PAST RAMBLINGS - 7
July 23, 2001
Howdy my fine friends,
Now and then I like to keep you appraised of the situation here in the heart of The Land that Traffic Flow Forgot. Man, to live in Seattle in the summertime is a mixed blessing. We have the absolute greatest weather on the planet. I mean, our hot days are 75 degrees and breezy. Birds tweet and bees buzz, flowers bloom like they're going to a party, and the purring of neighborhood cats is nearly deafening. We've had day after day of idyllic weather that people all over the country would give anything for.
The problem is not our weather - it's the traffic. I'm lucky and can usually choose my times for travel so that I avoid the worst of it. But now and then, I have to live like other people do and go to a store or perhaps even find my way to a beer tap. It is very discouraging to find that a little two-mile trip to partake in a cold Mac & Jack's with a friend, can turn into such a wretched, miserable journey that a person arrives bitter and spitting nails. Until I got caught in afternoon Seattle traffic, I didn't understand why men still perform fisticuffs in public places. I thought, "hey boys, can't we all just get along?" But of course, I hadn't just spent two hours and forty-five minutes breathing exhaust and watching the lane next to me file merrily along while my lane remained stuck, apparently, in fresh cement.
Now, I'm not saying that I would get into a fight just because of traffic - I abhor the concept of knuckles being flung unless they're either covered in huge foam gloves or tossing me money. I'm just saying I realize how a scuffle could erupt after two hours in Friday traffic, and I'm not so quick anymore to judge the fellers wrasslin' on the sidewalk outside Chuck E Cheese.
Myself, it's not so much the stop and start traffic that gets me, it's the happy yappers on cell phones who drive four miles an hour on the freeway. Now, I'm the sort of person who absolutely refuses to use a cell phone when I'm driving. I don't know why - since no one else seems to worry about it. This is truly embarrassing to reveal but I have this wacky, unreasonable fear that while carrying on a wonderful conversation on my cell phone, I could lose control of my vehicle and slam into a park bench full of geezers or nuns. Or perhaps I will look up from Dialing for Dollars to see a train hurtling at me where only moments before there was only air. See? I'm just crazy, I guess, because it is clear that no one else on the road has these worries. Everywhere I look, I see people drifting all over the road and occasionally up into yards as they hold important gab sessions behind the wheel. I know, they make hands-free phones and I think that is just one of the most wonderful things I can imagine. But I feel they are going about it all wrong. Hell, phone calls are IMPORTANT, how about making the damn CAR hand's free? Doesn't that make more sense? Turn on the key and climb into the backseat for a long, leisurely phone conversation as you hurtle toward your destination. If science can't give us that, what good is it? Huh?
Well, I'll get off that ridiculous subject and get back to my aimless meandering. I've been working on graphics all week with my friend Brian Dina, who is also my webguy. You know, the person who sets up and maintains my website. I refuse to call him a web master because, well, I don't get to be called the master of anything so nobody else does, either. Even my little seven pound dawg just giggles when I declare myself her master. You may not know this, but dawgs really can chuckle and she just goes to pieces.
As I was saying, we worked on graphics all week. When you get two people staring into a computer monitor for twelve hour stretches, normal logic begins to warp. Speech gets slurred and vision blurs. Still, we went on and on. We designed some posters for my concerts, fliers, CD covers, banners and flags. We even made a very cool pickle jar label in case I ever go into the Pickle Bidnis. MT's Perky Pickles - Snap One Off!. (It's always good to have a backup in case this sangin' thang don't work out.)
I remember being twenty-one years old and deciding that even though I didn't know how to play an instrument, I was going to be a successful recording artist and songwriter. Many folks around me, including my parents, tried not to blink when I made that announcement. In fact, they did their best not to pass out cold. Many failed and hit the deck right at my feet. Others managed to hold onto something and stay upright until I left the room. I believe they all truly wanted to support me but, living in Amarillo, it was difficult for people to get behind the concept of anyone living their dream.
"Son, why don't you go to tech school, get your soldering license so you'll have something to fall back on, and then maybe take some guitar lessons? A man that can solder shit is never going to have to worry about making a good living, you know - for your wife and kids and all."
