Friday, October 30, 2009

Painter's Elbow and why you should support local businesses.

I spent over six hours scraping, sanding, and priming my porch yesterday. I know this because I listened to an entire audiobook while I was on the ladder, stretching, and scrunching up my already arthritic fingers. But I was more worried about my elbow.

The last time I did a considerable long stretch of manual labor (painting and tiling), I woke up with a badly infected elbow. Remember that blog? Where the doctor freaked out and put me on antibiotics and told me to pray that it didn't spread or I'd end up in the hospital having surgery? I got better, but it certainly gave me a fright.

When something dramatic is going on in my life, I don't mind telling the world. Usually it's something funny, so it makes a good story anyway. So when I was out with my red an swollen elbow back in August, I needed to go to my favorite local paint store, Dages. I go there for all my paint needs because the owners are awesome. Not only are they huge fans and supporters of local music, but they also help me make decisions. One time I walked in and said, "I want to paint my dining room some sort of goldish color. Can you please pick one out for me?" And it looks awesome on the walls. Well, it looks awesome on the two walls I've actually managed to finish painting.

Anyway, I was in there with my swollen elbow because I needed to get a color matched to touch up a few spots in the kitchen. I brought in the paint chips, went out on a coffee run, and when I came back, David handed me a quart of perfectly matched paint. Since it wasn't a color I had on file there (they keep a file!!), he had to come up with a new name. And what did he name it? Yellow Elbow.

So yeah, I've got a paint color inspired by my elbow infection.

It's a lovely light yellow, perfect for a kitchen. So if you're looking for a new color to brighten up a small room, maybe I suggest you go to Dages and ask for "Yellow Elbow?" It should be in the Brigid Kaelin file.

Now I'm just hoping nothing becomes inflamed because of yesterday's manual labor. Don't worry, I don't plan on doing any more of that for a long time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Rosencrantz: I don't believe in it anyway.
Guildenstern: What?
Rosencrantz: England.
Guildenstern: Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then?
-Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I'm booking another tour to England and Scotland right now (for May 2010, those of you in the UK, message me with your city-venue requests), and my favorite booking tool isn't one of those ArtistData or Sonicbids or Reverbnation websites. It's a map.

I love maps. Old maps. New maps. Political maps. Even student-made topographic maps. My parents subscribed to National Geographic, and each month the magazine came with a fold out wall map. I kept all of them, plastered my walls with them, and obsessively learned my rivers and capitals. In high school, when we had to master all 54 nations in Africa (at least that's how many were on the map in the 1990s), I hung the wall map of Africa on the bathroom door, facing the toilet. I think my parents probably learned a lot more geography than they were expecting those few weeks. But I know the difference between Cameroon and Chad because of those maps.

I've had a lot of trouble locating a wall map of the United Kingdom. Shouldn't be that difficult, right? But the ones I have found online all ship from the UK, and they are expensive. I hung my folding road map on the wall, but it's only got half of England -- the other half and Scotland are all on the backside. So I ordered a duplicate and am doing lots of cutting and pasting to create my own wall map of the UK and Ireland.

It's the best tool for tour booking because you can actually get a sense of where these cities are and how far you're driving. GoogleMaps is useful, but it's hard to really get the feel for how far you're traveling when you're staring at the laptop screen. I need push pins and flags and highlighted roads.

I think I might start subscribing to National Geographic again. Or if you subscribe, and you have a wall map (not road map) of the UK, hang onto it for me, please?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another irreverent thought.

Last week I was cleaning the basement to store the yard-sale-stuff (it's clear I'll have to wait until spring to have one), when I came across a box of curiosities. I giggled as I pulled out a silver mixing bowl. It's desperately in need of polishing, but I could still make out the letters, "BRIGID KAELIN - AHS 1996 - 12 YEARS PERFECT ATTENDANCE."***

Yes, we all know that I am a big nerd, but now we all know that I am also a big HEALTHY nerd. I think my all-powerful immune system is due to my parents Jewish/Catholic intermarriage. The biology of love says that you are evolutionarily attracted to people with different immune systems from your own, which will thus lead to strong offspring. The Jews are an in-bred tribe and the Irish-Catholics as well (sorry, mom and dad, but you're both in-bred), but my folks branched out when they made me, thus creating a redheaded rock of immunity.

