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I had an encounter last Saturday while busking in Old Town that is not in direct contrast to my previous post, but was nonetheless a very different flavour.

Observational Preface:

Most people who tip are nice people, and I don't just say that because they tip me. On those occasions when the encounters go beyond just dropping a bit of lucre in my guitar case, most of the time, the little glimpses into these people, their lives, etc, are positive ones. But every now and then...
like this guy last Saturday.

Okay, I'm going to put a disclaimer here. All of what I'm about to say is my own biased observation. I see and deal with a lot of people, and I'm told I'm pretty smart, but I have no formal training in psychology. I and my samples are very subjective. Also, I connect some dots here, and again, I own that my deductions are subjective.


There I was playing away, minding my own business, which was good (Yay!) and not rainy (Double YAY!). I had stopped to retune (as one does when one plays a twelve string barometer) and a great fuss erupted in the middle of the intersection I perch by. Traffic came to a stop and soon there were multidirectional honkings afoot. It started with a honk, and then someone calling out "Oh my GOD, bro- are you TEXTING?!" More honking ensued, growing angrier, and then an odd sound joined the cacophony: a whistle. You know the sound. Cops, referees, gym teachers, drill seargeants; it was *that* whistle, with the little ball in it. Beep BEEP Twweeeeeeeet! Beep! Tweeeeet!
BEEEEEEEEEP! TWEEEEEEET! It felt like it went on longer than it did, but that's because, despite being tuned, it would be pointless to start playing again until this "tweet"storm passed. It ended with someone calling out "Fuck You! Yeah, that's right FUCK YOU!" and then I saw someone stomping away out of the traffic. I was glad to see him leave. Despite the slow pace of it, random people playing in traffic on King St is generally unsafe, and it's bad for business. So this part was over, and I'll be coming back to it later. It *seems* a non-sequitor, but it's an important bunch of dots that I connected later. Let's call it foreshadowing.

Cut to about an hour later, and this fellow walks up to me dressed a little strangely. By strange, I mean Dr Strange. He had on a nearly garish set of evening attire. One *might* say vintage, but it was too hodge-podgy, and given the number of reenactors I know and their pride and successes in matching period, I stand by that judgement. What stood out most were his garish tie, and his black cape. You might see this getup at con, where it would pass just fine as "fun formal". But in Old Town, land of weddings, receptions, high-priced lobbyist dinners, prom kids, etc, it wasn't quite it. He stood out. He was too formal for casual, and too weird for formal.

As he walked up to me, greeted me, making some weird pun that was homonymically not quite calling me Jerry Garcia. No, I don't remember exactly what he said. But note that it was the type of homonymic pun akin to calling "New Hampshire Avenue" "NUDE HAMSTER Avenue". I get people calling me Jerry Garcia all the time. I look like him. I'm a furry, scruffy, chubby hippie in little round glasses playing guitar with a merry twinkle in my eye. I could pass for Jerry, but as I've written in a previous story, my cover gets blown by the fact that I have all of my fingers intact. Anyway, I was playing a song, and I soon finished it after he stopped, and he repeated his joke. And then, he somehow saw that I "got" his joke and said:

"So do you get the joke now?"

"Ohhhhh..... Like Jerry Garcia. Is that because I LOOK like him? OH, that's so FUNNY!" I said, and launched into a very over the top obviously fake stage laugh. Hecklers and drunks like to believe that they are the very first to make their brilliant jokes. Who am I to challenge their illusions, right? So I sometimes left-handedly indulge them with the big fake laugh. The ones with any semblance of cool left realise what's going on and then we both share a real laugh. The jokes may or may not get any better, but at least we'll be laughing sincerely.

But this guy...

The fake laughter washed right over him, and he starts to regale me with tales of him having been a "player" back in the day in a Grateful Dead Cover band.
He asked me if I knew any Grateful Dead. I responded by playing my version of Sugar Magnolia. Deadheads tend to like my version. Much of it is very faithful to the recorded version, and while I can't approach Jerry's sweet voicing and guitar virtuosity or the band's improvisational genius, I've come up with a nice bit of improv for the song myself, that gets a decent nod and appreciation from both the afficionados and my non-Deadhead friends in equal measure. That's when he tipped me, which I took for appreciation, but then...
Right in the middle of my own instrumental jam, he pulls a pennywhistle out of some magic pocket in his cape. I could tell it for what it was: a cheap, rolled, not quite piece of tinfoil with a cork on one end, key of D. A good player can make these sound okay. They work. They may not sound super great, but in an informal jam, they're fine. With a good player, they're fine. This guy was not a good player. And he *didn't* know how to make it sound fine in an informal jam. For one thing, he didn't really listen, he just tried to noodle, and his breath control was definitely subpar for getting good tone out of the instrument. For another thing, while my guitar capo may be off-throwing to would be jammers trying to suss out my key, I had a hard time believing that someone who's played in a Dead cover band wouldn't recognise that I (for once) was playing in the band's actual key (A)(mostly), which MEANS that to jam along with me in key of A while playing a key of D whistle, a few easy but meaningful tweaks to one's fingerings could either have made our scales match or created a bluesy pentatonic, either of which could have made a quite serviceable jam. I had a really hard time believing that someone who'd played in a Grateful Dead cover band would not know how to do this, or not had years of accumulated hours doing exactly this kind of thing through trial and error while unknowing of the technical music theory. Okay, maybe his "instrument" wasn't pennywhistle. But I've jammed with people before, of many skill levels, sometimes with them playing on their non-principal instrument, and in my expert opinion this guy's actual skill level did not match his talk at all. There was a disconnect. He was not quite failing to jam along with me, and what's more decided unilaterally to do so, and the results were not pleasing. I reluctantly cut my instrumental section short and just finished the song. I made no comment about the pennywhistle.

But, undeterred, Capeguy went back to talking at me. This time trying to commiserate with the story about what a tragedy it was that Jerry Garcia died, how he was "found dead in his car in Griffith Park, having died from a heart attack, all alone..."

"Um. I'm pretty sure that he had his fatal heart attack while he was in drug rehab...again" I answered. (I just looked that up, btw, and I got it right).
At this, the guy changed the subject.

He started to tell me about how he met Carlos Santana. He asked me if I knew about the (somename) bar in (someplace, sounds like it's in California) town. He affected surprise when I said I'd never been and never heard of it. "Why not?" he asked me, kinda condescendingly. I pointed at my guitar case and said it was impractical on my salary. That went over his head, and he jumped back onto his own train of thought. Back to (somebar) in (someplace) Well... that's where he was "helping out the bartender" one night, and Carlos Santana came in. He bragged about greeting Santana with a "pun" that was just like how he greeted me, but with a rhyme on Santana. Santana's date was apparently amused. Capeguy then went into an important sidebar about how at that time, people hadn't been seeing Santana out or touring much because he was dealing with a divorce.

Well, anyway, as Santana and his date were leaving (fleeing?) the place, Capeguy said that he wished Santana "Luck and and blessings in this 'dark time".
And at that, according to Capeguy, Carlos got enraged and "screamed" at him:
"What do YOU know about it?!"
The encounter then escalated into a near vehicular assault in the parking lot of the (somebar) with a drunken Carlos behind the wheel.

So Capeguy, now reaching the conclusion of his story wanted to know if *I* still thought Carlos Santana was so cool after committing such atrocity. He expressed how *HE* thought that Carlos needed to re-examine his *ATTITUDE*.

I said, "Dude. He was going through a divorce. You poked a raw nerve. Why couldn't you just leave him alone?"

"But I was wishing him luck and blessings"

"No. You were totally trolling him. He was just out for dinner probably trying to find some distraction from his trouble in a place where he wouldn't be swarmed by fans and/or reporters, and you couldn't just let him be. You had to go rub his face in it."

"YOU WEREN'T THERE! What do YOU know about it? Huh? TROLLING?! What does that even MEAN?! Listen to me, man. I think you need some serious work on your ATTITUDE!"

He went on for a little longer, but I stopped him (somehow) saying
"Dude, I really need to get back to work, OK?"

He stalked off, and then, just from around the corner I heard it:
"Tweeeeeeeet! Tweeeeeeet!". That whistle. From earlier. In the street.
That had been him.

And now, the dots started to connect.
(Now this is PURE conjecture)
I was seeing this guy taking just a little too long to cross the street. Someone honks. He sees someone texting while stopped (probably, "We're here, looking for parking. Where you at?" the way one does meeting up) and now he has an excuse to holler and lecture them. Traffic backs up. Windows roll down. He starts his angry tweetstorm to a chorus of car honks. It ends with him screaming "Fuck YOU!" at someone who's got a car pointed at him who's had enough of his shit, and inched forward. Recurring themes, anyone?

And then with me: I'm out performing, and just by doing it, I'm outperforming him. I'm too shiny and and too much of a threat, so he has to engage. First with outrageous claims to own some sort of legitimacy that I casually shoot down. That brings his hackles up. So he changes subjects and pulls out a story that, as soon as I find bullshit to actually call him on, he uses my "fault" to summon up his umbrage and lecture me.

This guy has a cape full of props. He's dressed to attract attention.
Everything his does and says is some sort of provocation, which he then turns into a test. If you *fail* the test, he's annointed himself Punisher.
I know this game. I've been the black player in it all my life for some asshole who's got something to prove.

My entirely subjective read and assessment:

This guy is a bullying peacock, looking to make himself important so that he can ruffle out his feathers and peck at somebody. And he's attracted to anyone who's on display so that he can prove himself superior. His dress is provocative, his stories are fables and his props that look like toys are actually weapons.

Yeah... he's THAT guy!
Last Saturday night, while busking in Old Town (Alexandria), I saw something that made me smile and gave me hope that Progress is being made, despite the recent efforts of many to undo it:

It is, apparently, prom season. I saw a lot of youngsters dressed up real nice roaming about. One large group of them were accreting in front of Il Porto, apparently to dine as a group. Often, the restaurants in Old Town have seen fit to give prom kids, breaks, specials, and group discounts.

Anyway, as this group of kids were milling about, a pair of very nicely dressed young men were passing in front of me holding hands.

My initial thought was that it is sweet that we're entering an age where same sexed teen couples can feel safe enough to dress up, go out on the town, *and* to the Prom together. Yay.

But *THEN* some of the group of kids at Il Porto saw them, and a group greeting went out (as they'd been doing for previous stragglers) and one of the two young men called back- and they ran, amidst cheers and felicitous mirth to join their friends, who were as happy to see them as anyone else showing up to join their merry band.

This non-normative couple were not just free to be themselves out in public, but were accepted and welcomed JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE in a group of peers to which they belonged.

Most excellent!

So in direct spite of the efforts of the flapping right wings to blow back our Societal progress, there are large groups of kids who accept their gay friends as just more of themselves. While some laws and policies may roll back, I think this kind of attitudinal shift is going to prove less tractible to undo. Northern VA may not be like rural SC in that regard, but those few hundred miles have been shrinking. The times, they are, in fact, a-changin'.
I'm known for being stubborn. I'm stubborn in an argument, and I'm stubborn in my pursuits. Most especially, I'm stubborn in my pursuits. I have what I do, and why I do, and how I prefer to do it, and I'm loathe to change without very compelling reasons. This is well known.

And yet, people try to change me. All the time. And yet people tell me I'm wrong and I'm doing things wrong. All the time. ALL the time. Even though others have tried and been ground to dust, they do it. But still, I persist- doing what I do, and how I do it. And when I persist, people often call me stubborn, often, as if it's a bad thing. It's not that I'm incapable of being wrong, or believe that I'm incapable of being wrong, or that I'm incapable of change, or of believing that I need to. Despite perceptions, I and my methods do evolve on a regular basis. It's just that in order to do so, I need a very compelling reason. Sit back and hear a tale of just how compelling those reasons need to be.

Ok, so a very regular part of my income comes from busking, usually in Old Town Alexandria. I have a regular spot where I do this. I'm known there, and I'm known for playing there and (when I'm there) reliably being in this one spot. I like that spot and that spot likes me. I have regulars who know to find me there. The local merchants known me and are supportive. They tell me that they miss me when I'm gone. And I have persisted against attempts by others (who see my success there) who've tried to poach the spot from me. I get there earlier than any of my potential competition even thinks about arriving, and I park my things there and I play from morning, all day, until about 2-2:30 am. (with occasional potty breaks and a break for late lunch/dinner). When I busk, I usually play for about 14 hours total. I have a program I follow and only rarely in the course of a day will I repeat a song. And I do so all year round no matter the temperature and usually despite the weather.

Now here's one bit about why I stubbornly play at that spot wrt to competition. Most of the regular others who play in Old Town, who've been there for a long time, have learned that competition from other performers is the single biggest damper to income. Even the best players will see a dip when others show up. But most of those others have learned that if they don't fight me for my favourite spot, that our coexistence can be a much more cordial rivalry. I've found the spot that works best for me, and that actually frees them to find the places that work best for them. And now, what a coincidence- there's a bit of a distance buffer between us. I become a known, reliable factor in their calculus, and in streeperforming, any factor that it NOT based on a random factor means your income becomes steadier and more reliable. In RPG terms; you get a less random *number* of dice that you then get to roll for income.

Now, there is a level of inclemency weather-wise, where I will give myself permission to skip, or skip out. This past Saturday afternoon should have been such a day, but the forecasts kept changing, and I had no way of knowing until I got into it, that it was going to be such a day.

Which is why Saturday sucked SO much during the day. It rained and rained and rained. It was supposed to be mostly drizzle with scattered bits of light rain, but instead it was the opposite. I can, cope with this, but my cope was seriously tested this time. I have a big umbrella rig that allows me to play in (less than thunderstorm) rain. But it's not fun to do so. I still have to protect whatever instrument I'm not playing and also my non-instrument things. Over the years I've evolved those methods and they're pretty good, and they're not really part of this story, so just assume that when I'm not playing either my guitar or the banjo, that they're okay. Well, mostly okay. And they were this time. Suffice it to say that my methods allow me to persist in performing up to the point of (thunderstorm) level rain- what the Dark Sky ap on my phone would call "moderate". And by persist, I mean long term. I can play through short bursts of "moderate" or even "heavy". But back to this Saturday. It wasn't that heavy of a rain, but it was persistent (like me). Just ALL afternoon.
Wet, wetter, icky, persistent, relentless wet.

