At Falcon Ridge, my kids busked with their little violins, and filled their fiddle cases with dollars and quarters. At one point, their cousin shouted "Donations!" to the passers-by. Horrified, Tom gathered the kids and told them they had to pick a charity to give the money to, and that charity could not (only) be their Nutella Crepe fund. So they chose the Dakin Animal Shelter.
The money has been sitting in a brown paper bag for the past four weeks. "What are we going to do with this?" I said to Tom. "It's $18 in cash and coins!"
"Take it to Dakin, of course," he said.
"No way," I said. "If I go to Dakin, I am coming back with a dog."
Elle has been militating for a dog for about three years. She wears dog socks. She reads only books about dogs. She stops to pat any dog she sees. She cries herself to sleep at night because the day of the dog has not yet arrived in our house. She has pledged what every dog-loving child pledges: when we get the dog, she will walk it and feed it and bathe it and save all her pennies for the vet bills. Her last birthday was a dog-themed party. Her friends all gave her birthday cards with pictures of dogs on them. When she grabs my iPhone, it's not to play video games, but to look up her favorite breeds' puppy pictures.
Last Thursday, the last possible day for me to do anything, I took the brown paper bag and the kids to Dakin in Leverett. I prayed hard. Let them all be ugly. And barky. And smelly. I prayed to be stopped from getting a dog; unless, of course, we were supposed to get a dog.
We gave them our brown paper bag, and they let us see the dogs. The first dog we saw was a tiny dainty Husky-like critter, like what would happen if you mixed a basenji with a chihuahua and painted it with husky colors. Three years old, a dixie dog from Texas, total beta dog, non-barking or jumping, sweet and cuddly. Eighteen pounds. Delicate and graceful as a greyhound. And I was done.
Or at least, I spilled the beans, showed my hand, or whatever you want to say. I let the kids know I was smitten, and they dug in with all twenty nails. We walked her, we played with her, she never barked (except at the guinea pigs), and we put a deposit down on her and went home to tell Tom he needed to stop us.
But Tom came back with us and said, "We could never handle a puppy. This dog even Jay can handle. It's inevitable. Let's do it."
I proceeded to not sleep that night. What if this wasn't MY dog? What about all the other dogs I want to get? The ruby King Charles Cavalier puppy my aunt's dog might whelp next spring? The Aussie pup I've always dreamed of? The big soft Bernese Mountain dog I want to snuggle up next to on a cold winter night? When your dream comes true, you're out one dream. Now I don't get to fantasize about my dog. I will have my dog. Plus, what if Jay is allergic to her? What if she eats the guinea pigs? What if she isn't housebroken? What if she continues to smell (because she did smell. This is because she has not been bathed in anyone's memory.) And if I had doubts, did that mean I should not go forward? Was this like choosing a husband? Would the doubts form a cold wet coating in the pit of my stomach, and remain there for years? Plus there was the cost.
Also, I got hung up on this other dog that Dakin had. A fluffy-haired one-year-old with giant brown eyes and soft shepherd fur. A dog with a retriever muzzle, a dog who looked like all the dogs I've ever had. But my kids were not interested in this dog. They wanted Stella, the miniature husky.
So we put Stella in the van. As we drove, she came up between the two front seats and put her paws on the console and panted in that nervous ways dogs pant when they are in the car. And I don't know why, but suddenly she was my dog. My doubts went away. We went to Dave's and bought hundreds of dollars worth of dog stuff, including a great shampoo. We brought her home and romped around with her. We let her sniff around our park, and I explained to the kids that dogs sniffing in the park is as pleasurable to them as Facebook is to us. It's how they get the local news. We gave her a bath, which she tolerated. After, I put my arms around my sweet smelling pooch and proceeded to sneeze. She crawled into my lap.
Elle slept in the kitchen on the floor next to Stella's crate. When we went to bed, we looked down at our daughter's face, totally peaceful, one hand curled under the gate of the crate, the dog's sharp little nose pointed at her fingers.
This may not be MY dog. But this is my kids' dog. And I will do anything to support them getting to have this dog.
Fingers crossed that we are not allergic.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
It’s the last day in the studio, at least until September. Truthfully, we are almost done. I have to do vocals on the choruses of “Dave Hayes,” the chorus of “Witness,” the choruses of “You Don’t Have that Kind of Time” and backgrounds on “Normandies,” plus a few other tiny things. Katryna is completely done. Kit is going to take the project back home with him to Virginia where he and his studio partner Chip Johnson will add some more gorgeousness. Then Kit will return in September and we’ll see what else we all want and need—for surely much will come to the surface as we listen through to all the tracks over the next two weeks.
The album is beyond—far beyond—what I thought it could be. I had liked the songs, coming in, but what they’ve grown into is …well, words fail. I probably say this every time (though I didn’t say it about Full Catastrophe), but this is my favorite record ever.