Usually, I'm not worried about getting sick, but with all the swine flu and general flu freak-out this year, I am in battle-mode. I refuse to get sick. There is no time for illness. And so I am armed with Airbourne for me and Hand Sanitizer for those kids who come over to my house for piano lessons and touch all over my keyboard. And multi-vitamins and extra Vitamin C tablets. And an apple a day.

My stupid health insurance always denies every doctor's visit anyway, and Airbourne is cheaper than Anthem. Maybe I should tell them about my Perfect Attendance Silver Bowl. Think they would discount my premium?

*** The Jefferson County Public School Students from the Class of 1995 with 12 Years Perfect Attendance each received a trip to France. I got a silver bowl. Hmpf.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ice storm babies.

About nine months ago, there was a massive ice storm in Kentucky. I was without power for 10 days, and the city was just about shut down. Nine months later, a lot of my friends seem to be giving birth. Babies are cute and all, but I'm suddenly really glad my pipes were frozen that week and I wasn't able to drink the water.

That's all for today.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It feels like Scotland outside.

Remember that time back in June, when Friend-with-a-Truck and I decided to go to Amsterdam for the weekend? (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you might want to scroll back in blog-ville. It was awesome.) I was just thinking that I apparently have a propensity to take last-minute awesome trips. I say that as I stare at the gloomy fall sky, listen to the rain on my roof, worry about money-troubles, and imagine I am in Scotland.

The first time I went to Scotland was when I was 19, and I'd never even had a drink before, other than surprise bourbon when I took a sip of my mom's "Diet Coke." It was my second year of college, and flights to Louisville for spring break were around $500. (This was 1998 dollars too, so that's, like, $2000.) Lyzz and I had decided to just stay in New York for the week. But then we saw flights to London listed in the Village Voice for only $150. Yes, it was cheaper to fly to London than to Louisville. The next thing we knew, we were at JFK; then we were flying over Greenland with the entire West Point Rugby team and watching them drink the plane dry; then we were in London.

After a day and a half in London, Lyzz's dad (who was coincidentally there on business) got sick of us, and bought us each a ticket to Edinburgh. We hopped the train and intended on spending one or two days at the most in Scotland. But our hostel was hopping, and it was St. Patrick's Week, -- I definitely had some Guinness that week, although my love of fine Scotch wasn't discovered until my third trip to Scotland -- and we had to race back to London at the end of the week barely in time to catch our flight back to New York.

I've considered planning another spontaneous and awesome trip, but that sort of defeats the purpose. Although, reading Pillars of the Earth definitely has me searching daily for cheap tickets to the UK.

If the week continues to look like Scotland outside, you may get an entire blog on Scotch Whisky. I think I'm going to go add some single malts to my public Amazon Wish List.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weird ... a baseball blog from Brigid?
I lived in New York for five years. The Yankees won the World Series four of those five years. I'm sort of a good luck charm for them, I admit. The year I moved there, 1996, was the first time the Yankees won the World Series since 1978 (incidentally, the year I was born -- see, I brought them luck even in the 1970s). They haven't won since I left New York. I also haven't paid one bit of attention to Major League Baseball, other than a few Kevin Costner movies on TBS, since then.

Friend-with-a-Truck, however, loves baseball. He also loves the Yankees. As a birthday gift to him this year, I have decided to give the Yankees another World Series. So I've started watching the playoffs, and as you can see, my former charm and influence over their wins has returned. I still think the Twins got a really bad break in that one game where the ref called foul when it was obviously fair and thus prevented them from scoring in the extra innings. But it was fun watching that fiesty little runner steal bases right under poor Joe Nathan's nose. (I think there should be an old-timey song called "Poor Joe Nathan.")

During the past week of watching playoff games, I've also decided there should be option on your TV to "Watch with Brigid's commentary." You know, just like on a DVD when you can watch with director's commentary. I think my comments are much more insightful than the boring sports announcers'. I like to talk about all kinds of things while I'm watching a baseball game.

