Monday, December 31, 2012


As if my incredible good fortune is solely the result of my own hard work and smart choices.   As if luck had nothing to do with any of it. 

I have as many sins on my head as Bryan did, I made as many stupid choices.  When I think of the chances I took, the dubious substances I ingested, the strangers I woke up with, the cars I climbed into, it's a miracle I got out of the 80's alive.

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but I know Bryan was deeply damaged, that much is clear.  I'm damaged too, I just hide it better.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Human Agency

The word according to Wikipedia:

"Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices. It is normally contrasted to natural forces which are causes involving only unthinking, deterministic processes. In this respect, agency is subtly distinct from the concept of free will, the doctrine that our choices are not the product of causal chains, but are significantly free or undetermined. Human agency entails the claim that humans do, in fact, make decisions and enact them on the world. How humans come to make decisions, by free choice or other processes, is another issue...If a situation is a consequence of human decision making, persons may be under a duty to apply value judgments to the consequences of their decisions, and held to be responsible for those decisions. Human agency entitles the observer to ask, should this have occurred? in a way that would be nonsensical in circumstances lacking human decision-makers such as the impact of a comet on Jupiter."

Upon reflection, I realize that my last post about Bryan's inability to drift with fate was completely wrong. Bryan drifted for much of his life; that was one of his problems. He never accepted the responsibilities and rewards of his own human agency. 

We are put here to make choices, make mistakes and learn from them. That's how we evolve, and the process never ends. Bryan would never accept responsibility for his mistakes, so he couldn't learn from them and move on. Instead, he constructed a world view in which he was always a victim and his mistakes were always someone else's fault. 

I realize now that perpetual victimhood is an extreme form of egoism. We are all victims at one point or another; shit happens that is beyond our control. But, most of the time, we make our own mistakes. In accepting responsibility for those mistakes, we acknowledge and accept our fallibility and imperfection. In the darkness of his heart, Bryan believed himself infallible, incapable of making a mistake. Thus, he believed that his problems were never of his own making; how could they be, if he was infallible? His problems were always caused by an outside source beyond his control.  That way, he could still be right when he was wrong.

He had locked himself so tightly into a tiny closet of ego that he could only conceive of one way out. What a waste. 

The man had a master's degree, parents who loved and supported him, friends. He got bailed out of trouble more times than I can count. He had a career that, with a little effort, could have easily made him a decent living.  He had optionsright up until the day he died, yet he chose to live in squalor and despair with drug addicts and criminals. If he was here right now he would still insist that his wasted opportunities were someone else's fault. The truth is, he was never a victim of anything other than his own ego.

He leaves nothing for his family but chaos and unimaginable psychic damage.  There was no insurance, no money in the bank. Greg and I had to bail him out one last time and pay for his goddamned funeral. 

I don't begrudge the money. I do begrudge the useless, senseless waste. 

I mourn the funny, nervy, smart-mouthed, talented, opinionated kid he once was. I'm having a harder time mourning for the man he became, the man he chose to become.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Sisters of Mercy

Up, up from the ground - oh weary head, oh breaking neck
This is no longer Troy. We are not the lords of Troy.
Endure. The ways of fate are the ways of the wind.
Drift with the stream - drift with fate.
    Euripides, The Trojan Woman

Before severing contact with him six years ago, the last words I wrote to my youngest brother were, "Please seek professional help."  

My plea went unheeded: He committed suicide two days before Christmas. He could not lift his head from the ground. He could not drift with fate.

I pray that our mother was waiting on the banks to help him across. I pray for his daughter, who will bear his scars. I pray that he is finally at peace.

Oh the sisters of mercy they are not departed or gone
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me their song
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been traveling so long.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Way the World Ends

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
     T.S. Eliot

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
     Matthew 10:32-34

Woman was welcome in the garden as long as she held her tongue. The moment she spoke her truth, she was banished.  

