Posted by: suek2001 | November 16, 2016

“Now, the time has come to leave you..”

Last night, I watched an unremarkable episode of the new season of NCIS..I couldn’t tell you about the plot ..only that Mark Harmon still looks cute…but I do recall one thing..a commercial…for Google Home…their version of the Amazon Echo…and there was an instrumental playing throughout it…and I KNEW it right away…and the moment I heard it..I smiled..and cheered…the song was Country Roads…by John Denver…

..and then I woke up today, to find John’s long-time producer, Milt Okun has died…and Milt produced the album the song came from…”Poems Prayers and Promises”..so on the night Milt passed away…his work still filled the airwaves..45 years after it was released…

 

That song has a distinct echo-chamber feel..and Milt was a part of that sound…That album was not John’s first album..it was his fourth solo album..before that Milt worked with John  during his stint with the Chad Mitchell Trio…

If there was anyone who contributed to the folk music scene of the 60’s…it was Milt Okun…aside from Albert Grossman’s management of Peter Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan and the Kingston Trio chart and culture dominance…Milt was the one that had his finger in a lot of folk music….

Here Milt is in a clip explaining his beginnings….apparently, he was fired from playing with Harry Belafonte..

 

So, in Milt’s world..being fired was a rebirth of sorts…and there are lot of people grateful for that rebirth….

Milt had a hand in producing albums for The Brothers Four..some of the smoothest sounds in folk music…Peter, Paul and Mary…a voice of conscience during the civil rights era….and The Chad Mitchell Trio…a witty, socially aware folk group that altered the life of  one particular performer..(more on that in a moment)…

As many who read this blog know, I am a huge fan of The Kingston Trio..almost to the exclusion of all other folk groups from the Folk era…but even I must admit, that Peter Paul and Mary changed the landscape when they released this song…

 

..that song was released at the height of the Vietnam war…written by John Denver…..spoke to so many of the anxiousness of a nation…and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” wasn’t the original title..It was “Oh Babe I Hate to Go” but Milt begged John to change the title…and the rest is musical history…

Milt’s musical touch can be found in the Chad Mitchell Trio…and some of their early songs are too stellar to ignore…

 

This is a recording with Chad…..Chad would go on to a solo career..and that would open the door for John Denver…he won the lead spot over 250 other people…I wrote of the audition process in another blog as a tribute to a member of the group now gone..

https://suek2001.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/a-voice-to-sing-and-move-the-world-joe-frazier/

 

The sound and the name of the Chad Mitchell Trio would change…and the sound wasn’t quite as tight with John as it was with Chad..but John was meant for a solo career….and Milt knew that…

John would go on to partner with Milt on a number of records for RCA….the first three solo albums were duds for RCA..but the fourth one..containing “Country Roads” changed history….Milt actually admitted that he might have overproduced John’s first three albums….and I agree..as the studio versions of some songs contain way too much noise and drown out John’s voice and guitar..

Eventually, Milt would learn that John’s voice and guitar were worth preserving in it’s most natural state….and then it would lead to some amazing compositions…

Here’s a rare version of Annie’s Song..from the 1974 album “Back Home Again”..this is without the orchestra but with simple guitar..and mandolin…easily one of my favorite versions of this song.

 

 

Milt would work with John on so many great albums..growing up a John Denver fan…there was a sense of joy and familiarity whenever I received a new John Denver album..seeing Milt’s name on the back was a source of comfort and musicianship..

That all ended abruptly when RCA fired Milt in 1981…They wanted John Denver’s sound to be more commercially viable and made John go to Nashville with a producer named Larry Butler…the album was called “Some Days are Diamonds”…Any JD fan listening could tell John was not happy with this new direction….

The amazing thing  is Milt didn’t give up..just as he didn’t when he was fired by Harry Belafonte earlier in his career….Milt pursued a passion for opera and produced an album for Placido Domingo….and John Denver was a huge part of that….

So, I will close this blog with a song that I know Milt was proud to work on..with two of his musical heroes…John and Placido…..

…and it also contains a great lyric..”If I should live forever and all my dreams come true, my memories of love will be of you….”

Here’s John and Placido singing one of the greatest love songs ever performed..”Perhaps Love”….Thank you Milt Okun for your incredible gift of music….we will miss you..but thanks to you…we are changed as well…

So…we’re in the middle of November….the Presidential election is over…and we have a new leader…and it’s Donald Trump?