Here's an example of Brigid commentary during MLB games:
I think Johnny Damon looked much better with long hair. Also, I think he's a traitor. I used to go to Yankees games with a bunch of Red Sox fans. It was scary. I think it's horrifying they are tearing down the Metrodome and its cool retractable roof.** I went to a Twins game in 1988 with some relatives in St. Paul, and the Metrodome was brand new. How environmentally irresponsible is it to build massive-yet-disposable stadiums? Did they tear down Yankee Stadium yet? Hey!! That call was ridiculous. How can that umpire sleep at night? Seriously?? No do-overs? That's just mean to walk A-Rod. Give him a chance to hit, I mean, come on. Even if he did cheat on his wife. But then, that was with Madonna. Don't you think he probably said to his wife, "Hey, give me just this one ... I mean, it was Madonna! Wouldn't you have done the same?" But still, he cheats on his wife, he probably cheats in baseball too. Oooh ooh! Home run. That's awesome. I really like it when they break the bats. What do you think they do with the broken bats? Do they recycle them? Or give them to fans?

Come to think of it, Friend-with-a-Truck is really tolerant to watch anything at all with me. Still, I think it's a pretty cool birthday present to give him a World Series for his team.

** I have since been told they are not tearing down the Metrodome. Whew! Relief! And apparently, it doesn't have a retractable roof. Hmpf, I always envisioned it with a retractable roof. Probably another one of those lies my dad told me that I gew up believing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My new job.

I remember one day in college, sitting around Garrett's room, perusing the Giant Book of Internships. It was sophomore year, I think, and I was anxious to do something besides go to class and my work-study job. Although I ultimately took an internship at CBS News, I remember one opportunity that stood out. I think Garrett found it, and I don't remember what the company was. I do remember that the job description included "generating ideas." We found this wildly hilarious and imagined ourselves sitting in wee cubicles all day long saying things like, "Eureka! I've got an idea. A blanket with sleeves!" It seemed like the perfect job. Someone else could take care of all the details; all we had to do was be creative and make lists.

Ten years later, this still feels like the ideal job to me. I'm thinking about starting an Idea Generating Company. My first hire will be a scribe to follow me around and write down my brilliant ideas.

Here is my most recent one: It's based on the Roomba, you know that vacuum robot that rolls over the floors and knows when to turn corners, etc. Rather than a large floor robot, it's a tiny version that you stick on your legs in the shower, and it roves up and down your legs and shaves them. There will also be a face version for men.

Seriously, I think Idea Generator would be the best job ever. Let me know if your company is hiring.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogs you may have missed plus my utility bill.

Facebook has been screwy lately, and in addition to not letting me sign on at all, it has somehow not imported a few of my blogs. So if you are wondering what you missed, check them out at :

Today's blog is about being cheap versus being a conservationist. Sometimes the two do not go hand in hand. Often, I spend much more time (which is money, of course) than seems reasonable to compost and recycle, just so I can avoid creating garbage. It's a fun challenge. I haven't had to put the garbage can on the curb in several weeks, which is good because I always forget anyway. My recycling bin, however, is generally overflowing within days of its being emptied.

Sometimes, however, being a conservationist saves you money. Like waiting until the last possible minute to turn on the furnace. Snuggies™ can save you weeks of furnace energy, if you shrink wrap your windows early enough. I haven't shrink-wrapped yet, however, so I did turn on my furnace. It's set to 64 -- rather luxurious, I think. I'm a grownup now, so I figured I don't have to suffer with a home below 60 degrees.

Another thing I do is turn off the lights when I exit the room. Shocker, I know. But this is my first full month in several years that I haven't had a roommate. And roommates, however fun they are, do not always have the same energy-saving mentality as I do. Last October, my gas and electric bill was $350+. This year's bill ... wait for it, wait for it ... is $31.

I feel like I've won the lottery. I mean, I've been baking bread and cookies and using the gas stove for all those meals I'm now eating at home. I've even taken longer showers than usual. Hell, I've actually been home for a month. But somehow ... thirty-one dollars?? I really feel like a winner.

Maybe tonight I'll just use my pop-up booklight that came with my Snuggie™ when I'm reading, rather than turning on the overhead light. What are y'all reading, anyway? I'm reading _Pillars of the Earth_, which I say publicly so that I have incentive to finish the tome.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I love my job.

