One of my local holiday traditions has been to shop local artists and craftspersons. I've been a bit more active this year, with visits to several Hartford spaces (Artspace and The Dirt Salon) during Open Studio, the Holiday Artisan Marketplace (via the Connecticut State of Makers) at Waterbury City Hall, and a more regular visit to Wesleyan Potters.
At Artspace, I picked up a couple of holiday gifts (which I will not share here), along with a delightful bowl made by Colleen Colabella from Towers of Hope & Pottery Creations, from East Granby. Most of her work involves small towers - but I sussed out this bowl - loved the raised pattern on the outside - organic, kind of china-like, and signaling a lightness or translucence.
Not on the web that I can find, but she's worth finding at local shows and fairs.
At the State of Makers Holiday Artisan Marketplace, I found some yummy jams, concocted by Omnomnom Jams and Jellies - I've been enjoying their Monkey Mayhem (banana, pineapple, cocoanut, I think) on my morning and also picked up a jar of Pretty Peach. They are just getting started (and could use nice labels on their jars!) but a fun and affordable treat!
Also at the Waterbury event, I found some nice earrings, created by Kate Stephen Jewelry - I'm always looking for something fun and funky and these resonated - being an electrical engineer, it's fun to find something copper.
And, I bought a lovely and funky decorated shirt for a fashionable friend.
Finally, at Wesleyan Potters, I found a few lovely pieces. I'm a big fan of the birds of late, especially once I realized they are the modern dinosaurs, and the Great Blue Heron is perhaps one of the best reminders of that. Walking my dog at a local farm, a heron swooped overhead (a mere 10'-20' high) and I felt that primitive, mammalian fear that was perhaps implanted in my DNA eons ago when my tiny ancestors were prey for flying pterodactyls. So this photo, by Tom Flynn, of a heron in flight, was perfect.
My friend Amy is a stained glass artist (you can view her work and shop at Singing Whale Stained Glass) - so I am always looking at stained glass. I found this fused glass fish (not sure of artist) - I liked the rainbow / chakra colors, I'm a Pisces, and one of the images or concepts of the divine that have come to me through Enlightenment Intensive work over the years was of a fish. So yeah, great for my yoga space.
Finally, this vase (artist unknown) spoke to me - it's solid and somewhat primative with it's figuring that feels reminiscent of hieroglyphs or cunieform. No idea why I like what I like, but I liked this enough to purchase it.
I'll admit it, I've been in a bit of a funk this year.
There's a lot in there - loneliness that make weekends and holidays difficult, injuries that have kept me out of the hot and power yoga practices that have kept me going the past many years, an awareness of time moving past, less than healthy eating, and all of it wrapped around a core of struggle that has made me a bit of a curmudgeon, a bit of a misanthrope.
And yet, there is much to be grateful for.
I'm grateful for my home - so many of my friends struggle to find housing, have roommates that are not always nurturing, or are unrooted. I bought my condo four years ago and it's become a little nest - space to work, space to practice, space for my dog, space to relax and unwind. It's not always rarely clean throughout, but I keep at least 1-2 spaces presentable.
I'm grateful for Elo, my little dog. When I moved into this place I was not expecting to bring him with me - thinking he'd not do well alone, in a condo, without a back yard to run in. But he's done well - not too barky, not too neurotic, and a good excuse to get me out for a long walk every day. So often when I've felt down and alone, his warm body and brown eyes keep me going.
I'm grateful for my band. Who would have guessed that 30+ years from high school and college, when music was such a big part of my life, that I'd still have the opportunity to pick up a guitar, pick up a bass, and make some music. We play and rehearse enough to keep the music tight and enjoyable, but not so much as to overwhelm and burn out.
I'm grateful for my teacher, and my practice. While yoga has become a place of struggle for me over the past year, and is no longer my daily addiction. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to practice, and the opportunity to teach. And I am grateful for a community that is tolerant of my recent thrashing around and lashing out, and does not seem interested in letting me disappear.
