December 24, 2013

Old Friends

Friday night, I snuck up to Northampton to see Dar Williams and Lucy Wainwright Roche at the Iron Horse. I was not really planning to head up (my usual Modus Operandi) but a Facebook friend who happens to run merch for Dar posted a "Who am I going to see at the concert?" post and that prodded me out of my pre-weekend lethargy, and off I went. As I listened to Dar, I realized that this is the fourth time I've seen her play in the past year - last year's Middnight on Main in Middletown, the Iron Horse (right around this time, I forget exactly when), Falcon Ridge, and now this show.

Dar and I go way back. I ran across her back in '92, before The Honesty Room was released in fact, as she was tooling around New England with her guitar and a box of cassette tapes. Yes, I do own a copy of "All My Heroes are Dead" on cassette....

My first encounter was somewhat problematic. A friend (oh, OK, to be honest, my ex) was coming back east from Los Angeles, and was looking for a place to play, I approached graham, the owner of a slimy bar in Bristol called The Common Ground that ran a Sunday evening folk series and a Monday evening open mic. Graham, seeing the dollar signs of a homecoming concert, said sure and offered a date. What I did not know was that he had already booked that date to a musician named Dar Williams, who got bumped to opener.

My ex did well that night - filled the bar up with her family and friends. Graham did well, with a full bar on a Sunday night. And I'd like to think Dar did well - playing a short set to a full room (instead of the handful of folks she'd draw on other occasions at the bar), selling some merch, and picking up one very devoted fan (me).

I became a Dar Williams fan that night. That led me to see her at the Common Ground on other occasions (often to a smallish crowd that made me feel bad if I needed to leave at the break) and other New England coffeehouse venues. I particularly remember one gig at a little coffeehouse in East Hampton where she broke a guitar string and had no spares - thankfully another musician, John Scott, had a guitar in his car and lent it to Dar. For many years (until recently, in fact) Dar seemed to be quite a nervous guitar player on stage, I'd sit on the edge of my seat praying for a successful first few songs until she settled in. She was always the kid sister I was rooting for to do well.

I was there at Roaring Brook Nature Center for an Open Mic where Dar debuted "The Honesty Room" - she was the "featured performer"  (not quite a headliner) and she signed my copy "Thanks for listening....and for playing". Ironically, one of the songs I did that night was the Roches "Face Down at Folk City" (also, John Gorka's "The Gypsy Life")

And yes, I was at the WWUH Holiday benefit for which Dar wrote "Christians and the Pagans", the Nields wrote "Merry Christmas, Mr Jones" and my local faves High Blumenfeld and Margo Hennebach performed. 

I was active on the "Dar List" email list, visited (but did not camp with) the Dar Camp group at Falcon Ridge, was there for the first time the Falcon Ridge hillside lit up for "Iowa" (not cell phones, back in the day, but real lighters and flashlights)

Over the years, as Dar has grown into a mature and successful artist, I kind of stepped back. I still loved her music and bought it all, but she was playing larger and more expensive venues, and I kind of felt like she no longer needed me in the audience. So it's been lovely to reconnect with her and her music.

Now, Lucy Wainwright Roche. She was a Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist back in 2008 and returned as a Most Wanted artist in 2009. (to be honest, I was shocked it was that long ago). But I've been a fan of music by women named Roche (Suzzy is Lucy's mom) for 30+ years. It was 1980 or thereabouts when I stumbled across a review of The Roches first trio album in Rolling Stone - my musical tastes at the time ran along the Springsteen / Neil Young / Cars axis (although I was dabbling in Lou Reed and Jonathon Richman), so these three funky, folkie, NYC folk-punk women was a real change of pace. I was smitten by their cover photo, their harmonics, their humor. Been a huge fan ever since.

I've seen the Roches live a handful of time (most notably, front row center at the Tarrytown Town Hall). In the "music collection" department, in terms of how much of an artist's catalog I own, I'd have to rank Dar #1, Springsteen #2, and The Roches #2. So yeah, big Roches fan. And in the ensuing years, I've also picked up a fondness for Loudon Wainwright, Lucy's father. So yeah, Lucy is worth a trip, anytime!