For those of you who asked where my gig was last night, it was at the absolutely gorgeous home of Bill Samuels, who is bourbon royalty, and the guy whose name goes on every bottle of Maker's Mark. The winding drive there featured typical pastoral Kentucky, with views of trees dipped in the red wax of autumn. It was a lovely drive, with fall all around, views of the Ohio River, and those simple wooden fences designed to keep in horses.

After the music part of the night was over, and I waited around while the guests used my PA system for speeches, I was killing time near Mr. Samuels's liquor cabinet, which just happened to be in the room next door to my microphone. What kind of liquor does a bourbon royal keep on display? Maker's Mark, of course, but not just any ol' bottle. In tiny handwriting, and signed by every factory worker there in 1958, was the very first bottle of Maker's Mark ever produced. The red wax, of course, was still intact. There were also a bunch of older bottles of bourbon, one I noticed dating back to 1881. Pretty cool.

Anyway, it was a fun night, and a beautiful drive out there. Probably the best part of the night was getting to play with the spectacular Steve Cooley. I've played with him for years, but it's always been during short sets of my own tunes. We played for about two hours straight, not taking a break because we didn't want to. I made him take far more solos than is standard, mostly because I love hearing him play. It made me realize I really need to start going out to Gerstle's on Monday nights again. He's really something special, and anyone who plays a stringed instrument should be forced to hear him live. He makes me want to practice my scales. Hope he's not reading this.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another theory on Snuggies.

I wrote a whole blog this morning about my Snuggie™, but then as I flipped through my favorite blogs this morning, I noticed that Lauren wrote about Snuggies™ yesterday. So you should go read her blog about Snuggies™. I'm not sure I agree with her theory on why adults like them though. I'll just say a few things...

I remember seeing the commercial sometime around Thanksgiving last year. I was at my parents' house, and I guffawed when it came on TV. It was so ridiculous: a backwards robe you could wear at sporting events. I was at the Back Door several days later, and I pulled up the commercial on my phone while my friends watched in disbelief, some saying, "That's a robe!" and others saying, "I saw that too! Who would buy that??"

The past year has been full of Snuggie humor and lots of opportunities for gag birthday gifts and such. But now that fall has set in and winter is looming, suddenly Snuggies™ (Sidetrack: if they ever make a Snuggie™ musical, they should use that song "Suddenly Seymour" from _Little Shop of Horrors_ and change it to "Suddenly Snuggie" (Bigger sidetrack: Last week I went to see some friends in the live-action stage musical _The Rocky Horror Show_. At intermission, my dad turned to me and said, "Where's the plant? Where's Seymour?" He seriously thought we were there to see _Little Shop of Horrors_. Awkward...)) are actually proving themselves useful to those of us who received them as gag gifts. My dad bequeathed mine to me. Just last night I was shivering on the couch, trying to figure out how to maneuver both a blanket AND a book, when I pulled the Snuggie out of its hiding place. It was perfect.

Really, though, I think the Snuggie popularity is not because it makes us feel swaddled and childlike, nor because it's just a gag. I think its because it symbolizes that old transcendental idea of the American Dream. Not only did someone come up with this idea, -- probably when they were absurdly high -- but they actually MADE the prototype, and then PITCHED the idea to someone, got backing, went into production, and made a brilliant commercial. Thus, if an idea as dumb as a backwards robe can make someone an instant millionaire, then all the rest of our dreams could still come to fruition.

I type this theory to you from my old purple couch, holding my laptop and sporting my Snuggie™. I don't have the fancy zebra print or pink one. I have the original Cult Maroon color. But it does the job, and I'm hope it will keep me from turning on the furnace until the absolute last possible moment. I mean, last year, I was able to sleep here during the Ice Storm Power Outage until the temperature inside the house dropped to about 46. But with Snuggie™ Power, I might last to 42. Unless they come up with this new prototype (hint hint, folks): A Snuggie with fingerless gloves attached. I might make it to just above-freezing if I had one of those.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Music blog today.... shocker, right?

I have 4 gigs this week. That's not unusual, I guess. On tour, I play many more than that. And when I first started, I played 4 times a week regularly. But that's when I was playing crappy dives for hours at a time. This week's gigs are much much cooler, and they are all completely different.

