Friday, April 30, 2010

Answer 113 - I'll ask H.G. Wells

I've walked a crooked mile, I think.. flown a crooked mile.. dreamed a crooked dream..

In a house where someone has individually painted each brick by hand, someone dreamed a dream and slowed down time long enough to pick up a brush and a paint palette - and paint bricks.

Someone else picked up knitting needles and slowed down time long enough to make socks.

How does this happen - this slowing down of time long enough to paint bricks and knit socks?

There is a cat by the basement door.  Time is always slow for him.

I'm expecting a phone call.

The phone will ring and I will be thrown through the phone line into the near-distant future, on a crooked road where decisions will need to be made.  But not about today.

Be Yourself, the decorative picture in the bathroom says, above the quote -

My mother said to me, 'if you are a soldier you will become a general,
if you are a monk you will become the Pope.'
Instead I was a painter and I became Picasso.

Instead I was a musician and threw myself across the world and back - and walked a crooked mile into the near-distant future, where other cats sit at other doors and phrases turn like waterwheels... in the future, when I slow time down long enough to knit brick-colored socks for cats.

Today, the road bends.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Answer 112 - Aargh. Maties.

Oh the barrels of whiskey rolled over the decking
And we watched the amber sink
No eulogy we shrank back
From the loss of it
Oh and the cost of it
Air for our supper
and water for tea

Why are the gulls flying low, flying low?
There’s nothing to eat and there’s
water below,
And there’s water above
And the one thing I’ll is say is
Poseidon is drunk
while we’re wailing away

So why the hell does some goofy sea shanty pop into existence while I'm attempting to write a serious song?  Seriously, what the hell am I supposed to do with this?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

111 - Point is, you gather the violets instead

Two friends and I walked his land, this afternoon, with Damon Elder.

He's nearly 90.  He lives on the same land his Great-grandfather settled in 1849, and can tell anyone who asks everything about every acre of it.

The homestead is about 30 minutes from here - just north of Spencer, Indiana.
His wife was Nan.  They were married 15 short years.  She died in 1959, and it just didn't occur to him to marry again.  "Have you heard.. how they say.. I believe that sometimes you're just a one-woman man?  Well.. when she died, it just.. it's.. well, that part of my life just ended.  And sure, it's a natural thing to re-marry, I suppose, but.. if you don't feel inclined, what's the point?"

When his daughter-in-law died, many years later, he gathered all the African violets from around the house that she and his son insisted would be built 'round' ...

That was 1987.  He still has them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

110 - I don't know. I need to wash my potato

Had a conversation with a friend yesterday about 'originality' in songwriting.

Writing about the thing no one else has - or writing in a way that no one else has.  Or, writing generally in the way that most people have, but incorporating something like whistling or banjo in a way that no one else has.. or singing it backward, or part of it in another language and then incorporating banjo and kazoo where virtually no one would expect it.  Or mumbling so indecipherably, that anyone listening could literally fill in their own lyrics, and possibly melodies.  And then giving the whole audience kazoos to fill in the parts that would ordinarily be decipherable...

There is nothing new under the sun, I told her.  And I so rarely quote the Bible, that I thought I ought to even say it to her in italics.

The best you can ever hope to do is crystallize your own vision of a thing that wafts by you... but let's face it, the classical form has dictated where nearly every shred of pop, folk, blues, bluegrass, hip hop, techno.. name it.. starts and stops.  Every bit of it.  You know man, it's basically I - IV - V...  all musicians know what that means, and in this day and age, probably every breathing Guitar Hero.

We Westerners are drawn to it, at a visceral level - the resolution of IV to I, or V to I.  I could quip philosophical about the human desire for dissonance followed by resolution, but it's tired, and rhetorical.  It's what we do and what we are.  Millions of psychologists are employed to walk us through the cadences, let's face it.

