Sunday, January 25, 2009

Workin' People's Music by Busy Bees

OH how I've been missing summer, and better days, and not worrying myself to sleep every night, and so many pasttimes I've enjoyed, like blogging and learning tunes and keeping my sad little MySpace up to date. I've been thinking about my pals The Dixie Bee-Liners all week long because I've adopted one of their songs as a sort of personal worksong. Little did I know that while buried in my personal drama, they've been planning a visit to The Kent Stage for THIS SATURDAY. The show is at 8 p.m. and tickets are a steal for this bunch -- you'll have plenty left over to buy their CD and buy a cold beverage!

What a treat. I had hoped to venture out last weekend to see that pied piper of my soul, Tim O'Brien, but at 14 below BEFORE factoring in the wind chill, my kids and I decided to remain cozy indoors with blankets and lots of Tim's music. And over the course of the time since then much has happened in our country and in my slightly rocky, uncertain little world. Everyone in my company has been asked to take another 15% paycut to help prevent layoffs. We all agreed that 15% is better than 100%, which is what tens of thousands of Americans give up every week.

It did my heart good to see the news last night and watch Obama's cabinet report to work at the White House on the first weekend of the new Presidency. Since I had to work and I know a lot of other people did too, it was reaffirming somehow. It's been another batshit busy week punctuated by a surprise project for another organization that needs it in a hurry. I'm delighted for the opportunity which could become a new line of business and certainly will help me re-establish greater contact with the local nonprofit world, but I spent a lot of the weekend working on it. I hope it's successful.

Despite the news and the fact that I probably won't exhale until May or June, I'm trying to remain focused and optimistic. There wouldn't be another job out there waiting for me unless I dreamed it up myself, so my best hope for doing that is just to stay the course and keep existing clients happy while doing meaningful work that still allows us to eat. In the meantime, my sister and I both agreed it might be good to practice our flagging skills. (We both look good in orange so I'm not worried, really.)

It's interesting that we find our country in this enormous economic morass in the dead of winter. This evening's news heralded another major storm poised to take out more heat and power lines. Never having been a fan of winter, I've tried to be patient, but of course it's wearing thin. To learn of the Bee-Liners visiting was like a summer breeze blowing through my tired, worried brain. Just here in July with Blue Highway, it was one of the warmest nights we'd had, and the house was quite full.

I'm pretty sure my favorite tune off of their album, RIPE, is Yellow-Haird Girl. I can see it as my soundtrack whether I'm working out (it got me through several sets of weights last week), banging out a grant application for a client, or standing in the middle of the road with a big ol' "STOP" sign directing traffic, and feeling the sun beat down.

Here's to America getting back to work as quickly as possible with whatever music it takes, and to meanwhile making it out as often as possible to support live music in your neck of the woods -- or mine!

Yellow-Haired Girl

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Ahhhhgural

Finally, it's over. We've been through the roughest campaign I can remember -- Gore's loss notwithstanding -- and managed to get through today without incident. I held my breath with every step those little girls took on their way to their spots for the swearing-in. I did the same as the President and First Lady strolled confidently along the avenue, though flanked on all sides by a protective force unlike any we've ever seen. It all went off without a hitch as far as we were all concerned. At the office we celebrated the departure of the Bush family and the swapping of the family photographs with a potluck also unlike any I can remember. We managed to get a lot of work done, too, and that's what we have to do every day for the next four years and beyond.

Before that happens, however, there are lots more songs to be sung and dances to be danced. We're in the middle of the inaugural party circuit. One performance makes me feel pretty proud. Bela Fleck was featured on the lineup on the Eisenhower Theatre stage at the Kennedy Center. I didn't research this terribly thoroughly, but the last time a banjo was involved in an inaugural celebration to my knowledge is the Nixon parade, in which Flatts and Scruggs played one of their last gigs together.

Bela of course is a banjo player of a different stripe. Like his sometime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma, his music is fairly boundarie-less. He has gone from being part of the original Newgrass Revival lineup to releasing his own full-length classical recording, Perpetual Motion, with other notable classical artists. He didn't have the opportunity to play this afternoon with his fellow American treasures Ma, Itzahk Perlman, and Anthony McGill. But he'll take the stage tonight and leave a five-string mark on inaugural history his own way.

In honor of our new President who does things his way, here's a short little Bach diddy featuring Fleck and his Flecktones. Here's hoping we're all inspired to think, learn, and act in new ways to get the job done.

Fugue from Prelude and Fugue in A minor by JS Bach (d. 1750).

Thursday, January 15, 2009


What's red, and blue, and keeps you warm on a cold January Ohio evening?

Why, an evening with Tim O'Brien at the bestest venue EVER, the Kent Stage!

Tomorrow night, Friday Jan. 16, 8 p.m. at the Stage on Main in downtown Kent, Tim takes the stage again for a hearty weather-braving audience.

I've been struggling with this all week. Unfortunately, most of the excuses I was making are slowly being deconstructed. Fearless called and twisted my arm on tickets just as I came in the door (although at heart I REALLY wish the show would sell out, because Tim deserves it, and, the last show he did at the stage was durn close). Then, when I mentioned on my Facebook (oh stop!) that we're supposed to have a HIGH of NEGATIVE SIX DEGREES and it might be too cold to drag the kids, two of my friends, SoUncreative and Pie, asked me if the show is outdoors. Ha, ha, ha. Even my sister in law told me I didn't have a good excuse.

So, at the moment, providing my car starts tomorrow and I make it home from work, we're going.

