Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A place for art in dark times.

We were both so so so excited on election day at 9am.
What a depressing week last week was. I'm still in denial. Followed by massive amounts of guilt knowing that I'll probably be fine -- as long as I don't flaunt the Jewish background thing, and maybe I should pull my kid out of the Jewish preschool because Anti-Semites are going to run the government ... hmmm ... okay, maybe I legitimately am worried for my family...

Anyway, the guilt comes from knowing that my family isn't outwardly too different, but plenty of others I know are and -- yikes, what year are we living in? How is this seriously our current challenge? Also, the ice caps are melting and what if a tidal wave attacks my oceanfront Louisville property in five years? Do I start buying an extra canned good at every grocery trip and insulating the attic with creamed corn?

I also keep thinking how can there possibly be a place for my career now? I'm a musician, not a revolutionary.

But also, don't people need art more than ever these days?

And is there room for, shall we call it, "distracting" art? Lighthearted songs to make you smile and take you away from the terrifying world? Or are those the artists who should give up and forget it because we should be focused on revolutionary songwriting? Are those types of songs more dangerous than ever because we should not distract ourselves and ignore what it happening?

I have often wrestled with the whatisthepoint question of my career, but in light of the election results (and a postpartum fog and heading into the early sunsets and dark, cold days) I have even more mindwasps.

Am I being too hard on myself?

Can someone convince Bob Dylan to finally speak out? To tell artists what it was like to be the revolutionary performer in revolutionary times? Did he even know he was doing it? Was it a career-advancing accident that he had protest songs? Were they even intended as protest songs or were they interpreted that way because of the times he was writing in? How long did it take for them to spread in a world 50 years before Twitter?

In the mean time, I'm trying to finish up a record, and I'm really not sure why it feels so pressing.

 I think my 4-year-old has the right idea:

At least there's this, right? :

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Anniversary of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. If you are of the Jordan Catalano Generation or younger, and if you have even heard of the Gordon Lightfoot song, then you probably are imagining a mighty old-time pirate-ship-looking vessel that sunk, oh, I don't know, maybe a hundred or two hundred years ago. Until last November, I was there with you. It sunk in 1975!

I heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on WFPK on November 10, 2015, started listening a little more intently because I'd forgotten how electric the guitars were and how those 70s bass drums come pounding in a few verses in. For many musicians I know, that song has become a bit of a joke (I think the song is a complete masterpiece, beautiful haunting and perfect example of a good ballad) -- not the lyrics and melody, but the idea that it goes on and on for almost seven minutes without any chorus. It's jokingly been used as a way to get people to leave a club at 2a (click here to see NRBQ version): just play a never-ending version of this song.

A few months ago, I was trying to get the baby to calm down and for some reason I put on "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." And the boy calmed down. I laughed, and then tried it again the next time he was in a baby-freakout. And it worked again. In fact to this day, it has a 95% success rate on getting him to relax -- like, you can feel his muscles breathe more deeply as soon as that lilting guitar emerges. It's become his Bedtime Song (replacing "Edelweiss") and will usually put him to sleep by the time the ol' cook comes on deck saying fellas it's too rough to feed ya.

Here is a time he was asleep before the first words:

Insane, right?

Our whole family, particularly our 4-year-old, has become obsessed with not just the song, but the shipwreck itself. In Detroit last month we saw the Old Mariner's Church, aka "the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral" from the last verse. We went to a maritime museum for the sole purpose of seeing an anchor from the Fitzgerald. 

Last week the wee boy's barber asked him what kind of music he liked.

Wee Boy: The Edmund Fitzgerald.
Barber: Ella Fitzgerald?
Wee Boy: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald!

We LOVE this song. 

Today we are listening to it a zillion more times, but we are even more-than-usual thinking of the 29 men who sunk with the ship to the bottom of Lake Superior. As we learned from the museum, people still don't know for sure how/why it sunk. Great shipwrecks only 41 years ago -- oh, the mystery! It has somewhat ruined the Wee Boy for boating, but he knows all the words.

Look at this article from Newsweek that ran 2 weeks after the ship sank. Lightfoot used it for inspiration, as you can tell from the first paragraph: Accordion to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called "Gitche Gumee" never gives up her dead.

I mean, that's basically the first lyric in its entirety.

Another strange thing: he wrote that song 2-4 weeks after the ship sank. And it was a number one hit the next year. For y'all alive then ... did it feel too soon???

Anyway, I could go on and on about all the things I've learned about the ship. But for today: it's November 10, so today we are thinking about The Fitz and

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Electoral thoughts and a word jumble.