But, in Western culture at least, Mozart and his contemporaries determined what would follow for hundreds of years.And others before them determined the form they would launch from.  Without them, there'd have been no Stravinsky, Debussy, Gershwin... no Dylan, Phillip Glass, Milli Vanilli... the list is long. 

Music is a fluid thing.  Those of us that make it are part of that fluidity.  Yes, at some point, near the end of the Baroque, someone said, 'By George, I like the way the V chord resolves to the I, rather than the IV or VII... I think I'll compose something!'  And along the way, there were many composers who used the new form and conjured beautiful pieces that we'll never forget.

But yes, in the beginning, there was the very first, original monkey that decided it was a good idea to wash the potato, and than all the monkies started washing the potatoes.  The monkeys with flair maybe began humming a tune while washing,

or drawing little lines in the river mud with their potato,

or contemplating new ways to pick nits off their husbands, or even taking the opportunity of washing the potato to go ahead and wash themselves.  But still, like all evolution, it all started with that one, original monkey.

Now what was her name? 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Answer 109 - Hawaiian for 'Dude, whoa Dude'

What better way to start a Monday morning than with a smattering of my sister's Keanu Reeves Haiku collection?  Sure, there are those who might say, 'Well, actually, I can think of at least 12 ways and you're scaring me,' but

Fear is mind-killer
you should really just relax
my dog can smell dread

Hey U, Can U Keanu Haiku?

Johnny Mnemonic
Truly Shakespearian angst
There is no sandwich

Acting skill subpar
And yet, no woman born would
Pick Jack Nicholson

Keanu? Means What?
Hawaiian for "Dude, whoa, Dude"?
Or "Bad SciFi Film"?

Keanu Reeves
Bad acting for the ages
He will never die

Keanu, Hamlet
Makes no sense, and yet happened
Shakespeare rolls in grave

Nineteen Sixty-Four
DOB, yet I suspect
Cloned in lab somewhere

Bram Stoker is not
thrilled by your mediocre
dramatic interp

Bill, Ted, I loved you
A. Winter - off planet fell
With Reeves I am left

Rush Rush Reeves Abdul
"Have you ever been in love?"
Career move think not!

Your 'accent' in the
Coppola Dracula, was
Downright pathetic!

Oh Keanu Reeves
I met you once in the park
You like Gatorade.

My favorite part
In Bill and Ted’s Adventure
Was dead George Carlin

When young I had crush
But have you seen him lately?
Dude, shave the beard, please

Don't know the names of all the contributors, but you know who you are...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Answer 107 & 108 - Weight. And Light. The Glass is Half.

We argue about perspective some nights.  Sometimes I can't see him for the clouds and he needs a shovel to find me.

This from Milan Kundera's, The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht). If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it all in their splendid lightness.

But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground.But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements are free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose?

Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being/non-being.half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?..

Friday, April 23, 2010

Answer 106 - I might be gummed to death

Dear Abby,

Is it possible to humanely and painlessly de-fang my dog?

   I've been traveling in Europe a while, and have come home to find that, though he's quite happy to see me (I know this because his defective tail is twitching mightily), in my absence, he's bitten a stranger.

We tried a shock collar to no effect.  Even at maximum setting, he was blissfully unaware of what was advertised to be a 'jolt of electric discipline.'  This lack of response does not surprise me, as his tail is defective and he is rarely responsive to words like 'stay' or 'no.'

Still, I've grown fond of him, and though he is occasionally menacing and truly does resemble a character out of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas - he has some redeemable qualities, including what appears to be unconditional love for me.

But then, who can really know the mind of a creature that very well may have been brought to life by a mad scientist somewhere in Ohio?  Dr. Frankenstein's creation was a gentle creature, and tragically so - but then, Dr. Frankenstein's creature didn't bite people.  And mine does.  This is a philosophical quandry at best, and an ethical dilemma at worst.

