16 December 2007

Believe In Me...

13 August 1951- 16 December 2007

"You've got to just follow your heart and do your best work … There is no doubt in my mind or heart that everything I've done is exactly what I intended to do."

RIP Dan Fogelberg

10 December 2007

And though time goes by, I will always be, in a club with you in 1973…

Ok, so James Blunt wasn’t alive in 1973 (he was born in 1974) and if he had been I doubt he would have been clubbing, but that doesn’t mean he can’t write about that time. It’s called ‘artistic license’ and we’re all guilty of it. We all write about stuff we may know nothing about – hell – I write this music blog every week, don’t I? People actually read it too, not just my Aunt in Arkansas. But I digress……

To assume a sophomore album from an artist is going to suck is all wrong. If you think about all the songs that didn’t make their way on to the freshman debut than it makes sense that you would have a good starting point, right? While I have no idea what did or didn’t make it on to Back To Bedlam, certainly his second CD, All The Lost Souls, doesn’t suck. While it may lack a potentially overplayed, misunderstood, and misplaced wedding song (“You’re Beautiful” in case you weren’t paying attention last week), which I would think would be intentional on his part (can you blame him?) the CD does contain ten very catchy, slightly depressing, well written songs that make you think and feel your way around a dimly lit room.

I don’t’ think he can help it really. His voice is naturally predisposed to sounding pained and thusly each song he sings seeps a little bit of sadness from each lilting note. But I like it that way. I don’t want to hear him sing some happy horse-shit crap tune about how wonderful the world is (can you tell I don’t like musicals?). I want someone to express the pain and anguish that I can’t always put into words. If I want a “Silly Love Song” I know where to happily turn. I like James Blunt because of the heartache he puts into his songs and the discomfort that he expresses. In a music world filled with senseless one hit wonders, this guy is the real deal.

All if this, of course, is masked by his sweet melodies and retro production values which make me feel like I’m listening to an album from, say, 1973. It’s a cool thing, actually, about this CD – many of the sounds are very reminiscent of some classic 70’s artists like Firefall, Poco or Al Stewart. It’s a great balance between what’s happening now and what happened way back then. He does it well – it’s refreshing, his lyrics are honest and I truly love his voice both literally and figuratively.

My favourites from this collection of songs are “Same Mistake” (“I’m not calling for a second chance, I’m screaming at the top of my voice. Give me reason but don’t give me choice. ‘Cause I’ll just make the same mistake again.”), “Carry You Home” (“As strong as you were, tender you go. I’m watching you breathing for the last time. A song for your heart, but when it is quiet, I know what it means and I’ll carry you home. I’ll carry you home.”) and “Give Me Some Love” (“Why don’t you give me some love? I’ve taken ship-load of drugs. I’m so tired of never fixing the pain. Valium said to me, I’ll take you seriously, and we’ll comeback as someone else, who’s better than yourself.”). Though really, it’s hard to pick a favourite here – these are all really good works of art. If you’re a fan, you’ll like this one. If you aren’t – check out his first one, Back To Bedlam, than move on to this one. You’ll be glad for the journey. www.jamesblunt.com and www.myspace.com/jamesblunt

Ah…..Christmas Shopping in Los Angeles. Where else can you be shopping and see the ‘stars’ – it still trips me out – walking around The Grove last week I saw/smiled at Neil Patrick Harris and Martin Short. Then there’s the time we nearly ran over Keanu Reeves as he was crossing our path. Or this one time we walked by this chick who was all bundled up (I dismissed her as just another L.A. freak) and Abby turned to me and said it was Paris Hilton. Weird. Sometimes I can’t believe I live here. Even though I grew up down the road from David Letterman (he was always very nice to me), and used to see Paul Newman around, it still amazes me sometimes the people I’ve seen and met during my tenure in this place. I know - they’re just people too – some of them have been very nice (George Clooney, Annette Bening to name a few) and others, well, maybe they were having a bad day so I didn’t take it personally.

Either way – it can be cool to be here and I’m glad that for now I am. As wacky a place as this can be, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand how this place ‘works’, there are times when I’m happy to be here and grateful for the opportunities this place affords. Not just running into or meeting famous people, but having opportunities I wouldn’t have if I lived on a lake in Maine. That will happen one day – just not now.

So kids, The Holidays are nearing, and I’m not sure how inclined I am to do another blog before the New Year. I’m getting ready to head back East – reconnect with my peeps, get my feet on the ground, and hopefully play in some snow with my most adorable niece. In case I’m not back next week (you’ll have to check in to find out) I want to thank you all for your loyal readership this past year. It means a lot to me that this thing gets read by more than my family. I hope you’ve learned something along the way – discovered some music you may not have thought you’d like or learned something about life in Los Angeles that you never thought you’d know.

Either way – thank you for tuning in….Until next time…Happy Holidays!! & CHEERS!! To you – the New Year - and all the hope that comes with it! Nasdrovia!!!!

02 December 2007

…But I say nothing, I talk to no one, I know what I believe don’t need to wear it on my sleeve….

What can I say about Voice Of The Beehive? Hmm…perhaps they were one of the most fun bands to come out of the 80’s. Funky, poppy, bouncy stuff that made me want to dance and scream out in misanthropy. Their song “I Say Nothing” certainly struck a chord in my brain. I’ve often been accused of being vague upon attempting to answer a question or simply not answering. This song said it all for me when I could say nothing (forgive the pun). Oh yeah – the rest of the CD entitled Let It Bee is pretty fab, too! Check them out: www.myspace.com/voiceofthebeehive

This week I thought I’d do something a little different. There’s a lot going on in this huge world of ours and I thought I’d offer up some of my views. For whatever they are worth and for ever how much salt you wish to take them with here they are:

Carson Daly going back to work, despite the Writers Strike, so that 76 of his crew don’t miss their mortgage or car payments or otherwise have a crappy holiday because five staff writers are striking: AWESOME! (I get the reasons for the strike but c’mon guys…TAKE THE DEAL AND STOP HARRASSING PEOPLE FOR WANTING TO GO BACK TO WORK!).