And here's the reason why that sucks. I've found that if I can play through some inclemency, that I have an edge over my competition, in that mostly, they can't just deal with rain as I do. Also, for some reason, the engineering of my umbrella rig eludes them. I've rarely seen another performer even attempt to duplicate my rig, and none of their attempts seemed to be particularly robust. I suspect that they don't realise that what I have is the result of decades of evolution. So, most of the competition is gone as soon as there's any more than drizzle. Competition being the biggest minus to the number of dice I get to roll for income, it means that anything that takes out my competition adds dice to my roll. The problem is that the rain itself is also a minus. Rain means fewer people out, and rain makes people very goal oriented as they walk by. Even those who might be inclined are less likely to want to stop and fish out tips, let alone listen. Snow is completely different. When it snows, people get festive, and my tips go up, way up. Also, snow is actually easier to deal with. Yet somehow people are more impressed with me performing as it snows than as it rains. When it rains, people get miserable and my tips go down. Boy did they go down last Saturday afternoon. As water started to pool in the downhill(ish) side of my guitar case, the most common tip I got was "Hey. Your money's getting wet!" But I was in for a penny, in for a pound and I persisted. The weather maps showed that the rain was only a narrow band, and if that band shifted only ten miles, that I'd be in the clear. It didn't do so all day, which sucked. Wet, soggy suckage. It sucked ducks' nuts, underwater, in a cold pond.

There were other suckages as well. For some reason, (very likely because they were clogged with oak pollen), the gutters directly above me started leaking water in a steady stream that fell right next to me and my umbrella rig. It splashed at me from the side, which got me wetter than I might have been otherwise. And then the air temp started to drop. Icky wet, and now cold, icky wet. I was very close to giving up. But I noticed as the afternoon waned, that the heavier rain started giving in to more drizzly rain, and occasional clearing. And as it got closer to dinner time, those times of clearing directly coincided with my income stream going up. By dinner time, the maps were showing a real potential shift/end to the shower line, and I saw more people out. I decided that I would break for dinner. Then, if the trend of rain mitigation continued, I'd get a warm dry coat from Mama Tiger, and attempt to play to my first "par". That amount is one I can live with. It's like a C minus for the day. I was about half way there. An hour before, I had been a third of the way there, which showed me a *very* improving trend.

So I resolved to persist after a strategic retreat and recharge. I had my dinner. I rallied myself. And I went back out. It was still raining a bit, but not as hard as before. (Oh, and there was another minus to the day- the streetlight by my spot was out last week, and in that dark pool, people were having trouble seeing me and my guitar case. Battery powered Xmas lights to the rescue, but the dark definitely took away some dice last week. Last Saturday, the streetlight was still out, but just in case of that contingency, I'd brought a pretty bright lantern. I bungeed it to the lamp post in front of me. Yes, it made a HUGE difference) Anyway, the income difference after dinner was like night and day, or- day and night.

As promised, the rain waned, and then stopped. People came out. They were in a very festive mood, too, and many of them were quite generous. Much faster than I thought, I hit my first par. Much faster than I thought, I hit my 2nd goal. And by then, I knew I was having a very different night than the day had been. Now granted, when I estimate what my income of the day is, it's before I actually count, so I've learned how to just estimate low, and be pleasantly surprised at the end. I keep track of the songs I play (I actually have a log of the songs that generate tips and how many), and by keeping an eye on the tips going in, I've gotten pretty good at a "low ballpark". But sometimes, my low estimate is much lower than reality. Last night was one of those nights. Since it was rebounding SO well, I decided to just keep going and I'd dry up and warm up later. I'd set myself on a course where instead of a "low" night, I'd have more of a "normal" night.

But that was where I seriously *under*estimated. I hit my 3rd goal level at about 1:30 am. That is a number where the night gets an "A" grade. At dinner time, I'd been failing and thinking of giving up. But now, I'd outstubborned the bad stuff and totally rebounded to an "A" grade day. Yay.

Because I was still damp though, and because I needed to be at a 3LF gig the next day at 11am. I still knocked of a *bit* early. Nonetheless, when I tallied up my earnings, I was shocked to learn that I was *way* low in my estimate. It had, in fact, turned into one of my best nights, ever. It's Number 8 now in my list of Top 20 earning days busking in Alexandria! I've been busking there for about 25 years.

THAT'S why I'm stubborn. And THAT'S what I get for it.

Being stubborn/persistent is how I succeed. It is, for me, the most reliable and the most consistent path to my success. In this case, my stubbornness took me, literally from "failure" level to a tangible measurable triumph.

You can look at my stubbornness as a character flaw, but from where I sit, it was, is, and remains my strongest suit.


It was 1977. I was 14 years old, and re-new to the DC area (we'd lived in MD back in the 60's) having just moved to Bowie MD. Before that we'd lived in western NC, before that, a brief stay in NJ, and before that, Spain. So, when I arrived in this area, while alot of pop music and some amount of country music was in my brain, I had been aching for something more. I'd discovered songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and my mind was blown. I grew up with a great appreciation of classical music and Queen, combining it with Rock and Roll was mind-exploding. A fellow student in my karate class had introduced me to Rush back in NC and the _2112_ album was hitting all the right buttons for my love of Scifi. But still, my exposure to what is now called "classic rock" was limited: The Beatles (and then Wings) were my big obsession. I knew I liked Rush. I also was way into my first Elton John record (_Caribou_). I dug the Eagles and Heart, and Aerosmith, but had only heard a few songs at most from any of them. That summer, between NC and Bowie, I gotten some glimpses of the song _Carry On Wayward Son_, by Kansas and it sounded like I'd like it, but didn't quite know from Kansas yet. So, I was a nearly blank slate as I found 98 Rock, broadcasting out of Baltimore, late in the summer of 1977.

I found that I LIKED Rock and Roll. I liked it a LOT. Loud electric guitars and anthemic, bombastic, glorious noise was JUST right for 14 year old me.
Eagles! Queen! Rush! Kansas! Heart! Aerosmith! Led Zeppelin! (!!!), Pink Floyd (!!!!) The Who, on and on. There were some bands that didn't move me that much, (like Lynyrd Skynyrd- I was not as fond of the South that spawned them and informed their lyrics, character sketches or not). Styx had just released _The Grand Illusion_ and OMG!!! "Come Sail Away" was just the most magnificent thing I'd ever heard, and THEN I heard it on the headphones. Even the more acoustic-y bands like Crosby Stills and Nash and early Jefferson Airplane were devoured by my young ears off of my little clock radio.

All through that period, as I started high school and got recommendations of other bands from schoolmates, (Bob said "Check out Jimi Hendrix" and OMG was he right) I would stay up late at night, reading, and listening- but there was still an itch that hadn't gotten scratched yet.

My eighth grade English teacher had taken my existing love of poetry and fostered it into a profound fruition. She'd taken us through various forms and periods and my mind was blown. Not only could poems be pretty, but they could have a depth to them; unconventional rhyme and meter, allegorical or symbolic tracks parallel to their straightforward narratives, abstractions just playing on the sounds, and EVEN a coherency in direct spite to a lack of form or formal structure. My mind was blown wide open. And THEN- she had us bring in the lyrics to our favourite songs and we analysed and dissected them using what we'd learned of the poems we'd studied. My mind was blown all over again, as I began to see poetic potential in song lyric.

And so- as my mind was being blown musically by rock and roll, some thoughts began to bubble through my brain:
-You could make rock music with classical pretensions (Queen!) and rock's natural penchant for epic, larger than life sound could feed seamlessly into that.
-You could make rock music with Science Fiction elements like Rush and Styx, with again, those epic elements boosting the story like a rocket
-You could write deep, penetrating allegory with Rock's penchant for big/loud being a macrocosm for the microcosm you examined. ("Hotel California")
-You could, as with the classical music I loved create profoundly emotional passages; lifts, joy, catharsis, and pain. (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix)

And as teenage me devoured my Tolkien, I started to wonder if, maybe if, there could be music played that evoked (for instance) Tolkien's epic imagery in it, not just in the usual rock idioms, but if rock could be played with a classical range of emotion. It would, (I theorised) take some considerable musical virtuosity; an ability and willingness to play Rock music outside of Rock's musical boxes-to experiment with the form and find new musical frontiers with modern instrumentation with old and new and heretofore unheard stylings.
I also started to wonder if the *writing* in rock music could benefit from someone who *really* knew wordcraft- someone who was not content with simple couplet rhyme, who was willing to tackle the universes I liked to imagine and the complexity of not-so-simple human be-ing. And could such a someone capture the majesty of a world (real or imagined) the way Tolkien could?
I wondered, and I wondered.

And one day, in the early fall of 1977, there it was: the brand new single from the brand new album by Yes: "Wondrous Stories".
I'm not sure if I heard "Wondrous Stories" or "Roundabout" first on 98 Rock.
They played both songs, I remember that, and I remember that "Roundabout" impressed the HELL out of me. These were guys who were not at ALL content to keep Rock in the same place they found it. They heard music outside of ANY boxes, and they played the HELL out of it. Wow!
But "Wondrous Stories"- that song grabbed me by the brain, my heart, and my entire soul as nothing had before and little since. "Didst my heart love till now? Forswear it sight! For I never knew true beauty 'till this night!" (Shakespeare, but you get the idea).
That night, I found what is, to this day, my favourite song EVER!
Everything I longed for in a lyric; the craft, the flow, and the magnificence evoked to me by Tolkien's prose. And everything I longed for in music: the epic sound, the soaring instrumental sections, the spot on "greek chorus" like counterpoint to the narrative.

I got the Yes album _Going For The One_ for Christmas that year and it is, to this day, my favourite album ever. As I came into my own buying of my own records, I tended, in those days (depending on the price) to not buy an album that only had one song I liked, until I'd heard more from it. Money was scarce and record albums precious. _Going For The One_ came before that time for me, and it stands, even now, as an exception to that rule (usually three songs on a full priced album before I buy). That year, we also started spending more time at my Uncle Tony's house in Columbia MD around the holidays. Holiday visits with him were easier, and so became more common. Around Easter, I think it was, we went to visit, and in the living room, was this crate of record albums that I was told belonged to my Uncle Doug, who was in the process of moving and had put his records with my Uncle for safekeeping. I was told, that if I wanted to borrow any, I was more than welcome. (Uncle Douglas was a HERO in my younger eyes, he always had and did the coolest things. I wasn't so good at emulating the sports he was so good at, but his other qualities - including a strong appreciation for art, science, bohemian counterculture, extreme generosity to me and an infallible moral compass made very deep impressions on me growing up.) I was BLOWN AWAY by this generosity- again! I noticed, among other things that piqued my curiousity, were several Yes albums. COOL!

One of those Yes albums was _Close To The Edge_, and that cinched Yes for me.
I got home and almost as soon as I had a chance, I was in the living room with the headphones on and the lyrics in front of me and I DEVOURED that album.
Oh. My. God. I never knew that any band could write with such fearlessness, such grandeur, such eloquence, and be just so OUT THERE. And such virtuosity. I could TELL what they were playing was incredibly complex, weird, and demanding. And so breathtakingly beautiful. I totally dug how weird it was and the weird parts of the musical journey that album takes were very appealing to me. But weird music, (I'd found) was often dissonant, and sometimes seemed gratuitously so- weird for it's own sake, like Frank Zappa (whom I've always liked, but not like this). But Yes had a point to it, and were not at all afraid to create something as magnificently beautiful (as Bach or Wagner, or Beethoven, or Stravinsky) or as daring. (I was so pleased to find out just how daring Beethoven and Stravinsky had been in their days) _Close To The Edge_ was rock music, at the same time that it shattered the boundaries of the genre. I LIKED rock music. But THIS- this was MY Rock Music. That album cemented that for me. I then devoured _The Yes Album_ (the other Yes album my uncle had) and from that point onward EVERY Yes album I could find and afford to get- sight unseen, unlike most of the other albums I'd buy new.

And when "And You And I" came on the radio this morning, I let myself be taken back to that time when I heard Yes on the radio at age 14 and that song for the first time, at age 15, and how much THAT song on THAT album cemented my budding fandom for Yes for me.

By the time I was twenty, I owned about a hundred record albums. Almost half of that collection were albums by a handful of artists: The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie. Over ten of those albums were Yes albums.

Here it is, nearly forty years after my first hearing of the song, and it still packs that punch, and here's the coolest thing: I can still hear "And You And I" even now, and find new threads, new insight, and new colours and nuance in those lyrics. Damn! It's *almost* like not having to grow up, but not quite. It's more like I lucked on to loving something that growing up lets me appreciate even more.


