Meeting Oil, Hearing Rain

This is what I’m reading right now:

“The Impossible Will Take A Little While…a citizen’s guide to hope in a time of fear”, compiled by Paul Rogat Loeb. This is an incredible collection of writings including Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Howard Zinn, Jim Hightower, Pablo Neruda. I strongly encourage you to check it out. Read what other eloquent voices are saying around the world. Feel inspired.

I’m also reading:

“Count Your Blessings—The Healing Power of Gratitude and Love” by Dr. John F. Demartini.

So, now, back to our regularly scheduled missive of keeping you, and myself, up to date.


I got up at 5:00 last Thursday, dressed in the dark, and waited on the taxi (see last entry). Off to the airport and three long flights.
I reach Seattle and get down to the baggage claim; my flight is early, and my friend, Shawna, hasn’t arrived yet. The bags are taking awhile, and as I sit and scope out the surroundings, I hear a man across the way cheerily bombarding passerby with “Helloooooos!” and “God bless you!”

I walk around the empty baggage carousel to see who is making such a joyful noise, and it is a tall, good looking man of about 40ish years. He is standing behind a desk, obviously promoting something. I walk over and announce, “Well, you’re a friendly chap! Mind if I hang with you while I”m waiting on my bags?”

Oh, his smile expands! How he laughs! Yes, he is clapping with delight! He has been behind this desk, which is official (he points out proudly that the airport lets him collect dollars legally for this women and children’s shelter), and I smile and reassure him I had no doubt. I pop in my remaining ten dollars in the box and notice his name is Jeff.

“Chef Jeff!” he declares.

Then, he points to a framed pic of himself in a white chef’s hat, white chef’s jacket, his big teeth beaming from in front of a late 90’s Christmas tree. (I know you are wondering how I deciphered what year the tree is….my secret.) I hold the photograph
and ask him what his specialty is…and, so, our friendship blossoms over the course of the next twenty minutes. Before long, Chef Jeff and I are singing Motown songs at the top of our lungs, he is banging his hands on the desk, the trash can, while I keep a counter rhythm on the big, plastic cash box.

Finally, my guitars/bags arrive, I schlep them over, I hug Jeff goodbye. He asks for something to remember me by, so I give him one of those photographs with my website info and I sign something special, just for the chef. My friends have arrived, I leave with a step in my heart.

The next day, I see my friend, Lydia Hutchinson, the publisher of Performing Songwriter magazine, and she tells me,
“Well, I just left the airport where somebody named Chef Jeff was singing the praises of Sara Hickman!” I had to laugh.
Next panel I’m on, I’ll encourage all the newbies to hang with the friendliest guys at the airport, to sing along, and leave
a glossy… just never know! Who knew? Ah, life is sweet.

So, back to Thursday….a fantastic journey in the van with Shawna and her three amazing children. Travis, who is 15, wants to join the Marines and has a sweatshirt with the declaration MARINES boldly printed across the front. Austin is 17; he’s laying in back, and is playing a game on a Gameboy. (Austin is the boy who sang my theme song, the hidden track on “Two Kinds of Laughter” back before their family moved up here to Seattle.) And there is little Cheyenne, two or three years old, bright blue eyes like a baby owl, curious, sleepy, sucking on her pacifier, tucked safely in her car seat. Shawna looks beautiful, still youthful and blonde with a big grin and smooth skin. She stops at a coffee shop on the way to the hotel, and I have an iced coffee with caramel whip. Ooh, it was tasty! (A local vendor, not Starbucks, by the way…)

The conversation is vast…I remember we covered anime, how if you wear pink your friends ask if you are gay (Austin sports pink shoelaces and Travis has a chicken hat. I have no idea, but now you know about the chicken hat, too), about backflips (which Austin later demonstrates for me in the hotel lobby), about girls. It was a delightful ride. I love watching connected families in action. Watching disconnected families is painful; I have to care for my heart when I hear or see it. I have to say a silent prayer.
There was a girl on the plane…..

We get to the hotel…..My friends leave, I head upstairs. Rain arrives, and she looks fresh and clear. I feel my heart jump with happiness! Rain is one of those rare souls that you love the minute you set eyes on her! Just super. Soon, I meet Kari Estren (who will be rooming with me and Rain) and Julie Christenson (singer/songwriter/back up vocalist for Leonard Cohen) and Karen Hammack (the pianist).

