Studio Journal 5-7-11

guitar in hospital room

Associated Videos

AK2K Tour Journals video link "AK2K Playlist" on TouTube

AK2K:A Short Introduction in this webjournal

The AK2K Directory is the original and updated page that lists all the episodes, with a short description and links to the full story behind each episode, the entire tour story, associated performance videos, and the story behind the making the video tour journals in the first place.

JellyVision show video link "The JellyVision Show"

Associated Websites

The Epicure Cafe Fairfax, Virginia

Welcome, this time I’ll try covering the last few weeks events with a quick synopsis first, then follow with the details.

On the main issue, ma is slowly improving, but all is not good. She has a two week setback, though there’ hope we are back on track again. I spent energy combating my own anxieties, on top of everything else.

Many things are on hold, as priorities shift to handle the present emergency. Though that is why I am here. I work steady, get a lot done, juggling pretty smooth and well, though feeling the strain, of course, not the first time. I work well under pressure, but react badly to the stress, but stay rock-solid regardless. I am good at that, too. And I make progress, step by step, head down against the storm.

I’ve re-encoded and uploaded the first 10 episodes of the AK2K tour journal to YouTube so the series is complete, as far as it goes.

I appeared on an internet interview program, the JellyVision show. It was held live at a local venue for the first time, and I ended up making a great connection with the owners, part of the Iranian-American community, and was invited to do a show there the following Saturday, May 7th, 8 to 11pm.

I get the camera set up tethered to the computer and the dulci set up in the new blackbox, though I’ve nailed down options for repair and replace, I can make do with what have till I am past this point, though I can’t shoot any more video outside the studio.

Life goes on, flowers the garden is planted, compost built, I’m eating bamboo sprouts and turned off the furnace and rely just on the woodstove. I work on ma’s car, which is oddly a pleasure, and need to work on mine.

I think a lot, about the times, about the Way and the World, about Life and Illusion, and the Doors of Perception. All seems pretty crazy, but I seriously could use some sleep. And I need to practice, got a gig coming up.

Ok, on to some of the details. Some of you may be new here, since I’m doing a show tonight and am trying to get this uploaded in time to be available if anyone is interested in following up on me after the show. That is partly just what this is for, the very idea of the original website, a place where people can find, and follow me, if they wish, after seeing me play somewhere.

This journal is supposed to be about the music, a window on my life as a folksinger. So I’ll cover that first, and the fact is, I barely have time to do that. Above all, as I have said, practicalities and the music come first, which means sleep, and practice, and play. But I want this to be ready for anyone who comes here after the show. That is one of it’s main purpose. So that when people see me play, they can find this door, this window, if they look for it. And there is so much here, such a story, and with some luck, there’s more ahead. Welcome to this window on my world, this road I’m on.

The Alcan

The AK2K Video Tour Journals:

Google is completing the transition that started with buying YouTube. It is eliminating all hosting of video on the old Google Video service where I first posted the Alaska 2000, "AK2K", video tour journals and telling folks to migrate what they want to keep to Youtube. This is expected, and actually good, since the videos on Google video were actually a mess, reflecting the confused state of internet video at the time. With only 12 videos, I had 53 versions all told, trying to cover various formats and specs, pretty crazy. And the Google encoding engine was also pretty problematic, so some videos came out without sound or pretty jumpy. So I went back to the originals and re-encoded them myself using ffmpeg, formatting to YouTube specs, and uploading the finished flash files instead of letting them encode the video (they use linux and ffmpeg, too, btw). Now the complete series of 18 videos and the Introduction are all on my Youtube channel on the AK2K playlist. I also had to update all the web pages with the new links. Made for a lot of weird retrospective thoughts, working with and looking at all these scenes, and flashing on the whole last decade, not a good decade really. So it goes.

But it needed to be done, I think. Though I am trying to do new videos, that series really captured a picture of my life when I was in full stride as a folksinger. So it makes a great piece of the what I am trying to do, the life I have tried to document. I still wonder if I’ll ever finish the last two episodes. I think I should, because it captured the life so well. Though right now I wonder when I’ll get back to the episodes from last summer. But they also demonstrate just what I’m talking about, though I am doing new tour journals, they aren’t the same. life has changed so much, now. There were big problems that got in the way, and I’ve not made it back to where I was. In fact, I moved on to where I am at now, a different chapter.

The Epicure Cafe

I also just got back into gear in performing. As the weather turned warm, I’d thought of heading back out on the street, but decided that it is a distraction right now, and focused on getting set up in the studio. It all works, and I was ready to shoot the first test videos before starting to finally produce the studio performance videos to promote with.

