Friday, February 25, 2011


What was I thinking?

Well, in pursuit of being healthier (me) and being kinder to pigs (hubby) I bought, on a whim, a package of Tofurky Beer Brats at a local co-op. (We're on vacation at the moment, in a place where there actually is a local co-op.)

The jury is still out as to whether we like these things or not. The spicing is interesting and tasty, and the label says that Real Beer from a microbrewery is one of the ingredients, but...

The only thing about it that says bratwurst is the label on the package, and the shape of the things.

We have two more to consume before deciding yea or nay.

Perhaps eating one alongside a helping of barley, farro, and sauteed veggie salad was a bit too much of a couple of good things. I am so stuffed right now, I don't feel much like I want to eat again for maybe...oh...six months or so. Too bad I cannot hibernate as bears do.

Have gotten a lot of knitting done and am nearly finished with the me-sized prototype of the sweater I am in the process of designing for Grant. So far, so good, after a few serious mistakes back in late January necessitated ripping the whole thing back down to the waistband and doing some re-calculating. It looks pretty good now, but I've tried two different neckline styles, and both were epic failures. Maybe the third time will be the charm. I'll know in a few days, I guess, and if all goes well this time, I'll soon be starting Grant's. It won't be done in time for his next tour, but maybe by the next time he comes through Boston. The weather will probably be far too warm for sweaters at that point, but I can have him try it on, anyway, and see if the fit is good. If not...copious notes will be made and measurements taken, and I will simply go back to the proverbial drawing board. I don't mind, one way or another. Knitting for my friend is an honor, and a labor of love.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Sunday Morning!

I had some alone time today, and dove right back into the recording process, and implemented some of the changes I notated in yesterday's entry.

I recorded each track straight and added reverb during the mixdown, and I took a relaxed pace. Just because I can play a song faster doesn't mean I should.

I've spent a lot of years mucking about with the hymn "Wondrous Love," trying to get a version of it documented to my own satisfaction.

This one comes closest of any I've done so far.

I've been working on this hymn for twenty years now, in one form or other, and will continue trying to hone it down as close to perfection as is humanly possible. It's a worthy piece of music, and has long been a favorite of mine.

It's not my vocals that disappointed me this time, but a little bit of faltering in one of the guitar parts, which most people probably wouldn't notice, but to me sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. I won't even mention where it is in the piece. If it's obvious to you, the listener, please say so, 'cause I'm curious: is it, or isn't it?

Your opinions will not change my decision whether to re-record or not. I'm going to do it again, anyway, 'cause I wouldn't feel right about it if I didn't try to do better.

For this first take, though, I am pleased enough, and hope you will enjoy it, too.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More Tascam Experiments

I was in a hurry, so this isn't as polished as it could be. However, I am definitely having some success with the Tascam 8-track unit, and am actually picking up some speed when it comes to blasting through the learning curve.

I love T-Bone Burnett, and a particular favorite of mine from his oeuvre is a song called "Shut It Tight." Obviously, I am no T-Bone Burnett when it comes to playing my guitar. I play rhythm, mostly, as an accompaniment to my own voice, and I do a lot of cover tunes, and do my best to put my own spin on them, rudimentary though that spin might be.

Some folks have said recently that they think I'm a good guitarist. One, a guitarist himself, went so far as to say he thinks I'm a better guitarist than he is. This embarrasses me. I don't take that sort of compliment well, especially when I think the guitarist in question is better than me, because he can do things with his guitar playing that I will never be able to do.

I prefer to say, we are different from each other, in technique and style of playing. One is not necessarily better than the other. Just...different.

That said, here is my hasty, recent attempt at Shut It Tight. I sang the vocal three separate times and layered them one on top of each other, just for a lark, to see if it was possible.

It was. What a hoot! A chorus of "me."

Things I plan to change in future:

1) Position the microphone in such a way that certain consonants and exhalations aren't painfully audible.

2) Tempo. Crikey, it's not a race!

3) Harmonies between verses should be more than a vague, off-the-cuff idea performed on the fly.

4) If dogs bark and family invades, I should just erase the botched track and try again later when it's quiet.

5) Add reverb during the mixdown, not while I am laying down individual tracks.

This is an interesting process. Nice thing is, I don't need a quiet house to lay down guitar tracks. I can plug directly into the machine and record any time. The guitar parts for "Shut It Tight," for instance, were recorded while everyone else in the house was watching the Super Bowl. I monitored through headphones and saved the tracks for later. Nice to know I can proceed in that manner any time I want to.

Sometime in the next year I should have something of much better quality to share with friends. If enough people like it and say nice things, maybe I'll break past the shyness barrier and play and sing in public someday.

And by the way, if it wasn't for the fella in the two videos posted below this entry, I would never have gotten this far. Watching him play and sing in person for the first time, a little over a year ago, made me realize how starved I was to play and sing myself, and I picked up my guitar again after an eight-year hiatus.

