motivating. Other than my kids’ child support -- which I would love to do without for any number of reasons -- what comes in is what goes out. I’m finally sending out less than I bring in. And sure, it means I still have that nasty carpet and I have to wash my dishes, but isn’t it grand that I have a home, and can buy gasoline and pay for water and electricity? I should be busting my ass even more, however, if for no other reason than that the recruiting industry, while it may be doing well elsewhere, is not a booming business in Cleveland. Our next assignment is in Connecticut.

So here’s a tune for all the folks who are busting their butts – Blueberry comes to mind, as well as just a whole bunch of other hardworking friends and family. It goes out too to my friend L, too, who took a new post with her company and got a whole lot more than she bargained for, and I worry about her some. She and my sis and Shannon are hopefully going to get some fun in this weekend in that wonderful city of Beer and Brats.

Let me just say a few words about this young man, Jamie Dailey. I am really pleased that his band, Dailey and Vincent – that would be Darrin Vincent, young brother of Bluegrass diva Rhonda, on the upright there in my photo from last weekend – scooped up SEVEN IBMA awards last week. Jamie is one of the finest singers out there, and to me his voice is just clarion. It’s instantly recognizable, and full of passion and life. His deep faith, which as with other bluegrass artists is evident in so much of his music, does not interfere with the fact that he’s also a terribly smart and perceptive person who knows how to have fun. He’s one of the people I appreciate most, and do my best not to miss an opportunity to see him live, because not only is he a thoroughly committed performer who gives you everything he’s got, but in the middle of his shows he’ll tell you something that kind of sticks with you in a meaningful way even if you don’t necessarily agree with where it comes from 100%. He is very special, and his band is phenomenal. Hold on to your hats while you enjoy one now from Jamie and Darrin’s inaugural self-titled release, called “Poor Boy Workin Blues”.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To Your Health

Well I had intended with all my heart to post a little something last night, having gotten home pretty late Sunday night and still sorting out all that I saw and heard for four days. It's always a little hard to adjust but overall good to be home.

Last night was kind of an irritating exercise in my technological shortcomings. Not me personally, but, the stuff I have, the technology I have, is kind of cobbled together. For some reason nothing, nothing was working right. On the way home from trying to work out a little, I was listening to this terrific Dan Tyminski song from Del McCoury's new Moneyland compilation, and I really wanted to get home so I could learn it and play it. This set off a chain of technical difficulties that should just not be possible in the home of a music lover like me. But, I have what I have. I found the cd and put it in my 5 year old cheap little RCA disc player/tuner/tape deck thingy, where it is still stuck because the CD component cannot skip past the first disc. It may be lodged there permanently; I decided that rather than take it out side and bust it open I would first allow my son to take the thing apart to see if he could get the disc stack out and retrieve whatever is in there before we set it out for the garbage pickers. And then, that's it, I won't have a stereo.

But I guess it's not that big a deal. There are lots of things I'd like to have -- a new dishwasher (the one I have has holes in the door that are getting bigger and now the thing is really not washing the dishes properly), new carpet (the stuff I have is very worn and stained and is depressing to look at), something to play music on that works (I knew this day was coming that the thing would finally poop out). But these aren't needs, something that Americans get all too confused with wants, which is one of the reasons why we have this unbelievable downspiraling of the economy. Now that I have to pay $40 or more every week to ten days to fill up my tank, a new mode of music broadcasting isn't all that crucial, nor is a dishwasher when I have two good hands, dish soap, and running water. I am getting a new furnace, which is more of a precaution; I just didn't want to tempt fate with a 27 year old furnace on a night when I have the kids and its 20 below zero. And it could well happen based on the last assessment I had done. So that's a need.

