1-2-13 Happy New Year!

spacerThe dulcimer setup on the waterfront at night, New Year's eve

1/2/13 at 1213

So we are there, I made it this far, and I sit down to try and catch up with the New Year. I'm posting several journals entries to catch up the 8 months since I posted, continue the process of getting everything back on-line again after the summer in the wild. The first journals I wrote in October, in Seattle on the way back, but couldn't get it done and uploaded. I wrote again in December, but there wasn't time, caught up in a major effort, the house and playing the holiday season. I finally went through the summer photos, over 800, and processed selections for the web journals. I'm using the "simple story" format just to get it done, trying to cover the essential story, and I'm leaving out the longer story of the summer Alaska trip, till I have more time. I'm taking out days just to get this much done, and I have to get back work, but this journal is important, even just maintaining the continuity of it. With so little time it is hard to prioritize, what is effective, what must be done, and knowing that at any time, I could have no time again.

All My World's a Stage coffee cup sitting on the dulcimer with new year's confettiI've finally time to do more than eat, sleep, and play, and tune, till after the mid-winter holiday celebration, living the music again, at last. I've been working solid since Thanksgiving, and then on down through New Year's Day. What a ride. Done now. I'm still sore and tired, but I played right through, and this first weekend after, just past. Keep doing it, can't stop, practically speaking. Though its actually supposed to be warm this coming weekend, a nice gift, and a big relief, the 60's in January. But its also another weekend coming, time keeps moving fast.

I spent my Christmas and New Year's holidays playing on the street, and it was good, and great, though pretty brutal weather to play in, too often, but, well, I got it done. I still just loved playing, playing again, being lost in the music, and being on the street, on the stage.

All the world's a stage, and all my world's a stage.

It's all a beautiful blur, a mass of scenes, of people, of songs. I can't begin to explain, another old story in this life I live, the theatre of the street, scenes, characters, and lines, days and moments. But I can keep telling the story.

I got here on November 1st, and though I missed that first weekend, understandably, as I had to unpack the dulcimer and gear from the van and get the Toyota running first.

Showing the dulci to Curtis the Bluesman on the waterfrontBut I was out on the street the next weekend. It was already getting to the low 30's at night, but with mostly sunny days and good weekends through Thanksgiving, the real beginning of the holiday season. It was a blur of intense work as well, but on the weekends I could play, and play I did.

After Thanksgiving, it turned brutally cold and windy, then slowly warmed over a week. The first weekend of December was overcast with light rain and fog, but it was warmer still, and I played well. Dulcimer setup in the Atrium of the Torpedo Factory Art CenterThrough the next days it climbed to a high of 70 degrees, then plunged to the 20's in 24 hours. I scrounged wood and sat in front of the fireplace, working on the agreements for the house, going to the library for internet access. I cleaned up outside before it could freeze up, and patched up the woodshed with a couple old tarps. A really big branch had fallen and sliced it in two, but I managed to tear off the remains of the roof and nail the frame together again, good enough, when I don't know if I'll need it. It is always a struggle to decide how much to do when I may not stay, how much time to invest here, but I am here, now, and have to live. I can’t afford to heat the house except to keep it above freezing, but I can manage sitting in front of the fireplace. Though I’m used to camping in the cold, and working in the cold is ok, but playing in the cold is hard, with stiff muscles and numb fingers and feet. But I still love it.

Duli setup to play aoutside the icecream shopBy the next weekend it was back above freezing with a sunny saturday turning to a overcast sunday with showers building to rain. I’ve run out of business cards, the reason being I wasn’t sure what if any address to put on it. So I print new cards with no addresses, just my website and my cellphone number. After a conversation on the street about how I should be displaying QR codes and my reply about the frustration of knowing there are simple things I need to do, can do, but having too much to do to make even simple progress, I make the extra effort to make and print out QR codes and tape them to the front of the dulcimer. It is an effort, a gesture, to address my own priorities and not allow them to be sidelined by the house and my relative's demands, or the practical emergencies and practical necessities I face. At the end of the day, Sunday, the pickups suddenly go out. This has always been a worry, as I have no others. There are no others. I think it must be the control box as they all went out at the same time. I go back to the car to take it apart and see if there is a quick fix, but end up back on the street to put in at least a couple hours playing acoustic, by propping the dulcimer up on the sidewalk and playing it while kneeling. It is a major flashback, as I played this way for years, when I was young and playing my acoustic dulcimers. I tell folks, "my heart is young, but my knees… well my knees…"