Lucy and Dar were both in good voice and good humor. I particularly loved Lucy (having only caught her in short sets at Falcon Ridge in the past) and her "not quite as seasoned a perfomer as Dar" was charming and authentic. Dar's set and performace was not much different from last time I saw her at Iron Horse - she's such a mature and polished performer these days that it's hard to be quite so thrilled and smitten as when she was a bit more of a wild card. But still, wonderful to see her and hear her.

December 09, 2013

Local New Britain

Dug in a little deeper to New Britain CT (my home town) this weekend.

1) Visited the New Britain Museum of American Art  (or NBMAA) - primarily to see the Maurice Sendak exhibit, but also to become a member. I live in this fair city, might as well support some of the local arts organizations. There was also an opening (Hawaiian art) and a Kwanzaa celebration - so plenty of music and food. The Sendak exhibit was lovely - and when I think of him I recall his last Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross and cry a little.

2) Dropped by the New Britain YMCA to hand in my Groupon (6 months membershio for $99) - I was a member a while back and enjoyed the pool 1-2 times a week, hoping to get back on that particular horse starting this week. I love swimming; it seems to be good for my shoulders, and then I can get a nice soak in the jacuzzi. And might even find my way back onto the racquetball court or some of the cardio machines.

3) Packed up two cases of empty bottles to return to Avery's Beverages (still in the car though, they are not open Sunday or Monday) - the bottles have been hanging around since summer, waiting for me to finish up the last strays. I'll probably pick up a case of adult mixer soda's (their Orange Dry is particularly good, as is the Lime soda) in case I feel like a little holiday cocktail. I do not drink a lot of soda, so do not mind spending a bit more for local and unusual flavors.

Other New Britain hotspots and organizations I need to explore a bit more: Trinity-on-Main (a local church transformed into an arts space), Hole-in-the-Wall Theater, and the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance.

December 08, 2013

Francis Dunnery House Concert

Not what I expected. Not what I expected at all.

My friend Andrea (and her husband Charlie) hosted a social weekend - a blow out holiday party last night (mostly her neighbors and co-workers, a handful of friends from the yoga world, and the local indie fave Little Ugly, who reportedly got shut down early by the WH cops....). Today, she had invited me over for a house concert with a "singer-songwriter and story-teller", by the name of Francis Dunnery.

Now, having been a folkie (fan, musician, festival crew) for nearly 25 years, I figured I was in for some old chestnuts, some New England story-telling, something a little rustic, a little crunchy, a little earnest. You know - the meat and potatoes of every open mic and coffeehouse from Maine to Philly. I've listened politely to scores of such performers over the years, and I'm always happy to pick out a gem of a song from an evening, or rarer, discover an artist that I'd want to listen to again.

Well, I figured wrong. Francis Dunnery is not that kind of musician. Rather, he is a spiritual seeker and wise man who spent a few years fronting the art-prog-blues-fusion band It Bites, before hitting the wall of hedonistic rock n' roll lifestyle, and changing his life.

His Wikipedia page is seeded with words that resonate - addiction, recovery (not that unusual, given the music business), but then horse whisperer, carpentry, astrology, Jungian psychology. Francis Dunnery has done a hell of a lot of work.And it shows. His house concert this evening is accurately described by him (as quoted by Wikipedia) as: 
"(showing up) as a friend — you can't show up as a rock dude or something — and it’s just me and my acoustic guitar, no amplification, singing my songs and holding a 90-minute lecture on the human condition. I sing songs and tell stories of my life. It’s not a party; it’s more like going to church, but church with swearing!... (There is) an exchange of energy that I call a 'jacuzzi'. At the end of 90 minutes, everybody has dropped their ego. They don't even realise that has happened, but they have gradually taken off their clothes and gone into that energetic jacuzzi together. Something like that is a lot harder to achieve in a rock music arena."
And yeah, it was all that and more. By the end of the evening, we were talking deep yoga concepts - letting go of ego, being in the present moment. It was as if someone stepped out of an enlightenment intensive and happened to pick up a guitar on the way home. Here's a sample of today:

So impressed, I picked up three disks (which he barely seemed to want to take money for) - 2001's "Man", 2013's "Frankenstein Monster" and a 2008 DVD (recorded in 2001 or thereabouts) called "In the Garden of Mystic Lovers" I'm looking forward to spending some time listening and watching.....