I poured out my heart like water onto barren rock and watched it evaporate. I spoke the truth and, for better or worse, it set me free.  Up, up from the ground. Go forth and begin again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

As You Like It

We have long known that "all the world's a stage" in the meadow. Now we have a platform salvaged from a production of As You Like It on which to strut and fret our hour on stage (and yes drama geeks, I'm mixing my Shakespearean metaphors.) Saturday was a work day in the meadow and we got much, much more accomplished than I could have ever imagined. By nightfall, the old platform was demolished, a log foundation was built, the new platform was installed and the debris was burned.  Damned impressive if you ask me.

I'm forever grateful to Lowell, Peter, Ezra, Jesse, Joe, Jimmy and Rachel for their efforts. And, of course, Scoutmaster Sequoia, our fearless leader; nothing happens without the big man.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

R.I.P. Jack Gilbert: Another Poet Crosses the Bar

A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain

Today the Lomakatsi Restoration Project will begin an oak restoration project on our beloved piece of paradise at Two Creeks. Lomakatsi contacted us last spring with a proposal to thin out some of the smaller trees on the property. Their goal is to preserve the big oaks. Sudden oak death syndrome is wiping out the great oak forests of California and so the federal government has provided funding to support the remaining oak forests of the west.  Our property is in a transition zone between the oak forest and the conifer forest and is home to a remarkably diverse range of flora and fauna, including some large and beautiful oak trees. Lomakatsi toured the property with Sequoia, created a restoration plan, applied for and won the federal funding and will carry out the thinning project.  Their plan is to cut trees that are less than 16” in diameter and are under the drip line of the big oaks. 
As you can imagine, Sequoia has been deeply involved with every aspect of the planning process. On Monday, he went on one last tour with project manager to review the first set of cutting areas. He literally approved or denied permission to cut each individual tree.  That’s our man, the Large Lorax; he speaks for the trees.

If you visit next summer, you will definitely see evidence of the work.  Parts of the property may look a bit scalped for the next couple of years.  We planted many of those conifers ourselves and  it will break my heart to see them go.  It’s a leap of faith, but we believe the work will reduce overall fire hazard and encourage the long term health of the forest.  It’s the right thing to do.

On the upside, we are going to end up with ridiculous amounts of firewood, years worth of firewood, plus lots of fir poles, which we hope to use in a meadow rehab project.  James Dean scored a new platform during the OSF strike this year and we plan to demolish and replace the old platform this winter. (About time, right? It’s a miracle it lasted this long.) We also plan to eventually build a pole shelter over the kitchen.  One step at a time.
I’ll keep you posted on the progression of the forest restoration work. I’ll also send out an announcement and request for help when it’s time to demo and replace the platform.  I foresee a very large bonfire in our future.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Autum Comes to the Colestin

It is my glorious privilege to live surrounded by beauty.

 Friday was all about stacking wood: four and a half cords in the woodshed, another cord by the hot tub and one more cord in the meadow for good measure. 

Looking out towards Hilt at sunset, Shasta in the background.

Big leaf maples down by the creek.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Strange Brew

She's a witch of trouble in electric blue
In her own  mad mind she's in love with you
With you
Now what you gonna do?

I knew it would kill and it did, especially in October.  What's up next up, Season of the Witch?  God no. Given my druthers, I'd rather cover this in honor of the season:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Feeling like Juanita today

Oh mama, sweet mama, can you tell me what to say?
I don't know what I've done to be treated this way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Miz Thang

One of my favorite photos of myself performing.  Love that dress, although I rarely have an opportunity to wear it. You can stand that dress up in the corner, give it a cocktail and it's the life of the party.

