Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last but not least, 25 things part 5

Ha. I actually followed thru on something.

20. I inherited my mom's stinky feet. So gross.

21. I like the way my dog's feet smell....  they're sort of like Fritos.

22. My mom died 9 years ago, I miss her every day.

23. I've started to read James A. Michner's "The Source" 8 times. each time I start it, I get a little further into the book and like it a little more... but I've never finished it. I have this idea in my mind that it's a really long book- but I think it's just the first copy of it I owned was printed in a strange way as to make it seem like the longest book ever. I've read longer books.
23.b. I've started to read "The Lord of the Rings" 4 times and never gotten past chapter 2 of the first book. I think if the characters in the book were each named things like Mike, Ralph, or Fred... I'd be more likely to read it- there are too many names that my brain can't translate into distinguishable characters.

24. I like to grow my food, can and preserve, cook amazing meals.... but I also love processed foods.... so so much.

25. I have a number of friends who are strictly "online" friends- People I've never met in person but whom I've gotten to know over the years thru a variety of forums and blogs. I have a few friends in real life that I've met through the same means... The first "forum" (other than the chat rooms in the 90's.. I never stayed with one of those for long enough) I was a part of was created because of a portly cat named Buddy who liked to monorail pose on the back of a couch. Thank you Cute Overload. Maybe I'll tell the whole story some time. I have a number of crew members from my puzzle pirate days on facebook...

Hopefully I haven't scared off friends by posting these... if you're feeling up to the challenge, please let me know where I can find your list!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oh, right.

So, I just filled in an online form and had a melt down on it.
It kept showing my age as one year too old.

As a December baby, I like to hold on to the youth that year provides for as long as I can, just because my birthdate is such and such a year, does not mean that I am such and such an age.  So, I'm sitting on the couch swearing at the screen, because it's cheaped me of the last month before my birthday- and it's already embarrassing enough that I'm filling out this stupid online form... for yet another dating website... so how DARE it make me older... I can't be that age and signing up for another FRICKIN dating site!!!

Then I sit there.
On the couch.
Glaring at the computer.
And I do the math out loud ... on my fingers... for the computer, so it will know... it's being an ass.

And then I realize that I'm actually a year older than I've been saying I am for the past few months.
And I feel a little sick.
And I'm going to have to sign up on the seniors' dating site.

Monday, October 29, 2012

25 things revisited part 4

Ok, so there are only 4 today.. I wanted to keep a few together that sort of tied into eachother. Tomorrow there'll be an extra...

16. I'd still love to : meet someone lovely, have kids, live in the country, get back into running, have a horse, write a book, write some music, create something lovely, make some sort of difference, go back to Africa, do a lot of great/wonderful/joyfilled things.

17. I'd be lost without my friends.

18. If you read this blog this one isn't too much of a surprise- My dreams are so vivid that sometimes I'd rather stay awake to get some rest. Thankfully, most of my dreams are lucid, so I'm able to control a lot of what's happening/ am able to decide the direction of my dreams. They're in colour. There's too much detail. I think this is why I don't like a lot of movies... movies aren't nearly as good. Most of my dreams are either based in part at the Ranch that I worked at, or underwater.

19. I had crazy-ass deja vu when I worked at the Ranch in my teens. It wasn't uncommon for it to last up to 20 seconds at a time... I wonder if this is related to #18

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Heart Sick

(a quick break from the 25 things project)

We pulled up to dinner, I hadn't been there in weeks... pulled into my normal parking space, looked up and saw Sue in her usual place, smoking on the transformer, or whatever that big metal box is.

And then my heart stopped.
And my eyes welled up.
And I couldn't even breathe.

Because everything was normal, but there was a giant Little Sue shaped hole in my heart.

It wasn't Sue sitting on that box. She's been gone now for 2 months. But, as the way things go around here, her favourite coat had been washed and put out in the pile "free to anyone who needs it".

I don't think the woman wearing it knew it was ever Sue's.
If she even knew Sue.
The woman holds herself differently, proudly, tall. The jacket is clean. Most people might not even recognize it. But I did, in that moment when she stooped over, small, protecting a flame.

I didn't think something like that would effect me so strongly.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

25 things revisited part 3

Ha... this project is always so fun to do... I think I need to make it a yearly activity....

11. I like to eat hickory sticks one by one.

12. I'm overly self conscious and aware of other people's reactions face to face. I notice the slightest  changes in their mood and body language. I could probably do really well as a con artist or help in hostage situations.

13. I'm so afraid of junebugs and earwigs, the thought of them makes me want to vomit.

14. I vomit when I'm anxious. Or overtired.

15. Also when I'm anxious, or stressed- I geta case of the hicups. They're a great gauge for me as to how I'm doing on any given day. I had hiccups for most of grade 9, Father Brian (Catholic High School) would send me out of the class nearly every afternoon till I had them under control... I hiccup a a single hiccup least once every other day (this is new, it used to be once a day) but I've been known to get a full blown case 4 or more times in a day. I've had 1 case today (so far).

happy weekend

How I've been spending my weekends...

beer and spinning.

I suppose it's good that I'm not spinning from the beer?

(how have I JUST now created a "beer" tag for this blog? #howdoesonemeetboys)

Friday, October 26, 2012

25 things part 2

6. I've "fake raptured" housemates as a prank.  - In university my housemates and I read the "Left Behind" series. One day I left random piles of clothing around the house for my roommates to find. These ladies put up with a lot of strange pranks (orajel on the toothbrushes!) and random quirks (the infamous "concentration whistle").

