It Wasn’t Beginner’s Luck!

Well, after the highly successful Pecan Upside Down Baby Cake experiment in the kitchen, I knew I would have to follow it up with something else. I chose a Spanish Rice. Fortunately the head cook came into the kitchen and asked, “You didn’t put in the whole garlic did you?” “Why yes I did, the recipe called for it.” “No,” the head cook said, “it called for one clove. That is just a small part of the whole garlic.” “Well, I’ll be. I thought a clove was the whole thing.”  So I had to retrieve 80% of the garlic I had mixed with the sweet peppers and the onions.

I boiled the rice and then let it steam for 20 minutes. I had never boiled rice before, I write shamefully. I added some crispy bacon, pepper, fresh tomatoes from our garden and a pinch of oregano.  Then I melted some white cheddar cheese on top of it all and added some olives. The recipe called for green olives, but I don’t like green olives…I LOVE black olives.

It all tasted mighty good, if I say so myself.



So I got the idea to try to bake a special dessert. Please know that I do not spend much time in the kitchen – over the past 40 years, perhaps less than 40 hours…much less. But this is a special weekend for a special person and I really felt as if I have not lived up to my contribution to the birthday celebration.  I went to Barnes and Nobles, bought a Better Homes and Gardens 16th edition cookbook.  I looked at some recipes, bought the book, took out a page from the book and went shopping for the ingredients at the grocery store.  I assumed we had nothing at home, so I bought every ingredient listed.

I went home, and to the shock of the lovely people in the house, I began putting it all together.  It was called a Pecan Upside Down Baby Cake.  I read the instructions carefully and I still screwed up a little, if adding more sugar can be considered a mistake. They came out of the oven looking pretty good. (I don’t like pecans.) Soon they were being eaten by three women.

Now here is what I found strange, I have blogged probably over 50 times since I started blogging. I have written, recorded and posted 0ver 20 original songs on Soundcloud.  The three eaters have all read and heard every one of those creative endeavors. Yet, their positive response to the Pecan Upside Down Baby Cakes was 100 times more enthusiastic than for anything else I have ever made and the look on their faces as they ate, I have never seen before.  They were in heaven or a food trance or a ….?

So tonight I learned that if you want to make people really happy, don’t sing, don’t write…bake a really good Pecan Upside Down Baby Cake..with some extra sugar. You will be very popular and be deeply admired. Now I understand why people become chefs instead of musicians.

Bon appetit!


As Our Fathers Used To Say

My father taught me many lessons. He continues to do so, even at 86 years old, as he continues to courageously face the daily challenges of Parkinson’s Disease.  As I reflect on those lessons – and trust me, you start doing a lot of reflecting in your 60’s – I realize that many of those lessons were about caring for others.

 I grew up in a charming little town called Grass Valley. It was established during the great California Gold Rush of 1849. It became the home of some of the most productive gold mines in the Unites States.  During my childhood, many of the residents were the ancestors of miners from Cornwall, England. These miners knew how to work in placer mines.  The downtown was small and friendly. The movie theater only charged .25 cents to watch a double feature and they didn’t kick you out…so you might see the first movie 3 times and the second movie twice – which I did often, especially if it was an Elvis Presley flick.

Us boys of Grass Valley would do our chores on Saturday morning and then hop on our bikes and ride down the hill to the center of town (it was indeed a valley) where we would spend hours on the school yard playing whatever sport was in season. We’d also wander from one neighborhood market to another, which were always owned by a family of Chinese-Americans, as we searched for the next candy bar. (When we got a little older, we would also try to sneak a peak at a Playboy magazine. The men who ran the stores could be quite understanding of our curiosity.  However, if their wives were running the cash register you were shit out of luck (as our fathers used to say)…get the candy bar and keep on moving.

As we walked on the old, elevated and cracked sidewalks that were usually bordered by a stone wall, there was not much room for maneuvering around someone coming from the other direction especially if you were pushing a bike.  There was one person who we would never, ever be on the same sidewalk though…his name was Brody.

Brody was probably in his early forties. He always wore overalls with the two straps going over each of his shoulders. His walk was chaotic without clear direction. His mouth and jaw seemed contorted. When he talked,he talked very loud…and nonsensical. He scared the shit out of us (as our fathers used to say). He always seemed angry and did not appear to like little boys at all.  He had good reason. Some of the boys in that town, I am certain, must currently be on San Quentin’s death row today.  Some of them were twisted little shits (as our fathers used to say). They would throw rocks at Brody, tease him, make fun of him.  My friends were of much better character. However, by no means were we friendly to Brody.

