Time is racing, racing, racing by. School registration for the guys soon and work is getting crazy preparing for fall semester events. As always, I am amazed at the way the earth and the plants seem to understand the rhythm and pace of these seasons, because I surely don't.
Our yard continues to be a nightmare of weeds although Ernie has made some amazing progress. The pile of mulch we got in, uh.....May....still sits in the driveway. It mocks me every morning and evening. I sigh heavily, Ernie yells "I've been BUSY" and I laugh. It does seem as though every time we have a break in which it could be attacked we're in the midst of one of the 75+ dew point hot days. Oh well, fall is probably a nice time to mulch too, huh?
We have probably scheduled far too many house concerts for the rest of the year, but, I ask you, what can you do when there's all this great music out there???
Next up is Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers etc), with the wonderful, and local, Rebecca Rego, and some friends of Jon's from Wales, Abstract Man on Friday, August 21, 2015. It should be a fun evening and it will be the last weekend before the fall semester kicks in and starts keeping me, and so many others, busy again. Therefore, I shall savor this period of looking forward to it and not wish it away...
Again, the great Mark Gerking....
One night after a David Olney show, as we sat chatting, he told me we should book Anne McCue. He told me that she was the REAL DEAL, and gave one of those wonderful little David Olney chortles for emphasis. I will do whatever David Olney tells me to do. Now granted, I know this may get me into a lot of trouble at some point, but just the same....I obediently booked her (o.k....Ernie had also seen her last September and raved about her but I would have done it based on Olney's recommendation alone).
Well, Mr. Olney did good by us.
She was utterly amazing. What a hell of a guitarist....AND a songwriter.....AND a vocalist....AND a presence....AND a lovely person. That's not a trifecta; is there such a thing as a quintfecta? Anyway, suffice to say it was a wonderful, wonderful show and we VERY much hope to have her back again.
Heather Munson---best birthday cake in the world, thank you very much with love.
Thanks to all that were there---new folks, old folks, the incomparable Mel and daughter DeDe. Thanks and love to all of you....
Some of Richard's wonderful pictures...thanks as always Richard...
playing Ernie's beloved Tele....
Next up? Jon Langford, Rebecca Rego, and Abstract Man (friends of Jon's from Wales) on Friday, August 21, 2015!
1. I must say, I do love birthdays in this age of social media. It does my heart good to hear from friends near and far.
We tend not to do much in the way of presents for birthdays...but I did ask, and receive, what my heart most desired: a fish spatula.
I am tickled.
And yes, you can see the cat hair on the ottoman, but given that it's a miracle you can see its surface...I'm not upset.
2. I've been caught up in worrying about people, worrying about people that are sliding too close to various edges. There are many kinds of edges of course, and some of the people I know well, some I know barely at all except for some memories. I've been trying to process it all, make some sort of sense of it, to figure out how I fit into it all and I haven't been able to.
Last night, I got home from work and Owen was mopping the living room floor (he's working on getting into our good graces as he wants some game) so he kicked us back out. We sat in the front yard and the air felt wonderful. Ernie got me a glass of wine and we talked, and it felt so right. And I remembered that I need these grounding moments, savoring my daily life, me and my family, growing things around us, enjoying the moment I am in. It didn't solve my worries but it made me feel better.
3. Anne McCue tomorrow evening. I am SO looking forward to this show. Email me if you'd like to come...we'd love to have you. This song has been stuck fast in my head for the last few days....
4. I picked up my phone to look for the picture of my fish spatula and I found this picture that Ernie must have taken yesterday. Damn, I really like my husband.
5. Some words about Anne:
"McCue's virtuosity is no surprise, but the ease with which she's absorbed and restated the beating heart of swing music is impressive and thrilling.' No Depression
McCue's 6th album has her exploring early influences such as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Peggy Lee, Hoagy Carmichael, Memphis Minnie and Cab Calloway.
The album was No. 1 on Roots Music Report Jazz Chart for several weeks and Top 20 on the Americana Chart for 3 months.
