Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Little Things Mean A Lot Department

I just got a notice that I have "a balance" in my Cafe Press account.

It ain't much, but I didn't expect there to be anything! As it turns out, two people whom I do not even know have taken a fancy to my Blues Routes souvenier T-shirts (logo design by PhD by the way)and bought a couple.

While I wasn't even looking!

Money for Nothin'!

You too can participate in this lovely experience and get your very own Paul Horrell designed Blues Routes T-Shirt... Be The First One On Your Block!

Be Careful What You Wish For...

I actually find it kind of amusing that I put down a post entitled "Don't Just Do Something..." and less than 24 hours later my car and computer, the symbolic, as well as very real, facilitators of both my mental and physical movement are simply, casually, and without warning, lifted from my reality.

It's as if The God(dess) simply was reading the damn blog and said... "well... okay then."

Late Monday night I got a call from the Police Department to let me know that my car had been found in relatively undamaged condition and so I spent all of yesterday and most of today going through a long list of problematic dealings and relatively costly expenditures (though not as costly as it looked like it was going to be) to finally re-acquire my vehicle.

Unfortunately... the thieves evidently liked my computer and that didn't make like Little Bo Beep's sheep and come home... not yet.

So here I am, three days from a trip to Defiance College to talk about Katrina, without the tools of my trade and with no real good idea of what I am going to do about recovering them. Sitting here is not only a good idea... it's pretty much the only option.

On the other hand... I had a great "sit down" with Jen last night. When I wasn't able to get my car, we hooked up downtown and had a couple of drinks, some great almonds, and a couple of hours of really wonderful conversation that made every single bit of every single thing that went wrong worthwhile. The fact is (as sad as this reality is) I would not have had that opportunity had I not lost my car and computer.

It was - as time with Jennifer always is - a great, great gift.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just When I Thought It Was Safe...

Saturday started out with so much beauty that it was almost excruciating to behold. The sun was shining, the sky was clear; I had to go to The City for work, so I decided to take the long way around and go down Highway 1 through Stinson Beach, up over Mt. Tam and through Sausalito. By the time I got into San Francisco I still hadn't gotten the day out of my system, so I decided to make a stop for lunch at Memphis Minnie's in the "Lower Haight" (what used to be called The Fillmore when I used to live and work in the neighborhood).

I parked my car on Fillmore and went for a walk around the block, past the old Fillmore Baptist Center where I was a seminary intern, down the block of Haight where I used to get PoBoys and have a beer at Toronado. When I returned to my car (or more accurately where I had left my car), I discovered that someone else had decided that it was a good day for a drive as well.

A drive in my car... with my computer in the trunk.

I spent the rest of the day looking to see if I could find the car and then ultimately reporting it stolen at Northern Police Station. Then I caught the bus back to Petaluma and finished off the day trying to be sprightly and partyish at my friend's big fundraising Halloween Party at The Phoenix Theater in Petaluma.

As I write this now, it crosses my mind that spending the evening in a place called The Phoenix might be just exactly the right thing.

I've got to start RISING out of the ashes sooner or later... I really don't have anything left to lose.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Don't Just Do Something... Sit There

Life moves slowly these days.

The picture at left is about as good an explanation of that movement as anything that I can think of. The window in the background is the window that I wake up to every morning. There's a huge tree just out of frame that makes me feel like I'm waking up in a treehouse every day.

The meditation cushion (zafu) which sits in the center of the bed was made for me some years ago by Jennifer. Because of that fact I find it both a sort of launching pad to the cosmos and a lock to the ground... exactly what it seems to me a zafu is really all about anyway. It is the place I start almost every day. It is the source of a center that has kept me whole and relatively sane during the last 18 months. On top of the cushion is a meditation bell, a copy of Thoma Merton meditations and my miniature labyrinth (also from Jen). These are the elements that make up the microcosm of my life.

The little red and black books on the right are my latest journals. One is labeled The Plan, the other is labeled The Theory. I started these particular journals a few months ago when I thought I might actually be able to figure out a systematic approach to stitching my life back together again.

It's not working very well. Those two journals are about as chaotic a set of documents as I have produced in the nearly 40 years that I have been keeping journals. I still don't know any more than I did when I first started keeping track of the meandering thoughts in my brain.

Finally, the little black bag in the corner of the photo carries my work materials, my laptop in particular. Over the last year and a half it is the black bag and the zafu that have come to represent the yin and yang of who I am. My work and my sitting and the places that those touch the lives of the people in my life. That's really all I feel right now.

The great big grandiose plans I have had at various points of my life and the big troublesome fears and worries that have plagued my nights and days. Right now... these days... they pretty much all come down to the stuff in this picture... and the invisible attachments that lead out from there.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Could Have Danced All Night...

The thing I didn't mention about the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest was the fact that on Saturday, Jen and Andy and Mel and a whole bunch of their friends (Stuart, and Jerry and Eric in particular) joined me at the fest and, for the first time in many many years I got to dance to Cajun music with my daughter. Her comment was, "I'm not any better at this than I was when I was eight...." well, the thing about that is, neither am I. But who cares... it's dancing and we don't have to be good.

Jen sent me the picture earlier today and I just found a copy of the John Denver song that is (yeah yeah it's embarassing but it's true)the source of her name. I was younger (a LOT younger) than she is now when I heard this song and thought I wanted to give my child this name. It's interesting to me that it's a song about dancing and Jen is definitely a lover of dance. Considering how many women of her age are named Jennifer, I'm guessing there was a fair number of people who liked the song. But I don't care... to me it's about her... and (like the song says) I do want to live forever "... in all the joy and all the sorrow we can only hope to share." If I've learned anything this last year, it's something like that.