Alot of people who like my music are in the SF fan community and musicians there are generally classed as filkers. Sometimes I don't mind being placed in that community, but I often *don't* think that the label really accurately reflects what I do.
There are some fine musicians in the filk community, and so I've come to realise that simply calling myself a "musician" can be off putting, because it could imply a kind of false dichotomy; an implication that filkers are not musicians. Saying so makes me sound like a snob. I get that.
One of my problems is being pigeonholed at all. The portion of my repertoire that I might play at cons represents maybe 5% (and that's generous) of what I do. And even calling me a "folksinger" sells me short, as the portion of my repertoire I'd play at Pennsic, or a Renfest gig or even an Irish bar is less than half of what I do. And we're talking about over a thousand songs. Really.
Calling myself "eclectic" though will get people saying things like "Oh, sort of like They Might Be Giants?" and that's not it either. You won't find TMBG covering Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot, Yes, David Bowie, The Clancy Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Child Ballads in the course of one set.
This brings me to the next part of what I'm trying to say. TMBG and Weird Al are supremely popular among the filk community and they deserve high honours and respect for what they do. They are masterful musicians and very adept writers. And they make what they do look effortless. But in my music collection and my listening history they are both side notes, and barely represented. They're not really my thing, and here's why: both of them focus on what I would call "postmodernistic deconstruction". Weird Al does this through a very adroit, spot on imitation that he turns into silly, yet sardonic parody. TMBG does this by writing songs that kick the stays out of any box pop music would come packaged in, without resorting to the snarly anti-social monster voice or atonality that you'd find in other music that rejects pop conventions. I *like* both of those things, but I don't have a transcendental LOVE of those things.
When I find a song I really dig, yes, I often want to do a version of it that has not been done before (otherwise, what's the point in ME doing it? IMHO), to find that musical place where the song speaks to me and to play *that* for people. So, sometimes, I'll find some "different" way of doing that song. Sometimes that way is within the box, and sometimes it's not within the box. But there's usually some sense behind it. One of the most popular of my originals is "Party With The Elder Ones" or "That Cthulhu reggae song" as many of you call it. The borrowing of the reggae beat, and musical style was deliberate, not because it was "wrong", but because I'm projecting Lovecraft's xenophobia onto Rastafarianism, which, I think would have been right up his alley. It, is, as I've said, a song I'm well known for in "filk" circles, but it's appeal is tangential to my actual approach to music. I don't set *out* to parodise musical genres or lyric, even though it's *part* of what I do. The same goes for my "sonnet" version of "Freebird", which will likely be loved by many of the same people who love "Party With The Elder Ones". My motivation for writing that was not to create a parody of a song, but to create a song that allows me to shoot a zinger back at the drunks and smartasses who request "Freebird", even at a Renaissance Festival.
And that brings me to what inspired this post. Among many of my concurrent projects, I'm in the planning stages for a CD/Album project that will entirely feature songs where people die. I'm sure it's going to be enormously popular. My audiences have a proven, reliable, (and often annoying) palpable lust for tales of death and bloodshed. I do a lot of those songs, and within that topic, a deliciously wide variety of styles, genres, sounds, and outcomes emerges. The album will be surprising in it's breadth, which I'm greatly looking forward to, because, while it seems to be a pigeon hole, it will actually be more fairly representative of my style(s) than some of my other releases to date. And THAT is why, when I was reminded of the song "My Way" a few weeks ago, I realised that a deathbed song in first person from a character who remembers best that he did things "his way", would be the perfect final song on this album- especially if I can do an original take on it.
My first thought was to do a banjo arrangement. It would be unusual and attention grabbing and unique. But as I started the work to piece that together, I realised that it would also wind up being it's own cliche' and not much more than a novelty, really. And here's where the avid filkers, and filk fans in my peer group and audience (IMHO) would start to avidly disagree with me. I can hear them already. They'd want the banjo *because* it would be so "wrong". And that's what I mean by "postmodernistic deconstruction". "My Way" is a hell of a song. I'm not saying that gives it some sort of sanctity that must not be violated (and I find it equally annoying to hear that Sinatra's version, while iconic, must now be the standard to which all versions must adhere, lest they be "wrong"- really? A *wrong* way to play "My Way"?). But I don't do original takes on a song just to break or poke fun at the original. I'm not trying to create the next "This Is Not A Pipe" (google Alfred Jarry for the reference). I LOVE singing songs and I LOVE music. And I always want to create something that means something to me, and I discovered how I want to do that: just the way I often do.

I was checking out chord progressions, and started to fingerpick them (which helps me find the 'flow points' for making an arrangement that 'flows' through my fingers rather than 'chugs'- chord[chug] chord[chug] etc) and really liked how that worked. It would have been that way on the banjo, of course, but it's in my guitar arrangements where I really live the fullest, where I really (to me) sound the most like me. So I started to go with that, and am winding up with a very Maugie-like, very sweet, kinda peppy, slightly bouncy guitar counterpoint to the melody, which I kept at it's stately pace. It's going to be a great arrangement that I'm going to LOVE playing, and it's going to be, very ME, which is how it should be. People who listen to my music with any discernment will actually hear ME in the way I do it- the chord voicings, the progressions, the fingerpicking style, everything. It will truly be MY way!

Sure, a banjo arrangement would get the cheap laughs, but I'm going to love playing this and even tweaking it, for the rest of my career. And it will be the perfect final cut for an album where people die in all kinds of ways. The last word will be a final *dignity* instead of a final snark. And that, in a very strange way, that I don't think I've fully explained, is part of why I still don't really consider myself a filker.


"I am Lono, you Bastards!"

This is based on a dream I had. It's mostly as is, albeit
with some details backfilled in by my wakened self just to
make it narratively coherent. In the dream, I was telling
this story at a party.

I Am Lono, You Bastards!

Okay, you may not recognise the quote. It's from a
Hunter S. Thompson novel called _The Curse Of Lono_.
It's undiluted Thompsonesque pre-hangover travelogue that
tells you more about his troubled soul than about whatever
he was writing about. It starts out nearly tame, rises to
a crescendo of dysfunction, and then crashes like a tsunami,
along with it's narrator. Enough said? Ok, are you
sitting comfortably?

Good, then we shall begin.

Sonya and I finally got to go on a cruise. We'd been
bandying the idea about on and off for decades, each cycle
coming a little further towards serious and then a little
further towards actually doing it, sort of like those
waves that come further up the beach as the tide rises.
And then one day we did it. We went on a cruise to the
Carribean. It was fun. We spent a lot of money and did
all of the stuff (including touristy stuff) that one does
on these cruises, and our experience, coloured of course
by our own wackiness was still more or less what you'd
expect. There are, of course plenty of adventures to tell
about that, but none of that is the least bit important to
this story. This story is about that one strange souvenir
that we brought back and what came of it.

So, we were out to dinner, on one of our last nights in
the islands, and we were enjoying the sunset, the music, the
sea-breezes, the seafood, all of that, when our waiter
brought us a drink. The drink was some sort of rum and
citrus and sweet grog-like cocktail, and it came in a "Tiki"
mug. You've seen this. It's the classic pacific island
cylinder carved into an impressionistic head thing. Google
"Tiki Mug" and you'll get the idea. Anyway, the waiter
brought us this thing, about 8" tall, about 5" diameter
with this drink in it, and said "Compliments of the gentleman."

"Which gentleman?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"And who is it for?"

"For both of you".

"Ok, tell him thanks."

Weird, right? Weirder still, it had a *tiki* motif;
a Pacific culture design in a *Carribean* setting. Whatever.
Free drink. We didn't like it that much, so only had a bit of
it. Sonya had a few sips, I barely had any. (But I don't
like alcohol anyway). And we didn't get to know who our
benefactor was. Weird. But then came the punchline: as
I went to pick up the mug, my hand pressed against a little
round button on the handle, and suddenly the mug spoke. It
had some sort of speaker and sample dealie in it and it said:
"I am Lono, you bastards!" in an approximation of Hunter S.
Thompson's signature crumudgeonly growl. I thought it was
HILARIOUS! Sonya didn't quite remember the story from which
it was derived, but I quickly brought her up to speed.
Anyway, I thought it was HILARIOUS! Sonya found it amusing
at first, but soon realised that this was going to be yet
another one of my annoying toys that NEVER gets old. I was,
in fact repeatedly pressing the button and laughing as the
mug said "I am Lono, you bastards!"

"You're not buying this mug. We're not taking it home."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"I mean it."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

The waiter came eventually to bring us the check, and
before Sonya could say anything I asked "How much to keep
the mug?"

Sonya said "No!"

The waiter smirked and said it came with the drink.

"Woohoo!" I cried raising my fists into the air.

Sonya rolled her eyes WAY back into her head. And sighed.

"It's going into the suitcase for the flight back.
You are NOT bringing it on the plane."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"I mean it."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

And that's how I got the first mug. More on that in a bit.
Yes, I played with it alot, at least for awhile, once we
got home. Sonya was right. It was, in fact yet another
of my annoying toys that I thought would NEVER get old.
But then, it kinda did get old. It's not that I stopped
enjoying one of my favourite dysfunctional quotes, it's
that the damn toy itself got annoying to me. First, it
would do that thing that those noisy toys from the 90's
would do when the battery got weak: it would go into a
mode where it would act like it was constantly being
triggered. I eventually found the battery compartment,
and changing the battery would help, at least at first.
But it wouldn't help reliably. And it always seemed to
wait until I was alone before it went into full "endless
loop" mode. Then it got *really* weird. This is the
part I can't explain. It would work for some people, but
not for others, so it wasn't a really reliable party toy.
It also seemed to remember whom, it worked for and whom it
wouldn't work for. It was like a more complex version of
the singing frog in that Warner Brothers cartoon. And when
it *wouldn't* work, I couldn't find the damn button on its
handle. It was pretty well camouflaged to begin with, but
still. It was annoying. My toy that wouldn't ever get old,
began to annoy ME. So I took out the battery and put it on
the shelf with my other curios. Eventually the cup on our
coffee table that held a bunch of pens fell over and broke
in a weird accident involving my tiger slippers, a laptop
power cord, and a pizza box. Tiki mug became the new pencil

Then, at my next birthday party, I openned a present, from
a friend who shall remain nameless and found...another tiki
mug! It was much smaller than the first, only about 8 oz
instead of the guaranteed blackout quantity of the first one.
BUT- it had the same little button on the handle that, when
pressed, would make the mug growl out:

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

"Wow! Where did you GET this?"

"I found it in a thrift store and thought of you. I didn't
even know it could talk."

"I am Lono, you bastards!"

So, yes. I went and got the first mug, and put in a fresh
battery and we had way too much fun making the two mugs say
"I am Lono, you bastards!" at each other, in chorus, at other
guests, tag team, etc. It didn't get old. Sonya eventually
put a stop to it, and said she was going to bed. Curious
thing, and yes I checked. (We *do* keep lists of who comes
to our parties) And it was curious. No one who was there that
night was one of people for whom the head didn't work. There
were people who had never seen the first one before (except
maybe on the shelf, holding pencils), but absolutely nobody
from those for whom it didn't work. Oddly enough (though it
wasn't odd at all, in retrospect), that's how it continued to
be. For the people for whom the first head "worked", they both
worked. When people came over for whom it hadn't work,
neither of them ever did, and annoyingly, I could never find
the button (on either of them) to activate them when that
happened. And of course, somehow, the two groups could
never seem to compare notes *with* each other or check out
either of the tiki heads when present at the time. Either
no one remembered or something always happened to distract
us when the opportunity was there.

Oh, and the annoying stuff started back up again, but this
time with both of them, especially, but not exclusively,
when I was alone.

One morning, Sonya went downstairs to leave for work where
she found them both chattering away in the living room.
"I am Lono, you bastards!" "I am Lono, you bastards!" "I
am Lono, you bastards!" It *was* going to be a morning
where I'd get to sleep in. Instead, I was awakened by her
throwing both of them onto my sleeping form, and saying "I
thought you said you knew how to turn these fucking things
OFF!" and then storming off to work. Once I'd realised
what had happened, I was confused. I'd thought I HAD taken
out the batteries.

"I am Lono, you bastards!" is what they both said.

More weird stuff like this kept happening with them.
Eventually, I took out the batteries from both of them,
and put them in the giveaway box. Then the morning after
we'd have people over, we'd find the two heads back on the
shelf, or the coffee table, or once, in the library.
Eventually, EVENTUALLY I managed to convince Sonya that it
was not I who was taking them out of the giveaway box. She
doesn't quite believe me when I say that it isn't I who puts
batteries in them. I *do*, sometimes, for parties, but I'm
*sure* I take them out afterwards. Sonya says I'm just
forgetting, but no, I'm not. These things are weird.

We keep wanting to throw them out or give them away, but
something always comes up to distract us or, honestly, they
make me laugh again. They really are too hilarious to just
toss. But I have to confess, I don't want to keep them
either. This weird stuff is freaking me out just a little
too much sometimes. Oh, and the weirdest thing: even though
we have two different versions of these items:

"Tiki head that quotes Hunter S. Thompson"

you won't find any more of them online. I can't tell you
how often I've tried to put in search terms to figure who
made these things or where they came from. Nobody has any
and nobody even has a clue that such a thing exists. Not
even Oriental Trading Co. Yes, I've called. So,
despite the fact that two exist, one from an anonymous
drink buyer, and one found in a thrift store,
it would seem that these are the ONLY two that exist.
I have both of them. And, it seems, I can't get rid of them.

A Bardic version of "Made Ya Look!"

I was out busking in Old Town Alexandria the other day, and this fellow stops to listen as I'm playing some Grateful Dead on my banjo. ("I Know You, Rider", I think- not one of their originals, but a staple in their repertoire)
So he tips me when I'm done and remarks (as many have) about how much I resemble Jerry Garcia. "You're the very first person to notice" I tell him, which confuses him a little, so I had some mercy and explained that actually yes, I get that compliment a lot. The fellow then enthusiastically starts telling me that a lot of people don't know that Garcia was also a banjo player.
I reply that "Oh, yes. I do know that, and he was a damned good one too!"
So at about that time, his wife (I presume) comes out of the shoe store that I perform by and doesn't quite take him by the ear to get him to go. He sadly says he needs to say goodbye, and that it was really nice to meet me. I reach out to shake his hand and tell him that it was good to meet him too. But at the last second I stop and pull my hand back and say: "Oh, and by the way, I *didn't* fake my death so that I can hang out here. See, I have all of my fingers!" I held up my hand to show him. Jerry Garcia was missing his right middle finger from a childhood accident. But... when it's cold out, I usually wear a glove on my right hand with only my picking fingers cut out. So you can only really *see* two of my actual fingers, and my thumb. "Or *do* I?" I slyly added, and made a little twilight zone noise. Then I shook his hand...

...And as I did, I could feel him try to check out if I *did* in fact have all of my fingers.

I waited until he was out of earshot to laugh.
Yesterday, on FB, I vaguely alluded to going off to search for two small (but important-to-me) pieces of my past. Back in high school, I wrote a pair of sonnets that one of my teachers managed to finagle the Bowie Blade into publishing. I've since (I thought) lost any copies of them. Having had no luck at the Bowie Library or the Blade itself. I finally found microfilm copies of the paper at the Hyattsville library! I spent four hours yesterday staring and scrolling, but to no avail. See, I wasn't quite sure what *year* this happened, so I just started in summer of 1977 and went until I had to stop (in 1979 somewhere) for dinner.