McCue’s affection for this pre-rock music is evident in the disc’s gorgeously crafted songs; they sound so authentically vintage that you’ll be checking the credits to see what Tin Pan Alley tunesmith wrote them. “Things You Left Out in the Rain,” with its woozy horns punctuating McCue’s chanteuse-like purr, and “It Wasn’t Even Fun While It Lasted,” a lighthearted romp about heartbreak, suggest long lost gems that might have appeared in a ’30s musical. “Save a Life” evokes Peggy Lee’s smoky aura, while McCue professes that the acoustic blues “Cowgirl Blues” offers a nod to another of her favorite artists, Memphis Minnie.
Those who know McCue for her rugged blues rock music will connect to “Little White Cat,” a ’50s-style roadhouse boogie that she notes is the most modern cut on the release. Written as a more positive-looking reply to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ain’t Superstitious,” the tune also reveals her love for Cab Calloway, as does “Devil in the Middle,” a darkly dramatic song (co-written with David Olney and John Hadley) that features a duet with Dave Alvin. McCue was thrilled to get Alvin to sing with her because his “beautiful, deep voice” made him McCue’s first choice for the track.
Blue Sky Thinkin’ also affords McCue the opportunity to showcase her critically hailed guitar prowess in new and often more subtle ways. Her blues playing here favors a more acoustic variety, such as the Lightnin’ Hopkins-style picking on “Cowgirl Blues.” More often she salutes her jazz guitar idols. Her fluid licks in “Knock on Wood” and the title track pay tribute to the great jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, and the gypsy jazz playing on “Dig Two Graves” speaks to her affection for Django Reinhardt. The tango touches, meanwhile, in “Uncanny Moon” reflect her admiration for Argentinian music legend Astor Piazzola.
"I've been a fan of guitarist/singer/songwriter Annie McCue for many years so I'm very honored and happy about singing with her on a damn fine song for her upcoming album. She wrote the song with John Hadley and the brilliant David Olney. You can't go wrong with such talent." -Dave Alvin
"I had done some gigs with Annie McCue out in California and thought that besides her phenomenal playing and great songs she had a unique presence. She has an angelic quality to her but also a Charlie Chaplin-esque vibe. Fearless and tender and alluring." -David Olney
Alternative Country icon Lucinda Williams has said of McCue: “Initially, her stunning voice hooked me in. Then I got inside the songs. The first chance I got, I went to see her perform . . . I was floored!"
Last night I met friends for a drink at Fries and Peanuts. As we left I walked down a stretch of sidewalk that I have walked down about a million times this year alone. I was wearing my trusty black birkenstocks which have gotten a bit stretched out. I need to have Ernie put another hole in them so I can tighten them. Whether it was because they were a bit loose, or just because it was my time, my shoe caught on a slightly uneven lip of the sidewalk and I went flying. It's such a horrible feeling to know that you're going down and there's nothing to catch you. You can't help but think, "I can stop this, I can stop this" and then you hit the sidewalk.
Yes, I went splat, sprawled out beautifully no doubt, on the sidewalk in full view of everyone on the Esquire's outside patio, everybody sitting outside at Seven Saints, and right next to a group of people that were standing there talking.
Everybody was incredibly kind and kept asking me if I was o.k. There's something about a fall that can be so jarring. I wanted to cry even though I was barely scraped up, and mostly I wanted to disappear. "I'm fine, I'm fine," I said and scurried for the car.
I got home and told Owen what happened. He chuckled mournfully, thought a minute, and then said, "I once farted in the library." "It was really loud and the kids laughed, but Mrs. Matthews stood up for me and said, 'now, now'."
I hugged him and told him I loved him because really, what else could I do?
In other news Leo has updated his website. Personally I think it looks pretty damn wonderful. Please feel free to peruse.
Crazy light after that thunderstorm yesterday evening, huh?
I really wish Owen still said Good-Lord-a-Mama in moments of excitement. I mean Good Lord Almighty, which is I suppose what he was trying to say, is good but there's something about Good Lord A Mama that just rolls right off the tongue. Ohhhhh...remember when Leo would say berella for umbrella? Sigh. Well, that's neither here nor there but just the same...GOOD LORD A MAMA....Anne McCue is right around the corner! This Friday night!
