Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Joan Baez in Concert

My friend Becky and I went to see Joan Baez in concert last night. She was at the Moore Theater in Seattle.
We wanted to park close to the Moore because of my bad knee. I can’t do too much walking these days. So we caught a 4:30 boat and headed in to Seattle.
After trolling around the one-way streets of downtown for a while, we found the parking lot directly across the street from the Moore – location, location, location – and then the next thing on the agenda was to find a place to eat dinner, preferably a restaurant with bathroom facilities.
The closest restaurant, across the street from the Moore on Virginia Street, was the Buenos Aires Grill. They had the bill of fare posted outside the front door, and we stood there perusing it for a good five minutes. It looked good, but there were no prices listed. To my mind, when the prices are not listed on a menu, it means, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Suddenly Becky stopped reading and said, “If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for us,” and then said to me sotto voce, “Look to your right.”
To my right, through the window, was a table with three people seated. Two were men and one was Joan Baez.
We walked in and a cheerful young man seated us at the table right next to Joan Baez and, as it turned out, her two band members.
Now Joan Baez is a cultural icon, so Becky and I tried to be good. We did not wish to disturb the folk goddess’s dinner. Inside, though, I was jiggling with excitement and thinking, this is so cool.
A lady who came in soon afterwards was not constrained in her behavior. She rushed to Baez’ table and gushed, “I’ve been following you for 40 years! In college I was you! I let my hair grow and carried a guitar around!” And so on. Joan Baez was quite gracious to her, but after the fan went off to her own table we noticed that Baez and her band mates switched seats so that she was sitting with her back to the room, which put her about three feet away from me.
This is so cool.
When Baez got up to leave, she graciously took the hand of the gushing fan and said a few words, and as she passed us I could no longer restrain myself and said, “Have a wonderful concert. We’ll be in the audience.” She kind of smiled and kept walking.
Now I am not famous, but I have been a singer/songwriter and have experienced people coming up to talk to me after concerts. Most of them, bless their hearts, wanted to say how much they enjoyed the music, and double bless them, buy a CD. Sometimes, though, people came up with a peculiar intensity that could be a little scary. There is a thin line between “rabid fan” and “stalker.” So I can understand the wish of a famous person to protect herself from being loved to death.
Becky and I had our dinners. The food was GREAT. The Buenos Aires Grill, as you might imagine from its name, specializes in good beef, well prepared, so not for vegetarians, but for those of us who are still omnivores, it was a treat.
I also called my husband on my cell phone, and said, “Guess who I had dinner with!” Yes, I was so excited I ended a sentence with a preposition. He was suitably impressed, and after I hung up I said out loud, “This is so cool!” Becky laughed. We both laughed.
One young man was still sitting at the Baez table, and I finally turned to him and said, “I’m trying to be good, but…are you a band member?” He smiled sweetly and said yes. He had a British accent. We talked a little. He said that it was great touring with her, and, “…especially chatting with her. We’ve had some good chats.” Becky and I agreed that Joan Baez must have a lot to say that is of interest. Later, at the concert, I would learn that this young man’s name was John Doyle, and he was the music director of the group, and he played guitar left handed.
The concert was great. She performed with three musicians, one of whom was John Doyle, and she also did some solo songs. She opened with, “Flora, the lily of the west,” and did most if not all of the songs from her latest album, my favorite of which was a tune by that album’s producer, Steve Earle, titled, “God Is God.” Good song.
There was a young woman who came out on stage to switch guitars so Baez could play in different tunings. She switched guitars, she unplugged and plugged in sound cords, she moved music stands. The young woman was eventually introduced as, “Stephanie, my assistant.” Man, I thought, I want a Stephanie.
Joan Baez sang from 8 p.m. until almost 10, without intermission, and did an encore of two songs, and in the last song of the last concert of a month-long tour, you could tell that everyone on stage was relaxing and letting down, having a ball.
Then the band walked off stage and Joan Baez sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella, and the audience joined in, and we sang the verses with her, and broke into harmonies, until the whole audience that filled the Moore Theater to the rafters was one vast gospel choir. As the last note faded, she thanked us all and said good night.
I floated down the ramp to the main floor, where I waited while Becky bought the latest CD, then we went outside and noticed a group of people standing around the tour bus. Becky decided to wait, but my knee was done for the night, so I headed off to the car to await her. When she came, she had her CD autographed by Joan Baez, and a photo on her digital camera of herself and Joan Baez standing side by side. “She was very gracious,” Becky said.
Yes, she was. It was so cool.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Glasses and Canes