Fair Fanny Moore

The last time I saw my mother in 2004, she mentioned that her mother used to sing a song called Fair Fanny Moore.
My grandmother died when my mom was 9. It's a long, complicated story, but basically she died because my son-of-a-bitch grandfather refused to pay for a doctor to attend to her after the birth of her 10th child. My grandmother was deathly ill during the last weeks of her pregnancy and immediately post-natal. My mom said she was extremely jaundiced and horribly sick. Perhaps it was pre-eclampsia, but who knows? She died within days of the birth because my grandfather didn't want to pay for a doctor.
My grandfather was a major asshole, although no-one in the family talks about that now. It's a forbidden topic.  
Fair Fanny Moore is a murder ballad, of course; actually a rape and murder ballad. I guess that kind of material is in my blood. After mom died in 2005, I sought out information about the song, but didn't find much.  I asked my aunt if she remembered her mother singing this song, but she said no.  Of course, she's pretty guarded about their fairly horrific childhood of deep, rural poverty, but why would she hide something like that? I tend to believe her. 
There's another uncle whose brain I must pick someday.  He may be willing to draw back the curtain on the family secrets, although I doubt it. I missed my chance with my great Uncle Henry, the last of the Seays. He was the musicologist in the family, always insisting on a family sing along at every gathering.  I didn't see these people for more than 30 years and missed alot. 
I was wandering around YouTube today, killing time before a meeting, and stumbled on an old recording of the song.

I want to do something with the song, it calls to me.  Re-write it, re-imagine it, find my own way in. It was a final gift of my mother, a gift from her mother whom I never met.  It's like a message from beyond the grave.  I need to find a way to bring it into my present.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Long Road From There to Here

Thirteen shows between September 2 and October 2. That’s 13 shows in 30 days. On average, that’s one performance every 2.3 days.

Of course, I didn’t play every 2.3 days.  I played a lot of 3-day stretches, including some double days. But, any way you slice it, it was still 13 shows in 30 days.
What have I learned?
I’m stronger than I thought I was.
I’m a better listener, better at thinking first and speaking second, better at controlling my wicked tongue.
I don’t have to please all the people all the time. It’s OK to say no as long as it is said with courtesy and respect. Yesterday, an event organizer wanted me to set up my band in the direct sunlight on a 90+ degree day.  “Oh no,” says I, “that won’t work at all. We’re going to set up over here in the shade.” No blood, no foul, everyone walked away happier; well, everyone accept the event organizer, but I can’t please all the people all the time.
I’m a much better musician than when I started this journey; more generous, sensitive, adventurous and confident.  My skills are not in the same league as some of my colleagues, but I bring energy and joy to my performances. I can work a crowd. That counts for a lot.
I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I’m a different person than when I started this journey.  It was an amazing month; difficult at times and always exhausting, but life changing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Truth

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” And, Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
Can’t you hear the world weariness in Pilate’s voice? The irony? The howling mob outside, the vindictive patriarchs demanding blood, and this man wants to talk about “The Truth” with a capital T. Pilate’s truth is that he wants a little peace and quiet. If Jesus's life is the price of that peace and quiet, it’s a price Pilate is willing to pay.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man can come unto the Father but by me.” The truth is, Mr. Jesus, you will have to die before you can be born again.  Perhaps, as you suggest, we will all be born again into heaven or hell. But first, we all have to die. That's about the only truth I'm completely sure of.
Rob Brezny’s horoscope this week tells me that I should speak the unvarnished truth this week. He says that this is one of the rare times when being profoundly authentic will work to my supreme advantage. You’ll have to excuse my skepticism. No-one is interested in my unvarnished truth. It has never caused anything but trouble. 
What is truth? What is reality? It’s all semantics, right?  I spin this web as I navigate it. Just because I’m making it up as I go along doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sticking a fork in it

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all relationships are unbalanced. Someone always loves more, the other less.  

Well, at least in my life. 
In a two-person relationship, it’s usually easy to identify which way the seesaw tips. There’s almost always a clear leader and follower, a top dog and underdog.  When the structure expands to three or more, the dynamic is harder to decipher.
I’m having one of those days when I feel like I care a lot more than my colleagues and collaborators.  I feel like I am putting out a lot more than I get back.  

Don’t you love the phrase “put out”? It sums it all up, right? Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

I’m being taken for granted and I don’t like it.
I can’t control how other people treat me.  I can only control my reaction to their treatment.  I’d love to confront certain people and call them on their shit in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, my experience with these particular people convinces me that “they can’t handle the truth.” The truth will only drive them further away.