7. I trained myself to be a 7:15pm pooper while on the road with Watoto. Shows started at 6:30 or 7, so while everyone was busy watching the show/was in the show, I had a few minutes to myself for "the long call". I'm not a 7:15pm pooper any more.

8. I'd like to be a singer... For a career. Currently there's a little too much emphasis on people being "singer-songwriters". Maybe someday. Reading that thing J.Byrd posted, and some things said at last year's OCFF has pushed me think a little more about this.

9. The first time I saw the words "pubic hair" written, I totally read "public hair". Not only that, but I read it out loud to a huddled group of friends in grade 7 from a copy of "The Valley of Horses". I'd  borrowed the book from my Dad's collection, and spent the next 4 years hoping he wouldn't reread the series or remember how much sex was in it.

10. I'm really good at starting things.... not so good with follow thru.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

25 things revisited

When I was rereading some old posts I found my first list of "25 random things about me" and posted it last week. I figured it was time to come up with another 25 things.... but 25 things are hard to come up with all at once, so I'm cheating and doing them in sets of 5.

1. I've always been a journaler (journalizer?), and I've kept most of them. I've had 7 blogs in the past. 3 of them were "secret blogs" with no way to trace them back to me... I was too honest in them, and it scared me a little, so I've long since erased them. I need to set up some sort of burning party for old journals- teenage hormones and overreactions are not something to hang on to.

2. I can't read music.

3. No matter how many times I re-teach myself, I can't remember my seven times tables. "Seven times tables" is an awkward phrase. Maybe it should be "seven's times tables"?

4. If I drink too much (which isn't often), my left eye starts to turn in, but then... if I keep drinking, my lips go numb. It's around the same time that I start walking around the room announcing "I can't feel my lips, could you help me test them?" I blame Fireball. It's a great line, and it always works.

5. Due to #4, I'm sad to say I've kissed nearly all my friends on the lips.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Watch out!


Last night was the first in a long series of Tuesday nights... The most perfect night of the week thru the winter... Pubstumpers Trivia night!!!

The Knitwits gathered both their knitting and their wits and settled into a respectable 4th place for the first quiz night. I'm pretty sure we would have gotten 1st place, but we were missing our music guru. It's amazing how much weight music carries in this thing. Which is terrible, because I know that I know the song when it comes on (we get 6 bars generally) ... but I have no idea of the name, or the singer.

When in doubt, guess Paula (Abdul) or Penis.

(photo is from last month when I returned the trophy to the pub, we won last season... actually we OWNED last season)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The "other" Lovelies

At Amber and Shawn's wedding a week ago, I had the pleasure of singing with two sweet girlies.

There's something really wonderful about being included in your friends' special day.. and it's the first time I've sung at a wedding where the music playing the bride down the aisle has gotten applause! Click for the video...

(thanks to Roshan for the video!)
(I'd blame the camera angle for my twelve hundred chins... but that would be a lie)

haha. I love how when she gets in place at the front we start to rush the song... it just seemed like such a long time!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Record Breaking Speed

My dog is getting older by the second.

Our walk around the block usually takes us about 10 minutes. Yesterday afternoon we made it in 25 minutes.. that's right... 25 minutes. And I pulled on her for a good portion of that time!

Her eyesight has gotten so bad that she can't see things at her feet... so she trips, or she tries to jump over things. Things like shadows. Which... is really funny.
Her newest thing is walking with her nose on the ground, so she can see where she's going.... except then she smells EVERYTHING and has to stop every few feet to check it out.

At one point I nearly picked her up to carry her home- I could see the house.
But then she jumped over a leaf and I decided it was totally worth the walk.

update: having just related this story to Jen, she suggests I get a vest and be Jelly's "seeing eye person".
I wonder if it would mean she could go into stores with me?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Time shift

A look back in time... next week- a newer version!


25 Random Things About Me

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. 

(A meme that's going around within the Hair cast.... I'm playing along for once)

1) I was Born at Kingston General Hospital. There was a little boy born the same day as me, when we were 11 he made it on to the cover of Canadian Living Magazine. I was really really mad that he was cooler than I was.

2) I started to learn to write (cursive) on September 9 1985. I remember this because it was the last day the teacher let us print the date at the top of our pages while we did our work. I still default to the September 9th 1985 date when I'm writing distractedly. It must have been very traumatic. Or something.

3-4) when I was little I was facinated with light bulbs. It's a wonder I didn't burn down the house. I'd take the little plastic magnets from a writing board I had- all the letters in all different colours, and set them on the light bulb and try to bend them into different shapes as they started to melt. I also used to play house in my grandma's basement- and I'd "cook" dinner (hold a mini frying pan of water) on the exposed light bulb in the playhouse under her basement stairs. I broke several light bulbs by spilling "dinner" on the bulb.

5) I once misheard my parents telling me that sugar cubes are something that horses like to eat, and something about horses pooping a lot. I spent all of grade 3 defending the idea that sugar cubes were made of refined horse crap.

6) I lost 3 of my baby teeth at pioneer villages (black creek I believe)

7) I hate raw tomatoes. but I'll eat them cooked. or even warm. I ate a plate of raw chicken and didn't have as big of a problem as I had with the plate of sliced raw tomatoes beside it.

8) I lived on a ranch for 3.5 years of my life... spread out over the course of 8 summers and 2 winters... teaching little kidlets how to ride horses and care for them.