I am grateful for my work and my clients - it has been 15 years since I unfurled my business banner and launched my engineering practice. I am admittedly spoiled for a regular 40 hour a week, 9-5 job now, but I am grateful for enough work to pay my bills and live my life, yet gives me plenty of space for yoga, for music, for folk fests and weeks at camp.
I am grateful for my friends. I am not particularly gregarious - and struggle to find people and communities in which I feel at home. So my friends who have been there and hung on, who have space in their lives for an occasional call, a text message, or a Facebook message, are precious to me.
I am grateful for folk music, and the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest. Who could have predicted that when I rolled into the fest back in '98 (or was it '97?), parked my little Mazda along the creek line at Long Hill Farm, that I'd be meeting people and joining a community that would be with me for 25+ years.
Along those lines, I am grateful for social media. As much as Falcon Ridge has been a regular part of my life, it took Facebook to turn that precious week in July into a 52 week a year community. I'm a bit of a Facebook crank (not really accepting friend requests from folks I have not met in person) and yet I've ended up with 550+ friends, reaching across the country. Part of that is diversity (yoga, Falcon Ridge, Camp Camp, music, history) yet the connection (however tenuous or virtual) to a circle of others is precious.
I am grateful for my family. So many folks who have taken my journey have lost family. While I miss having a huge extended family nearby, and my nuclear family is somewhat distant, they are always there for me. I'm heading up for a visit later this morning.
I'm sure I am forgetting many things - communities, people, opportunities, comforts. But even so, there is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.
Following my juice cleanse, I've decided to establish some new food rules to encourage myself to eat better. These are almost entirely behavior related and have very little to do with nutrition, calories, etc. I know how to eat well; I just rarely do - choosing expedience, convenience, etc. So from here on:
* I will eat two meals at home each day. Maximum of one meal eaten outside the home.
* I will eat two meals with no animal protein each day. I can choose animal protein (including dairy and eggs) at one meal each day.
* I will limit myself to one (1) fast food meal per week (McDs, BK, Wendy's, Arby's, as well as local burger joints). Basically, anything that includes French fries and comes in a bag counts as "fast food"
* Maximum of one carbonated beverage (i.e. - soda, sugar or diet) per week.
* No meals through the drive-thru. If I want fast food, I need to go in and get it.
* No meals eaten in the car. I will eat in the restaurant or bring it home.
* No donuts. A particular weakness of mine. If I need a bakery nosh, it will be a bagel.
Today, Sunday, marks the final day of a seven day cleanse for me.
Since Monday, I've been hitting a 6 am (eep!) Kundalini yoga class led by Marcia Vallier. And my only nourishment has been a selection of juices, broths, and elixers supplied by Karma Cleanse in Bloomfield. It's been an interesting week, with a lot of self (re)discovery / realization. Some initial thoughts.
This was a good program for me - I'm not good at food prep and managing / preparing this sort of thing. So I'd be more than likely to step back from the cleanse for lack of an ingredient, or a tool (like a juicer), or a simply laziness / fatigue. But Alicia at Karma Cleanse brought us a "six-pack" of bottles each day (supplemented by fresh solid food today) - typically three juices, two "healing broths" and an herbal tea. So there was nothing to prepare - just open the freshly juiced / brewed concoction and consume, clean the bottle, and return the next day. Just my speed.
The juices were aligned to the seven chakra's (each day's practice focused on a particular chakra) - so on Day #1 we had a red beet based juice, Day #2 was a carrot based, Day #3 was a delicious pineapple (with cayenne for kick!), Day #4 was green (apple?), Day #5 was blueberry based. It seemed a little forced to me (choosing a product based on "chakra color" rather than cleansing properties) although I was willing to suspend disbelief for the duration. Regardless of the sequence, the variety was most welcome and all of the juices were pleasant, flavorful, and nourishing. In addition, each mid-day juice was a mixed greens juice (little less sweet, very nourishing).