..and the reaction has been swift…shock..anger..sadness…riots…joy….

The last emotion doesn’t get any press…and it really isn’t even that valid..especially within some Trump supporters….relief is their main emotion….keeping Hillary away from the Supreme Court..away from any more private email servers..away from any more history….

I will freely admit I wasn’t on board the HRC train….I had my reasons…..and this won’t be about that….but it will be a bit of a collection of randomness…

…as this last month has felt random….the polls were all off..and we got a president….a college is giving puppies to students scared by a Trump administration…hateful chants are being uttered in schools…and the streets are filled with protesters over an election result….

..and then in the musical realm, Bob Dylan got a Nobel Prize for literature (I’ve been trying to work up a blog entry about that but I just don’t care..)..and the march of the dead continue….2016 has been horrible to be a performer…

Bobby Vee passed away….and that one hit me a bit hard….He has a place in rock history…he was on stage in Fargo…15 years old….and had to step in for Buddy Holly….as Holly had died in a plane crash the night before…Think about that…he was a local teenager..starting out in the business..and he had to fill in for a man that had had so many hits and made so many advances in music in his short three year career….That was a tall order…but Vee did it..with style….and the hits came…Red Rubber Ball…..More Than I Can Say….Take Good Care of My Baby….and the earworm that gave me insomnia for three straight nights about ten years ago….

 

….and he never forgot his roots….and loved Minnesota through and through..

We also lost Kevin Meaney….a great comic that appeared on Carson a number of times….and made me laugh hysterically….there were lines from his standup that I quoted for years…..Here’s a sample….

…His voice was a strong one for comedy….not exactly a household name but that didn’t matter….He also had ONE line in a Tom Hanks movie…ONE line….but the movie was so huge that he was able to live comfortably on those residual checks for years…the movie was “Big”..one of my favorite Tom Hanks movies…

…and then we lost Leonard Cohen…..a man whose musical and spiritual path took him to some strange places..Jewish by birth but Buddhist by choice,  he let his pain…his joy…and his reflections seep into his work…I knew two songs by him..mostly performed by others….”Suzanne” is a folk staple…for the seriously minded in their folk endeavors…(John Denver covered it in his coffee house phase)…and the gospel-tinged “Hallelujah”….a song that rose to prominence as an anthem of sorts during times of sorrow….a song that Cohen said was about the end of a relationship….and the meaning of it is still lost on me..but the lyrics and the melody are haunting enough for it to linger in my head for days…..Jeff Buckley is the one that had the biggest hit with it..

 

…just watch any television drama with a tragic arc from about 2002 to the present and this song was used….and award shows loved it too….Thankfully, they dialed the usage back so it wouldn’t become a cliche at some point…but that didn’t stop some Christian songwriter from composing a Church-friendly version of the song..I wonder if Cohen knew he would impact the Evangelical church with this song….

 

…and then today, we lost another musical giant….Leon Russell…Leon’s voice was distinct…a high whine but aged through tough experiences….and he lent that voice to a Dylan classic that is easily one of my favorite covers of all time…”A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall”…Some of my liberal friends are playing this song a lot this week due to the election results….I became familiar with it through the great movie “Remember The Titans”..a great scene of the players running through the woods as this song played over it….and it lingered long after the movie ended…Leon’s gift was a funky, thick piano sound with gritty guitars…and a fantastic gift of making any song his own….

So, I shall close this blog with Leon…singing Dylan…..and think of all the events of the past few months…and wonder what the future holds for music…for the United States…and my prayer is one where the rain ends..and rebirth begins…and healing is restored….

 

Posted by: suek2001 | November 3, 2016

“….Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all”

I had a weird flashback today….I was in the Fourth Grade…Villas Elementary in Fort Myers, Florida….we had our break from Mrs. Ruark’s class for PE….

It was nice weather so just to get out and see blue sky was nice….and then I realized what the prize of being outside would be….PE…or Phy Ed…as they called it…

We had two PE teachers.. their names completely escape me but their appearances are forever stuck in my mind…a really tall man…with a loud voice…a person of color…as they say now…and a young woman…short with blonde hair…powerful voice as well….

They barked orders and we got excercise…and then the games would begin..dodgeball was a favorite…..I really hated PE…not because I was lazy but I was as un-atheletic as can be…and dodgeball was hell…Oh, the kids didn’t really throw that hard…what kid could in the fourth grade?…but my short legs couldn’t dodge the balls…so I never lasted long in the game….