Dave Lettermen paying his, and the Late Late Show with Craig Furguson, crew out of his pocket until the end of the year so they don’t have worry about cash: AWESOME! Conan O’Brian doing the same: DOUBLE AWESOME!

Jay Leno doing a back flip and NOT taking care of his staff & crew after telling them he would: CRAPPY!! The guy who defended Leno for doing this: DOUBLE CRAPPY!

Jay Leno doing yet another back-flip and this morning (Sunday) saying that he’ll pay his people until the end of this coming week instead of doing the right thing to begin with: LAME, BUT SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING!

George Bush asking for more money for The War when Hurricane Katrina victims are being kicked out of trailers with no affordable housing to move back in to because what little that is being rebuilt is not the affordable housing that existed before the hurricane: SHAMEFUL! ON SO MANY LEVELS!!

The upcoming election year: EXCITING, BUT TOO BAD AL GORE ISN’T RUNNING!!

Running 2 ½ miles in 28 minutes, 11 seconds, in the rain, on muddy grass, in 55 degree weather on Friday: EXHILERATING!

Camping, Hiking, Running, Tennis, Sailing, Rowing, Kayaking, Cycling, Climbing: FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO (besides write a song and play my guitar).

Discovering a new internet radio station that plays only chicks: COOL!!

Don Imus returning to radio: ABOUT TIME!

Some guy standing outside Old Navy at 2p in 60 degree weather saying “Man it’s cold out here!”: UNBELIEVABLE!!

People walking around L.A. with scarves on in 60 degree weather: WIMPY!!!

Anne Curry (and other newscasters) starting a sentence with ‘Meantime’ as opposed to saying ‘In the meantime’ or ‘Meanwhile’: ANNOYING, INNAPROPRIATE, INCORRECT!!!!!!!!!!

Hearing people ask “where are you at?” instead of asking “where are you?”: DON’T GET ME STAHTED! DON’T EVEN GET ME STAHTED!!! (intentional fake Boston accent).

People walking into a crowded store with their baby carriages on a Saturday and giving me a dirty look because I want to get around them: ARE YOU KIDDING?

Having people turn their heads and looking to see if anyone is behind them as they walk out a door and then holding it open: POLITE!

Alison Krausse singing anything (except Shawn Colvin’s “I Don’t Know Why” - I wish she hadn’t): HEAVENLY!!

Corinne Bailey Rae: SNOOZEFEST!!!

Jill Sobule going from her first album Things Here Are Different, 1990, to Underdog Victorious, 2004: GODDESS!

People choosing James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” as a wedding song: ARE YOU HIGH?!?!

Getting an email from my favourite old boyfriend from High School simply because he went to see Suzanne Vega last night and thought of me: SWEET! (yes I still have the Tiffany Heart he gave me).

Getting an invite from a neighbour to watch “Weeds” even though she knows I have Showtime: THOUGHTFUL!

Neighbours who walk by and look in my apartment every time they walk by: ANNOYING! RUDE!!

Witnessing people at Halloween taking pictures of a really drunk or possibly dying guy whilst waiting for help to arrive: ONLY IN L.A.!! or WHAT’S THE WORLD COMING TO?

Construction guys yelling under my bedroom window at 7a six days a week: HATING!

10 million immigrants arriving in the United States since 2000: IMPRESSIVE! 5 million (out of 10 million) ILLEGAL immigrants arriving in the United States since 2000: WHAT?!?!?!?

People who want to give ‘amnesty’ to those illegal immigrants: OK! BUT NEXT TIME I RUN A YELLOW/RED LIGHT OR JAYWALK YOU BETTER LET ME GET AWAY WITH IT!

Deporting a Police Officer who, because he was an illegal immigrant took the identity of his dead, younger, legal, cousin so he could ‘serve’ the community: YEP! SO MUCH FOR UPHOLDING THE LAW YOU ARE SWORN TO KEEP! KIND OF DEFEATS THE PURPOSE, DOESN’T IT?

Julia Roberts chasing down a paparazzo for taking pictures of her at a school: YOU GO GIRL!!

George Clooney ripping the paparazzi a new one as they endangered his life while trying to take his picture: WAY TO GO!!!

The press saying the guy who walked into Hillary Clinton’s campaign office claiming to have a bomb strapped to his chest and taking hostages ‘may’ have been mentally ill: DOESN’T THAT GO WITHOUT SAYING?!?!?!?!

“Damages”, “The Closer”, “Rescue Me”, “Weeds”, “ER”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scrubs”, “30 Rock”, “Men In Trees”: BEST ON TV!

“The L Word”: THE WORST!

The movie “Love Actually”: UNDERRATED!!

The movie “Swingers”: OVERATED SNOOZEFEST!!

Hugh Grant, Terrence Howard, Jude Law, Christian Bale, Mary - Louise Parker, Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish, Anne Heche: DELICIOUS!

Ty Pennington, Tom Cruise, Mario Lopez: UGH!

Sean Taylor being killed: SENSELESS!



Dumping the over-rated Eli Manning from The New York Giants: NOW THERE’S A THOUGHT!

Christmas shopping: FUN!

Going home to New England for Christmas: CAN’T WAIT!!

And finally:

A guy named ‘Peterson’, a missing wife, him denying any involvement even though he can’t really explain how is last wife ended up dead: I’M NOT A COP BUT EVEN I KNOW HOW THIS ONE ENDS…GEE, CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT ‘48 HOURS MYSTERY’ DOES TO THIS ONE!

WHEW!!! Now I don’t have to wear anything on my sleeve…

Thanks for tuning in…Until next week…CHEERS!

26 November 2007

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time….

Forgive me for talking about James Taylor again this week. I’m not obsessed, really, but I think One Man Band is worth mentioning again.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun but tiring. After a day of visitors, including excellent wine brought over by my old friend, Sasha (also from Connecticut), and two games of scrabble with Abby and Rebecca, Friday was a time to settle in and not move. Abby and I spent the day inside, watched some TV and popped in the One Man Band DVD that came with the CD. Holy COW!!! What a treat!