The only prescription seems to be: Care less.  Step back.  Play hard to get.
That game can easily become an arms race towards indifference.  Everyone keeps taking one-giant-step-back until we are no longer on the same playing field.  So be it. I am fed up with- -the only word that comes to mind is “injustice.”   I give more than I receive and it ain’t fair. 

Of course, mama never said that life was fair, did she?  But, she also didn’t raise me to roll over and play dead. I’m nobody’s doormat.  I’m angry at the people who take advantage of my good nature. My options are to, a) step way back from these relationships, or b) call my tormentors on their shit and let the chips fall where they may.   
Stepping back and/or speaking up will imperil these relationships. Is it worth the risk? If all that is at risk is their indifference and contempt, then the answer is yes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Like everyone else in America, September 11, 2001 started out like any other day for  me. My alarm went off, I went downstairs and turned on the radio so I could listen to the news while getting ready for work. It was about 6:50 a.m. west coast time and the local NPR affiliate was doing their local news round-up, like they did every morning at 10 minutes before the hour.  I can’t remember what the local news was that morning, but it was nothing extraordinary.  Arly and I were getting ready to leave the house at 10 minutes after 7:00 like we did every morning. At the top of the hour, instead of hearing the cheerful music of Morning Edition, Noah Adams began to talk about the breaking news coming in from New York.
I’ve long wondered why the local NPR affiliate said nothing about the events during the local news round-up. I’ve long wondered why they even broke for the local news round-up.  It was the last time they would break away from national coverage for several days. 

7:00 a.m. our time was 10:00 a.m. on the east coast.  Both towers had already been hit. Shortly after the national news came on, they announced that the South Tower had collapsed and the Pentagon had been hit. By the time I got to work, the North Tower had collapsed and the fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. As the news rolled on that day, I remember wondering, “What the hell is going on? How many planes do they have up there? When is this going to stop?”

In 2001, OSF produced the The Merchant of Venice, an always-controversial work.  The Merchant of Venice was one of the two plays OSF presented during the Festival's inaugural performances in 1935. Founder Angus Bowmer played Shylock. Some people believe that the play should no longer be produced. They believe that its hateful anti-Semitism has no place in a modern theatre.  I deplore they play's pernicious libelling and stereotyping, but I also see great value in the work. When I first read The Merchant of Venice in high school, I didn’t understand that it was meant to be a comedy.  I read it as a tragedy and viewed Shylock as – well, not the tragic hero, but certainly the most compelling, sympathetic character.  He reminds me so much of Oedipus, beguiled by his own intellectual superiority, blind to the forces gathering around him.  Shakespeare had a choice; he could have made Shylock an unambiguously ridiculous, comic, unappealing figure.  Instead, Shakespeare portrays an intelligent, passionate, fascinating man who has clawed and scratched his way up from the very bottom of society into a position of power. He portrays a man who has spent his life masking his pain at the scorn and derision of the dominant culture in order to survive.  When the dominant culture steals the one thing he cares about in this world, his daughter, he snaps, lashes out, and is destroyed.  Shakespeare chose to show his destruction onstage and in that last moment when he has lost everything, his fortune, his family, his god, Shylock does not inspire laughter. He inspires pathos and fear in the best Aristotelian tradition. How can we not feel a kinship with this broken man?  The Christians in the play are two-dimensional villains but Shylock is complex and compelling, the character you remember, the one you want to know more about. Shylock breaks my heart.
Was that Shakespeare’s conscious choice? Who knows?  All I know is, the play has meaning for me.  It inspires me. It makes me think.

Before the 2001 production, OSF had last produced the play in the early 90s and that earlier production was extremely controversial.  Director Libby Appel chose to portray Jessica’s repudiation of her Jewish heritage by showing her spitting on and discarding symbols of her faith.  It was a powerful and disturbing image that provoked gales of protest from many in the audience. There were letters to the editor, letters to the artistic director, and several people revoked their memberships.