Having the chance to dance, even for just a few minutes, with my girl... hey... it really doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'll Never Get Over Those Blue Eyes...

It's taken me three days to really come to terms with processing the three days that I spent at the Warren Hellman / Emmylou Harris Amazing Music Fest, otherwise known as The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. With the single exception of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, there is nothing anywhere that compares to this.

The weekend started, as I mentioned in a previous post, with Friday afternoon's Speedway Meadow concert featuring Jimmie Dale Gilmore (one of my all time favorite musicians)and Butch Hancock, followed by Elvis Costello… with accompaniment provided by the Blue Angels. Joining the roster of players was Emmylou Harris (The Goddess of Music in my opinion), Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, who all joined Elvis' set (after he had already played a 30 minute solo set, AND a 30 minute band set ) for a rousing hour long preview of just the way the rest of the weekend was bound to go. The San Francisco weather even responded when the grey fog of the previous week, broke through to clear skies (something almost unheard of in the fogbank of western San Francisco) at sunset. A glowing orange sun lit the stage with an ethereal light while the whole crew sang an astonishing rendition of "Train Train" to close the set, before returning for several encores, including Elvis' declaration of political clarity – "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?"

The weather held for the rest of the weekend with bright sunny skies and San Francisco's amazing Indian Summer temperatures providing the unspoken theme of clarity and brilliance as every style of music found its way into the Hardly part of the fest and Bluegrass Legends (and near legends) held forth on the Banjo stage, the Rooster stage, the Arrow stage and more.

The constant reminder of Bush's war machine, in the guise of the daily Blue Angels flyover (it's Fleet Week in San Francisco doncha know) provided an interesting juxtaposition to anti-war tunes of every possible stripe from classic bluegrass protests about the human cost of war (written in response to our own civil war, but still applicable to the one currently taking place in Iraq) to reimagined blues tunes like Huddy Leadbetter's "Beaujois Town", 60s utopiana like "If You're Going to San Francisco," and hot off the presses esoteric protests like T Bone Burnett's "Palestine Texas."

The highlight for me though.. in the midst of three days of astonishing acts, and painful choices (I had to forego hearing the North Mississippi Allstars and Richie Furay in order to catch Richard Thompson and Emmylou Harris), was Emmylou's opening afternoon duet with Elvis on "I Still Miss Someone." Bluegrass, and bluegrass influenced music of all stripes, is nothing if not melancholy and the pain of loss (lost love, lost lives, lost opportunities) is the rue from which the gumbo of the music comes to full boil. In that sense, beginning with that lovely duet Friday, plucking at my personal heartstrings with golden voice and thoughtful touch, and concluding in much the same manner at sunset Sunday, it was in this musical reflection of the losses in my life during the last year (the loss of love, of home, of place, of purpose) and the similar (and often far more profound) losses of friends and acquaintences, that I found relief and strength and joy and hope. Obviously, these were accompanied by the frequent tears I have come to know of late and the deep hurt in my chest that never totally goes away. But it was on this weekend, saturated by this music, that I was treated, again, to the bright flower of a hopeful future that seems to be rising from the raggedy ass garden of my disconnected life.

What a weekend!

Thanks Emmy!

Thanks Warren!

Friday, October 06, 2006

By the way...

I just got a new cell phone yesterday, so for those of you who need to know the number... it's 707-364-2419.

You can of course still reach my on my other numbers:

San Francisco - 415-691-6140
New Orleans - 504-273-6186

Or online at Skype. My Skypename is mercreate.

Joy Will Find A Way

Yesterday, while reading a book review by a new friend of mine (and the person from whom I am renting my room in Petaluma) I read a reference to the author Mark Nepo, referring to him as a "deep optimist" and it captured my imagination. I think my attraction to the idea is strong because, in contrast to the depression I have felt over so much time, I am feeling very optimistic myself these days.

I wake up every morning with a deep gratitude for the world outside my window and the day that is ahead. I even find that days when I know there's much work and responsibility (something that I have not always been happy about) I head into the day with a sense of joy and anticipation. This is something that feels like a legacy from the last year since Katrina. So much of my life over the last year has been a wait and see, take it step by step, kind of reality that I have fallen into a sort of slot of optimism that is almost always peaceful and sometimes downright exciting. I find that I anticipate the day and look forward to finding out what I don't know yet. The experience is no doubt aided by the big tree outside my window that I wake up to every morning; it's as if I live in a tree house, my window view filled with green (now turning to yellow) leaves and the sound of birds filtering through into my slowly rising consciousness. I find myself – every day – waking up with a smile and a thank you on my lips.

Right now I'm sitting in the back corner of the Beach Chalet on the beach in San Francisco (that's my view from the window at the top there). I'm grabbing a bite to eat, a beer and some WiFi, and after I finish this, I'll be loading up some new material for web work I've been doing this week before I head out for the afternoon show in Golden Gate Park (Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Elvis Costello) opening the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest... three days of fun and music (as they said once about another fest). It's rainy and foggy and we all may be turned into wet noodles before the weekend's out, but it'll be worth it (particularly since, thanks to Warren Hellman, the whole event is FREE).

The music - as always - stands on its own.

And that says a lot.

Bruce Springsteen's new album features a rockin' folky version of an incredible piece of American folk music, Mary Don't You Weep. It's a song that's been holding me up since I first heard it while still in NewOrleans this spring. Bruce Cockburn used to do a song called Joy Will Find A Way, a song that always brought gladness to my heart and a smile to my face. At this point in time... quite literally by some sort of amazing surprise, I find myself feeling that kind of uplift almost every day.

I really have no idea where I'm going over the next few months (who knows, maybe even years), but damn if the journey ain't turnin' out to be fun!