Then, this last week, I got out and performed again. Just before mom went into critical care a month ago, the last thing I did was the audition at The Soundry. Now, a month later, I get an email this week from Jennifer, the C.I.C., asking if I could come do an appearance on their JellyVision interview show the next day, which was going to be off-site for the first time, at a local venue in Fairfax, The Epicure Cafe. So I went.

It was great to be out doing it again, of course. My life has been theater. It was great to be part of a show again, getting set up, going through the old routines. And just reminding myself of what my life is really about, before all the distractions stopped me from playing for so long, and when I haven’t yet been able to shift gears and get into the local scene here. The interview went well, I thought, though of course, afterwards, I thought of all sorts of better answers I could have made. But all told it was a good show and, well, live.

The coolest thing was the unexpected. I showed up early as always, to tune up and get ready without any pressure. I come in and meet the manager. As always I asked what his cultural background is, so I can describe the dulcimer to them in terms of their tradition, and language, if I can. Well, he’s from Iran, one of the oldest civilizations, where one of the dulcimer’s oldest root names comes from, Santir, Santur, or Santoor (there are so many related spelling in that general area of the world) from the word for 100, sant, where we get the word cent. Turns out he has played a traditional one, still has it at home, as well as other traditional Persian instruments, the dulci at the Epicure Cafeand modern instruments which his son plays, and he knows a traditional player and teacher here. He casually mentioned playing in Iran, one of my dreams, though I don’t know how I’d manage it, politics being what it is. Though he acted like it was not such a problem. So here is something I hoped to find in the multi-national make-up of the DC area, a connection to one of the cultures and countries I especially want to connect with. I want to show them what I have done with the instrument, like taking the first electric guitar to Spain. And not just the electric, but in developing this modern style of playing, which is as significant, maybe more, than building the electric. Even if this doesn’t result in taking the instrument there myself, if I can connect to the Iranian-American community, eventually the electric dulcimer and what I have done with it will reach there, one day through someone else, or through the internet.

After the interview, I played for another hour or two, just because it was all set up, and people were enjoying it, and I love playing. And I just wanted to play for the person I’d met first, someone who knew the instrument, and might appreciate what I had done with it. I guess he did. When it was time to go, he asked me if I’d return and do a show this Saturday night, 8 to 11pm. So now I have my first local gig, something I have been saying I had to get started on since I got back from Alaska. Though I planned to get the studio videos done first so I had them to promote with. But so many things have gotten in the way, with ma’s sudden illness the latest. And now the season s getting late, the summer festivals are being booked, and I will probably end up on the street again. Which would be ok, and help my finances. I even dream of going out west again, not Alaska, but back to Montana, on to Seattle, doing the old circuit that actually would be productive in reaching people with the dulcimer. And though I love Alaska, I miss the West, when going to Alaska took up my sumer and Fall till all I got was a brief stop in Seattle, if that.

guitar in hospital room

The biggest priority is still ma’s illness. She is pretty well recovered from the bile duct infection, but she is having problems getting off the ventilator, so she is still hospitalized. She had a setback, when she came down with some sort of infection, possibly. This is not uncommon, and one of the reasons the respiratory doctor won’t be definite on a timetable, but just taking it one day at a time. She actually had made it to 24 hours off the machine, with just oxygen, two weeks ago today. It wasn’t till last thursday and friday she made it back to her first 12 on/12 offs since. Now she is back on, slid back a bit over the weekend to 6 off/18 on, and this morning was “agitated”, so is on the machine, and has a big bruise on her hand, probably from hitting the rail of the bed, thrashing. I’d hoped to find her off the machine and be trying to help her make another 12/12 and do physical therapy. But instead, she’s on the machine, though resting quiet after I did a few things for her. There’s a brochure for a long-term acute care facility in DC on by the hospital computer terminal here, which raises worrying questions

I am actually at her hospital bed writing this paragraph, ready to help her be comfortable if I can, working here, or go back to the house if I’m not useful. Usually I can be, keeping her calm, helping her with the intolerable itching that is part of her original problem. They drained fluid from her lung to let her breath easier, which caused her to go back o the ventilator, and tested for infection and found none. That is good. They are focusing again on the original problem, trying to diagnose what is causing this, still possibly a lymphoma.