My vision started to go when I was about 43. There were a few things I noticed that sent me to the optometrist. One: I was standing in church singing a hymn when I noticed that the letters seemed to be weaving around on the hymnal page like teeny tiny synchronized polliwogs. Two: I was driving on the freeway at night and noticed that all the tail lights of the cars in front of me were blurry, and had little star rays radiating. Three: I looked up at the stars in the sky, and they, like the tail lights, were blurry and had rays.
So I went to see Grant Lindskog, the local eye guy, who gave me an exam and informed me that I had presbyopia – my eyes were getting old. He cheerfully told me that it was people like me who sent his children to college, and he wrote a prescription for low magnitude reading glasses.
Rest in peace, Grant. We miss you.
After that I discovered cheap reading glasses, and started buying those. I got them in different styles, and gradually got stronger ones as my near vision deteriorated. They broke, and lenses fell out of them, so I bought more. I lost them frequently so I bought more and left them all over the house so that at any given time I could find a pair easily.
After about 15 years I started wearing prescription glasses all the time and stopped buying reading glasses, so I don’t have them stashed all over the house anymore.
I noticed the other day that now I’m starting to leave canes around the house.
I got my first cane about the time I got my first glasses, come to think about it – I had a bone spur in my left heel, and walked with a cane until the spur was surgically removed. Then I didn’t need a cane until my car wreck in 2000. After that I wore a back brace for six months, and used a cane for some of the time. I was in bed a lot the first few months, and used that time to tied string around a cane I picked up at the local thrift store. It was an adjustable metal cane, until I did the whole thing in sailor’s knots and varnished it.
Then my knees started to go, and periodically I needed to use a cane again, and I went to the thrift store and bought a few more canes over time. I think I had this idea that I was going to sand them down and paint them in colorful styles, but I don’t know why I thought that. I am not a craftsperson or an artist. Just another one of those darned bright ideas I tend to get, and forget.
Last week I took a fall that did something to my left knee that feels bad. Today I realized that I was leaving canes planted in various spots around the house so I’m close to one when I need it. I’m hoping my knees don’t go the way of the eyes, getting worse and worse. I have an appointment with an orthopedist in early December, and I think there may be some surgery in the near future for my knees. I will go quietly. I miss being able to walk. Maybe while I’m recovering from surgery I’ll have time to put sailor’s knots on some of my other canes. It’s a nice look.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Counting My Thankfuls*

Who misses those nasty campaign ads? Only the ad agencies that were paid to put them together and the television stations that collected the ad revenue for broadcasting them, that’s my guess. So that’s one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: thank God the election is over.
Many rejoice that Obama was elected; it’s a new world, and a fresh start, and boy, we could all use a fresh start in this season of economic crashes. I really could not bring myself to believe beforehand that this amazing thing could happen. It felt like a miracle, a growing up in this country, and I am thankful for that, as are many people.
A conservative friend told me that she wore black and no jewelry the day after the election; I know that conservatives are mourning their loss, as I mourned when Bush became president, both times. I felt hopeless for the future of this country, and the world. Perhaps that is what conservatives are feeling now.
I know and love a lot of conservative people; I grew up in a conservative family, and don’t know why I turned out to be the only liberal, or progressive, I guess I’m supposed to call myself now. Maybe it was the inspiration of the civil rights movement and the ugliness of racism, or the siren song of rock and roll, or the yearning for peace while seeing the country torn apart by division over Vietnam.
Maybe it was the hypocrisy of people saying one thing and doing another. Many of the conservatives who now hoot about patriotism made darn sure that they did not go to Vietnam back in the day. That double standard is alive and well, from those American chicken hawks to Osama bin Laden, who was (and is?) willing that other people should commit suicide for his cause, but took (takes?) tender care for his own well-being.
What I sense is that progressives and conservatives want many of the same things: a living wage, a safe place to live, a healthy family, education for our children, the right to worship as we choose, enough food, a decent place to live. We want to be free to go about our business without the threat of terrorist attacks; we want our children to come home from war unscathed, or not to go to war at all. We all want these things. We disagree deeply about how to go about getting them.
We have lived with one way for many years, and now we’re about to try other ways. Changing how a government, how a country, is run must be akin to persuading a volcano to erupt in some other direction. Some things, when in progress, are almost impossible to change.
So everybody take a deep breath and get ready to work, because no matter who won that election, we had a lot of work ahead of us. It’s time to think about what you’re thankful for these days, and let go of what you cannot change. I’m thankful that we’re all still here to be in this mess.
I’m thankful for my family and friends, no matter what their politics. I’m thankful for the pleasures of the mind, and that I can still walk, if not very well some days. I’m thankful that my husband is still glad to see me and I’m glad to see him at the end of the day, after more than 30 years together, and that we still enjoy talking to each other. I’m thankful for the saving grace of faith in my life, and the laughter of my adult sons.
I’m thankful that I can still learn things about me that make me try to make my personal volcano erupt in a different direction, although now I sometimes say, heck, I’m sixty years old. I don’t want to take the time or energy to try to change (whatever it is) about me now. This is it.
I’m thankful for that, too. What are your thankfuls this Thanksgiving?
*Thanks and a tip o’ the hat to Julian for the word “thankful” as a noun.

