Monday, March 31, 2008

The Rig 3/28/08

Nord Electro, Guild D25, Epiphone Les Paul Junior, Agile Gold Top, the Plush.

Life is good.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cravin Melon/Lincoln Theater

I was working for a couple days in Charlotte, but when I got home to Durham, I knew I had to go see Cravin Melon's show in Raleigh Saturday night.

My Hootie pal Gary Greene was back in the engine room for the band. I never get to see him play, so this was my chance. Plus we'd just played together, along with Doug Jones, Cravin's splendid singer, down at the Sewee Outpost show.

I'm not much of a clubgoer anymore. Especially solo, like Saturday. I wrote out the directions in large longhand and put off leaving the coziness of home until the very last moment, even reprogramming my iPod with a little Idle Race/Move/Roy Wood mix for the ride over. I left and locked the house without remembering the garage had lost my car key last week. It was a foregone conclusion that I was going, but the prelude to actually getting on my way was fairly inept and time-consuming.

So much so that, approximately forty-five seconds after I set foot through the door, Cravin Melon struck up the first acapella notes of "The Great Procrastinator". The audience roared their approval, and the first gig by a beloved band in seven years had begun. I lived elsewhere at the time so I never got to see these guys in their heyday, but from the response they got Saturday their following has been laying in wait since they packed it in.

I did, however, spend a few days with the band, before Gary joined them, writing with them. They were very sweet people to hang with, and even though I'm not much of a co-writer, we came up with a song they recorded, "She Loves the Fire" and they played that next.

I had forgotten how bad-ass a bass player Rob Clay is. And Jimbo Chapman, with his finely sculpted tone, made every note in every solo count. Gary, as expected, was subtle and powerful.

Doug Jones' voice is expansive, cutting across the tops of songs. His delivery is deadpan, distracted slightly. His voice is always sure and strong, even when it's quiet and reserved. Some people are born singers, and I think Doug is certainly one of those people.

The crowd sang along to all the songs, raising their beer bottles and cell phone cameras in the air.

Back at the bar, the Carolina game was finishing up. Somehow I hadn't expected to hear any cheering for the Tarheels in a Raleigh club, but sure enough, after they'd dumped Louisville, a few yells were audible between Cravin songs.

Sad to say, my old bones didn't make it to the end. The prospect of an early-rising four year old on Sunday morning, expecting pancakes, necessitated me booking about an hour in, and I'm sorry about that. It was wonderful to see the outpouring of love from an audience who'd obviously been missing Cravin Melon. The band gave it back to their fans with interest, and their songs resounded through their listeners like shared memories at a party, sweet, funny, happy and wistful.

when you're just a little hungry

Charlotte NC 3/08

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Presentation: How to save the recording industry

Good afternoon.

It has occurred to me that there is a very obvious way for the recording industry to save itself. The disappointing present state of the business, reflected in low sales figures and high salaries, can be counteracted in a very sensible and simple manner. Actually, it's sort of surprising that this idea has not yet been put into general use by now, considering its intrinsic values, no matter what the business climate is.

I propose that record companies eliminate the artists altogether. The savings in royalties, publishing, tour support, hookers and blow will easily help swing the lagging concerns from their present deep bloody red into the blackest of black. In a boilerplate recording agreement, the artist has been known to gouge the company traditionally for somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve percent. Imagine the elimination of that disbursement and its effect on company profits! Can you say "Cancun"?

When you eliminate the artist, you necessarily eliminate the artists' managers as well. More work with less interference can take place in a day.

You feed no massive egos, you become 'the people's company' and you merely deal in songs. The record company, to use the arcane term, no longer needs promotional pictures or discs or postage for them. The buyers will no longer need the copious liner notes and packaging (which the artist had been billed for) since there will be no artist to need information on.

And since you're dealing only with songs, why not eliminate the songwriter? All of the good songs have apparently been written at this point, and now, as in the movie business, it's about the remake and the remix. If a new song is needed, surely there's a team of specialists who can reconstruct an entirely different song from what's come before, with a slight adjustment of a chord or a harmony (or three).