As I mentioned last week we had gone to see him perform this show here in Los Angeles when he toured. That night was amazing and this DVD, Produced and Directed by Don Mischer, brought that home in more ways than one. First of all – who could think that you could recreate that night – but you can. The way it was filmed made you feel as if you were part of the audience, and not just a camera capturing the music and images of the evening. There were a lot of wide angle shots intermingled with some delicious close-ups but I never felt like a camera, instead I felt like a fly on the wall.

Thankfully Mr. Mischer did not use any cheap tricks and allowed the music and JT to speak for themselves. Where he could have brought the images that often played behind JT to the forefront, he instead allowed us to see them as someone in the third row would have seen them. Not using that production trick meant that I felt more involved in the ‘evening’ and less like I was watching typical concert footage. I felt that same way the first time I watched his 1993 release Squibnocket – a taped rehearsal on Martha’s Vineyard for his 1992 tour that was originally broadcast on The Disney Channel. Mr. Mischer also, thankfully, shied away from too many gratuitous audience shots that so many are guilty of. When I’m watching someone perform on a screen I don’t want to see annoying people singing along – I want to see the artist and their hands playing their instrument. There was, indeed, a healthy balance between the audience and JT.

While I admit since I had seen the concert first hand I may be slightly prejudicial towards liking this DVD, however, there is no denying that there was a magic to the evening that is definitely an art to recreate without making the viewer feel like an unwanted guest at a large party. Abby and I both felt that we were at the show again only with better seats and no noisy L.A. people on their cell phones.

The whole package of One Man Band, CD and DVD, is worth your hard earned cash. Sometimes there really is nothing better than an afternoon on the couch, shades drawn, candle lit, enjoying the passage of time.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next week…CHEERS!!

19 November 2007

If I’m well, you can tell that she’s been with me….

There are a ton of things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving week – there is much to be happy for, much to be celebrated, and much to look forward to. Life is good. But, life is better this week with the much anticipated release of James Taylor’s One Man Band CD/DVD - the live collection of songs that he recorded at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in the heart of my beloved Berkshires – a culmination of tunes from his first semi - solo tour in over thirty years (he is accompanied by Larry Goldings).

Not only does it remind me of the most amazing show Abby and I have ever seen together (this past February at The Wilshire Theatre – read my post from 26 Feb – “In my mind I’m gone to Carolina.”) but it is like listening to an old friend tell some new stories all the while taking me home. I’m not sure if I’m more homesick listening to this CD or if I’m comforted again that home is where my heart is. Home is New England and North Carolina. Home is with Abby and Phineas. Home is wherever my mind travels to when I get lost in the music. But no matter what or where – this CD is like going home.

There are of course the classic tunes to be heard here – “Something In The Way She Moves”, “You’ve Got A Friend” “Secret Of Life”, “Never Die Young”, "Sweet Baby James" (see below) and of course, my forever favourite “Carolina In My Mind”. It’s a definite must have for any fan, whether you’re meeting him for the first time or whether he defined your musical childhood. Frankly, it doesn’t matter that you think you’ve heard these songs a thousand times, and maybe you have, but no matter what - you’ve never heard them like this. This is music to be grateful for. Music to be inspired by. THIS is MUSIC. www.jamestaylor.com or www.myspace.com/officialjamestaylor

Thanks for tuning in….Until next week….Happy Thankgiving!......CHEERS!!

12 November 2007

Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade, Says something like you and me babe how about it ?

A love struck Romeo sings a streetsus serenade
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made
Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like you and me babe how about it?

Juliet says hey its Romeo you nearly gave me a heart attack
He’s underneath the window she’s singing hey la my boyfriends back
You shouldn’t come around here singing up at people like that
Anyway what you gonna do about it ?

Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start
And I bet and you exploded into my heart
And I forget the movie song
When you wanna realize it was just that the time was wrong Juliet?

Come up on different streets they both were streets of shame
Both dirty both mean yes and the dream was just the same
And I dreamed your dream for you and your dream is real
How can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?

Where you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of gold
You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold
You promised me everything you promised me think and thin
Now you just says oh Romeo yeah you know I used to have a scene with him

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above I’ll love you ‘till I die
There’s a place for us you know the movie song
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?

I can’t do the talk like they talk on T.V.
And I can’t do a love song like the way its meant to be
I can’t do everything but Id do anything for you
I can’t do anything except be in love with you

And all I do is miss you and the way we used to be
All do is keep the beat and bad company
All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme
Julie I’d do the stars with you any time

Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above Ill love you till I die
There’s a place for us you know the movie song
When you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong Juliet?

A love struck Romeo sings a streetsus serenade
Laying everybody low with me a love song that he made
Finds a convenient streetlight steps out of the shade
Says something like you and me babe how about it?

(care of: http://www.lyricsfreak.com and see the video below)

“Romeo and Juliet” – by Dire Straits - one of the most amazing and coolest songs ever written. Not only because of it’s sweetness but it’s literary depth and subversive ode to William Shakespeare, one of our greatest, most romantic writers ever. Need I say more?

Sometime nearly two weeks ago I had this idea that all the construction noise I wrote of last week was getting to me and that it was time to go camping to get out of the city. I needed some peace and quiet and so did Abby. Then she got sick. She’s still sick – or getting over the cold so we didn’t go last weekend as I had hoped. Then I got sick – some intestinal nastiness that I still don’t know what it was or where it came from all I know is it kept coming. The noise was still getting to me, especially after a LONG week on the couch, so this past Friday I psyched myself to get better, made some hummus, and drank nearly a bottle of Pepto. YUM!