..and just once…I wanted to win…and just once, I wanted to be good at something sports related…but I never was…

I never had the grace or the moves for sports…and never really had the brains to figure out baseball or football or soccer…I was..and still am a klutz…Mom always thought it was funny that my name in Hebrew means “Full of Grace”..whatever that means…finesse is a foreign concept to me…

So, growing up I never really cared for playing or watching sports….Oh the Super Bowl was fun…for food and commercials but to this day, all I can tell you about any of the games was Joe Montana was involved in some games…what he did or scored..I couldn’t tell you….and baseball was a lot like televised golf…it put me to sleep….except when the Minnesota Twins won…twice..

So, when I hit college, I started noticing football..and even baseball…I understood the bare essentials of each but I didn’t follow any teams for years…

I have grown to like football(although my love of it has cooled somewhat)…and have grown to appreciate baseball….

..and then there’s the World Series….this year…I watched almost every game…and put up with Joe Buck’s annoying voice for one reason..to see the Cubs  win the Series….

It was always the joke…”that’ll happen when the Cubs win the World Series”…

Back To the Future even predicted it..sorta..

 

They were off by a year….but oh well…it still was sweet to think about…and a Chicago native..by the name of Steve Goodman wrote a classic song about rooting for a hapless Cubs…

 

…and I suppose my greatest reason for rooting for the Cubs…lies in the wanting to honor a late genius….Mike Royko was a long suffering Cubs fan…

..and his last column before his ill-fated vacation in March of 1997 was all about the curse of that goat…

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-03-21/news/9703210060_1_sam-sianis-goat-into-wrigley-field-jackie-robinson

Mike would never write another column…..He would die by the end of April of 1997…

So, I watched every night of this World Series….and cheered on the Cubs…and yes, the Cleveland Indians too…Both teams brought their best…both teams played their hearts out…

Then that last game….in Cleveland….The Cubs start out with an early lead..and Bill Murray is rejoicing…along with so many Cubs fans…and then the Indians roar back to tie up…Pitchers are put in and pulled….and bases are loaded and players are stranded…and then the bottom of the ninth…comes and goes…and it’s still tied…

By now, it’s close to Midnight for me…and I am ready for bed….but I don’t want to deny myself history..so I force myself to stay up…for one more inning…the 10th inning…..and the rains come…some heavy weather moves it…

It is an agonizing 17 minutes…and the Cubs score the moment the game starts up again…and the Indians try for a comeback…but fall short…and the Cubs win..in my lifetime…the Cubs win!!!!

I think I only got about 5 hours of sleep…and I am not even a baseball fan..but a win like that..makes me believe that certain things are possible…and it was so sweet that with all the horrible news headlines…Americans took a week to root for something…instead of against something….

Let the election happen next week..and all the bitterness may swallow us up…but before it does, let us be grateful for the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians that gave us joy…great baseball..and great joy…

..and here’s a note for all of my friends that are Cleveland Indian fans…next year, we all will root for you…and thank you for giving us all a great series…

 

Posted by: suek2001 | October 27, 2016

..”.and friends I will remember you..”

It is that day again…October 27th…..21 years ago…

I have written profoundly on the loss of my friend Dennis Mertz..and how his memory remains with me…and it will be…

I recall that moment I moved forward in my life…I had just moved to Duluth and I stepped outside of my apartment building..and for the first time in years, I didn’t look up and to the left…

When I lived in Minneapolis, my rooming house was on the same block as Dennis’ apartment..He lived in an older building…white paint on red bricks…and had a great bay window where he could survey the block from his third floor apartment…

I still see that open air  apartment…and still see us sitting next to those bay windows…and admiring the beauty of the hardwood floor…and the random outline of an iron near the kitchen…Apparently,  whoever lived there before dropped a hot iron on the floor..and that left a mark..

Dennis loved that mark..It gave his home character…I hated that the bathroom was outside of the apartment..across the hall…never did understand if it was a shared bathroom but it drove me nuts to use it…

A few years after moving to Duluth, I came back to that street..and realized I still looked over at his apartment…hoping..against hope..to see him in those bay windows….and that’s when it hit me….

Moving to Duluth moved me forward in my life…If I had remained in Minneapolis in that spot, I would have relived that entire horrible week he died…over and over..

Thankfully, Dennis and I never got to Duluth together..so I have no strong connections to him here….yet….I do…

I have several things from that era in my life..things that only those closest to me would understand…and I have no desire to let them go….

