Studio Journal 12-1-09

electric hammered dulcimer

Associated Video and Audio files:

Video: "So Fine", Live at The Soundry 11-23-09, 5 min 15 sec, 40 MB flash video file
Audio: "Little Friend", Studio roughmix clip, 1 min 47 sec, 1.6 MB mp3 file

It is hard to keep up the flow here. I am working so hard, juggling so many threads. Though that is one reason I started this first, so I could try and make it a habit, as well as getting used to making quick work of this, not making too much of it. It was a troubled month, though, with a couple major events that set my mind and emotions churning, as I reassessed my plans, even my whole life. I made some major shifts in my plans as a result. And it was also a busy month, but every month is. I never stop working, never stop moving. But the mountain moves slowly. Even now, I try to write this in a spare hour before I have to be on my way to an open mike to shoot more live video for the website. I’ve had to face some major issues, that came to a head in mid-month, and I wanted to sort through them before I wrote about it. Still, where to start? This is a journal, so I’ll just relate what happened as it happened.

video bookcase
At the beginning of the month I was still dealing with ma’s birthday, as some relatives stayed an extra few days. I was planting the flowers I’d bought for the yard as part of ma’s present. I also build a set of bookshelves for videos for ma, though it was always part of the continuing remodelling of the house. It would allow me to clear away some of the remaining clutter of boxes from the time I started the major house rebuild a couple years back by clearing rooms and boxing up things, in this case, ma’s extensive video collection. It also is one of the last major pieces needed to finish out the room it is in. But I also timed it for ma’s birthday, as she was working with her professional tapes, organizing and reviewing, and the shelves got everything out in the open. I was also recognizing that fall was here and I had to shift away from the recording and take care of some major jobs I had to do before the weather shut down with cold and rain. For the shelves I had to do a lot of staining and varnishing that had to be done outdoors. Similiarly, I had to finish replacing the roof rack on the van, finish fitting the pieces and bolt it all together with caulk while it was warm and dry enough. Finaly, there were plants to plant and transplant as the season had come, and the local bigbox stores were closing their nurseries and liquidating their stock. I always wait for this to buy the perennial flowers and trees and liquidation prices. I got another apple tree and a weeping cherry, along with all the flowers, for ma’s birthday, but they needed to go in the ground soon.

Then on friday the 6th, I learned that an old friend I hadn’t seen in decades had just died, unepectedly. Though his death itself does not trouble me so much, it triggered a lot of thoughts and feelings, a sudden depth of perspective u[pon my own life and what I am trying to do here and now. It is true, that the effect of a death is not upon who dies, but who is left behind. So perhaps I did not write a journal entry because I couldn’t leave this out, but I didn’t know what to say.

Jim Couza
The friend who died was Jim Couza, the person who back in the mid-70’s introduced me to the hammered dulcimer, when he had just started playing. We were friends, though our paths didn’t cross that much. My path didn’t cross that much with anyone. But there are still recordings I made of him floating on the web, performing at coffeehouses, and at least one sing-along workshop we led together. What is so significant, though, was not introducing me to the hammered dulcimer, anyone might have done that, but that we shared the same thoughts about it, a heretical belief that the dulcimer had a potential to be a modern instrument, rather than confined to a role as a traditional one. That we could use it to sing with, like a piano or guitar, and like them, use it with any music, traditional or modern. We talked about it a good bit in the short times we spent together, since we met only occasioanlly. But we both were convinced, and there is a great positive reinforcement when you meet someone who shares an idea. Then he left for the UK, and except for one letter, I never saw him again. Though as I looked at a video of him included with the news of his death that spread through the netowrk, I was struck to hear him saying the same things I say about the dulcimer as a modern instrument, an eerie echo, where we use the exact same words.. perhaps the same words we used decades ago talking to each other and have repeated to everyone we’ve talked to ever since. And though our styles were different, they were also similiar, as we followed seperately the same path, though he seemd to have stayed more traditional and folk oriented, while I had gone almost immediately into modern folk-rock, rock, and blues styles, as well as more tradional styles, and only played a few fiddle tunes, ever, just to demonstrate traditional “hammered dulcimer” music, especially as part of my educational programs.