After dressing for where we were heading and not where we woke up (a necessary skill to acquire whence living in an area where you can wake up in shorts and drive into a snow storm two hours later) we hit the road Saturday morning to head on up to Idyllwild – one of our favourite places to camp in the Southern part of this state. It was a beautiful drive on up the mountain to nearly 7,000 feet of elevation and a twenty degree temperature drop. We thought we were so awesome and ‘together’. I had put on a long sleeve shirt, t-shirt and brought a fleece for extra measure. I mean hey – we’re east coast folks – we know how to dress for a night in the 30’s. Right?

Yeah, right. Not so fast you city dweller. I mean seriously. Did you really LOOK at the temperature on the internet? Idiot. As we pulled up to our favourite campground, and Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet” played on my over-stuffed ipod, I stepped out of the car after the two hour drive and got slammed by the chill. No. I’m no wimp. I’m the girl who doesn’t mind walking around in snow with nary more than a thick fleece and a wool hat on. I’m the girl who thrives in the cold and hates the heat. I’m the girl who lives for this time of year and never turns the heat on. I love this shit. But I admit I was caught off guard. I hadn’t expected to feel the chill the way that I did. It’s different in the mountains – that’s for sure. Or it’s different when you haven’t eaten in a week.

After tooling around the campground we settled on a site that we had never stayed in. It was near the entrance of the park and not close to anyone but a large (as if there is any other kind) RV with an untold number of people inside. Our site was small, well protected by a stone wall and was just large enough for my small three season North Face tent (I’m not a label whore I assure you, but they make damn good crap and this tent has been in my life for no less than 12 years). As is my job when we camp – I set up the tent. It’s mine and I’ve been using it for too many years and too many trips – I can do it easily, in darkness, light and in any weather situation. We made our home for the night and hiked into town to walk around, people watch, window shop and to buy a much needed scarf to keep me warm.

Since there are no campfires allowed it was an early night in the tent. Scrabble, vodka, and bed – all by 9p. and thanks to the Pepto fourteen uninterrupted hours of getting to know my North Face sleeping bag as we tried to stay out of the chill and stay warm. I know what you’re thinking – really – they just make good shit and they stand by their product – so why not give them a shout-out? That bag has seen more places than most Americans and has been a very good friend to me for many, many years. North Face, when they aren’t making designer crap, actually makes really good camping gear.

Because of the early night – it was an early morning. Ah – the peace and quiet of the mountains, the fresh air, the chill in my bones as we ate our hummus breakfast and I drank my coffee cold because I was too lazy to fire up the stove. It was truly blissful. It reminded me that I need to camp to save my life. It’s not just some thing I do because it’s a cheap place to stay – it’s something my father taught me well to do and somewhere along the line it has become a life saver; a way to deal with living in a city and a way to clear my head.

Until the moment when the people in the RV fired up their noisy golf cart. To their small credit it was after 9a at the time. Ok – I get it – you’re going into town to get some coffee or a Sunday times (not NY I’m guessing) – I understand that not everyone wants to walk/hike or make any attempt to be a responsible consumer (they are sleeping in an RV so really what could I expect from them?). But what I saw was truly unbelievable and absolutely the worst of all “L.A.” behaviour I have ever witnessed. I thought I’d seen it all living here. People driving to the store that’s a block away – or spending too much time jockeying for a closer parking space for their Hummer. But really. This was too much.

As Abby and I watched through the trees and pontificated on why these guys would need their golf cart the answer slowly came to light. Ever so slowly. These two guys who could use a lot of help from Weight Watchers did not disappoint in pointing out the reasons why they are such fat asses. As they clutched their box of doughnuts (ok, I made that part up) they climbed into the golf cart that was decked out with mag wheels and a stereo (no I’m not making that up) and headed towards the entrance of the Park that was all 300 feet away. Just when we thought they were heading into town they turned the cart toward the bathroom. Yep. The bathroom. It was actually about 320 feet away. I’m not kidding. These lard sucking, grease loving lazy pieces of crap actually drove, I can only surmise, to take a crap. I’m guessing these are the guys who walk through life wondering why their pants, and other things, have gotten smaller. GEE, YA THINK?!?!?! Amazing. NOW I’ve seen it all.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next week….CHEERS!!!

04 November 2007

Baby I was not the one, I guess you know that now, but I kept you real distracted for awhile….

He’s the distinctive voice of Del Amitri and if you either know me personally or have been a loyal reader of this blog than you know they are one of my long-time favourite bands and Justin Currie can write no wrong. I can’t explain it, but there is something in his voice and his writing that has touched me deeply and kept me inspired as a writer for as long as I can remember.

I think it all dates back to the Del Amitri debut release, Waking Hours, with “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” in 1988 and came full force with 1992’s, Change Everything, from which came “Always The Last To Know”, “As Soon As The Tide Comes In” and my favourite, “Be My Downfall”. But the album that gets me the most and has shaped me more than any other is Twisted. There are too many great songs on this collection to list but I will mention one tune, a tune I actually dare to cover, “Tell Her This” (see the video below). The song in so many ways embodies how I am in my relationships (sad, I know), how I feel about the world and what I aspire to be as a songwriter – devastatingly honest – though when it comes down to it I can rarely open myself up to that level; I am not as brave as I should be and thusly fail miserably at being that songwriter. I am not Justin Currie, but I sure wish I were.

It is with great excitement that a couple of weeks ago I downloaded his solo release, What Is Love For? As with his work with Del Amitri these songs are personal, catchy and at times heart wrenching all the while being romantic and yet bitter like warm piss beer in a dirty pub. Though I think the title of the CD is lame, (the original title, Rebound, is far less cheesy), I can get past that and dive into the music. Because no one writes heartache like Justin Currie.

“What is love for? What do I do with love I can’t use for her anymore? Where do I put this beautiful suit another memoir? What is love for?” (from “What Is Love For?”)