9) I took a year off between high school and university and worked as a "chicken sexer". I had several other jobs, but that one's a show-stopper in an interview.

10) I love tulips and lilly of the valley. and hate carnations. I think it's partly because there are no great songs about carnations... and carnations are grown in too many pesticides.

11) I slept thru most of Anthro 101. But blamed it on my "eyes blinking and forgetting to open again". Strangely enough, I remember most of the lectures, and still quote the videos. I also went on to graduate with a Bsc in Anthro and Psych (joint major). I couldn't tell you anything I learned in Psych.

12) EVERY roommate I've ever lived with has gotten married. I'm currently devising a plan to move out from myself... just to increase my odds of getting hitched.

13) I didn't sing (apart from along with the radio) till I was in my mid teens. When I did for the first time- my Mom asked me if I was lip synching. Someone tried to complement me once on my singing prior to that (at a youth conference) ... I told them they had the wrong person, they must have been hearing the girl beside me. They gave me a dirty look. I honestly thought they couldn't have ment me.

14) the best sound in the entire world is the low "wooonnnnnnt"  (not quite a nicker, not quite a snort) of a horse in the morning as it looks for treats you've got hidden in your pocket. second best sound is that collective gasp from the house after an increadible song or piece of music finishes... people trying to regain their ground after being lost in the piece.

15) I've always wanted a dog. One day when I was 5 a dog was hit by a car near our house, he wandered into our back yard and we took care of him till the animal shelter came to get him. I fed him ritz crackers, and I think about him every time I eat them still. My parents wanted a pet that would die a little quicker so we wouldn't be tied-down for as long. We got my first rabbit when I was 6. He died  my last year of high school. 

16) I jumped away from my bed getting out of it (better to avoid whatever evil creature was living under it) until I moved away from home. When I stay in my old room, I still take a large step away from it.

17) I've never broken a bone that deserved a cast. 

18) I don't hear melody.

19) tacos and mangos (freshly picked) and fene and passion fruit and coir sol and sweet potatoes and hot dogs and chicken parma and wings are my favourite foods.

20) The idea of fish touching my feet freaks me out so much, I'm likely going to have nightmares tonight just from thinking about it.

21) I love scarey movies and nightmares

22) My mom died 5 1/2 years ago. I miss her every day.

23) I have a life list, and I cross things off of it as often as I can. Even if it means sometimes writing things on it as I do them.

24) I've lived and worked in both East and West Africa. Though it was easier living in Uganda (no serious language barriers) I liked tiny Togo better. I'd move back in a heart beat. most days. except I really like being clean. And it's near impossible to stay clean where I've lived. And I really like being cool at night. and I really like people being on time. and I like being able to turn on the tap and drink my water... and I like not having to dip my fruit and veggies in bleach. ok, MOST days.

25) I'm not a people person by nature, but I hate being alone, so I get really involved so I don't have time to be alone. I'm also not a morning person.... but I learned to get over it. I'm actually really awkward in general. Thankfully my friends love me anyway.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about the mommies in my life... working so hard to raise up their kidlettes....

/me gets on my pulpit

I have a word for you mommies...  brought from the Lord.

Sleep is good.
I know this to be true.
I've slept in till 10 three days this week.

That is all.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I'm really wishing that it was the weight of everything grown, not just the weight of edible produce, that we were measuring for the 1000lb challenge.

Since the heavy frosts have hit, I've been slowly cutting back the warm weather plants- the peppers were the first to go, the eggplant (another failure crop), and then I started in on cleaning up the tomatoes....

Oh dear.
Those tomato plants...

I know that most of them had a late start... or an interrupted start (relocated by either the chickens or myself)... but come on- there should have been a better yield. I guess I was really counting on the frosts being later, or lighter for longer. I took almost 15lbs of green toms off the plants in the first culling after the frost... There's another 15lbs at least out there... But I just had a shower and I don't want to smell like a tomato plant all day.

So yes, the one plant that I pulled today? It was that nasty yellow pear. A mistake planting, it was suppose to be a Sun Sugar, those are my favourites... a grape sized sweet tom in a rainbow of colours... like jelly beans! Anyway... if we'd been weighing/ measuring the plants? This dude, even after SERIOUS pruning all summer... 11 feet long and about 18lbs... One plant!!!

Winner for best yield and best taste this year would go to those speckled paste, they weren't too too dry, and they were super pretty.

I haven't updated the challenge page in awhile, I'll let you know when I get around to it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


That last post was a long one.
Worth the read, if you've the time.

For those that don't have the time, this is for you.

It's cabbage eating season.
Pass the beans please.

Also, here is a random picture.

(I heard bagpipes mid-day during the summer, so I jumped on my bike, and this is what I found)

Below is something Jonathan Byrd posted the other day.... it's a long one, but it really spoke to me on a number of levels. The part about the tradition of oral narrative and songs is something I've been putting a lot of thought into in the past year- I love when there are people more articulate than myself who are able to take some of my disjointed thoughts and help me to make better sense of them.
I'm taking much of this to heart.

Andrew Calhoun, a good friend and the president of Waterbug Records, received the Lantern Bearer Award at this weekend's Folk Alliance Regional Midwest. I wish we had one elected official in this country with half of Mr. Calhoun's integrity. This was his acceptance speech. 


25 years ago, my marriage was bre
aking up. My wife’s remark to me on my way out the door was “You’re just gonna be a folksinger for the rest of your life.”