The healing broth was delicious and warming, and the last few days has included a small amount of quinoa, a welcome addition. And the teas varied - lemongrass, ginger, etc. and were tasty either cold or warm. I'm not sure I can afford (nor logistically manage) a regular integration of the Karma Cleanse products into my diet, but I'd certainly pick up a few days worth for an occasional short cleanse. A very high quality product, well packaged and marketed, and quite tasty and refreshing.
I've said it before, and I will say it again - Kundalini Yoga drives me crazy. It would not be my first choice for a cleanse or series. Mostly, I feel as if I move into my body / spine with quick, jerky motions long before I am really warm and even when warm it feels a bit rough / risky. In addition, the various arm positions crank right into shoulder injuries and limitations. So I spent the week working through and around a lot of stuff related to the practice, but really I had no problems with it.
What I *do* like about Kundalini is the internal / spiritual practice (lot of time to pause and go inward), the chanting / singing, the energetic aspects. And I adore Marcia as a teacher and a person - with my recent shoulder limitations and various other ailments / struggle, I've stayed away from her power classes, so it was a treat to work with her for a week straight. And as much as I growled about 6 am yoga (usually via humorously cranky Facebook updates), I am in truth a morning person and driving home at 7:15 am with the day in front of me was a good feeling.
I was surprisingly not all that miserable throughout the cleanse. Monday was a tough day - low grade headache, fatigue, crankiness. I got through the morning yoga and my 9 am class, and then spent a lot of the day vegging out and watching Netflix (Ken Burns' Civil War, for the second time, for those interested).
The rest of the week I was surprisingly not suffering serious detox symptoms. I was low energy most of the week (I compared it to going into hibernation) and fortunately work was kind of slow - so I picked off the things that came in, took a few meetings, but did not push ahead any big projects. Worked for me. I think that I was not all that "detoxy" because the juice based cleanse was high enough in sugars (fruit based) and while my past habits have been pretty horrible in terms of gluten, dairy, fast / fried food, sugar-free sodas, giving my body a regular dose of higher quality sugars made me happy enough. That suspicion was supported by my hamstrings (which got pretty tight during the cleanse week, although they have eased off a bit). The past few days I've been a little light-headed, not really dizzy, just a little floating.
I totally blew off regular yoga this week - spending some time on the mat prior to teaching but not doing any formal classes - because I felt like I needed the break, and that feels like the right decision. Going to hit a class this afternoon, although not a hot / power class quite yet.
So what does it all mean to me? When it comes to healthy eating / food / nutrition, I've been through everything, often twice: mindful based eating, detox cleanse, a week at Kripalu doing a healthy eating workshop, a juice cleanse (with betamite clay for colon clearing), Weight Watchers. (and in the case of the whole foods heavy WHY Teacher Training, 4 times, once as a trainee, thrice as an assistant) - so it's not about information - it's mostly will and getting past psychological and emotional blocks. Mostly, I'm planning to use this week as a line of demarcation - trying to lose bad habits (pre-cleanse) and develop some good habits (post-cleanse) - the cleanse gives me a little bit of space and perspective that a "starting Monday morning I'm going to change" approach, or a "small incremental changes" approach have so far failed to provide.
One thing that became clear, this week as well as in a previous detox cleanse, was how much I use my meals as the tent pole "structure" and reward of my daily life. Being self employed and tending towards a bit of introversion, I could go entire days with zero human contact other than when I am teaching or visiting the studio to practice. So the simple interaction of a restaurant worker or check-out person becomes a kind of precious daily contact for me. I need desperately to put in place some other mechanisms for human contact that do not involve purchasing (usually unhealthy) food.
My plan going forward: I'm going to ease back into real food - picking up some organic broths and soups and continuing that for at least one daily meal. While I do not feel particularly sensitive to things like dairy, gluten, etc. I'm planning to switch to a rice based mild substitute for the small bits of dairy I use, and to work with healthy grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa) as a meal base. I'm not going vegetarian, but I do plan to cut back on animal protein, and use more beans. And of course, working with more fresh veggies (green and otherwise) and fruits. I'll still eat crap on occasion but the emphasis here is "on occasion" - 1-2 meals a week, either socially or when my schedule keeps me away from home at meal times.