Did I expect to get my spirit buzzed up this evening? No, I did not - I was probably going to spend the evening on the couch or cleaning bathrooms, but for Andrea's text this afternoon. But I did go. And it was pretty inspiring, pretty enlightening, pretty wonderful. 

December 07, 2013

Burger Prank Foiled

 The preliminary version (pretty much as told, with some things I forgot) at last night's edition of "The Mouth" at the Mark Twain House.  Thanks to Chion Wolf and Jacques Lamarre for hosting. The theme of last night's story-telling was "I Fought the Law: Encounters with law Enforcement".

An ironic twist - as I sat down, the story-teller sitting next to me, leaned over and whispered "That would not happen to be Marian High School, would it?" - turns out he grew up in Framingham and graduated from North High School in 1978. Small world!

In February of 1979, the band A Taste of Honey won the Best New artist Grammy Award on the strength of their hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie”.

In March of that year, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant melted down. In April, my father passed away after many years of struggling with cardio-vascular disease.

In June, I graduated from high school, and in August of that year – I was arrested.

But it all started with the Grammy Awards. “A Taste of Honey” had won the Best New Artist award that year, grabbing it away from our beloved favorites “The Cars”.   My friend Jim, the bass player of our high school basement rock band, with aspirations of making radical art, concocted a bit of social and cultural protest for this offense. We’d spray paint a Rolling Stones tongue, along with the tag “CARS REVENGE” on the billboard of radio station KISS 108, the local disco station whose advertising featured a pair of lips. The billboard he had identified was up three stories, on a factory alongside, and clearly visible from, the Massachusetts Turnpike.

So one night, a hand-picked group of friends drove in to Boston. We were able to get into the factory parking lot easily enough, and the building was designed in such a way that the three stories could be climbed one floor at a time. We each had been assigned our jobs – Jim did the painting, football lineman Kevin hoisted Jim on his shoulders, Mike (with his 70’s era Dodge Charger that you could sit five across) drove, one of the local track stars climbed the building and threw down a rope for the others. I think my job was to be nervous about it all and keep an eye out for the cops.

A lot could have gone wrong (not the least of which was Jim or Kevin falling off the sign) but nothing did – and we succeeded that night in our mission. No cops.

That evening gave birth to “The Maneuvers” – our code word for going out at night with an eye to making some sort of mild vandalism or mischief. I don’t remember all of the things we did that year – some were I am sure directed at or designed to impress classmates or fast food coworkers - although I do remember breaking into the Framingham State College gymnasium, and stealing a large plywood hand painted sign that said “The Pit” - the nickname for their student section – in order to place it atop the covered patio of the smoking area of my catholic high school, known somewhat less officially as “The Pit”. 

Now, that summer, we had graduated from high school and were heading out for college, and decided to enjoy one more evening of mischief. The goal that night was street signs – so we set out in Jim’s family ranch wagon, a cooler full of beer in the “hole” in the way back. We grabbed a lot of signs that night – we got our names, the names of friends. We had it down to a science – a rubber mallet, one of us climbed up on another’s back and gave the sign a couple of whacks – and it was off. We stowed the signs in the “way back” hole, and continued on.

Jim had a bigger catch in mind that night – we were going to grab a “Now Entering Framingham” sign. And we did indeed – this time with the aid of a ratchet set (there were a lot of mounting bolts) and a bit more time. We put that in the back of the wagon and set off back for Jim’s house. En route, we passed an “A frame” sign outside of a local burger joint, and one of us (possibly me, although it might have been any of us) suggested we swipe that sign and put it in front of the local McDonald’s, where a couple of us worked that year.

So after dropping the big sign off (but still with the street signs and beer in the hole), we headed back for the burger sign. Should be a piece of cake, park, swipe, drive away.

Unbeknownst to us, the Framingham Police were staking out the bank nearby. And, as one of the cops later reported, they noticed us and said “what the BLEEP are those kids up to?” Within seconds, we were busted.

Now, we were all “good kids” from the local catholic high school, and we were scared to death – we answered the cops questions, we were polite and suitably cowed. Well, except for Jim, who started to get mouthy with the cops. When the cops asked for help pulling the sign out of the car, Jim resisted “get it out yourself”, but I hissed “get over there” thinking about the storage hole full of purloined street signs, and the cooler full of beer, that I did *not* want the cops finding. As I remember it, the cooler was an inch taller than the storage home, and the door did not close fully. Even though I was not driving and it was not my car, I was also the only 18 year old (the legal drinking age back then) in a car full of 17 year olds, and all I could think of was 5 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge.