"Dad, I ain't had a date in three months, I honestly don't see kids as part of my near future. And why would I need to take guitar lessons? I can play five chords and I've got a capo."
I was aghast that dad would suggest tech school and lessons. Why tarnish my dream by actually taking lessons? That could only serve to discourage a boy like myself, bright-eyed and hankering for the spotlight and vast success around the globe. Nope, I've always felt a person does his best work in total ignorance. Which explains a lot about me, in case you've ever wondered.
Speaking of school, I'm going to be playing a concert at Scottsdale Community College in (surprise!) Scottsdale, on Sep 8. (See Concerts link) The day before, I'll be giving a talk on Songwriting and "Weaving An Independent Path Through the Music Business." The talk is free and you can go to my concerts page to read details. I'm considering holding a couple of songwriting and writing workshops here in Seattle this year and I'll put notice up when I get it figured out.
I've also scheduled what may well be my last Gathering of Friends Retreat. It will be November 9-11 at Fort Worden and you can go to my retreats link to read more about it.
I'd like to thank you for telling friends about me, that keeps the circle widening and allows me to keep writing and singing for a living. These days, with corporate ownership of most radio stations, I get very little radio play and that means that concerts are nearly impossible to get. Fortunately, I've had a number of folks contact me by email and offer to produce or set up concerts in their areas. In Colorado, Kym Davick has produced a couple of my shows and is doing two more for me this fall. One is in Denver on Oct 13 and one is in Colorado Springs on Oct 14. If you want to offer her help, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Phoenix, Roseann Higgins is producing my concert in Scottsdale for Sep 8. It's a benefit for Wildhorse Ranch Rescue, a wonderful organization that takes in horses and saves unwanted horses from being put down. Their site is at www.mudpony.com If you want to offer support to Roseann for the concert, you can email her at email@example.com
If you are on my mail list, I'll send you postcard notice when I'm playing near you. Otherwise, it's very hard to find a way to let everybody know about shows. My email database is not yet operational, I still send an actual physical postcard to announce concerts. I also send a humorous newsletter, The MT Page, once or twice a year. By the way, I never share my list, so if you sign up, your privacy is always honored.
I'm still working on my book and feel that I'm only a few chapters from finishing. It's turned into something quite a lot deeper and more interesting that I realized. Of course, you'll be the judge of that. I'm enjoying it and I look forward to actually finishing and publishing it. Yet, I also will miss the project. A varied mix of hilarious and tender memories have come to me over the last year as I've written down stories of my childhood, family, friendships, music, love and life journey. That sounds kind of sappy but I think you'll enjoy it. Check back and I'll let you know of my progress. Also, thanks so much to the 270 or so people who have pre-ordered the book, helping me to make a living as I write, and who've been incredibly patient about my pace. I've just discovered that, as with most things in my life that matter, it takes whatever time it takes to do it well.
Well, I'm off for a run on this cool, cloudy day and then down to Seattle Center for The Bite of Seattle. If I get stuck in traffic and have to leave my truck, I may give you a call to come and get me, so don't go anywhere.
Thanks for checking in on me.
Yer ol' fren,
PS, I'll be sending out a newsletter in about two weeks so if I need your address, or if you've moved, please email it to me.
August 22, 2001
Howdy my friends,
I just got back from a three day camping trip in the Cascade Mountains and Iím attempting to adjust to city time again. One of the jokes between my friends and myself when weíre having a really good time or doing something that has nothing to do with time, is to look at a watch (or your bare wrist) and announce to the group, "Hey! Weíre right on schedule! Can you believe that? I looked earlier and we were nearly half-an-hour behind, but I nudged us along a little bit and now weíre exactly on time." This will usually produce a fair amount of applause and tittering among the crowd and whomever thought to make the comment this time will feel spetchel for a minute.