John Perry and his wife Micki were the heart of the Three Rivers Folk Society in Kennewick, Washington, creating sing-arounds, producing concerts in the Grange hall and an annual festival. When I heard John had passed away a few years ago, my first thought was, “A life promoting folk music is a life well spent.”

“God bless the grass that grows through the crack
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows through
And God bless the grass.” - Malvina Reynolds

Folk Music is bigger than us: it is more than a genre, a sound, a style of music with stars and charts and so on. Traditional songs existed and thrived outside of the economic system, the jewels of the hardscrabble poor. They existed on their own merits - for hundreds of years, passed from singer to singer. “Oral tradition” is an academic term for something we don’t think enough about. Imagine there is no google, and no library, and no writing paper; and you are the carrier of a ballad which has been the sacred property of your family for generations, which is not shared readily with strangers. You are the book. There is a tremendous self-esteem which goes with this experience.

The great folk ballads of antiquity are largely the work of women - women singing to babies, singing at the hoeing and the milking, singing at the spinning wheel. Rituals for ancestor communion are universal in tribal cultures. Old songs sung with respect carry this energy. In this country, folk songs have been called into action in the Underground Railroad, the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-War movement.

Have these battles been won?

Are there still battles worth fighting?

What are they?

There used to be a good deal of talk about “songwriter vs traditional” in the Folk Alliance newsletter’s letter section. At bottom, it is the same spirit of quest and the discipline and courage for the journey that makes a great songwriter or folksinger.

For a folksinger, it’s the desire to understand as much as possible about a song and the people who made it, and why they sang it. Murder ballads like “Pretty Polly” were sung to children as a warning; everyone is not your friend. When I heard “The Two Sisters” as a kid, I thought the elder sister was just mean; but the eldest sister was supposed to marry first, and when the younger sister stepped out of line with the suitor, she was murdered. It’s a conservative song, in a way. These songs had a psychological purpose, which is why they survived for hundreds of years. I never thought ‘Barbara Allen” was that interesting - the pining lover dying for love; Martin Carthy wrote that her name was “Barbary Ellen,” she was a gypsy and that’s why William didn’t drink her health with his friends in the tavern; he had insulted her people and that’s why her heart was hardened. When you understand that, you have an epic tragedy. The folksinger’s quest is through old books and field recordings to find new old songs, and finding source singers to learn from. It’s spending the time to tune your ear to different frequencies of the scale. You have to be in love.

A songwriter’s quest is internal: what is the hardest question I can ask? What do I love the most? What is the thing I fear most to speak? “What is this thing or experience like?” And to spend time with that sense of what a thing truly is, and let the words come. If you know what you want to say in a song before you start, it probably isn’t worth writing. The song holds the energy of the risks you take and the choices you make while you’re working on it.

My own songs fell on me like lightning from the age of twelve. Some of them terrified me - charged with imagery from another dimension. My father said to me, “You have the kind of imagination that requires that you not imagine anything.”

Extraordinary experiences we have in childhood - traumatic or otherwise - compel us to hyper-develop certain aspects of ourselves, often at the cost of our emotional balance. I had a mother who was raised by a dreamer for a father, and she had a sadistically abusive mother. My mother, born Joy Goodman in 1926, was a brilliant teacher, lover of art and fighter for justice. She was also a raw-nerved rage-aholic whose demonic words shrieked to her terrified 4 year old son would turn a therapists’ face white a quarter century later.

My father, the son of an eminent historical theologian, began his still unfinished life’s work in philosophy at the age of 12. When I was in my mid-teens, my father began having awe-inspiring visions after a trip to France and relating them to me. I was sleepwalking through high school in a conservative Chicago suburb, staying up late listening to Mississippi John Hurt records and writing songs. There were times when the images in my father’s visions were common to songs I was writing independently of them. There was a sense of moment, of things in the balance, of keeping vigil, of witnessing.

My songs of that time were not always well received. There was a happening folk scene in Chicago at that time that wanted no part of me. I could mesmerize an audience to the point of getting an encore at an open mike, but I still could get any work. Well, it was a scene, and one with a feeling I wasn’t going to fit into. I wasn’t looking at the scene and trying to find my place in the pecking order. If it’s not about the art, I’m not interested.

I donated my time performing at a weekly coffeehouse at a place called Save the Alcohoic on skid row in Uptown, founded by James Harper. The only requirement for entry was that you had to be sober. Those people living on the edge, were open to my songs. My first recording, Water Street, was funded by a couple on the board. I found help when I gave freely to others.

Those of us who feel alienated from ordinary life and conversation by odd experience are trying to find a way back in to the circle. And we do that by taking the experience that alienates us and putting it into a sharable form. A painting, a song, that says, “this is what it is like for me. This is what I have seen” And when that song or painting is created convincingly enough to resonate with others, we feel less alone. Transforming our pain into beauty heals us and we intend it to heal others as well. Sharing difficult things with an audience liberates everyone in the room from feeling that their sorrows are unique to them.

When this energy begins to work, there’s a very dangerous point, where people want to think that the artist is special, to make a celebrity of the person rather than deal with the message. This has been happening at least since the time of Christ. When the artist buys into the myth that they are special, a “star,” the work ceases to evolve, and we are left with either a nostalgia act or a good-looking corpse. The lantern bearer is not the lantern. Stay humble and keep learning if you wish to grow old.