Rain has graciously arranged for me to accompany her downstairs to the Patti Smith awards banquet. Oh, it is a blast! I see women I haven’t seen in years….some musicians, some in publicity or marketing…a few in radio and booking…The mingling is uplifting and remembering how and when we worked together, the telling of stories, the reliving of community….terrific! Dinner is served, and I am laughing with Cindy Payne, the promoter I had met years back when I played the Backstage, and now she is setting up all the backline for the conference (for two hundred acts!) and Gene Stout, a handsome, witty writer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

We have some wine with our meal; Rain has moved over to another table to be with Julie, who could not find an empty seat at ours. Gene, Cindy and I are on a tear. The food is good. The conversation is fluxuating between ridiculous and serious.
I love the banter!

Patti Smith is preceeded by Carla DeSantis, publisher of Rockrgrl Magazine and founder of the event, and Sandy (Patti’s lifelong long winded friend and producer) and Lenny Kaye. They all speak lovingly of this amazing woman, and finally, Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) ties it all up before handing the mic to Patti. There is not enough space here to describe how touching, self-deprecating, wise and wonderful Patti’s words to us all were, but I was feeling really lucky to be in the room. I had always thought of Patti through the memory of watching Gilda Radner’s imitation on Saturday NIght Live, so I expected lots of ranting, screaming and posing. That was not the case at all. Total opposite. Ms. Smith was poised and even enjoyed receiving her “little award”. As I type that, I can see how that looks as if she is demeaning what she received, but not in the least. She said it with sincere appreciation.

After she spoke, she and Lenny got out their acoustics and treated us all to three songs. I tell you what, it was a terrific opener to a four day work-n-holiday for me.

Afterwards, we piled up to the hotel room and finished the wine, laughing and joking and being content to have found other journeywomen. I think I went to bed around 2:30 (4:30 my time).

The next day: My heart is pounding, not because of the terrific huevos rancheros I downed at breakfast which are clogging my arteries, but because in just a few minutes the door will open and Ann Wilson and Bonnie Raitt will be walking in and sitting twenty feet next to me. I love Ann Wilson…she and Nancy are two of the reasons I started, and continue, to play guitar with such a longing. I’d seen both Bonnie and Ann live in performance, but never sat in a room to hear them chew the fat. And none of us in attendance were disappointed, although the list of questions contained some goofy material. Ann ribbed Bonnie that the one thing she hated female reporters to ask her was this,

“How long does it take you to get ready to perform?” The entire audience groaned in understanding.

Then, as Ann and Bonnie got to number 4 on the list of pre-printed questions, there it was. But, then, they actually gave hilarious responses, after we all settled down from laughing at the cosmic joke. (Ann said when she first started, it took her about
an hour to get ready, but in the 80’s, she and Nancy took about an hour and a half because of all the heavy make-up and strung up hair…Pause…as if she’s thinking…..Now, she states, it takes me about fifteen minutes cuz I don’t really care!)

Bonnie was frisky and started off the whole conversation with, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say, do you?” to Ann, and then questioned why there was only one mic to share, but, I have to say, it worked out for the best, watching them share one mic, bouncing responses off of one another. Answering the audiences questions was great. Bonnie talked about her favorite artists (both she and Ann love Lucinda)…And, then, before you know it, they are gone, whisked out the back door they had been brought through. So different from the way Patti hung around, signing autographs, casually sitting and smiling and nodding her head. She wasn’t in any rush. Like a little guru, happy in the sunshine. I, personally, prefer the opportunity to be with another human….I understand that not everyone can do this due to the weight of expectations by fans, but maybe if fans could chill a little, the artists would hang around longer. There is nothing weirder than giving all you can on stage and then having that one fan who goes on and on and on when the performer is already pretty tired….And the fact that that fan dominates the time that could be shared with all the other folks waiting. So, I understand why most artists leave. I feel honored to be able to “feel” both sides of the gate: on and off the stage.

The day was full of panels. I checked out each one, but I would get bored since I know what is being discussed, and finally went up to take a nap before my show. I dreamed of white light surrounding me, and the red of maple leaves, and I could hear a voice, a soothing voice, caressing my heart. I was sleepy-eyed when I awoke, and forced myself to change clothes and get ready for the leaving, out into the cold air, off to a sound check with Rain.

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