Weíre all entertainers (in our own little minds) and take the initiative frequently to say things that we believe must be stated for the sake of, well, just because we think weíre funny. The humor doesnít begin or end with things we say though - sometimes it is unintentionally caused by the peculiarities of our personalities. Take Steve for instance, or Liíl Schteevie as I like to call him in public. Schteevie showed up in his brand new Jeep with an official Eddie Bauer Picnic Backpack that contained an impressive array of dining accouterments, knives, forks, spoons, spatulas, egg beaters, food processors, wine openers, can openers, table cloths, napkins, dish towels, dishpan, soap, spice rack, condiment rack and toothpicks. I was impressed that, for after dinner enjoyment, they had included a mint and two condoms. Now that would be quite a meal if you used all those items. If youíre the kind of person who can eat a humongous meal and still need those condoms for anything more than making balloon animals, my hat is off to you.
Though I was indeed impressed, I couldnĻt allow Schteevie to know how much so and I off-handedly remarked that it was the exact same picnic kit used by the last team of climbers to summit Boot Hill. If Schteevie had actually needed any of that gear, lugging it along would have made sense. But he had chosen a style of food for the three day campout that required not one piece of cutlery or finery of any kind; He had purchased the Kinfolk Clan-sized barrel of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, for three days of camping, Schteevie had brought one and only one item of food - and plenty of it. Throughout the weekend he could be seen scarfing down chicken at lunch, breakfast, midnight snacks and even coffee breaks. On hikes, during a swim, even while taking down his tent - he was munching on that soggy chicken. I was impressed that he didnít get a stomach ache until the very last day and that was probably only because chicken doesnít keep as well in a tent as it does in a refrigerator. I really should give him a call, if I donít hear from him or see his obituary in the paper soon, Iíll scoot over there and see if heís okay.
It was so peaceful up there alongside the Skykomish River that my body and my thinking slowed down to the vibration of a slug and I didnít want to leave it and come back home. Iíd been out there a day longer than everyone else because I always go a day early to secure us a camping spot. On summer weekends the campgrounds fill up pretty quickly and we have our favorite large sites that we like to camp in. We long ago gave up on those little backpacking tents and now we all own palatial estates in nylon. My personal tent is about fifty feet across, with a vaulted ceiling and hardwood floors. Itís tough to carry but once Iím up there, it sure feels nice to go barefoot on those shiny maple floors. My friends get a little irritated with me for requiring not only bare feet in my own humble abode, but also, I do suggest foot washing before entering and always have numerous horse hair brushes, solvents and soaps available on the porch for those whose feet might not have been scoured in a while.
The first night there it was just me and my little dawg. Sheís only seven pounds but IĻd put her up against a marauding bear if I had to. I think she might damage his ears yapping at him and give me a second or two to don my bear suit. Iíve never told anyone this, but I actually have a plan in case of bear attack - though Iíve fortunately never had occasion to try it out except in my fantasies. See, the experts will tell you to never, ever run. They say you shouldnít look directly into a bearís eyes. The most common suggestion Iíve ever read is that when being attacked by a bear, you should lie down and cover your face and vital organs. Now, what the hell kind of sense does that make? For myself, itís either the face or the vital organs, no way I can reach my face and crotch both.
Anyway, my plan, should I ever meet up with a charging bear in the woods when I have my gear with me, is this; I will don a bear suit myself, hoping that even an enraged bear will see the senselessness of attacking another of his own kind. If that doesnít work, Iíll turn quickly toward him where he can read my button which reads "Free Jelly." I only know from what Iíve seen of Gentle Ben and Yogi Bear on TV, but Iím banking on the sweet stuff to save my ass.
Now that Iím back home, Iím trying to get back in the mood to work on my book. I intended to do some writing out there in the Cascades but stuff kept coming up, you know, beer and cookies and napping and stuff. However, as soon as I finish this little letter to you I plan on setting up on my front porch, watching the rain fall and getting back to some of the chapters of my book. Though I was trying hard to finish by the end of summer, it is approaching like a freight train and Iím skittish about calling this the end. I am taking some deep breaths and allowing myself some more time. I cannot imagine ending it before it is satisfyingly finished and I hope the 280 folks whoĻve pre-ordered it will understand that I take my work, music and writing, very seriously and want to have something when my book is finished that will feel good to me and those who read it. I want it to add something to your life and that takes time for me to write and re-write until the chapters flow like the songs of my albums. I promise you I will keep at it and let you know when Iím done.