But, the cops never checked the car, we put the sign back, and they let us park Jim’s car in the restaurant lot while they took us to the station.

Here’s what I remember from the arrest:

  1.  I was wearing a red I SURVIVED THREE MILE ISLAND tee shirt. The nuclear accident had happened that March; my father had died that April. So when my family went down to Lancaster PA to bury Dad, I somehow managed to pick up a tee shirt. Somewhere in the bowels of the Framingham PD is a booking photo of me with this dumb shirt.
  2. The cop taking my fingerprints was making small talk, and when he found out I was going to Worcester Polytechnic Institute that fall, was all excited because his brother went there, and I really ought to look him up if I need anything. Um, how about if you just let me go right now?
  3. Jim seemed to enjoy the experience, swinging on the bars in his cell, and castigating the cops for taking his shoelaces and belt “I’m gonna hang myself over a sign? Come on!?”

Amazingly, we did not have to call out parents - we called a friend who had gotten paid that day and had enough cash to bail us out; we had to go to court the next day. I remember standing at my mom’s bedside that next morning “Mom….I need to talk to you about something”. Here she is, a widow less than four months, and already her kids are starting the long slide towards juvenile delinquency, starting with her oldest.

And to our great fortune, one of our party that night (who I’ll call J. Worthington Smythe III, not his real name which was a hell of a lot more ostentatious) was destined for Holy Cross, ROTC, law school, the bar and with any luck a career in politics, and had a father who had taken the same route. An arrest record on J. Worthington’s permanent file would NOT do – so J. Worthington II got the charges dropped to a misdemeanor, gtot the case nolo’d and had the records sealed – we had to pay a fine but no conviction record. Although to be honest, I’ve told some version of the story in job interviews. It’s the sort of “show me you have character” story that works in the engineering field.
And that weekend, in small, page 16 news tidbit about 2 column inches long, we made the paper: BURGER PRANK FOILED, with all of our names (and our college destinations!)  Jim cut it out, and taped it up in his bedroom. I would not be surprised if he still has it…

December 03, 2013

Makers Monday - Buying Local Art

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. 

November 28, 2013


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.

November 21, 2013

New Food Rules

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.

Let's see how this works. So far so good. 

November 17, 2013

Seven Day Chakra Karma Cleanse

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.

Juice Cleanse

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.

Kundalini Yoga

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.

Personal Observations

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....

Faithful Sky at Roaring Brook Nature Center

Yes, I am a big folk / acoustic music fan. And no, I do not get out to see live music enough. But I did venture out last  evening, to see The Faithful Sky at the Roaring Brook Nature Center

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.

October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day 2013

"Coming Out" is a tricky and complicated concept. 

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.

Like I said, coming out - it's complicated. 

October 09, 2013

A Lifetime of Geekery

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.

October 03, 2013

LED Lamps / Bulbs

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!

Big Music Week

By whatever vagaries of calendars and scheduling, this is turning out to be a big music week for me.

Sunday, my Guinea Pigs played at Hartford Hodge Podge. Always a fun gig, and we got a sunny and warm day (last year it was COLD)

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.

More music, more music!

Bigger != Better

An addendum to the "cutting the cable" project.

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.

Indoor / Outdoor UHF/VHF/FM HDTV Amplified Antenna
MCM Part #: 30-2455  |  Stellar Labs Part #: 30-2455

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.

Live and learn.

September 29, 2013

Killing Off Cable

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:

3.1 - WFSB 3 / CBS
3.3 - Mostly weather / some news

8.1 - WTNH 8 / ABC
8.2 - Bounce TV (african-american)

18 - Four spanish language stations

20.1 - WCCT / CW
20.2 - This TV (movies and reruns)

24.1 - CPTV Main
24.2 - CPTV4U
24.3 - CPTVS (mostly local sports)

26.1 - ION
26.2 - qubo (kids)
26.3 - ION Life

30.1 - WVIT 30 / NBC
30.1 - COZI (movies and reruns)

59.1- WCTX (MYTV-9) - sketchy reception

61.1 - Fox 61
61.2 - Antenna TV (movies and reruns, think Nick at Night)

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.