I don’t know that I can really explain what was going on in my head. It wasn’t so much about Jim, but that this helped trigger something. Still, I had never forgotten him of course, credited him publically and privately with introducing me to the dulcimer. As with many friends, we have a connection that trancends time and distance, even death, for part of him will always be part of me, till I too, pass. Still, having lived on the road as a traveller, and having a spiritual/philosophical perspective on life, I long ago accepted that I had to feel my friends without seeing them except seldom, and recognize them as part of the whole of my life, wherever in it we shared time, how little or how much time we shared. But as part of the recent plan to travel the world, I had looked to be in the UK several times recently, but put it off as I tried to prepare for this better. Similiarly, where I haven’t really promoted myself on the net, as I planned to have the new CDs ready, hit the world with a “coordinated wave”. And while I want to show the world what I have done, I realize, I would have really liked to show Jim what I had done, after all these years on seperate paths, we had followed the same road. And show him what I had done with the dulcimer. I would like to think that it would have brought him a deal of good feeling to see and hear what I have done. But it is not to be. Another “might have been”. Which dropped me into a pool of thoughts, from mortality and what I wanted to get done before perhaps I pass unexpectedly, as he did, or that I would have connected with him if I had not been holding back these last years, trying to get it all together before I took the first step into the spotlight. All the frustrations right now as I try to do so much, more than I can do realistically, certainly, and rationality wars with irrational frustration, at my own limits, even as I do nothig but work from when I wake till I sleep, and don’t get enough of thatat there being so much to do. At wondering what I should be doing that I’m not evn thinking aboutAt this point, I’m in that crazy state where everything is shifting as I re-examine the whole plan, but I am also sucked into looking at my whole life, as thinking about Jim takes me back to the very beginning of it all, qand this whole long strange journey wih the dulcimer unreels before my mind’s eye. Oh, and then it gets worse.

The next day I am posting my thoughts in a couple places, responding to some other posts about music and mortality, all reflections of what is going on. Thinking about the music that is in me. That night I go out again to help host the Karaokee with Jane and Dave, and it turns into a crazy scene for me. Internally of course, though I must have been showing the strain, and was getting overwhelmed with everything going on inside. I always maintain my control, my discipline, but it shows in my eyes. It is hard to explain, because there are so many levels. Jane told me that it was time for her to make her overseas trip to negotiate and sign contracts, and she’ll be gone for about three months. This wasn’t exactly unexpected, since we’d originally talked about October as her leave date back in Spring. Though I wasn’t ready to go this year, sorry to say.. still barely begun on the CD, and I suddenly felt like maybe I was letting her down a bit. Suddenly it was here, and Jane and I still hadn’t had a chance to talk.. like so many things, I have been working so hard, and time slips, always expecting there to be time untill suddenly there isn’t more time. I feel totally secure, both with working with her on a business level, and that we have a real friendship beyond that. That very feeling of security tends to let you turn your back on things that need attention sometimes. I am troubled though that we literally never had a chance to talk, always too busy at these events, doing our jobs as hosts.

stone and cedar woman

Maybe there was a certain tension, though I’m not sure what it was about. I like to talk things out, get things in the open, since I have nothing to hide, and people often get too concerned over things that really don;t matter, aren’t real. I am only interested in realities, and dealing with them. . We had a great meeting, hit it off.. though she was with Dave, and not interested in me personally, so I keep it channelled into the appropriate places, I have no problems with realities. Its the unknowns that trouble me usually. That night, there was no one there at first, so Jane and I finally got to chat for a few minutes, just about plants,actually, and it felt great..maybe too great. We do have a friendship, and I am very isolated these days, no one to talk to, and though we were talking about something pleasant and light, maybe that was as good or better than discussing what had just happened in my life, to be distracted. But now I find out she’s going and I am just hit by so much.. from all the questions and things I wanted to discuss about the mysusic business, what I should be doing, ideas and opinions, and what I can do for her, as a partner, and what does she want to try to do for me. Nothing concrete, nescessarily, just talking about what might be, with the music and our lives, as friends, without expectations or agendas. But it was also hitting me how much I just needed someone to talk to, and even more, a woman like Jane, smart, beautiful, with similiar interestes and experiences, and my loneliness comes crashing in on me hard. I want to talk to Jane, find out more about her personally, as we talk about plants and I just expereince the pleasure of talking to an interesting woman. Which is fine, siince we are fiends now, though I don’t know much about her, really.. and like any friend I am interested in her life, in her stories, but I am also struck that I probably care too much, where is the line in my own feelings. Though in the end, I can’t control my feelings, only my actions. But it seems crazy to love her to much, how can I be so stupid? Another hopeless love, just what I need.

More realistically, its probably not about Jane herself. Like Jim, she was just triggering something that had been building. I am just too strung out and lonely. Then I keep going out to host these events where there are no other women except Jane for me to talk to, and I’m not sure she even wants to talk to me that much, or doesn’t want to “encourage me” to think there’s something personal. It is always a tough balance for women, to be friendly without anything meant beyond that. They can hardly know I’m not like most men, and maintain my distance no matter what I feel, act as a gentleman, and respect their space, unless they seriously and obviously move into mine and ask for my response. And I have no problems being honest. And I do like her, and she is also beautiful and attractive, and I want to get to know her, which is all not a problem, and is all great for working together and being friends. But it maks me realize how inappropriate my feelings could be, though I can keep them under control easy enough that it isn’t a problem, it can be a strain, unless I find someone I can love instead. I’m realizing then and there that I desprately need a woman I can love, one who wants to love me, so I have someone it is appropriate to talk to, to touch and hold who I can spend these evenings with, instead of being alone with my thoughts, entertaining everyone else, being a good host, and watching all the other couples together, hurting with longing for a connection like theirs.

