Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dream #3 : The Diddies

We drive a van down Mission Inn Blvd past the Unitarian and Congregational Churches. From the directions of both the Public Library and Municipal Museum, a mob has taken over the streets. Billy C shouts, "It's the Diddies!"

Who and what the Diddies are is unclear, but they look like regular people. Among the faces of the Diddies I see former students. They are throwing rocks and sticks at passing cars, stopping as many as they can and pulling the passengers out and attacking them, though they don't seem to do anything more than robbing them and scaring them.

The other passengers in my car are horrified when the Diddies manage to stop our van. They pull us out. My briefcase hangs from a strap on my shoulder. A young, unshaven man with curly hair glasses rushes from behind me and attempts to take my bag. Instead, I grab the gym bag he carries and manage to pull it away from him.

The Diddies and their victims stop in silence and watch us. I walk over to the library fountain and threaten to drop his bag in it. He is frightened and tries to bargain with me to get me to promise not to drop it in the fountain.

After some discussion, I agree not to drop it in the fountain. Then, I turn to another nearby fountain and drop his bag in that instead.

Everyone is shocked at what I have done. I then give a speech which I cannot hear but must be on the level of the Sermon on the Mount, because almost everyone stops the violence.

I walk away, but am followed by four angry white men who are dressed like cholos. They intend to sneak up on me and attack me. I think they mean to kill me. Fortunately, I am very aware of them and swing my bag around to frighten them away. But they always come back.

I wake up.

Monday, May 29, 2006

There is no "I" in Canary

At tonight's open mike, the canaries reunited for a two-song set: "I Shall Be Released" and "Don't Think Twice." On the first, we each took a verse and harmonized on each chorus. Vocally, it sounded good. Instrumentally (Billy C and I on ukes, Blowhard C on guitar), I think we were a little more shaky. While it was mainly due to our rehearsal ethic, it was also due to the fact that we are playing the easy three-chord version when we need to learn the version I found on the internet that has more chord changes. Our instincts tell us that our fingers should be moving around more, but we don't know where exactly. I don't think anyone noticed this because the vocals sounded so good.

You may recall the last time we played "Don't Think Twice" with me on uke, Billy on ouvre, and Blowhard on vocals. I was going to play uke with Liam playing guitar this time, but the version he has taught himself throws in a few chords that my version didn't have and we didn't have time to rehearse it, so I just did a bodhrain thing on this hand drum Billy C had on hand. Funny thing is, again, my fingers have always told me that my version was missing some chords, but my brain didn't know what they were. I guess I don't have a jammin' instinct yet.

By the way, the reason I call him "Blowhard" Canary is in part because my nephew is a minor and I want to respect his anonymity and in part because, when the three of us attended that harmonica workshop, during one of the instances where we actually took out our harmonicas, he startled me with how well he could play the thing. So "Blowhard" is intended as a compliment.

The MC Jerry and another Folk Center employee broke out a couple of ukes and did a fine rendition of "Fisherman's Blues" with a cool little uke solo thrown in. That's the first song I did at open mike a couple of years ago when I was still pretty new at it. Jerry said he found the song on my blog, where I published my set list. Then he said that I should come down and we should play together some time.

I am always flattered when a real musician asks me to jam.

The Amazing Theo played tonight. The songs were a little more family friendly than in past appearances. Only two or three obscenities. Perhaps it was because some children were in the audience.

Speaking of which, this one young man brought his young daughter with him and she danced in front of the stage as he played an instrumental. When I say danced, I mean she twirled and jumped around, stopping occasionally when she felt self-conscious. It was pretty adorable.

UF played two songs: one about a dead goldfish and another about standardized testing. I hear him play his songs all of the time at school, but don't get to really hear them. They are both good songs. Of the nights I have heard him here, this was the best.

The variety of instruments tonight was quite high tonight: fiddles, mountain dulcimers, rain sticks, guys singing in french (I know that's not an instrument, but it was different), fiddles.