This will be such a fun show....she is really something...great guitarist, great writer and great stylist of songs....
I am going to make some falafel, chicken skewers, and tabouleh for the potluck. You are welcome to bring or not bring anything or everything to share. BYOB $20 suggested donation, but if you can't do that, come and just donate what you can. It will be a wonderful show. Potluck at 6:00, music to follow...probably two sets.... If you need info/address etc just email me (link at top right). I can't wait!! I think the News-Gazette is going to be there too....come out and do me proud! And besides....it's only a day after my birthday and having lots of people there would be a perfect present!
A pretty good first attempt at home made bulgogi.
A surprise visit from one of Ernie's oldest and dearest friends, Robay Geary. It was a wonderful treat. And yes, yes, yes, it's a truly awful picture of Ernie but Robay was smiling the most in this one so I went with it anyway....
Ernie picked some parsley from the garden and this tiny little bachelor's button ended up in the mix...it was just beautiful...the most vivid blue....
From one of Owen's boxes from the garage...an old phone I had decorated with nail polish many years ago. Made me sort of wish I still had a landline...
In Wildwood, NJ...
Some of Owen's pictures....
Ahhh...the end of vacation looms. Back to work tomorrow but that's o.k. I've had a good break....I'm SO glad I took some time off after we got back. That's a luxury you can't always do and it really felt good this time.
I've been busy doing nothing and turning over all sorts of things in my head....why the Jersey coast didn't speak to me the way Maine coast does; the story, and response to it, of Jackie Fox revealing that Kim Fowley had raped her; wondering how the Cosby story fits into that all; the ways in which we never really know what's going on inside others; and hoping that Ernie's bone scan shows his shoulder pain as merely muscular damage.
Yup. All that. Unfortunately I can't articulate it all properly so it's still just spinning around in there... Right now I'm too exhausted and exhilarated from online chatting with Comcast for almost an hour to try to pull it out of my head any faster. HOWEVER....I managed to lower my cable/internet bill over 60% AND get faster internet. YES. I did move down from a digital preferred package to a digital starter package....I made Ernie give up IFC and Sundance and I lost the Cooking Channel, but our internet is supposed to be twice as fast. Sometimes I think I'm ready to give up cable entirely...but I'm not QUITE there yet. I had tried this once before...just going to online chat and asking about prices but I never got anywhere before. This time it really worked. I haven't even told Leo about the better internet speed....he's going to be beside himself!
Before I head back to real life, a few random shots from vacation....
A breakfast treat new to me: Taylor's Pork Roll! It's kept in the cooler right next to scrapple. I actually bought some scrapple but never got around to cooking it. Oh well....
And in our last regional chip-off, Grippos was a clear winner!
As I said already, Leo LOVED Railcamp. I must say I think it was even greater experience than either of us could have imagined. Kudos to the folks that put this on and make it happen...it was really impressive.
Here are a just a few of Leo's pictures that I liked. Of course I'm not the one with the train knowledge so he might choose differently, but I thought I'd show a few. I think he's got a good eye.
My sweet pea.
Oh, and of course my favorite of all....
I woke up Monday morning in our Cleveland hotel room and thought to myself...."the Keno brothers nodded at me!" The family rolled their eyes when I mentioned it. I ignored them and we all lolled about in the comfortable beds and ate leftovers for breakfast. This was our day to hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I had added this on to the trip because I wanted Owen to have part of the trip that was something for him. I had never particularly been dying to go before but as we planned the trip I started really looking forward to it.
Our hotel was just a few blocks away so we walked down and forked over our money. As we paid they offered to take pictures of us holding guitars. Uh, no. We headed downstairs and began wandering. It was crowded. It felt mmm...odd. I'm not sure why I didn't like it more than I did. I mean I am a person who loves artifacts. What are my antiques except artifacts of a certain age and culture? So why didn't this touch me more? I'm not quite sure. The displays seemed crowded. I somehow expected more interpretation or focus. I don't know. I loved the Country Music Hall of Fame when I went there (although it was a million years ago). I made Ernie take a picture of the CBGB awning just to point out the...well....oddness. I don't know what I would do differently but....there was just something unsettling about this.