September 20, 2013

The Gun and Ammunition Tax

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.

September 16, 2013

Kirtan No More

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.....

September 15, 2013

Home Improvement - Entryway Edition

 Inspired by Falcon Ridge (and our annual quest for both rain and sun protection), I envisioned a square canvas panel to be used as a shade on the porch, tied to the railing. Did not find that available (I am sure I could have one made) but I did find some screening / shading material made by Coolaroo.   It's basically a roll of woven PVC material (6' x 15') for not a lot of bucks ($35 on Amazon) - they also make sails, window shades, etc.

My first trial used the Coolaroo "butterfly clips" (little plastic clamps with holes for cording) which was effective but a little trash looking (the fabric stretched). So I went and bought some thin wooden strips (1/2" x 1") and made a light frame, to which I wrapped and stapled the fabric. 

And, voila. 

Took on a few ascetic projects over the past few weeks, might as well document 'em.

First, I replaced an aging front porch lamp. I tend to have it on nightly from dusk to midnight (it's on a timer) to enable me to find my way inside as well as give the "one resident with a busy life" condo a bit more of a lived in feel.

But over the summer, I noticed that it was pretty bright on the side of the building next door (apartments) and when the wind was blowing and the flag was flapping, was probably kind of annoying to the residents. Not that I have any particular fondness for the folks next door. And the neighbor most affected tends to smoke out the window and leave a hug pile of ugly cigarette butts that do not get cleaned up in seasons when the grass is not being tended to. So replacing the light "for the neighbors" was a good exercise in "metta".

I picked up a "dark skies" model at Lowe's that directs the light downward - and set out for a quick swap out. But home repair rarely goes as planned. here's the box, as found. You may notice: 
  • Interior box used outside
  • Roofing nails used to affix the box (and as a ground stud)
  • Aluminum nails + copper wire + moisture = corrosion 
  • No insulation on wiring
  • No waterproofing or gasketing
  • Clear indication of insects living in there

So first step was to completely replace the box. I ended up with a proper external box, mounted it with anchor bolts, and caulked up both the wireway hole and the back of the box. Then I used gasket material (and caulk, being an engineer, I like both a belt and suspenders) to seal the fixture. Here's the result:

Bonus points, the same CFL bulb, directed downward, is a lot brighter and aestheticially pleasing than with the old fixture. And the light / shadow cast on the building next door is a lot less instrusive.

I doubt they will even notice, but I feel better about myself and my impact on the world.  
My second project involved shading the front porch. My condo is kind of quirky, four units, one building, and the entrance to the two end units are on the side of the building. So my "front door" actually faces the apartment building next door, to the west. So the afternoon sun can get pretty annoying (heat and brightness) in the living room through the screen door, and since I choose not to open the first floor windows (for security) there's not a lot of air. In addition, the folks in the apartment next door can look right in with the door open. 

September 10, 2013

Durable Goods

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.

September 08, 2013

Young, Folk, and Talented

Spent most of the day, yesterday at The 2013 CT Folk Festival down at Edgerton Park in New Haven.

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.

August 30, 2013

Late Summer Consumerism

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. 

August 09, 2013

CT Folk Fest - Sept 7, 2013

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!

August 07, 2013

Folk Fest vs. Camp

As I unpack from Falcon Ridge and start to prep for a week at camp, it's interesting to note the differences in terms of what I need for each. Mostly, I take a lot more to Falcon Ridge; the car will be much less crammed for Camp.

Things I'm not Bringing to Camp that I took to Falcon Ridge

1) Tent
2) Dining Fly / Tarp (with poles, stakes, tie downs, etc.)
3) Plastic tubs (2) for yoga supplies
4) Cooler
5) Merch trailer bin with printer, paper, ink, etc.
6) Laptop
7) 3 of 4 folding chairs (I'll bring one along)
8) Air mattress, pump (they have mattresses and bunks)
9) Cintronella bucket candles
10) Big Pile o' tarps
11) Folding Table

12) Tool bag
13) Inflatable Orca (aka Fudgie)
14) Alcohol, Cranberry Juice, Seltzer / Tonic Water, and Limes
15) A wash basin

Things I Bring to Both Folk Fest and Camp

1) Sleeping bag
2) Sheets and pillow
3) Towels
3) Musical instrument(s)
4) Yoga mats and props
5) Folding wagon
 6) Food (we have a little lawn party at Sappho beach, but probably less food than I brought to Falcon Ridge)

Even with some extra clothing (Camp has a barn dance, disco dance, and a tea dance, all of which require some sort of fashion statement) I ought to have plenty of room in the car up to Maine. 