You may have read on my site or in my newsletter that IĻm holding my last retreat this November. I donít mean to sound so foreboding in calling it my final retreat. Itís just that I skipped doing one in the spring to work on my book and the break caused me to think about what Iím doing and to consider some new events and projects. Iíve been really surprised at the number of sign-ups to this retreat even before my newsletter has come out and it will probably be a pretty full house. Iíll definitely stay open to discussing with people what they think of further retreats. If I ever decide to start them up again, Iíll certainly send you notice if youíre on my mail list. And of course, you can always check my website for upcoming events.
At the same time Iím working on my book and retreat and doing day to day business, Iím also writing songs. My hope is to record a new CD when my book is finished. I love how the songs are sounding and the direction my songwriting is taking lately. Itís a joy to continue writing songs, hearing new melodies and discovering the lyrics that move among the notes, I havenít lost my joy for music in all these years and I hope you continue to listen to and enjoy my newer music as well as my earliest work.
Thanks for checking on me. I appreciate that you stop by every so often to see what Iím up to and what silliness Iíve written. I also appreciate that so many of you continue to buy my CDs and to share my music with new folks. Youíve allowed me to continue widening my circle of listeners even in a time when corporations have taken over radio and itís very hard to airplay. Iím happy living this way, filling orders and communicating to you directly, playing the occasional concert around the country and living a quiet life. I thank you for helping me to make that possible.
Iíd like to close by saying that it is never too late for you to live some of your dreams. If there is something you long to do, or once longed to do but gave up on, if there is some great love, some art or direction or endeavor that you have thought about with great love but not known how to do, take some deep breaths and believe that you can find a way. You can do this. Find people who believe in you and tell them what you plan to do. If you cannot find that support at first, do it anyway. Take a small step every day or every week and practice faith at first. Imagine that something good could happen to you. Soon you will see the proof. I believe there is not a person born who does not have the right and the ability to do something in life that brings them joy. Imagine a world of people who did things they really love. There would be so much harmony as we looked upon and admired each other and felt so good about ourselves and the paths weíve taken. No matter what obstacle lies before you, there is a way through or around or over, and in the navigation of that path lies an opportunity to live your dreams and to fill your life with love. I wish that for you.
Yer ol' fren,
September 14, 2001
Howdy my friends,
I thought about writing you over the last couple of days while I was on the road but had no way to do it until I got home. I was in Phoenix during the terrible national tragedy and having a pretty good idea that I would be stranded there for a week or more, I rented a car and drove back to Seattle. In some ways, I looked forward to the drive, the world is suffering so much grief that I felt being alone in a quiet space for a few long days would be the best place I could be.
Because at that early time on Tuesday morning, no one really knew if our entire nation was under attack or if planes would be falling from the sky all over the country, I just knew that I wanted to be home. If anything that terrible were to happen, I wanted to be among my friends and the city I love, and of course, my little dawg.
For much of the time driving back, I just watched silently through my windshield the amazing land rolling by me. I saw the flat, dry deserts become green, tree-covered hills. The desert scrub and beautiful cacti became soft, waving grasses and meadows of flowers. Sometimes I listened to the news, which was on every station on the dial, but I knew what had happened and it only scattered my brain to listen to endless talk of the tragedy.
I kept trying to find a store in which to buy some CDs but many stores were closed along the way. I finally remembered I had a box of my own CDs in the trunk, which I'd brought down to sell at my Scottsdale concert. I got them out and every few hours, would put one on and get lost in the memories of the times in my life I sang about. Somehow, hearing those songs and recalling the people and the times helped me to feel again, to breathe through the numbness and experience a sense of hope. When something so terrible happens in the world, it almost feels wrong to hope. It sets us back and sometimes we buy into the darkness behind it and become devastated and lost. We've all been lost, I've surrendered to it many times, but without hope there just isn't any reason to go on.
