Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Muses Comparing Notes?

One of these gulls might be the muse who greets my friend at the beach on Assateague Island some mornings when she goes there to write.
We're visiting her in a few days. Maybe the other bird is my muse and they are comparing notes on how difficult it is to keep two temperamental poets friends sane over long, hard winters.
I'm looking forward to a week near the ocean on the island of Chincoteague where life slows a bit and we won't have to do much but walk Rupert and decide when to head for the beach. I'm looking forward to going over a manuscript of my friend's poetry I've put together for her....she's written well this winter. And I can't wait to eat a crab cake and sink my feet into wet sand, to feel the sun on my face and to hear the roar of the surf. Maybe I'll write a poem or two.
We're more than ready for this vacation. See you in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Blessing? Or a Curse?

I'm a problem solver by nature. And I'm married to an expert problem solver. When a challenge rears its ugly head, we'll examine possibilities, consider consequences, determine strategies, and work to solve the puzzle together. We don't always find the answers, often because we realize that many of the challenges we all face sooner or later are totally beyond our control. We've learned to not take much personally as a result. However, we find comfort in trying to find solutions.

I believe one trait problem solvers have that others may not is that we aren't afraid to take a course of action. A business mentor of mine, Frances Mercer, once told me, "Doing something is always better than doing nothing; at least you'll know sooner what doesn't work." Her words served me well over the years.

This morning I am miffed because I'm unable to do a load of laundry. It's silly to stew about this, I know. I wanted to do it yesterday, after my grueling physical therapy session, but my neighbors from across the street had taken over the laundry room. We have one washer and dryer that is shared between two apartment houses. I'm home during the week; I have more free time: I only have to go outside my door to access the laundry room. I was giving them their turn.

When I went down in the basement this morning with my first basket of clothes, the washer indicated 13 minutes left. Weird. No clothes were in the machine. My neighbors had run up and down these stairs a dozen times or more yesterday (I know, because Rupert barks at them since the stairs are right outside our door) so they must have been washing something so I put the lid down to "finish" the time. And water streamed out of the machine. Then I realized why they'd left the door open overnight. And why their kitchen mop was there. They had flooded the floor yesterday.

But had they called the 800 number that is PLASTERED on the walls of the laundry room so someone would come to fix the machine so they could use it again....or another tenant? Had they called the landlord? No. Of course, problem solver that I am, I called both. And our landlord asked if I would please go speak with my neighbor "because they like you and you're so good at talking to people". Yeah. And because he's not. And because the folks across the street are immigrants and the landlord's not patient enough with them to really explain things well.

She smiled so brightly at me when we talked. "You fixed?" Those were the first words she said to me. Not "Hello" or "How's your arm?", her usual greeting to me these days. No, it was "You fixed?" She expected me to fix this problem for her. She could have done it herself, easily. Or have one of her teen aged children who are becoming "Americanized" very quickly do it for her. But she sat back and waited for someone else to fix it for her.

And I couldn't help but wonder as I crossed the this something she has learned since moving to America?

I hope not.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vote for Allegra Barley....

Allegra Barley, hubby and me, shortly after she sang for us at our wedding, a lovely surprise my husband arranged for me that made the occasion even more special. Some of you may remember the story....for those of you who don't know why this beautiful singer songwriter holds such a special place in our hearts and why I'm asking you all to vote for her to win $25,000 in the San Diego County Fair Musicpalooza Best Solo Singer Talent Contest, here's why:
When my dad was ill, he wanted to learn how to use a computer. Chris and I bought him one and spent some fun hours teaching him how to e-mail and search the web. He wanted to send us on a cruise as thanks for doing this. We kept insisting that wasn't necessary, and Dad died before making any arrangement himself. He'd asked me to write his eulogy and, as we both had a love of music, to include a favorite song of his. I choose the song he often sang, butchering the words and making loud kissing noises throughout: Fly Me to the Moon. As I spoke of this, I asked those present to always remember my father when they heard this song.
With some money left to us by my dad, Chris and I decided to take a cruise. At first it seemed the right thing to do. However, as the departure date neared, I became unsure: would this hard-working, frugal man truly have wanted me to spend his money this way? It didn't feel right, somehow.
Our ship sailed from Manhattan. Chris and I went to one of our favorite restaurants, Ellen's Stardust Diner, for breakfast. We told our waitress we were in no hurry, going on our first cruise and kind of nervous, urged her to take her time. The wait staff at Ellen's are amazingly talented singers who perform for diners in between taking your orders (go'll love it!). We'd been here many times before, but we do not know if this waitress had ever served us any other time. She took our order and said, "Well, I'll go sing a song for you."
Chris and I watched the crowd and chatted and then looked at one another as time seemed to stop as we realized that our waitress was singing a song for us. And the song that this darling young lady had chosen to sing for us was Fly Me to the Moon. Chris and I immediately burst into tears. I was sobbing by the time she finished singing. She immediately came to our table, wondering what was wrong, apologized, tried to explain that she'd selected a romantic song for us....and then somehow we managed to tell her about my father and his eulogy and all and then SHE began crying......and the manager came over....and.....well, that waitress was Allegra Barley.
Allegra sang Fly Me to the Moon for us on several following visits to Ellen's Stardust Diner, including the day we became engaged, and when Chris smuggled her into our quiet little wedding in central New York to sing it for me there, it was as if my dad was with us. Not only is her heart as big as the moon, her voice is fantastic! She writes amazing music, lyrically sound with catchy phrasing and tunes that you keep humming in your head after listening to her.
Just take a listen to her cover of "Whipping Post" if you don't believe She can sing. Please. Vote for Allegra Barley. Then when she makes it BIG...and it's only a matter of can say you helped.