As we headed into the displays the first things we came across were displays of items related to Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Lady GaGa...and someone else I can't recall. If I only had a picture of Owen's complete and utter bewilderment. "But why is this in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" He was crushed. He and Ernie eventually found things they were interested in however. Me and Leo? Not so much. My leg was going numb which is always a bit unnerving and Leo was polite but tired and uninterested. Eventually we told the two blondes we would meet them in the cafe. Leo and I went up, spent $6 and some change on an iced tea and a water, and found a quietish spot to sit and talk. It actually ended up being delightful. He showed me all his pictures from Railcamp and we chatted and chatted. Ernie and Owen showed up and we all talked for a bit. Then Leo and I headed back to the hotel and let the two of the enjoy themselves without feeling like we were weighing them down.
For some reason my favorite thing that I saw was the display of John Cippolina's amp set up. I'm not sure why...maybe because it looked like a wonderful Dr. Seuss sculpture.
Ernie and Owen didn't take much in the way of pictures but Owen did get this. I love that boy.
Later I asked Owen what he thought overall and he said he'd give it a 6 out of 10. Not bad. Overall we were just kind of eh...although Ernie said one thing they watched did make Ernie cry...can't recall what it was now. So it had its moments I guess. We hung out the rest of the afternoon....thought about doing other things but were all just a bit road weary at that point. We ordered good Japanese food from a place called Noodlecats and snuggled into our beds. The next morning we got going pretty early and happily climbed back into our car. We'd had enough diner breakfasts during the week so went with doughnuts. A cursory search or two led me to Jack Frost Doughnuts and oh my lord were they good....these might rival my beloved Doughnut Dip!
my salted caramel doughnut above, Ernie's classic glazed below...
Then we trundled back onto the highway and sped for home. We drove through some frightening storms complete with hail and wind but eventually we made it into the sun and home. As always, as anxious as we are to get away, it feels unbearably good to be home again. I'm off the rest of this week and trying to not let work creep back too quickly into my psyche. In other news Ernie somehow hurt his back/shoulder. We're hoping it's not related to the accident and surgery. He's off to the doctor today. We shall see. The boys worry about him greatly. He has no idea how loved he is. Today I am enjoying the grey skies and am already thinking that maybe TOMORROW could be our productive day to figure out bills and everything else that needs to be done.....maybe one more day of vacation time....
On Saturday we left Cape May and picked up a glowing Leo at the University of Delaware. He was glowingly happy and had a tiny bit of glowing sunburn which was a wonderful thing to see on my pale inside boy. I tried not to keep hugging him for an hour but none of us could stop grinning. We tumbled into the car and headed off for Cleveland, about six and a half hours or so. We drove from Newark towards Strasburg, Pennsylvania. It was absolutely gorgeous, rolling country with wonderful architecture and many Amish horse and buggies. In hindsight (see? it was the theme of the vacation) we should have stayed around there instead of Cape May. We were so far east though that I could not resist the lure of the ocean. One of the days in Railcamp they had spent at a train museum in Strasburg with a live steam engine (as in Leo's picture). As we drove by we could see it loading up so Leo directed us to a spot where we could watch it go by. They don't have a turntable so it went by backwards but it was strangely thrilling to see. As we drove through Strasburg there were a number of antique shops that looked promising but our budget didn't allow for stopping and I just watched them go by wistfully.
After talking rapidly about his whole week, Leo promptly collapsed into sleep. It was a VERY busy week for him. We made it into Cleveland just as traffic was pouring into their stadium. We got stuck in traffic and one way streets but it gave us a quick tour of downtown Cleveland which I thought was delightful. We were happy to tumble into our hotel room though, to flop onto the beds and look out at the lake and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My boys love hanging out in hotel rooms so they had no interest in going out. Ernie and I ordered dinner for them and went downstairs to the hotel bar. I found the layout rather odd until I figured out that the actual restaurant was being remodeled and it had all been moved out into the lobby for the duration. We settled onto a couch in the corner. My wine was expensive but it was a hell of a pour and we sat and talked and began to relax.