He gave me this plaque three days after we met….it was my birthday..Sept. 1994…I never took the wrap off because his handwriting is still on it…

 

 

I have kept that for years…..and it still means as much to me today..as it did when he gave it to me that Friday morning…He also gave it to me wrapped in the Sunday Comic section…and some flowers in a sweet looking vase(which got lost in one of my moves)…

Later that year, he asked me to be his “plus one” at a banquet he was attending..I said yes..he picked out something for me to wear…

 

I still see him stop and stare at me…and say “Sue, you really look good tonight”…one of the rare times he complimented my appearance..I know he was thrilled I wore this…with a long sleeved purple blouse….Have worn it a few times since but I have it now..more as a museum piece…

Then when he died, his family came for his things…I was able to claim his TV..and the picture of Denali National Park I gave him….and this bookcase….

 

 

Yep..it’s a bit messy…as neatness was never a gift of mine…Dennis loved to read..and I recall he bought this at Montgomery Wards in Downtown Minneapolis…and then begged me to help him put it together…

His right hand had a nervous tic so he couldn’t hammer a nail to pound it down..so I was his right hand..woman? We skipped church one Sunday..listened to a local radio station…and spent about seven hours putting it together…we argued..we laughed…we ate…and we realized how much we meant to each other…I wanted that bookcase..and I will keep it ’till either I die or it falls apart…It’s still holding itself together after 21 years….

The other thing I have of his is something of a prized possession..Dennis had a classical style in furniture…I recall his roommate had a more modernist take..and that drove him nuts…but both of them loved Dennis’ desk…

 

 

Dennis kept some papers…a small lamp..and his bible..opened…on this desk…I claimed this one too….and it became my media desk..I have almost all of my cassette tapes, CDs and various boomboxes on this desk…it also has my alarm clock and desk lamp…and a phone extension…Again, I am not neat person but I do get a lot of use out of this desk…and again, I have no desire to get rid of it…after 20 odd years…

So, it’s been 21 years…and Dennis’ memory…his smile…that voice….are all still with me..and all these things still carry all of that too…I would trade it all to get him back for even just a few days….but when the times comes, I’ll have eternity…

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | October 19, 2016

“We are living in God’s favorite nation”…

I have been trying to avoid writing about politics…especially the presidential election..I see enough opinions…and cartoons..and have heard words used in a Presidential campaign that I never thought I would hear….

Still, I suppose I should write…and this won’t really be an endorsement of sorts….or even a warning….just a a chance to weep in word form…

My political beliefs have taken some turns in my educated years…Let’s face it, I took everything my mom said about the world as the truth….

When I became a teenager, I flirted with different ideologies..some radical..some weird…and some of my own making…If you read my journals from high school English class(and God, I hope no one ever does…My apologies to Mrs. Debbie Pollard for having to read such crap) I leaned to the liberal side of things…

John Denver always sang about optimism and hope for a better world…and liberalism offered that on some level….and yet, after a time I realized liberalism was almost a paradise that was out of reach…a home for the homeless..food for the hungry…and world peace in our time….It’s nice to think about but the selfishness of man gets in the way of those lofty goals….

I didn’t really give up on liberalism…I just thought about things a bit deeper…and realized that governmental control isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…..

(I must interject, I still respect those who believe in the liberalism ideology, it just no longer worked for me..)

For years, I believed that businesses and labor worked together to feed our economy and that together, free of deregulation, they were able to give us the best our nation has to offer….

I’m not so sure of that anymore….for the conservative movement has somehow taken the average worker out of the equation and relied entirely on business owners to be the only ones who can grow the economy..and that consumers should just deal with whatever these corporations sell to the people…

..and then we have this election..a choice between a billionaire with no political savy and a woman who is the living embodiment of Frank Underwood..from the TV show House of Cards…

There is a fatalism about this election..and the supporters of each candidate like I have never seen before…as Jimmy Kimmel said “This whole election feels like America’s series finale”…

It’s also given a lot of people a lot of reasons to hate…each other..the opposition…Mexicans…Muslims…Russians…capitalists…women..men..the left..the right…the congress…..