Some said Brody was injured in World War II, something called shell shocked. Others said he was born that way. However, the popular explanation is that he was a janitor at our school, called Bell Hill…which indeed did have a large bell in front of the school…and that he got his head caught in the bell when it went rang.  Our boyhood intellectual consensus was that this was indeed the most likely explanation.  It never occurred to us that the large bell did not actually ring. The thingy in the middle was welded to the bell itself.

Brody was always walking all over town and occasionally he would make his way down to the park where we played our organized youth baseball games. My father was our team’s coach.  He was a fine judge of talent as we rarely lost a game.  It was customary after each game for the coach to buy all his players a snow cone. (Today, these things are often called Hawaiian Shaved Ice, but it still is just ice and a pure sugar flavoring.) I preferred the cherry flavor, but some would order the Suicide…a mixture of all the available flavors. (I think the Suicide tasted like shit, as our fathers used to say. Also, as you can see, there wasn’t much sensitivity to mental health issues back then!)

For one particular game, Brody showed up and decided to sit in the stands as he quietly watched the entire game.  Nobody talked to him, even the adults in the stands kept their distance.  He just sat there by himself and watched us play baseball.  I would look up at him from time to time expecting him to start muttering a strand of sounds unintelligible to all.  He never did. He just sat there quietly and alone. Brody was always alone. I never saw him with someone else and we are talking several years of observations.

At the end of the game, it was snow cone time and 12 little boys took off to the snack shack to be first in line for their free snow cone at my father’s expense.  My dad, however, didn’t head straight over, instead he walked over to the stands to where Brody sat. He said, “Come on, let’s get your snow cone.” I couldn’t believe it. My father spoke to Brody like he was …a human being.

Brody got up and walked next to my father as they headed to get a snow cone together.  They walked as if they were old pals. He didn’t yell or wave his arms crazily in the air. The other kids parted like the Red Sea as we got up to the counter. Most had never been this close to Brody.  My father and I, along with Brody, headed back to sit on the stands where we ate our snow cones with nobody saying a word. There was actually nothing to be said.   I was 10 years old.

My father has taught me many lessons, but nothing more important than the snow cone lesson.  Some years later, I found myself working in a residential program that housed several men like Brody.  On my shift, I spent the night there and I was responsible for making sure they all had breakfast before heading out to their various “work” locations.  The previous guy served the residents oatmeal every single morning.  I decided that was bullshit (as our fathers used to say) so I started preparing those men a breakfast of eggs, ham, muffins,pancakes, fruit…whatever a hardworking man needed.  Maybe I was too young at the time to treat Brody with the respect he deserved, but not too young for the Brody who follows.

Today, that lesson is still alive.  Me, my father, and Brody…eating a snow cone on a warm summer evening.  Thank you Dad.  Yes, treat everyone with respect (as our fathers used to say).





My Imagination

I have a confession-I am a daydreamer…an obsessive one at that. I’ve thought about this for awhile…because my imagination wouldn’t let me ignore it.

I think you can put daydreaming on some kind of a spectrum where on the left side you have daydreamers who spend daydreaming time in more of a contemplation of something-like the Wright Brothers trying to figure out how to get a human being to fly like a bird – and on the far right of the spectrum, you have folks with such a vivid imagination that dialogue and scenes are playing on some movie screen inside of their minds. Perhaps just to the right of that spot on the spectrum, one falls off into the world of schizophrenia. Maybe that is why I’ve have learned a deeper compassion for those who struggle with mental illness. Truth is, I’ve been there myself. Though it is a place where one can see themselves almost inside-out, I wouldn’t recommend it as a place of permanent residence.  I still live on the far right-side though never again wanting to go beyond. Track #7 on my next album (which won’t be ready until 2017) is titled Make Believe and its seed idea was how much in common we daydreamers have with the schizophrenic fellows who wanders the street when not taking their medication. Eckhart Tolle dropped that little seed in my mind with his book, A New Earth.

7147973-MBeing an obsessive daydreamer is not a major problem for me now except for an occasional “attack” at night where my imagination won’t stay quiet and it is usually because it has something to tell me…such as, it is time you understood your imagination!  If I am engaged with normal responsibilities, my daydreams now stay in their place.  I have always had an active imagination.  I saw a psychiatrist once-that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this blog or listened to my songs- and he told me that research has demonstrated that toddlers who are removed from their biological mothers struggle with many things including intimacy. That is what happened to me. I wish I could go back into my infant’s mind and see what I made of all that emotional commotion. I was certainly loved in my new crib. (Hey look, I am downplaying it which I will discuss in the next sentence.)   I know, from personal experience, that daydreaming can replace intimacy-the sharing of oneself.  I have watched many artists share their daydreams through their art, but become very withdrawn in front of an actual person, especially if that person compliments the artists or tries to dig deeper into the art or the artist.