Last night was the first of the week, the charming songwriter round. It was guitars only and a mostly-quiet (except for one obnoxious table by the stage) room of people who love songs. Danny Flanigan hosted the show that also featured a 14-year-old guitar student of mine named MC Watkins. One of these days she's going to be on Oprah talking about her first gig ever: a songwriter round at Clifton's Pizza with Danny and Brigid. Hope she spells my name right.

Anyway, it was a fun night. I tried out some new tunes, and I think they went over well. It's definitely time for a new record. Every time I save the dollars, however, the roof leaks or my car breaks. It's getting really old, I tell you. I've been anti-record-label for a couple of years now, but it may be time to re-think that stance.

Thursday, I'm playing with my pal Steve Cooley at a a private dinner party at the home of a Bourbon Royal. I'm pretty stoked about that. Plus, I get to play some fun old-timey country tunes and hear some crazy-pickin' on my own songs. That Cooley knows ALL the notes.

Friday I'm playing the first annual Oktoberfest in Germantown, over by Check's Cafe and Zeppelin Cafe (Burnett & Hickory). I'll be playing with a bass and drummer (Peter and Scott, for those of you who have the collector's lunchbox of all of my bandmates). We're playing from 7:00-8:30, and it's outdoors. Hope for warm weather, or I may break out the fingerless gloves.

Saturday is the 2nd Annual Volksfest. Last year, they somehow talked me into playing the "Beer Barrel Polka" on the accordion, which is kind of like asking a girl singer to play "Me and Bobby McGee" or a bluegrass picker to play "Rocky Top" or anyone to play "Freebird." Saturday's set is going to be a fun duo show with my über-good friend, Peter Searcy. He and I toured Europe last year as a duo, and it's been about that long since we played a true duo show.

So really, I'm playing four gigs, but they are all completely different. You could come to all four and feel like you saw four different (and spectacular, hee hee) bands. Just don't judge me if I've got on the same fingerless gloves.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old letters and old cookbooks and Tidal Waves.

My friend Adrian never had a snow day. He grew up in Hawaii, and occasionally school would be canceled for an impending tidal wave. Yes, in Hawaii, they have tidal wave days. When that Chris Elliot movie, Snow Day, came out, Adrian was more excited than anyone to see it. So for some, perhaps, snow days remind them of a bad Chris Elliot movie.

As for me, I think of two things: 1) Adrian and his crazy tidal wave days and 2) Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that old Julia Child book that is suddenly all the rage again because of that Julie & Julia book/ Meryl Streep movie.

People associate memories with smells, and to me snow days smell like French Onion Soup. It might be the only recipe my parents ever made out of that book, but that is what my dad did on snow days. He made French Onion Soup. It took hours of slow-cooking those onions in butter, gently caramelizing them and surely adding more butter. When I became vegetarian, he adjusted the recipe accordingly, using vegetable bouillon rather than beef. It always tasted delicious.

I was at my parents' house last week, and I saw the old Julia Child book sitting on their shelf. It never occurred to me that my parents are too young to have that book, but mom informed me it was my grandmother's, who had given it to my dad at some point.

I never knew my grandmother; she died of some smoking-related cancer when I was barely two. But as I was reading the book, -- yes, reading it, from cover-to-cover -- a letter slipped out.

Postmarked January 16, 1969, with a stamp that cost 6cents, and that perfectly-angled old-timey penmanship, the tiny envelope is addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Kaelin. 1626 South Preston. City." There is no "Louisville" and there is no "zip code." The Post Office even postmarked the letter with an ink-stamped admonition: Always Use Zip Code.

But the letter found its way to my grandparents somehow, and it reads:

Abbie & Kale,
Ever since you all gave us that Dutch Oven, Steve expects me to learn how to cook food. Seriously, though, that's a great little oven. We really appreciate it. I don't even like to use that big broken-down oven we had anymore. Thanks too for taking the pictures at the Wedding. I haven't seen them yet, but Mother said they were really good. Thanks again. Steve & Terry

The return address is 1455 South Third Street. I considered dropping it off at 1455 South Third with a "Return to Sender -- Always Use Zip Code" stamp, just to give the current residents a fun story to share at cocktail parties. Then I thought about heading to my favorite section of the library, the old city directories, and finding out just who these "Steve and Terry" folks were. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. Stay tuned. In the mean time, and even though I despise winter, I'm kind of looking forward to a snow day. It seems wrong to make this soup on any other day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How I started performing publicly in the first place.