In summary: a really positive experience - totally manageable, realistic, and enriching. While my sundry and myriad aches, pains, injuries and limitations remain active, I do feel lighter, brighter, and more positive. With 2014 teacher training coming up in two short months, I'm motivated to eat healthier, strengthen my asana practice, and get healthier. Let's see where things go from here....
The Faithful Sky is the new collaboration, built around Hugh Blumenfeld, with longtime collaborators Jim Mercik and Diane Chodkowski, and relative newcomers Jeff Buchbinder and Mark Hall. While I seem to catch up with Hugh semi-regularly, it was delightful to see him for a full show, in such a great space, and with a full band backing him up.
I sat in the back and happily mouthed the words to many of Hugh's old songs - Diane and Jim both took leads for a pair of songs (Diane's cover of Shindell's Fleur de Lis was lovely, Jim's song Is This Enough was driving and wonderful). A few covers came along - Hugh's rendition of This Land is Your Land sequed into Which Side Are You On, with what seemed like a lyrical makeover. Hugh brought out a cover of Eliza Gilkyson's to-be-released song All Right Here that was romantic and sweet. There were plenty of sing-along opportunities. And the closer, Cohen's Hallelujah, which Hugh was playing before Rufus Wainwright, Shrek, and Jeff Buckley, was so reverent and powerful.
It was so sweet to be in that wonderful acoustic and energetic space, to hear that wonderful music. Roaring Brook tends to bring in more of the old time, road weary folkies as well as acoustic guitar heroes - not always my first choice in live music. (Stan the organizer appeared not to have seen a Cajon before....which is kind of indicative of the little time warp of folk music that Roaring Brook has become) But this was a great opportunity to hear and old friends.
As a transwoman, I had one big honking "coming out" - as every single person in my world got the news that I was changing my name and my gender, back in 2002. Family, friends, relations, acquaintances, clients, peers, government entities, creditors, the woman at the coffeeshop, you name it. Not even the smallest corner of a closet. I doubt any GLB person has that sort of requirement to "come out".
That was over ten years ago. And in the ensuing years, it's been tempting, and easy, to slide back into the closet.
Part of that is privilege - I've been able (by dint of genetics, ability to access and afford medical transition, and my choices regarding presentation and behavior) to move on with my life. My attitude has been that "trans" is more of a condition than an identity - one that I was fortunate enough to be able to address, and well, let's move on. So, as a cancer survivor might choose not to advertise that except in select cases, or a scoliosis survivor might choose to forget the painful back brace or the embarrassing shoes of her youth, my transition has faded into the past.
I've also got an uneasy relationship with my trans history, and with the trans community. Back in 2006, I heard Nuala O'Faolain speak of "...setting ones condition in amber..." and I had no desire or need to continue to live in the pathology of gender dysphoria by continuing to tell that story, to live in that pain. It's been my experience that folks will forget that you are trans if you do not keep reminding them, and I felt (and still do, to some extent) that a continued insistence on a trans identity (and even more so, the use of the term and concept of "cisgender", which I generally avoid) creates a wall of difference or a barrier between oneself and the rest of the world. There's a trans homeland or community which serves many folks, both as a transitional space as well as a permanent community for those unable to move through the world comfortably, but my world is much broader than that. And I find a lot of the focus on victimization and suicide of the trans activist community to be not my experience, and more than a little self defeating if not outright self-fulfilling. So yeah, I'm trans. But you won't find me at Day of Remembrance or testifying.
And it's not like I've been all stealthy - most of my close friends know my history, I'm not shy about sharing it when appropriate or when asked, and a lot of the "must efface every single scrap of evidence that I was ever a different gender" energy of the trans community (including birth certificates) drives me bonkers. If I ever need my birth certificate for anything (and I rarely do) I pull out my male one and tell the story. Whatever. Deal.
And then there is orientation. It's all highly theoretical, since I rarely date and even more rarely mate, but the closet thing I have to an orientation is bi.
