Category Archives: music

Thanks to Joan, Heather, and the NFL

Last night, I dreamed I met Joan Baez.

I was standing just outside of her dressing room, a small trailer with an open window (as in a food truck) on one side, and the door on the other. With tears in my eyes, I stood in the doorway and told Joan Baez that I’d been a fan since I was 12 (that’s not really true; I was about 15). Then I told her my current age, and she said, “Well, that says a lot.” (She’s older than me, actually, but I refrained from telling her so.)

Even though a throng of fans was crowded around the open window, she turned away from them to have a private chat with me in the doorway. Still, I had the awkward feeling that I couldn’t quite express myself to her. I told her I loved how she sang a certain song (one of her earlier folk songs) but in my dream I told myself that I really loved another one better, and if only I could remember its name I’d tell her I loved that one, too. I felt like I was acting like a typical gushing fan, the last thing I wanted her to think of me, and that maybe she was just humoring me.

But then she handed me something — a gift of some kind — and as I walked away, I said to someone, “Now I can send her a thank you card!”

So here it is. Thank you, Joan, for inspiring me as a young woman to buy a guitar, to learn your songs, to play along with your records, to try and hit your high notes (both musically and politically). Thank you for introducing me to pacifism and protest marches. And thank you for that gift, whatever it was, in my dream.

Maybe I dreamed about you last night because this weekend is the one-year anniversary of the racist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville — the one that resulted in the murder of Heather Heyer, a believer in social justice who was there protesting the rally.

So here’s another thank you — this one is for Heather Heyer.

Thank you, Heather, for helping to keep the spirit of protest alive, and for standing up against racism and injustice. And thank you for your last post on Facebook, which was: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

And, while I’m at it, thank you to the NFL players who’ve been taking a knee to protest racism and injustice. Shame on you-know-who for criticizing their peaceful form of free speech.

Unbelievably, another white supremacist Unite the Right rally is scheduled to take place in Charlottesville this weekend. What a slap in the face to all that’s decent in the world.

I think I’ll spend the rest of today practicing my guitar (until my fingers get sore, anyway) while thinking about peace, justice, love, and protests. Maybe a new song, or at least another dream, will come of it.

Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.

 

Four Reasons to Buy Songs for the Seasons

Three months ago, just after a month-long blogging challenge called NanoPoblano, I took a break from blogging to write some songs. Children’s songs, specifically. The holidays were fast approaching and I have 2 two-year-old grandsons. My big present to each of them was the gift of music.

Henry likes weed whackers and leaf blowers, while Porter is a little obsessed with Curious George and trains. I decided to start with a song about weed whackers.

After finishing the Weed Whacker Wiggle, I tackled leaf blowers, and came up with Blow the Leaves. Those two garden tools (one used in summer, the other in fall) inspired me to write Mud Makes a Mess and Gonna Build a Snowman for the other two seasons.

With the help of my husband and musical partner, we recorded the songs, had them professionally mastered, created an album called Songs for the Seasons, and uploaded them to CDBaby, where you can download all four songs for $4, or individual songs for 99 cents each.

Here are four reasons that I think it’s worth your while to buy this music:

  1. Spring
  2. Summer
  3. Fall
  4. Winter

Other reasons you might want to download the songs:

  • Mud Makes a Mess mentions a worm (bound to make kids squirm).
  • Weed Whacker Wiggle brings out the giggles.
  • Blow the Leaves will interest anyone who either likes or hates leaf blowers.
  • Gonna Build a Snowman has a moral to the story and includes some awesome harmonies.
  • We’d really appreciate some reviews!

Here’s the link where you can listen to clips and decide if you want to buy the downloads:

http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/pacificbuffalo4

What’s your favorite season?

Rapping It Up

Day 30 of the Nano Poblano (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month) challenge is finally here! Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks to the “cheer peppers” who made it all happen and cheered us on by “liking” our posts. I read the posts of my fellow bloggers religiously and learned so much from all of you.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even though some days were a little rough. Somehow, I managed to eke out 30 different pieces, including:

  • two posts made within 15 minutes of midnight
  • one post consisting of only one sentence
  • two posts that were nothing but questions
  • one that included a video of me singing and playing guitar
  • a poem made up of 14 shorter haiku poems
  • many other posts, some with a bit of history, some just plain silly
  • no cat photos, and only one post with pictures of what I had for lunch

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed NanoPoblano, I’m looking forward to a little down time in December. (Did I just say down time in December?) This year, for the first time since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for December to get here. I mean, I literally couldn’t wait. As soon as I returned home from New York yesterday, I changed both of my wall calendars to December without realizing that I was two days early.