Actually, I couldn't tell if the little girl was playing a violin or fiddle. I could only tell that she was kind of new at this.

UF and I went to the local bar and drank non-alcoholic beverages and had a couple of appetizers before we left. We sat under a speaker that blared out reggae music. I took the opportunity to learn a reggae beat and he and I figured out the chords on the song being played. I think my white boy fingers finally got it.

The evening ended with UF and I standing on an all-but-deserted corner of Yale street at 11PM in front of this American Burger place, practicing my new reggae licks and discussing what a wonderful instrument the uke really is.

As we turned to go our separate ways, I could hear the strumming of his ukulele bouncing off the city streets as it slowly drifted away into the twilight.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Alfred Hitchcock Was Right

It was a quiet, foggy morning in Moreno Valley, CA. My seniors had all checked out of school, leaving me with a free fourth period. Our paperwork for our updated benefits package was due at the District Office, so I left campus to turn mine in and beat the rush.

Upon my arrival at the DO, I parked at the far end of the crowded parking lot, got out of my car, and walked towards the office building. I had to walk under a tree between two hedgerows when, from out of nowhere, I heard this screeching sound and the angry flapping of wings. Tiny claws grabbed the back of my silky grey locks and scratched at the back of my head. I swept the air behind me and it went away, only to sweep down and attack again. The coward attacked from behind, so I had no idea what it was or why it was attacking me, at first. But, after the second attack, I realized that it was a bird of some sort and that it perceived me as a threat.

I turned around after getting away from that tree, and saw a starling
. At least I think it was a starling. I know Psittaciformes
, but not too much about starlings.

That starling sat atop someone's SUV glaring at me and scolding me for encroaching upon its territory.

According to an article I read once, starlings aren't even native to this continent. Some early, wealthy British colonist got it in his head that he should bring all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's poetry to populate the New World. I guess the starling was his greatest success in that they were very competitive and aggressively pushed other bird species out of their way. They are the white people of the bird world.

Anyway, I don't like guns or hunting. But those of you who do, feel free to avenge me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dream #2

I've had a couple of more dreams. I have awaken from a couple that I thought I would never forget and shortly afterwards forgotten them. I had one that I might take to the conference, but would not share here.

I had one that I forgot that came back to me in fragments as I walked the Rub this evening.

I was in a large, white, unfurnished room. There were several men and women all around me, all in fisherman's gear, all practicing casting with their fly rods. There were hooks on the end and I was worried about getting hooked by one. I asked them to please either stop or be more careful. My tone was more angry than frightened, the way I would be if someone were smoking in a restaurant. They all refused.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

10 Sure-Fire Money-Making Booths I'd Like to See at a Street Fair

I stopped by the Orange Blossom Fair on my way home from my Saturday gig because,in part, a student of mine had some paintings hanging at one of the art booths. I didn't see him, but I saw his two paintings. One was a man standing under a moon and a cactus standing under the sun. The other was a thing with a tribal mask and a sideways Kabuki and/or Elvis face hovering over a city-scape, also sideways.

I don't know art.

I also thought I'd get myself a big floppy hat for summertime at this booth Do told me about.

I also thought that I'd check out the fair, since I've never gone.

So I walked around and found the hat place fairly quickly. $20 bucks and full head coverage for those hot, sunny days of summer. It ain't attractive, but it covers my head. Liked it so much I got one for Mom when we take her out in the sun, which doesn't happen often, but it happens.

Soon, I located the booth where Spicoli, my student, said he would be with his art. Before checking the art, I decided to get something to eat.

There was typical fair fare: funnel cakes, corn-on-the-cob, falafels, various types of phallic organ meats.

There was a beer garden of sorts with several micro-breweries on display. I don't drink anymore, but I checked it out for the food possibilities. As I entered, I witnessed one of the many reasons why beer at a public function is a bad idea. This drunken kid and his drunken girlfriend were arguing with this poor rent-a-cop about why they couldn't take their 3/4's full cups of beer with them out onto the main thoroughfare. There were signs going in and signs going out that mentioned that all beer had to stay within the boundaries, and everyone else seemed to understand that, but this guy kept asking the same belligerent questions: "Don't they sell beer in other booths? What's the big deal?"