We voted today. I studied American Politics (and even have a fancy summa cum laude degree in politics, lah dee dah) at NYU, where multiple professors argued that there is absolutely no compelling reason to vote in the USA. It takes effort to get to the polls, and the chance that your single vote will make a difference is, like, n to the negative 38th power or some statistic that I can't remember even though I swear I used to be really good at math. So why does anyone bother? X factor - guilt, civic duty, hope, whatever you call it ...  I'm less skeptical than I used to be, and I got very excited about voting today. The wee boy and I walked the polling place early, then we took a bus to his preschool. It was a very civic morning. I cried a little.

Now I just sit around and bite my fingernails and eat Halloween candy because it's just me and the kiddos while the polls come in. I'm fielding texts from all my friends from other countries who are just as nervous and are apparently hoping beyond hope that America does not "do something stupid." Maybe we should just all go to sleep until tomorrow. Or hop on a transatlantic flight so I'll have to turn my phone to airplane mode until the morning.

Today I leave you with a word jumble, composed by the Wee Boy:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Detroit on a budget with kids.

Business first!

The Birdies are playing an event at The Aero Club on Friday evening.

On Sunday afternoon, I am playing a benefit show for Alan Downie, aka the Scottish bartender at Air Devil's Inn. Because America is a bad place to be ill, fundraisers are what we do here to take care of those we love. I play at 4:00. There are many others on the lineup.

After that I am unemployed (aside from teaching lessons) because, while I was slammed with 3-4 gigs a week for the past 3 months, I apparently forgot to book any new ones. Thinking of spending December in Scotland instead because why not?


Speaking of travel, we did something a little out-of-character for me a couple of weeks ago, and we took a non-glamorous trip. We went to Detroit. I've got at least one friend who swears that Detroit is an amazing vacation destination, and, while I wouldn't go that far, I would say that I was surprised how many cosmopolitan attractions there are.

My only complaints were that 1) there weren't very many people out and about on the streets like I like to see in a City 2) we needed to rent a car to get around and 3) it seemed like restaurants and venues were always closed when we wanted to go. Like, more than four times we had that happen to us, even when we checked websites first. I would suggest calling ahead -- even for a breakfast restaurant that you'd think would be open at 9:30am. It might not be.

We were car-free for the first 3 days, which was fine because it was just me and the kids hanging about while David worked. We ate lunch and rode the People Mover, which was fun, but only practical if you were staying very downtown. We went to the Renaissance Center and saw the USS Detroit, which is not usually docked there, but happened to be that week. We stayed at the Westin because David was there for work, so he stays in fancy hotels, which had a swimming pool and Disney Jr. The 4-year-old was pretty please.

For the weekend we moved to an AirBnB in Midtown, where we decided it was time to rent a car. There is a bus system there, but it wasn't practical enough for our needs -- i.e. it took significantly longer to go where we needed and didn't run as often. It would have taken over an hour, plus a 20-minute walk to get to the Henry Ford Museum. We considered just Ubering, as we did a couple of times earlier in the week, but a rental was going to be cheaper and give us more options.

Favorite things:
I tried to include lots of free things, though we did obviously pay for several. Note that we have a 4-year-old, a 7-month-old, and we are all vegetarians. All these factors inform our tastes.

Michigan Science Center. $18+ each, but free with our Louisville Science Center membership, so that saved us $60. There's a planetarium there. The food is gross, though, so eat elsewhere.

People Mover. 75 cents for a token and you can ride it in circles all day long if you want! Bring the smallest bill you need because if you put a $5 bill in the machine, it'll give you 6 tokens plus 50 cents change. Go around the entire thing (15-20 minutes) at least once because the ride along the river is the best part. It looks like you're flying above the water! Also, there are approximately four zillion Pokestops you will pass along your ride. It's a prime time to use a Lucky Egg.

Mac n Cheez. There is a Michigan-based fast food place that serves up macaroni and cheese with all kinds of mix-ins. It's amazing.

Mariner's Church. Next to the Renaissance Center. This is the "Maritime Sailor's Cathedral" of which Gordon Lightfoot sang in "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." My family is obsessed with this song because we randomly discovered that its lilting guitar and melody puts the baby to sleep. The church bell chimed, it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Dossin Museum. Free. We went here because they have a real, actual anchor from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. It turned out to be a VERY cool maritime musem. It's kid-friendly, interactive and small enough to see the whole thing without getting tired. There is also a little room dedicated to the Edmund Fitzgerald, so my 4-year-old LOVED it. It's on Belle Isle, which is a strange, but peaceful island where nobody lives. Great for bike rides, as there's a road that circumnavigates the island. Be mindful of your mobile phone, as it might switch to Canadian service and charge you a zillion dollars. I had to turn my phone off.

Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village - YUM!
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. Allow all day for these, and get there early. Also, it's crazy expensive, and you're going to be there for at least one full meal. Buy your tickets online for a small discount, and always look for other specials they might be running. We spent a small fortune there. We had a really great time and enjoyed learning lots and seeing lots, but whoah, was it pricey.