It is getting into December. I have two old friends from out of town both visiting over the next week. And I'm still working on the listing all day every day, researching and writing the private sales contract, trying to get it all done finally, under pressure from my relatives, though they are the ones who started this round of complications, jerking me around, and still, I am having to finish it, as usual. I want guarantees, now, myself, to be sure this all goes through and they can't jerk me around any more. I'm also mailing off things to get my finances lined up and ready to go if it comes to that. I'm gathering firewood as the temperatures drop below freezing again. I have get it all done, but it is not always possible, I try. I get all the stuff for the house done, but it has high costs.

Duli setup to play outside the icecream shopI'm unable to work on the dulcimer till Friday, and I can't fix it. I am tired and under pressure, as I realize that there's nothing wrong with the control box, though I dismantle it totally, a mistake, as I'll have to rebuild it. The problem is that all the pickups are fried somehow. All I can guess is that a power surge somehow came from the amp. The power switch went out a week or so before, so I took it out and bypassed it. Maybe that was it. The power just came on directly when I hooked up the battery, maybe that allowed a spike hot enough to melt the hair thin wires of the pickups. In the end it doesn't matter what caused it. I need to play, and I head down to play acoustic for the weekend. It is mid-December, and I can't miss any more days than I have, as we count down to the holidays. Once again, I do what it takes.

I bring a pillow and an extra rug, and I play on the ground, propping up the dulcimer so I get some amplification by forming a resonating chamber underneath the dulcimer. I always tell people that one of the big surprises with the electric dulcimer was that it had a good acoustic sound, especially if you propped it up on a big wooden table to act as a sounding board. I use the sidewalk. But I am certainly grateful now that it has a good acoustic sound, so I can play, so I can work. Though it is hard, my body is used to playing in a certain position now, standing, and now I am suddenly spending many hours working, or playing, hard with everything in different positions.

spacerDuli setup to play acoustic in front of the icecream shop

I am actually surprised at how well I do, even without the amp. Though it is harder to relate to people when I am down on the ground, it is great being down at the level of the little kids, where they can see the dulcimer and me. It makes it easy for them to try playing it. I keep spare hammers just for people to try playing with, and especially kids. Drumming and hammering is a natural motion even the youngest kids can usually manage, and they can make it work, get a sound, even a good sound, and they can't hurt it, so there is no problem. Most of the time they can't try or even touch, and music is an unbroken chain going back thousands of years, and I need to inspire the kids, that they can play. But it is very hard on my body. After a couple days, playing all day like I do, my legs barely work. My whole body is sore, since I was used to playing in one position, standing up, and to kneel or sit and play stretches my back, shoulders, and arms in odd ways. After the weekend it is not good. I quit early on Sunday as the pain and the rain get to be to much, and struggle just to walk back to the car, pulling the wagon.

spacerDuli setup to play acoustic in the Atrium of the Torpedo Factory Art Center

I made it, though my knees hurt so much I dream I am being attacked by sharks, grabbing me at the knee. But I am well trained at controlling my dreams, managed to get rid of the sharks, though they still lurked below for a bit till I cleared them away, and I enjoyed being in the sea, gliding through clear green waters, even in my dreams, which I miss, being stuck up here. But I have to be careful, if I control the dream too much, grab it too hard, it breaks, and I wake up. It makes for restless nights and sleep deprivation.

But I have another week to try to come up with a fix. Though I am still under pressure to keep working on the house, still cleaning up the mess so it can be shown, though I am almost done. I finish sorting through the stuff piled on the screen porch, where I dumped all the wet and jumbled bags of stuff that was piled in the driveway. But I feel I have to hold up my end, though it is getting obvious that once again, the effort is not reciprocated by my relatives. But I keep working on the legal forms I may need. More important, I'm lining up my own financing, writing up a clear statement of my plans and options for the house for the friends that are offering to loan me money if I don't have the cash reserves left after buying the house to make it through the critical time of renovating, before I can rent the house out and it supports itself. It is a big favor, and I want them to know just what my plans and finances are.

