Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon, Blue Decade

I don’t think I’ve talked to a single person or know anyone who is sorry at all to see 2009 ushered out. For most of us, it seems 2010 can’t come quickly enough. Between the economic crisis, major life changes, or just the exhaustion of tiptoeing along the precipice of employment, home ownership, or simple liquidity, this was probably not the year most of us expected. In fact I haven’t yet seen the year I’ve been expecting. But if the last few weeks is any indication, 2010 might finally be it.

This is not to say that there weren’t some good things in 2009. There were. It brought lovely things for some good friends—one friend in particular outdid us all by getting married, pregnant, and relocated cross-country all within seven or eight short months! Like many of his cousins before him, my son became a Marching Band Kid, alto sax, doing his grandma proud. After a wobbly trial run last year, my daughter blossomed in her second year of gymnastics, with a serious I’ve not seen in her before. At the crossroads of three different jobs I led my first full solo search, and by all reports it was wildly successful for the client, which couldn’t make me happier.

The year 2009 also saw for the most part an end to some of my generosity and tolerance. I am hardened in new ways, my open heart and compassion tested and broken. It’s not my way but I had to get real. Life was tenuous and uncertain enough and the news around the world got worse and worse. Like many folks, I was tossed several unnecessary loads of crap, as were a few other close friends, and I regret now that I put up with it. So when it happened again as my dear sister-in-law was beginning chemotherapy and as my own sister was beginning immunotherapy for a list of newly discovered allergies a mile long on top of hitherto undetected severe chronic asthma, the trick was laid bare like my own bare and open heart, like a sin I’d been accomplice to. Inside, the snap was almost audible, like a thrown switch in a dark theatre that brings the lights up. That’s the end of that soliloquy.

Life in any decade has its moments, its pitfalls and victories, gains and losses, status quo stretches and life changing ordeals. Each year we grow, we adapt, we learn, we see, we are given countless opportunities to succeed or fail and to see each of those through our own eyes. So even when it sucks, life is rich, even glorious.

Tonight is a blue moon, a second full moon in the same month. How fitting for the New Year’s Eve of one of the most tumultuous decades in history, and the most tumultuous yet for me. I lost a baby, a mother, a mother-in-law, a marriage, but gained or regained so very much – wisdom, freedom, consciousness, clarity, soulfulness, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, the glorious gift of an opportunity to share my authentic life with my children, and my own true self. For all of these and for the friends and family who saw me through and help me realize them, I am deeply, deeply grateful.

I am so pleased to share with you this video of Vince Gill, whom I was lucky enough to catch in his return to bluegrass mode last year at IBMA (which I won’t be missing again). He’s a fine mando picker, and I’ve always loved his voice. This night I think about this song and the music and how completely transformed and restored I am because of it. Tonight after a lost year I rededicate a part of myself to its success, its people, and its rightful place in our cultural heritage.

My true wish for you and your loved ones is a healthy, meaningful, and prosperous new year and new decade.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Like It Or Not, Christmas Time's A Comin!

Well, it's officially the holidays. The tree is up, one kid has already done his school concert and another is this coming week, just about all the gifts are acquired and some even wrapped, and this evening I wandered into that fourth dimension where I do my baking. All last weekend we ushered in the season with good friends and food and some laughs together. Despite everything -- the war, the economy, a most trepidatious year of my own, and the inexplicable constant and extremely annoying presence of Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney, neither of whom are Vice President -- I find myself in a merry mood. Not a whole lot has changed, but maybe because it's been such a hellacious year I feel it's more important than ever to make the best use of these precious holiday times.

Everyone who knows me knows I love to bake. It's a sickness in my family, actually, but I'm trying to be a bit more restrained because it is a lot of work and I don't want to be in the kitchen the entire brief time the kids are home before Christmas. So I determined to kickoff the baking tonight while listening to WKSU. At some point I decided I needed a little more mando in the kitchen monitor and was poking around, and stumbled across this good old bluegrass Christmas tune sung here by just about my favorite Person of Bluegrass, Tim O'Brien. That's a fine lineup there with Bryan Sutton, Ol Danny Barnes on the banjer and Mr. Dennis Crouch on the base. While I line up my recipes for tomorrow's marathon, grab yourself an eggnog or a dance partner and turn up your speakers!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Let's Find Out

Well, MandoMama asked Santa for a GPS this year, but he couldn't find one with Buddy Woodward's voice.