I trace the roots of Waterbug to a night at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas in 1991. There was a late gathering on Chapel Hill; Kat and I had just met Hugh Blumenfeld a couple of nights before; a singing fiddler from New Orleans sat next to me and introduced herself as Gina Forsyth; Diane Chodkowsi sang the first Richard Shindell song I ever heard, “Fleur-de-Lis,” a teasing, subversive challenge to hundreds of years of corrupt and twisted religion; and as she finished, the wind rang the chimes on the hill. Michael McNevin sang “Busy Life,” a vision of struggling humanity trampling its own garden to death; as he finished, there was a rare police siren in the rural distance. As dawn broke, we wandered down the hill and stood around a circle of stones. Hugh improvised the funniest song any of us ever heard off the top of his head. Michael sang “Castaway,” the loveliest song about friendship I’ve heard to this day; Margo Hennebach sang a Susan Osborne prayer. But it wasn’t a prayer of asking from God; it was a love song sung full-heartedly to God. No one spoke for several minutes. It was the first time in my life I had experienced being in a group of people who respect the sacred.

In May of 1992 I wrote to my brother and said, “I want to start a record label and get America’s real singing poets on the airwaves.” When you share your pipedreams , it brings them a step close to reality. I borrowed money from my father to produce a collection called “American Impressionist Songwriters”. Cosy Sheridan was finishing up her “Quietly Led” recording, and we schemed to start an artists’ cooperative where everyone would produce and own their own work; we would set a standard of quality and eventually score national distribution.

Waterbug’s first releases come out in March, 1993. Ken Irwin from Rounder warned me it wasn’t a good time to get into the record business, and the entire business was headed for a train wreck of unprecedented proportions that started in 1996. One of the things that kept us afloat was the direct mail order business generated by our samplers; 20 artists would contribute a track and production money; each would get 50 copies to sell at $5 each, and could reorder at $2.50 each. Before youtube and downloadable music, these had a big impact. The artists would sell them at their gigs, sharing their audience with the other artists; we sent them to radio, and out free with every mail order. Advertising that pays for itself. Artist helping one another get heard.

I want to say something to young people who are starting careers; when people start talking to you about “the next level,” cover your wallet. There is no other level. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re supposed to get someplace you aren’t already in order to feel fulfilled in your life and work. Be grateful for every gig. Play for children and old people. If your work touches a heart, it’s valid. Your personal ambitions will be dashed on the rocks more than once. That sense of quest, of serving something larger, will sustain your energy over the long haul.

My mother was a union steward in a Chicago canning factory in the 50’s, and hollered against Jim Crow on sound trucks. She sang us ballads and spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “All God’s Chil’n Got Shoes.”She took us along to bring hot coffee to strikers on the picket line in the winter, and to a civil rights march in 1965. She volunteered at Head Start. Into her 70’s she was driving in to Beethoven School near the Robert Taylor homes to tutor disadvantaged children.

She contracted progressive supra-nuclear palsy, and for the last year of her life was unable to walk or speak. I moved back in with my folks and took a shift at night so my father could go upstairs and think. I sang her a lot of the songs I wrote in my teens. When hospice told us it was the end, my brother and sister flew in. That evening my sister Ellen asked me to sing “Mother, I Climbed,” by Dave Carter. So I poured myself a shot of Bowmore and sat on the commode, the only available chair, and sang for six hours, my mother’s favorite songs of mine, songs Matthew and Ellen asked for that I didn’t think I still knew. Then it was songs we could all sing to her, that she had sung to us: “I Gave My Love a Cherry,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,””All God’s Children Got Shoes.” My mother had loved to walk, and Ted and I would help her up and back on Cumnor Avenue until she couldn’t shuffle her feet any longer. “When I get to heaven, gonna put on my shoes, I’m gonna walk all over God’s heaven.” I always thought it was a cool song. But this passing is what the song was for. I had a palpable sense of people “out there,” who were wiser about death than we, who were neither defiant nor afraid, but embraced this passage as an adventure. What was heaven but the sky? And what more beautiful heaven could we imagine? During that week, I talked more with Matthew about the spirituals, and began ordering books, eventually stumbling onto “Slave Songs of the United States,” published in 1867.

That summer, out on Matinicus Island, my caregiving father allowed himself to catch a cold for the first time in six years; I brought him cups of peppermint tea and started sounding out some of the songs. They blew our minds - 135 songs of which I’d only ever heard four. I ordered more collections, Lomax’s Deep River of Song and Southern Journey recordings. After several months, the lightbulb went on - the wisdom of the spirituals is from the West African religious sensibility. Google. Bingo. The 10,000 year old Vodou religion has strong parallels with Lakota spirituality. There are the ancestors, and the four directions, the communal support for transcendent experience for which our society offers almost nothing. I read up on my history for a year, determined to make a recording to revive some of this material.

I met the great Gullah painter Jonathan Green in Naples, Florida. “Slavery was war,” he said to me. He hooked me up with the Avery Research Center in Charleston and I saw “De Gullah Singers” perform a ring shout. I met a singer in Charleston, Anne Caldwell, who had taken a gospel group to Europe. The European venues complained that her group included two white singers.

My white liberal folksinger friends warned me repeatedly about making the recording, They said, “They’ll say, why is a white guy playing our music?” As if somehow I was violating something by learning songs by brother and sister poets from old books. No one has ever complained that I play Bach on the guitar without having German ancestry. It took some searching but I found some black singers and musicians, and mixed in with some white ones we made friends and an album called Bound to Go together and nobody ever said, “why are you singing our songs?”

