Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Robert Hinrix, Bob Barraza, my son, Jen Anspach, and me,
in the dead-end alley behind my house, one year ago today
(Jen and Bob couldn't make it last night, and Mac couldn't last year)

* * * *

last night's set list:

"last train to clarksville." -- "this is a song from the '60s about a guy who's been drafted and he's about to leave and he's talking to his sweetheart on the phone." we start playing. a few chuckles -- oh, the Monkees! but it's a hard fierce blueswailing version with an unearthly a cappella tag line, "and i don't know if i'm ever coming home." we finish. "wow, i never realized what a sad song that is." first time I've performed the song with Robert & Mac; Mac & I rehearsed it the night before without Robert. wing it. went fine!

"spring's here to stay." from the CD. i got to some groovy places on the harmonica, and Mac stretched it more than usual on the bowed saw, but mostly i missed Jen's sweet harmony vocal & Bob's finger-snap-tight drumming -- they're both out of town.

"it's all i have to bring today" -- the Emily Dickinson poem. from the CD. missed Bob again, Jen too, but we swung it fine, and it's a fun vocal to "perform," especially to gesticulate during the guitar-less section. lack of drums forced me into a more conventional rhythm during my guitar solo, but i dealt with that fine & added harmonica during the guitar solo, making it a dual-solo. one of my favorite songs i ever wrote, such an ecstatic poem.

"how sweet I roam'd," the William Blake poem. no rehearsal, first performance with this group. wrote the music to this song about 20 years ago. still dig it.

"a man of words," the Mother Goose poem. from the CD. missed Jen & Bob. added Fingers Hilarity & Robert's daughter, nickname Bug, who's 12 days older than Fingers. the 2 of them joined us on the laughing section with gusto.

"sleep," a lullaby i wrote about 20 years ago. i'm not sure that Robert & Mac had even heard the song but they followed along fine. a friend i've known for more than 20 years noticed that i dropped a line, which i dropped some years ago. she had sung the song as a lullaby to her now-teen-age daughters when they were little. i was touched to learn that.

* * * *

Jen sings as much lead as I do in the band, so we couldn't do a bunch of songs from the CD. it felt really good to play off the cuff. Robert's good enough that he can follow anything on the cowboy chords (guitar slang meaning, "not too harmonically complex"), and we fit Mac's bowed-saw playing in on the fly no problem.

also feels good to be playing songs I wrote 20 years ago. and still love them, still find them relevant to my life. not many from that long ago still resonate; grateful to have any.

* * * *

today I turned 43. last night we had a party and started giving away the CD. Robert's friend David Milford played a set before we did, on our back deck, while people sat in the dead-end alley and listened. great setting. David sang a bunch of Blake's Songs of Innocence, really nice melodies, mostly quite simple and touching. a college pal, John Logie, coincidentally had dropped a line saying he was in town with his wife and children visiting his in-laws, so he was there for David's set and the first song of mine. during one song of David's set, Logie leaned over to me (he goes by his last name) and said, "Do you remember when Ginsberg sang this [particular Song of Innocence] at Hill Auditorium?" more than 20 years ago. No, I didn't remember; all I remember from that reading was his magnificent performance of his longish poem
America, and the charmingly swishy emphasis he gave to the word "queer" for the line, "America, I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel."

i've been basking in the afterglow of the party all day. after the music I started drinking. gab gab gab in the kitchen, nurturing the mind with lively talk and the soul with cathartic blah blah blah and the heart with the bonds of friendship. eventually everybody left except David and his girlfriend Jennifer. I started plunking songs from my Yip Harburg songbook at the piano while Jennifer noodled pleasantly on her flute -- which she's only been playing a month -- until my beloved spouse finally went to bed, necessitating an end to the musicmaking, by which time it was officially my birthday, already one of the happiest ever.

* * * *

this morning my beloved spouse let me sleep in as she fed breakfast to our son. after I got up we went back to the Maya Lin exhibit at the Henry Art Gallery, which we saw 6 weeks ago. a wire mesh sculpture in a large room that maps an ocean floor is really about proprioception: the mesh is large enough that you can poke your head through it no problem, so you're simultaneously above and below the wavy surface. Lin's stuff also feeds the mind as it feeds the heart. she is art-schooly in that way of fundamentally questioning and exploring the material characteristics of her media, which Daphne Carr described in her terrific EMP paper from this year, which I didn’t hear but read here. But Lin's stuff has heart as well as that intellectually-driven quality Daphne wrote about -- as my beloved spouse said, "It really feels like there's love in her work." Love of the physical and biological world. I felt it too. Want to see the show again.

* * * *

The status of the CD: hopefully I'll have it up on the web before too long (meaning, some time this summer) available for free (at least at first). still figuring some things out. will keep you posted. for now: grateful to my beloved spouse for designing the packaging; grateful to the band for their passionate, imaginative performances; grateful to the engineer for getting the sounds down & sorting them out with me; grateful to listeners for encouraging the music with attentive listening. and grateful to the music. being in the music -- as a musician, nothing beats it.

Happy birthday, John! I'm looking forward to hearing the CD.
Thanks Corndog! I look forward to hearing yours too!
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