BUT- when I got home, on a hunch, I started pawing through my box of paper mementos from the period (again- previous efforts failed) and I actually found the very first issue of Bowie High's literary magazine (to which I and several friends JUMPED at the chance to contribute), and there, among other fond memories, I found them: my first two actual sonnets!

So here, for Throwback Thursday- a glimpse of 17 year old proto-me trying his hand at a sophisticated poetry form:

Steve Haug

Reflected into many forms of light
By dust and clouds that hover near the sea
The suns sets now with many colours bright
And signals brilliantly the night to be

The "outside" of the dome was bathed in red
The colours of the dusk that did abound
Were hidden from the occupants by lead
That cased the city's shield all around

They left the surface long ago, 'tis told
To seek a refuge from the hostile land
That was destroyed back in the days of old
By foolish leaders with a heavy hand

Sunset which is such a visage fair
Is caused by the pollutants in the air


A Trashy Poem
Steve Haug

Among the boundless void of time and space
There went a planet floating in the black
Whose atmosphere sustained no life or race
All things endowing life, the world did lack

Since life this barren world could not sustain
Another world then satisfied it's need
Gigantic ships were sent that did contain
The wastes of life on which they could not feed

And from this toxic garbage left behind
Ingredients of all organic sort
Combined there forming those of larger kind
Crude life forms did this world at last support

Evolving from some garbage long disowned
Now planet Earth has garbage of it's own

Spring(?) 1980
And from this relic and others in that box, I've finally pieced together the timeline that I needed. I took a creative writing class in the Fall of '79. (where I wrote the first one, I think) Then in spring of1980, one of my previous English teachers agreed to sponsor the start of the magazine. I jumped on it along with several of my friends and some other kids from the school and we did it: the contributions, the layout, the editing, the printing etc. It was called "etc..." So it was in the Spring of 1980 that Mrs Pippin SURPRISE! made me a published author. I didn't know she had done this until my Dad noticed that my name was in the paper. I never really found out what motivated her to do this, or why the Blade saw fit to go along. In the couple of years' worth of paper I saw before this, I saw no evidence of this ever having happened before. I don't know if it's happened since.

So I think I'll still go and try and find that issue of the Bowie Blade and make a photocopy of the page. But the important part of this is that, despite having written dozens of sonnets lately, I really wanted to somehow salvage my first two.

Mischief Managed!


Wrote this this morning both as a protest and a protest, and possibly as a prognostication. Yes, it's okay to forward this, but PLEASE credit me with it. If this is seditious, I want the history books to get it right.

Steve Haug

That is what I've titled this free verse poem
Which is not to say that I actually know that
Or that I can prove that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

A quote I've often heard (attributed to Goebbels)
Claims that a lie repeated often enough gets taken as truth
That's why claiming that
Could be bad. Because if it's not true that
Repeating the phrase
Or circulating it as a rumour, could have people believing that
When it's not actually true that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

It shouldn't really be a big deal if
or not
He can be and love whom he pleases
But the problem, if
Is that when he was a Governor
He constantly advanced policies that hurt homosexuals
And now that he's Vice President, he has even more access
To the kind of power that would advance this agenda on a wider scale
Which means that if
His policies, and his blatantly homophobic public statements
Are not only harmful to others, but self-destructively hypocritical
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

I'm willing to bet though, that it will turn out to be true that
It turns out, ironically, that the more anti-gay someone is,
The more fervent their public hostility to gay rights,
The more active they are in harassing and disenfranchising gay people,
The more likely they are to turn out to be gay themselves
So the suggestion that
Might not be so off-base after all
Only time will tell if it's actually true or not that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true
I know that

Claiming, whether true or false that
Could be harmful to him
And possibly his family
It could cost him his career if it were widely believed that
Which would be especially tragic and cruel if it were not true that
Simply claiming that
Doesn't make it true.
I know that

So, if we don't know for sure that
We shouldn't go around repeating
Or spreading rumours that
Simply claiming that

That would be wrong,

The Dehumanising Fallout Of "Concern"

All my life, I seem to have attracted concern. As a child, adults would express "concern" for my "risky" hobbies; whether it be my love of food, my love of books, my love of the ocean, my love of what I could concoct with my chemistry set, my love of collecting minerals from the mountains I would climb, my love of long bike rides in said mountains, my love of wild berries, my love of exploration of anywhere I was, or most especially- my love of plainly and truthfully speaking my mind.

This concern follows me to this day. For instance: A big part of my job (busking) carries some risk. I'm constantly being warned that I should be more "careful" doing it. Constantly.

Okay, I'll confess. I've hurt myself. I've fallen fallen down, fallen out of trees, run into things on my bicycles, fallen off of motorcycles, hit my head, broken bones, been hit by a car, poked, pierced, sliced, slashed and stabbed myself, gotten sick, gotten burned, been attacked by animals and people, nearly drowned, you name it. I have scars to prove it. I've done things that on YouTube would rightly begin with the phrase "Hold Ma Beer! Watch THIS!" with predictably hilarious and scary results. It is true that there have been times when people have been rightly concerned for my life and well-being.

But that's not what I'm talking about. If people *only* warned me that things like pole-vaulting over a dirt pile using a broom handle could lead to a broken arm, I'd appreciate it. But to hear some of these warnings I get, you'd think that the whole world was waiting like a bear-trap to snap my foot clean off the minute I stepped out of my house. You'd think that the floor *was* made of lava, and the only safe course of action was to stay at home, on the couch, tv-remote securely within reach. And TV is no help either with the constant focus on the BAD THINGS that are always more newsworthy than (A million people drove on the Beltway and didn't wreck their cars today).
That last line, btw, is foreshadowing part of my point.

I'm going to put out some examples now, all of them from actual events to begin to illustrate my point about this. Also, I'm going to confess that alot of this and my sudden need to make a big deal about it comes from feelings that resurfaced during the recent visit with my Mom. It led to the epiphany about something that really annoys me when people do this.

Let's start in the distant past: my Mom didn't like it when I went out into the countryside to pick wild berries, blackberries, mostly. She'd warn me that I should (direct quote) "...watch out for snakes. Snakes like to eat those berries and will hide out under the bushes." To this DAY she utters this dire warning. Her conviction when I was eight is the same as it is today. She had occasion to say this again two weeks ago when I told her about my project of transplanting wild raspberry bushes into my yard. I don't know where she got this notion, where this info comes from. But she insists it's true. Now here's the thing: it doesn't seem to matter when you point out that snakes are carnivores. It also doesn't seem to matter that in all of the THOUSANDS of berry bushes I've picked from out of the hundreds of patches I've visited in nearly a dozen states, three countries and two continents, that I have never seen a snake under one of those bushes. Oh, I've seen snakes, venomous and otherwise, but they don't "hide out under the berry bushes" in any kind of preferential or statistically notable way. My sample isn't exactly biased. Nor has this behaviour been reported by any other people I know who gather or raise berries (including FARMERS) If snakes actually did this, I'd have observed this by now or heard about it. But no- my Mom fast forwards through citations of encyclopedia articles, extensive experience, professional witness, AND the nature shows she watches on TV daily; to stand fast with this conclusion that I have something to fear in my love of wild raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries too. Despite decades of evidence and fact to the contrary.

Example two: (which is properly 2 and 2b) also from my Mom.
My brother and I wanted to go on an outing in Berlin one afternoon. Due to her post-surgical pain and fatigue, Mom often naps in the afternoon these days. We were getting a touch of cabin fever and wanted some stimulation. There, right there, was- BERLIN! I'd always wanted to see that "bombed out cathedral" that was turned into a WWII memorial. I'd watched it go by in car-rides since I was seven, and have never gotten to actually go to it. It also happens to be next to this big mall where they have a fabulous "water clock" that tells time through a display of bowls and pipes that spill into the next thing when they are full. Yay. Outing. Oh, but the warnings that this inspired. We were instructed to be on red-alert lookout for thieves and pickpockets. People are robbed daily. People are regularly being beaten up by gangs of immigrants and refugees. Murderers roam the streets. You see it on the news constantly! Keep your wallet safe. Don't let people know you're American. They will scam you.
So.... despite the warnings we went. And what did we see? Hordes of tourists and groups of teens out shopping. People were all over the public spaces. There was a swarm of German music box crankers cranking their musicboxes all over the public square, where people ate knockwurst and drank beer. Folks were out, they were happy, and spending their money on stuff that was fun to buy, fun to eat, and fun to do. THOUSANDS of them! There was also a group of Syrian refugees protesting their government's treatment of the populace, calling for an end to that. When the protest got to a large size, about a hundred policemen showed up, and made a wall between the protesters and the street crowd. Before and after that, everyone was behaving anyway. I think some of the protesters got arrested for being unruly too near a national monument. But THOUSANDS of people seemed to be unharmed, unrobbed, and unfazed by any imminent danger.
Example two b:
I was telling my Mom about my travel itinerary home, and I shared that I was disappointed by my two hour layover in Brussels. If it were longer, I said, there might be time for an actual meal in Brussels; eating the cuisine that I fell in love with during my gigs at Cock And Bowl- in it's natural habitat. Oh no, my Mom said. Brussels is far too dangerous. Terrorists and thieves and such.

What is my point here? Doesn't some of this danger actually exist? Doesn't my Mom have a point? I can't completely say "No, not at all". But the level of FEAR that was being invoked was in vast disproportion to any rational reality. The actual truth is that daily, THOUSANDS (millions?) of people in Berlin and Brussels, even the tourists, go about their business and don't get mugged, don't get scammed, don't get their pockets picked, don't get blown up by terrorists. Even the protest in Berlin turned out to be a pretty INsignificant event, except for waiting on the sidewalk for a whole minute as the line of cops swarmed in to take their position. It might as well have been a train or a traffic light, for all it affected my day. But, My Gods, if Mom had known that rally was happening, she would have thrown her body on the ground in front of us to keep me and my brother from even stepping out of the door. Those THOUSANDS of happy tourists, happy teens, happy shoppers didn't count in her calculations. What of them?

Example three: Just after I announced my impending trip on FB I got a comment on the post telling me to "Be careful" with a link to some article I didn't even bother to read. I went to Berlin completely uninformed of the perils I faced.
I was also a trifle stern with the poster as to the appropriateness of fear-mongering at someone whose Mom might be dying. Thankfully Mom didn't die, and I'm pretty sure that unless the warnings in the article were that Berlin/Tegel airport luggage control was overworked, under-competent and nearly paralysed by their own internal beaureaucracy, there was no warning that I actually needed. "Yes but-" you might point out, that I could just be lucky. Yes but- *I* point out that the reason Berlin/Tegel Airport is such a chaotic mess is that THOUSANDS of people are going through there every day likely thousands more than it is staffed to accommodate, and they are not getting blown up, arrested, or whatever the hell other dire fates my friend was trying to warn me against. What of those thousands?

Example four: A blast from the past.
We were going to have an activity. It was a regular, planned thing, and we were going to have it outside, in the summer, starting at 8pm or so. But it was an "Orange Alert" day for Ozone. Moving the activity indoors would present us with last minute logistical problems. I suggested we proceed as planned. I was blasted for this suggestion for wanting to "put people at risk of their health" "What sane person would do this?". As it worked out, the activity *did* prove logistically unfeasible to move or reschedule, so folks reluctantly agreed to take the chance to go on as planned.
On my way there, I'm looking out of the car window approaching our meeting place, and couldn't help but notice that every basketball court was full of sweaty people shooting hoops. Soccer fields had soccer players. Baseball diamonds had baseball and softball players on them, some of them little leaguers, (CHILDREN!), and pickup football and frisbee games were plentiful on grassy areas. All of these people were out. Were ALL of them insane for not cancelling their plans? What of them? And it turned out that as the sun was already setting, that the day's heat turned into a pleasant warmth, perfect for our purposes. A little bug spray and some bottled water and we were good to go.

So, now I get to my point about all this "concern". Yes, there are dangers in the world. But to react to those dangers in a way that ignores facts, ignores reality, and fast forwards through the countless lives that your concern fails to take into account in your calculations dehumanises them.

The point of terrorism is to rule over large groups through fear that their lives don't matter to your agenda. How is the kind of concern that fast forwards through the importance of the lives of millions of people to render their lives as insignificant, just to highlight your fear, and make your fear the top agenda item, how is that not just as dehumanising?

What of them? What of their lives? Why don't they count in your calculations?
Why don't the lives of the living, of the unhurt, count? One would think that they would be celebrated and cherished instead of fast forwarded to in order magnify the fear.

Snafulations of the Berlin trip

And now a tale of some of the tribulations and snafulations surrounding the trip to Berlin.

It felt too good to be true when I just went to the passport office with my itinerary and documentation and they said "No problem sir, here is your updated passport".
It felt too easy that no one challenged me through airport security; the weird collection of things in my backpack (including a recorder, a digital recorder, and a chromatic harmonica) didn't even raise any eyebrows.
It was suspicious that after a flawless connection in Newark, that on the 8 hour flight to Berlin, I was permitted to swap my seat so a young lady could sit with her granny, and *that* seat wound up giving me more legroom and easy aisle access. My neighbour was pleasant, even interesting to speak to when we spoke. All too easy. Suspiciously easy...

I got to Berlin and waited for my suitcase, and waited and waited and waited until the guys signalled that there wasn't any more.