Our folk genre is as segregated as an Alabama bus station in 1957. The very few blacks in folk music tend to play in bands with other blacks. But all of this music we play was created together, and nobody even knows that anymore.
Back in the 20’s, Jimmie Rodgers learned a lot of music from black railway workers who worked for his dad, mixed in some yodelling with the blue notes and became a recording star. A.P. Carter went on collecting trips with his African American friend Lesley Riddle, collecting songs from white and black families in the South. A.P. Carter copyrighted these songs - the roots of country music. Hank Williams said he received all of his musical training from Rufus Payne, called Tee Tot, a black street musician in Birmingham, Alabama. Bill Monroe created his high lonesome vocal sound from imitating the field hollers of African American farmhands. He was mentored by Arnold Shultz, a legendary black musician who was never recorded. Shultz also coached a group of Kentucky guitarists in his amazing style, one of whom was Merle Travis. A fourth of the sailors on American whaling ships were the free blacks of the North, the preferred shanty singers over the Irish. Those rockin’ call-and-response work shanties also were created by the dynamic interaction of cultures.

A racist recording industry segregated blacks and whites by genre. It is a tragedy that we have let this pass in silence. I am here to tell you that it is not so hard to befriend and include black, hispanic, any other musicians in your life. You can start by saying hello. If you love Pete Seeger, don’t just look up to him. Follow his example. Be inclusive. Reach out.

When Bound to Go was finished, I felt for the first time as if I’d finished a real chunk of my life’s work. I wondered what was still going in with this story and I looked up the prison system.

When I wrote my first song, there were 200,000 Americans in prison. Due to the “war on drugs,” there are now 2.3 million Americans in prison, more than half being African Americans incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Poor Latinos make up the next largest percentage. The US now incarcerates more people than Russia and China combined. This is not about drugs. This is about cheap labor. 110 factories in the federal system alone are operating 24 hours a day, paying wages of .15-.23 an hour. Prisoners take apart biohazard computers without health regulations. Prisoners make the cheap cherrywood filing cabinets we buy at office depot, replacing Union jobs. Convicted felons, deprived of the right to vote, cannot find employment on the outside. The rate of illegal drug use is the same for whites and blacks - 13%. But when they need more cheap labor, they do their sweeps in minority neighborhoods. 7% of African Americans have lost the right to vote, as compared to 1.8% of the rest of the population. The Corrections Corporation of America recently offered to buy up all the state prisons if they would be guaranteed 90% occupancy. Our minority poor are viewed as a harvest crop. California now spends more on prisons than higher education. This is Mordor - a slave state operating under our noses, and they are counting on the fact that people with a voice will not speak out, will not raise hell, do not give a damn. The problem is bigger than me and you, but it is not bigger than us. Let’s not make a statue of Dr. King and give up on the dream.

On the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth, let’s remember why we sing.

-Andrew Calhoun

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

feed the twigs

Do you ever see something so often you forget it's there?

I noticed something kinda odd while sweeping the house today.

Well, for one- I was sweeping. Usually I'm vacuuming, giant beaster bunny is a non-stop shedding machine. I can barely keep up.

(note: those tiles are each 1 foot square or more/ that's a full sized bathroom door)

But that wasn't the odd part.. the odd part was the funny twisted little twigs I kept finding near 'Touf's litter box. I couldn't figure out where they were coming from... I checked my boots to see if there were any stuck to them, I checked the bunny to see if they were stuck to his coat... I checked outside the door to see if they were on the sidewalk... later outside I checked to see if they were from a dried plant in the garden... They were tiny weird little things.

I found one again later... after sweeping.

Picked it up.

Threw it on the ground.

I figured it out.

I went and got the newspaper.
I shredded the newspaper.
I picked thru the rabbit litter box (with a litter sifter.... don't worry)

And then I opened up the three bins sitting beside the back door... and fed the starving compost worms. Compost worms that had been slowly escaping looking for compost...  compost worms that dry out and look like little twigs.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More baby story :real life edition

This conversation isn't word for word... I had several drinks and the music was loud... but you'll get the point.

So, at the wedding on the weekend I make sure to go visit my favourite mommies. These ladies have the most beautiful children in the world... Their 3 year old Julietta (yell her name like the maid does in Romeo and Juliet- the 1996 movie version)  makes me grin like an idiot. She's cute, spunky ... and ridiculous.

While visiting, Mommy #1 asks me if I know anything about guinea pigs ... I don't, and admit it. Mommy #2 then explains that they're planning on getting their daughter a guinea pig for Christmas... rather, Santa is bringing a guinea pig... because they weren't able to provide what she wanted for her birthday this year.

Which of course makes me ask what she wanted for her birthday...

"Our child wanted pubic hair for her 3rd birthday."

I die laughing.
"what?... but... how... what?... She asked for pubic hair?"

"Well, she asked for a fuzzy, that's what we call it"

*confused look from me*

"we told her she would 'get fuzzy' when she was older, so she figured, 3 was older... so she wanted to get her fuzzy for her birthday, we couldn't do it so, we're trying to make it up to her by getting her the guinea pig"

Then, from the other side of the table... sheer genius...
"And you'll name the guinea pig 'Fuzzy' right?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Get me a Sous Chef

Most days, bring me the gourmet.

Bring me the cheddar more aged than your first born daughter.