It’s given us stuff to worship as well…we have Evangelicals worshiping the Supreme Court…conservatives worshiping Wikilieaks…and young kids worshiping an old guy from Vermont that promises free college…

It all makes me want to run and hide somewhere…and on the day after the Election..all the noise…all the anger..all the bitterness will still be there…

I have been watching The West Wing on Netflix for the last couple of months..and yes, it is a liberal fantasy but there’s an air of hope to it…people coming together to serve the nation..granted, they have their agendas but on some level, they all want to..not out of fear of someone or something…but out of love for our nation…of course, this was back in the early part of this century…when we still believed in the best of those around us…

To give you an example of how far we have fallen, the latest hit about politics is a show that wipes out the President, VP and the Congress in an attack..and let’s some lowly Cabinet Member in charge….so we’ve gone from a hopeful drama..to one that shows how to cope with a disaster…

Maybe 9/11 did us in….emotionally..spiritually….our pessimism has translated into a horrific election season…and  there may be no turning back…

The saddest part is this election has shown the young ones that  hope is a dangerous thing….and the cynicism we show the younger generation will impact our elections for years to come…if we are around that long…

 

Posted by: suek2001 | October 5, 2016

“..a drink to the living..a toast to the dead..”

It is October…..the skies are grayer…the weather is cooler…and the leaves are turning…..October seems to be a transitional month…we tearfully say goodbye to Summer….and steel ourselves for winter….in my beautiful hometown of Duluth, they are even saying we could see snow in the air..next week…and so ,our five month winter begins….

This is also the time when I begin the nagging sad feeling….weather has a lot to do with it but October is sad month for me..I’ve lost quite a few people I care about during this month…my best friend Dennis 21 years ago…my brother Chris, 47 years ago…and John Denver 19 years ago….

With the exception of a few birthdays, I really detest October….and now, another passing to the list….a friend named Rex De Long…..Rex and I never met face to face but we traded emails and comments online for a good 15 years or so..

We met through a John Stewart discussion group..via email…we would branch off into another email group for fun and provocative conversation…Rex loved music..specifically Ray Charles…John Stewart…and John Denver…and also the old time gospel songs….

Rex’s influence on me cannot be overstated…His passion for God..his willingness to love and his desire for peace seeped through every note…and every post…

His faith challenged me at times..I would have moments of rage towards God and he would listen..and then I know he’d pray..and offer the love of a brother in Christ….He was more than a brother in musical love but a brother in Christ….

Rex also changed the way I looked at modern worship music…He made a statement once that he really didn’t like modern worship music because it turned things around in the Church….Today’s modern worship music focuses on us..the believer..as we worship…instead of the attributes of the Lord  we should be worshiping…This is mostly true in the Evangelical realm of worship…my church sings a lot of these songs…and it is the trend…and that changes how we view God..so the old hymns are what Rex loved….and yes, he loved new treatments of the old hymns….

Rex also had a ministry…a puppet ministry….He worked as a worship leader and kid’s minister at Calvary Chapel  in California…he loved children..and loved the Lord…and the impact he had on those kids will live on forever…

There are so many other things I could say about Rex….his humor was legendary…his passion for playing piano and guitar led him to jam with friends from all over the country…his musical past with the Rumblers was something  he loved to talk about…and his years of friendship and work with Allan Thicke translated into a fierce loyalty to him as well…If Rex loved you, you can bet he’d be loyal to you…

I will miss his turn of a phrase…like these.

“Bless your kind heart”…”Wonderment”…and “peredventure”….and although he wasn’t southern..he loved the phrase “fixin’ to”…

The thing that tickled me about Rex was the subtle way he would  use Scripture in every email….but quote song lyrics with it…to make the music and the Creator of music as one…His most frequently used one was this one:

 

So, how can you honor Rex..sure you can listen to Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver or John Stewart (The Folk Triumvirate as he called it)…that’s nice but I bet he would love if we all just showed a little more love and kindness in this dark world..

I really hope this blog pays tribute to Rex in a way that he would love..a.s he was true champion of my writing…and a lot of my observations…..as I was reading through old emails, I came across one where we were all discussing what song we would want sung at our memorial service…and his choice was a simple one….I can’t think of a better tribute…and a better way to close this blog..

 

 

Posted by: suek2001 | September 6, 2016

“I was born in the heat of September”

As I write this, it is September 5th…..and it happens to be John Stewart’s birthday…

I was thinking of what to write on this occasion but I wasn’t sure..as my mind wasn’t in the celebratory mood….there’s been something else on my mind….the passage of time….

John Stewart wrote a LOT of great lines on that subject..and also on birth and death…and in Minnesota this past weekend, we had a bit of both….