The most important facet to be preserved, as we know, is the infallible infrastructure of the music company, its perks and pleasures. Of course, the entire A&R departments can be eradicated at every label, sent packing along with the artists they signed. As industry brethren, we feel certain they'll land on their feet at as potential Kinko's assistant managers and massage therapy trainees. This, too, will free up wads of much-needed cash, and office space to be sublet to bankruptcy attorney firms. It will allow the accounting departments to grow as well, which is where we know the tastemakers of the future are residing presently.

With the dismantling of the old business model and its unnecessary leech-like creative types, we stand to inject what amounts to anabolic steroids mixed with PCP into our undeservedly walloped milieu. We can grow like a Disney time-lapse movie of a Venus flytrap, nibbling on the consumer's wallet pocket like a tasty housefly. Just because music has ceased to be a commercial venture in 2008 does not mean that the industry that nurtured it for so long has to disappear as well.

It pleases me greatly to be able to offer this suggestion FREE OF CHARGE, to be used by any so-inclined company in need of saving.

(Houseflies will be served directly after the meeting.)


*apologies to any artists, record company executives, copy center managers, massage therapists, bankruptcy attorneys, leeches and houseflies this may have offended.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Winston-Salem visit

I went to Winston-Salem today to retrieve a lift chair for my mother. The chair belonged to the father of a close friend. She and her sister have been trying to get the house they grew up in ready to be sold, and they had offered us the chair months ago for my father's use. Now, as the proud owner of a 1993 VW Eurovan, I was finally able to get it from them and take the chair to my mom.

My friend was to meet me after she got off work at five. I dawdled a little and headed over to the house closer to five-thirty, but no one was there yet. I shut off the motor and stood outside in the clear blue chilly afternoon. I had been to her house a couple times in high school, but I still needed directions from her today.

It was very quiet in her old neighborhood. Apart from a few cars and their owners coming home from their jobs, I was the only person outside.

A strange feeling came over me as I waited. The cool air, the bare trees struggling to bloom before April, the lowered sun in the cloudless sky all overcame me, and suddenly I wished I was ten years old again, hopping on my Schwinn Sting Ray and riding around my own piney old neighborhood a few miles away like I would have after school in 1966. I wanted to be riding the streets and the paths and the routes my friends and I rode back then, past sunken trampolines and creeks and church parking lots; and I wanted to feel like I knew I was heading home for dinner at the house on Knollwood Street a little before six o'clock, and then homework at the old writing desk. I felt enveloped by sadness and longing. I wanted to be free and little and unencumbered with reality and still have both parents and my brother. Tears formed in my eyes: I pulled up the grey hood on my sweatshirt around my bald, 52 year old head, against the mounting cold.

My friend, her husband and her sister arrived on the scene moments later; by then, I was composed again, and with the husband's help, I swiveled the lift chair into the Eurovan and left for Mom's.

I am rarely given to emotional episodes like the one I had this afternoon. My life as a grown up is so satisfying; I love being a husband to my wife and a father to my three children. I've had an interesting career for years, doing what I love to do. I accept the responsibility of adulthood gratefully. I try to follow the Golden Rule, even when it doesn't seem applicable. And while my juvenile years were pretty sedate, any desire to return to it any other day of the week would be tempered by memories of being bullied and kid neuroses, nothing I'd want to see again.

But today, there was an odd chink in my armor. Hard to tell if it is delayed grief for my father, or my brother, or seeing Mom so lonely for Dad, or whether it's something else entirely. It didn't feel good or refreshing or even really necessary, just disconcerting as it seemed to come from nowhere.

My friend and I had been talking about how the phone numbers each of us had had since we were children in Winston were now going to be assigned to someone else's telephones. When my mother moves near where we live, there will no longer be any family in the town I grew up in. So many memories are tied up there, many of which have resurfaced vibrantly after I stopped drinking.

I will still have friends there, some of the people who I rode bikes with, even; my graduating class from high school will have their thirty-fifth reunion next year, and, God willing, I will be there, having never gone to any previous gatherings of the sort.