There’s one thing I meant to post this month and didn’t. It’s a little embarrassing, but here goes: I don’t know how to rap. I don’t know much about it and I think I might be terrible at it. I’d like to learn, though, so that maybe I can use it in my songwriting projects. But how do you learn to rap? The same way you can learn almost anything these days: YouTube! I watched a few videos and I learned that some rappers (I think it’s called freestyle?) compose on the spot by thinking ahead to the end of the phrase before mentally writing the first line. I decided to try it, so I looked around the room for inspiration. I was in the kitchen. On the table was a glass, some cheese and crackers on a plate, and a vase of flowers. I grabbed my pad and pencil, and here’s the result. I may not win a Grammy, but if I make you smile it’s all worth it.

I had no support, I had no backers,
all I had going were these tasty crackers

I needed a genie to grant me three wishes
instead of all these glasses and dirty dishes

I wanted to be strong, I wanted magic powers
or maybe just a bunch of beautiful flowers

I had me some treble, I had me some bass
but I needed something else, like a flower vase

I asked that genie, pretty pretty please
can you bring me some money, or maybe just some cheese?

And on that note, I’m rapping up this edition of loristory. Happy December!

Featured image photo by Anita Peeples

img_2134

 

 

Life Imitates Art Garfunkel

It’s Tuesday, 11:30 p.m., Day 28 of the November Nano Poblano blog challenge, and I have to get to sleep soon.

I’m flying out in the morning, early. My alarm is set for Wednesday morning, 3:00 a.m.

I’m reminded of two songs:

“But the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn” — John Denver, Leaving On A Jet Plane

“The morning is just a few hours away” — Simon and Garfunkel, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Aristotle thought that art imitates life, and Oscar Wilde once said that life imitates art … but it seems that my life imitates Art Garfunkel.

Gee, I hope so. I’d love to sing like that some day.

In Carnegie Hall.

While standing next to Paul Simon.

But I’d stay friends with him until we were old.

Old friends.

Now, if I were flying to Denver, that would be like life imitating Art Garfunkel imitating John Denver. I’d like to see that.

Country Roads, bring me home across the 59th Street Bridge Over Troubled Water, to Scarborough Fair.

Coffee House with a History

Quick, what words pop into your mind when I say “coffee house”?

Did you think of Starbucks? Pumpkin lattes? Cold brew? Okay, now step into my time machine, set the dial to 1960, and transport yourself to Saratoga Springs, New York. What do you see?

There’s a two-story brick building on Phila Street, a red awning over a narrow door, an even narrower staircase leading up to the second floor, a room with chairs and tables and a small stage, a couple of long-haired folks carrying their guitars up the stairs, and a woman with a dark bun holding the door open for them. Her name is Lena.

You are standing outside of Caffè Lena, probably the oldest continuously open coffee house in America. And by coffee house, I mean the legendary spot referred to by the New York Times in 2013 as “Folk Music Heaven.” It’s where Bob Dylan tried out some new songs in the early 60’s, and where musicians, poets, and other performers continue to keep the place in business.

Lena and Bill Spencer opened the place in 1960. Lena’s warm hospitality kept it going after her husband left. It seems that Lena struggled to make ends meet but was always generous toward the folk musicians that she hired, one time paying Don McLean (who wrote and recorded the song, “American Pie”) $300 instead of the promised $150 because he “did so well.” Sadly, Lena Spencer died in a fall down the narrow stairs in 1989, but Caffè Lena lives on.

As of today, a total of 35,231 artists have performed there over the years. I had the pleasure of attending a show at the coffee house last July, and I saw two amazing musicians (Happy Traum and Del Rey). I hope to get back there again soon. If you want to learn more about the history of Caffè Lena, I recommend reading “Caffè Lena, Inside America’s Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse,” by Jocelyn Arem.