On Friday, I spent the day with friends…celebrating the anniversary of my birthday…45 years ago…and just enjoying being around people I loved….

Then the news broke Saturday….the remains of an 11 year old boy were found just outside of his hometown…about an hour north…He’d been missing since 1989…and it was an abduction that reshaped the lives of generations to come..

..and with that sadness…..I thought of this line from John Stewart’s song ” I Remember America”…

—–“I Remember America, when kids could walk alone, got to corner for rootbeer float and safely make it home”…

I thought of Jacob Wetterling every time I heard that….and now, the knowing that he’s gone..and was only on this planet for 11 years…touches me deeply….and it’s lyrics from John Stewart songs that speak to me this weekend…

“No one’s getting younger and a few aren’t getting old”—from Kansas…..

…and this one…

“Today’s so soon, tomorrow ,you’re old”–Missouri Birds…

…or this one…

“I was born in the heat of September and I died in the cool of the Fall, oh borning and dying ,we do most the time ,you know know it don’t mean much of nothing at all”…–from Cooler Water, Higher Ground..

 

The last one ran through my head this weekend…as we mourn the loss of a child that will never grow up….and celebrate a man who touched so many of us….and this line struck me most….because it is one I wholeheartedly disagree…

I love John Stewart…I truly do…and his lyrics speak to the hope..the truth…and the longing for better days…we all seek them…and those who love music..are seekers of truth on some level….

John was great at exposing the heart of who we are…but this ONE sentiment, he got wrong…at least how I read it….and I read it as the actions of being born and dying  have no real meaning to them…

I beg to differ…..I am sitting here in my living room..because I was born….and the impact that so many others have had on my life spiritually and physically, cannot be underestimated…I’m slowly realizing that I have an impact as well….and I try my best to be a good one..failing at it on more than one occasion…

..and John Stewart’s impact….something tells me he never really “got” how deeply his music would change so many lives..He picked up that banjo and one of the greatest folk acts of all time was able to move forward….and then he plowed into a solo career with a staggering amount of output…and resonance…that people STILL want to hear his music eight years after his death…

John Stewart is the reason I go to one of the hottest places in the USA…Scottsdale, AZ….at the hottest time of year…It is the reason, I now have a circle of friends that span the globe…a family of friends….and it’s more than his music…it’s our love for each other that binds us…

I would say his life had a huge impact on a lot of people….

So, maybe John’s motivation might have been for us to examine how our lives have impact? I have no idea….and I thought of that line today, as I saw several mothers hold their newborns…and realized that each birth brings new hope…new chances for impact…and the ripples of our lives will continue…

..and then my thoughts circle back to those remains of that 11 year old boy….his family is in grief….his town is in a reluctant shock…and his home state is in a reflective mode…His life mattered to all of those he touched…and those he left behind…in the 27 years since his disappearance, laws have been changed…and authorities have gotten a bit better at connecting the dots…and parental guidance is a way of life now…

The cliche is that he didn’t die in vain…and there’s truth to that…just like John Stewart’s life wasn’t in vain..his art had impact..his life as a husband and father  had impact far beyond what fans see…

I would love to know John’s mindset in writing that lyric from Cooler Water, Higher Ground…I may be missing the point of it all but the thing I would say to him is that his work here on earth mattered….and we will never forget it…

So, I shall close with some John Stewart videos….these are friends who love the music…and still sing it whenever they can..

Here’s Tim Dismang and the John Stewart Band..Strange Rivers:

 

..and Steve Cottrell and friends singing “July, You’re a Woman”..

 

..and Tom O’Donnell covering “Dreamers on the Rise”..

 

..and the current lineup of the Kingston Trio doing Jasmine:

..and I might as well mention that I covered a John Stewart song in August…

All of these songs mean something to each one of us…that was John’s impact….a light shining in a dark world at times….and it is up to us to keep that light shining long after our friends are gone…

 

Posted by: suek2001 | September 2, 2016

“Smiles awake you when you rise”…..

So…here it is….

September 2nd….my birthday…..the narcissist in me is thrilled…a day where people pay attention to me..all day….the kid in me is thrilled….a plan to join friends for mini-golf later is in place….and the adult in me realizes that it’s just another day for millions across the globe……and all of these thoughts are fine to me…

Mom woke me up before my alarm..Each year she gets just a bit more excited for my birthday than I do….She’s dying to see what I thought of the outfit she bought me…on sale…Smoky grey knit pants(with POCKETS!)..and a maroon blouse with long sleeves…

Yep..summer is just about over…and Fall is here….For me, summer was over when the Kingston Trio Fantasy camp wrapped up a few weeks ago…

..and I suppose I should pontificate on what it all means..

