Today was cool. I got a chance to meet a Canadian filmmaker who is considering me to write 1+ songs for a documentary on water scarcity set to release in 2014. This is such an important issue and I realize there's so much for me to learn about our planet. No time like the present to get educated and fuse that knowledge with musical expression. Stay tuned!
There's something about running through our nation's capital on a sunny fall day. The Potomac sparkles, burnt orange leaves drift against a royal blue sky and the monuments remind how this running route is unlike any other. Runners of varying age and talent, cyclists and walkers cross into Virginia with Arlington National Cemetery ahead and around.
Plowing forward, I discern the faintest hint of bagpipes and as I pass a long black stretch limo and tour bus, an older black man in uniform nods -- signaling it's OK for me to go forward towards the Women's Veteran Memorial. I approach with curiosity and emotion, recalling my own service but more importantly the sacrifice women before and after me have made so we may all be free. I ascend a staircase between glass walls allowing me to peer into this sacred place. Upon reaching the top, rows and rows of simple white markers announce the final resting place of heroes.
As I turn, the best of our nation's capital -- Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and Memorial Bridge beyond the Cemetery -- provoke a spontaneous and unexpected response; I am overcome with the emotion of this moment.
God Bless America.
The United States is the greatest nation on earth. We have become and stayed great by honoring liberty, free enterprise, government of, for and by the people, community and shared sacrifice. Though we do not always live up to our ideals, when Americans are at our best, we strive for them individually and as a people. The President’s job is to lead our nation over the next 4 years toward these ideals now and for future generations.
As a nation, we are still struggling through the effects of the worst recession since The Great Depression and two recent wars that have drained us financially and emotionally. No matter how we got here, the next President must lead us forward. And, he works for US and should act like it.
Here’s what we must do:
1. Get our financial house in order. This will require hard choices and shared sacrifice – not only by individuals but by our government. And, our President must lead. 2. Grow the economy. The next President must (a) support job creation; (b) help insure the greatest number of Americans have the requisite skills for those jobs, and (c) support an environment, consistent with free enterprise and necessary regulation, where US business wins. 3. Ensure we are safe and have the means to act in our national security interest while appropriately supporting Americans who serve our country in uniform. 4. Leave for our children an environment that is no worse than what we inherited, and is ideally a better one. 5. Be a place where no one is unduly handicapped by race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability and/or beliefs from becoming the best American he or she can be for himself/herself, his/her family, his/her community and his/her nation.
President Obama and Governor Romney both love America. They differ on HOW to define some of these terms (e.g. "necessary regulation" and "unduly" in #5) and HOW we get there (e.g. fiscal responsibility, national security, etc.). They also differ on WHEN we get there and in prioritization. These are important differences and they give Americans a clear choice. That's good for our democracy. There should be no debate though on WHY our next President must lead America responsibly, with courage and with vision through steps 1-5.
Last night I attended an open mic @ SoulFood Books in Redmond, WA. I got there too late to play -- sign-up's @ 5pm -- but stayed for 3 hours anyway to take it in. SoulFood's an amazing venue -- welcoming and imbued with a great sound system. Over the past 6 years it's become the unofficial home of musicians, poets, counterculturalists, seekers and those who don't fit in elsewhere.
Every first Saturday, from 5 to sometimes midnight, parents and their teen musicians, crusty old farts, folk and alt rock singers on the rise, angry and/or enlightening poets, the atonal and sublime show up for themselves and folks in the room.
The "show" is streamed on Tribe.tv and the whirr of espresso machines, crystals and Buddha-ware belies what Redmond is mostly known for -- Microsoft.
Thanks to Clint McCune and his merry band of guys and gals who gift us this special place -- Redmond would be way more square without you!
In February an American Express email delivered unexpected and utterly delightful news: Madonna Louise Ciccone, known globally by her first name, MADONNA, was coming to Seattle in October…OMG…I’d never seen Madonna and was hell-bent on making sure I was “in the House” for her October 3 show. Within seconds I dispatched my intrepid executive assistant, Celeste, to purchase tickets. Despite an almost 30 year age difference, Celeste too is a huge Madonna fan and also bought tickets. We’re set. Celeste took care of everything and I even had an email confirmation to prove it.
Between February and October however several things intervened to set the stage for what happened at KeyArena minutes before Madonna took the stage. First, I retired and no longer had Celeste to help navigate life’s logistics puzzles. Second, in the hubbub between retiring, vacationing and volunteering, I somehow lost the Ticketmaster email detailing and confirming the precious prize. Third, I forgot how many tickets I’d actually ordered. So when I contacted Ticketmaster to replace my tickets and they sent an email containing FOUR, my response was “sweet, I must have ordered FOUR!” There’s this great young couple, Erik and Amy for whom my partner and I had yet to get a wedding gift. They LOVE Madonna…so we’re off to the races and it’ll be a great evening.