More Clues

My last post (Where Am I?) included two photos and posed the question, “Where Am I?” So far, none of my readers on WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter have come up with an answer. Either you haven’t clicked the link, are too busy with Thanksgiving preparations, or you truly don’t give a crap. It’s understandable. There is just too much crap out here to read right now, and more important things to do. But in the meantime, I’m still hanging out here somewhere, wondering where in the hell I am. So if you happen to know, please tell me so I can find my way home in time for Thanksgiving!

I do have another clue for you. Remember the first clue was “coffeehouse.” The next one is “1960.” Oh, and here’s another photo.

Good luck. Hopefully, I Shall Be Released from this mysterious place soon. (That was another clue, by the way.)

Saturday Night Flight

I’m traveling tonight from Tucson, Arizona to Albany, New York. During my 3-hour layover in Chicago, I passed the time by writing a song parody, to be sung to the tune of “Chicago” by Fred Fisher:

Chicago, Chicago

I’m charging my phone,

chrome table, I’m able

to sit here alone

On my way to New York, I plunge a fork into

salad, raw salad,

waiting for connections is just the time to

write ballads, (like this one)!

I’ll soon board

and move toward

that row in the back,

grab aisle seat, throw luggage on the rack

(packed)

settle in now, sit back, close my eyes

soon I will fly in the friendly skies of

Chicago, Chicago and then New York!

(Below: Tucson International Airport, Chicago O’Hare Airport)

Here’s the original version of the song:

https://youtu.be/NoKn7vkSMBc

Eleven Eleven

Today’s post was written for the “litebeing chronicles” blog, where a

SENSE-SATIONAL BLOGGING CHALLENGE

is underway for the month of November. When I chose 11/11 as the date for my post, I received the following response:

“11/11 is such an auspicious date, great choice!”

Yes, 11/11 has been auspicious for me. Ten years ago — on 11/11/07 — I met the man I would eventually marry.

Truth be told, we met before that, on match.com, but that doesn’t count, does it? His match.com profile said he played piano and liked Jackson Browne. That would have been enough for me — I play folk guitar and love piano — but in his picture he was riding a train and had a camera slung around his neck, just the right combination of sensitive musician and street-smart artist to hook me in.

We met for coffee on 11/11. We talked a lot about music, and a little about our former marriages. Our first official date (a Herbie Hancock concert) went smoothly. Before long, we played some songs together, and I started to dabble in songwriting. (He’d already done quite a bit of that himself.) Eventually, we decided to record our songs, but we needed a name for our duo.

Because we’d met on 11/11, and his apartment just happened to be #11 (how’s that for auspicious?), I suggested the name Two Candles. But when I Googled “Two Candles,” I found that the name had already been taken … by a store that sold sex toys. We didn’t want any confusion about that, so we crossed Two Candles off our list and kept thinking.

We came up with at least a hundred possible names — I’ve still got the list — before hitting on the one that would stick: Pacific Buffalo. (He’s from the Pacific Northwest and I’m from Buffalo.) For me, the name Pacific Buffalo conjures up oceans and prairies, modern and rustic – and that describes our music, too. There’s no one genre that we fit into, so I’ve made one up: “Cool Americana.”

Writing and recording cool Americana music with my husband has been fulfilling, frustrating, exciting, scary, tedious, and exhausting … but never boring. It’s taught me so much about music, about singing, about breathing, and about myself. It has shown me what a nitpicky perfectionist I can be, and also what a patient person my husband is. It’s made me a better listener. I’ll never hear music the same way again.

It’s also what got me started on blogging. Our band needed a website, so I became the official blogger. For a real treat to your senses, go to our website and check us out!

Which senses bring me joy and delight? They all do, but the one I chose to write about for today is the sense of hearing, and more specifically, of music appreciation. When I listen to music, I’m carried on a sea of sound to a space outside myself, a beautiful space filled with energy, waves, and light. In that way, I get to commune with some really cool, rustic, and positive energy in the universe. It even helps me to believe that there’s some meaning to my life (although I haven’t quite figured out what it all means yet). Is there a song in there somewhere? I sure hope so. Maybe I’ll call it “Eleven Eleven.”

Thank you, litebeing chronicles, for inviting me to write today’s post. My being feels lighter now that I’ve shared my love of music with you.

Tomorrow’s Sense-ational Challenge writer is: Barbara Franken

sensational-challenge-2017   Badge 2017