Maile, Anais, Papa, Lil and I spent Thanksgiving week in Santa Fe where we rented a wonderful 5 level artist retreat on 5 acres in the hills just outside of town. We had a great time, walked a bunch of galleries, ate green chile dishes, hiked the hills, visited the Taos pueblo, and found time to sit around, draw, read, talk and watch TV.
It was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous set of people this morning singing along in Little Stacy Park. Maile made a pot of Chai Tea for everyone, Gray played along on uke, lots of old friends and kiddos showed up, and the weather could not have been nicer.
My printed songbooks seemed to be a vast improvement on the transparency projector… we sat in more of a circle and people could actually read the words! Listen below to a few clips from our singalong set, on Soundcloud.
I’ve finally started doing something I’ve wanted to do for like the last year: Sundaysong Singalong. The idea is simple: have a singalong instead of church. Put another way, it’s like an old Pete Seeger-style folksong singalong, just with a Sunday-morning sort of setlist: songs of love, beauty, gratitude, wisdom, work, wonder… songs that evoke higher powers, that are sacred without feeling sectarian.
So yesterday I finally gathered a small group to test the concept. A dozen of us gathered in my living room where I projected the lyrics on to a sheet hanging from the hearth. I didn’t snap any pics — the one below of Gray and I playing at the back of the room was by Dan — but I did have my recorder going. Here is a medley of seven of the songs we sang to give you a flavor of the morning’s songs:
Rise Up Singing Songbook
This Land Is Your Land (p.5)
Moonshadow (p. 30)
Big Yellow Taxi (p. 34)
Day-O (p. 49)
The Times They Are A’Changin (G)
The Water Is Wide
Rivers of Babylon (p. 63)
Lean On Me (p. 66)
With A Little Help From My Friends (p. 68)
Keep On The Sunny Side (p. 87)
Amazing Grace (p. 92)
I Shall Be Released (p. 102)
Blowin In The Wind (D) (p. 115)
Imagine (C) (p.116)
Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore (p.62)
Let It Be (p. 206)
All You Need Is Love (p. 18)
Across The Universe (p. 10)
We only made it through #12 before it had been an hour and we called it quits, chatted by the fruit and the donuts, and went our separate Sunday ways. The whole thing was an easy success judging by the effortless joining of strangers in song, the sharing and the smiles.
Last weekend I inaugurated the first Sundaysong Singalong’s touring version, because we were in Houston for the weekend to catch the Magritte exhibit at the Menil. I invited a few Houston friends to join us on the lawn of the Menil for the hour before the museum opened at 11, so at 10 AM, Maile, Anais and I spread our blanket beneath a shade tree and laid out our picnic. Before long Ritiban, Jasmine, and their boy Ian had joined us. Before we were done another mom and her girl had found and joined us.
While Ritiban and I strummed, the kids drew with sidewalk chalk and the mothers watched and talked. (Ian had to be chased down the block several times as he made breaks for it.) It was a wonderful hour after which we all went into the gallery to roam around in the cool surrealism.
Jody (Maile’s lil brother) is getting married Aug. 9th and he planned a trip for all his groomsmen for us all to go to Estes Park, CO, where he was a YMCA councilor for two summers after college and has returned several times. There is a hike there that he takes everyone he can get up there to do with him.
So we were all in a cabin, me and five late-twenties athletes, Thurs – Mon. It was a great bachelor-party weekend that revolved around a killer hike we did Saturday. When I say killer, I mean it was stunning terrain, AND it nearly killed me. I’m exaggerating, but I was certainly at the edge of my ability for most of the hike and am amazed I completed it uninjured.
Our cabin was at 5K ft. We drove to 9K ft. to the foot of the mountain and ended up hiking to 12K ft and back over 8 hours. From the beginning I was just trying to keep up with these competitive athletes. There was snow and rivulets running across the trail almost immediately. We all carried about 20-30 lb. packs of food, water and clothes for the changes in conditions.
After about 3 hours, I could definitely tell the air was getting thin and by the time we stopped for lunch, not too far from the top, I had to breathe so deep and hard that it felt like hyperventilating. As long as I focussed on not getting dropped (reminded me of cycling days, sticking to the wheel – now the heel – of the guy in front) and breathing as deeply and rhythmically as possible, I could keep nausea and a headache at bay. If I exerted myself too much or even just stopped the huffing to talk I would feel one or both coming on.
By the time we were approaching the top the winds were 60+ mph and I was now literally drafting off the last guy, trying to not let a foot come between us. As everyone else on the trail turned around, we made it over the switchback top to a flatter area where the trail ended.
Now we were all making our own ways across rocky fields and I took a spill, pushed over by the wind and exhaustion. Though I hit my head mildly and was afraid I sprained my wrist catching myself, I was OK. When we made it across the plateau we arrived at a steep dropoff covered in snow. This was part of Jody’s plan that I had seen videos of: slide down the snowy embankments.
The slides (two of them) were fun, but also soaked our butts and socks and pant legs. Walking in the snow was harder than jogging down it, so I made it out of the snow first, elated that I’d made it past the top, the hard part. And then it got harder as we were really without a path now.
We crossed a boggy area filled with runoff streams and fallen trees, climbing through, trying to find the easiest way, in vain. It just kept getting harder! Then we had to make our way down rocky forested hills trying to find the trail again. Finally we found it, took a break to replace wet socks and pants, and it did finally start to get easier.
By this time I was TOTALLY spent but elated to have made it and not: got hurt, bonked, cramped up, blistered, quit, or got sunburned. The one thing that I seemed to get right was drinking and eating all day. My legs, back and energy held out.
Now I could literally breath easier and the scramble down the trails was a blur of exhaustion and pride. When we came to the .5 mi. marker till the end, we were all relived and then tortured one last time with one last .5 mi. climb. I was encouraged when everyone else was as pained by it as I was by the end.
We fell into the van, found a Mexican cantina and gobbled down cokes, beers, chips, queso and buffalo tacos and enchiladas. I was comforted that everyone else seemed to as ragged out and sore for the next two days.
Our good friend Carlos “Los Monster” Lopez passed away recently, suddenly, unexpectedly at 43. Too soon, too young. Los backed me up many times over the last 15 years on kit and conga not to mention made me laugh hundreds of times hanging after the gig. And I’m just one of many musicians in our circle who Los backed up and entertained.
We gathered at my place recently for a memorial Ugi Breakfast and Los Monster Jam. Thomas brought over a great old interview with Los and we all sat around and listened. Los was with us.
Maile asked me to write a song for Anais for Valentine’s Day this year and this is what I came up with, an ode to Anais’s powers of observation. (Be sure to watch till the end of the video, there’s a bit of bonus footage after the credits.)