The circumstances of my giving up playing eight years ago were traumatic and painful. I thought I could never do it again, or care enough to try.

Grant Hart changed that in a single evening. I owe him a lot for helping me get that healing process started, so I could come this far, and focus my intent on going even farther. To make music is, for me, the very breath of life, and I had forgotten.

Grant Hart infused me with that breath of life, and called me forth from the tomb I had hidden myself in.

That is no exaggeration.

What can I say, but -- thank you Grant. God bless you.

And what can I do, but -- keep on keepin' on.

Grant Hart - 2541

Two wonderful videos of my dear friend playing two of my favorite songs of his. The fella who shot these did a fantastic job, and captured some excellent performances. Have a watch/listen and enjoy.

Grant Hart - You're the Reflection of the Moon on the Water

Friday, February 18, 2011

Damn that Ice Dam!

Like many homes in New England that were utterly swamped with snow in the last six weeks, ours developed a massive ice dam on the roof. I'm not just talking a little ice dam. I'm talking a foot thick ice dam. Too late, hubby started picking at it, and filled cheap Wal-Mart hosiery with calcium chloride, and waited for the miracle to occur. When the sun hit these things, it was supposed to magically create channels for water from the melting ice to pass through, and hopefully would leave us with an ice-free roof, sooner rather than later.

All it did was turn the snow green.

We had a warming trend this week, so the roof is bare now, but it was too late to escape interior house damage. I watched the paint on my office wall blister out as water dripped in behind it. Luckily, these blisters did not burst, and now they have completely dried out, and the wall doesn't look so bad. But the ceiling...ugh! There's a patch near the window that look like an incurable skin disease. And the dampness traveled across the room and very nicely loosened the top layer of paint and weird sandy stuff, and it's peeling like a bad sunburn.

I could deal with this, no problem. I still have a house, even if it's a mess and spring will mean doing some cosmetic work in my office and bedroom. What is disconcerting is having bits of this paint/sandy stuff drop down on my head while I'm sitting at the computer typing, or sitting here playing guitar.

I was trying to learn the riff for "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" from Nirvana's "Unplugged" album when a rather large flake descended on my head and instantly broke into smaller flakes.

Maybe if I plug in to my amplifier the vibrations will shake the rest of it down, and we can be done with this for the time being...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dementia and Terror

My mother has been slipping mentally for years, ever since my father died in 1983. She decided there was no point to anything in life after his demise. Her children and grandchildren meant little, if anything to her. Every ounce of devotion was reserved for her husband, my father, who was not so wonderful as to deserve canonization. He wasn't very nice to her, and he certainly wasn't nice to us. He was a master of sarcasm and put-downs, and he had a bad temper and a free hand and/or paddle when he was displeased. My arse remembers this well.

Her refusal to live her life after he was gone is finally going to land her in a nursing home. She has been in an assisted living facility for a couple of years, and up until recently, I could trust her to take her medications if I set them up in containers for her every week.

Today I went to fill the containers and discovered she had moved them all from the spot they had been living in for the last two years, and had placed them in a different cupboard, with all the days of the week out of order. Some containers still had pills in them, though she swore up and down that she had taken everything I gave her as usual.

She also swore up and down that today is Tuesday, and indeed, she had the Tuesday container near her water cup. No amount of assuring her that it is, in fact, Wednesday, could divert her from believing today is Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, trying to get her meds to her in a snowstorm, my car spun out and slammed head-first into a snowbank. My daughter and I weren't hurt, nor was the car damaged, and some men came and pushed us out so I could continue on my way. But I thought, as we drove along, that the time has come for me to accept that I can't do this anymore.

Ma doesn't care about anything, and has been longing for death for the past 27 years, and I risked my life and my daughter's for the sake of this miserable person who does not love us and would rather be dead.

I'll be filling out the nursing home application in the next few days. I don't expect to be able to accomplish it in one evening. There's too much to document. I'm exhausted before I even start.

And more than anything, I'm afraid. Desperately afraid. Is this my future, too, when I hit my 80s?

If my husband is not one of the lucky ones in dealing with his cancer, will I, too, bury myself alive? I'd like to think I wouldn't, but let's face it people; I suffer from chronic depression. Even though my life isn't really so bad, and in fact sometimes it's damn good, there are days when I get bogged so far down, I wouldn't mind lying down for a nap and not waking up again.

Luckily, I have a few wonderful friends who cheer me up in their own special ways. (Hello, Mal, and Mary, and Grant, and Sue, and...) But sometimes I get so far down, I'm not capable of reaching out, or even hinting that I'm in trouble.

Right now, I'm bordering on being in trouble. I don't want to fill out that application. I want to bury my head in the sand -- or my own personal equivalent, bury my head in knitting. Thank God I have a good project going!