“I’d love to hurt you without you ever knowing. I could desert you without you ever seeing me gone...” (from “Where Did I Go”)

“…but Only Love makes killing time so cruel. So many things that you must get ‘round to, a dripping tap amongst mail to sort through, if you could just get your mind to clear, but it’s Only Love and it keeps you waiting here….” (from “Only Love”)

“My keepsakes have their places at the back of drawer or slipped between pages and stuck on a shelf. But I’m still in love, I’m still in love, I’m still in love with nothing but myself…” (from “Still In Love”)

And my favourite song on this CD:

“When you dance and your baby’s dancing too, than I will walk through you…when you wake in the silence of your room than I will walk through you.” (from “Walking Through You”)

If you’re looking for a dance record, this is not it. The production values are more mellow pop/rock than hip, teenage one - hit - wonder dance crap. Of course, you have a lot of electric guitars, beautiful, haunting piano, drums and the occasional orchestral movement with harp-infused brilliance. Make no mistake, this is not a sleepy collection of tunes, this is music that enhances as opposed to drowning out the thought-provoking lyrics. If you turn your head you might think this is just another Del Amitri CD with less rock and less roll. That’s ok….he is afterall the main songwriter for a band that has reputedly broken up, or has it?

Either way, Justin’s voice shines clear and his point is never lost. Love sucks. It’s hard work. But we stick around because it takes us to places we can never go without it. Love is good. Love is in everyday places and no matter how you feel – you need it. Like that warm piss beer in a dirty pub and the woman you can’t drink away. www.myspace.com/justincurrie & www.delamitri.com

If you’ve been following my blog than you’ve heard me mention the decimation of this once-quaint nieghbourhood. In a few short years we’ve gone from homey, two story four-plexes to monstrous five story, double lot, thirty-five unit blocks of ugliness. Councilman Jack Weiss and The City of Los Angeles, seeing green and reportedly being bribed by developers, who also reportedly bribe the city inspectors, have told their constituents that they were ‘cracking down’ on over-development and hearing our complaints about more traffic, more smog, less available street parking, and thusly because of the thousands more people in the area, more noise. Bullshit. They have done nothing to slow anything down and in fact things seem to be speeding up.

It’s very sad to see this quiet neighbourhood disappearing and of course, being duped by that A-Hole Jack Weiss, makes all this sting even more. This is a man who came to our neighbourhood meetings (United Neighbors for Responsible Development), shook our hands, and promised us that he was ‘on our side’. He told us he was ‘listening’ to us, reading the traffic reports, the noise reports, and he would do everything he could to protect our way of life in this little corner of the city. Of course he never told us he was saying the same thing to the Developers.

He played us. Hard. Many people are very fed up and have made considerable efforts to effect change – of course, not the people who have moved in in recent years, but those of us who have lived here a long time and came here because of the quiet, ‘you’re not in a city’ feel to these few blocks of concrete that are nestled between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. I could go on and on but I won’t; if you’d like to read more about the efforts to rid our district of this scum-sucking, dumpster licking low life go to: www.recalljackweiss.com

The reason I bring all this is up is because I’m not just fed up with the noise and the dirt, I’m fed up because I’m tired of getting leered at by the construction workers every time I leave my house. It’s an odd thing. Don’t they have better things to do with their time, like, say, I don’t know, working, than ogle a woman as she goes by? Why, just the other day I hopped on my bike to run an errand and no less than three guys stopped what they were doing to watch me ride by – I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating. Where do they find the time? No wonder the building never seems to cease.

Now that it’s cooling down enough to run outside, and now that I’m not working and thusly running during the day, I actually have designed my run AROUND the many construction sites (there are no less than FIVE in a two block radius of here) that are currently on operation. I can’t believe I have to do this but to be honest, I don’t want to feel like I’m on display when I go out for a run. I don’t want to feel eyes on me.

The thing is, I never used to mind, but lately I do. As I feel that this area is being invaded by large machines, disgusting, trash-dropping, pissing in public loud music playing workers who yell all day I feel my nerves being pushed over the edge. I don’t find the attention of these guys flattering in the least. It’s an annoyance. I mean, it’s not like I’m the prettiest girl around, either. I can only imagine when a REAL pretty girl walks by. I mean it’s bad enough that guys shout at you from a car on occasion – and not always nice things, but to have to deal with this when you are just going about your business and doing your thing is a real pain in the ass and I can’t wait for this shit to slow down…if it ever does.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!

28 October 2007

There’s Fire in L.A. it burns at your feet, I try to keep moving…

All things considered I’m sure you’ll understand me using my own lyrics as today’s title. You see, they’re the only lines that come to mind. I know, I know, this is a blog I write to talk about and review other people’s music, not my own, though it’s not as if my friends have written reviews if my latest, NUMB, on itunes (not for lack of me asking, though should I really have to ask?). So I figure, since “Fire In L.A.” fits what’s going on this week here in La La Land, I might as well talk about it, even though it’s from an earlier CD of mine called Amanda’s Floor.

I wrote the song one day in the mid 90’s after walking around Harvard Square with my best friend Fritz and my girlfriend, Kristin. He was describing his time living in Los Angeles and the reasons he was thinking about moving back to New York. He actually said to me “I left so I could come back….” and so began the first lines of the song….

“I left so I could come back, it hits you when you’re not looking, there’s Fire In L.A., it burns at your feet, I try to keep moving. But there aint no bricks to build a life, no woman to be my wife, there’s no place like home. Tears evaporate before they hit my cheek, I can’t look anymore, despair on the streets, it’s just like home, but I can’t take the heat, cause there aint no bricks to build a life, no woman to be my wife, there’s no place like home ….”

I’m quite proud of this song. To be honest, it’s one of the few songs I’ve written entirely about someone else and their experiences. At the time I hadn’t even been to Los Angeles and I certainly wasn’t looking for a wife, well, neither was Fritz, but it made for a good line.

The day I was inspired to write this song was a very awesome, beautiful day. Fritz, who had gone to Brandeis and was no stranger to Harvard Square, had come up to Boston to say hello and meet Kristin on one of his few trips back east during his tenure in L.A.. It was a cool Fall day and we spent it walking around talking about life and where we were all going. Of course we discussed the pros and cons about Life In LA and when he was potentially making the move back home. As the three of talked and he got to know Kristin he was quite open about his feelings and his desires for the future.