Renaissance Center. Free. Tours at noon and 2p daily. This is the headquarters of GM, but it's also just a HUGE set of shiny buildings on the riverfront that is basically a tiny little city. I kept wanting to see flying cars zooming around the tops. It's a great place to practice escalator etiquette and skills. Really, it's a good place to tire out the kids, and you're never too far from a cup of coffee. The food court is pretty great. It's also insane for Pokemon, but beware that your phone might think you're in Canada. There's a People Mover stop connected. Leave breadcrumbs -- it's a maze. Beware trying to find a table at lunchtime near the Riverfront 1st floor area. I found people who work there to be incredibly rude, each one of them sitting alone but when I asked if we could sit for a minute to eat a cookie, they claimed to be holding the table for their friends, even though I had a tired 4-year-old and a fidgety baby on my back who needed to sit down and be cuddled. Like, everyone actually told me no, I couldn't sit there. Maybe it's the Southern in me, but I was pretty shocked by that and eventually just sat down anyway and said we'd only be a minute.

Kennedy Car at Henry Ford Museum.
Favorite restaurants (vegetarian-friendly):

At Dime Store - photo by my 4-year-old.
Dime Store. This place was PACKED when we went for lunch the first day -- just me, the 4-year-old, and the baby. It was all adults, but I didn't get a stink-eye for bringing the kids. They had a high chair and we were served quickly. I'm a sucker for breakfast all day. Also, they gave the wee boy a free chocolate chip cookie. It was so delicious that we went back the next 2 days in a row -- once for takeout and once just to buy more cookies.

Hudson Cafe. Another great breakfast place. Good for the kids. A lot more spacious than Dime Store, and there were lots of families there.

The Jolly Pumpkin. We met up with David's co-workers for dinner one weeknight. It's got long tables with benches, so is relaxed. I liked their menu, mostly pizzas, but some yummy salads. We also happened to be there on Tuesday Trivia night, which was good fun. My 4-year-old answered a question for us about Charlie Brown, so he felt particularly included.

The Twisted Apron. This might not count because it's in Windsor, Canada, so you'll need your passport and a car. But it was possibly my favorite brunch of the week. Fried pickles, poutine -- all kinds of crazy options. You can even use your chip-and-pin card as it was intended, provided of course you remember your PIN, which most Americans probably don't because we don't actually ever have to enter our PIN when we use the card. Also, leave your phone at home, or turn it to airplane mode, so you don't pay international roaming charges.

We had a good time. What are your favorite kid-friendly things to do in Detroit?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bananas, To Do Lists and Brain Fog

I read an article this morning about how getting only six hours of sleep gives you the cognitive equivalence of being drunk. I was, like, "Six hours of sleep?! Whoah -- luxury." And then, I was, like, "I wonder what my cognitive abilitie r rite now bc i haznt sleeped that minny hrs in loooooooooong thyme." I have rubbed coconut oil on my forehead, but my brain doesn't work any better.

I was assured by most of you out there that my second baby would be a sleeper, so I said, "Sure, let's do this." And while he's kind of the best baby in every single other way imaginable, he sure wakes up a lot.

I'm thinking of getting a Keurig, even though I've been environmentally opposed to them since their invention (though I sure do get a kick out of using them at your house, dear reader ... #hyprocrite ) , and putting it on my bedside table. You see, I'm having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Lots of trouble. My angel of a four-year-old -- seriously, the best kid in the history of the world -- sings me awake and snuggles me and tells me what a beautiful day it is and -- I kid you not -- last weekend disappeared, ran to the kitchen, brought back a tea towel and said, "Here Mommy, take a deep breath, and use this to wipe your tears." But I am a Grumposaurus Rex until I've had ten minutes of alone time and a cup of coffee.

Thank goodness for this insanely warm weather. I come to you today from my back deck, where I'm sitting next to a naked baby who is screaming for another banana. I don't have video handy, but he looks pretty much exactly like his brother did at this age when he ate bananas, and here's a video of that:

Anyhoo... the weather has me wanting to make To Do Lists, so that's a start.

Since I seem to be completely unable to finish this album -- it's to the part of the process where I've done all I can, and now it's up to the engineer to mix and master and do all those crazy details that I'm technically ignorant of -- I need to find an outlet. I'm thinking of finding a babysitter who takes credit cards and will come over to my house for 90 minutes a day so I can, get this, BLOG.

I know, it seems so dumb. But I need to get back out there, and blogging seems to be the easiest and quickest way to reach a thousand people. People tell me they like my blogs, though I'm not sure why. I do know that it's going to be a long winter in front of my SAD lamp if I don't find some sort of writing routine. Even if that means Recipe Monday, Cat Video Tuesday, WhatMyKidSaid Wednesday, AwkwardFacebookLive Thursday and TravelPhoto Friday.

Hmmmm maybe that's my new framework.

Anyway, could someone out there please hold me accountable? And also, can you babysit?