Now it is days after I wrote the above. They did the bone marrow biopsy, which was the plan if the first one a month ago was inconclusive, though that whole problem has been on hold while she recovered from this obvious emergency with her bile duct. They also drained fluid from her other lung. And they moved her feeding tube to a direct one into the stomach so it wouldn’t irritate her sinus to produce fluid by passing through her nose. The biopsy worked, identified the specific subtype and they started treatment with the first dose of chemo and steroids. Luckily it is a mild form of chemo, so ma hardly noticed, and the next dose is in three weeks. Now, it is all about keeping the fluid from building up and making it hard for her to breath on her own, so she can get back to making progress getting off the vent, and on physical therapy to get her back on her feet after a month in bed. Finally get back to where we were before she went into the hospital, living at home, going to the doctor’s office to treat the Lymphoma and monitor her progress and condition till the treatment is done. Then life will really be back to normal, even better than what it has been, since this undiagnosed low-grade lymphoma has been causing problems for her, immune system porblems and reactions, for years probably.

spring flowers

I do what I can. Whether to help her scratch, get something she can’t reach, talk her through the hard bits when her meds are wearing off, make sure she gets them. I help her shift positions and get more comfortable, sit up and let the air get on her back. She has to move to get healthy, but on her own, it is hard, and easier to just lay and wait for the nurses to come eventually, so I gently lead her to do more just being there. I also help with her physical therapy. I make sure the nurses are clued into what works for her, and what is actually bothering her. I continue to read aloud. I play guitar and sing. I talk and try to help her pass the time. I made inquires so she could use her laptop, if I am there, so maybe she can communicate better and not feel so isolated. She actually wrote a sentence before this latest relapse, but hasn’t gotten back to it since.

I’ve planted the yard with flowers for her, but this year she missed them, and was sorry about it from the beginning. So I’ve been taking pictures of the yard, from when the first violets started blooming, though the whole parade of flowers as the month went by. I showed her the work I was doing, like building an arbor for the kiwi vines and planting the herb garden. I could get her opinion on where to plant new plants that I get out of the discount bin at the big-box store, then show her what it looks like planted. It is not the same, but it is something, and she knows at least that I am trying. That is a big thing in itself. And the flowers will all bloom again next year, even better as they keep growing.

spacerspring flowers

I bring what I can work on at the hospital. If I work here, I am here if needed, even if she is resting a lot of the time. Seems when I go away, weekends when my sisters are supposed to come in, things get worse. It mmust be coincidence, but it has happened to many times to be comfortable. I am good at keeping her calm, know her well and what her problems are, and sensitive and observant, so she focuses on breathing off the vent, and not stressing out in frustration, or falling into a semi-comatose inaction in the boredom of her room and the meds she is on a lot. She has to keep motivated and engaged, and progressing, staying positive in a hard place to be, coming in for a three-hour procedure and spending over a month in the hospital instead.

I’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety this last month, sitting in the hospital room, lying awake in the middle of the night. I worry what might be next, if I had to leave here, if ma didn’t come home. All the projects I came here to do are still undone mostly. And there would be all that needed to be done here so I could leave, dealing with all my gear, vehicles, the boat and trailer. Should I really be planting a garden or packing my things? So I try to come up with a plan, or plans, reduce it to simple and not really monumental tasks, in reality, and create positive scenarios, going back out west, finding a place to record and build dulcimers, maybe take the Hurley out and put in the water around Seattle as a base there, go sail Lake Superior on the way, or the sea of Cortez. All while playing music. I always thought I could travel with the boat on it’s trailer, using it to live in on the road or on the water. Then I am able to drift back to sleep. I am not worried about the future. I feel secure I can deal, and can focus on just the short term. Which is trouble and worry enough. Trying to call everyone and keep them updated on ma’s condition and progress. The practical plans as I worked through the month’s budget, to pay her bills and keep everything together while she’s out of it. It was a scramble at the beginning of the month for sure, but now it is under control, more or less. Repairing ma’s car while she doesn’t need it. Thinking about another round of repairing roof leaks as the weather warms enough to spread tar.

herb garden and kiwi arbor

As for the rest of life. It is Spring, the flowers are blooming, and I have spent a bit of time on the yard and garden. Plants don’t care what is going on, but have to be tended, planted or weeded. It is hard because I planted all these flowers for ma, and she is missing them, though I took her pictures in the hospital, it isn’t the same. Still, I hope and plan that ma will get through this and be back soon, just like other times, to enjoy some more years here, see the flowers next Spring. I took pictures this year and showed them to her in the hospital on the laptop. And I’ll have a few years to complete this chapter, get these projects done and start new tours, start to travel the world, and give the dulcimer a life of it’s own, and create this place on the web, this window, so that people can follow the whole story, especially when I do leave his place and return to just playing and traveling again, without a place and the space here to work. I remembered that vision so well, as I worked on updating the AK2K webpages, reviewing the original tour journals, remembering how excited I was by the potential of the internet and video as a way to reach people, create “a window on my world” as I traveled and played, staying no place, but being able to always be found in one place, on the web.