I've played piano since I was wee, picked up the guitar at eight, and the accordion at fifteen. I did a bunch of theater, and I was in chorus. But I didn't play my first solo gig until I was about 23. That's pretty old for the singer-songwriter thing. Most folks I know were goin to open mics in high school, and plenty even had gigs. I remember going to see my good friend John Whitaker play at coffeeshops, along with a hundred other screaming girls.

Anyway, it wasn't until I was dared by one of the bartenders at Air Devils Inn that I had my first legitimate gig. He knew I played, and he just booked me on a Sunday night. I sang almost entirely covers, and I played only the guitar. When I sang an original, I didn't tell the crowd I'd written it. (It took me about a year to 'fess up to my originals. Silly, right?) But it was really fun, and the stage is a very comfortable place to hang out for a few hours. Then I got paid, and a light bulb went off. I started a weekly Sunday night gig immediately.

A few months ago, a video production team came through town and asked me to stop by their mobile studio. They plopped me on a stool and asked me to talk about that moment when I realized I could actually be a musician. It seemed like a harmless task, so I obliged.

Now, several months later, I am told they chose my "Aha Moment" a a finalist out of the thousands they collected around the country. You can watch it here: and you could vote for it. Voting for it isn't really a big deal, but if I'm in the Top 25 vote-getters by October 15, then I win a cool new Flip Cam, which I promise to use for exciting video blogs. There are some other pretty cool videos there too, and you can vote for more than one. Three total are from Louisville. I thought that was pretty cool.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Costume frustration.

My mom and I used to go down to Baer's fabric every September and pick out a pattern for my Halloween costume. Then we would buy fabric, and ultimately take over the entire dining room table for several weeks while we sewed costumes. One time, we made matching Minnie Mouse costumes and were absurdly cute as we went door-to-door. Mom still wears that Minnie Mouse costume every single year.

I, on the other hand, have been out of town most of the past several years, and haven't been able to dress up properly. Usually, I just braid my hair and throw on a red bandana, and suddenly I'm Willie Nelson. Last year, I wore my tweed Sherlock Holmes hat that I'd just brought back from Scotland (did anyone find it? I lost it last November somewhere on Bardstown Road when I was hanging up fliers.), a long trench-coat, a magnifying glass, fake peyos (you know the Jewish side curls), and a rabbinical scarf. I went as Shylock Holmes. I'm a sucker for a pun.

This year, I'm stuck. I've got a few simple and clever backup plans that I'm not giving away. But a bunch of my friends are dressing up like characters from a certain Western film. If I want to go with the crew, then I either have to spend several hundred dollars on a period costume (not gonna happen), or I have to go as "Sexy Saloon Girl." I've always wanted a Miss Kitty Saloon Girl costume, -- it goes with the whole girl-piano-player thing -- but I don't like the whole slit-to-the-hip that comes with all the pre-made ones available on the internet.

Why are all ladies' Halloween costumes always "Sexy __________?" My mom didn't go as "Sexy Minnie Mouse." Do you really have to sew your own costume if you don't feel like looking like a whore?

I always liked going as an inanimate object, for example, a tooth or a taco. Maybe, now that I'm an adult, I'll go as "Sexy Pencil." Or "Sexy Maker's Mark Bottle." (I found part of my old Maker's Mark costume in the basement yesterday. It's not sexy.) Or "Sexy Sauté Pan." Or maybe I'll just throw a sheet over my head and be a ghost. Or I'll use a pillowcase instead and be "Sexy Ghost."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fresh linen paper and embossing .... mmmmmmm.

When I lived in New York, I loved going to Kate's Paperie. I don't think I ever actually bought anything there, but just browsing the loose-leaf papyrus paper made me swoon. It's a bit beyond the college-student budget, but it was a lovely stopover on the way back to the dorms.