working on the dulcimer in front of the fireplaceA big problem since I got back is that I can't unpack to any degree, and I can't remember where I put things in the last rushed and sleep-deprived weeks before I left. I open the storage box on the trailer and manage to find the box of pickup building gear and, yay!, kitchen gear, so I finally have a pot to cook in at last. I find the kleg light, a spotlight I used in the studio, that I can use for a lamp in the house to work at night. I also start moving things so I can get the woodstove off the trailer and making room for it inside, though I doubt I'll have time before the holidays, it is all about moving forward, doing something. But it is also a major effort, and it is moving back into the house, increasing my footprint inside, when I might soon have to turn around and move it out again. But it is also starting to freeze, and the fireplace doesn't work well for heating the house, though it keeps me warm in sitting in front of it. But I put a thermometer under the kitchen sink to make sure the temperature there doesn't reach freezing. The thermostat is set at 45 degrees, under the sink it is in the mid 30's.

working on the dulcimer in front of the fireplaceFirst, I'm able to put a new power switch in the amp. I remove the pickups and dismantle the coils, melting the wax in front of the fireplace. The bad news is two of the coils are probably unrepairable, as the coils is broken somewhere inside. The good news is that the center pickup, which is the only version one coil left, cast in epoxy instead of wax, burned out the wires where they attach to the cabling, rather than inside the coil, so I was able to re-solder those connections and have a single working coil. Because it is the central pickup, it is enough to make the dulci work in a hybrid acoustic-electric mode. The coil amplifies the wound strings in the bass sections, which are inaudible acoustically, while the high strings to the left of the left-central bridge remain acoustic, but the high strings both come through and don't loose as much of their tone as lower strings. It is Thursday, eve of the Solstice.

dismantled coils on the coffee tableFinally, that night, I wake in the middle of the night and remember where I packed away the new coils.

In the last days before I left for Alaska, despite the fact that I was under so much pressure I had stopped sleeping, I realized that I had to wind some coils before I dismantled the machine and packed the parts away. I thought my sisters might ignore my requests and toss out the table I had for the machine, and it might be a long time before I could assemble the machine again. But if I had the coils wound, I could make pickups almost anywhere. I was right, the table I had drilled specially for the machine was gone when I returned. But then, I couldn't remember where I had packed away the coils, and searching every place I could think of didn't turn them up the day I opened the trailer box.

So I wake up on the Solstice and am able to go out and find the coils, a great relief. Though I knew I didn't have time to actually make new pickups. It was time to get ready to play the street with what I had. Christmas weekend was here.

dulcimer setup on a rainy Christmas eve This is my life. This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for me, as an entertainer, along with Memorial day, Labor Day, and July 4th weekends, but it is two holiday weekends back to back, Christmas and New Year's. All told, Thanksgiving to New Year's is also the big season of the year. It is a great time because people get extra CDs for gifts, which for me means I am reaching people who might never hear me play live, a wider circle than when people get CDs for themselves.I used to play the big pre-holiday festivals in Arizona, Tempe-Tucson, then drive or fly east and visit ma for the holidays before I headed south for Florida and the rest of the winter season. I once played private parties when I came here, but in the end, I spent it with family instead. Now that is past, and I work instead. It is what I have to do, especially since the situation with the house means I'll be stuck here for a lot of the winter, but I can't book gigs, and I expect the street scene will be both brutal and slow after the holidays and as winter clamps down. And it does, with a windstorm Saturday bringing in cold temperatures, then rain and sleet on Christmas Eve, though it is a warm front coming back at this point, and Christmas day is sunny and warmer.

picture of me streetperformingI want to make it clear, though, that I am perfectly happy to spend the holidays on the street. I love the street, being among the people. I have sent much of my musical life there, by choice and necessity. When there was no place for me in the music business, both playing this obscure, and in the end, one of kind instrument. Not only that, but I was not playing the traditional music for the dulcimer, so I was shut out of even the small world of hammered dulcimers, as it was locked down by traditionalists. Yet the people, the People, love my music.picture of me streetperforming Not just on the street, but I made a vow to play for anyone who asked, wherever we were, and I did, playing for the People, whever we happened to be, volunteering in schools and senior centers, playing on boats and beaches, playing bars and churches,picture of me streetperforming playing little fests just for tips, and playing as an official streetperformer at major festivals, and playing on stages occasionally large and often small. It was all the same to me. But I have always particularly loved the street, the Commons, the Plaza, the place where the everyone went, and in most cultures, was a place to gather and socialize, not just a way to get somewhere. I loved the theatre of the street, the improvisation, the spontaneous scenes that appear suddenly, out of nowhere, shine with a sparkling, magic beauty and intensity, then are gone. The epitome of great theatre.