When Ernie was checking in to the hotel, the person at the desk had mentioned that the Antique Roadshow was in town. There was only one other person in the restaurant/bar when we got there. As I sat, looking out the window to the street, I saw a group of folks walking toward the hotel. I don't know why but I just thought hmmm....wonder if that's a group of AR folks. Just the look, the bags over their shoulder... A bunch came in and sat down and a minute later Ernie whispered the same thing to me, saying that one of them had a lanyard that said AR Crew on it. We giggled for no good reason and kept sipping and chatting. Then Noel Barrett (and lord I just looked at his website and he sure as hell doesn't look his age) came walking in and as he's pretty damn easily identifiable our suspicions were confirmed.
Ernie murmured "maybe the Keno brothers will show up," and I just rolled my eyes. Then a moment later, sure enough, Keno Brother One came walking in, over to a corner to talk on his phone. We sat and watched everybody. It all seemed so familiar for some reason. Then, in came Keno Brother Two. He stood and talked to the a group at the table in front of us before turning to take off. He looked over to our table, smiled and nodded. We nodded back and I tried to figure out if it had seemed as though we were staring. Ernie has this odd ability to get the nod from people though. I don't know how he does it. We can walk into a club and somebody from the band that we don't know will give him the nod. I'm always like "What the hell?" The first time we saw Malcolm Holcombe, before he even played, he walked over, patted Ernie's shoulder and said hello. It works on antiques folks as well. I have no idea.
I made Ernie get me another glass of wine because no way in hell was I leaving this kind of entertainment. Yes, we are geeks. A few minutes later Keno Brother Two finished up his phone call, walked over to the other folks and said a few words before heading out, only to turn toward our corner, pause and wave at us.
And good LORD did I ever want to call my mother. She would have been so tickled.
The Roadshow group headed out for dinner and we went upstairs, ordered some Vietnamese food for delivery and happily collapsed into comfortable beds.
Yup, my favorite moment of vacation (other than the storm coming in off the bay I guess....). I wanted to take a picture but I didn't want to sink quite that low.
After our night at the Caribbean we got a diner breakfast and headed on down to Cape May. We drove out to the Cape May lighthouse. We wandered the beach a bit. The beach struck me as odd. Long and deep, flat, flat, flat so that you couldn't even see the waves until you got close to the water's edge, where it sloped down suddenly. We went to one of the town's beaches later that week and kind of had the same experience. We were also on a beach with lots of pretty young people...it just wasn't quite the right fit. We hung out long enough for me to get a bit of sunburn despite the sunblock but then headed home.
The beaches puzzled me as there was no natural slope and hardly any packed down sand. Finally I found this article and it explained a lot to me. The beaches have been rebuilt since the 1980's for millions and millions of dollars, and I'm not the only one that thought it didn't seem like a real beach...
Since 1989, the cost of rebuilding and replenishing Cape Island beaches has topped $50 million with estimates of more than $100 million to continue replenishing in the future. More than 33 million cubic yards of sand have been redeposited from offshore to create 5.7 miles of expanded beach from the Coast Guard base to Cape May Point. This new seascape today remains very political, experimental, controversial and one of the most expensive manufactured beaches in the world.
Depending on which side of the blanket you are sitting, beach replenishment is considered a blessing – or a curse. ....
There is no debating that beaches are the lifeblood of the economy. The lust for the sea experience generates billions in vacation dollars and real estate fortunes. Many blessings, indeed.
But there is danger lurking along man-made beaches where high surf breaks closer to the beach and there are sudden drop-offs and step-offs in the ocean where the imported sand has not stabilized to form a gentle slope found on natural beaches. There are invisible cavities near stone groins, aging steel and wooden piers that have been blanketed with sand.