Dieter met me, and I told him what was up and that I had been directed to some office by Gate(I forgot). We walked through a large slice of Berlin/Tegel airport and found this office and waited and waited and waited, only to be told that this office was for Lufthansa, not United. They directed us to United, (which we found despite directions that were almost fictional) where we waited and waited and waited. United told us we needed to speak to "Aerogroup" who is the subcontractor that handles their luggage.
We eventually found their kiosk (no thanks to the rep at United whose directions were nearly fictional) where we waited and waited and waited. Aerogroup had me fill out a form. They said my bag would likely arrive the next day on the same plane, and yes, they would call when they had it, and yes, they could deliver it to my Mom's apartment. Yay.
Little did I know.
I barely slept that night as my CPAP was in my suitcase. (No, I'm not making that mistake again.)
So the next day, I waited, and around noon I called Aerogroup's number and waited and waited and waited while it rang and rang and rang. I tried a few more times with the same result, and then called United's main Lost Luggage number, where a pleasant enough call center worker thousands of miles from Berlin assured me that my bag had been found in Newark and put onto the aforementioned same flight to Berlin the next day, and was now at Berlin/Tegel waiting to be delivered to me, as I'd asked. When could I expect it? Oh by six, most certainly. Yay.
Little did I know.
Come 7:30, no bag.
So I attempted again to call Aerogroup, and waited and waited and waited as the phone rang and rang and rang, but was never answered. I tried this a few more times, and then called the United number again to ask why my bag hadn't been delivered. The pleasant enough call center worker thousands of miles from Berlin started in with weasel words. I told him that I wanted to know where my bag was and whether or not it was still coming today and if not, why? I shared that my CPAP, in the suitcase was a medical device and that without it my health would be compromised. Find my bag, please.
I was put on hold where I waited and waited and waited, and then the guy comes back on and says he has "tried several times to reach Aerogroup, but they are not answering their phone." I told him that's exactly why I was talking to him. We went round and round about that, with him claiming that they had no other source of info other than the report that my bag had been scanned as arriving at Tegel that morning. There was no one else he could call. I made him try again, and also said that I was dumbfounded that he had no other way to locate my bag or get answers. So I waited and waited and waited, and got the same answer again. And more weasel words. I started to keep a running tab of how long I had been on the phone, reminding him after every lame non-explanation of how long we'd been on the phone and how I still didn't know where my bag was. Soon enough, it came to "Look, we've been on the phone for... 47 minutes now and you still can't tell me where my bag is. Give me your supervisor." At about 55 minutes, I got the supervisor who, instead of trying to find a way to progress from where we were, simply tried to call Aerogroup again- who I told him weren't answering their phones. At about an hour and ten minutes, I finally cornered him into telling me all he knew:
-That my bag was at Tegel
-But nobody at Tegel was talking to him
-BUT since Aerogard was in charge of my luggage that Aerogard would have it. They were open till ten and I could go get it.
Little did I know.
Dieter agreed to take me to the airport. My mother warned me to "be nice" while she left-handedly hinted that I was on a fool's errand.
We got to the airport and parked in the handicapped space (Dieter has a sticker, thanks to my Mom) near United. No one was there. The security guard, instead of directing us to Aerogroup, directed us to Tegel's main Luggage Authority or some such. It was around on the other end of the airport. His directions were not quite fictional. He neglected to tell us that the office was outside the terminal. Dieter couldn't find a functional parking space and kind of "accidentally" wound up in a taxi queue from which there was no exit. He let me out and I went to find this "Luggage Authority".
I eventually did, and hoped that Dieter would find it too.
After he got free of the taxis, he parked, and he eventually did find me.
At the "Luggage Authority" I waited and waited and waited
and waited and waited and waited
And EVENTUALLY, I was seen by this fellow who took my paperwork and went into some warehouse. He came back and told me "It's not here". I asked him why United said it was.
I showed him the number I'd called, I told him the story, and he agreed to look again since someone had, in fact, seemed to think that the bag had arrived. He looked again, and told me that it wasn't there.
Who should I talk to about this?
They weren't answering their phones.
But their office is open until ten. It was 9:30.
So we got directions that were not quite fictional and walked and walked and walked nearly the entire floor length of Berlin/Tegel airport, and eventually found Aerogroup.
We waited and waited and waited and finally I found myself talking to a very harried lady who actually admitted that she didn't know why United was telling me one thing but Luggage Control contradicted them. I also asked why they don't answer their phone, and again, with a resigned but firm honesty, she said:
"We are severely understaffed here, and very overworked. And that is without the phone calls. If we even tried to answer the phone nothing would ever get done, and these situations would be more common and even worse." Wow! Way to shave those margins, United. Your stockholders must be SO pleased.
At this point I'm near to tears, and I tell the lady that if the bag has arrived, shouldn't *someone* have it and shouldn't *someone* be able to give it to me? Don't they track the bags with barcodes, and shouldn't it have shown up on some list by now? If my bag has been here since 7:30am shouldn't *someone* have found it? Shouldn't *someone* have called me? I *need* my CPAP to sleep. I can't *wait* another day while no one does anything about this.
And I start to tear up.
She almost begs me not to cry and says she'll do what she can. She asks to confirm my bag description and finds that a few details on my paperwork's description of the suitcase are incorrect.
She makes a phone call in German asking someone by name to do her a "Grossbitte" (literally "big please"- meaning big favour) and she rattles off a bunch of details and my bag number and my name. I then see her doing a very obvious "I'm on hold" fidget, but a minute later she's looking at my paperwork and nodding and saying "ja" and finishes her call. She looks at me and flatly says:
"We found your beg".
"Who has it? Where can I get it?"
"Luggage Control"
"You're kidding me."
"Unfortunately, no."
"Won't they be closed by the time I get there?"
"I ask them to wait for you."
Yay. I hope.

Sooooo. We walked and walked and walked back nearly the entire length of Berlin/Tegel airport and eventually got back to Luggage Control. There we waited and waited and waited, and I got to talk to the SAME GUY who had earlier told me that my suitcase wasn't there. I told him that I had been sent back there and that they would have my bag. He says he knows. He'd just been called. I asked if they had my bag here now. He said yes. I pointed my finger at him and said "I *told* you it was here!" "It wasn't here when I looked". "Where was it then?" "I get your beg."
He got my suitcase, yes it was mine, but he still made me describe it, made me show him the luggage tag, and finally that was that. I still had to take it through Customs, who were courteous and mellow, and one of them actually laughed when I answered the question:
"Do you intend on leaving anything here?"
"Only if I wind up with a piece of clothing so torn or stained or ruined that I don't feel like bringing it back home."
So I got my suitcase. Everything was in it.
Yay. Nothing else. Just yay. Finally.

When we finally got back to my Mom's, my brother reported that Mom had been becoming increasingly anxious. I'd been so angry with United's phone rep and she was so certain that my bag was *not* there that she was envisioning me flipping out at the airport and being arrested or deported.

You know, some people see my stubborness as a character flaw. But time and again, it's my go-to superpower that lets me beat the odds and prevail over what looks otherwise impossible.

The trip to Berlin

I hear you collectively ask: So how was your trip to Berlin?

(Background: My Mom got REALLY sick recently and it looked as if she might die. We made arrangements for me to visit)

It was good. It was difficult. It was happy. It was sad.

The good part is, as I mentioned before, is that my Mom, while not ok, is not about to depart this plane. She had a bad bowel obstruction, then emergency surgery for it, multiple not quite related infections, and two very unpleasant hospital stays before I even got there. But- By the time I did get there, she was back at home and back (mostly) to her old habits of watching German reality TV (especially animal shows), smoking, and fearing for her children. She was tired and in some pain, But very happy to see me. She was also very surprised that my brother showed up too. This was mostly due to her not understanding technology or wanting to. After we tried to show her how to read text messages on her phone (like, "Hey Mom, my flight is arriving at 6pm next Wednsday") she decided that she wanted nothing so complicated in her life.

Even in her state, she wanted to do things for us (me and my brother). I get alot of my own "Unstoppable" superpower from her, and so I realised how futile it would be to try to outright thwart her efforts and just take over her household routine. She and Dieter would need to manage once we were gone anyway. But what I *could* do is put up a token resistance that would get her riled up enough to need to "prove" to me that she was okay, and then just quietly be there waiting to step in when she needed to tap out. Letting her win and do things was the perfect misdirection: in that I could nudge her out of giving up on everything, which she'd talked about in the hospital, while not overtaxing her recovery. It mostly worked; her digging in her heels and being stubborn about her house and her ways, was (IMHO) a huge improvement over her digging in her heels and resisting medical care because she'd stopped caring about herself. It became a game with her, me and my brother: who could remember to do things (like setting the table for dinner) before the other was aware that you were doing it. Chris and I mostly could win, but my Mom is stubborn and crafty, and hates being not in control.

It was a good visit overall. I got some quality time with my Mom for the first time since 2004. It still counted even if she was crashed out in her chair in front of the TV as I napped from jet lag on her porch where I'd go to get a break from the cigarette smoke. I got some small outings into Berlin with my brother, and we all took a family outing into the country one day to visit a flea market just over the Polish border. It was fun watching the speedometer as Dieter drove the Autobahn. 5/8ths of 220 kph is a LOT of mph! I even got a little bit of productive work done, making notes on and editing some music for 3LF and also doing some track separation of audio bootlegs from recent performances.

"I just thought" vs "I happen to know"

I'm not always a genius. I have issues. I have gaps in my knowledge/expertise. I make mistakes, and I have really epically strange luck. Plus I'm in a business that is difficult, fickle, complicated, and rife with a subjectivity that is way beyond my control. I suffer from setbacks seen and unforeseen.

Through it all, I'm constantly offered advice and help from well-meaning friends. I and my weird, knotty life, seem to be an advice magnet. People see my struggles and they just can't wait to say something that starts with "Why don't you just.."

It even happens when someone asks me "Is there anything I can do to help?" and I say "Um, the most helpful things anyone can do for me are the basic things any performer needs: people to show up at my shows, people to bring folks to hear me play, people to buy my CDs, stuff like that. Those are the most helpful things anyone can do for me." I try to say it early and often, but more often than not, folks will fast forward past that part so that they can get to the point where they tell me some bit of advice that usually begins with "Why don't you just..."

This happens a lot. I hear it from many people- a lot. It gets on my nerves - sometimes, a lot. It bothers me enough that when I'm even a little bit stressed, I'm less than diplomatic with the folks who do it, especially with the ones who do it a lot. That's sad for both them and for me, because, more often than not, they really do mean well and really do wish me well and they are my friends and I love them and they love me too. And so to you folks whom I've snapped at when you were just trying to help, I'm sorry.

Nonetheless, I'd like this dynamic to change. I don't want people to have to endure my frustrated growling and hissing when they say "Why don't you just (do this thing I'm ALREADY doing or know won't work or know isn't applicable, or or or)

Folks, I need you to start believing me when I *tell* you what would be helpful to me. I live in me and in my world, and have for over half a century. I have a decent idea what works so far. And I'm very familiar with all the ways that don't work.

But it's also true that I need help. I need leads and advice, and even knowledge regarding my craft. I'm in a very frustrating phase of my career lately and there are things that I'm sure will help me move past it, that I need to know and don't happen to know. I NEED advice.

But I need good advice, advice that actually applies to me and to my strengths. It can't be yet another version of "Why don't you just..." that tells me more about what someone doesn't know, than it tells me about something that I don't know. Which brings me to a specific, but pretty generalisable example of what I'm talking about in the title of this entry.

Sometimes (either diplomatically or with varying degrees of surliness), I've asked people why they think that what I should "just do" will help, the answer I get is "Well, I just thought..." And all too often they base what they "just think" on incomplete info or even pure conjecture.

When I compare that to the advice/help/suggestions that HAVE been helpful; the ones that led me to developmental epiphanies, or more/better work for me, there is an *actual* difference in how the advice/help/suggestion is delivered. It's not just the wording of the suggestion though, it's the *content* behind it that counts. The key phrase:
"I happen to know..."

Here's a contrasting example:

"Hey Maug, if you want to play in bars/restaurants, why don't you just call some up and get yourself booked?"
(Reality: I do. It's not an easy process. More often than not you need some way in *past* the dozens of others who are competing. Even if you are better than some of them, the owner of the venue will prefer a known quantity, because their business even for one night- is at stake)


"Hey, Maug, you remember my friends (xxxxxx)? They're openning a restaurant and I happen to know they want live music. I bet they'd love to hear from you.
(Reality: This isn't paraphrased very much from an actual conversation that led to the best restaurant booking I've ever enjoyed. It lasted two seasons, led to other bookings, made me new friends, and expanded me professionally as an artist and as a working artist.)

So, if you've read this far, thanks.

And if you're wondering if I'm looking for career advice, yes, I am.

But if you're about to jump in with a sentence that starts with "Why don't you just..." please reconsider.

If you have some intel, or knowledge that you think I can use, check and see if it can start with the phrase "I happen to know..."

Sadly, I'm still likely to get a lot of data that won't be very useful. But maybe, MAYBE this can help people self-sort out conjecture from what could prove to be an actual puzzle piece.

And reiterating this one more time can't hurt:
Seriously, the singularly most useful, helpful thing you can do for me and my career, is to show up for my gigs, buy my CDs and bring new people to my shows. It's the very first item on my wishlist, and I mean my Master Wishlist.


I learned that (punchline redacted)

I thought my friends loved me. That's what I believed two Thursdays ago, that is to say two weeks ago on a Thursday. Instead, I seem to have learned that they were trying to kill me- and I don't want to die- but I get ahead of myself as I describe the past. But to properly describe the recent past I have to go farther back than just a couple of Thursdays, but to many Thursdays in the past and not just Thursdays either. It wasn't Thursdays per se that I couldn't get the hang of, nor any particular days for that matter, it was a thing. A covetousness, a sad envy, an unrequited desire.

