It all started on March 8….no…wait, it started way before then, but that’s where we’ll pick up the continuing saga of song!
So, Wednesday, March 8… I head over to the NARAS office (National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences) to give my prepared speech. A speech? A speech, you say? Yes, a speech. I had worked on my speech for over a month, writing and re-writing, calling other board members to find out their thoughts and ideas on how I could best serve the great state of Texas by becoming a Trustee.
This would be a mighty step for me because becoming a Trustee would mean I would serve on the National Board, helping to decide by-laws, helping to choose what categories would stay in the Grammys nomination process and which new categories should be added in, overseeing funding for Music Cares, bringing fresh ideas to an organization that does more than hand out awards. For example, the Trustees voted in the category of Hawaiian music, which was a coup for slack key and other musical acts native to Hawaii.
My speech involved projecting a thoughtful look at bringing more of the classical fold into the realms of membership, exploring the Latin Grammys and how to create a more inclusive, yet diversive, set of categories, and I also created an idea for a new project: NARAS and a sound company coming together to invest in the children of low-income schools by providing them with quality P.A. systems, delivered by an artist who could become a role-model or mentor to that school, and a tutorial on how to set up and break down the P.A. system by the students via a performance by that artist.
I decided to wear this gypsy skirt and burnt orange shirt with lace, which was all fine and good until I started SWEATING. I didn’t even feel nervous, but the fabric of the shirt was some strange SWEAT PRODUCING fabric…so, I had to read my speech with my arms glued to my sides…a poor effort to hide the large RINGS OF SWEAT imminating from my glands. (Did I just spell “imminating” correctly? Well, I sure know how to spell SWEAT, I tell you what!) I also passed out these folders I had created with copies of each of the proposals, personal references from other musicians/societies/ad agencies/conductors/one of my ministers from church….
I don’t know if I will win the seat, but I tell you, it sure was a fun challenge putting it all together, and it rekindled my interest in politics. Maybe someday….
Ok, so I finished the speech, ran home, changed out of my sweat clothes (ha ha…get it?)… Lance and io took me to the airport…I flew to Los Angeles, got picked up in a white, stretch limo (whoo-ha!), with the added bonus of my friends Rain and Pam waiting inside! We arrived at a super restaurant that looked like it used to be a Howard Johnsons but now it was all fancy-schmancy…and I met with George Nauful, head of Mesa Blue/SMC Recordings…he and I ordered salads but never really touched them…our conversation turned to business pretty quickly, and we decided the joint venture was a good call…We hugged and as he headed out into the night I popped over to a larger table two down and sat with my friends, who were just having dessert…we ordered a big chunk of some chocolate goo, a mini-chocolate goo volcano that the spoons were happy to destroy!
Then, we all piled in cars and headed to Gwen’s house, where Rain, Pam and I spent the night out past the pool, under the stars, beneath these gorgeous palm trees…in the guest house that had a 13 inch swordfish and a scale that told you beautiful things when you tried to check your weight (“Your life is one of mystery!” or “Your beauty shines throughout the day!”, things like that. I must have checked my weight seven times…my weight is unknown but my self-esteem was hefty!) After much giggling and searching through the goody-bags Gwen left out, we ate some spicy nuts, nibbled on MORE chocolate, and crawled into our beds…the moon was filtering through this peaceful skylight, and I was missing my family already, but prepared for the craziness ahead…
Woke up, couldn’t find any slippers, but did find a tiger striped robe and some FLIPPERS in the closet, so I thought, “What the heck!” and slipped them on my feet. I flipped and flopped across the cool cement, past the pool and the three dogs, barking frantically, into the big house’s kitchen, my big blue feet slapping the stone floor. Fortunately, no one was home. I peeked in the fridge and found eggs and cheese and bagels….I found butter and garlic and pepper and started a breakfast for Pam, Rain and myself. Coffee was bubbling, Pam came in with a cheery hello, and we put together a breakfast tray to surprise rain.
Flopping back outside in my flippers, Rain was just opening the sliding glass door of the guest house, and took a picture of me with Pam. We were smiling like two seven year olds who just pinned a tail on a donkey. Sitting outside in the morning chill, we drank our coffee and smeared cream cheese and jelly on the bagels. The eggs were still warm, thankfully. Delish!
Then showers for all, dressed, and headed out to the cemetary for a memorial service. I sang many songs, and played guitar on Rain’s beautiful “Family Tree” song, and there were tears and the memory of Trish was lifted up by many. We sang under a giant, leafy tree full of windchimes…every shape and color and size, all gently humming with “clings” in the morning’s touch. Angels were being born every second of every sound….
Then, I was rushed via the same limo to the airport, hopped on a plane, made it to Houston…and my plane to Tulsa was running late.
Well, finally, got on that plane, got to Tulsa, hopped off and into the night’s air to a waiting car and was whizzed over to the All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse, where Anitra was waiting. I was twenty minutes late, but Robin Macy and her beau, Kentucky, were on stage sounding terrific, and Colin Boyd had just finished playing, so everything seemed to be going fine. I hopped up on stage and was introduced by someone who said I always found the positive in everyday life, and I started with “Moment of Grace”, thinking that I wasn’t quite following my introduction very well! By this time, I was getting loopy, and started to forget lyrics, most certainly during my rendition of “Learn You Like A Book,” which I had invited Colin to come up and sing with me on…I was feeling very “Flashdance” and asked to start over again.
SIDE TO ELLEN: This does not happen all the time. This was a moment of great exhaustion, one so in that I was simply getting giddy with it. I think you know what I mean.