Part of that is external - my general "type" is women along the butch / masculine spectrum, and occasionally those women choose to transition, and I love them none the less when they do. So to honor their male gender identity, I have to broaden my orientation a bit.
And although I've not dated non-trans men, I've come to see gender as a pretty fungible and fluid concept - and I suspect there might be a guy out there who could get under my skin intellectually, emotionally, physically, etc. But the reality is that queer men and trans admirers generally want a partner with male anatomy (me no gots, sorry), straight men generally have a pretty strong streak of homophobia that precludes dating a transwoman (regardless of anatomy) - so the odds of me showing up to the prom with a dude are pretty thin.
Let's face it, the odds of me showing up to the prom with a date of any gender or orientation are pretty slim. I've spent the past decade being pretty quiet about my orientation and history, and I've also spent a lot of those years unattached and flying solo.
Perhaps "coming out" is a bit of a Hail Mary pass because being kind of invisible has not really served me in terms of finding friends, lovers, partners, community. It is, however, equally likely given my present state (I happen to be in the midst of a cloud of misanthropy and isolation) that "coming out" is just one more way of pushing folks away, of "othering" myself, and of crawling deeper into my cave.
I spent the evening sorting through nearly 20 years of self employed electrical engineer / earnest do-it-yourself junk. I've been involved in several design / development projects that have resulted in a pile of supplies; along with a few dozen field service situations requiring little baggies of spare parts, hardware, fuses, etc. And while I've purged some of the larger piles and boxes over the years, there was still a lot of stuff collecting dust.
Here's the short list:
* Emptied a jam-packed plastic storage bin filled with drill bits and drivers, and moved those into two separate Dewalt plastic cases specifically designed for the purpose - one now labelled DRILLS and the other labeled DRIVERS.
* Combined electrical supplies (box fitting, wire nuts, etc.) that had gathered in three places (a home kit, a field service kit, and a miscellaneous stuff kit) into a single kit. I'm not doing much work traveling anymore and when I do I am not doing a lot of wiring - so no need for all these supplies.
* Rounded up all the ty-wraps (and affiliated cable fastening devices) in my life, sorted by size and color, and put into two plastic bins.
* Sorted all the screws, anchors, bolts, washers, nuts, etc. into two plastic bins.
* Emptied a fishing tackle box that had collected a lot of odds and ends - put the odds and ends into more appropriate places, and moved all my soldering and wiring supplies into the box. Who knew I had a professional wire stripping gun?
* Emptied a Craftsman tool box, ready for my loose and "unable to hang on the peg board" tools and supplies.
Feels good to have things more organized and to cut down on the "loose shit floating around" factor in my basement, which serves as my office, my laundry, and my tool / utility storage area.
At the CT Folk Fest in September, I picked up (for $10) a "green lighting box" that contained a small desk lamp, six CFL lamps, a night light, and an LED lamp. The total was a bargain, but I was most interested in the LED lamp. I installed it in my bedside table lamp where its fast turn-on and brighter light was a welcome improvement over CFL.
Earlier this year, I installed a new pendant lamp in my kitchen. Unfortunately, the shades I chose (which are a lovely color) are a bit dark / dim, so the fixture does not throw a lot of light. I wanted the fixture to be dimmable, so used incandescent bulbs, and although the fixture is rated for 60W bulbs, it gets warm. So between the "180W is a lot of juice" concern, the limited light, and the warmish fixture / globes, I was not using the light much.
PERFECT opportunity to try out LED lamps - I picked up three "12W= 60W equivalent" bulbs that have worked out perfectly. The bulbs are dimmable (standard dimmer), they seem brighter than the incandescent bulbs (more light directed down and out, less towards the base), and the fixtures / globes now run cool to the touch. I feel much better about leaving these lights on - making the kitchen warmer and more welcoming.
So - LED bulbs for the win! I'm not going to replace my CFL's quickly or globally, but the LED technology seems like a winner from where I sit!