This piece was written to appear in the November 20 issue of the Vashon Loop. Alas, Troy, the publisher, is in the hospital with gall stones, so there will not be a November 20 Loop.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Enough Sleep

The cardio doc prescribed a new pill for me the other day. It’s supposed to keep the angina away, but, she said, “You might experience some sleepiness.”
Well, the angina is indeed gone now, but that sleepiness I might experience has also come to pass. Two nights this week I have passed out on the couch at 7:30 in the evening, awakened in the wee hours, gone to bed, and then slept until nine in the morning.
Having had that much sleep, I am feeling rested. Rested is an unusual thing to feel. I have not slept well since somewhere in the middle of my first pregnancy. I suppose this much sleep is too much sleep. I’ll call my cardio doc to ask about a lower dosage or some other alternative, but for the time being I am really enjoying the rare feeling of having had enough sleep

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Susan Bardwell on Writin'

Just a quick connection to a column by my writer friend, Susan Bardwell:
You'll probably have to copy and paste. This piece is a writer's delight. Enjoy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beyond the Celebration, I Continue to Carp

It has been quite a week. Barrack Obama was elected president; our older son announced he is going to college; and that rain that was predicted with low confidence showed up.
Of the three, the first two were surprising to me. I am overly cynical, I know. I really didn’t believe this country was grown up enough to elect a black man, but when you come down to it, we didn’t elect a black man. We elected a man who seemed like a leader we could trust; the extraordinary thing is that as it turns out, that man is black. I thought racism would prevail. That it did not has left my heart lighter.
Oh, I know that some people are howling like the Wicked Witch when Dorothy threw the water on her – “What a world! What a world!” Perhaps they are stunned at this turn of events. Since 1980, when Reagan was elected, it’s been the same old Republican gang running the show, except for that eight years when Clinton was president, and he was sandbagged by a Republican congress and a witch hunt. Oh, I’m not saying Clinton is an angel. Clearly he is not, but he did clean up a little of the high-livin’ excesses of the 80s, when the bloodhounds and the Congress backed off enough to let him govern.
The night that Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, I felt the clammy hand of fear clutching my chest. See, I was in California when he was governor, and I knew what a mess he and his corporate buddies had made there. I moved up here in 1973 and missed out on the rest of what happened to California, but I was familiar with Reagan’s cheerful attitude that if you just put the homeless and crazy people out on the street, they’d go away. In fact, I heard him say that once – in California he had cut off all the welfare-cheating bums, and they had just gone away. In his social mathematics, “homeless and/or crazy = welfare-cheating bum.” I am not even addressing the institutional racism that was also bundled into that equation.
This is one of the reasons why when I hear people talking about what a great president Reagan was, I shake my head to clear it. Which Reagan? President of which country? The Reagan I remember who was President of the United States was a good enough actor to play a president, but he never impressed me as having the smarts or presidential cojones necessary for the job. He wasn’t a leader so much as good casting. His governments, both state and federal, were disasters.
I hate to be critical, but someone’s got to say, excuse me, Reagan was not a great president. He wasn’t. He – was – not. He was cute and nice and read his lines well. That is not governing.
So I am sorry for those who grieve now at the election of an Obama. If you wish to continue going to hell in a hand basket, don’t let me stop you, but for the first time in a long time I have hope that this country is not going with you.
And that’s about all I have to say right now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weather Report - night before the election

My computer has been making thunderclap noises. I don't know why. I thought maybe it was my Weather Channel desktop page, telling me that the weather is not so great, which I already knew.
So I checked the Weather Channel window and it says they're not sure, but they're pretty sure, it's going to rain, really hard, Thursday through Sunday, especially Thursday to Friday, with some breaks, and there might be some flooding in the Olympics and the Cascades but their confidence in flooding is low right now (really, that's what it said - their confidence is low) and they think this is going to happen and we ought to know but they're not really sure because, golly, everything is changing so fast. So prepare for lots of rain but don't be surprised if it doesn't happen because WE JUST DON'T KNOW.
That's my kind of weather report - insecure and honest.
Haven't heard any thunderclaps for a few minutes now - maybe it was my game page, Pogo.com, that was rumbling at me, but I don't know why.
Tomorrow's the big day, at last. Rick and I can't wait for the madness to be over. No more negative ads. No more recorded phone messages. Michelle Obama called the other day, and she wasn't much of a conversationalist. It all went one way.
I'll be surprised if Obama is our next president. But like the rest of you, I'll just have to wait and see.