August 06, 2013

Falcon Ridge 2013 - Part I

Back from the hills of Falcon Ridge. Before I sum up my week in folk heaven, let's let the Grand Slambovians and photographer Neale Eckstein put it all in perspective. This song, and video, totally gets it, and made me cry watching it.

So first off, my experience of Falcon Ridge is highly atypical. As a crew chief for the performer merchandise crew, I spend most of the festival in a trailer behind the Festival Merchandise tent, working. My days are long. I lead a yoga practice each morning (7:30 - 8:30 am), stop by the volunteer kitchen for some breakfast, and then head over to the merch trailer for 9:00 am opening. We check-in CDs, move everything from the trailers to the tent until 11 am when the tent opens for business. And then we hang out, keeping an eye on the stock in the tent, checking performers in and out throughout the day, coordinating artist signings, etc. Just before 11 pm, we pack up all the merch in boxes and ake it out to the trailers for safe keeping overnight.

Now, it's not all work. Our trailer is within earshot of main stage so I hear a lot of music; I step away from time to time to cruise the midway, grab a shower, head back to the campsite for a few.  And I get to interact with nearly all of the performers at some point, which is lovely. When amazing folks like Dan Navarro, Vance Gilbert and Eliza Gilkyson great you fondly with a hug and remember you from previous years, it's a nice treat.

But yeah, in terms of dancing, sitting in front of a stage, wandering the festival grounds at night looking for a song circle - not so much. Just too busy and my downtime over the weekend is a precious opportunity to restore and recharge.  Nevertheless, I always have some magic moments at the fest, and this year was no exception.

This was a good Nields year for me. At one point, Nerissa's young daughter was busking with her violin in the midway, and the image of this young girl working through a practiced tune (with all the fits and starts and missed notes of an earnest beginner) while mom sat back and proudly listened just filled me with joy. It was very sweet. Similarly, the pre-teen supergroup Belle Amie (consisting of Amelia Nields Chalfant, Isabella Deherdt, and Alouette Battea) was wonderful to watch all weekend - a short set after the Emerging Artist showcase, signing CDs in the merch tent, several back-up opportunities, and Amelia joining her mom and aunt on stage) was adorable and heart-warming. One of the few times I stood in front of  Main Stage was for the Nields (that was me dancing with my rainbow umbrella), and I caught a bit of  their family stage set which made me feel like a happy 6 year old. So yeah - the Nields. I caught them at the start of their career (in the 66 Hoxie Street days) and have been a fan ever since. So lovely to see them still vibrant and nurturing the next generation.

Susan Werner was also a highlight this year. I'll confess, I have never really "gotten" Susan; friends swear by her and I've listened, but it's never clicked. This year, listening to her (abetted by Red Molly) singing "May I Suggest" broke my heart wide open. I definitely need to give her another listen, especially her new CD Hayseed, and her newish live CD. Here's a short clip.

Susan ended up signing and meeting her fans for 2.5 hours on Saturday - an amazing sight. Everyone got a hug and some personal attention, she knew names of kids and life circumstances, she must have handed out close to a dozen CDs (which we furiously attempted to keep track of) and she promised to put at least that many folks on the guest list of her next show in their town. So if I've fallen in love with Susan Werner this weekend, you know why.

I taught yoga again this year. In a lot of ways, I owe my career as a yoga teacher to Falcon Ridge, must have been 2006 and 2007 when I first found myself inadvertently leading a practice (I was doing my personal practice and several folks were kind of following along) which planted the teacher training seed in my mind. So keeping morning yoga at Falcon Ridge is very important to me. I failed to put up a sign this year (just got too busy) but my 2012 sign magically appeared on the info board, and I ended up with 10-12 students each morning. Was quite lovely. And the new big tough plastic bins I purchased to stash my mats and props in worked perfectly - keeping things dry through multiple showers and the nightly dew.