Friday, May 15, 2009

An Unexpected Pleasure

I love movies, fashion and the music of the 1930's. Last week I treated myself to an at-home Norma Shearer movie day: The Women, The Divorcee and The Free Soul, all in an afternoon. I was in my glory, such glamorous women and fashions, delightful dialogue.

Hubby called home yesterday afternoon. Our friend Susan had stopped by his office with tickets for the Turning Stone to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Chris had me on speaker phone so I had to bite back the initial thought that flew into my head: why would I want to see a band with such a strange name? And then Susan said, "They're playing a tribute to Cab Calloway. You'll love them."

And so we were treated to a lovely evening of horns and stand-up bass, fantastic singing, someone playing a real piano (not a keyboard!), an amazing drummer, and an opportunity to watch couples who really knew how to dance. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy did their act in three piece pin-striped suits and even wore what looks like real spats, at least to me. You just had to tap your toes or move some part of your body.

We had seats way in the back of the Showroom, where I love to sit. Susan put it best when she leaned over and said to me, "Don't you just feel as if we're in the Prohibition Days and sitting in some Speakeasy listening to music?" Indeed, I did. When I closed my eyes, I imagined myself in some fancier duds than those I had on, and that the glasses I heard clinking held bath tub gin rather than iced tea and that really was Cab Calloway up there singing "Minnie the Moocher". I was glad it wasn't a smoke filled room though.....that's progress, at least.

Thanks, Susan, for thinking of us! And thanks Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for keeping this music alive! How nice it was to watch a boy of about eleven and his mother singing along....they knew every word to every song. It was a magical evening.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mark Zane Gets a SAMMY Nomination!

Syracuse has a very lively music's one of the good reasons to live here that offsets the horrible weather. A local newspaper, The Syracuse New Times, presents their annual version of the Grammy awards called the SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music) awards. And as many artists will tell you, being nominated is a big deal.

And Mark Zane has been nominated in the "Best Americana" category for his "American Hunger" CD!

He has some stiff competition. I'm hopeful at least one of the judges may have read Richard Wright and taken the time to really listen to Mark's lyrics; if so, they will know that this CD is the only possible winner in this category. As I've been saying here all along, this CD deserves to be heard. When I learned of Mark's nomination, I was dancing around our music was the best news I'd had all day! I'm wondering if I can bribe the judges with chocolate chip cookies, but I think Mark's songs will work their own magic.

Congratulations, Mark! We'll be keeping our fingers and toes crossed that your name is called during the awards show on Friday, June 5th during the Taste of Syracuse Festival in Clinton Square. We hope to be there!

Listen to a song or two from "American Hunger" at http//www.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baby Foxes

At an abandoned camper down the road from ours, there are six baby foxes living beneath the porch. For some reason Rupert is oblivious to them....I guess he feels no threat from them, thankfully. The mama fox runs from us the minute she catches sight of us. Not the babies......they peek out at us as soon as we walk by or they stroll leisurely across the porch while we watch from across the road, stretching in the sun and looking over at us, no fear at all. They romp in the leaves and climb on the wood's such fun to watch them!

While watching them through the binoculars, the mama returned. I actually took a couple of steps back when she came into view. She demands attention. And I swear she glared at me, protecting her brood, even though she turned and fled once she heard me in the woods.

And I thought again about that whole nature vs. nurture were those baby foxes not yet afraid of humans or dogs, yet the mama has definitely had unhappy encounters. She's teaching them already to be afraid of us just by her actions.

The campground owners have put coyote scent around the abandoned camper. This, according to the DEC, is supposed to drive this fox family away. It doesn't seem to be working....which is fine by us, as we are enjoying watching their antics. I imagine that once the more boisterous, beer drinking yahoos arrive at the campground, even the babies will decide that some humans are better off avoiding and follow their mama deeper into woods. Until then, we'll enjoy watching them though. Hubby is hoping to get some pictures this weekend. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finding Mr. Right

Grandma Priscilla enchanted me with the story of her first date with Grandpa Charles. While standing in line for the Ferris wheel ride at the county fair, he reached down for her hand. She looked down at their hands and knew they would be together forever. And they were.