I have been phenomenally successful for a street performer. I am a prince among the rather interesting, and sometimes troubling, picture of me streetperformingcommunity of folks who live and work on the streets.Though it has also been a troubling thing, that I can do so well with the people, the People, as I think of them, yet have almost no luck with venues or getting any recognition or opportunities. Eventually, decades ago, I accepted that the street was the only place that worked and I could depend on, and I put my faith and allegiance with the People and the Street, rather than venues or the music business, and though I would keep trying, I didn't really believe that anything would come of it, which meant I didn't, or couldn't, really work hard at it,picture of me streetperforming though I made a regular effort, like clockwork, sending out information to hundreds, or over the years, thousands of venues and other music contacts. I seldom got a response. My energy really went into the Street, because I had to make a living and that is what paid the bills. I am proud of that, and the purity of it, the Street and the People, and that all I had came from small donations from literally tens of thousands of people who liked my music.picture of me streetperforming I never asked for money, and donations came from people who stopped to listen, not from passing change like panhandlers. I used no gimmicks or anything but pure entertainment. Once, years ago, a friend said putting out a hat was the equivalent of asking for money, so I threw my hat in the river (a bad idea, since I need a hat). I went back to playing, and the money piled up around me on the street till I was surrounded by it, like some strange idol. It was a beautiful, magic, and incredible thing. People would go find a box or something and put the money in it for me. People would take the hat off my head and put it out for the money. I had to recognize that my friend was dead wrong.

picture of me streetperformingI was part of an ancient rite and tradition, that I am proud, and humbled, to play my role in, a scene in a old play, where all the world is a stage, and a voluntary and respectful exchange of energy between me as a performer, and the People, anywhere I go. People love what I do, thank me for being there, for sharing my music with them, being part of this scene I create by being there, and want to give me something, because they know they have received something from me, and want to balance the energy, whether it is a cup of coffee, a smile, a handshake, a sincere thanks or comment on the beauty of my music, or a tip in my basket. It is the wonder and rapt attention of children, who have no problems letting you know if they don't like something, and equally, are unrestrained in beaming at you their feelings if they love it. picture of me streetperformingIt is meeting and talking with fellow musicians, young and old, who really appreciate what I have accomplished, both artistically, and with the instrument, creating a musical style, and even an instrument, that is new and, at least at one point, unique. The scenes are beautiful and endless, and the Street is a good thing, a great thing.picture of me streetperforming I have said this before, if you read back in my journals and my philosophy laid out in the website, but this seems a opportunity to say it again. I love the street. I am proud to be a street performer. And I am happy to play for everyone who stops to listen, and thank them for making what I have done with my life, playing the music and developing the electric hammered dulcimer, possible.
Thank you, once again.

picture of me streetperforming in Alexandria decades agoSo I am happy and proud to spend the holidays on the street, playing music for the People there. The People and the Street are my family and my community, and it is a place I am happy to be, and it feels perfectly appropriate. It is even more appropriate as this is the first street I played on, back in 1976, and many times thereafter. I actually know people here, personally, and many more people know me. One of my neighbors comes by with their dog, and both are glad to see me. Since I’ve been back, many people stop to tell me how glad they are to see me coming down to play again, as I haven't for a while.

dulcimer setup on a rainy Christmas eveThough, of course, it is tough, but that is just the luck of the draw, a cold, rainy Christmas Eve. But it makes it easier as I knock off early to go to the community Christmas party in Tauxemont. I walk over to meet and greet the folks I have met there since I was a kid, when we moved into Tauxemont back in 1965. It has always been a community, and though it is under pressure from gentrification, and some of the new residents don't come to the party, it is still great, and is again, a place I am happy to be, as I have been almost every year, just as I visited ma almost every year for the holidays.