This is why I think a de-fanging is possibly the answer.  My husband, I'm sure, would be willing to pre-chew the dog's dinner (they're very close), and then, the dog could happily menace away... making that gutteral noise he makes that one generally only associates with demonic possession - and we and our guests could rest assured that the worst that could happen would be a resounding gumming; a possible staining of clothing by dog saliva - but that's what dry cleaners are for, right?

Earnestly awaiting your advice,
Biting Bowzer in the Backwoods

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Answer 105 - Brak like Fur

A woman with hair ratted high on the back of her head walked past me at the airport.  Amy Winehouse-inspired, but something else, too.  Like a little bit of the alien head from the movie Alien - an oblong shape... it was positively striking.

I'm always taken with the extreme dos.  Can't think much on wearing one, myself, although I suppose there is a certain extremity in unruly red.. but not so much artistic statement as all that.

I think, somedays, that I'll cut it all off and do something new.  Something angular and black maybe.

Maybe do my own variety show.. maybe do a little acting on the side.  Maybe even win an Oscar or something.

Or, maybe brown/blonde angular, and after a short stint as a Euro pop star, run off with a Euro soccer player, and then pose in my underwear on the side of London city buses... cause it's posh and all..

Funny, when you think of it.  As human evolution progresses, we'll most likely end up hairless.  I mean, eventually.

So why so much importance placed on the last straggly remnants of our fuzzy Neanderthal days?

Because Brak like Fur?  Probably.*

*I've been awake since 5:00am Holland time.  Now I'm in Indiana at 7:33pm.  This is all the excuse I have.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Answer 104 - Increase my tithing. By alot.

In the convent in Krefeld, Germany, where we were housed the night of the show last week, there was a red button on the wall.

I'd almost forgotten.. and then Mike reminded me.

We got in late after the show, stumbling in the dark to find the light switch, Dave accidentally hit the red button on the wall, just under the carved crucifix.

A light went on.  A red light.  Dave kept hitting the button to turn it off.  We giggled, a bit, because what's a red button doing in the middle of the wall of a German convent?


A nun appeared.  Not kidding.

It was a Nun Button.

This begs several questions.  The first of them being:

How can I get a Nun Button installed in my house?

  This could come in very handy - those pesky, middle-of-the-night torture sessions that my brain likes to run me through - the ones in which I try to make sense of man's inhumanity to man and animal - injustice, atrocity, global catastrophe and the like.

I press the nun button, she shows up, pats my hand, tells me the whole thing is ineffable, and that the minds of men should be left to smaller questions.  Like what's for breakfast?  Maybe she'd hum softly.

And then I'd drift back to sleep, in the snug knowledge that the nun was just a button away... and then I'd dream sweet dreams of Belgian waffles.

and flying, of course.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Answer 103 - I've walked the Lutefisk Corridor 39 times

I laughed for an hour just now, listening to my friend, Maureen, tell stories of her childhood.

It sounded magical... apple pies baked in the wood stove that heated the whole house.. a wonderful, forgetful mother who held Easter in August because that's when she found the hidden eggs... even the grandmother who had the children stop and kneel in front of the TV whenever the Pope came on.. even that..

Which got me thinking on mine.  My childhood. I wouldn't say 'magical,' and probably anyone who's read what I've written along the way wouldn't assume 'magical.'  Possibly, 'colorful'  or in some cases, 'questionable' - but probably not magical.

Still... there was the lutefisk - the stuff my Norwegian grandmother made that smelled like a boiling mop.  My in-law uncles would stand around, drinking Budweiser from a can and smoking Winston Reds, while the fumes wafted from my grandma's trailer...  They'd shuffle, they'd cough, they'd jingle change in their pockets, knowing that, eventually, they'd have to go inside and eat some of the godawful stuff.

Tonight, Ben referred to it as 'Walking the Lutefisk Corridor' - a phrase I'll never forget, and will apply to many situations from here on out.

So - how many times and in how many ways have each of us Walked the Lutefisk Corridor?