Making it has been interesting. In the past 10 years, we’ve mostly taken our time with our CD-making. We had that luxury, since Dave Chalfant was our producer, and it was his studio, and we had no label clamoring for a next release. But after Catastrophe (that sounds so ominous!), we learned our lesson. We need a deadline! Plus, we need to make a living, and suspending our lives while we focused on one CD seemed wiser than prolonging it all indefinitely. In short, we could only afford to take a month off. And we have families who want vacations: these dictated the beginning (when Katryna and her family got back from theirs) as well as the end (when my family wants to go on ours) of the recording window.
Here are the tracks on the new CD, plus some bonus material for a little Kickstarter premium:
Wasn’t That a Time
Love Love Love
As Big as I Am
I Put My Treasure in the Rock
Victory (Turn it Around)
You Don’t Have that Kind of Time
Dave Hayes the Weather Guy
I’m Pretty Sure That My iPhone Is Making Me Sick
Acoustic Joe Hill
Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream
Earlier this week, the world learned that Robin Williams had hanged himself. For some reason, this hit me very hard. Perhaps because he was in recovery. Perhaps because he came on the scene when I was a certain age (eleven), and was old enough to be struck by his unusual talent and brilliance, and the right age for his first hit, “Mork and Mindy.”
What must it have been like for him to be catapulted to superstardom at the age of 27? Intoxicating, surely. And for a bi-polar self-proclaimed alcoholic, this high must have always felt wobbly. Or maybe not. I have no idea what happened, why he would kill himself, but I do know that the worst pain I ever suffered was when I harmed myself and others, doing things without my permission. Rumors get piped in through every channel: Parkinson’s, relapse, mental illness. We will all take this story and project our own experience onto it. I think that’s part of the reason so many are fascinated by celebrity dramas. For me, it brings up a theme I’ve been struggling with of late.
What happens when you get to a point in your life when you see the big view? I am not arrogant enough to think I see the whole view—but I am at midlife. The top of the “Hill,” over which I will (arguably) soon be. We get to this place where we see how far we’ve come—look! Our kids are getting more independent! Look! The paint on the house is peeling. Look! Our marriage is settling into deeply rutted routines. Look! The audiences are dwindling. Pretty soon….fill in the blank. The kids won’t need us. The house will need a paint job we can’t afford. We’ll be taking each other for granted. The performing career will be over. It’s the snag; the hook of nothing lasts forever.
This summer is the summer of Whoa. Not yet.
Playing at Falcon Ridge on the main stage with a full band was a sharp reminder that there is still plenty of juice in the old girl, or girls as the case may be. We still rock. This new CD is proof of that. I thought the worst thing that could ever happen would be that Dave Chalfant would stop producing us. I thought no one could get our ideas into digital grooves the way he could. I thought his departure from the engineering throne would be our demise. It turns out what we really needed was fresh ears, new hands, an objective view of our 23 year career.
This morning my almost 6 year old climbed into bed with us. He still does this, fairly regularly, and when I am not living in my head, I notice that I actually still have two cuddly little kids; they are not yet teenagers, and they still need me, play with my hair, snuggle in my lap. I am still alive.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
The weather. No rain! This is the first time in my memory that that's been the case. Usually it's a mud bath.
Amelia playing with us on the main stage.
Sturgis Cunningham playing with us on the main stage.
My aunt Elizabeth surprising us. She has never come to Falcon Ridge before. Oddly, my father and I had just been talking about how she wonderfully surprises us all the time by showing up unexpectedly.
Seeing Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Don White and Tom Paxton at lunch.
The Pete Seeger workshop on the workshop stage. Here's what was sung:
Annie Wentz: Guantantamera
Tom Paxton: Ramblin' Boy
Ann Armstrong & Stephen Hughes: Lonesome Valley
Joe Jenks: original song for Pete, based on his HUAC testimony. SO COOL!
Louise Mosrie: Down by the Riverside
Magpie: Letters to Eve
Radoslav: Viva la Quince Brigada
John Gorka: The Water is Wide
Us Nields: Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream (I played piano for the first time ever at FR!)
Kim and Reggie: original song for Pete "High Over the Hudson"
Where have all the flowers gone
We Shall Overcome
Going out to dinner with my whole family, including Aunt Sarah, Aunt Elizabeth, her boyfriend Marcus, his son Jason and grandson Max. Seeing my parents. Spending the night with them and my mom's lifetime best friend, Joan Wallstein, who is my kids' adopted grandmother.Getting to go for a run with my wonderful dad.
Amelia joining us on the family stage to sing her awesome "Speak Up." Elle joined in on violin. Elle and Jay made about $50 busking, and they spent all of it on nutella crepes.
My mother racing up to the stage at the end of "Going to the Zoo" when we couldn't wake up Katryna, and the only thing that could rouse her was the promise that her Mama would take her to the zoo tomorrow.
Seeing the Duhks, an amazing band we met at Winnipeg in 2007. I love them!
Now. Back to work in the studio!