I remember the moment I started to write the song. It was after lunch, liquid and food filled – I believe we ate at the late great Wurst House – and after a very long stroll we headed back to the car for the short ride back to Porter Square where Kristin and I were living. I was a few steps ahead of them as we neared the car which was parked on the corner of Harvard Square that leads to Central Square and Fritz’s words and feelings started to fill my brain. I knew I had something and I couldn’t wait to write it down. I damn near stayed silent for several minutes as I repeated the opening lines to myself a dozen times so I wouldn’t forget them.

Kristin drove us all home, I ran into the house and excused myself leaving her and Fritz to bond while I feverishly wrote down what I was afraid I’d forget. Not too long after getting those first lines down on paper I was pretty much done writing the lyrics. The music would come later, easily, and all in all I had a song that for the first time had nothing to do with me, or was some kind of silly love song. I was, and am, very proud of the song to this day. I believe it was a turning point for me in my journey to be a more complete writer…and of course I couldn’t have done it were it not for Fritz, his tales of woe, and our wonderful day in Harvard Square. If you’d like to check the song out I’ve posted it on myspace – you can even download it: www.myspace.com/laraschuler

So about those fires in L.A.; I’m sure you’d have to be living in a cave somewhere in the U.S. not to know that this region has been slammed with what will amount to a pretty nasty, and expensive fire season, culminating in one of the worst ‘disasters’ (I use quotes because some of these fires were set by arsonists and thusly while it’s horrible there’s something less disastrous when it isn’t nature causing the melee) in recent California history. Thankfully I don’t live anywhere too close to the fires. Living here in West Hollywood which is a neighbourhood couched between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the nearest fire is about ten/fifteen miles away and a HUGE hill/mountain keeps us from even seeing the fires. Needless to say I haven’t felt the affect the way others who were evacuated or had to reroute themselves did.

Not to say we haven’t felt it…the air quality has been downright horrible because the winds were blowing so strong fro much of the week (80 plus miles an hour at times) that the smoke made it’s way here, and how. The sunset looked more vibrant than ever, and my eyes and lungs feeling crappy are proof of that. Not that I’m complaining, because I’m not one of the thousands who have lost their homes. But even here we are not immune to it’s effects. The window’s have been kept closed, I’ve spent very little time outside and I worry about Phineas and how he might feel with his little kitty lungs (he spent most of the week under the bed where I’m sure the air quality was better). Basically, this is how I picture the 70’s to have looked and smelled here. ICKY.

All that being said – we are very lucky. Though I will say I’m deeply saddened at the thought that two of my favourite places in Southern California, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs, just may have been decimated. I’ve spent a lot of time up there and I feel very sad for the folks who lost their homes and livelihoods. There are a lot of nice people who live in that area, and it’s a truly beautiful place to spend time.

My thoughts are with all who have been affected by these fires. Though to be honest, I’m not rooting for the arsonists or the idiot construction workers who were working with a spark producing machine in high winds; those people can basically rot in hell for all I care. But the rest, I hope, are well taken care of in a way that will hopefully be good for all involved – or at least better than the victims of Katrina were (lets not drop the ball this time fellas). Maybe with all the money coming here to help these victims there will be less money to fund the war and will thusly force the powers that be to bring some troops home. We can only hope. Maybe something ‘good’ will come out of all this after all.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!

PS. GO RED SOX……3-0…..lets melt those Rockies!!

21 October 2007

The winner takes it all, the looser takes a fall...

Paying to talk to Dice K: 51 Million Dollars
Signing Dice K: 52 Million Dollars
Paying J.D. Drew to NOT hit all season and saving it all for the Playoffs:
70 Million Dollars over 5 years
Winning the Amercian League Championship after being down 3 games to 1: PRICELESS!!!!


Thanks for tuning in...Until next Sunday...CHEERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

14 October 2007

Now that you’ve found it it’s gone now that you feel it you don’t…

I’ll never get over the 1995 release The Bends. I know this. I accept it. I think it’s a brilliant album with one of my all time favourite songs ever – “High and Dry”. “….Drying up in conversation you will be the one who can not talk. All your insides fall to pieces, you just sit there wishing you could still make love…” The song gripped me the first time I heard it too many years ago on a Boston area radio station (probably WXRV) and it’s never let go of me. BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not open to new Radiohead material. It just means that The Bends is hard to top in my book.

It is with open arms and an open ear or two that I listen to their newest release, In Rainbows. I have to say I’m not in love with the first two tracks “15 Steps” and “Bodysnatchers” . I’m not sure why but I think I’m missing some melodic point. These two songs lack for me the thing I like most about Radiohead – their ability to create a mood and an atmosphere that few can ever achieve. Not that I’m against trying new sounds – but the reason I go back to them is for that rainy Sunday morning October feel. When I listen to them it’s as if I’m back on Willow Avenue in Porter Square wrapped up in a blanket reading my latest greatest favourite book.

Once the song “Nude” gets playing (today’s title quote - see video below)) – assuming you listen in order – which I always do the first few times so I can really understand what the artist is saying since order is so well thought out – I feel the guys from Oxfordshire are up to their old tricks. THIS is the stuff I like. THIS is the reason I go back to them. In Rainbows does not disappoint the long-time listener. The whole CD is rife with intelligent lyrics, Thom Yorke’s ethereal, sometimes sad voice, and if you stick it out until the last song, “Videotape” will leave you feeling as if you are in the studio with these guys witnessing the recording of the next great soundtrack for an English-made film. It’s the parting shot, the London Bridge is in the background and our heroine has just tossed her wedding ring into the River Thames.

In the interest of full disclosure I did not pay for In Rainbows. Abby paid for it – 5 pounds 45 I believe and she shared it with me as we often do. What Radiohead is doing – allowing their fans to choose the price they want to pay for the download – I think is very cool. The record industry is in a sad state of affairs these days and part of it I believe is that the few remaining places to actually BUY a CD charge too much for a piece of plastic that essentially costs under a dollar to mass produce (or with marketing/packaging etc maybe costs under $5.00 total) . No wonder no one wants to pay $18.99 for a new release.