I crossed the Arizona/Utah border and was disappointed to find myself in Zion National Park when I'd been trying to find the fastest route home. I was actually upset that they charged me $20 to go through when I was feeling so bad that I only wanted to get home. It was a blessing though. I drove no more than a mile before I saw the most stunningly beautiful landscape I've ever seen in my life. The mountains and canyons were carved as if by a giant woodcutter. It was nearly dusk and I pulled over and got out of my car, no longer in a hurry to make good time. I stood in the most awesome, silent place I've ever been and looked up at the weathered, striated walls around me. As I stood in almost a vacuum, I could smell the Ponderosa Pines and the sage around me. Even the red clay smelled like life, it's fragrance released as a light sprinkle fell. I only stood there a short time because I'd found that my rental car had only one working headlight and I didn't want to be caught too long on those winding, cliffside roads in darkness with not enough light to guide me. I shook my head at myself for having been upset with the ranger who charged me twenty bucks to take that road. It would have been worth two-thousand.
That night in my hotel, the news was on every station and I watched it for awhile and tried to understand what had happened. I just couldn't. The older I get, the less I seem to understand. I used to think I could grasp the psychology of why people do things - there seemed to be actual reasons. But trying to understand such things, I had some experiences that confused and nearly devastated me. I found that I could not go to those places because my wounds did not run that deep. And by trying too hard to understand, I found myself spiraling down to depths of darkness that were excruciating to visit and nearly impossible to climb back out of without terrible wounds.
The truth is, we cannot possibly understand this terrible event and why it has happened. And if we could, we would not want to dwell there anyway. What I keep remembering is to breathe, to listen to my breath and to go there again and again. What it tells me is to be kind, to bless all people and all living things, not just the ones we choose to love. So I look around me and again and again, remind myself to be kind to others, to be patient with their grief and my own, to be tolerant and compassionate because all of humanity is in grief over this. And it is important also, to turn that kindness on yourself. Allow yourself your forgetfulness, your anger and sadness and disheartedness. Shower yourself with love as if you were a baby - which is exactly what you are, what we all are; infants in consciousness. We are learning and growing exactly as we should be and we will not be presented with anything that is greater than we can bear. Nor will we ever be given anything that cannot be overcome with love.
What I hope happens, and what I believe will, is that more love will come of this than was here before it happened. That is what all disasters serve to teach if we listen; humility, honesty, faith, love, kindness, compassion. The one thing that does not come easily with such terrible tragedy is joy. We have been taught not to laugh after such things, that laughter is disrespect for those who have suffered and those who still do. But since depressed people have no energy, it is up to those of us who can, to bring back the joy and the laughter to life again. Don't be afraid to laugh and to bring that laughter to your friends. It is every bit as healing as crying and often, it is the path to releasing the pain and sorrow and grief that we cannot feel in our shock.
For instance, I am trying to laugh about the fact that Alamo Car Rental charged me $800 to drive one of their cars for two days. Wheeee! And of course, since I've been home, I have my little dawg Bungee to remind me that the important and wonderful things in life - such as stray cats and doggie toys (aren't they the same thing?) - are still abundant.
I just wanted to write you and let you know that I'm doing okay and hoping that we all help each other heal through this and keep each other in our prayers. Thanks for your kind letters and emails and for listening to my music. If you have it, go listen to the last song on my CD, Watching the Storm Roll In. It's called One Breath and I listened to it and sang it in my car on the way back to Seattle. It helped me a great deal. I've typed it below for you.
October 7, 2001
Howdy my friends,
I spent the last week up at a friend's beach cabin on Whidby Island. There were several of us there for the weekend and then I stayed on by myself for a few days to write songs, work on my book and of course, to nap. I'm a big napper whenever possible and I believe that I can speak about the fine art of napping with some authority and insight. If you are interested in becoming a napper but not yet confident about your abilities, I recommend that you take my upcoming class on napping, which will be held online and cost only $1000 per person, per semester. Now THAT'S a value. Go ahead and send your cash and I'll publish the class times when I wake up.