Veteran beach lovers in Cape May Point were angry the first summer after the 2004 winter beach replenishment. They were vocal about dangerous holes and drop-offs, new rip currents and rough imported sand. They were accustomed to narrow tide-cooled sloping beaches of the finest sand in the world.
And Cape May itself, is of course a high tourist area with great Victorian architecture. Sometimes when places are so perfectly kept up they start to seem like a Disney version of it all somehow. This is why I am a failed preservationist in many ways. I like places before they are restored....or at least over restored. I love tourist areas that are slightly faded. So all in all, Cape May was fine, but not someplace we would return to. We hit some antique shops and malls and Owen found a present for Leo but that was about it.
Our house was on the Delaware Bay, just across the street from a little beach. I thought that sounded lovely until we ventured out there barefoot and I found I was walking on pieces of dead horseshoe crabs. Ummm. Okay, now I'd read a bit about them....but I just didn't picture them so BIG. When I read further though I found they can live to 11-12 years old....which means there were crabs out there Owen's age. They are rather fascinating creatures. I'll give you that. Completely primordial......they look like Darth Vader masks with a tail. I was kind of ok until we went out later and I found they were coming in with the tide, little tails sticking up out of the water and crawling onto the beach. I hotfooted it back to the front porch.
Here's a video with commentary by Owen and Ernie...
I wasn't even inspired to cook. I think I only cooked once (as Ernie said, it was unprecedented....and Leo even looked startled when I told him). The kitchen was cute but pretty impossible to cook in and I didn't find the fish markets inspiring. We did get some local scallops one night and I think I made a pretty damn good dinner. We had planned to get blue crabs one night but then we kind of looked at each other and admitted that crab is o.k. but eh. We just weren't enthusiastic.
Here's my one cooking adventure:
Cynthia's Curried Scallops with Corn Fritters and Zucchini and Basil Sauce
1 lb scallops
1 can coconut milk
2 teaspoons Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder (I always bring a few spices from home)
1 heaping teaspoon Vietnamese chili-garlic sauce
potato starch (you could use flour, but I like the lightness I get with potato starch)
fresh corn cut off the cob (2-3) ears
zucchini cut into sticks
Heat the coconut milk and simmer til slightly cooked down, add curry, chili-garlic sauce and a dash of soy sauce. Set aside.
Mix corn and egg, season with salt and pepper and a tablespoon or so of potato starch (or flour). Shape into patties and saute in oil til crisp (I should have made mine crisper). Coat zucchini with starch, salt and pepper and saute til just done (to your taste). Coat the scallops with starch, salt and pepper and sear on both sides briefly.
The flash makes this look greasier than it was....please look with forgiving eyes. The sauce was GREAT with the scallops and zucchini and I have a soft spot for corn fritters without added sweetness. Oh, oh, oh, and we also served it with a basil sauce which didn't make it into this picture. I just whizzed fresh basil and olive oil together and we drizzled it on the scallops. It was pretty great if I do say so myself.
We ate meals or ordered in from a number of eh places. I think that, other than the dinner I made, the best food we ate was some steamed shrimp at a touristy place near where we stayed. It was surprisingly perfect.
The house didn't have wifi so I ran up our phone bill by going over on data. I'm weak. We called the owner to ask about wifi and never got a response. Fine to not have it but would have liked a response. And the 'fully equipped' kitchen didn't have a single potholder much less a sponge or dishcloth to wash with. It was all just a little...eh.
But every time my phone buzzed Owen and I would compete to see who could check the text from Leo first....and they made us all SO happy....
Apart from that, one of our favorite moments was, when driving by numerous turtle crossing signs, we actually saw a turtle crossing the road. Not only that, the drivers were slowing down to carefully go around it, and one car pulled over to help it across. For some reason that delighted us.
And....one evening a thunderstorm came rolling in across the bay and we sat and watched the lightning and clouds flicker at us. It was quite wonderful.
I'll write more about the last leg of the trip later. It always feels good to sort it all out in my mind on here....