You know, the Lutefisk Corridor - the things you do because:
1) Things will go very badly with your spouse if you don't  OR
2) You'll cause enormous familial rift if you don't  OR
3) The proponent of said atrocity is a relative of someone you'd like to know intimately OR
4) You're not clever enough to plot an escape route

Me, I count 39 times.  But it ain't half-over yet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Answer 102 - Head to Italy, where the pasta is

A volcano in Iceland has effectively altered the course of my life.  I can't get home until Friday.  If I'm lucky.

Many people’s lives, actually. We saw something amazing yesterday.  Something unprecedented.  Something we might never see again – two parachuters over Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.. flying right over the control tower... swaying back and forth in the sun.

We were driving, so couldn't snap a photo - but use your imagination..  It seems to me that in the States there’s a good chance they’d have been shot down.  For all I know, later in the day these guys were.. but still, it was amazing.

Mike and Dave have just gotten back in the car from attempting to talk to someone in person in the airport.  No luck.  No people.  Just signs saying, ‘we’ll reschedule you – call this number’ – in many languages.

Surrounded by grounded planes and a few people milling around, sitting on benches in the sun outside the airport, we head back out to the highway for the last show of the tour.  Aching to get home, but not so much wailing or gnashing of teeth.  It is what it is.

What do you do when you're at the mercy of a volcano, the wind and the EU Aviation Board?

Maybe we get a Eurail Pass and head to Italy and eat the best pasta in the world.  Neither of us has been.

This is hard now.. but we’re among friends.  And if it’s going to be hard, that’s the best place to be.  And today, walking the flea market in Amsterdam, I saw tulips everywhere.  Tomorrow, who knows?  

The dog'll be fine.    

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Answer 101 - that'd be about now

The news doesn't look good.  No air traffic moving out of Europe until Tuesday.

At what point does the eruption of a volcano become a personal smiting?

Well, if you're me, then you have to conclude that pretty much everything can be taken as a personal smiting.  Sure, therapy helps a little bit - but as an old friend once said, 'just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean the *-ers aren't out to get you..'

So, did I somehow offend Loki, the trickster Norse god of fire?  It's possible that just by featuring Zeus in a blog, Loki's temper flared, and, well, we all know what a fireball he can be.

So I feature Zeus, I forget to mention Loki - and KA-PLOWIE!!  I'm stuck in Europe because of the slight.  Gods are so jealous.  Especially across cultural lines.  I mean - it's such a volatile situation between them, that you rarely ever hear of cross-cultural skirmishes.  They tend to stick to their own territories, because otherwise - well, it's not just a matter of the rising of a Kracken - no, black holes could quite literally arise - and not the little ones that those scientists in Switzerland are playing with.  Nope, great big ones that could swallow us all.

I'm feeling very responsible for this now.  I ignored the fireball meteor (warning) over Wisconsin.  I should have sung Loki's praises then.  What the hell was I thinking?!

I'm sorry everybody.  But more importantly, forgive me, Loki, oh great Norse god of fire and practical jokes, for the oversight.  I'm surrounded by goats here in the Dutch countryside and will attempt to catch one to sacrifice, or at least to snap a picture of Dave feeding a carrot to with his mouth, because he really likes to do that kind of thing.

But Zeus, for the record, this in no way diminishes your bitchinness.

That said, let's see if I can get on the plane on Tuesday.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Answer 100 - I did. I half-hoped she'd apparate

Hannie owns the guest house in Joepsingboertange.

She’s a playwright.. and a producer of Shakespeare on the Green.  She’s sparkly-eyed and razor-sharp, and her place felt of beautiful wildness and.. chess.. somehow...

She’s a huge Terry Pratchett buff, and adapted Masquerade into a play.  In Dutch.  No easy feat.  The Dutch sense of humor isn’t particularly dry, and Pratchett could parch a rainforest. 