If you've not napped very much for whatever reason, too many duties and responsibilities, infants in the home, no cozy spot in which to partake, etc., I can help you to overcome these fairly minimal obstacles and become a Napper Extraordinaire, like myself. I must caution though, because I've noticed an alarming trend lately on the freeways, PLEASE DO NOT NAP AND DRIVE! Better to guzzle whiskey than to slumber on a busy freeway. I speak as a man who was once awakened going 80 mph on I-5 in Portland in heavy rain. Oddly, I was the driver and my friend Rick who woke from his own nap in the passenger seat, was completely unamused by what he swears was my coma behind the wheel. As near as I can recall, that is the last time I ever went completely out behind the wheel. You know, with a pillow and blanket and all.
As you can tell, I'm somewhat back to my old wacky self again. Though I got carried away as I often do, I actually started writing you this morning because I feel love and compassion for you and for all the people in the world who are frightened right now, worrying about how life may or may not continue and feeling like something precious and irreplaceable has been taken from us. I too have felt that way some days, but through some grace of God, I was allowed to move through much of that quickly and to come to a place of seeing the potential in us more often than I think of the loss of what might have been.
I wanted to write you today because it is a small thing I can do, to reach out and suggest that a window opened in this world on September 11, 2001. We never wished for there to be such a tragedy in order for us to wake up, but that is what happened. And because it is a fact, we have a choice. Do we go back to sleep? Can you even imagine that? Please keep each other awake. Remind each other that kindness is why we are here, that love and friendship and forgiveness are the things we want to hold high instead of fame and money and power and materialism.
I am telling you the truth when I say with my heart open and tears in my eyes that we have the most glorious opportunity this planet has ever known to open our hearts, to live a different kind of life than we have seen or imagined. Can you think of a single reason that we cannot keep kindness and compassion and joy as our companions instead of turmoil, pain, loss and darkness? If it were up to you only, just you, could you decide to stay awake, to forgive yourself again and again for your frailties and to always come back to love and honor and hope no matter how many times you think you have failed? Is there really anything that can keep any of us from doing this if we decide that is how we will be? Have trust that there are many, many more like you. Some share your spoken language, but many don't. There are millions and millions of us all over the world who hold the consciousness that we do NOT have to go back to being "normal."
I don't want things to be normal again. I don't want to forget my heart opening or how I've seen my own pettiness and arrogance for the fear and misunderstanding that they really are. I don't want to lose this memory of everything being broken apart, lives torn asunder and all of us scrambling for even a tiny handhold on what our lives mean or can become. I want to heal from it, but I don't want to forget it.
If you are blessed enough to be able to live with little fear of what is being talked about, more terrorism, war, repercussions, hatred and vindication, hold that spark and fan it with breath and hope and even humor. If you can laugh or get others to, do it. Laughter doesn't mean you do not grieve. Real laughter is love made audible, share it everywhere you can. I've gone on much longer than I anticipated, in fact, I had no idea what I was going to write, I just felt strongly drawn to sit at this moment and express my feelings. Everything I wrote is for me, for my own acknowledgement and upliftment. I hope there is something in it that gives you too a sense of hope and togetherness.
One last thing comes to me to share with you; Nothing any of us is feeling is wrong. Feelings are never wrong. What we do with them is our choice and every person on this planet has the ability to commune in their own heart with what is real and to make their choices based on this knowing, this grace that is given each of us. Life is difficult enough right now, do not be hard on yourself for what you feel or desire. Be gentle with yourself, all of us are infants in the great learning and growing and reshaping that is going on for humanity at this time. Oh, and if you have animals or can get near them, allow them to help you. Many inherently know that we are in need and their soothing innocence and unconditional love can help us in our healing. And like I said before, take yourself a dang nap now and then. The stress is too much right now and the greatest thing we can do sometimes is to allow the miracle of rejuvenation to happen when we sleep and experience the grace that comes with it. As I did with my last message to you, I'll end with these lyrics from my song One Breath. May you remember to take one conscious breath at a time, over and over as you heal and share that healing with those around you.