When OSF decided to revive the play in 2001, there were still deep, hurt feelings within the audience.  The company mapped out a concerted effort to address the controversy and involve the Jewish community in the discussion. OSF scheduled several forums at a local synagogue and held many education events on campus. One of these  was a free, bi-weekly screening of a Canadian Broadcasting documentary about the character of Shylock.  It’s a remarkable documentary featuring the religious scholar Karen Armstrong. I haven’t watched it since 2001, but I remember it as moving and thought-provoking.  The documentary examines how the role of Shylock has been portrayed over the years, starting out with grotesque characterizations by actors wearing false noses all the way up to Al Pacino’s thoughtful and moving portrayal on Broadway in the late 90s. It also examined the cultural context of the play and how our conception of Shylock has evolved as the culture evolved. King Edward I expelled all Jews from England in 1290 and that edict was still in effect during Shakespeare’s lifetime.  It is believed that a small population of closeted Jews lived England during Shakespeare’s lifetime, possibly including Queen Elizabeth’s physician, but there were no openly Jewish communities. 

Some believe that Shakespeare was a closeted Catholic. During his life time, it was just as dangerous to be a Catholic as it was to be a Jew, so he may have understood what it felt like to be considered an outsider on the basis of religion. Essentially, the documentary examines intolerance and persecution, how they are expressed through art and how interpretations of those expressions evolve as the culture evolves.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, it was my job to set up a large TV in the Black Swan Theatre, introduce the documentary to the people in attendance, screen the film and then send people on their way.  I was not supposed to lead a discussion or engage in dialogue (I guess they didn’t trust what I might say), but inevitably people wanted to stay after and talk.  You know me; I’m not shy about sharing my opinion. But, it had been drilled into me that I was not supposed to debate or engage; the subject was too controversial, too fraught with peril.  Mostly I just listened.

On September 11, 2001, the Festival’s co-leaders decided to go forward with the performances scheduled for that day while offering refunds to anyone who requested them.  It turned out to be a controversial decision. Some members of the acting company had friends and family in New York and did not feel like performing; who can blame them? But, OSF is not just a theatre, it’s a destination.  The vast majority of the audience drives a long distance to attend. Here were all these vacationers far from home while this horrible tragedy unfolded.  If OSF had cancelled the plays, they would have had nothing to do but sit in their hotel rooms and watch the news.  Rightly or wrongly, the Festival decided to go on with the show to give these vacationers somewhere to be.  I honestly believe the decision was made based on concern for the audience rather than concern for the bottom line, but it was bitterly resented by certain member of the acting company.
Once the Festival leadership decided to go forward with the plays, they decided to go forward with everything else on the schedule as well. So, at 10:00 a.m. on September 11 (1:00 p.m. in New York), I walked over to the Black Swan, set up the TV and opened the doors to the theatre. I expected that absolutely no-one would show up, but about a dozen people walked through the door.

I always made a few remarks before starting the video, introducing myself and explaining why OSF had chosen to screen the documentary.  I remember so clearly that the words failed me that morning. I didn’t know what to say. The usual spiel felt so inadequate as to be insulting. So, I thanked everyone for attending on such a strange and frightening morning.  I didn’t refer to the events directly, but I remember saying something about how the documentary examines the hateful history of the play The Merchant of Venice and how important it was for us as a society to confront and unpack the history of hatred.  Then I started the documentary and watched the horrifying story of how a dominant culture subjugates and persecutes a minority culture.
Was the greatest playwright in the western canon speaking as the dominant culture's cudgel and stooge? Or was he communicating coded messages about Shylock’s humanity and about the humanity of all those who are persecuted and demonized? I’ll leave it to the scholars to figure out. 

After work, I attended Arly’s volleyball game at the high school.  The choir director had hastily assembled the school’s choir, a couple of dozen teenagers in blue jeans and shorts. They sang the national anthem. I cried.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cosmic Chord

Driving home long after midnight, a great meteorite rumbled into view and across the sky. Long and slow, its path could be timed in full seconds. It looked more like a burning bus than a shooting star. Sick, sore, but sated, I followed it home.