This hurts. Too much. Retreat. Run away...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


So, in my never-ending quest to be healthy / less fat, I decided, after first lecturing my dear friend to eat well, take vitamins, and keep up his health, to start taking a daily vitamin myself. How can I expect my friend to follow a regimen if I don't follow one myself, right?

I had been feeling run-down and tired a lot of the time, and coffee wasn't providing its usual kick in the arse anymore, so I went to the local pharmacy and browsed the vitamin aisle.

One-a-Day Energy formula! Wow! That sounded like the one for me, so I bought it. Two whole bottles, and I commenced taking, well, one a day.

Hey, this stuff really works! Or so I concluded after a couple of days. What on earth do they put in it to make it so effective?

I should have read the label before buying. The "energy" boost comes from a whopping hit of caffeine. 90 mg of it, to be exact. Suffice it to say, I no longer "need" 3 large cups of coffee to keep me going in the morning. I have one now, and then switch to my old favorite herbal tea, Red Zinger.

I love the taste of Red Zinger, and always will. And the best thing about it? When it starts to get cold, I can -- and do -- still drink it. Cold coffee makes me gag. I will never understand why some people love iced coffee. Just the thought -- ! Ugh.

Now, if only these vitamins would give me enough "energy" to make me want to exercise...

And now, back to my regularly scheduled knitting!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Got It!

I have successfully completed my first two attempts at multi-track recording! Yes, I had to jump through a bunch of head-spinning technological hoops, but I did not in fact lose everything I had recorded. Just took a while to figure out how to get the stuff from one place to another, between the computer and the Tascam.

I know I have a lot to learn about how to manage the files, but I think I'm off to a decent start, despite the fact that hubby squirmed his way through listening to Coverdale's Carol, and left the room laughing outright before the first verse of Never Talking To You had finished playing. Just because Mr. Unless-It-Makes-My-Ears-Bleed-It-Sucks didn't much like it, and right away started making suggestions for how to "improve" the recordings, doesn't mean that my efforts do, in fact, suck. They are far from perfect, as I have a lot to learn, but they do not suck.

I intend to keep working on this stuff over time, and it will get better as I go.

Hubby is not a musician himself. Hubby listens almost exclusively to death metal. Hubby is really not in a position to judge my work. I'm feeling disinclined to let him hear much more of what I'm doing.

He said my harmonizing sounded like something from outer space, and I do not believe he meant that as a compliment.

I have news for him. I am not staying in whatever box he might think I belong in.

I will not even feign interest in the Stupid Bowl today.

I can lay down more guitar tracks and save the vocals for another day this week, when hopefully I might have the house to myself for a bit. If no such opportunity arises, then I'll just have to play hooky from church again next week.

Feel free to give a listen here if you like.

Never Talking To You was the first thing I laid down because a) it's short; b) it's easy; c) I've memorized it to a point where I don't have to think about it too hard; and d) well, because I like the song, damn it!

The Tascam

Oh, the dreaded Learning Curve strikes again! But this morning was time well-spent, or so it seems. I still have to try transferring what I recorded to the computer. Apparently, I missed the part in the owner's manual that talked about initializing and formatting the SD card. I guess I now have "backup" files of the songs I was messing with, but no "wavs." Further investigation will be necessary, but there is a possibility that I lost everything I put down this morning. Stay tuned for further details...

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My friend Malcolm has written a song that so perfectly distills sorrow, regret, disillusionment, and resolution into two simple verses, I am, simply, blown away. It's still a work in progress, and not fully fleshed out by any means, but I can hear its potential, and I have this driving hunger to work on it, myself.

Mal's voice soars over the accompaniment, a lone bird flying above the clouds beneath, high and beautiful, disappearing into the eye of the sun.

It hurts to look, but the song will not allow me to turn away.

I have a great need to study this one, take it deep within, and work with it.

He has used a chord organ for the accompaniment, but I am hearing it in my mind's ear with a more full-bodied accordion sound, the chords mounting and ebbing like an ocean tide.

I have an accordion, and I have the chord progression and the lyrics. This may be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, musically speaking, but I have this burning desire to at least attempt to achieve the impossible: to help that which is already perfect surpass its own perfection.

I have not played the accordion in years, and I wasn't very good at it when I did play. It was just another musical toy that captured my fancy for a time, but I lost patience with it when I hit the learning curve. How I despise learning curves! They stand in the way of my doing immediately whatever impossible thing I'm envisioning.

I don't care if I never play anything else on my accordion, but now, next time anyone asks why I bought the darn thing in the first place, I can give a good answer.

"Well," I would say, "I didn't know at the time, but I bought it so I could play my friend's song."

Yup. That's why. I'm convinced.

Off to practice for a bit, because the learning curve is still there, despite my dreams and visions...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011