However, my connection with Winston-Salem will have moved into the ether, confined to reckless memories and expansive emotions that surface when the weather's just right, or when the smell of curing tobacco sweetens the air or when I think of dead friends and family or hear a specific song. It will always be a part of me, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, but it will seem eternally at odds with what my mind is accustomed to believing is real.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Home and rain

The four-year-old woke at 5:30 this morning. That's right on the cusp of when he can and can't hop into our bed and snuggle. I was beat and wholly inattentive from trying to get the baby to sleep from 1:30 to about quarter to four, so he and his pillow and his bear and tiger friends slipped in before I could escort them back out.

He doesn't really snuggle silently, that's part of the problem. He tries to engage his dozing parents in conversation about whatever is exciting to him at that very second. He cannot contain his enthusiasm, even at the crack of dawn and with encouragement from Mom and Dad. He is also extremely kinetic at that hour, often spearing a parent with an errant elbow (or worse). So be it. He is a four-year-old, and his mother handles it a lot better than I do.

I brought my pillow and blanket to the couch. Since I'm bald and it's cold, I get completely under the blanket except for a small opening for my mouth and nose. I must look like a large pink fuzzy boulder on the sofa. Only the four-year-old sees me, at precisely six-thirty. He doesn't think it looks strange and he's more interested in his computer anyway, so sometimes I continue my rock-like status after I've gotten his fruit and brew coffee later on.

We looked at the weather report for today on my Dashboard widget. It very clearly had thunderstorms and lightning in the illustration. The four-year-old and I walked onto the back porch to discover the weather was weird and grey and warm and hesitant. We decided to drive to school in case it burst into rain on the way.

Smart Wife took the baby grocery shopping and saved a lot of money with coupons and specials. (We like thrifty shopping around here, since she's made it into a fine art.) I called retirement communities and emailed people about an upcoming show while they were out. I periodically walked out on the porch and tested the air for rain.

The baby and I sat outside for what seemed like an hour, watching the cars go by from the front porch and listening to the birds on the back. The air was heavy and I was able to wear a t-shirt comfortably, while my wife went for a run. The baby was quiet and satisfied; I even tried to get her to wave to the passing motorists without much protest on her part.

We picked up the four-year-old after school and bought me some shoes, all the time the sky glowering and the air bursting with moisture. Smart Wife and I shared dinner duties tonight, always nice; she made the chicken strips, I did the boiled potatoes and asparagus. After a bath shared momentarily with his baby sister, the four-year-old got a few chapters of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (the Illustrated Classics edition) before he dropped off to a deep sleep, hopefully packed with active dreams and happiness that will incline him to sleep just a little bit later.

I sat down at the computer to blog, and the rains came. Slow and steady, loud enough to sound like typing or drumming outside. Whatever it was I was going to write about washed away with the downpour, and I was able to sit back and think yet again of how much I love my life and my home and my family and all my friends, and how much especially I love the sound of the rain.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The $100 Guitar Wall, sixth in a series

Here's a familiar guitar to anyone who's shopped for Smart Wife's baby t-shirts and onesies. It's a Fender Squier Bullet Special, a lotta words for a really cool, stripped-down Strat.

I've always been partial to single-pickup electric guitars. Maybe it's due to my own limitations as a picker, but there's something about the sound of a snarling bridge pickup that seems like Universal Rock Tone Incarnate. My Telecaster became an Esquire after I'd hooked both E strings around the Lindy Fralin neck p/u replacement one too many times mid-song (and look at Brad Paisley's paisley Crook Esquire, lots of nice space there, unencumbered by a neck pickup). Not to mention the fact I NEVER USED IT ANYWAY. And my extremely groovy Agile 2500 with three P-90's... you can guess which one I use. Now I'm the proud owner of an Epiphone Les Paul TV Junior '57 Reissue that I intend to get a lot of use from, another with just the one roaring pickup.

This guitar is also high on the Cool List because it only has a volume knob, just like Malcolm Young's signature model Gretsch. I've never been much of a tone adjuster; you watch a player like Carlos Santana, and he's always messing around with his tone knob. That's why he's Carlos Santana and I'm me.