Of course I expected that to happen to me and when Cupid's arrow struck me on the baseball field when a kid threw what looked to me like a perfect fast ball and then held my hand as he walked me home later, gave me my first kiss under the railroad crossing bridge.....and broke my heart two weeks later when he told me Nancy was cuter than me and we were "breaking up". Why hadn't I "known" like Grandma Priscilla had? She assured me I would figure it out.

It took me years and years and years. Forty seven years, to be exact.

And it had nothing to do with finding the right man. It had everything to do with becoming the right woman.

I'm thankful now for the bumpy -- no, make that treacherous -- road I traveled to bring me where I am now. Finding the courage to leave a marriage that wasn't working, working jobs I hated to make sure there was a roof over my head and food on the table, supporting my children, unweaving myself from other unhealthy relationships I'd find myself muddled in.....all steps I had to get through to discover the person I was meant to be.

There was a late fall afternoon when I was sitting on the back deck of a house I owned then, having a cup of tea. I'd called in sick to work that day, needing a mental health day. I'd been thinking about life and love and health and what was important. I'd just turned down a marriage proposal that would have guaranteed me financial security and life on the Jersey shore. Why? Because that Mr. Right kept saying he needed "a wife"....not that he needed "me". And I remember not feeling sad that I had finally broken off this relationship....but overjoyed that I had finally thought enough about myself that I could say "no". I didn't need him. I was able to take care of myself, had been doing a great job of it and would continue to do so. With or without a man in my life. And life went on.

And a few months later, I met Chris, on a blind date of sorts. The first time I saw his smile, his eyes, there was this lurch in my heart. And he took my hand as we headed for the movies. And as I looked down at our hands, I knew we'd be together, just as Grandma Priscilla had known about Grandpa Charles. I'd found Mr. Right.......but also, because I was the right woman. Finally.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sretched to the Limit

I've been going to physical therapy. My session usually starts with a delightful heating pad against my shoulder and then the therapist begins the stretching of my arm.

"I guess your tears are an indication that you're still in considerable pain," he'll say about half way through the session.

Deep breathing and two Vicodins taken before I leave home don't seem to do much to keep the pain away.....but it always feels better when he finally stops. And it's working. I'm slowly gaining use of my arm. I can almost raise it over my head again. This afternoon I knit two inches of a baby sweater and I actually typed this entire post with two hands. Either I'm so used to the pain I don't realize it's there or it's actually going away at times now.

Soon I'll be able to tell you about the May session of the Songwriters Woodshed, about the wonderful friends we have who "loaned" us their twin boys to help open up the campers, and about how rude Rupert was to their dog, about the baby foxes living beneath a camper near ours, and about how excited I am as the time for us to leave for Chincoteague nears.

But right now all I can say hurts.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dana "Short Order" Cooke and His Band Joe

Sparkytown, a quaint bistro-style restaurant in our neighborhood, has music with dinner on weekends now and we were thrilled for an opportunity to hear Dana Cooke play in our own backyard a few weeks ago.

As fans of a local Sunday radio show, The Blue Moon Cafe, we had heard a couple of Dana's tunes several years ago and I'd bought two of his CDs through his website back then. I'm drawn to lyrics, and Dana's are honest and twisted, my favorite combination. Hubby likes good guitar picking. The song that made us buy his CDs however, was a simple love song we know now that he wrote for his wife, "The Way You Look". It's superior to Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" in my book.

When we began sitting in at the Songwriters Woodshed, it was a joy to learn that the talented Dana who led the group was indeed the Dana "Short Order" Cooke we have enjoyed listening to all this time. We'd never been able to actually see him perform live; when Sparky told us he was going to be on her stage, we were the first to make reservations.

As my arm injury has been healing, I've been spending afternoons with an ice bag on the arm listening to CDs in the music room. I played a lot of Dana's work. He opened that Saturday night with "Sky Diver", which had become my new favorite song. I was initially terrified that the crowd would miss out on a fantastic performance because Dana hadn't brought a microphone and it can be noisy in there. I wanted everyone to listen closely to the stories his songs tell....the twists and turns happen before you even know it, you must pay attention.....but eventually the room did quiet and Dana had them listening out of the palm of his vocal chords. I loved "Cold Day in Hell" and "Bone" and, well, I can't think of any song that fell short.

And the "band"! What a treat to hear some fantastic guitar playing from both Joe and Dana. Add to that the amazing banjo picking and was magic! As one who is usually bored when instrumentals are played, I can honestly say that wasn't the case this time. I was tapping my toes and wishing I knew how to dance. What a treat to watch two performers who have played together for a long time and have developed such an ease with one another and their audience. I felt as if they were playing in my living room, just for me.

Go to and check out the music. I guarantee you'll like it.

Thanks, Sparky, for opening up your delightful eatery for such fine entertainment for our neighborhood. And thanks Dana and Joe.....we could have listened to you dudes far into the early hours of the morning.