Tuesday, a local friend from the yoga / spiritual communities organized a house concert (that moved to the HartBeat Ensemble's new carriage house theater) with Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, two Falcon Ridge Folk Festival showcase alums (circa 2008) - was a lovely, intimate experience. I bought Danny's album "Little Grey Sheep" back in 2008, and added "Man of Many Moons" this week. It was really a "Danny" gig (Carrie is his fiancee and was in town for something else, so she backed him up and played a few of her own) but I'd love to see Carrie in a featured performance someday.
Bonus, one of my regular yoga students is the Co-Artistic Director & Education Coordinator at HartBeat. I need to keep that organization in my cultural sights going forward!
Friday, CT Folk is featuring the Boxcar Lillies - 2013 FRFF Showcasers (and good enough to earn the coveted "Jude buys your CD" prize) - a trio of women along the lines of Red Molly. Yes, please!
And Saturday, heading out to Southbury for the FRFF Crew Chief meeting and a follow-up concert with Wooden Nickel.
I found a larger (and presumably better) indoor / outdoor antenna at MCM Electronics. Dimensions: 21.5” (H) x 10.5” (W) x 4.5” (D), 40 db signal amplifier. It ought to (I assumed) meet or exceed the performance of the small indoor antenna (like a thick plastic sheet of paper) I am presently using.
Wrong! After mounting the device to the same place (upper floor, facing south to grab WTNH-8), I found my digital reception degraded, both as a passive device and with the signal amplifier. I could not get WTNH-8 at all with the new antenna, and the Ion affiliate (Channel 26) was also gone.
So the old small antenna is back in place (attached to the outside of a window using 3M velcro knock-off strips), this one is going back in the box and either being returned or fobbed off on Craigslist.
Scrolling back through my blog posts, I see I have failed to document my recent explorations in the land of "mass media trends". Although my 50-something life is 2-3 decades away from the 20-somethings that have pioneered this movement, I've joined the ranks of those who have cut the cable.
Of course, being me, it was a gradual process. I toyed with the idea a few years back - had an old analog CRT television that I've owned for 25+ years, so I picked up a digital converter and tried to see what I could get over the air. At that time, and with that technology, the answer was "not much" - so I returned the converter and stayed connected. However, somewhere along the line I realized I was spending blocks of time on the couch watching reality show reruns (Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and Storage Wars were faves) and that was just stupid, so I downgraded my cable to the lifeline or tier - a handful of broadcast channels, TBS, the weather channel, and NECN. And that seemed to work fine - I missed a few things (Rachel Maddow, Daily Show) but I survived.
A few months back, in a fit of late winter pique, I did a little retail therapy, and bought an inexpensive LCD digital television. While I was there, I decided to pick up a digital antenna, and the combination of reasonable channel selection and the superior HDTV picture made me rethink the cable decision. Specifically, to get HDTV I'd have to upgrade my cable plan to something more expensive (uh, no) and I realized that I got almost everything over the air (plus a few) that I was getting from lifeline.
So I disconnected the cable boxes (I had a converter for a seldom used small TV down in the office) and kept them in a box, just in case I had recriminations. A few weeks later, when Comcast (in their wisdom, and abetted no doubt by efficiencies in the US Postal Service) gifted me with no fewer than four (4) bundle offers on the same day, I decided to take the boxes back and kill off cable entirely.
In the ensuring days, I've been relatively happy with over the air broadcast, although my inability to capture WTNH 8 (ABC affiliate out of New Haven) was causing some angst (Grey's Anatomy is my one primetime vice). So this last week I bought a 100' of CATV cable and ran the indoor antenna (through the house) to the second floor and pointed it south. And voila - WTNH-8 came in (along with a few other lower power stations). I've since run the antenna cable through the basement and outside, and am awaiting a better exterior antenna (designed to mount inconspicuously and with an amplifier which might work even better)
So, here's what I get on my television, over the air and for free:
More content, actually, then the lifeline cable I was buying - the only thing I really miss is NECN which was a decent substitute for CNN / MSNBC mostly.