The Bullet has had its "hot" Fender humbucker replaced with a genuine Gibson pickup, courtesy of Mark Bryan. Mike Costanzo, our friend and former guitar tech, popped it into the Bullet (well, with a little filing around the edges of the opening so it'd sit in there right). I thought the chrome cover would look nice on the black pickguard. Then I got one shiny silver knurled Tele knob and set-screwed it into place. After I sanded the brand name off the headstock, I added Roman numerals along the top of the neck so I'd know where I was at any given time, although it's still something of a crapshoot. It's not the most set-up instrument I've ever owned (I think Chris really doesn't rate it very highly), but it's served me well for demos at home and for when all my other guitars are out with Hootie somewhere. My home hot rod.

Bought at the New Orleans Guitar Center location for around seventy dollars, ten bucks for the knob and the pickup was free... a significant member of the $100 Guitar Wall, even though it's usually back in my studio and not hung up with the others.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Last night, we played in Celebration, Florida, the Disney-designed model community. It was for the Robert Gamez charity, but it also was dovetailed into being part of the town's St. Patrick's Day festivities.

We had performed for Jim Sonefeld's Animal Mission auction/concert in Columbia, SC the night before in the 'hopped-up acoustic' format (no guitar or Hammond for me, no rack tom for Soni, Mark with a tuner, Tube Screamer and a small Fender amp and generally lower volume overall) but had sent the truck with the bulk of the gear on to Celebration.

It was great to get to play on our own gear again; I have to say, much like buying a used Jeep, it's hard to tell what condition your rental Hammond B-3 and Leslie are going to be in when you sit down for the show. Of the last two I played, one was an exhausted old rig that gave out at the end of one song but got jerry-rigged to hang on through the end of the show; the other was a shiny black monster that sounded superb. But I like our B-3 and 122 combination the best, mainly because I can run the Leslie speed from a footswitch.

(For the non-keyboardists reading this,
1. A Hammond B-3 organ and a Leslie 122 rotating speaker in combination, is the traditional rock/blues/jazz/soul organ sound you know and love ("Whiter Shade of Pale", "Gimme Some Lovin'", the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Smith, Booker T & the MG's, etc.)*. Because they are paleoelectric musical instruments, much time and effort has been spent trying to recreate the sound digitally, but nothing succeeds as much or sounds as good as the Real Deal.
2. The speed of the rotating Leslie speaker is one of its main features. It goes fast, slow and sometimes off, the gurgle you hear on so many records. Many Hammonds have their speed switch mounted on the left side in front, to be operated by the organist's left hand. That's great, if you're really fast or don't change it all the time.
*to the nitpickin' few, yes, yes, I know that some of the stuff I'm attributing to the B-3 is actually performed on an A-100 but now is neither the time or place for that kind of discussion, so let's take it outside the parentheses, shall we?)

The opening band, Rock and Pop Masters, featured performances by Mike Reno of Loverboy, Jimi Jameson of Survivor and John Cafferty of Beaver Brown. I admit, I felt the tension in the air when the first notes of "Eye of the Tiger" came from the stage. That's what that intro is supposed to do to you, I guess, stuttering along with blasts of choked cymbal crashes and crunchy guitars, till it finally breaks into its triumphant stride in the chorus. So I was tense. I tried to share that tension with some of my bandmates, but failed to make it happen. Two of them finally came out and heard some Loverboy smashes, then retreated to the bus when RPM ended it all with "Mustang Sally", a song we have played enough over the years to be grateful to have been scooped this once.

Our show was one of the best ones we've done lately, I think. The technical aspects of guitar changes and tunings and monitor levels were all largely sorted out, and we were able to get down to the business of singing and playing comfortably. We pulled off another John Daly-led "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (which also featured Michael Antunes on sax) and a succinct "Champagne Supernova". Add to that a really big crowd lining the blocked-off street we played on...

And what about that street? I got onstage, looked out over the crowd. I was struck with major deja vu.

Never had I set foot in Celebration in my life before that morning, a bright sunshiny morning, no less that what you'd expect from the world of Walt and Mickey. I saw the guy bring his rental RC boats out to the lagoon and set up shop for the day next to a guy with a fishing pole; I watched grandfather and granddaughter stroll along the boulevard, hand in hand. I was passed in ten minutes time by no less than three horse-drawn carriages. Lots of khaki shorts and caps in evidence there. I also had a feeling come over me that the Starbucks' across from our bus encampment might be the only place in Celebration where you could buy CD's (especially after having returned from an Orlando Borders' store where the music department's real estate had dwindled to a bare minimum of floorspace). Admittedly, I kept my wandering in Celebration to a bare minimum, wondering if I would get abducted down a pristine alleyway and shanghai'd into a life of servitude behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom, a life I would never be suited for.