Radiohead has been around a long time. They don’t really need the cash at this point – how many mansions does a guy need, afterall? But what they are doing is about freedom. Freedom from a record label, freedom from financial expectations, freedom to do whatever the hell they want, how they want and the freedom to know that their fans will follow. And pay. Many have paid from what I’ve seen. It’s the honour system they are relying on. They understand that for every person that pays a healthy rate there will be someone who pays less, or nothing and that’s ok with them. The point is to get their music out there – not make people feel that they’ve been raped by the band or the guys in suits who need to pay their child support off of a band’s successful CD. Good for them.

As for music sharing – well – that’s been around a LONG time – probably since our parents were kids and the ability to tape vinyl became mainstream. I’m all for it – to a point. However, sites like limewire go too far. Or the people on it do. There is a woman in Minnesota who just this week was ordered to pay $222,000 to six record companies for illegal music sharing. If you ask me she got what she deserved, or not enough.

I know I know – I may get some hate comments about this but I don’t care. You know – share a few songs here and there, or a CD now and again – but to give away over 1700 songs I think takes ‘sharing’ to a whole other level. She doesn’t own the music – the ARTIST owns the music. If an artist wants to give away their music – I think that’s awesome….and if the people who got the song for free give it away – great! But to take such egregious liberties with music you did not write, record, or otherwise have anything to do with making borders on some kind of moral thievery. Share and share alike but exercise some kind of restraint. Give a thought to the artist who slaved over writing a song, paid for studio time, and or otherwise whored themselves out to a record company to get their music made. You have a career that pays your bills – so do these folks. Think about it. Don’t over share.

Ok – time to get off this horse….y’all know how I feel and I hope to keep feeling it. Time to go watch some football and relax.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!

07 October 2007

I believe right now if I could I would swallow you whole, I would leave only bones and teeth, we could see what was underneath and we would free then

If your first impression of Suzanne Vega was the hit song, “Luka”, from her sophomore album, Solitude Standing, than I highly suggest you check out her freshman release, Suzanne Vega. I believe it is one of the best releases of the last twenty years, well, twenty two to be exact. It’s hard to believe that the music that changed my life is that ‘old’ well – sort of ‘old’- I guess it’s all perspective since you still hear The Beatles on the radio. So – what is ‘old’? I’m not sure but this week I wanted to share with you what I believe to be some of the greatest lines ever written. A few of the lines that follow are words I have lived by since I first got my hands on the CD and some are just cool lines I’ve rediscovered whilst writing this blog this morning. Either way, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and I hope you check out the CD, or, have a long-overdue 1000th listening….

“It’s a one time thing, it just happens a lot” – track 1 – “Cracking”

“You stand with your hand in your pocket and lean against a wall, You will be Bogart and I will be Becall” – track 2 – “Freeze Tag”

“Even if I am in love with you all this to say what’s it to you?…And I tried so hard to resist when you held me in your handsome fist and reminded me of the night we kissed and why I should be leaving, Marlene watches from the wall, her mocking smile says it all as she records the rise and fall of every man who’s been here…” – track 3 – “Marlene On The Wall”

“Today I am a small blue thing…” – track 4 – “Small Blue Thing”

“There’s a sound, across the alley of cold metal touching skin and you can see if you look in her window that she has gone and cut her hair again, in straight lines…” – track 5 – “Straight Lines”

“I believe right now if I could…” – track 6 – “Undertow”

“We talk and talk and tell the truth, there are no shadows here…” – track 7 – “Some Journey”

“And he said ‘I want to live as an honest man, to get all I deserve and to give all I can and to love a young woman who I don’t understand, your highness, your ways are very strange’” – track 8 – “The Queen and The Soldier”

“And if you wonder what I am doing as I am heading for the sink, I am spitting out all the bitterness along with half of my last drink, I am thinking of your woman who is crying in the hall, it’s like drinking gasoline to quench a thirst, until there’s nothing there left at all” – track 9 – “Knight Moves”

“I am just walking through the smoke, finding out if this is it, because I’ve got this feeling that things are going grey, and I’d like to hear a straight line to help me find my way” – track 10 “Neighborhood Girls”

I can’t remember specifically when I last saw my dear friend Sabrina. It may have been our last night of work at our local Chinese restaurant, Mr. Lee’s. It was there, every Wednesday night, that she gushed as she flirted with David Letterman when he picked up his weekly take-out order. I can’t be sure, but I do know that I have missed our friendship all these years; her witty, intelligent banter and her doe-eyed blonde cynical view on the world. Back then I wasn’t sure why were friends - we seemed an unlikely pair. She had big, fluffy hair and was as preppy as you can get. Me – I was the musician with my black clothes and my artistic bent playing my guitar every chance I got.

Now as I reflect on that time I get it. I understand why we were friends. It was her witty, intelligent banter and her doe-eyed blonde cynical view on the world. It makes sense now as I recall how my stomach ached so hard from laughing at her world - from - a - bubble observations. How did we, two kids from a very uptight, Republican, old money town, escape with our humour and creativity intact? I have no idea. But I think it was because of friends (and neighbours) like her. I think no matter what age you are you find those that you relate to – you may not always know why – and you stick together. You muddle through, you lean, you stand up strong.

Sabrina found me yesterday. I checked my email (something I don’t always do on a Saturday because of all the time I spend on the computer during the week) and through the wonders of the internet and all of the networking sites out there she was right there in my inbox. It was wild. It was cool. It was shocking. There are a lot of people from my small home town that I remember but I’m never sure if they remember me – or would even care. She was one of those people.

When I reflect on our friendship why I ever doubted whether she would even think of me I’m not sure. I think it’s because I’ve been spurned when I’ve reached out to people from the past so I basically stopped doing it awhile ago. I’m very easy to find on the internet and if someone wants to find me they can so I leave it at that knowing if someone wants to find me I’ll be all too happy to be in touch with them.