I have often thought, since the beginning of my work on the net, that what I am doing is evolving a new form of writing, a multimedia experience that is both current, telling the stories as they happen, and cumulative, writing the novel, chapter by chapter. Though I document what happens in a life that is almost like fiction at times, it is about reality, and I can also tell the stories I make up, the fictions that represent reality, like poems and songs, paintings and plays, the fictional creations that reveal the deeper realities within life. That’s art. And this is the life of an artist, and I have chosen to make my life a work of art, and practice the art of life.

So! I’ve got my lists and I keep working all the time on all the scattered threads. I’ve found where I can send the camera off to a repair shop for an estimate, and decide what to do, repair it or buy a replacement used one. I can’t justify the expense of an upgrade right now, which would really mean an upgrade of the whole studio. Though I could actually upgrade the studio still using the old camera if I repair it. But I have to finish the new CD s first, that is still at the top of the list. Then I can think an upgrade to a laptop and a new mobile audio/video recording and production platform, ready to go back on the road. Though that won’t be for a while still. Till then, I can even continue to make do with the old camera tethered to the studio computer, till I have finish recording the CD, and am gigging, using studio video for promotion. Spend my money of new CDs. And fixing the van, which needs a new head gasket, which I bought a month back, drained the radiator, then this latest crisis came on. A lot of priorities had to be shifted. Big jobs had to be put off. But I still get a lot done, from chainsawing wood to replacing the brake pads on ma’s car. An odd pleasure because for one a car was designed and built to be worked on easily, so great.

backyard spring

The weather grows warm, and I have been tempted to return to streetperforming, which would make people on the street happy! They always love what I do, no problem, and insist on giving me money, and expressing their appreciation of my work in a million other ways. I saw ane of the shop owners somwhere lately, and he said I should come back and play again, preferable outside his shop. It is so great, so kind, so beautiful. I miss it. I hope it will always be part of what I do, that spontaneous theater of the street, and I, the folksinger, ready to play anywhere for whoever asks, following the flow of the energy, in the ebb and flow of the street, the pulsing, flowing channels of human energy. I love the street, and I think I will love it more in other places, where it is still alive in ways America has lost. So, yes, now as the weather starts to turn warm, and I am tempted almost beyond reason.

But my will is stronger, though I also have to be practical. So I won’t give up my focus on the big projects, but I may go back to playing the street, and start making money again, even if it is a distraction. I just won;t let it distract me too much, or from finding new venues. The sooner I am done here, the sooner I am free to go anywhere. The truth is tht the street is convenient and pays well for me, since people always stop t listen when I play. My brother once told me that I just don;t realize that it’s not like that for a lot of street performers, it has always been too easy for me, too easy to need nothing else, too easy not to deal with the problems and hassles of gigs and venues, which often pay less, a lot less, than I can make on the street. The other truth is that I can only afford to stop so long before I run out of money and start going int debt, no matter how frugal I am, and that time is getting used up, even if the web presence and effort really isn’t complete, or the new CDs done, and I haven’t tried to gig into local venues and new festivals within range of this East Coast base. They are still dreams, and dreams don’t pay the bills. So I won’t give up on the web, or pursuing international touring, or venues and fests, I’ll just return to what works so well. Though now, suddenly, coincidentally, I have a local gig! A way opens before me, and I’ll see where that road leads. Life is so strange and funny sometimes, many times.

The present situation with ma shows that I was justified basing here for a while, just for times like these, and probably will continue basing here for a while yet, realistically. I made the right decision coming here. I just need to stay focused on not getting into a static situation where I am just maintaining but not progressing, totally caught up in distractions. I need to get the things I came here for done, be ready to move on, whether I do or not. There will always be more to do. I plan to start touring again, once the music projects are done, just do it basing out of here instead of staying on the road making an annual circuit.

This present crisis with ma should be resolved soon and I’ll have a lot more time to focus on the music, again. But It does make me think of what I really need to get done while I am here. It also makes me think of my own mortality, and what I want to do to give the electric dulcimer, and my playing style, a life of its own. Preserve and pass on what have done, and the internet is the way, I am still convinced. As I said in the interview, “what you pass on lives on, and what you don’t dies with you.”

Much as I love the street, and am so grateful for all it has been and done for me, how beautiful and magic it can be, and how hard, and how well it works practically to pay the bills, I understand its limits. Limits I am comfortable with, personally. I play for people, right there with them, face to face, and pay my bills without trying to sell anything, ask for anything, promote anything. I just play, and talk to people, letting the music flow from me like a river of energy, and enjoy the beautiful moments as they pass, simple, gentle, and pleasant, or the amazing and awesome ones of rare and terrible beauty.

spacerspring flowers

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