Delicate flavours, beautiful presentations, locally grown, ethically treated.

Then there are days when only a can of ravioli will suffice.... and if I'm disappointed to find only no-name brand, I'll wash the sauce off and just eat the noodles... because I'm classy like that.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

wedding stories

Baby stories, Wedding stories... I remember when I first got cable and those were the only shows I would watch... at the beginning of the reality television craze, a year into the Survivor franchise...
I don't have cable anymore... mostly because of the reality television craze, I feel like I get enough depressing and guilting through facebook.
Meanwhile... I'm watching "The Voice".
I never promised I'd make sense.

One day while watching the baby story I got really really confused. I was sick. I'd taken the day off work and was laying on the couch watching program after program of baby story. The Mom-to-be was named Pricilla... I glanced at the screen in my drug induced haze "uh, she looks kinda familiar". Whatever.
Back to half-masted eyelids.
Then the Dad was introduced... Jeff.

"These are really strong drugs", I thought.

Then opened my eyes and watched my cousin become a Dad.... I didn't even know they'd been pregnant.

Baby story: Real life edition
Wedding Story: Real life edition

Sweet two year old flower girl is playing under the stage during last night's dance, her dad walks up and pulls her out from under the stage... "Do you want to dance with me?"
"No, I'd rather dance with this pole".


Baby Story: Real life edition 2.0 tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

the people that you meet when you're walking down the street

Who are the people in your neighbourhood.... ug. getting songs stuck in my head left right and centre today.

Tomorrow is Amber and Shawn's wedding. I'm super excited about it- they are two of the loveliest people that I've the privilege of meeting thru the Players. I'll be singing with two beauties as Amber walks down the aisle, something I haven't done since the Newlandwed's wedding... whoa for a very short second there, I had written "since Mandamanda's wedding". Oops.

On walking to VicHall, where the wedding will be happening, I passed a car parked around the corner that was running. Locked and running. On returning home? The car was still locked and running. After walking the dog? Nearing 4 hours later... the car was still running. I didn't see a key in the ignition, someone must have hit the "start" button inside their house... I just couldn't figure out which house.

A little while later, I'm chatting with the neighbour over the fence, she lives around the corner, but as the lots are all shaped oddly, she backs onto my yard... There are only two houses between us. She's debating where to put a vegetable patch in her yard- in the past I'd had conversations with the previous owner about where to place a veggie garden- based on the sun... after two years of conversations, we figured that the front/side yard was the place that would get the most light. So, I mentioned this to the new neighbour... she was shocked... and kind of insulted by the suggestion. "Out FRONT? Tomatoes in the front? Where people could just TAKE them? No, that would be stupid".
Then I asked her if she'd seen my veggie garden in front of the house...
Keep in mind that she has two dogs... so it's likely (in my mind) that she walks them.
She sort of pointed at my house, raised her eyebrows in a "are you kidding me" look and said no.
Who doesn't walk their dogs?
Or, maybe if she's walking them downtown... who doesn't walk around their neighbourhood when they move in? She's been there since May.

I'm feeling rather judgmental today... and running with it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

chop chop

I've just polished off the last of the nachos, it's always salsa o'clock... but it reminded me that I still wanted to post a few of the pictures from salsa day 2012!

Cast: Masheff, Jenny, Bob, Em, Meg, Newfield, Pasheff, Moi, Jelly.


everybody gets washed and sterilized all at once...


just half of the veggies we used


peppers, toms, garlic in one pot, ketchup in the other pot...


the outdoor kitchen...


go big or go home.



by nightfall, we were ready to fall... but, it was all worth it in the end.

Greatest discoveries this year?
1) Frozen tomatoes are the way to go. The skins POP off once you put them in warm water, and the extra water can be squeezed right out of them. Plus, you can buy them frozen from one of the farms, and they've been washed and the spots have been cut off...
2) Raising the table will save your back! We used a few pieces of 2x4s and lifted the table, the difference was amazing.
3) Stopping for meals is IMPORTANT.
Last year we switched to doing all the chopping the night before (the peppers, onions, garlic and some of the toms). Doing this broke up the work in a way that didn't leave us hating each other by the time we finished.


Please drop something I can eat.

Monday, October 08, 2012


There really is nothing like a jam session.

There are days when I look at my uke and just wish that I was a better player. But it's not until I sit down and play with other people that I actually do anything towards learning more.

Anyone want to start a bluegrass band?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

towering tiaras and even higher hair

Sometimes strange things happen to me.. around me.. whatever.

ok, maybe not just "sometimes".

Last week I attended a bachelorette party in the city, two carloads of fantastic women that I've met thru my time with Northumberland Players...  I still haven't wrapped my mind around what happened that night, but the long and the short of it?

I've a crush on a drag queen.

Amber's big party night took place at "Crews and Tango" and "Zippers"... we were there for the drag shows... First I have to say- going to this was WAY more fun than just going dancing at a bar... Sure we danced a little... but mostly we took in the show. For the uninitiated, going to watch a drag show is like going to watch a variety show/talent show. Delightfully entertaining.

There were some terrifying old hag-like drag queens- the type that I'd totally expected to see, and there were some fantastic young queens and kings beautiful and talented... I had crown envy all night.... towering tiaras and even higher hair.

Then it happened.

After entering the second bar... after giggling thru Vitality Black's set (a muscled teeny tiny Tina Turner dynamo bouncing all over the stage)... she came in.
Heaven Lee Hytes.