But there was something about the street. What?

Then it dawned on me, somewhere around the second song, that I knew the street from seen it in an Aaron Carter live video filmed in the selfsame place. I must have watched that video with my daughter many times years ago, and now, here I was, living the dream in the very same place.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A trip to Chuck E. Cheese's

I got back yesterday, home to my family. Smart Wife had already dropped the bomb on me that we were going to Chuck E. Cheese's today, to reward the somewhat stir crazy four-year-old. I had a couple days to make the choice of staying at home with the baby or going along.

The baby and I found ourselves in a whirling noisy circus full of aggressive children and the comatose parents they drug along in their wake. It was brought to my attention that beer and wine are served at Chuck E. Cheese's to help draw adults in and keep them there. We got there sort of later in the day so that possibly explains some of the logy behavior in the grown-ups, but maybe it was just the sheer volume and force of the youngsters that would make anyone else look slow.

Blurs of families blew past our table, shrieking and pounding the floor. They huddled around video and bowling games, scores of kids, overamped winners and whining losers, all keeping up the low roar. I found myself reading SW's lips, catching snippets of her words, something about going to order pizza at the counter.

We traded perfectly good American money for the shiny coin of the realm. The four-year-old and I, fresh from a brief afternoon nap on the couch together, wandered off in search of machines to feed. Some were undoubtedly out of his league, but Chuck provides for even the smallest token-holders with odd little diversions. The Snake Drop (I think that's the name) is one where the kid takes a heavy ball and rolls it down a lane, pretty much straight into a hole at the end. You allegedly steer the fleeing ball, but it just bangs against the plexiglass walls on its way to the Inevitable. We played an Elvis pinball machine, and the four-year-old was alarmingly natural at the flippers, considering how many dollars in quarters both SW and I lavished on the game as undergrads. There was a game where an uncontrollable toy monster truck popped a wheelie and collapsed a glowing red rubber Camaro which reinflated after the round was over. I even strapped the four-year-old to a chair and sent him around a clock twice, which was slow but satisfying for us both.

There was a game near our table, a variation of Whac-a-Mole with snake heads instead of rodents. My kid tried it but it was a little too hard to get enough wallop out of him to beat enough snakes back into their hidey-holes. Not the case for a pony-tailed dad and his two unkempt little kids of indeterminate gender, who each took two holes and pounded the living shit out of the game until it coughed out a dozen tickets and then died; between SW and myself, we told seven different people that the game was broken, some who ignored us and fed the coin slot anyway. After it was fixed, a small boy asked me if I could help him fish a lost token of his out of one of the holes which were, alas, too small for me to get my fingers in.

We followed a life-size Chuck E. to the stage where the 'band' seemed to short-circuit in the middle of a song, clothy mouths agape. It was too disconcerting and inert to stay long, but we checked back in later while they were jamming on "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

The four-year-old took off his shoes, ignoring a questionable Sneaker Keeper, and crawled into the tube play structure that lines the ceiling in the front of the place. He got a short admonition from me to 'keep it moving in there' which preceded an influx of speedy children of various ages shoving their ways in. The SkyTubes are about sixteen feet up; there are a few windows, but none through which anxious parents can see their progenies crawling by. I tried to use my X-ray vision, but I admit I lost track of my child in the SkyTubes and began to panic a little. The last time he'd gotten in the 'Tubes, he freaked out, couldn't find his way and began tearfully banging on windows when he'd get to them--his very pregnant mother sent another child in after him, both kids exiting via the slide. SW could tell I had no fix on him from our table. I kept thinking about the story of the guy who lost his car in the carwash. "How ... WHAT will I tell his mother?" He did eventually reappear in the entrance to the structure. calling "Dad! Dad!" and we went to eat our pizza after that.

Some of the games paid off (using the term loosely) in tickets. We force-fed them in twos and threes into a receipt printer before we left, and I helped him pick out what his hard earned seventy-two points would get (tattoos of, yup, Chuck and a miniature Tootsie Pop).