So, there's this friend of mine, who knows many of my unrequited desires, yet was wont to hang out with me, not just on Thursdays, but on other days as well. In the process of learning more about me than my unrequited desires, she also learned about this singular unrequited desire I had: for a motorscooter. I've always thought that they were cool, stylish, and would be just the right amount of motorcycle for me. And I learned that on many Thursdays and other days as well further back in the past, when I had a moped. My days on a moped taught me that a moped wasn't *enough* of a motorcycle for me; my moped was slow, underpowered for my size, and, did I mention slow. On some days, going on a straight line, downhill, it went almost as fast as I could wish. On many days, it would not, and then break down. I kept wishing that I could go just a bit faster on the straightaways and a LOT faster up hills and such. On too many days I wished it would just go. On my fastest time on the moped down a HUGE hill just after a tuneup one day, I finally ascertained that I didn't want to go very much faster than that on two wheels. About 40-45 mph would be a fine maximum and about 20-35 mph would be a fine average range. And so, with a little bit of research I learned that a scooter with a somewhat bigger engine than my moped would be about right for me, and gosh they were cool looking. So I could totally see myself on one and being really happy. And they get very good gas mileage, so it would be economical too. Not so great for hauling stuff, but fine for hauling me and maybe a guitar. Alas, motorbikes, even cheap ones, are out of my budget. And so this desire remained unrequited- for decades. Even if it would be *practical* to have a scooter, like for out of town overnight gigs where I sleep in the van as my HQ, but might need to run a little errand or want to go out for dinner. I wouldn't have to pack up my camp. Even then, it was too expensive. And so, to bring the distant past back up to speed with the almost recent past, my friend, who knows of my unrequited desires, got to know; everytime I saw a scooter being happily ridden by someone or parked somewhere fun, or just existing, the sound of the sigh I made- the covetous, envious, wishful sigh of my not having a scooter.

And she heard me, every time. And then one day, in the slightly more recent past, she learned that a different friend of hers was *selling* scooter that would be just my size and just the thing. Alas, it was still out of my budget.
"But you've wanted this for so long, and it would make you so happy, and you've told me how it would save you money too, to use it instead of a car, or especially Mama Tiger."
"Yes, but I just can't afford it."
"What if I were to get it for you?"
"That would be incredible. I'd be verklempt for the rest of my life. But you can't afford it either."
"What about if both of us kicked in, and then I gave it to you?"
"That would still be great, but I can only afford (dollar amount) period. Maybe a bit more, and that would still be more than you can afford. It would take a whole LOT of people kicking in to make this happen that way. I don't think that's going to happen either."

Well, if there's anything this friend of mine hates, it's being thwarted or proven wrong. (Yeah, my friends can be like me too. That's why they're my friends) So she went around and got a whole bunch of my friends to chip in and get me the funds that would get me this scooter as a birthday present. And with the (slightly more than I anticipated I could afford dollar amount) that I kicked in, we made it happen. Not knowing how to register a bike of this type in MD, it took awhile to get the MVA paperwork straight, but that was accomplished with the help of the dealer who sold the bike in the first place. A helmet conveyed with the bike, and some research online got me what info I needed to get it going. The previous owner warned me I'd need a new battery because the thing was a bitch to kick start, but I got it charged up, and I got it started and I got it going and I started taking little test rides around my neighborhood. It seemed like my dream was coming true.

In my test rides, I got the feeling that this bike was bigger and heavier than anything I was used to, so I was (I thought) very careful as I practiced how it felt, and that all went well.

Which brought me to several Thursdays ago, several weeks ago on a Thursday.
I had pretty much recovered from some kind of stomach flu, that the housemate had also had, that just when Sonya thought she had dodged it, she caught. I brought her home early from work, and as I was putting her to bed, I asked if she wanted anything. She weakly and sadly said "Ginger Ale." I would get that, I said. And then it occurred to me, that the Aldi was just about 1/2 mile away and that it would be a perfect first working excursion for my motor scooter. Not too far. A little bit of traffic. And then home with a prize.
So off I went, and the ride to the store went perfectly. I even got to stretch myself a bit going a wee bit faster than I had in the neighborhood on the main road to the store. Perfect. I got the soda, stashed it in the carrier behind my seat- perfect fit and started to head home.

That's when I learned that my friends whom I thought loved me might have been trying to kill me.

I came out of the parking lot onto the main road (having waited for all the traffic to go away) and was trying to turn right. The bike being heavier than I was used to, didn't just lean over the way my moped did. I got a little nervous and rebalanced myself and tried again, and goosed the throttle a little too hard and went right into the median strip. Bam! But in my head it was a little like watching it in slow motion. And since the song was in my head already, having seen Arlo Guthrie in concert recently, as I watched myself heading straight for the median strip in slow motion, which was an illusion because I was heading for it kind of fast, I thought to myself:
"Shit! Well isn't this a pickle."
And I didn't want a pickle. I just wanted to ride on my motorcickle.
And after a valiant effort that wasn't quite unwasted to turn and not hit the median, I kinda turned and hit it anyway, and the bike stopped but I didn't. So, I flew off the bike onto the median. Yes, I hit my head. Yes I was wearing a helmet, which then bounced off the median and flew off of my head as I continued to tumble over the median. I felt many little points of impact, including my face, and I knew that this was kind of serious and definitely would not tickle. And I thought to myself that even if it did
"Shit! I don't want a tickle." I just wanted to ride on my motorcickle.
And then I thought about how many novice riders wipe out and how some of them die, and I knew that I didn't want to die. Now bear in mind that at this point I'm kind of tumbling and bumping on stuff, and while it felt like I was going in slow motion, I was actually going pretty fast, which made it harder still to concentrate so the thought in my head was alot more like
"Iiiiiiiiiii don't wanna die....."
And then I slowed down and stopped moving as I thought of the thwarted mission and lamented to myself that I just wanted to ride on my motor cy--- cle.

And so a kindly UPS driver who saw me wipe out, put his truck on the road behind me and blocked traffic, and helped my to get back to my senses. A sherrif's deputy who saw something going on also stopped and called the ambulance. The EMTs asked me the same question a bunch of different ways and told me that if they cleaned up all of my road rash that I'd just start bleeding again, and that I should either come with them to the ER or go right home and clean up there. They eventually seemed reasonably satisfied that I still had my wit and my wits about me and they left. The UPS drive wished me well, and the Deputy asked if I would like him to follow me home, if I opted to ride the bike, (which seemed mostly undamaged, just slightly scuffed)

But remember how the bike's battery wasn't in great shape? Yeah. Sitting there with the turn signal and the headlight on ran down the battery. So I had to take this 250lb bike and *walk* it home from the Aldi. Next to stopped rush hour traffic.

So, the friends I thought loved me looked like they were trying to kill me. I guess that's good to know. But this part of PG County has a reputation for people who also want to kill you. Turns out that that's wrong too. Every 5th car or so in the stopped rush hour traffic who saw me pushing my scooter with bruises and bloody scrapes all over my face and left arm rolled down their window to ask if I was alright. So I wound up telling my sad story of how I learned that I didn't want a pickle to about a dozen people before I got back into my neighbourhood, and then a few more after that before I got home. I guess that's also good to know.

My wife, in her sickened state was confused to see me all red in the face and was about to ask me why I had painted it, when the truth dawned on her that I had just been a phenomenal dumbass who had gotten himself hurt. She confirmed my suspicions that even though she loved me, she *also* wanted to kill me just as my now suspicious friends seemed to. She also said that she's glad the bike was okay because she's going to sell it at my funeral.

But as you can see, I survived it all: the wreck, the walk of shame, and the wrath of Sonya.

Which now brings to the present where it's soon to be a Thursday again in just about 12 hours.

I still have the bike!
I got a new battery for it. Yes, I'm riding it again. I've found a bunch of safer places to practice. I've been pacing myself a little more gently. Did I mention practice? Aside from my outings to just ride the bike around, I'm specifically practicing the hard turns from a full stop. I've learned what and where I did it wrong that time, and I'm correcting my steps and getting more confident.

And my wounds, and my dignity are mostly healed.
I've reassured myself that my friends still love me and don't want me dead.

But I *really* learned and confirmed for myself, that
I don't want a pickle!
The housemate shared a whole bunch of episodes and movies of _The Gamers_. It's pretty funny stuff, but is very much built on in-jokes as well. Having lived throught these dreams, alot, IRL, I got the jokes. And in short order my brain didn't need much fodder to synthesise:

Player Knowledge
Steve Haug

GM: You walk, well, more like stagger down the street to the next pub.
You see a group ahead of you blocking the sidewalkway.

Jim: What kind of group? Do they seem hostile? I try to identify them.

GM: Ok roll for "Local Knowledge"

Jim: 13

GM: Hmm. That just barely makes it. OK, you can tell that they're all
wearing matching sweaters with the same characters on them. You *think*
the characters might be "Greek".

Kyle: Frat Boys.

GM: Yes, that's what you think too, Jim, I mean- oh, right... Jim. Why did
you do that?

Jim: It makes it easier to roleplay if I don't have to think of a different

GM: Whatever. Anyway, they block your path. There's about six of them.

Eric: We try to get by. I use "Politeness"

GM: Roll it.

Eric: 3...

GM: Yeah, it didn't work. As a matter of fact... It seems like any attempt
to negotiate just makes them more hostile. They're not going to let you by.

Jim: I pull out my Plus Six mace.

GM: That got their attention. They back up.

Jim: I demand that they let us by.

GM: Ok, I'm rolling for reaction. Well, one of them, a really big one with
very short hair says: "You can't get all of us with that, brother. Do you
really want to have sex with us?"

Kyle: WHAT?

GM: Oh, wait. This chart is badly translated, it, it's colloquial. I mean
He *means* that as a warning that you shouldn't take them on.

Jim: Fine, I-

Gary: WAIT! I hold Jim back and I check for Police.

GM: Roll it.

Gary: 19. Yeah!

GM: No police as far as you can see.

Gary: Great. I let Jim go.

Jim: I hit the guy with my mace.

GM: Are you sure that's what you want to do?

Jim: Yeah. I hit him with the mace.

GM: Hit?

Jim: Yes. HIT! I _HIT_ him with my mace. Do I get surprise?

GM: Hmm. Yes. You do.

Jim: Great. Ha! 18, + 6 for the mace + 4 for surpise. That's 28!

GM: No affect.

Jim: What do you *mean* no affect?

GM: Well, he's surprised that you're hitting him with the Mace, but other
than that, he takes absolutely no damage.

Jim: I haven't even *rolled* damage yet.

GM: It won't matter.

Jim: But the plus six is for damage as well even on a zero, and since it's
more than five points over twenty, the damage should be double. Is he wearing
armour or something? I thought that only police and military had armour
in this world.

GM: Nope. No armour and no damage. Now, since you surprised him, you
get to go again. What do you?

Jim: I hit again with the fucking mace. 16. Plus six. It's still should
be a solid hit, especially with no armour or magic.

GM: Again. No damage. He hits you back. Okay, that's a hit. Five
hitpoints damage. Make a dexterity roll.

Jim: What?

GM: You're drunk, remember?

Jim: Oh, is THAT why I did no damage?

GM: Part of it.

Jim: Wait. Are they drunk too?

GM: I'll save you the trouble. Everyone on this street is drunk. You
can smell a mixture of beer and vomitus on the air. It's a college town on
a Saturday night. You don't even have to roll. Ok? So that's why it's
*only* five damage, and why you're not knocked out. If you fail your dex
roll, however, you *will* fall down.

Jim: 5

GM: Yep. You fall down. Roll again.

Jim: What?

GM: Roll again.

Jim: 6. Fuck!

GM: You drop the mace. Ok. The Frat Boy picks it up and laughs. Then
he sprays you in the face with it. Roll to save.

Jim: WHAT?!

GM: You heard me. He sprays you with your own mace.

Jim: What do you mean 'spray'?

GM: That's what mace is in this world, a spray with a strong irritant.

Jim: Why didn't it work on the Frat Boy?

GM: Because you were very clear. You HIT him with it. Not sprayed. Hit.

Jim: OH COME ON! My character would KNOW THAT!

GM: I asked you three times. Did you NOT read the player's portion of the
module? Apparently not. Not my fault. You could make a knowledge roll,
but after all the beer your character drank, I'm not sure he'd even remember
his own name. You know what I mean... Jim?

Jim: You are a JERK, KENNY! This is why I don't like your campaigns!
You're always pulling this crap!

GM: Ok. Since you won't roll your save I will. 14. That's okay, you
don't suffer any permanent damage. But since you're already five points
down, the spray does take you negative. The effects are only temporary
though. So don't worry, you're not dead. But, for the next... 15 rounds
your character will *wish* he were dead. You'll have minus hitpoints until
the next day, and the five damage is going to sting with the mace on it so
unless you get medical treatment, you'll be at zero points all next day.
The Frat Boys leave. They're laughing. One of them pulls out his
Smartophone and uses it to make a picture of you in this state, and puts
it into the Book Of Faces. You'll lose Reputation points starting tomorrow.
You'll lose five per day for the next three days, and then 1 d6 per day for...
two weeks after that, and all cumulative, by the way. After that you'll
be able to start building them back up normally... unless.... you pull off
some really epic shenanigans.

Jim: Asshole! Ok. What kind of shenanigans?

GM: No plotting until you recover, which won't be until the mace effects
wear off, AND your hangover. And besides, it's eleven and I have work
tomorrow. So let's just say you morons make it back to your dorm...
somehow... I'll be kind and not have you wake up in a dumpster again.
We'll just have your characters sleep it off tomorrow... and you'll all be
fully healed and recovered by Monday morning game time. And we'll pick it
up from there next week. Same time?

I started with a mission and got a sonnet

I had an acting gig yesterday for a company called "The Go Game". They conduct teambuilding exercises. (scavenger hunts, with stunts and actors) My part was to be a "plant" where their teams have to come in and interact with my character. My mission was called "Father Knows Best." They were to find me at this coffee shop, and I was to treat them as if they were my tardy children, two hours late (and didn't call). To make amends with me, the teams had to come up with a poem expressing their regret and/or love for my character.

As I was waiting for them, I was reading a book of Shakespearean sonnets (a prop
I'd brought to help make me more obvious) and the iambic pentameter infected my brain, as it is wont to do....

I couldn't resist. Since this was essentially an improv gig, I decided, at the very last minute, that _my_ script would be a sonnet. I wasn't sure if I could pull it off (because, well... sonnet) But It worked! In near record time, (15 minutes!) I churned this one out, finishing minutes before my first team arrived:

Dad- Jilted (written for the Go Game's "Father Knows Best" mission)
Steve Haug

A jilted father, oft told he knows best
Now been kept waiting for two hours or more
I'm now enjoined to charitable behest
By tardy children tumbling through the door

"Oh dearest Papa, all on you depends
As we're embroiled in an Exercise
And ere our team all energy expends
We seek your counsel, for you are so wise!"