Sometime during the second set last night, the afterburners kicked in. My throat was shot but I latched onto Joe's energized tempo and sang my way up and over the tightness. I am voiceless today, spent, but last night was well worth it.

Who would I be if I lost my voice? If I lost my ability to speak, to sing, could I cope? I genuinely don't know. I saw Pete Seeger on TV not long ago. This man who inspired so many with his clear, powerful voice could barely whisper. He managed to croak out a few words before raising his hands like a conductor and urging his audience to sing for him. Of course they did, with nary a dry eye in the house. He can get away with that; he's Pete Seeger for god's sake. 

The time will come when I am reduced to a croak and I fear it will happen long before I'm 90. If I raise my hands, who will sing for me?

Losing my voice would not necessarily mean losing my words. I could still think, write, communicate.  But words aren't nearly enough. Singing transcends simple communication. It is deeper than sex, purer than love, mystical in its ability to align body, mind and spirit with the great harmony of the cosmos. It's as close as I come to the divine.

When I sing with someone else, when I find someone who can match his voice with mine, it is such a profound feeling that it's easy to mistake it for something else. It feels like holy communion, but it's not. It's just harmony. It doesn't have a deeper meaning than that.

Perhaps there is no deeper meaning. When I sing in harmony, I am aligned with the universal order. I channel the great cosmic chord. It is profound. It is enough.

My body will fail, my voice will fail, my words will slip away on the wind leaving no trace. But, the great harmony abides. It transcends me, enlarges me, connects me with something greater.

According ot the second law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed, just converted from one form to another.  When I die, I hope my life force is coverted to a clear note within the cosmic chord and I spend eternity vibrating with the music of the spheres.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Sometimes all you can do is wait. And breathe. And trust.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Heaven and Hell

I think it was when I saw the toddler dancing in the dive bar that I began to fear we were all going to burn in hell.

I’m not a fire and brimstone kind of a gal, perhaps because I am incredibly privileged, ridiculously blessed. My petty problems are not dire enough to instill fear of a wrathful creator, but that doesn't mean I haven't heard the rumors.  The Christian God will be here any minute now to rapture the righteous up to heaven, leaving trembling, empty sneakers in his wake.  The rest of us get to suffer through seven years of tribulation before our fiery demise, or something like that.  It sounds more like the plot of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie than a concrete possibility, but far be it from me to judge another's spiritual belief system. Live and let live, says I.

So, I was surprised at feeling a definite heaven v. hell vibe during my recent weekend in Cripple Creek Colorado, where I attended an old friend’s wedding.  The vast majority of the weekend was downright divine.  Friends and family traveled from all over the country to bask in the glow of the couple’s radiant love. A beautiful altar was built and consecrated on a pristine mountaintop under a crystal blue sky.  Heartfelt words were spoken, hands were fasted, songs were sung, feasts were served. Both sets of parents were genuinely overjoyed at the union and the guests were lovely, funny and kind.  Cripple Creek is located at about 9,500 feet elevation, so we were all intoxicated on oxygen deprivation and, after partying till 3:00 every night, stoned on sleep deprivation.  Moved and delighted, I laughed, wept, sang, danced.  It was remarkable.

But there was this other vibe, too.  The wedding party took over a hotel converted from a former Catholic hospital. Originally built in the 1890s, this maze-like, towering pile sits atop a ridiculously steep hill crowned with a large cross. Heavily wallpapered and furnished with faux antiques, one of the guest rooms was a former operating theater rumored to be populated by the ghosts of 19th century surgeries.  The whole place was bit creepy. 
Creepy is cool; I love a little creepy. But the wedding reception bordered on something almost diabolical.  Cripple Creek, a charming old mining-town straight out of central casting, legalized gambling about 20 years ago.  The beautiful brick buildings lining the main street house Reno-style casinos with flashing slot machines and baize card tables.  The reception was held in the only bar in town that is not a casino tourist trap, the place where the locals go to unwind.  Ritzy it is not; in fact, it is a genuine dive.  Furnished with shuffleboard tables, air hockey tables, pool tables and blinking neon signs, it smelled strongly of beer. The floor was sticky. Rickety table legs were shimmed with match books.  It was a dump.