Yesterday at the office I turned on a little of the Congressional hearings on the economic debacle and the guy who ran Lehman Brothers was yapping. We stood around listening and determined that there really is no way to get back at these jerks for what they did. Worse, they are never going to feel it, never going to feel what it's like to not be able to just cover a mere 600 square feet with new carpet. I mean, it might be good for them if they did, and maybe next time, if they had a next time, they'd be more careful with other people's money (and spill things less, too).
Now, I spent the last three or so days with Joe Sixpack, maybe Joe Banjer, and I don't think McCain Palin has any damn idea what the hell they're talking about. I still don't have the hang of Palinese, that odd language in which a few nouns and participles and the occasional verb are kind of strung together anchored with words like "maverick!" and "Main Street!" and "You betcha!" And then there's batshit crazy, delusional War Hero McCain, the bad seed in an otherwise impressive lineage of military heroes, graduating 894 out of 899 in his Annapolis class. Neither one of them has really ever hung out with people like me, or people poorer than I am, because if they did and it mattered to them, they wouldn't say two thirds of the shit they do. And they continue to insult my intelligence and that of millions of Americans. I'm not a snob, but I'm sure not stupid and I won't pretend to be. And I will not go out with men who think it's cute to do so.

This weekend I heard some really terrific songs about what it's like to be poor or struggling with things and I decided I would put some of those tunes out there for you. I’m going to start things off with the number I so desperately wanted to hear last night, a tune called “Carry Me Across the Mountain” featuring Tyminski. It’s the story of a mountain family with a sick child, and what they do to ensure that child receives care to survive. I was so fortunate to hear Dan Tyminski in a workshop and then performing with his band (shown here; Tyminski on guitar and that's Adam Steffey to the far left on mando). He's such a talent and has a pretty handsome lineage himself in the bluegrass world, having most recently been a pretty big part of Alison Krauss's Union Station. And he has to be good if that crazy Adam Steffey plays mando for him.

This is the soundtrack for some background info I dug up on John McCain’s health plan. At the moment I am generally healthy and so thankfully are my children, and we are also insured. But about 47 million Americans are uninsured, and a lot of other Americans who are insured have crappy coverage. If the McCain Palin ticket is elected and McCain’s health care strategy goes through, employers will almost certainly throw scores of people off of group plans and into the open “free market” of choice with only $5,000 taxable dollars in their pockets to buy health coverage. The only people who will benefit from this are the folks behind the desks at the insurance companies. Here is a snippet from the Web on the subject:
Comments from Wall Street Journal onlin readers on the McCain plan:
“As a chronically ill patient, I am uninsurable on the private market. McCain wants people like me to use our state’s high-risk pool. I have priced the best high-risk pool plan for me in my state. It would require we spend over $29.000 out of pocket each year, not including prescriptions. This is not feasible, since it is over half our family’s gross income before deductions. Since I require ongoing health care to stay alive, i would choose to go on hospice and die rather than bankrupt our family. Losing all that we have, especially our home, for a few extra months of life is not worth it.”

“How does McCain’s plan address the needs of sole proprietors with no employees? Think of your mechanic, your bookkeeper, your landscaper, your freelancer. Insurers already work hard to keep individual subscribers blocked from enrollment–an issue that the government completely overlooks. (The dominant insurer in my region does not permit individual enrollment at all! Groups only.) I’m concerned that McCain’s plan will further restrain the start-up and growth of small business.”

From this article in the Wall Street Journal online:
“Overall, the Tax Policy Center predicts that the Obama plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million people in the first year and by 34 million in 10 years.”

And this, from the Campaign for America’s Future:
Fortune Magazine quotes one of their experts on the impact of McCain's plan: “I predict that most companies would stop paying for health care in three to four years,” says Robert Laszewski, a consultant who works with corporate benefits managers.
Now keep this in mind: McCain and his corporate advisers don’t dispute this. The massive upheaval that would result – millions of families losing their health coverage on the job and then having to try to find an insurance company that would sell them a new policy that would cover their families—that’s not an unintended consequence of his proposal. That chaotic loss of health security is exactly what McCain intends to happen. He wants us all to buy insurance not as part of a group—like an employee group or a co-op—that can negotiate for better coverage at lower premiums, but as individuals, at the mercy of the private insurance companies.”