Your mercenary antics leave me sour!
You've no consideration for _my_ time!
But charity for you, I'd feel this hour
If you can make amends through crafted rhyme:

You have a hope, this Poet's heart to win
If you, a poem, yourselves, for me can spin.
I only had a few teams try my mission, and, of course they barely managed to make bad "Hallmark Card" couplet rhymes with no scansion to speak of. But I tried not to be stingy giving out points and when the one group made me laugh out loud with their extra "song and dance" number, I gave them the max.

It was fun. I'm getting paid for the gig, so it was definitely fun.
I'd do this again.
Good folk gather round and pray heed to what I say, for today I bring words of wonders, two true wonders that I have seen with mine very own eyes! And all true, I swear on my reputation as a Bard, who tells only the truest of tales, even if I imagine them. My tale will amaze even the hardest of hearts and I trust that upon hearing them, you will be moved to generosity to my behalf. And this tale, this pair of tales, today are all true, I swear to you.

The first tale concerns a place, where giant chariots take to the sky as the birds do. And with apparent ease, they carry travellers to the far corners of our world; traversing in mere hours, a distance that would take this poor impoverished bard days, nay weeks to cross. But lo, these sleek, graceful, noisesome vessels that cruise on high are not the wonder of which I speak. No, it was at this port of the air that I saw something I'd never seen before: I saw that which is called a "pallet jack" (a device that lets even the slightest, malnourished of waifs lift the mightiest of bales of goods) being itself carried by a "forklift" (which doth allow even heavier loads than that pallet jack can lift and shift, to travel with ease over great distances of ground). It caused me to wonder, if perhaps a hand truck were placed atop the pair of them, that it would create the teamster's analogue of a cook's "turducken", only in tool form. It filled me with wonder it did, that the world has such a place where humble stevedores could imagine lifting a lift.

The second tale comes from a market I visited after. Oh, but not just any market was this, good folk. This was a market of such proportion, that they could, within it's stalls hold enough food that not even a poor impoverished, nearly endlessly hungry bard such as myself could hope to finish in a day, nay, a week, no, a month! I might take a year to eat that much food as that market had, and I could eat every day as I did! A palace of delicious dreams is this place I speak of, and surely as real as you or I. And as if wonders could be even greater, they have an enchantment over the place and clever means of stowage, that some of the food they sell will still be as good a year from now, as it is this day. This incredible mercantile, this transcendent bazaar , this market above and beyond all markets, this SUPERmarket, however, is not that which caused me wonder today. No, today, I am here to tell you of that which I have never seen before. On the meadow where this market rests, is a firmament, upon which your chariot has never run as smoothly. No rock, no holes, no fallen branches, or lumpen surprises lie on this ground. Wide and broad, there is room for hundreds of conveyances of all types to lie at waiting rest while their awestruck owners peruse the goods of the market. And there, on that impossibly flat ground, in that expanse that could accommodate an army, I saw a humble wagon of humble station, give the mightiest of displays, such that no one dare approach it. For in this park for the cars, it somehow rested, in not just a space a cart could take, not two places a wagon could stretch across, not three areas a coach could fill, but four, fully four of what you could ordinarily demark in length and breadth for any other vehicle in that lot. Where such a wagon would ordinarily rest, this wagon, while appearing humble, it devoured four such spaces adjoined. I was dumbstruck. How could such a thing be? What kind of wise person could conceive of even doing this? Was it an extraordinary person possessed of extraordinary logic? Or was it perhaps one of those Fools you hear of in tales who, not knowing how things should work ordinarily, performs those inadvertent miracles that grow to be legends? Was this the work of some Merlin, or some Schlemiel? I myself cannot tell and had to depart before I could find out. I thought of leaving a note inquiring as to how they accomplished this feat, but alas, poor impoverished bard that I am, I had neither paper, nor pen, and only enough lucre to purchase a bit of milk to enrich my luncheon today.

Oh good people, I leave you to ponder the significance of these omens. As a bard, my job is to tell the tales, to bring the news, to amuse and delight. It is wisely left to the wise to ponder the riddles. I thank you good folk as always for your generosity. A bard's life may seem spare, but I always feel rich when I can see the wonder I perceive shining back to me from your eyes. Enjoy your days until we meet again!

Dear 2014

Dear 2014,

It's not to your credit that I've spent large parts of this year either consciously or unconsciously trying to forget or ignore you. You had much potential, but rather than live up to it, you kept letting me down or outright squelching everything I tried to make of you.

That's not to say that you were a *bad* year (though many of my friends would strongly disagree). But, let's face it, with more than a few friends and acquaintances no longer here on your watch, you're not headed for high marks, are you?
You had your moments, and for them I am glad. But all too often, you just sort of gave up. That's not my style, why did it have to be yours? That's what put me at odds with you so much.

You made it hard to enjoy you, and what's more, you didn't seem to care.

So, goodbye, and I'm hoping your successor learns from your mistakes.


Santana and Rod Steward in concert

Santana was amazing. As always. His band was one of the most together I've ever seen, even as they sounded very loose and casual. That takes immense talent and LOTS of intense rehearsal/experience. I Iove watching (and hearing) Carlos play the guitar. It's so annoying how casual he is about doing all this stuff I can't do, and he always SOUNDS so amazing. He hits notes that resonate all the way down my spine. ALWAYS see Santana if you get the chance!

Rod Steward was good. He's very seasoned and very witty too. His set was more more than a bit more glam than business, though, as good as his band was. His show will play GREAT in Las Vegas. I do like that he can be very personable and that he's also willing to not take himself too seriously. He's certainly earned his cred, though- I like many of his songs ALOT. And the fact that so many of the audience, on several occasions, could sing the songs FOR him, and stay in time and on key speaks to the quality and appeal of his writing. He's also pretty generous to let his musicians BE musicians instead of ONLY his set dressing (even as he dresses them up, especially the women- to be very very pretty). Worth noting is that a lot of women were in his (pretty damn large) band and some of them were damn good and multi-instrumental to boot! Rock & Roll isn't just for boys, after all. Yay! I'm glad I got to see him, even though most of his material after 74 or so isn't my cup of tea.
7/5/14 "Goddess Brunch" At Magickal Things

(Electric 12 String Guitar)
01) Lady Of The Stars
02) Venus (Frankie Avalon)
03) Let It Be
04) Tales Of Brave Ulysses
05) Tupelo Honey
06) Venus (Shocking Blue) (debut!)
07) No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature

(Acoustic 12 String Guitar)
08) Isis
09) The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
10) Burning Times
11) She's A Rainbow


(Acoustic 12 String Guitar)
12) The Whistler + (inst) Banish Misfortune
13) Boots Of Spanish Leather
15) The Highwayman
16) Butterfly
17) McIntyre (request)
18) In The Early Morning Rain (request)
19) Guinnevere

(Electric 12 String Guitar)
20) Tangled Up In Blue (request)
21) Mister Tambourine Man
22) Sugar Magnolia
23) Little Wing
24) Folsom Prison Blues (request)
25) Trouble
26) Pictures Of Matchstick Men (request)
27) Revolution (request)

28) Peggy-o (request)
29) Women Are Smarter
30) Rainbow Connection
31) Grandma's Feather Bed (request)
32) Apeman
33) Hero Of Canton

My gigs at Magickal Things are starting to become not only a more
regular thing, but something I'm coming to truly look forward to as
well! I was all over the idea of a brunch celebrating Goddesses.
Having an excellent selection of them to choose from to make a
special Goddess set for the occasion was a lot of fun. I got to trot
out some songs from corners of my repertoire that I don't get to play
out with very often, although, I suppose I could put a couple of them
into a more regular rotation. After the Goddess set, I did as I
also love to do and took a bunch of requests, and there were some
excellent ones, as always.


Setlist from 6/12/14 Old Bowie Town Grille

6/12/14 Old Bowie Town Grille

Acoustic 12 String Guitar
01) Jamaica Farewell
02) Little Mattie Groves (request for "something medieval)
03) Bandit Queen
04) Nasty Nell (request)
05) Maggie May (request)
06) Maggie Mae
07) Solsbury Hill
08) If You Could Read My Mind
09) Cockles & Mussels (request)

10) Dirty Old Town (request)
11) The Hell Of It
12) This Land Is Your Land (request for Woody Guthrie)
13) Colours (request)

Acoustic 12 String Guitar
14) Dead Flowers (request)
15) Wild Horses
16) Folsom Prison Blues (request)
17) Long Black Veil (request)
18) Triad
19) Bridge Over Troubled Water (request for Simon & Garfunkel)
20) Cat's In The Cradle (request)
21) Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (request)
22) Blackbird (request)
23) Cecilia (request)
24) If I Had A Boat (request)
25) Heart Of Gold (request)

Last Monday, after I had gotten home from the VA Renfest, I showered, slept and
woke up again and founnd a note in my email: it asked if I available to play at
the Old Bowie Town Grille on the upcoming Thursday night? I've played there for
a few St Patrick's Days now, and I look forward to it every year, but it looked
like a nice place to play at other times too. So I've been angling for that
opportunity, and finally, to my surprise and delight, caught a gig there!
It was a bit last minute, but there was time to get out some announcements
and I even got a modest turn out for it. It was a delightfully eclectic set,
and most of it was requests, too. This looks like it will start being a
semi-regular thing and I couldn't be happier!


Ah..... Bach!

"Ah.... Bach".
Brandenburg Concerto #3 is one of my favourite pieces of music ever. I'm usually one for more visually and emotionally evocative pieces, but _this_ one...swoon!!! The simple melodic phrases that he then weaves together with themselves: melodic variations on a riff, rhythmic variations of a phrase, and the sheer brilliance of passing these little gems from section to section; akin to sharing multiple boxes of musical bonbons back and forth through the whole orchestra. And then after all of this wallowing in mathematical, perfection and applied formulae, the whole 2nd movement is just... improvised. It was the 18th century version of Jimmy Page strutting forward on stage and just shredding, except it's on a harpsichord! And then, oh then, it's followed by this flowy, echoe-y, glorious triumph of simultaneously whimsical and ordered musical tapestry. My favourite version ever is still Walter (now Wendy) Carlos' version on the first _Switched On Bach_ album. But I'll confess that it's mostly because of how it was mixed. All those little riffs and variations travel, dance and swirl through the stereo mix. As I said, I like visually evocative music- listening and closing my eyes and seeing what film the soundtrack creates in my head. But that version of that piece on the headphones was enough of a trip just in and of itself. Even after all these years I can put the piece on and let just the music flow through my brain, and still catch some new thing, some nuance, that I hadn't heard before. My brain has no time for visions, the music absorbs me all on it's own.
It's THAT good!
And after all of these decades, this piece still grabs me, still draws me in, still pets the cattish part of my brain into contentment, still thrills me and grounds me, like few things on Earth can.


So, early spring is *not* the time when I should misplace my calendar book.

The busiest phase of my performing season starts at St Patrick's day, peaks through May and June tapers off after Pennsic, and has a brief uptick in the Fall.
May and June especially get very tight, most times with no weekends off.
One the one hand, YAY!
On the other hand, I absolutely need to make sure that there are no double bookings. Sometimes, extra weekends show up and every four to five years someone's date has shifted and resets forwards or backwards. I don't want to accidentally double book, OR miss out on someone who might want me. Oh, and add in the sporadic opportunity to *functionally* double book for a day and evening that are close enough together geographically. So yeah, early Spring is the time of many phone calls, emails, IMs and endless checking and double checking of the calendar book, websites, and travel times. (And did I mention phone calls, emails, and IMs?)

So back early this Spring, my calendar book went missing for a few weeks. And right before I'd finished confirming with VARF, I was offered a gig in Harrisonburg VA on what I *didn't* think was one of VARF's weekends. Despite my calendar book being missing and because they were making a sweet offer, I said yes.

Then I found my book, *and* K from VARF got back to me. Dangit! It looked like I would miss one of the Saturdays, and this was *after* I'd offered it to them originally, and then lost my book. So a panicked back and forth (on my side) ensued and alas, there was no way to do both events, and so I asked if I could come for the Sunday. K wrote back that their scheduling and budget was such that in order to be paid for that weekend, they'd need me there both days. It was the last weekend of VARF and I would hate to miss that, and so I asked if it would be okay for me to show up on Sunday, and just be free-ranging for "hat tips" and CD sales. That would be fine. Yay.

The other gig was paying enough that there'd be no net loss in income, and my expenses would just expand to a few more gallons of gas.

So I pencilled both things into the calendar book as I understood them.

Fast forward to last Monday, when C of MFC called me to confirm that I'd be at the gig on WEDNSDAY. WEDNSDAY?!!! I thought it was Saturday. Nope. Wednsday. Call is at 2:30pm so please be there then. Oh, okay. No problem. I was in fact free Wednsday.

Now, I don't know how I got this confused, but there I was.
And now I had Saturday free too. Yay?

So I contact K at VARF and asked if she'd like a free-ranging Maugie Saturday too, and she said yes. That would be great. So yay!

Except that it looked as if I'd doofused myself out of a second paying gig.
Oh well. No reason to complain *too* much. Wednsday's gig would be what I would have gotten if I'd been committable to VARF. Sigh, but okay, no loss.

I *really* felt like a doofus on Wednsday when one of the van's tires EXPLODED! (KABOOM!) on the way to the gig. Despite the inevitable delay, I was ultimately only a few minutes late and the spare got me there and back home okay. My employers were understanding, adjustments to their schedule made, and I was on and SHINY when they needed me. So they were happy. Yay! No contractual problems caused that weren't easily fixable and I was sent on my way afterwards with my full wages. Yay!
Replacement tires were procured the next day. I'll need to replace the glass on the side mirror too. (It was a truly epic explosion- which is another story)
That's on the agenda for this week.

But yeah. Doofus lost a paying part of a 2nd gig, and had extra expenses.

But I pressed on and had a great time at VARF, and everyone at VARF was glad to see me who wasn't expecting me, and I got some tips, some CD sales, and most important: since I could set up and not have scheduled sets to worry about, there was time to set up my recorder and RECORD some of my busking. It remains to be seen how much of that is useful, but any useful takes are a net gain.