The regulars were an eclectic, front-teeth optional lot. Sobriety was non-existent. Apparently, young people are allowed in bars in Colorado as long as they don’t drink. (Yeah, right.)  There were any number of teenagers wandering in packs. One young mother brought her tow-headed toddler, a kid named Thomas, who may be the biggest Hamfist-fan ever.  He stood in front of the makeshift stage bobbing and weaving like Ali in the ring.  His rhythm and tempo were impeccable.  The groom began to dance with him and threw in a little kick move.  The kid picked right up on it and threw in his own. He was adorable. You know me, there’s nothing in the world I love more than a toddler, so I reached across the mic stands and brought him up onstage with us. He really got the crowd moving. 

But, ultimately, he was a toddler rolling around on the filthy floor of a dive bar late on a Saturday night.  Lord knows, I dragged my kids to some questionable places. They went to plenty Dead shows and stayed up late at camping parties.  But, I don’t think I ever took them out dancing in dive bars.
Well, maybe I did and have blocked it.  I was a pretty irresponsible parent.

Meanwhile, several of the local mountain men were making comments about one of the bridesmaids, a tall, black, flamboyantly gay man named Tariq. Not that Tariq gave a shit; he let his freak flag fly with grace and beauty.  After the band finished playing, he plugged in his IPhone and started dancing to Beyonce. One of the drunkest, most dentally-challenged locals was smitten.  He began to dance, moving nearer and nearer to Tariq. As his dance became more of a grind, Tariq egged him on without letting him make contact, causing shrieks of laughter from the bride and her maids. At that, the locals poured out onto the dance floor, Thomas rolling among their feet. 
Taking a break at the bar, I watched a local news report on a large sinkhole that had opened up on the only highway out of town, cutting us off from the rest of the world. 

Outside the  front window, emergency lights were flashing.  I stepped out and caught a whiff of something sulphuric.  A couple of firemen walked up and down the street, sniffing the air.  I gave one a raised eyebrow and asked, "is everything alright?" but he didn't reply.

A large crowd of people stood smoking on the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious to the  scent of hell. I kept expecting to see tails and cloven hooves. Inside, Beyonce exhorted all the single ladies to put your hands up. Thomas rolled on the floor.

Later that night we laid in the driveway outside the haunted hospital on the hill and watched the Perseid meteor shower send burning strings down from the sky, as if to incinerate us where we lay.

Shall we call it a weekend of extremes? 

And, I haven't even written about my encounter with my own ghost of Colorado Springs.  But, that's a story for another time, campers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's too late for me, save yourself!

 I have this overwhelming, unnatural urge and, for once in my life, it's not illegal, immoral or fattening.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


 At rehearsal on Tuesday (my beloved Tuesday Night Music Club) I had one of those rare moments when I wasn't making the music, it was making me. It felt like the music was moving through me of its own volition, rising up from the earth, into my feet, through my body and out the top of my head. It made the hair stand up on the back of my arms. 

I had a similar moment when I recorded In the Pines and now that moment is immortalized. It may still be echoing in cyberspace long after I'm gone.

We caught lightning in a bottle.

What an amazing journey.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Photos

I'm no photographer and always rely on Sequoia to take pictures of the camp out. Then I get to bitch at him about who he missed: "What??? No pictures of Manda & her friends? Only one photo of Ruthe?"  Yeah, it's dysfunctional, but it works for us. Anyway, I do apologize to any campers not represented here.  Feel free to send photos and I'll gladly post.

Incidentally, Sequoia tore his meniscus playing disc golf this year. He had arthroscopic surgery yesterday.  He's healing nicely and should make a full recovery, but you should have heard me bitching about that.  "What do you think you are??? 17 years old???"

Colestine Camp Out 2012 Photos - Part One

Colestin Campout 2012 photos - Part Two