What makes it work for me is my Roku Box, which gives me high quality shows via several services. Netflix (long time subscriber, via Roku and iPad), PBS (like having a public television DVR, amazing), Hulu Plus (I stopped subscribing but might sign up again if I find some broadcast shows I like). That, plus the ABC and NBC iPad apps (to catch things I've missed) and my media life is doing fine.
This one came to me in the shower this morning. Listening to NPR's coverage of the most recent mass shooting, along with discussiosn about the disbursement of funds to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Clearly, the gun lobby is not about to change - we're stuck with guns, we're stuck with ammunition.
So, let's treat guns and ammo like we do other problematic social issues (alcohol, cigarettes). Specifically, I propose we develop a financial compensation package for victims of gun violence. A fixed benefit to the victims of, or survivors of fatal shootings, to be determined by some arbitrator. So, $1M for a fatality (for instance), with various lower values for different levels of incapacitation. We take the "external" cost of gun ownership, and internalize it.
The fund for these benefits will be generated by a tax on firearms and ammunition, based on historical data and trends in violence, and assessed on an annual basis. And there would be exceptions - no benefit if one is wounded in the commission of a crime, no benefit for stupid or risky behavior (including suicide, accidental shootings, or family members accessing an unsecured firearm) - the benefit goes to innocent victims only.
You want a lower gun tax? Then work to reduce violence, through education, through background checks, through internal policing in the gun world, through better mental health services.
And no, we are not going to come take your guns. But we will make sure the social cost of easy access to firearms accrues to the folks who demand and enjoy the easy access.
I last played Kirtan with Shankara / West Hartford Yoga back in December 2012. It was my last with the group. We had some internal group dynamic stuff going on (the percussionists left the ensemble immediately after that kirtan) and I also had some personal stuff going on - was not 100% happy with the direction of the group (I'm not a big fan of guru-worship, and the altars were getting higher and higher) and I was finding myself so emotionally and spiritually drained following a kirtan that I was physically wrecked for 2-3 days following.
Bottom line: I was giving a lot more than I was receiving, I was becoming resentful of that, and I was not really that invested in the whole thing. It was time to step back. I left on good terms, and have volunteered to set-up and run the sound system for upcoming kirtan events.
Shankara has gathered a new group of musicians, and is getting ready for a Kirtan on October 12. You can keep track of the group on Facebook, here.
It was way back in 2007 that I stepped shyly to Shankara and mentioned that I played guitar "just in case you need someone" - we've had a long and fruitful musical relationship, and it re-awakened my own musical passion that eventually evolved to coming back to the bass and joining the Guinea Pigs. But it was time to move on. Hopefully, Shankara has benefited with renewed energy and ideas from his new ensemble. I'm still trying to figure out what is next in my life - and stepping back from kirtan was one place I'm "making space" for something new.....
The last time I purchased a canister vacuum cleaner was 1983. I was fresh out of school and with my sears charge card in hand I stocked up on the essentials, including a Kenmore vacuum with a power adapter. It's gone with me through 3 apartments, two houses, and a condo. The power adapter died long ago, the metal extension has disappeared, and the hose is mostly duct tape (and not easily or cheaply replaced).
It's survival all these years is probably a combination of Kenmore quality and my own rather lax standards in terms of cleaning, although it has cleaned up after 4 or 5 dogs over the years.
I've only used it for the stairs in recent years, and 1980's tech is no longer light (or perhaps my 50 year old arms and shoulders are less amenable to hauling it up and down) So tonight I decided to pick up something new.
First stop PC Richard's, where I looked at what was there (quite a bit) and waited around for someone to wait on me (nobody came) so I wandered over to Target (not much, and what they had was not really that good quality) and Best Buy (too pricey for my tastes).
So back to PC Richard's where a gentleman showed up to sell me a vacuum. They had some really decent prices on larger units (similar to my old one, with a power adapter) but, remembering that I only use it for stairs, I opted for a Dirt Devil FeatherLite Cyclonic Canister Vacuum which was priced at $99 (totally cool with that) - but when it came time to ring it up, it was on sale for $60.