Obama’s plan mandates coverage for children. That’s what I care about. I’m not worried about my children, but for God’s sakes, America, what kind of country chooses not to take care of its kids? KIDS. What are they supposed to do, set up a lemonade stand to help their parents buy health insurance? There is no way that I will ever support anyone who isn’t willing to put a plan on the table that ensures that every child in America will have their health needs met, no matter how big or how small. Because a person who cannot put children and families first, all children and all families, is just not worthy of my vote.

So if you’re thinking of voting for McCain-Palin, think about whether you can make it between 50 and 65 on private insurance. Think about whether your son or daughter or grandchildren with chronic health problems as simple and treatable as asthma will be able to get coverage at all, or what it will cost them. Think about why, when a more standardized government subsidized form of health care exists in every other industrialized nation in the world, countries where people don’t have to worry about losing their homes if someone winds up with a brain tumor, we don’t have that here, in what at least used to be the richest country in the world.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

IBMA Day 2...Still Awake

It's going on 11:30 pm local time and all around you can hear in every nook and cranny of the hotel pickers jamming their last. They'll be at it well into the night and on into the early hours of Sunday. All three levels of the lobbies, and traveling all 25 floors of the hotel, you can hear the music.

Just had a wonderful bout of synchronicity. I was planning to bail out for a couple of hours and swing back for the last show of the evening with Lonesome River Band. Unable to find an open computer station to check in for my flight tomorrow night, I wandered down to the Main Stage early. I was intentionally planning to skip Kathy Mattea which would have been the biggest mistake of my evening.

Mattea has a new album out, titled "Coal", and she did a number of songs from that recording in her set. Needless to say I would have missed the full circle of my weekend if I had skipped it. Future posts will explore this material. For now, suffice it to say that my preconceived notions of Mattea as a country star are ill founded.

Earlier in the evening, I sat in on most of Vince Gill's set. Gill, like Mattea one of the biggest names in country music, is now an avowed, out-of-the-closet, back-to-Bluegrass player. He did several of my favorite tunes.

Heading up to drop some stuff in my room I had the unfortunate experience of sharing the elevator with some sports fans. They were whining about Biden making them depressed. When the elevator opened up on a jam session, the guy whined further, "that stuff depresses me too. I'm a country boy." I thought, Mister, why don't you go downstairs and tell that to Vince Gill when he's done picking his mando for a crowd of about 1500 people?" But I just kept my mouth shut and got off at my stop.

It's going to be a long night, for some. As for me, I'm going to go find a beer, and sample the many picking sessions. I tuned up but the D string keeps slipping out and I don't want to make a mess of anyone's session. So I'll listen and make a few new friends (so far the folks I've met are all presenters from Ohio, ironically) and then maybe, get some sleep.

Hope all y'all are having a good weekend.


IBMA Part 1: Who Set My Alarm?!

Well, I wasn't up all that late, only until about 1 p.m. because I couldn't find a group of beginner-like pickers. But it was a great day anyway.

One of the best things about the way my visit started was that I spent the first three hours at the Roots and Branches stage. April Verch and her band kicked things off, followed by -- believe it or not -- the Freighthoppers, who were terrific. Then, would you believe, Mike Seeger.

From there after I checked into my room and dumped my bag, I headed to the ballroom to catch some late afternoon tunes and then head up to the mandolin workshop. The workshop featured seven players -- seven! I bought a little electronic travel metronome because I do what Dan Tyminski tells me to.

After a quick bite to eat it was time for the Friday lineup, which included the Josh Williams Band, Doyle Lawson, Cherryholmes, Tyminski, The Grascals, and Mountain Heart -- with special guest Tony Rice. Somewhere in my wandering around, however, I got to catch Sierra Hull and some of her similarly young and talented friends just jamming in the lobby. You know, like everybody does.

After the main shows were done for the night I dumped my stuff and headed back downstairs (I'm on the 23rd floor) in an elevator full of pickers who of course played a tune on the way down. Gotta remember to bring my camera with me.

Hope you enjoy your day!