AND SO SHOULD YOU. Kent is a fun little town, and if your car doesn't start you can come home with me or find one of the cute little spots to crash there in town.

Here's one from Tim's latest release, Chameleon, in celebration of the forthcoming REGIME CHANGE ON TUESDAY.

Hope you can make it out tomorrow, or if you can't, you'll cozy up with a good drink, someone to keep you warm, and lots of Tim tunes.

When In Rome

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Making the Crossing

The holidays are more officially over now at my house. Right after the New Year we had to focus on the next event, Operation Surprise Shannon, a belated birthday party to bring Shannon together with all those folks who couldn't make it to Vegas (and the one person who did) to watch him turn 40. Donny and Marie couldn't get in because of the weather, but plenty of folks turned out, and he is still surprised.

Putting together the evening was tons of fun and no small feat with the guest of honor occasionally throwing us for a loop. We, in turn, managed to throw him off the trail with a fake invitation asking him to join the Yarn Slut for her birthday (which was in fact on Friday and so thanks are due to her for allowing us to hijack it for this occasion). Donny and Marie were with us in spirit, and my sister joined us from Nashville late night for a truly whirlwind literal 8 hour visit (you'd be surprised at how many people are at the Cleveland Airport at 5:30 on a Sunday morning -- I was!).

Of course, yesterday was also the brunt of one of the worst storms we've had in a while. Suffice it to say that added a layer of excitement to the Day of Adventure. We nonetheless all forged ahead. As I drove across the Turnpike to the party destination, this very appropriate tune came on, one of Tim O'Brien's most famous fiddle tracks, "The Crossing."

This weekend really does mark movement solidly in the new year. Despite the lack of sleep, I felt today that I was back on track. Our friend Shadow/J starts teaching tomorrow, we start a new contract at work, and my house is starting to look and feel like home again (with a few lingering Yankee Candles and festive lights on the mantlepiece for comfort). Daughter started up her ski lessons again last Sunday so is back in her element there. Yarn Slut is planning her wedding, yet another big day to look forward to. The economy is still railing and the world has much work to do as do we all, but life goes on and we must go with it.

Speaking of moving on, I would be remiss not to mention the crossing over of mandolin virtuoso Butch Baldassari, who lost his battle with brain cancer this weekend. He was 56, and probably would have had a few good rolls left in him.

So I'm just wishing you all one more time a truly happy, satisfying, engaging, give-it-your-best-shot New Year. You never know when it will be your last. Hold on to what you still have to lose, let go of the crap that isn't working, and reach into untapped resources you may have forgotten you had. As the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Happy Crossing into 2009 -- And Oh, Hey!! Come see Tim O'Brien 8 p.m. next Friday, Jan. 16 at -- where else?! -- The Kent Stage. We can't wait. What better way to kick off the inaugural weekend?! Maybe he'll play us this one to welcome in the new year, new administration, new deal.

The Crossing

Title track from the 1999 release.

Monday, January 05, 2009

This Ain't No Barn Dance

Tonight marks the official end of holiday vacation at our house. Unlike most of the kids in our region, mine had today off. In a bid for one last hurrah, my daughter and I headed to the fitness center with her swim gear and my hopes of getting in one workout this week not hemmed in by a kid activity. The place was packed. It's always busy on Mondays, but it was busier than usual, although we were earlier than I usually go by almost an hour.

It looks like everyone is ready to get back on track. I've been ready. Shovel-ready, work-ready, ready to be back on the track to figuring out and achieving my potential and ready to see something happen, to see something good finally happen. Looks like I'm not alone.

I didn't really make any resolutions this year because my aspirations for the next three months are pretty thin. My first goal is simply to not miss a mortgage payment. Beyond that I will have considered the year a success, and once again I doubt I'm alone. Now, I've gotten a little more ambitious, a little antsy, pissed off enough about being back near the bottom of the rung despite how good I am at what I do, that I am actually going to bring in a bit of business myself. Maybe I'll make enough to employ people to put new floor covering in my house and clean my home before the holidays. If I can't imagine such extraordinary good fortune, it won't happen. It would be an honor to take what I make and put some of it into someone else's bucket for a hard day's work.

So this ain't no barn dance. It's business, the business of people and the business of getting folks to part with their money for the work I and others do so extremely well so that they don't have to do a half-assed job and end up calling us anyway.

I hope you're rested and ready for the new year. Blueberry made an excellent point in her last comment. There's really nothing wrong with having to turn business away. Here's hoping we all should have such a problem this year.

Enjoy this long instrumental from one of my favorite bands, Mountain Heart, a bunch of talented guys who take themselves just seriously enough to be hyper-successful considering the business they're in. They're good, too, not for everybody, but they're trying to find their voice. And when that Jim VanCleve is fiddling and Barry Abernathy is doing his banjo thing, it's just amazing. One of my favorite show-offs, Adam Steffey, left the band last year to hook up with Dan Tyminski's gig, but he's here on this track called #6 Barn Dance. It will get you moving, guaranteed.

Now I'm going to get moving, to bed. Tomorrow we are back on our regular temporary routine; my son will head off to school at 6:15 and it will be another two hours plus before his sister and I head out. The extra time in the morning with her is nice, but it's a mixed blessing brought on by my simple protest: latchkey care is a work-related expense, so I've cut out the morning care to save money. Make it worth my while to pay someone else for the privelege of hanging out with her that extra five hours a week, and I will. But not before. This is kind of the soundtrack to that attitude.

#6 Barn Dance