At first all was well. We scan into the arena and on the way to our seats I spot Celeste and another woman who used to work for me. We hug and everyone’s so excited. The Arena is electric and a massive sea of diversity. Young folks dressed in Madonna garb sashay along the corridor ring just outside where the show will take place. Amy and Erik decide to find our seats as we continue entertaining ourselves with people watching. After about 10 minutes of this we spot Amy and Erik coming our way and their looks foretell bad news. “What’s wrong?” Amy speaks first, “your assistant and friends have the SAME SEATS we have…” WHAT? How could that be!!! Where’s Celeste? My heart begins beating double-time as my face turns flush and …in a fog really because now Celeste has joined and is saying something about first using my credit card for her tickets and mine and then paying with hers for hers…. the words rush by as if she’s speaking a foreign language. WE HAVE NO TICKETS!
Next? Celeste springs to action, “I will see this through,” she says and the rest of us follow. First we go to the Information Booth and they send us to a ticket window. The lady at the ticket window prints out my actual tickets…BUT there are only TWO of them and the clock it ticking! So we give these tickets to Amy and Erik and are told tickets are still available -- we assume in the nosebleed section – though we’ll need to scan out, buy the tickets outside the Arena, and then scan in with the new ones. So we find the scanner lady at the entranceway, explain our situation and then something miraculous happens: the scanner lady tells us someone just gave her TWO FREE TICKETS…we examine them…they are in the exact same row as Celeste’s…just one section over…and she GIVES them to us! We’re saved!! Everyone has great seats and we’re just in time for a once in a lifetime show. Earlier that day my partner gave a downtown homeless person twenty bucks. Yes, karma is a beautiful thing!
Dear friend since 8th grade asked if I'd perform an original song @ his wedding...and so I will on 8/30... It's called "The Curving Line" and begins with "Night breaks from its mooring to reveal your smiling face/ as I get down on my knees to pray for God's abiding grace/ in bringing you into my life and nesting a great love./ A tear crosses my grateful eye, a kiss from God above." Congrats to Garth & Keiko!
From Sunday until yesterday I attended the Crown of Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival in Big Fork, MT, on the northeast end of phenomenally beautiful and clean Flathead Lake. Though I started in an acoustic guitar class taught by Portland-based guitar virtuoso Doug Smith, I switched to the songwriting class offered upon learning Patty Larkin would be a guest teacher. It was the right move. Patty was amazing; Nashville hit songwriter (and Montana native) Tim Ryan was our main teacher, and I really loved the collaborative songwriting process we used for much of the week.
One could not script a more perfect setting. Flathead Lodge, the workshop's headquarters, sits right on the water and guitar gods like Lee Ritenour and slide guitar maestro Sonny Landreth interacted casually and openly with students from around the globe. Several youngsters, some as young as 15, attended on scholarship and there were many of us "young at heart" folks there too. Each day was filled with lessons, Master Classes, practice time, lots of good food, networking and killer shows -- e.g. with Patty Larkin, classical guitarist Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, etc. -- each evening.
I also took advantage of this rare natural setting whenever possible. Tuesday presented an opportunity to bicycle to Echo Lake and back...about 18 miles roundtrip, Wednesday I walked to and through nearby Wayfarer's Park and Thursday morning I ran to "downtown" Big Fork and along beautiful and ever winding Swan River.
The highlight for me though came on Wednesday afternoon as I strummed my Gibson J-45 guitar in an Adirondack chair on the porch right outside my log cabin cottage. A couple walked up with a guy carrying their bags. As they entered the cabin next door, the guy says to me, "you've got new neighbors, The Hillmans!" His words start to register, you mean Chris Hillman of The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Manassas...that Hillman? Yeah, THAT Hillman!!
As I go through a mental gymnastics exercise, Chris came out, walked over and said "hello." I introduced myself and hoped the words coming from my mouth didn't sound too weird as I gushed about how much I love the music and bands he's been in.
Chris admired my Gibson and offered to jam with his mandolin. Though we never got to do that -- I had to return to Seattle yesterday -- I'll never forget this brief encounter with folk-rock greatness!
For those living outside Seattle or who can't attend our 30 min. Songwriter's Showcase set this Sat. 8/18, 8:30-9PM PST @ Redmond's (WA,USA) SoulFood Books, watch it streamed live @ www.soultribetv.com or later on the SoulTribe TV YouTube Channel dedicated to Songwriters in Seattle (SiS): http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8E65A72ACA1C79EE
A Buddha State of Mind, published 8/10/12 in Huffington Post
Last night I had the pleasure, yes pleasure, of going to a Robert Earl Keen show @ Joe's Sports Bar in Chicago. Here's a guy who's been writing master storytelling songs, touring and living life by his own terms for over 30 years. It was inspiring. He was totally in the moment, the crowd LOVED him, many knew every word to every song he sang and I was only about 15 feet away from him and his wonderful band. I'd never heard of Keen until I moved to Austin 15 years ago. And though I suspect there are still a lot of folks who've never heard of Keen, to me, what I experienced last night is all I could ever hope for with my own music. Keen is the real deal...that's what I strive for!