It is a feeling of continuity and community that is part of the reason I consider keeping the house here, it isn't just a great opportunity, it is also a place I have roots in what is in many ways a rootless life. A life that is rooted in essential energies that are universal and as wide as the world, The People, The Street, The Stage that all the world is, The Music.a chinese dulcimer with beautiful painted sidepanels Even the Dulcimer has roots that go back to pre-history all over the world. But Tauxemont, and Alexandria, and the DC area have a special place in my life, certainly. I moved here as a kid in 1965. I kept coming back every year as part of my annual circuit, to visit ma, but it is still one of the few places I did this.

I love this area because there are people from all over the world, residents, immigrants, tourists, and people here as representatives of their countries, diplomatic, business, or cultural and social. I am always asking where people are from, and I know the name for the traditional instrument in many languages and countries around the world, explaining that, yes, this is their traditional instrument, though it is the five octave solid-body electric, and I play the Beatles, the old jazz standards, and the movie soundtrack songs known all over the world. Just as I do the same for people from all over the country, and locally, who recognize the hammered dulcimer, except mine is not like any hammered dulcimer they have ever seen before, or the music I play.
Brian lifting the cover to show the Dulcimer to Barry I love showing the electric dulcimer to people, as two photos taken by Barry, a local photographer, here’s his Gallery of Alexandria Street Performers. I’ve used many of shots from photographers in the website, with credits and links to their galleries if you roll over the photos, and there’s a page dedicated just to listing them and their galleries.

But I’m really interested in material from anyone and everyone, so I can include the People in this journal, their energy, their view and experience, their input. The street is theatre, and the People are part of the scene, are characters, just like me. Almost all the pictures with me in them are taken by someone else, which is why I have so many pictures of just the dulcimer! Lately, I’ve been encouraging people to send in their pictures and even videos, or links to them at least.

I don’t turn on the comments in these journals because I can’t monitor them. I don't like that format, anyway, because the comments are left behind in the flow of the journal. I am looking at ways to add a specific place for comments to stand on their own, as they should, for people to read and add to, like I did with the "guestbook" entries, a book I left open at performances for people to write comments in, and transferred those comments to the website when I built it. With the evolution of the web, I can create a forum for people to post their photos, links, and comments themselves, a page for the People. Though Facebook is a vehicle for that social aspect of my performance, but it is often overwhelmed by posts that have nothing to do with the dulcimer or the music, so isn’t what I am looking to do. I have my reservations about Facebook, generally, so I don't post my own content there, only use it as a billboard for posting that there is new content on my website, a portal to my website which I designed, built, control, and own, and is ad free. I’ve always kept control of my web presence, not depended on boilerplate websites that use my content to push ads, gather and use user-data and content. I’d rather add a commentary and forum area to my website or journal, which I also coded and resides within my website, and perhaps I could even add general social network component to my website, as I am trying to do just for the small group of people interested in building electric dulcimers or playing in my modern style.

picture of dulcimer plans on my website Which relates to another recent and long-running thread. I have been slowly, due to all the recent circumstantial problems, but steadily corresponding with people building or planning to build dulcimers, or interested in buying or building electric dulcimers. I once tried to set up a dulcimer builder's forum, where I essentially had to post everyone's emailed comments myself, though I didn't get any continued involvement. Now, it is something much easier to do than with original html, and more people accept participating in forums. I can administer the forum, even welcome co-administrators, and let people post on their own, for the end result of having everyone's questions and posts, and my replies, and other's replies, accessable to everyone as a resource.

Brian lifting the cover to show the Dulcimer to BarryThe holiday season is a major performing effort, and once it starts, I am just trying to survive and get through it, get it done right, and yet, I still want to make some small efforts to maintain the continuity of tradition here at the house, even if it is the last time. I have brought in another seedling juniper in a pot, like the last year, but in a reflection of the ebb here at the house, it is, appropriately enough, only about 8 inches tall. All the xmass stuff is off and buried in storage, so I decorate it with a bead from the dulcimer on it and bit of colored streamer and a couple baubles from a broken necklace from the street, some tinsel off the floor from the Tauxemont party, and it is complete. My life is about energy, and so it is perfect as what is supposed to be for me, an unbroken connection to manifest the thread of energy that is the Tree. My brother and his kids stop by for a few minutes with my other niece on their way through town, just after I get back from the street. They are quickly off to stop at the Tauxemont party as well, as our breath steams as we stand in the kitchen talking, and I’m the only one dressed for outside. But I have a few gifts to put under the tree, and the energy is complete, the connection made.
The Tree is dead! Long live the Tree!