The other night I shared with my wife a rough cut of track #8 for the 2nd album I’ve been recording.  After listening, she said, “That is a very sad song. Who is it about?” This type of question always bothers me because, well, it requires an intimate answer. You see us daydreamers aren’t even all that comfortable being intimate with ourselves.  Usually songs I write start with a basic idea and then grow into whatever they want to be – or is that really true? Unfortunately, I don’t know.  I know a line I wrote for A Church In Mexico “getting dirty from the soap” was about being a child of divorce – on one level, and about getting messed up by things that are supposed to help you (religion,love) on another level, and on yet another level is about masturbation. That is kind of heavy stuff for a person who struggles with intimacy, don’tcha think?

As a child I would spend hours in solitary play with my toy soldiers, baseball glove, or whatever was handy at the time.  I would develop rich and complicated scenarios and act them out until someone came into the room in which then I would try to hide my make believe activities. I am pretty certain that they knew what I was doing since I was usually on top of my bed/boat/mountain/burning building/monster with my arms flailing as the mind-script called for at the time.  Where Mr.Tolle does a wonderful job in A New Earth at explaining the benefits of being present in the moment, I think there is also something to be said about leaving the present and doing some daydreaming exploration. The question is “How do you do it without leaving the intimacy of the present?” Perhaps this is another one of those Yen and Yang things?  Being present in the moment is complimented by letting our thoughts fly, free to create another reality.  Beats me. I will have to wait for Mr. Tolle’s next book. (By the way, I am very thankful to Mr. Tolle for writing that book. It helped me immensely.)

It does seem to me that the daydreamers of our world have created some wonderful things and moments for the world. All the great characters of history were daydreamers.  They saw a new reality while others laughed at their crazy ideas. From Noah to NASA –  the stories of daydreamers have created our greatest accomplishments in the sciences and in the arts and humanities.  Maybe what we need to do is to teach our children to daydream even more. If we could embrace their imaginative world while getting them to share their visions and voices, maybe intimacy would not have to be sacrificed. Daydreaming wouldn’t be viewed as an activity for the crazies, especially after our childhood.

I don’t see my daydreaming coming to an end anytime soon.  It is when I become judgmental of my daydreams that I face writers’ block and become hyper-critical of my latest song.  I even seem to lose my self-confidence in my non-daydreaming responsibilities of life. John Lennon wrote “Please don’t wake me, don’t shake me, leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping… Please, don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away
And after all I’m only sleeping.”

I wish you all marvelous daydreams along with the courage to be intimate with those dreams… and the rest of us dreamers.


A Morning Walk Around The Yard

I got up, let the chickens out and started looking around the yard at these pockets of beautiful-ness. I thought, no fame and no fortune could ever match the simplicity and joy of a morning garden.  I don’t blame Adam and Eve, I love apples too-but sometimes I get a tiny glimpse into God’s Garden and I wander and I wonder.

(By the way, 7 hens and 7 eggs – the chickens love me!  And, Gracie loves chewing up…everything.  She and the chickens are getting along well, or so I hope.)


Kick Back Day

For last full day on our trip, decided to relax and see the town. 

Check the link below to see what the young and healthy and courageous do at Olympic Village, Park City, Utah.

Ski Jumping
Had to drive by the Sundance Institute because I love what they support. Talked to a nice employee there who shared some interesting information about Sundance and the local area. Just a little place that does great work for the arts and artists.

Look who is playing in Park City at the famous Egyptian Theater…Me Gotta Go Now, Louie, Louie….

Old Town

Heading back home tomorrow to Gracie and chickens. It was a great little trip.

People, Place, and Story

Today we travelled several hours south and arrived at our next temporary home…Park City, Utah, a world class ski resort that is pretty busy in the summer too.

Here is where we are staying.

Decided to stretch the legs a little and take walk up the mountain.

This is where the Sundance Film Festival is held in January. I read somewhere, but can’t find it now, that Sundance focused on blending a concern for the environment with artistic endeavors, or something like that.  As I was huffing and puffing up that mountain,  I was thinking about some of the stories, in words or songs, that I’ve posted these past 10 months. I came to realize that People, Place and Story kind of summarizes my artistic focus and enjoyment. This insight might have been due to a severe lack of oxygen at the near 9,000 foot elevation we were trying to hike up.

This last photo represents one of my favorite images – the unknown trail. I LOVE paintings, photos, drawings of such things because they seem to represent so much of what life is about…and art- if there is a difference.

I am tired!