This morning I was on a stationery quest here in Louisville, and I was lamenting my inability to go to Kate's. Finally, I'm a grownup with a genuine reason for nice stationery and a few dollars to spend on it, and Kate's was 704 miles away.

A quick Google search yielded one paper store in town: Papers Unique, a store I'd never heard of that supposedly has been there longer than I've been alive. And here I thought I knew everything about Louisville...

It was so cute!

It's behind Trinity High School in St. Matthews, and the minute Jen and I walked in the door, we knew we'd be there for a while. Certainly it's no Kate's Paperie, but the staff there is way nicer, PLUS they gave us freshly baked brownies and chess pie and banana bread and hot spiced tea. Apparently it's Open House week there, which includes all kinds of specials, like free personalizing and 10% off on Crane papers and various other discounts. (I forget the specifics -- go to their website or stop by for a brownie to check it out.)

Anyway, Rachel, a sweet girl who works there and never judged us for eating several brownies, was also extremely patient with me and Jen as we browsed hundreds of fonts and were unable to make decisions. Thanks for pointing us to the proper serifs, Rachel.

*Disclosure: I did not get a single bribe or item for free or even a discount in exchange for endorsing on this blog. I just really had a pleasant morning there, despite the lack of loose-leaf Egyptian paper.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Endorsements in exchange for stuff.

I was just reading about the new FTC rule about how bloggers who endorse products must subsequently disclose which items they get for free, or face an $11,000 fine per incident. My first reaction wasn't about the reach of the law or how blogging has apparently gone mainstream enough to face a governing body. Rather, it was this: I could get free stuff?!?!

I'm going to follow the FTC laws like an obedient puppy. If you all would please start sending me free stuff, then I'll blog about it. Obviously, I'll have to disclose that it was a bribe, but that's okay with me. I can be honest.

Right now the things I'm considering endorsing that it would be GREAT if you could please just send over for my perusal are: a new Volvo Wagon, preferably one that runs on vegetable oil; a pair of cross-training shoes, size 6.5EEEE (yes, I have wide feet); the new re-mastered Beatles box set (both stereo and mono so I can write up a good comparison); a couch and love-seat; a flat-screen TV (as big as possible); various in-wall speakers and sound systems; a new iPod; some personal transportation devices like a Vespa or moped; and new pots and pans.

I'm a completely open-minded blogger, so if there's anything you'd like me to endorse that's not on the list, just send it on over. P.O. Box 4005, Louisville, KY 40204. I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week-long Challenge.

My friend Lyzz does year-long challenges every January 1. They are ridiculous things like "No fried foods" (tricky) or "no tortilla chips" (impossible). Her current restriction is "no bleached flour." I'm not sure where this stems from, but I think she just likes accomplishing things that are difficult.

Here is what I am attempting: a week -- just a week -- of not eating meals out. I've blogged about this being hard for me before, but I've never seriously attempted to curtail my behavior. The life of a musician is based on spontaneity and travel, not of meal plans and grocery lists. I think I'm developing an ulcer at the thought of planning my Thursday breakfast on a Sunday.

At the same time, however, it's oddly comforting. When I say I'm going to do something, it becomes the law. So there's no option to disobey. When I became a vegetarian, all the meat options on a restaurant menu just sort of disappeared, and I didn't even notice them.

Unlike becoming a vegetarian, however, I have ridiculous cravings for take-out. Restaurant withdrawal. It's a habit. My mind just immediately thinks, "Oh, I could just grab some Pad Thai, and that way I don't have to make two trips." Take-out and lunches with friends have become a way of life for me, and this whole eating-at-home thing is making me feel like a nester.

Tonight, however, a friend from Nashville (I haven't given her a proper Friend-who-____-____ moniker yet ... perhaps we'll discuss this tonight) is coming up here. She invited us out for dinner, and I had to tell her about my self-imposed challenge. She responded with the delightful idea that we should all cook dinner together tonight at my house.

If this week of eating-in works out for me, maybe I'll consider a year-long attempt. Then I'll obviously get a book deal and write another volume of those year-in-the-life memoirs, and become hugely wealthy. I think Lindsay Lohan will play me in the movie. It's about time for her comeback. Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stage fright.