And then, despite my best efforts, my doofusity was foiled.

At the final meeting of the day, M walks up to me and hands me an envelope. In it was a check for what *would* have been my wages, had I been scheduled and committed back when I messed it up. WTF?!! I mean YAY! I mean... wtf? I asked if they were *sure* about this as K had been very clear that this weekend would have to be at my own risk. M answered that had this not been a record year it might not have been so, but that I was worth it. She scurried off before I could bear hug her to death or she would have had to see me crying.

And thus it was, how my own foolishness and lax diligence was overcome, despite the best efforts of myself and Fate.


Setlist from 5/27/14 New Deal Cafe

5/27/14 New Deal Cafe

(Acoustic 12 String Guitar)
01) Shelter From The Storm
02) In The Early Morning Rain (request)
03) Guinnevere
04) Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (request)

(Electric 12 String Guitar)
05) Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
06) Black Watter Hattie
07) Little Wing
08) Sugar Magnolia (request for Grateful Dead)
09) Trouble
10) Folsom Prison Blues
11) Sunshine Superman

(Acoustic 12 String Guitar)
12) The Hippopotamus
13) The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell
14) McIntyre (request)
15) Puff (request)

16) Apeman
17) Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore (request for John Prine)
18) Hero Of Canton

This was a lovely night at the New Deal Cafe.
We arrived with an intense gathering storm on our heels. A brief glitch in the
power caused some concern that the night would be played acoustically. Not that
that's a bad thing, but I had been kind of looking forward to playing Dulcinea
(my electric 12 string) for some songs that night. There was good attendance,
and some excellent requests as well. You'll notice in the setlist some "storminess"
in honour of the thunderstorm that raged merrily outside. Also notable were
"The Hippopotamus", which is really coming into it's own as a "hit" for me.
Also also notable was the 2nd "indoor" debut of "The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell", a
song I created by setting W.S Gilbert's poem to an English Country Dance tune.

If you know someone in the EPA, hug them!

(An expansion of a thought I'd put on a different thread on FB- There's nothing really timely about it, I was just following a link to some qvetching about some Environmental Regs)

Working for the EPA has got to be the most thankless job in the world. On the one hand, you've got clear and present environmental dangers that are actually harming people and ecosystems, and it's your job to do something about it. But Heaven forfend if you actually craft a sensible regulation that actually affects how people conduct their business, because then you're the Big Bad Government Man, denying people (and corporations) their "Costitutional Rights" to ignore the consequences of their bullshit. So you try to illuminate the truth with studies and science and now you're "Wasting taxpayers' money" (Again) proving what you already knew while fending off corporate pitbulls and conspiracists trying to block, undermine, and deny your efforts/results just to save their profits and/or delusions.

And on the other hand, you'll get whack jobs going after you about stuff that *isn't* harmful- and in an attempt to illuminate the truth you conduct a (yet another) study that proves (again) that (whatever) isn't harmful. And what happens? You're stuck between Scylla and Charybdis (AGAIN): "wasting taxpayers' money" proving what you knew already (AGAIN) while you fend off an onslaught of idiots accusing you of conspiracy because your lab results fail to back up their delusions.

So- If you work for the EPA, Hugs to You today.
It was the stupidest thing. I have this ballpoint pen, the clicky kind. It's got a green gel ink in it and I love it. Love it love it love it. It's not my favourite style of green pen, but it's real close. And I love it. Unfortunately, the barrel doesn't seem to be well-designed and it constantly comes apart, which makes for an annoying little constantly recurring cartoon gag every time I try to pull it out of the little pen holding thingy in my notebook. I pull it out, it falls apart, I put it back together, THEN I get to write with it. And the thing is, that however much it bugs me to go through that, it's SUCH A GREAT PEN once I get the bloody thing operational, that I just can't conscience getting rid of it. I don't WANNA get rid of it. It's my 2nd favourite pen!

If only it would stay together, like if it was crazy-glued or something. But if I do that, how can I replace the ink when it runs out? Waitaminit! I said to myself, just a few moments ago. Since when do I ever actually DO that with pens? When this one breaks or runs out, I'm just gonna go buy me another one (hopefully just like it, 'cause I REALLY love this pen!!!!). So who's going to stop me if I just glue it together? Who HAS been stopping me so far? Hmm..

That would be me.

So, out came the Krazy Glue (or Ka-Gl if you like injokes) and now it's fixed. Tada!

I really need to do this more often. It's my damn stuff. I don't have to suffer if it doesn't do what I want. Not if I can fix it.
So yesterday, we had a lovely time with company and one of the fun things we did was to share a movie. Actually the movie was shared with us. I'd always wanted to see _But I'm A Cheerleader_ and yesterday, we did. It is a fabulous, darkly funny sendup of "Raparative Therapy" wherein you attempt to "cure" someone of homosexual tendencies. I highly recommend the movie. The subject matter is incredibly sad, but it was all excellent fodder for satire and comedy.

And it got me thinking, which in this case wasn't a fun train of thought. The Winter Olympics are highlighting Russia's current "problem" with homosexuality and how they decided to "solve" it by making "promotion" of it to children (ie anyone) a crime. And surprise surprise surprise, it's young people who are being both prosecuted (by Authorities) and persecuted (by non-authorities who think they're doing a public service abducting, and assaulting and even videotaping violence against homosexuals). All of this is filtering out of Russia and tainting Vladmir Putin's efforts to show how great Russia is.

So I'm suddenly forseeing a couple of things happening. The first will be a wave of "HA HA" moments when it's revealed just how many gay athletes competed in and won in the Olympics- after they're over and no one has to worry about pissing off the Russian authorities or ever having to go back there again. It's going to be a big bouquet of slaps in Putin's face and they're going to sting. After that, I see expose's on the problem with the prosecution and persecution. They're already bubbling up now on the net and I see them going more mainstream, and that is going to undermine Putin's credibility that he's all about "protecting" children- all while it's children who are being prosecuted and brutalised.

If and when this happens, especially if painting him as an uncaring troll succeeds, Putin's going to need an image makeover. He's going to need to *seem* compassionate, but he's not going to want to *be* compassionate or especially reform or repeal laws that pander to his very uncompassionate power base. Whatever could he do?

Raparative Therapy.

I predict that there might be a couple of token prosecutions of the more violent "private" oppressors and then he will adopt a regime where homosexuals, instead of being made criminals will be "offered" the option of going into therapy to "fix" their problems.

And it gets worse. There are all these experienced practitioners of this quackery over here in the US, who are falling out of favour and losing business fast with the current emphatic NON-endorsement from the AMA and relevant pschological/psychiatric associations, and it actually being banned in some jurisdictions. All of the advances in Gay Rights don't help either. whatever will they do? There are friendly African nations who are hostile to homosexuals, but their remedies are trending to be a lot more radical. You can't treat a client who's imprisoned or executed. Who pays? And there's not that much money anyway. But there IS money in Russia, and socialised medicine. There is also a government with an image problem and a vested interest in having a handy supply of social scapegoats. A HUGE potential client base and lucrative large scale contracts with the Russian government is going to be a definite win/win, that can be spun as East/West detente to the Conservative base here. We can export capitalism AND bad medicine AND conservative ideology. Yay!

And it gets worse. One of the reasons why raparative therapy is out of favour here is because it's abusive and it doesn't work. In an environment where it's less regulated and practically illegal to argue against... the practitioners are going to have a field day that they will spin back into (apparent) credibility. As their less (than US) regulated ramped up abuse "confirms" that it's the United States that holds them back, they prosper and grow rich. Their straw men will turn into gold.
And then they could try to market themselves back into the US with this new and improved track record.

This is all just ugly, and the ones who will pay the price and bear the brunt are predominantly young people who can't help being as they are.

Gods I hope I'm wrong.


Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

Bye. Buh bye. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

Thanks to you, I have fewer friends, not because I lost them to being an asshole, but because you came and took them!

Thanks to you, I have fewer gigs, not because I screwed up and don't deserve them anymore, but because you came and took them!

And now, under more stress and in harder straits, I've not been getting better, or acting better myself, with predictable results for that.

You had your moments, but you know, it's hard to be grateful for gifts and good fortune when you're still counting what's left after bloody rampage and robbery.

Thankfully, despite my worst moments (thanks to your best efforts), I'm closer with friends and family I have. But again, it's harder to enjoy that when you're sitting there, huddled together wondering who or what will be next and you're all wondering what the hell you'll do if it's the people next to you this time or something you really need and can't replace because of all the other stuff that's gone.

I made *some* progress this year, but you know, I think that it's more *despite* you rather than because of you. There are also, happily, things out in the world that have progressed for the better. But I can't help but notice that you seemed particularly fond of the things and the people who want to stand in the way of those good things. So again, it's *despite* the rantings, obstruction, and sabotage of your favourite asshole friends that stuff is getting done.

But here's the thing. It IS getting better. I AM starting to get better. And WE are getting better, not thanks to you, but to prove for once and for all that we are better than you and that we can make better than what you have offered. No thanks to you, THAT is what I will remember happily about your fucking year.

So bye. Get out. No gratitude. No appreciation. It's over. We're over. And YOU'RE over!
I'm looking forward to getting over you, and the sooner I do, the happier I'll be.

A Baker's Dozen Of Limericks For Halloween

As I basked in the endorphin rush of a lovely fall bike ride, I thought it a good time to do my annual batch o' limericks for Halloween. This year, my baked brain brained out a baker's dozen!

I know that I'll never forget
This Halloween Eve, the best yet!
You keened in the night
I sighed with delight
Then died. Now it's time that we met

I woke in the night with a scream
From out of a terrible dream
Of you taking lives
With bright shiny knives
And not choosing me for your team

Those kids on my lawn, I do curse
They're noisy and have no remorse
I sought some surcease
Through murder, some peace
But turns out that haunting is worse

I have a collection of heads
In jars underneath all my beds
But now I must face
I've run out of space
So, I'll collect fingers instead

The spiders and I have a pact
That they will not by me be whacked
Unless they are seen
In my mezzanine
Then swift, with my broom, I will act

Those curious fools have unleashed
My radioactive green yeast
And now, I do fear
It's infected the beer
But hey, it's quite tasty at least

The horrors crawled out of the pit
With tentacles, claws, and green spit
They slimed on my rug
And asked for a hug
Then snoozed by the fire, a bit

They came to the door wearing masks
For candy they cheerfully asked
Although they were cute
I gave them the boot
And now I reside in a cask

They say that I'm bad and should rot
For munching on kiddies and tots
It's not that I prey
On children per se;
The grownups won't fit in my pots

Your "murder machine" is quite nice
It chops them all up in a trice
But it's not for me
Because, as you see
The personal touch is _my_ vice

I'm sorry, I just cannot be
Too far from my home by the sea
The vampire bats
And dozens of cats
Prefer that my friends visit me

Her voice slithered out in the night
"Please Dear, do not turn on the light
My hairdresser erred
With some chemicals weird
And I don't want to give you a fright."

The market aisle filled with a mist
As I read the ingredient list
I found on a can
That said "Deviled Spam"
And said "I'll give this one a miss."

I was on a roll, and apparently I had one more in me. So here is #14 of 13.

I slaver. I raven. I drool.
But I am no zombie, or ghoul
Who moans in the night
And gives you a fright
I just think Justin Bieber's SO COOL!

Have a happy and appropriately spooky day!

How *I* Prefer To Respond To Terrorism

I've always had a slightly different take than the usual one, on the events of 9/11/01, especially when it comes to how to respond. The observances are nice and sweet and all, I'm not saying we shouldn't take some time to remember those we've lost.

But consider this- the people who did this are mostly dead and their successors are likely watching to see how much impact the act still had. So what *I* did on 9/11 was to show those people exactly how much their evil deeds affected my actual life, which was, quite frankly very, little.

I got together with my best friend, just as we are wont to do, and we had fun; watching TV while working on projects, laughing, joking, and merrily squabbling just as we always do. Despite the terrorists' best efforts, I lost absolutely NONE of the joy and vexation I usually have when I was inevitably talked into sharing some of my Boston Market Creamed Spinach during lunch. Despite the terrorists' best efforts, I had a lovely day!

Then last night, I went to a concert with my wife and we had a lovely dinner and spent the night rockin' to Cage The Elephant and Muse.
We held hands while we walked, and had a lovely time inhabiting our quirky comedy improv version of the World that is our life together. All this, despite the terrorists' best efforts.
Despite the terrorists' best efforts, the Verizon Center ROCKED!
And finally, despite the terrorists' best efforts we returned to our lovely home without incident. We congratulated our housemate on the successful repair of her computer, which now works just fine, despite the terrorists' best efforts.
I had a shower and we went to sleep, where, despite the terrorists' best efforts, I slept pretty good, without any fear.

The observances and Patriotic Hoopla are fine, but I personally think that my own message to the terrorists is better; that despite their best collective efforts and planning, and the mess that they thought that they made, at the end of the day, I still have a pretty damn good life.

Performance Calendar

This is my performance calendar
(or best guess)
as of: 09/15/09
S 9/19/09 Constellation Books 6-9pmReisterstown MD
T 9/22/09 New Deal Cafe 7-9pm Greenbelt MD
S-Su 9/26-27/09 Green Hill Medieval Faire and Highland Games Salem VA
S 10/03/09Mother Earth Harvest Festival Spoutwood Farm, Glen Rock PA
S 10/24/09Esoterica 8-10pm Leesburg VA
T 10/27/09New Deal Cafe 7-9pm Greenbelt MD
S 10/31/09 Constellation Books 3pm-? Reisterstown MD
F-Su 11/27-29/09Darkover Timonium MD (tentative)
S 1/9/10 12th Night Feast at St Margaret's 3-10pmParkville MD

Here are some links for venues past,
present, & future:

(this is for the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Fest & for the Mother Earth Harvest Fest)
Va Renfest (www.varf.org)
Darkover Grand Council(www.darkovercon.org)
This is for Stone Tower Glen, Gloucester, Foamhenge, & Green Hill Faires.
Swamp Thynge
Greenbelt Farmers' Market
NY Faerie Fest

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June 2019


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