He wore four of the Chucks to bed after sucking down the candy, so of course it took a few more chapters of Captains Courageous than usual. His last sleepy interruption for the night was "Daddy, did you have fun at Chuck E. Cheese's today?" Yes, in fact, I did. Thanks, buddy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lasagne success 3/5

(The one on the right is the spinach version. We have a meat-oriented clientele, so I have leftovers for lunch!)

Big sister jumps over little brother

I love this picture. It was taken last year on the UNC campus on our way to dinner at Carrburrito's.

The $100 Guitar Wall, fifth in a series

This is a Yamaha FG-75 small bodied acoustic guitar.

We had one in Arabi that I'd bought disassembled on eBay for a pittance. It was a matter of some pegs, strings and tuners, and the little guitar was itself again. Good writing guitar with a lot of fight.

And long before that, in 1980 or so, I owned my first FG-75. I used it on the early tour I did with REM for my set, with a soundhole pickup through an amp. As time went by, I covered the guitar in black duct tape. The electric setup left little room for any sort of acoustics, and the tape finished that off.

I can't remember what happened to my first little guitar like this, but I'm glad we have one on the wall now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vail again

Today, I cooked breakfast for anyone who'd stop long enough to eat it. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and toast, plus countless pots of coffee.

It's another day off in Vail, and the more adventuresome of us are hitting the slopes again. It snowed yesterday, the place looks like a Currier and Ives illustration which would be fine except that it's March and 65 degrees at home.

In my attempts to make my time seem like it's been spent in a worthwhile manner in this winter wonderland, I constructed two lasagnes for an upcoming dinner. One's a meaty one, the other is spinachy. I had to do a little improvising on the recipe I used since my trip to the grocery was slightly incomplete, I find, expensive as it seemed at the time. Well, they look great; hope they taste good too.

At two, our little exercise group assembled silently in the fitness plaza, taking our places at the various machines in the room. A couple of the machines, treadmills and stairsteppers, are so tall that the ceiling panels above them have been removed to accommodate even the most average among us in height:

You get a great view of the spray insulation and some of the wiring in the place while you exercise!

I ached terribly yesterday from starting up using a machine that exercises my upper arms. My friend and fitness mentor had suggested some years ago that it was really about the repetitions rather than the actual weight that's being moved around. So yesterday, I forgot all about that and tried to do repetitions with the weight on 30 pounds. It was, to say the least, not very repetitive.

Today, I tried it again, but with the weight on 10 pounds. I was able to do six repetitions of ten each on that machine, then I used the one for my upper legs and did the same amount with the same weight there.

The treadmills were in use when I got there, so after I'd caught my wind, I went to one of the stair steppers, plopped right in front of a television set. I'd never seen Charmed before. Someone had thoughtfully put the closed captioning on, although it was in an eight-point typeface from where I was pumping along. So I watched people zapping other people with light balls while I jammed along to Underworld and Jimmy "Bo" Horne.

I did about twenty five minutes on that contraption, then I got on the treadmill for twenty more minutes. I had to get back upstairs and change out of my embarrassing borrowed shorts. As a Tarheel, I feel great chagrin at having to advertise for the other team, but I don't think that my jeans would work as well as these disloyal togs.

Again, I'm thrilled that I've gotten started, as much of a baby step as this has been. To quote Leonard Cohen, "I ache in the places where I used to play."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The $100 Guitar Wall, fourth in a series

This is the bird guitar.

Smart Wife bought the bird guitar at a weird little music store in Hazleton after we'd evacuated to Jim Thorpe, PA. She bought it for $89, and it was the first of the $100 Guitar Wall guitars.

It's a peculiar off-brand rendition of a Gibson Dove, one of those situations where someone saw a Dove once and then tried to replicate it and only partially succeeded at. It has the dueling doves on twin pickguards, like an Everly Brothers Gibson. Only the doves aren't exactly identical, just real close. The bridge is a giant block of carved wood, and the headstock is also enormous, with a skunk stripe down the middle of it. It's just slightly off-kilter which is probably why we love it so much.