Oh, and she’s a witch.  The good kind.  A bit like Nanny Ogg, one of Pratchett’s witches.  The one I intend to be when I grow up.  The one that drinks apple brandy, filches all the free buffet food she can and stuffs it into containers she always keeps in her skirts or under her hat, and sings loudly in the bathtub (in the yard) - songs like, ‘The Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the End,’ and such…  the kind the neighbors are a little wary of maybe, but that small children always know they can come to for candy before dinner.*

I’ll most likely get Dave working on the alchemical side of things.  He’d be good at that.  Maybe even figuring out how to turn politicians into pink fuzzy bunnies.. and finding the space between night and day, where some say they’ve walked..

Wind blew the screen door last night.. knock knock.. I half-expected her to apparate somewhere, with those bright blue eyes.   I’d hoped she would, in a way.  The field behind the cottage stretches for miles.  The sky was clear and full of stars… a sliver of a moon. 

Didn’t I half-hope she’d apparate?

“My little Poppi,” she’d say..  and we’d run off into the long fields – grab the stick broom from the clothes line, and fly out toward Cassiopeia and Andromeda… maybe even all the way across the Big Pond to Indiana, where my dog would bark his fool head off as we landed on the gravel drive.  Of course, knowing my dog, he’d try to bite her and then would find himself dreaming of mud and catching flies with his tongue, while she and I drank tea and apple brandy in my kitchen and discussed replacing the painting of Pope Leo with a tapestry of the Buddha.

Dave would get used to the new paradigm.


*I was kidding about letting my evil clowns scare children.  Neither of them is all that evil.  Just misunderstood.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Answer 99 - Evil clowns need love too

Breaking news: An icelandic volcano has blown enough silica ash into the air over northern Europe that most major European airports are shut down.  

It appears no one is hurt, but air travel is impossible now.  We're scheduled to leave on Tuesday... should the icelandic volcano belch again, we may not be able to leave.  In which case, we will settle in for the remainder of the Spring and stay until the tulips bloom.

6 trips to Holland and today is the FIRST time I've seen any tulips at all.. a few in someone's front yard inside a medieval fortress near Sellingen.

It's windy and sunny today in North Holland... we're near the German border in Joepsingboertange - we'll head to Amen tonight for a show that will include a serving of gigantic meatballs to most of the audience.

At this particular show, we play 3, 30-minute sets, with a 30-minute break between sets.  Food is served at each break.  It's a party and a show.. in a nearly medieval building that seats about 100 people.  It's more fun than should be legal, and the meatballs are amazing.  Dave will eat smoked fish.

But the big news is that this afternoon, at a 2nd hand shop, I found a clown marionette for 3 Euros.

I already have one clown that sits in my hallway, next to the pump organ.  He's an antique - sits nearly 2 feet tall, he's mechanical, and he's straight out of Stephen King's 'IT', gently rocking back and forth if you plug him in.

Why, in the name of all that is good and right would anyone keep one evil clown in their hallway, let alone two?? (you're probably asking.)

I'm not one of those people with some enormous clown collection - nope.  Just the evil ones.  And thus far, only two.  Sure, they scare small children and occasionally studio clients, but you know, it's a service, really.  Dave was in the circus - clowns are basically terrifying... it's part of our family history. And the illusion of safety and security is, in fact, just that.  In this way, we can help small children and passers by come to terms with the facts.  We think they're better for it, in the end.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Answer 98 - Because Bi-Polar Sumo Wrestlers are Scary

We rode bikes from Jipsingboertanger to Sellingen this afternoon.

There is a man-made hill, with steps leading up to a 'theatre of nature' - a metal art piece, that frames each view from the hill.  Dave stood on top of it and contemplated doing a hand-stand.  He's like that.

Each step has a snippet of a poem or a song lyric.

We met one of the authors of a step snippet, blues artist Harry Muskee, a couple of years ago, when we were doing an interview on Dutch Nat'l Radio. 

Harry has his own statue in Drenthe.  I'm glad I didn't know this when I met him.  I'd have been nervous and probably said something stupid.  Not that this would be unusual.

Why is it that meeting someone famous makes us nervous?