So all this is crashing down on me, Jim, Jane, the music, my life alone, as we head over to another place to check out a new venue.. I am still unsure why Jane keeps dragging me along. But we go there, and I sit alone at the piano, while people party around me, and I live through all these raging feelings, singing and playing the music, in a scene I have played so often. Because I am the music man, and whatever I am feeling has to be set aside while I play for people. I end up going home about 5 am, and I am feeling dark and hurt, isolated in this gulf that openned betweenme and Jane with her friends, all having fun, while I was drifting down into that hard, cold, darkness. One of the girls even sits next to me for a minute, but her boyfriend is holding her glass. Why can’t I find someone to be with, somone who wants to put their arm around me, talk to me, laugh and dance and make me smile, let me make them smile. Why is so hard for me, lost in the music. Though it was a nice piano, it was a bad night. And I go home alone, once again, as I have for twenty years now. And really, most of my life. It is not a happy place for me. So instead of going out and having a good time, talking about what is on my mind, or getting distracted and talking about other things, I have another hard night, singing and playing for people, while I am seriously struggling inside.

Though no fault of Janes, of course. I’d occasionally thought maybe she was inviting me out to introduce me to her girlfriends, maybe trying to match me up. It certainly isn’t her responsibility to find me a girlfriend, or even just more friends than just her and Dave.. or even to be my friend, for that matter, though I know she cares, and is inviting me out so I can have a good time, have fun. It just isn’t working out that way. And now there is no time to talk, or explain, or even just clear the air a bit. I didn’t hear from her again, though there was supposed to be one more final meetup of all the groups for a farewell bash, and I figured we’d have a short chat and I could explain a bit. Instead, there was some business emergency and it was cancelled, and then she was gone. So it goes.

electric hammered dulcimer in studio
Though I did the final rough mix of "Little Friend" and sent them a copy, as a going away present and to let Jane know I am making progress, to have faith I am trying to keep up my end, whatever that is.

That was the start of a bad week or so, that I am just getting past. So many thoughts and feelings tumbling around my head, a lot of frustration and unhappiness, and I try to understand where it is all coming from. Now, I settle back into the resigned acceptance, the stoic fatalism, that has been my solace and armor all these lonely years. And I start to feel out a new pattern as to where I am going, what I should be doing now, and next. And I turn back to the music, to the work I have to do. I do keep trying to go out, though Jane and Dave are gone. I will try to find more friends, and maybe a special friend I can really talk all this stuff over with. I have so much on my mind these days.

Folksinger portrait
That wednesday I went out to the Carriage House Studio again, where they were having a headshot shooting workshop, and asked for people to be photographed. I emailed Paulo about bringing the dulci and getting some portrait shots, and maybe trying to get some of the stage-lit shots we played with and talked about when I was at that first meeting with him. I had been planning on shootingmore headshots myself, so this waould get that done as well, since I kept putting it off too easily. I needed a new series of me without a beard, since I don’t wear one these days. And well, maybe I could meet a lady artist, I have no expectations, though a ladysinger would understand me better, another artist probably would as well. And does any of it matter if the chemistry is right? But I got some great shots back from people, and it pushed me to stop recording and process them into use in the website, replacing headshots, redoing the promo pages, inserting graphic backgrounds, rebuilding the music and video pages. Again, this was part of the big issues revolving in my head, looking at the big picture and finish what I need to start promoting with the website. This was lucky, new headshots were on my list from the beginning, but shuffled off for other priorities. Now they are done, and the website almost ready to go.

It was more than the headshots. As I said, Jim’s death and Jane leaving stirred up a lot of issues. The end conclusion was that I had to drop the recording project as the key step in my path forward, as it has instead become a bottleneck, a barrier from progress. I have run out of time, and instead it is getting in the way. I need to go ahead and fnish the website, including getting together whatever content I am missing, and move forward with promotion with it, without the new CDs. I can record some new traditionals to use as promo, if need be. And move the timeline on the new CDs ahead to whenever they get done, without losing sight of that priority. It still needs to be done soon. But I also have to catch up on everything that has been slipping. Though this first rough mix sounds really good, there is that much.

