Friday, March 30, 2007

at one point my daughter and i had a discussion about whether our lives were harrowed or harried, but when we looked up the words, we were both wrong. we finally settled on beleaguered although maybe we could do better. in boggle we found out that wantages was a word- one i plainly saw, and could have got seven points for, but couldn't conceive of having gone a whole lifetime without having heard it.

came back to all the grading that i'd missed, plus my usual classes, and a gig last night that caused me to miss the bog again, altogether. everyone is growing so fast it makes my head spin. had a fantastic time in seattle- salmon & coffee nonstop, grand forest on bainbridge island, an erhu player in pike's market, the sea, the traffic and the cherry trees from the little alcove at the convention center, where we also heard the atlas stringband, by the way. wallingford & its coffee shops, including tully's, all this is well-documented here; all i can say is, it was all true, i'm proud to have such a daugher, with such a good salmon-cookin' husband, they were fantastic to me. the conference was good too- though the salukis lost right in front of our humble reunion, the webheads were great too- a fine, adventurous lot that feels a lot like a family, in spite of possibly being very different as people. a long pair of plane flights each way, got some sleep, but lost a lot of sleep too, in spite of the coffee, the original starbucks, the fantastic view of rainier and the columbia valley, and the wide sweep of montana and idaho.

back home i park the truck in the shadow of the clocktower, and try to process it all as i walk up the steps, under the clocktower, down the long wide campus path past the japanese garden and the library construction. under the clocktower, in the center doorway of the building, an inscription says, so enter, that thou mayest become daily more learned and depart, that daily thou mayest become more useful to thy country and to mankind. ironic, i always think, in that i am basically entering and departing within the same minute, and not lingering long enough to actually pick up anything but musty air. but curious, also, that siuc defines our role in terms of helping out...i like that. it's politics as usual above me, wild and intense; i fit my goggles tighter on my nose, so as to see only the water i swim in. in kansas my son is at a crossroads, trying to decide about a semester in france, the summer, the fall and the spring- he has to do something pretty quickly. in the high school, a young boy was struck by lightning- it set back my other son, made him realize, if only for a day or so, about mortality. the five-year-old eagerly awaits kindergarten; the little guy is almost two, doing a full-court press, causing us to switch from zone to man-on-man, calling fouls, badly needing a substitute sometimes.

some news on the creative front: though i haven't written much, being professional and all, i did pull two old stories out of the drawer, to use in a class, then had to type them for a blind student, so was able to just upload them for your perusal. they are at least ten years old; they work together; what is important about them really is that they could turn into a much larger, much better work. but, even more important, another story, abstract and concrete, about faner hall, the building i teach in, was published in the ibb university newsletter, ibb university, yemen. it may take me a while to adjust to this, make this known- since it's work-related (in a sense), i may make it available from the professional blog. it's a partly-true story of being the one to show senator paul simon around the maze i call home, at work. and that's life, so enter, so depart, to your left is the cascade range, car on fire on the floating bridge, even worms make mistakes, traffic is heavy, in spite of the rain, but there are old volvos and saabs all about, makes you feel like it's the north. and back home, the music is better, cd almost ready, makes me feel like i can make music. that, and the blooming flowers, the pollen, everywhere, and i know that life has given me another turn on the carousel. more coming- sorry for the sporadic habits, the lack of sleep, the naps. the starfish on the pier, the amazon building, the humid lambert parking lot, the service at the vietnamese on the ave, the rock skipped, from the pier, a splash on the tide, indistinguishable from the soft drizzle, all a kind of fog in my memory, now, tending to get crowded in there, with a beleaguered life. it's birthday season...don't let 'em get to ya.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

this is a town that it's good to get out of once in a while, where you can drive past a thing a thousand times and not see it, and you have to have more children to keep noticing things that otherwise would fly right by. a kid will spot it though, and point it out, and sometimes even try to tell you, with limited words, what they think it might be. like the dragon statue at the park, that corey called "ah-gator".

at the old power plant on the highway i appreciate a long straightaway where the car or truck can get going and stay going, with none of the usual stopsigns or foottraffic of town. so i'll let my eyes wander sometimes off to the trees, the bramble weeds and the train over to the east, the arena parking lot to the west, where i'd spend almost half an hour sometimes walking across the windswept asphalt when i lived on that side of town. not once would i notice the tennis court, or who was in it, and even now when i've been playing a lot, i tend not to see it. the tennis was tough, hard on the back, but noey was into it, and, i hope, still is. it takes a lot of exercise to keep one's cool, in a small town, under pressure.

a small victory at the yellowmoon cafe- a performance, watched by both older boys, with a fair smattering of irish, on st. patty's night; I thought the music was better, and the irish was haunting. the band has its problems but i thought at least Candy and I did them well- the victory came, that the boys saw it, and liked it. i was at least living my own dream, as i had seen my own son do in that same venue earlier. and it wasn't bad.

but i happened to mention, in passing, upon hearing the song life goes on, an old work colleague and friend, mike trepiak, who died of unknown causes in a hotel in vientiane, capital of laos, recently. what struck me about this was that this place was like a dream city to me; french, colonial, remote, jungle, exotic, way way out there, beautiful, etc. he was in a sense living out another dream, one that had for sure at one time gotten under my skin. so, hearing of his death (there but the grace of god go i), i could only look at my busy scene here and say, vaya con dios, you will not be forgotten, such is life, that i hope you got at least a taste of what you really wanted.