The big deal is that assholes like this guy should be kept in as confined a space as possible so fewer people have to deal with him.

I stopped by a kabob stand after studying what was being served. I ordered a kabob and was surprised to see that I got just that-a kabob and nothing else. I had to ask for a fork and a napkin. No knives. No side-dishes. No water.

It was a delicious, chicken-flavored charcoal kabob. The problem with most street faire food is that it sounds like a good idea until you bite into it. I wish there were a natural law that said that, when you eat street faire food and find it less tasty, its calories or cholesterol don't count.

Anyway, my top ten ideas for street fair booths that would be sure to make money:

1. A ukulele clinic. I saw a guitar and drum clinic, but there were few people there learning about the guitar or drum because, on a hot, sunny day, they're to hefty to carry around at a large street fair. I think ukuleles would be a better draw. They are small, unthreatening, easy to carry and you could have a kid playing one in no time.

2. A napkin booth. Most Faire food is sloppy food. The kabob I had was smothered in barbecue sauce to accentuate the delightful charcoal flavor. The two napkins I had were gone before I had finished half the kabob. You could charge $5 bucks for a set of six napkins.

3. A food exchange for people who begin to eat their food from another booth and immediately regret buying it. They might be willing to trade theirs in for someone else's mistake.

4. A vomitorium booth for people who eat bad street food. You could use ostrich feathers. In fact you could raise ostriches just for this pupose. After every visit to the vomitorium booth, the guest would once again have an empty stomache ready for the next (hopefully) tastey morsel. Emu feathers for the little'uns.

5. An Ostrich Burger booth for next year if the vomitorium doesn't take off as well as expected.

6. A drunk dunk tank for dealing with obnoxious drunks who don't know how to behave in public. When a person gets drunk, the rent-a-cops could just handcuff them and take them to the drunk dunk tank. This would be the same as a regular drunk tank, except the drunk would be handcuffed and helpless to swim around in the tank. You could have someone recue them before they drowned, if you wanted to.

7. A shade booth.

8. An atheist booth to hand out literature about our isloation in the universe.

9. An agnostic booth.

Every booth with any religious affiliation would have to be placed between an atheist and an agnostic booth. Hey, why should they have it so easy?

10. A panpipe smashing booth. These guys were entertaining when they first start popping up at these faires. But, hey, I've had enough. Give it a rest.

I still like bagpipes, though.

Dream #1

I am going to the Taos Writers' Conference again this summer. I just got letters from both workshop leaders. In these, they usually ask participants to complete specific writing assignments.

The leader for my poetry workshop has asked us to write down two sentences that represent authentic voices of people we know. So, if your a friend of mine and I ask you to repeat something you said and then try to write it down, you know why. Please continue to try to sound authentic.

The other assignment is to write down four dreams we have had. I have been having a little anxiety over this. Other than the dream about the angry bunnies, I can't think of one. Part of that is because I have been asked to. I think, because dreams are of such a personal nature, my subconscious is blocking them. The only thing that comes to mind are the usual flying, falling, swimming type dreams.

By the way, when I fly in my dreams, I am usually flapping my arms and am in an upright position and I need to make a walking motion to go forward. If I stop any of these, I begin to fall.

So, lately, I have had trouble remembering my dreams. If I do remember when I get up, I'm usually in such a hurry to get to school, that I don't take the time to write them down. When I find myself at school behind a desk with a pen and paper, I have already forgotten the dream.

I think also, because I have had trouble getting a full night's sleep lately, I'm just not alseep long enough for a dream to really get going and make an impact on me.

So, last night, I got to bed early and really got a good night's sleep.