spacerdulcimer under the xmass tree with musician ornament from years ago

I have a couple days to buy food, field some holiday calls from old friends, and gather firewood, as the cold and wind continue, with mixed snow and sleet the day after Christmas. The temperature is hovering in the mid-thirties in the house according to the thermometer under the kitchen sink.

moving the woodstove with rollersOn Friday the sun comes out and I use rollers to move the woodstove into the house, finally, though I don't have time to install it. Its a sad reminder of the how much time the chaos of the situation has cost me, all the work taking it out, then the damage as a nearly perfect stove gets pitted and rusty sitting outside, even under cover, and now the work and expense of installing it again, and then taking it out again whenever I leave. But at this point, I’ll be here through the worst of the winter, and the fireplace keeps me warm but traps me in front of it, and it can’t heat the house.

It is time to go play again, for New Year's weekend. It starts with snow and rain Saturday, but by the time I hit the street, the sun comes out, though it is cold and windy. But that is all, and I find a nook out of the wind actually on the waterfront, which is where I like to play best, simply because it is quiet. The hardest thing about the street is the noise, the traffic, especially the trollies, and the motorcycles, and the canned Christmas music coming tinny and lifeless from shopfronts. But on the waterfront, well, there are jets coming up and down the river to land at National, but otherwise, it is quiet, even if there is less people than right on the street, they eddy there, stroll, stop and sit, feed the birds, or just stare out at the water. I can look out at the water, too, at gulls flying, the ducks and a couple geese.The dulcimer set up on the waterfront at night There are few sailboats in slips there, and the lights reflect on the water. It is a familiar place. I am a sailor, though my boat is far away just now. I have lived on the water for the winter season every year for much of my life. I have played so many waterfronts around the country during my life. So it is so appropriate, to be playing the waterfront on New Years Eve. I actually go there for the quiet, as I often do, away from the noise of the street, not realizing I am exactly where the fireworks are going to be that night. So as I start it is quiet, with a small numbers of people, though more people start to flow through during the day. There’s a moment when it almost seems like it will rain, but it amounts to only a few stray sprinkles, we are in luck. There are just so many great scenes, I can't begin to to explain it. I actually loan my wagon to some folks from Europe who have a passed out kid to haul around, and I’m happy to help out.I’m not going anywhere. Then more and more people arrive, till as Midnight arrives, I am surrounded by a packed crowd. In the last minutes I play “Auld Lang Sine” with people singing along, then the countdown starts in the crowd, and the fireworks burst right on time.

It is great! Happy New Year!

The dulcimer set up in front of the icecream shopThough I don't get back till late, I am up and out again on New Year's Day. It is always so fine playing on the holidays, when people are in a good mood, friendly and social, feeling the sense of community that I always feel. Sometimes I lament the lack of that scene and feeling in so much of America, that I've see in other countries, where the street, the plaza, is a place where people come to socialize, where sidewalk cafes are the norm, and people aren't just going someplace, but are strolling, stopping to talk, and in no hurry to go anywhere, and street performers are respected, and expected to be professional, unlike America where people most often wonder what someone like me is doing playing on the street, which is hard to explain. I sometimes wonder, myself, for all my love of the street and gratitude for all it has given, and still gives, me. I have to face it every time that the simple fact that I do so well, the reaction I get from people of all types, simply proves that I should be doing more with the music, with the dulcimer. Once more, I face that unspoken demand, that I recognize the obvious and take the role I should be playing on a wider stage. Yet I still recognize that despite what everyone on the street recognizes, and that they tell me I should "do more", it is not that easy, and the doors are still closed, and there are a million people knocking. Though I am committed to trying, yet no matter where the music takes me, I don't want to lose the street.

I had a great experience, when I checked my email after returning from the wild, I found a note from a person who remembered listening to my music and talking to me on the same street in Alexandria decades ago, and he still remembers, and how it inspired him to "follow his heart" and his dreams. That inspired me, and was another coincidental event among the amazing series of experiences as I returned to civilization, encouraging and affirming the road I had set out upon again, the path of a Folksinger.

brian with the hydrofoil trimarran Further on the beach in Tullum after crossing the gulf soloSo I head out to face the new year, and look at what lies ahead. Despite the difficult circumstances, they are still really a temporary distraction. Though the house is a priority, a major event in my life, it is not really important, however it works out, not significant in what I plan to do with my life. I am committed to "doing more," a daunting task. Though I know I am capable of just about anything I need to do, it is just the simple enormity of sailing off into the unknown. Which I also know I am capable of, having done it many times in my life.