People ask me all the time if I get nervous when I play in front of crowds. It's become kind of a joke, actually, to ask just before a show, "Are you nervous?" I can honestly say I've never had stage fright. Not once. Not when playing festivals of thousands of people who've never heard of me, not when I played unrehearsed with Elvis Costello for a screaming crowd at the Palace Theatre, and not when I sang live on A Prairie Home Companion knowing that millions of people were listening, including Patty Loveless watching me from backstage. Stage performance is not a problem for me.

But this weekend I was in a hotel room with several friends, just hanging out after a wedding, when a few people asked me to sing for them. I flat out refused.

I'd brought a guitar, but that's because I almost always bring a guitar to hotel rooms -- it's one of my favorite places to write. The guitar had been useful for when the drunks wanted to sing "Manic Monday" but couldn't find a karaoke bar anywhere in Small Town, USA. I definitely had not brought it with the intention of giving a concert, and it's not because I was "off-work" or snooty about performances.

I would just so much rather play to an audience of four million than for four people in a hotel room. That is when I get nervous. It's not because I'm afraid of sounding bad or forgetting the words. It's because I don't know what to do with my eyes while I'm singing.

Do I look at the people? Won't they be freaked out that I'm staring? I normally smile and have fun when I'm singing, and that comes naturally. But for some reason when it's one-on-one, it all feels forced, and I don't know what I should look like. Then I notice that for the last thirty seconds or whatnot, I've been playing and singing, but I have no idea where I am in the song. You know, it's like when you're driving, and your mind wanders. Suddenly, you don't know where the last few miles went and maybe your car took a few turns you hadn't intended on making. And then I'm nervous. I don't like to be nervous.

I didn't sing anything for the wedding party. I played the three chords in "Manic Monday" and "The Tide is High" while jubilant celebrants sang loudly and smiled and laughed and had no problem deciding what to do with their eyes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Last night's show ... Jim James, the Rud, good times.

Finally ... a blog about what you THINK a normal musician would write about: playing music.

When I first agreed to play last night's benefit show at the Rudyard Kipling, I figured it would be a hard sell, no matter how much press the show got. People don't like to spend $15-$20 for a live music event in this town, even if it's for charity. But I hadn't played a full show at the Rud in years, and it's part of the Rud's 25th birthday party celebration. Ray Rizzo and his lovely wife Traci Timmons organized the weekend, and they are great people who've done unbelievable things for the Louisville Music community. So of course I would do anything for them.

Last week, I was kind of blah about the whole thing. I always worry about whether anyone will come to one of my shows. Even at 6:00 the night of the Zanzabar gig, I entered the funk of Noone's-Going-to-Be-Here Land. Of course, that was a packed house. But the Rud show cost twice what the Z-bar show cost, and it was on a weeknight in Old Louisville. My fans are weekends-in-the-Highlands kind of folks.

Then six days ago it was announced that Jim James was the closing act. And I started getting messages from people I hadn't heard from in literally years, all interested in getting tickets.

You see, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket, for those of you not in-the-know) is a big international superstar these days. He doesn't play rooms that cap out at 150 standing-room-only seats. He plays Radio City Music Hall and Bonnaroo.

But he started out playing at the Rud.

Knowing that he was playing right after me led to a whole new set of not-so-justified worries. I figured people would be camped out in line (they were) and that my fans wouldn't come because they wouldn't want to deal with waiting in line (most of them didn't). But then it turned out that lots of Jim's superfans know my music too. And my fear of being just that opening act that people had to suffer through to get to the real show, was totally wrong.

The crowd was incredibly warm and receptive. They let me be silly, they let me yodel, and they let me play the saw. They cheered and clapped and smiled and laughed.

Then Jim came out and commanded the room with an acoustic guitar, framed by the ancient bricks of the Rudyard Kipling. He made anyone who has ever played onstage at the Rud or been to a show there feel like part of something special. I was standing on a chair on the sidelines (I am too wee to see anything otherwise), exhausted from my show and from a long day, but entranced by the whole evening.

There are more birthday celebrations tonight and tomorrow at the Rud. If you're in Louisville, drop by and see some magic.