Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stella Yellin Non-Get-Alongs

For about as long as I can remember I have attended the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas for most of the months of September.
It's been years now since I attended but I still have a completely romanticized warm and fuzzy feeling about it.
One of my very first years there I came upon a camp of musicians who were in the newspaper industry and from Joplin, Missouri. Among them was a man named Jim Moss.
While most of that festival in particular remains something of a blur, I have been having really vivid memories of the time he shared with me and the key to the John Prine universe that he unlocked.

He taught me a huge chunk of the songs that I'm still playing today.
I can play those songs (and have) with almost anyone, almost anywhere - and I find people to sing along and play amazing leads and share stories, food and drink till well past sunrise.
I don't know where Jim Moss is anymore (although I suspect he's still somewhere near Joplin) and I doubt I'll ever be able to thank him for the gift he gave me ~ But, almost every day I play something that he either taught me or showed me that I could learn and, for that, I'm grateful.

If you are one of the thousands that saves up your precious vacation time for those moments in the Pecan Grove, just yell "Stellllllllllla" for me sometime around 4am and then start singing "That's The Way That The World Goes Round."
I think you've only got about 100 more days to build a plan that involves that request.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Life in The Slow Lane

The town I'm calling home now smells of sweet honeysuckle from one end to the other. I see more tractors and pick-ups every day then I ever see cars. There is absolutely NO ethnic diversity and I think it's reasonable to assume that everyone I meet is related to someone else I've already met.
I have yet to see a kid wearing a helmet or protective gear on their bicycles as they ride down the middle of the "busy" street (busy in this case being defined by the fact that there are TWO whole stop signs.)

I haven't seen this many men sporting mullets since sometime around 1982. On any given night I can walk around and smell fried chicken, roasting brats and the occasional whiff of sulfur from some precipitous bottle rocket fights.

The sum total of today's 18 hours passed like minutes.
We talked about sustainable hardwoods and opportunity costs. We shared stories and took hours to eat half a sandwich.
I thought about all the Twitters I'm keeping, the blogs that are maybe days overdue and the social networks that either do or don't need to be tended to.
I weeded the flower beds and played catch with the Lab. I wrote. I researched. I organized and alphabetized. I made and broke deadlines.
I good vibed my grown children and their partners and babies and dogs.
I offered up little prayers even though I'm no longer a disciple of organized religion.
I talked endless smack to and about my computer.

Today was one of the sweetest slices of magic I've known in a very long time. I laughed and I cried and I laughed till I cried. I'm in love with this life. In spite of knowing that all things will change and there will be some wicked bad days, I'm finally free enough to bliss out completely and love the moments that come and go so freely.
And, in so doing, I'm glad you're here because this moment rocks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Breaking The Rules

I've always been a big fan of breaking the rules.
At some point I chose to say, "Drain the break fluid and drive 100!" instead of "Have fun storming the castle," or "Be careful and call me if you're going to be late."
I've participated in illegal activities since I was able to walk (it was all in the training...years and years of practice)
Today I remembered that my grandfather taught me how to make "Jailhouse Gin" (he spent most of his life, and therefore certainly most of MY life incarcerated in a federal penitentiary) when I was way too young to even know what gin was. That was the same weekend that he taught me how to play poker and run a line across the Missouri river to catch fish so I wouldn't starve to death.
Y'know, priorities were just different back then. We didn't EVER wear helmets or elbow pads when we rode our bikes. My parents smoked Kent cigarettes like fiends in the car while we rode on the back dash all the way up to Topeka every other weekend. They never rolled down the windows.
Ever. NOT once.
My mom told me that the Flint Hills were all just a huge cemetery for giants, buried long before we were born, and that's why the grass was so green and the hills so attractive.

Blood and scabs and ropes and splinters were just a small fraction of the stuff that went into building our character. Almost nobody got busted for anything - from child abuse to tax evasion and felonious contraband.
We all had an errant uncle living with us. Good Catholics went to confession on Saturdays, received communion on Sundays and nobody was gay.
All the phones were rotary dials, the internet was far from even being a twinkle in somebody's eyes and we could go to the drive-in on Saturdays if mom never had to say the words, "Don't make me tell your father about this."
I still refuse to buckle up. I wear cut-offs and go barefoot at work. I smoke this and that (much more of This than That) - and I'm serious: Do you honestly think that Monet could have done what he did...and Kerouac, and Picasso, and Rembrandt, Emerson and William Burroughs ... without breaking the rules? I'm thinking not so much.
It's all a gamble. You never know what's going to happen. In that Dustin Hoffman movie ("Little Big Man") that old Indian said over and over, "It's a good day to die," meaning that he had lived well THAT day and it was all good by him. I think that may well be the way we are supposed to take this: One falling star at a time.