It's a pretty decent unit, 10 Amp motor, bagless dust canister, HEPA filter. I doubt it will last 30 years like my old one did. But I paid a lot more (in 1980's dollars) for that old guy. And besides, I'm not 100% sure I have 30 years left myself.....
Cleaned the stairs tonight, both sets. Works like a champ!
And the old soldier - off to a Craigslist Free Stuff listing. Someone can probably make use of it, for parts or for a basement or something.
Amongst the singer-songwriters and the bluegrass (not my fave, but whatever) were two young bands that truly impressed.
I've seen Poor Old Shine a bit - at Falcon Ridge mostly - so it was delightful to find myself seated and attentive through a full set. One can not help but be infected by their spirit of fun. The three main players gather around a central mic and just howl harmonies at each other in a way that is intimate and casual - you see women do that sort of thing (thinking Red Molly or Boxcar Lilies) but the Poor Old Shine dudes are totally comfortable sharing personal space. One of our party called it a bit of a "bromance" as the guys are having so much fun together and with the music, and are not afraid of being vulnerable and supportive. Love them!
Poor Old Shine gets bonus points for dragging up the most eclectic pile of instruments onto a local stage ever. The basic line-up - drums, stand-up bass, guitar, mandolin, and banjo - is supplemented by an accordian, a pump organ (!), a glockenspiel (!!), and a singing saw (!!!). I suspect if somebody tossed a cat up on stage they'd figure out a way to get music out of it. Oh wait, already been done.
Kaia from Little Ugly (another local band that fits in with the title of this post) highly recommended opening act Goodnight Blue Moon as "up and coming, the next big thing" and so I found myself a seat right at 11 am for their set, and was not disappointed. I really enjoyed their music both live and bought their CD.
It's so much fun watching these "young 'uns" playing in the folk / americana / indie genre with so much talent, so little pretense.
For whatever reason, I returned from a week of camping (Falcon Ridge Folk Fest) and a week of Camp, and decided to go on a buying spree. No "change of season" clothes shopping, of course (that would be way too normal), but rather some tech / audio gack. Specifically:
A 50' audio snake (12 in / 4 out / XLR)
(2) 50' power cables (1/4" in and out)
(4) each, XLR to 1/4 adapters (M-F and F-M), to use the snake for instrument feeds if needed
(3) passive direct boxes (again, to use instruments with the snake)
Not actually sure why I bought all this stuff; doing sound for Little Ugly a few weeks back was fun and I'd like to do more of that, the snake especially will come in handy for kirtan sound (I've stepped back from playing kirtan but will be running the sound for WHY's kirtan in October and December), and I am sure it will come in handy with the Guinea Pigs at some point.
In addition, I've got some textured plastic "sunshade" material coming - the late day sun streaming into the living room with the door open has been a problem this year (as well as the neighbors seeing in) so I plan to put up some panels on the front porch. Might help with wind screen as well. And the roll of material is big enough that I might try to fabricate and mount some UV screens for the south facing yoga room windows and sliding glass door onto the deck.
After spending nearly a week on a hillside in NY immersed in folk music, one would think that the last thing I'd want is more of the same. Yet I am drawn to the CT Folk Festival this year, to be held Sept 7, 2013 at Edgerton PArk in New Haven.
Mostly, I walk away from Falcon Ridge with a bit of "listener" envy - I've worked my way up to a crew chief role that precludes a lot of time sitting and watching / listening. I'm within earshot of main stage through most of the weekend; I hear a lot of music and meet most of the artists, but it's not the same. So happy to go be one of the little people.
I'm also intrigued by the CT Folk Fests economic model (which appears to be mostly grant based), enabling them to provide a free concert. So intrigued in fact that I donated $50, mostly to make sure I'd go :)
And the artists look great this year. Recent Falcon Ridge artists The Stray Birds and Poor Old Shine will be there, as well FRFF alumni Honor Finnegan and Brother Sun. And a whole lot more.
So, if the weather is good, I'll plop my derriere down in Edgerton Park in a few weeks and just LISTEN and WATCH!