The truth is..I don’t know…..I’m 45 years old today…and I don’t know what life really means….I know that I am doing my best to live for God but human desire gets in the way….I know that I am blessed to have a great mom, wonderful church..awesome city…giving friends..and a large music collection…

..but what does it all mean?

Lately, I’ve had this nagging feeling that my life is somehow not as grand as it’s supposed to be….that somehow, I’m missing some grand accomplishment….It’s a bit of a restlessness….maybe a mid-life crisis…

Maybe,  if I was married…is that the missing piece? Maybe if I was a world famous writer by now, is that what I am longing for?

Maybe, I am falling into the trap of feeling like I should have arrived by now….and that’s a trap that too many fall into…

The longing for what’s next keeps me moving forward..the longing to see if there are things I can still do..people I can still meet…truths about God, I can still discover…love I can conquer….music to absorb..all of that..still awaits me…

No matter what happens on the world stage,  I know this journey will go forward…I know that my heart will still seek…

Yet, I am noticing that my life is changing quietly..My diet is slowly changing…I can scarf down a caesar salad in a good pace…Five years ago, I would have squirmed at the mere thought….I taste the grease and salt in most fast food now….and frozen dinners bore me to tears….and fresh fruit has a sensation all of it’s own…

God knows I’m not a healthy eater but I am willing to try things….

I was willing to perform in front of a room full of people this year….haven’t done that in years..and I came out of it fine…

I am noticing the simple beauty in the flowers outside of my workplace…I have no sense of smell and they always looked nice on a basic level..but there is true art in a flower bed….

I am learning to savor the way my friends and my Mom laugh and share their joys…I don’t ever want to take those relationships for granted…

Five years ago, I felt triumphant on my 40th birthday…I overcame so much to be where I am….now, I am just trying to savor life…as it zips by too fast…I can no longer say I just turned 40..I’m knee deep in them now…

So, what is ahead for me? I am have no idea..I trust God to know.and I trust myself to explore more….and just savor that after so many years of self-loathing..this decade has freed me of almost all of that….

So, I trust….in my Mom to always support me,,trust in my friends that they will laugh with me…and trust that God will always love me…

So, with all of that support, I don’t really need the answers right now…I just need to know “the road shines bright, when you’re going home”….

 

Posted by: suek2001 | August 27, 2016

“Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you”….

It happens every year….I should prepare for it but I never do…..and I never knew how deep it would go but it always does…

It’s the post-Fantasy Camp depression that sets in…..and it’s weird because Camp falls right before my birthday in September..but Camp is so awesome, it turns my birthday into an afterthought…

(Mom is busy sending me cookies and fudge though)…

So, I come back from Camp feeling a bit withdrawn…and then I see it..sitting in the harbor…no, not a really cool ore ship….although we had some cool Tall Ships docked…(nine to be exact)..

It’s all there..in it’s bright..yellow glory…

..the world’s largest Rubber Ducky……

 

This photo was taken from my camera with  zoom lenses…but was taken from my window about ten blocks away…

The Duck is inflatable and floats on water….It is part of the Tall Ships Festival….

Here’s a shot of one of the Tall Ships…

Now, every couple of years we have the Tall Ships…so while it is cool to see, they are here so often, I take them for granted….but a Giant Rubber Duck????

 

Seeing it up close, reminded me of that weird artist Cristof that used to hang curtains in Central Park….as sort of an art experiment….

This was so much cooler..It was in the Duluth harbor..

Oh sure, Duluth loves it’s ships…it’s craft breweries..it’s hiking trails..and hockey games…we brag about our lake…our bridge and our community spirit…

…..but this Duck  set this town on fire when it was here……Lines were formed to get a picture with the duck…People came from cities around the region to pay $15 to get a mini-rubber ducky(you can buy those suckers at Wal-Mart, or so I have heard)…

I finally figured out why we loved this duck….for a couple of reasons…

  1. Adults can say rubber ducky…how often do we get to say that especially single people with no kids? Face it, it’s just fun to say the words “Rubber Ducky”..Try not to smile when you do…
  2. It’s bright yellow….and at night they put a spotlight on it..so it glows..so it lingers long in your dreams…..
  3. With the darkness of our world, the anger in this election, this adds a bit of joy and hope to our world….