I've been unsuccessful trying to track down the maker of said bird guitar, unfortunately. We see them periodically in the Craigslist Musical Instrument listings, so there are more of them floating around. Ours needs professional help as the monster bridge is coming unglued from the top.

The bird guitar doesn't get played as much as it should, but once the bridge is back on solidly, that will change.

I know it's beloved by my wife, and it was a partial replacement for her lovely new Gibson Hummingbird which she lost in Hurricane Katrina.

Great Rock and Roll Conundra

The mysteries that plague me constantly:

1. Whatever became of the little girl in the Art of Noise video for "Close to the Edit"? We all have seen what the Nirvana naked pool baby has turned into, but I often wonder about the little punkette and her sausage dog... also, a question I've been asked: where are the angels from the "Angels" video Chris and I did with Phil Morrison?

2. Who is Dick Powell? No, not the movie actor. I mean the guy who played the great fiddle on a lot of the early Rod Stewart solo albums. He's the guy sawing out sweet, neat melodies atop the Wood/Quittenton/Waller backings of songs like "You Wear It Well", "Cut Across Shorty" and "Reason to Believe" (well, for that matter, where's Micky Waller, too?) Even no less a potential authority as Ian McLagan was unable to tell me anything except that "Rod found him playing at a restaurant in Beauchamp Place, Kensington." He recorded a little with swing guitarist Diz Disley, but other than that, he's the big mystery guy of rock for me.

3. Why won't Bob Seger allow the Bob Seger System albums to be rereleased? For all intents and purposes, the world assumes Bob's career starts with Beautiful Loser and mellows out from there (with the possible exception of Live Bullet). A couple Last Heard tracks showed up on the Cameo-Parkway Story box set several years ago; that's great, but if you try to download the Seger tracks from iTunes, they are nonexistent. The world is being kept from hearing some powerful gritty Detroit rock and roll, fully deserving of its station right up there with the MC5, the Amboy Dukes and the Stooges. If you think Bob's all about "Night Moves", this'll be as disquieting as seeing Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd!

4. Who killed Bobby Fuller?

5. How much of a difference would piano lessons have made in my career?

I'm sure there are more, but these are some for you to consider. If you have any answers for me, I'm grateful.


We are in Vail, Colorado for a few days. It snows a lot here, and people's vehicles are adorned with it.

Many of our party are snowboarding and skiing, things you would not find me doing. I don't have great balance as it is on flat ground in shoes. In prep school I was introduced to ice hockey, played on skates. It's hard to play a game that you can't even stand up for, let alone move around. I admire anyone who can stand up on something as ungainly looking as a pair of skis, especially the ones who go real fast down hills: I shall cheer them on, inside but nearby.

Today marked the first day in what I hope to be a long run of days getting serious exercise. I went to the hotel workout room (really, here more of a workout plaza) and got on the treadmill and recumbent bicycle for about an hour. It's a beginning, and I plan on going back down there tomorrow morning. Apparently the pool is available in the morning, because when we went exploring yesterday afternoon, it looked like half the guests here were wedged into it and the other half in the hot tub.

I'd gone grocery shopping with the intent to buy dinners I could cook for my friends. There are about seventeen people all told. If we ate at the restaurants here, we could easily kiss out per diems goodbye early on and leave Vail broke and hungry. So I got some of the dishes I make at home and came back and made Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice, sausage and Martha White cornbread. (I am a fan of Martha White's from my childhood days of watching Flatt and Scruggs performing the theme song.)

And, as Zat's always does, it turned out delicious. My friends ate, chatted, we listened to music (especially Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand, which everyone liked.) There were no leftovers, which is good because there is no Tupperware here either. I did the dishes, then kicked back, satisfied.

Even if I'm not outside in the snow, of which there is plenty and which I am not so much of a fan of anymore, I'm enjoying having a kitchen and a small army of friends to cook for. And the fact that red beans and rice is the regular Monday night New Orleans dinner, what I'd be having no doubt if we still lived there. And the fact that it's what Smart Wife (who did her first interview today, very proud) and the little family in NC are eating as well. It's a dish that has always implied 'feed your friends' to me and I'm glad everyone dug it. (And I even forgot to get out the sour cream!)