The audience was very quiet at this venue. Polite, and nice, and yet…strangely quiet. I was thinking I was being too chatty, but afterwards, many people said it was a fine show, that they enjoyed it very much. I am reminded of how Carly Simon supposedly throws up before any performance…how is it musicians, or at least SOME musicians, can’t seem to have an accurate viewpoint of their own performance? How do we get all caught up in what we think is happening but the audience sees something completely different? Is there a time warp? Are all musicians just kooky and maladjusted psychological oddities? I have no answer for this because I am a musician. Perhaps if I move into my artist’s way, I can find a creative response. No. Nothing there, either. (But I had an idea while I was searching in the old brain! Let me just jot that down over here on this piece of paper right next to the other piece of paper with ideas jotted down under last week’s ideas…there.) Anyway, very nice people and I thank them, again, for their patience in waiting for me to arrive from L.A. Thank you. It was an emotional day, for sure.
Alright. So, I finish the show, I sell some cds, I pack up guitars (which had been FED-EXED the day before…isn’t that crazy? But, thanks to Dirk, it happened and I had less to carry on the plane trips)…Grab my stuff and jump in the car with Robin and Kentucky and we drive 2 1/2 hours over to Kansas, where I stay with Robin on her 40 acre arboretum. That’s right. Complete with a winding river down the middle of it, a giant pumpkin patch, tulips popping up amongst the daffodils and paperwhites, a gianormous variety of trees and bushes and vines…stonework, brickwork, sculptures…three bridges, a paddle boat, and a field to play baseball! All of which I enjoyed for a day and a half, included a sing-a-long around the campfire Friday night with Jeff Luxinger and Kentucky and I trading off guitars, singing everything from Queen to Neil to John to Heart to old Domestic Science Club tunes. Kentucky’s son, Micah, was helping Robin make S’mores over the flames…I think I need to dub this the Mini-Chocolate Tour!
Robin took great care of me, and I stayed in her beautiful, two story fairy castle, complete with a stone slab over the door that reads:
AT LAST, HOME….
Saturday, she drove me to Oklahoma City, where we went directly to her parents home in Edmond. Another finely furnished and interesting abode, complete with gorgeous landscapes painted by her mom on every wall. We headed over to the Blue Door, where Robin left cuz she was WORN OUT, poor woman! But Robin’s dad, Phil, stayed and heard me sing every note and tell every story. This was a great night, little turn out, but the sound system at the Blue Door just spoils me rotten. They have it down, for sure. I sell some NAKED calendars, so now I have some mulah to give to Jon Dee Graham and his family. That was good news!!
Next a.m., Sunday…March 12…Phil, Robin’s dad, drives me to the airport and we talk about politics, philosophy, paradigm shifts, stories…A great discussion. We have decided to become pen-pals to further discuss our differences and, hopefully, to gain insight into one another’s positions. Likin’ that!
Get on the plane…fly to Dallas…fly to Austin…Lance and io are waiting, they pick me up and take me home…I have two hours…I do laundry, unload the cd suitcase, repack the guitars, repack my clothes and back-pack, and off we go, Lily in tow, to the airport to go to Chicago for springbreak. Yes!
Here is an overview of the most perfect family week together:
Saw Blue Man Group…have you ever experienced strobe lights and reams of cascading toilet paper with your children? IF not, I suggest you add it to your “TO DO” list. It was a blast. If you have no children, perhaps you can borrow your neighbors and enjoy the festivities! But have them home by 10, please. So much F-U-N, all capital letters cuz I am not kidding.
Ate Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnado’s.
Went to Millineum Park and stared at 65 foot faces of people blinking and yawning. They usually spit out water, but the fountains were shut down. Still excellent!
Saw the Aquarium.
Played in the snow.
Taught iolana how to play “Solitaire”. Although she is only five, she could see the advantages of entertaining oneself should the need arise in the future. Also got to explain what “Solitaire” means.
Sauteed fresh shrimp!
Rode the El (the train) everywhere.
Did things. Did nothing. Sat and talked. Sat and laughed. Ate homemade ice cream at Peterson’s, a 1928 ice cream shoppe where one scoop of ice cream was $5.99! Kinda like the price for a gallon of gas….(Bucket-a -fish!)
Bought beautiful art at the Gallery 37 store that helps fund Youth Art programs….
Then the week was over. My lovely family flew home to Austin, I flew to D/FW for a fantastic show at Jefferson Freedom Cafe.
Oh, there was love and there was laughter and the next morning I had breakfast with Robert S. and we talked of life and heartache and ate some good food next to the hotel fire (but no chocolate, although I did think of having a cuppa hot chocolate…but settled on tea with cream)…And I flew home in the very clothes I had worn the night before, the cold rain slamming against the plane, nothing but gray on the wings, gray as far as I could see….amazed that the pilots have so much faith in math and can land when there is nothing to see but gray.
And…there was my family…waiting by the curbside…an officer yelling at my husband to stop driving around in circles…he, my darling husband, who has been patiently circling to pick me up…and he glides over to the side and I drop my backpack in, give quick hellos and love and let them know the guitars have not come down the chute, so off they putter, driving slowly, but they will be back, and I will have my guitars in tow and I will hop in the car and we will talk about the last fourteen hours we have been seperated and we will cuddle our dog, our snake, our cats when we arrive home. But all that must wait. We need to go to the grocery store. And so we go…and push the carts…and the girls go to one side of the store with a list, and Lance and I head over to the meat department, and we all meet in the middle, and I am thankful for these people I can call my own. These people who claim me, too. What a tribe!
I love my family.
I love my audiences.
I love the chance and opportunity and the mystery of it all.
I am corny and I do not care! I’m from Illinois, you know.