I think about where I was in late 2010 when I returned from Alaska and cancelled my plans to head for Florida on my normal circuit, as I was worried about ma. I was right. I had recorded one song for the new CD. I was ready to build the next generation of pickups, and keep developing the dulcimer electronics. dulcimer with uncovered pickes mounted, copper coils showingI was producing new videos for his webjournal, which is the center of the new upgrade of the website, and my web strategy. I was trying to figure out and create ways to tap into the evolution of the web into a potentially effective means of support for my art and work, and as a way to interface with the People, to "do more" with the music by dong more with the web. As the dulcimer builder's thread also reminds me, I was also involved in a longer process of updating the entire website, both in code and content, a website that is almost 20 years old at this point. Whether it is making new videos, or producing from the video I've shot over the last decade and more, or specific content for the educational programs, the dulcimer building section, dulcimer playing lessons, I’ve a big list of things for upgrade and production.

dulcimer in the studio under colored stagelightsThe vision is still clear. The simple list of recording CDs, and producing more videos, building dulcimers and pickups, expanding web presence, and “doing more” with the music, playing at music festivals, international touring, going wherever the music takes me, figuratively and literally. There’s also the underlying foundation of my life, the resolution and plan of "getting my house in order" that I came out of the Alaska retreat with last summer.

The vision is pretty clear, but the time and energy and the circumstantial problems seem huge, "the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune." The potential in the dulcimer and the music seems so phenomenal, every time I play. The response from the People so great. It is hilariously, ironically, and ridiculously discouraging all too often. As well as incredibly gratifying and encouraging. So I just keep going. Even if the simple truth is that I have to spend my time playing on the street so that I can keep performing for anyone, and just to survive, no matter what. I do what it takes.dulcimer setup on the ground acoustic

Yet I sit here, just trying to get a webjournal entry posted after 8 months off-line, and wonder if I should stop and go to get some more firewood, and where I might find some. I wonder how I'll do this weekend, as this weekend wasn't very good, very cold again. I thought of going out tonight, Friday, but it is raining, though it is supposed to wet but “unseasonably warm” this weekend, though I know that can't last. I should be looking for gigs, or something beyond the street, but I am writing this journal, because it is central to my plans, and one of the first priorities once I have time for more than playing and the absolute priorities that dominated the last couple months. I need to fix the dulcimer, which means making new pickups, and spares so I am not caught short again. I've lived on thin ice so long that maybe I have gotten too used to it. I am still facing extreme obstacles to any progress, even addressing basic needs and necessities. I am dealing with a real and extreme emotional, financial, and time-energy burden right now, that forces me to compromise even the most basic needs of the music, and simple survival, even critical repairs, not to mention actual progress. There is still so much work here to do at the house, I still need to get ready to leave in case that is how it ends, or to be ready financially, legally, and ready with a plan, and all the pieces, if I get the house. The realtors brought a developer by this morning, another is coming Monday. Like updating this journal, I have to get as much done as I can with the music now, because if I stay the renovation will a major distraction for a few more months, or for or shorter time while I relocate and get set up in Florida. I am working harder than I should, and have been for too long, certainly, but I am used to that, but it is problem, because I can not do as good work, things slip behind, are forgotten, when I don't have enough time, are employing stop-gap solutions, or are just tired. There is just more to do than I can possibly do, is all, in any time I can imagine, though I know I can do it all, eventually. I long for the days when all I had to do was eat, sleep, and play, and recover in some patch of wildland or sea, and lived a simple life. I long for more sleep. So it goes. At least I can shake my head and laugh at the craziness. Tomorrow, I’ll play the street, whatever the weather, because it will work, and I the truth is have no other choices at this point. But I’ll be glad to be there, as always, and know the street is there for me, a familiar friend, with it’s beauties and it’s flaws, and the People, too, they are still there for me, and I’ll be there for them.

spacerHappy New Year!

spacerdulcimer setup on the waterfron New Year's eve, closeup

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