Here's my dream before it dissipates into the light of day:

I am at a high school dance. It is outside in kind of a surreal twilight setting. In fact, it seems to be at the church I grew up in, an old, stately building-somber looking and dignified. Students from my school are all dressed up. They are all dancing. They all want to see me dance.

My sisters appears. We begin dancing. The dancers are not doing any contemporary dances. Instead, they are doing ballroom-type dances. In fact, it is a pretty quiet dance for a high school dance. Everyone is dancing on either the lawn or the parking lot, with the church in the background.

So my sister and I are dancing and doing pretty well. We dip towards the end of the dance. Then, as a joke, we continue dipping until we are on our asses. Then, I continue the dip even further, and we are on our backs.

We laugh. Then we start to get up-my sister first. But she can't get up. Every time she tries, she falls back over. She lifts her butt first and tries to steady her legs and just collapses. I notice that her legs are malformed at the knee, kind of long and skinny, and realize that she might never get up again.

Still sitting on the ground, I become very self-conscious of the fact that I too might have trouble getting up. I try very slowly and find my legs indeed are wobbly. After a couple of attempts, I do get shakily up. But it's clear that it isn't easy. In fact, everyone at the dance notices and is concerned. A car drives by and my sister, still having trouble standing, gets in and speeds off.

That's about where I woke up.

When I began this, I thought I'd try analyzing it. But I think I won't-at least not in writing. I believe that dreams are methods used by our brains to resolve issues that we can't resolve in reality. For example, if your boss is an ass, and he treats you like crap, but you need the job and can't really do anything about the problem, your brain tries to take care of it at night so, at least partially, your brain can feel like the problem has been dealt with. In reality, the problem might still exist, but the tension is relieved a little bit as far as your brain is concerned.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bruce Springsteen's "The Pete Seeger Sessions"

Billy C, Princess Canary, and I recently took an expedition to the Folk Center to check out ukes and just hob-nob about the lovely town of Claremont a couple of weeks ago. While there, I bought the latest open mike DVD and some nifty wound soprano uke strings. I thought I would transfer my Nyl-guts to my Oscar Schmidt and put these new honeys on my Harmony.

After our visit, we went the eatery next door and got some fine grub. Then, we adventured over to the Rhino Records store across the street. Billy wanted me to test-drive the new Springsteen CD, "The Pete Seeger Sessions," which has the Boss and a band of musicians jamming to tunes associated with Pete Seeger, the folksinger/shaman of the USA. He had this one song in particular that he wanted me to hear.

The nice tattooed girl at the check-out counter gave me the preview CD and I sauntered over to the listening station, placed the CD in the player, and put on a headset. I got no sound, so I adjusted the nob. Still no sound. I adjusted the nob again. Nothing.

Billy C went over and got a young lady with multiple piercings to come help me. She pointed out that I had the wrong headset on. Someone had put the headsets for my machine on top of the neighboring machine and had put that machine's headset on my machine. So I un-switched them, made a couple of self-deprecating jokes, and put the new headset on.

I couldn't figure out why the Princess and Billy would laugh every time I made a comment about the CD as I was listening to it. Apparently I was doing that thing where you talk loudly when wearing a headset because you forget that you're the only one for whom the music is loud. So, apparently, I was shouting at them and I guess people were staring at me.

But, what the hey, this CD is worth shouting about. It has a snazzy informal, jazzy feel to it. Springsteen pulled a folk music thingy by not just singing the songs, but re-interpreting them, making them contemporary. Heck, he showed how timeless these songs are.

I remember singing songs like "Ol' Dan Tucker" in elementary school, having no idea what it was about. Springsteen takes these and other songs and gives them the feel of news-worthy immediacy they must have had when our folk-fathers first created them. You could imagine Dan Tucker sitting there, clapping his hands and stomping his feet, laughing at what someone had been written about him.

Each rendition is a gem, but the ones that stand out to me are the gospel tune "Mary Don't You Weep" and "The Eerie Canal." Also, the Seeger staple "We Shall Overcome." Every time I hear that song, I get misty-eyed.