Which raises another issue. I have decided I have to stay focused here at 1213, to continue the recording and music projects. I have to move forward and get past this point. Returning to Florida is not what I want to do, as I thought when I left last Spring. I have to commit to this new road, and go where it takes me, not go back to the life I had, even a good gig in a touris town, and money I could use. I can continue to survive, and honestly, I don;t need much money to do what I need to, and I can always go into debt, if it is nescessary to get me past this point. Then I’ll be working, and have new CDs, and I can pay off my debts as I have done before, for the recording gear in the first place. All that holds me to Florida is my dad, which is a definite duty I can’t avoid. And then my sailboat, which I realize I may have to pass on and leave behind, if I am to do what I have to. I have everything I need in the skills in my body and mind, as far as boats go. If it comes to it, I can always get another boat. And actually, even if I get rid of the steel boat, I srtill have the Hurley, and another Folbot I can use to rebuild as a new “Horse”, my sailing sea-kayak. I may accep that this new life, unlike a gig in a tourist harbor-town, means a boat to live on isn’t useful. Whereas a boat on the roof of the van, to sail when and if I have the chance, as Horse served me once, may be mu only option. Practically, this means I’ll no longer think of Florida for the season, but look instead at making two or three shrt visits, to see Dad and check on, or sell, the boat, and return here to work. MAybe I will find opportunities there, musicans, studio space, then I can sift my gear down there. But right now I am leaning towards focusing my enrgy here, even looking for gigs here in DC if I want them. The sooner I complete my work here, the sooner I am free to travel again, or to follow the music where ever I get a respoonse to this publicity effort. While using this as my base.

So I still worked on the van. Though I had started on it, my concerns were real, and I was stopped for 12 days by unbroken rain and cold. I got a short break of three days just last weekend, and used it to finish the job. I still have mechanical work, but I can do that in any weather, like it or not. But after a couple weeks to cure, I can reload the roof. Perhaps I’ll take the old Folbot with me and think about working on it down there. Though the truth is, I seldom work on anything outside survival down there, it may be more distraction than reality. Or perhaps a statement as to my future.

I am looking at a Spring trip to the UK, partly as a gift for ma, while she still has a friend there to visit and offer hospitality. For me it is just the first step in international travel, as I try to figure how to make it with the dulcimer.. notan easy thig as it is too heavy for international luggage. And I am planning to return to Alaska again, tying up loose ends to a degree, and just maintaining some presence as well. And like with ma, I have some very long-term friends planning on going up next summer, and would be a great thing to meet them there and show them around. I still need to talk to Jane and see where she fits into all my plans for the music and travelling, work with her so we have the same plans.

Folksinger live at the Soundry
I went to one open mike this last week, primarily to shoot some more live video. The concept being that I need more current promo video, and that I can still release the same songs that will be on the new cd as live performances since they aren’t that good in sound quality. People might still decide to buy the studio-quality sound of the “CD” tracks, as well as possibly getting a whole “band” mix instead of a solo live performance. Since I’m not actually performing, I decided to use the open mikes for a live audience. I can also meet local musicians as well, and maybe even a ladysinger. At least to add female vocals to the CD. I’m not hunting, or chasing, and have no ulterior motives. I really want a female vocalist for the recordings. I can still hope that probability and statistically speaking, if I run into enough ladysingers, maybe I’ll finally find one who really wants to be with me, be a friend and companion for a while, wants to love me and let me love her. Hey, I am a romantic, and that’s what I need and want, I know that, and well, just any woman won’t do, and “just sex” doesn’t work for me either. I couldn’t tell you what makes the few special, except they are and I know it. The rest are still interesting people, friends, aquaintances, passing strangers I play for, some who really love my music, or the dulcimer, but nothing beyond that, not me personally. I accept all that, as well as the fact that being attracted to someone is only that, and nothing more.. either in depth, or even in response from the other person. So it goes. Yes, mu thoughts and emotions have been too well shaken up this month, too much on my heart and mind, weighing on my spirit. Ah to just feel light and easy again. Though playing helps, of course, better than just singing at Karaokee. Maybe I should get a gig just for the theraputic aspect of it!

Anyway, I was able to video another band, give them a hand. And met a band that hosts a jam out west of here, which is a good connection as well. We shall see, no expectations, but nice people, grounded in the same music I play. All good.

I went to another Open Mike last night. Again, some contants, and the invitation to return. All I could say is maybe, that everything is in transition now, and I can’t say what I’ll be doing. But I shot more video, though I won’t have it processed till next week sometime. I have to juggle, and its more important to finish this and get the video I have posted.

folksinger headshot
I’ll get back to the studio, now, finish “Little Friend”. After that, though, I am thinking of stopping recording again to focus on the things I need to finish the website, specifically the introductory and demo videos of me and the dulcimer. Then I can start pushing the website out anywhere I can. We’ll see.

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