but then my partner candy comes out with the story of joshua tree, whom i hear about regularly, working with her: a paraplegic; fell out of a tree and lost the use of his limbs; didn't let it stop him; wrote songs, redesigned such things as lawn mowers so that he could function, way out in the country, and hold up his end of the property. but it so happened that they were going to go camping, so he went and cut the grass one more time, and this time ran out of gas; died of heat stroke trying to get back home. the performance was a tribute to him; several of the songs had been written by him, and one, new one, written for him, by her. impressive. a true southern illinois story, too- as my boys and i would say, a guy who made it, in spite of.

and then, spring busting out, forsythia blazing yellow, a soft white shining through, a couple of nice young mormon guys come 'round the ornament valley, but i wouldn't really get into religion with them. i would admit that family is important; god is important. being with the older boy, home from kansas, in a week that his mom goes bonkers, and siu actually plays kansas in the ncaa. got him to play tennis with noey, and then, driving along that road, forgetting to look over at the courts, but with one glance, i see a huge hawk, on the metal guardrailing of the highway. tall, majestic, watching- he didn't mind the wide expanse of the arena. wasn't bothered by the cars; and, like me, was relaxed by the lack of stopsigns. thing is, he saw everything. maybe he only needed to see the voles and the moles, dinner, but he saw it all. i'm sure of it.

and now, off to seattle, home of the rain forest, the cool & misty coast, the flannel shirt and coffee, salmon & totem poles. it's good, representing an ncaa school on a streak, a school with lots of friends, and i with lots of friends also, and also some stuff to say. but best of all, seeing my daughter, who i'm sure, will give a full report, all in good time.

vaya con out for the ah-gators; don't talk religion until you're ready; don't let the b-rds get you down. a little traveling, and you can get some perspective, get a different view, get a lungful of salt-spray and sticka driftwood in the pocket; skip a stone across toward canada. life might get ya, but more likely, you'll live to see another st. patty's day, so put your luck in your pocket, & get to learning a few more songs. and then, get your soul out there, and try to stay in tune.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

a thick fog has settled over the ornament valley; they gave up and turned all the traffic lights on 13 to flashing yellow because there just wasn't enough traffic to justify making people wait a long time at each one of them. got my clinch mountain sweethearts cd back from candy; we'll playing some of those pure bluegrass songs this saturday night, st. pat's, in cobden's yellowmoon cafe. i dredged up a few old irish songs too, one called paddy's lament or paddy's lamentation, an anti-civil war song, about coming to the us, being conscripted, and wishing one was back in fair dublin starving in the potato famine. i found a good bluegrass radio station here on the computer and can now do this weblog with good background. one of the things that is important to me is to bring back these parts of my past, the scrawled out words of songs that reached me at one time or another, and get them into active circulation so that they are coming out on a stage at some time and place. some of these songs bring up memories of various times that they used to dominate my life, in the same way these days i'm often listening to welele or the saints. i used to write music quite a bit, sometimes songs and sometimes just words, and had a pretty good poster for my performances, with a border of the state of iowa, a world turned into a banjo, and maybe a fiddle on it, i don't remember exactly. they coulda called me "iowa tom", but, i was in iowa at the time, so that wasn't much special, and they went with "ramblin' tom" which did fine for a number of years, and is worth recalling in and of itself.

nowadays i've been working hard on presentations at tesol in seattle, which are slowly taking shape, but draining me of a lot of good energy and robbing my break. that's why it's important that i get out a little, play some music, make an appearance out there in cobden, home of the appleknockers. now there's a town with a single railroad track through the center of it. it's about 1/3 hispanic these days, but more than 1/3 empty, and it's the people who's left who may or may not choose to come into a fern bar like the yellowmoon on a st. patty's day eve. A fair number of them would rather be at the hard-drinking country bar right next door, i think, no matter what the occasion.

the countryside around there gets pretty, lots of old houses, hills, shawnee woods; we almost moved out there a while back, but that was before corey came along. i sometimes look at that country lifestyle, look again at the suburban spread here in the ornament valley, and get wistful, but nights like tonight there's a thick fog, and it doesn't make that much of a difference...after all, a small town is just a rock-pitch from the country no matter what part of town you're in, there isn't much to block the stars except maybe a few of the floodlights at the university. which reminds me, lately i've been playing a bit of tennis with the 14-yr.-old, trying to bring his arm back to strong- makes me sore at night, makes him sleep early & leave the computer to me, and gives us a new perspective on traffic, floodlights, and the athletic neighborhood of town. on top of all that it started raining today while we were batting the balls around, but we hung in there, got a good practice in, and made me feel like shaking out some of that stress on the fiddle, later on. tennis and fiddle, and in between, flashing yellow lights on a foggy state highway, with orange cones, a bump and a big "bump" sign, by the creek that rises up where i refused to buy the house, 'cause i didn't want to be trapped between that creek and the old m'boro highway, watching the water rise on the cello, the fiddle & an old foundation. these hundred-year floods have been coming more often, and all you can do is get some high ground, and get some good fiddlin' in, before global warming takes us all down.