It's just bizarre.  And many of us react that way.  I know I do.  I can see it making more sense if that person is, say, someone with the strength of a grizzly bear and a personality disorder.  But why, otherwise?  The fight/flight response that I tend to associate with fear shouldn't really come into play in the presence of celebrity.  Nope.

However, in the presence of a Bi-polar sumo wrestler, yes. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Answer 97 - In the trees.

They say it's a monastery, but I believe it's a cloister.  We're staying tonight in the 'Maria House' here in Krefeld... above my bed is a crucifix, above Dave's is a colorful painting of the Virgin Mary in a gilded frame.  This is not entirely unlike my kitchen, except the austerity.

Tonight's show is in a club called Kulturrampe - it's dark, in a long row of warehouses, will be full of smoke and it's a wild walk... from theatres to rock clubs.. across country lines..

Now, waiting for the opening act (Someday Jacob) to sound check, I'm listening to Jacques Brel, glancing at the bar menu and realizing there is no wine.

I've left the red wine at the hotel.

I rode in the backseat from Holland to Germany.. thinking of the lines that blur.  Things that look one way, and in a different light, are something else entirely.  It's a strange place, out on the edge of connection to the day to day.  When I'm inundated in the mundane, I edge toward the front door - dreaming of long and winding roads... but so far from the door, I can almost feel my hand on the doorknob.

So where's the line?  Where's the contentedness we're all looking for - in the place we're standing, or in the back seat in which we're riding?

Since I've been gone, my dog has bitten someone.  Someone else.  My dog that Dave loves to distraction just doesn't understand the difference between acceptable behavior and the long dirt nap.

And me, well, what I don't understand is everything... I took a nap this afternoon on a small bed, in a room with white walls and no ornamentation but the crucifix and Virgin Mary.  The pillow was full of feathers, but there was nothing soft about it.

So I'm looking for the line.. the place between the feathers and the clouds.. the feet on the ground and the head in the sky.  At the same time. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Answer 95 & 96 - I'm a bunny disguised as Winona Ryder

I want to say that everyone does it.
You know, snags food from the free breakfast buffet at the hotel...

Come on!  This is Europe!  The breakfast buffet is freaking amazing... fresh rolls, cheese, fruit, muesli, pastries... little packets of pindakaas (peanut butter, xlated, literally 'peanut cheese' in Dutch) - yogurt, fruit juices, eggs (boiled, scrambled), meats... it's unreal.  And it actually tastes like food, unlike any breakfast buffet you might run across in the U.S., that tastes like it was poured directly into bread-shaped molds and egg-shaped molds and fruit-shaped molds from a Sisco Food-Style-Products bag. (well, some of the high-end natural food giants (translation - expensive) and smaller chain co-ops (Bloomington's own Bloomingfoods) are the exception.


Today I made a sandwich for lunch from the buffet and then and asked Dave to stuff it in his jacket.

This is so tacky, I know, but we're musicians.  Who knows when the next free meal will come along!?

I'm starting to fray around the edges a bit.  Too long from reality as I know it, which, of course, means the voices get louder... (heh) (hee) (ho.. hee hee hee hee...)  Maybe I'm turning into Winona Ryder, and the idea of pilfering something makes the voices somehow quieter, eh?  

It's the illusion of control, maybe.  Maybe breaking the rules like some sort of.. of... maverick (like Sarah Palin said she and John McCain were right before she winked at the camera for the 3,000th time, causing me and half the people I know to groan and increase their prozac dosages) - anyway, being on the road feels, one month in, like being in that rabbit-catching machine that they invented in the Wallace and Gromit movie.  

So am I a bunny in a vacuum or am I Winona Ryder?

Apparently I'm both.  I'm a floating bunny in a plastic bunny vacuum, that thinks it's Winona Ryder and feels compelled to pilfer good Dutch cheese.

ssshhhhh, voices.   Tomorrow they'll certainly be another breakfast buffet!