 

So, it may be strange..it may be unnecessary but it’s cute…and weird…and since I am cute and weird..I completely understand.. and what I love about the concept, it’s not just a Duluth thing….apparently, it’s made stops all around the nation..a friend told me it was near PA last year and it was the hit of the state….Looking out my window, I can see why…

I had my picture taken with it but the thing is so large, that I looked like I was standing under a giant yellow breast….some kind Facebook friends pointed that out to me…I quickly changed my profile photo….

Still, the after-Camp blues set in and the Duck gave me a lift..as Duluth inches towards fall and the chill of winter….we needed that Duck.to give us one last quack at Summer…

..and now she’s gone..and I am sad..but in my dreams and my photographs, the duck will live on..it’s all it’s 65 stories of duckiness..

 

Posted by: suek2001 | August 21, 2016

A star is born???

This will be my last entry on Fantasy Camp…although you never know..more esoterica could show up….

Still, this needed a blog entry all by itself….Almost ever year, my friend Fred Grittner(check out his awesome blog here:

https://52tracksblog.com/)

..hosts a seperate event from all the official Fantasy Camp events…

He calls it From the Suites to the Stage….a chance for those who have sung in the Suites…or anywhere else to sing…you can’t be a camper..this is basically an open mic with a very appreciative audience…

Late last year, I volunteered to perform….I have no clue what possessed me to but I did….I hadn’t sung in front of a crowd since 1994..and that was leading our church choir in “Battle Belongs to the Lord”….I recall Mom wasn’t that thrilled..as she didn’t think I could sing….to be fair, I spent years telling her she couldn’t sing either….turns out..we’re both wrong…(although I think she has a better voice than mine)…

So, as the time drew closer, I realized what I was about to do…and I knew I couldn’t top the other performers that really had skills…and I didn’t want to butcher the tune I loved…..I chose a song that means lot to me….and it was in celebration of my 15th anniversary of moving to Duluth…It’s called “The Road Shines Bright”….

 

I was nervous about killing the song I loved but with the help of Debbie Pinkney on harmony vocals…Bob Moore on banjo..and Charlie Woodward on guitar, I knew I couldn’t back out..and knew I wouldn’t be alone…

As I arrived at the event, I found out that I would be following one of my favorite performers….Steve Cottrell…the man’s voice just melts me….and I was a bit nervous to follow Steve….that’s like asking Tiny Tim to follow Adele…Still, I figured I had a room full of friends to cheer me on….and a very dear friend filmed the whole thing…It meant the world to have him there to share this moment…

I noticed that George Grove and Rick Dougherty of the Kingston Trio were in the back row..I felt a bit pressured….actually, I felt a bit queasy…and my prayer before I went onstage was that all my bodily functions would remain in check…

As Fred introduced me, I knew it was too late to run…and then Fred said it..”Suzy-q is a big fan of one member of the Kingston Trio in particular”…..and then I heard a loud “YAY!!!!!” with hands waving up….and I knew it was George Grove….I laughed so hard all my nerves just flew away….and I knew I could do this….and it warmed my heart that after years of screaming at the mere mention of his name in concerts, George had done the same for me..sort of…as Rick pointed out, he was screaming for himself….whatever the reason, I felt like I could take on the world….

..and so I did…..and sang the song….I wasn’t exactly ready for American Idol but I think I did okay..vocally…and I loved that everyone clapped with me..and I threw in an adlib about “let’s have some church in here today”….and just like that, it was over….and I heard that applause….

I was relieved it was over…I was relieved all my bodily functions remained intact…and yet, I had a euphoria that I had never felt before….Truthfully, I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to fly…or have sex….instead I stood in the back of the room and watched a few more performers….it was all a blur…except I remember a bear hug from George Grove….and then all my friends started saying what an awesome job I did..I figured they were just being supportive…

I saw the video and realized…”Eh..not too bad…”…I knew the real test would be a few days later…..I heard John Stewart’s “Road Shines Bright”..and I smiled…I enjoyed it still..and it flashed me back to that feeling…Yep, I succeeded….and I have a bit more confidence than I did before..so I may just do it again next year..and Fred suggested I do “Country Roads”…..I can handle that…

..and someday..when I work up the courage to upload it to You Tube, I shall…for now…just your imagination will have to do…

 

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