I could very nearly not breathe.
I've never seen someone so beautiful in my entire life...
male or female.
I turned to one of my friends (a regular at such shows) after a few minutes and said "oh no! What have you done to me!? I have a CRUSH on a drag queen!!" She laughed.

Seriously, the most beautiful person I've ever seen. Very feminine, but also so much man. I spent a great deal of time trying to picture her as a him. Perfect nose, perfect jawline, eyeballs that drilled deeper into my soul than Justin Rutledge's eyeballs have ever drilled into anyone's soul! Legs. 6'3 of legs.

What a strange gender bending mind bending thing to have happen.

Now, I'm not the only one to have suffered such a fate. After the bar shut down we headed to Golden Griddle for some late night snacks (um, where I saw the worst thing ever.. a man in lederhosen walking down the street, small green plastic hat on his head, and hand down his pants playing with himself) and some chat about the night... turns out half the women in our group had fallen in love...
Ever the writer, Heather sums up the experience well here.

As for me now?
I want to do a twisted drag show... a woman pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman...
I want to get beauty tips from a man named Heaven Lee Hytes.
I want to go to a million drag shows.

I still loves me the menfolk, but I think I'll be ok if my future partner has a thing for cross-dressing once in awhile.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Last night my entire dreamscape was set in Africa. Well, in dream-africa... which tends to be this strange combination of summer camp and East and West Africa. I know it was because I'd been reading my travel journal before going to sleep.
What an adventure. Both the reliving from the journal and the travel in the dreams. Someday I hope I'm gifted with the words to describe it all- so that it's as entertaining to those around me as it is in my mind.


I think I've discovered the root of my dreams... locked into the youtube vortex I found this...

Dr. Snuggles, friend of the animal world. Dr. Snuggles, dreaming of better Tomorrows. Dr. Snuggles, you'd better start working today. Dr. Snuggles, flying away to the stars. Dr. Snuggles, finding a path to the rainbow. Dr. Snuggles, build us a clever machine.

This is the sort of thing I grew up on, characters named "Dreamyboomboom", Madame Dumpiytoo, Miss. Nettles, Camels named Woogy in the sky, flying treacle trees, Sky-Bed Fred and cosmic pillow fights...

And the rainbow... "a million dreams long and ten thousand wishes high". Episode 1 is likely the greatest thing my 4 year old self had ever seen... it's imprinted in my brain forever.

ok, last TV related post for a bit.

youtube vortex tonight: Green forrest, Dr. Snuggles, Gummy Bears, Jeremy the Bear, Parlez-moi, readalong, the toothbrush family, and Dear Aunt Agnes... I had to close the screen... it was too much.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I've been doing a lot of looking back this week.
I pulled out my scrapbook the other day to work on it and found my travel journal.

Yes I started this blog to share stories while I was in Togo, but man oh man... most of the things I saw and experienced never made it into the blog- or were just the tiniest blip... Like the time I followed a woman down the street - a woman who had a basket on her head... and a live goat tied on top of the basket. .. Or the time I went to the dining room and couldn't get back to my bedroom because there was a HUGE bug (the size of the palm of my hand) in the breezeway, and I couldn't walk around it by walking on the lawn because I was in my bare feet and there were more frightening bugs (read: scorpions and God knows what else) in the grass in the dark... Or about the neighbour family who'd been in Cote D'Ivoire when a peace agreement collapsed (November 2004)- the absolute fear in their faces as they told their story, guns trained on their children and eventual evacuation by helicopter... Or Zachary's surprising English and forcing me to practice conversational French -My roommate's surprise when Zachary started speaking English "but... but...I've known you for years! I've never heard you speak English before! I didn't know that you could!"

Maybe I'll pull some more gems out here.

I've also been watching a lot of "the voice" this week.
I lovehate that show so much!
I love the idea, that it's based just on voice- but I hate that it isn't actually. There's some surprising age discrimination that happens based on voice still. Now, maybe I've got it wrong- maybe they had some better ideas, so I'll stop now... I'm not one of the judges/coaches. I also have a hard time with the idea that once the teams are filled, some people won't get heard, but again... I could be wrong.
But seriously, I'm so involved in the show... I yell things at the computer screen. And I cheer.
And I tell off the people who try to conjure up tears and sympathy.
I call them names and swear at them.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

This little piggy.

I thought I broke my toe in my sleep yesterday.

There is SO SO MUCH pain. 

At first I thought I'd pulled a muscle in my sleep- when I woke up it hurt to bend it... after walking one step I realized it hurt to raise it... after sitting down post-morning chores, I realized it hurt when it wasn't moving too...  That's when I figured it was broken.

Between the right big toe and the opposite heel (where I did pull some sort of muscle on the bottom of my foot) every time I got up I thought I was going to fall over.

Sitting here and typing tomorrow's post though, I just figured it out.

Sitting and typing I looked over at the spinning wheel... and thought "hmm, I should do some more spinning tonight, I'm starting to get a good feel for that new wheel". 

Catch that?

MORE spinning.

While lounging on the couch.

Not sitting up in a tall chair... no, slumped on the couch, holding the wheel from creeping across the floor because I'm pushing it away in my slumped position... holding the wheel with my big toe as I also treadle.... yeah.

That's a good sprain.

Monday, October 01, 2012

tic tock

signs of aging...

I'm watching "the voice" and the girls are going crazy for this Charlie Rey guy... meanwhile I'm drooling over his dad.