That's ok. At 44, I'm finally enjoying life with a little less navigation. Lord knows the last year has been full of twists and turns for all of us, but for me anyway, at the moment the road seems to be evening out just a little, either that or I'm just a more confident driver. Maybe it's a combination.

There's something to wandering, to getting a little lost, that is a little terrifying and yet, we want to know, to find out, whether we can make it. The meltdown of the economy was a tragic but near-wholly preventable catastrophy that led to the ruin of many everyday Americans. It also called into sharp relief how even the perceptibly stable can be pulled under by what might be a minor health crisis in a normal economy. Data show that more bankruptcies are being sought because of medical bills than any other reason. YOu can have a good job but still not be able to pay your medical bills thanks to the insatiable greed of the pretend health care system of HMOs.

So you just have to keep going. Everyday people who do good work and keep their heads above water and pay all our bills on time, we're just always some crisis away from disaster. I stopped looking back a long time ago, although I don't take kindly at all to people who try to make it any harder than it has to be, that's for sure. And there's always someone who'd like to see you have it just a little bit harder, who'd like to see you fail.

And what if you do? What does that mean to you? What are your expectations? Mine are to take the lessons of the last year and completely transform my relationship to work. Unless a match is made in a heaven I don't know about, I will probably never work for another pasty monolithic corporation. Don't let them fool you. It's all about the headcount. And my ability to contribute was completely, entirely dismissed. We've made more progress in the last two months than we did the last twelve with the supposed help of a giant company. It's crap.

There's been a lot of attention paid to the fact that after taking it in the arse for their fat and happy corporate masters, some folks are biting the entrepreneurial bullet, and loving it. Sometimes, you just have to try to make your own way and be the bread on the table. That takes a lot of risk, but you know, musicians, the folks who make our lives bearable and who put themselves out there day after day, sweating and toiling in the studio and on the stage to make us smile for a couple of hours, well, that's how they live.

The last year took a toll on me not just financially but because I was so focused on preventing an overdraft and juggling what at one point was three different but related part-time jobs under one roof, my involvement in music had to take a back seat to keeping the trains running and making sure my kids were whole. In fact I'd say it sat several rows back as events, concerts, and even my quiet time with the mando slipped away. That's starting to turn again. I'm finding that I missed talking about this music, dragging all of you along for some musical journey and sharing the joy that music brings me and so manyh others. I am still committed to contributing to a roots music community with more vitality here at home, building awareness and interest and most importantly participation. It would be fun to play and actually, to sing again. The veil of worry and doubt over my eyes last year would never have allowed me to think that way.

But nothing is cut and dried. You can make all the plans you want but in the end you control nothing. Not a thing, except how you react to what happens to you and what you do with what you're handed. It's all about the journey and what you make of it not just for yourself, but for others.
The Dixie Bee-Liners gave us a spectacular new effort this year. Susanville is the Bee-Liners' brand new, bold and brave adventure, a regular road trip through the complex emotions of the constant cycle of being lost and found again. That's another way to describe the road we're all on, the road of life. You might think you know what's around the bend until you blow a tire or you get sick or someone you love leaves you along the way. You might stop in some little town for a quick bite to eat and end up staying 20 years. You might unpack your new place only to realize it's not where you belong at all. You never know. You just have to find out. It's a lot more fun with good music so take the Bee-Liners along on your next adventure.

from Susanville, released on Pinecastle Records, Nov. 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

You can take the girl out of the Rivertown...

I spent Friday night enjoying a spectacular show by this two-time Grammy nominated band The Greencards. I hadn't been out to hear enough live music in the last few months to put in my pinky finger, so the show was a really great treat.

This is one of my fave tunes from the night. Over the summer I reconnected with a lot of folks and family downhome who finally hooked up with Facebook (really, I'm not much for all those games but it's nice to check in with the nieces, nephews etc). As far away as I feel it amazes me that there are people I grew up with who still live in my little river town. This tune is for them, and for all our conflicted love of the place we just can't ever quite get away from completely, probably because we don't really want to.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hey Tiger, Take it From the Greencards--There Must Be 50 Ways to...Well...

I'm so disappointed. No need to say more, right?

Gonna put down my nine-iron and head to The Kent Stage this Friday night to hear this kick-grass sensation, The Greencards.

8 p.m., Tickets $20.