I always wondered what happened to Sabrina, and I always wondered why we lost touch. I have no answers to that but when I looked at her networking page on Facebook (where she found me and my two other friends because I’m new to the site) I was pleasantly shocked to see that listed as her favourite quote was “I believe right now if I could I would swallow you whole…” It happens to be one of my favourite quotes of all time. Funny. Odd. Very cool. Yeah – we were meant to be friends way back when and I’m thinking we are meant to be friends again. Maybe when you find those people the ties never break – they may weaken because you loose touch – but I don’t think they ever break. Clearly.

By the way, did I mention we used to be neighbours (again) here in Los Angeles? Yep. She lived a few blocks away and I never knew it until this morning. She’s in Amsterdam these days, but thanks to the internet I’m guessing she’ll still feel like a neighbour. Now – if it were only Wednesday night at a Chinese restaurant the circle might be even more complete. Thanks for finding me, Sabrina, I’m awfully glad you did!

Thanks for tuning in...Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!

30 September 2007

If I had a heart I’d cry…

I don’t think you can be a musician and not like Joni Mitchell. It’s like being German and not liking mustard, or being Russian and not liking your family’s Borscht. You can’t be one and not be a part of the other. You don’t have to LOVE but you like, you appreciate, and you applaud a good batch when it happens. Such is the case for me. I’m a musician, I really dig Joni Mitchell, but I don’t love her the way others do. In fact, this week I let Abby choose the title lyric for today’s blog. She LOVES Joni and everything Joni.

On Tuesday, new music release day, Abby ran to our local Starbucks and picked up Shine. It’s the latest, and long overdue, 10 years (since she wrote her last song before being inspired to write Shine) in the making album from one of the greatest singer songwriters ever born. Say what you will about Starbucks, and I have, but you have to give them credit for doing some good in the lame music industry. Clearly they, or rather, Hear Music, the Starbucks record label, said all the right things to get Joni to come out from her official or unofficial retirement and release some new work. If you ask me – it was worth the coaxing, and the wait.

Shine is everything you expect it to be. Jazz - influenced, moody, smokey voiced songs that sound as relevant now as they would have 40 years ago and 40 years from now. What I mean is, with age her talent has not waned. She is timeless and so is her work. This is particularly evident in her remake of her classic “Big Yellow Taxi” – a song that was ruined for me by that horrible remake a few years ago by The Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton. EW on so many levels. I’d like to shoot the Producer who thought that was a good idea. Thank god Joni remade this song and has thusly reclaimed the tune as her own once again. Some songs should never be remade except by the original artist.

One of my favourites of this collection is “Shine” – the title track. “Shine on world-wide traffic jams, honking day and night, Shine on another asshole passing on the right.” Not since Harry Chapin has an artist used the word ‘asshole’ with such reverence. Of course that’s not the only song or line that she wrote that reflects the modern world around her. Nearly every piece addresses some kind of issue or observation on the state of the world. Not to say this is a preachy CD – far from it – Joni is never preachy, merely more adept than others at shining a soft light, as opposed to a 1000 watt spotlight on any topic. She makes you think without you realizing you’re doing it. Much like Natalie Merchant or Suzanne Vega have done with their work. Clearly they have been influenced, and justly so. There are worse people to model your songwriting style around.

If you ask me, and while I don’t own everything she’s done, I may not be the person to ask, I’d say this CD is the bomb. Since I’m not a HUGE fan, but I am Russian and I like or rather, love, my family’s Borscht, I may not get as obsessed with this new work as I did say, with Blue, or the Once soundtrack – but I know every time I hear it I’ll enjoy every minute. I think you will too.

It’s week four of the 2007/2008 football season. Once again I’m faced with a disappointing Sunday. For some unknown reason we get the crappiest games shown out here which I’ll never understand. If it weren’t for the Sunday game of the week on NBC I wouldn’t even be tuning in today. I admit I didn’t grow up watching football – my family being European meant they cared only about Tennis and Soccer. Not the worst sports to watch, but I can’t claim some lifelong obsession with the game that others, like my best friend Fritz, can claim so maybe I have no right to complain. BUT I have been watching football since I was hanging out with Rugby players back in Boston more than 10 years ago so I feel I have a right to express my disappointment with the Sunday coverage.

Someone please explain to me why with so many people living in Los Angeles that come from other places, and no home football team that we are shown games like ‘Raiders at Dolphins’ this morning with no afternoon game to follow? Do the programming execs think that people in Southern California care about The Oakland Raiders who play over 400 miles north of here? Give me a break!! I get showing the San Diego Chargers since we could easily go to a game – but the Raiders? Who wants to see the near-dead Daunte Culpepper throw some lame passes? Show me Brett Favre surpassing Dan Marino’s all-time TD record. THAT’S newsworthy and certainly deserved to be seen out here.

I think, like the oil companies who bought the Los Angeles Railway system in the early 1960’s only to dismantle it and force people to drive, that this is a conspiracy to help the local bars/pubs and the state economy. If they don’t show the games we want, we’ll all go spend our hard-earned cash at say, Barney’s Beanery, that is, if we can even get a seat since not many bars around here show games. They force people into the public places, crowd us in, encourage us to drink at 10a and then around 12.30p the cops stand by waiting to give a ticket to the dumb-ass who thought that it was ok to drink and drive on a Sunday – the holy day of Football. I don’t know about you but something sure does seem fishy about all this and maybe if I had a heart I’d cry about it. But alas, I’ll do something more productive with my day and wait until tonight when, I hope, The Giants kick some Eagle butt.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!

23 September 2007

Take this sinking boat and point it home we’ve still got time…

I’m not sure this week whether I’m talking about the film, Once, from whence today’s title song, “Falling Slowly” came or whether I’m talking about the soundtrack, so you’ll forgive me if this blog doesn’t make sense this week. You see, it’s very hard to discern one from the other since the music in the film is so much a part of the dialogue of the characters as well as echoing the feel of the city of Dublin, Ireland where Once takes place. You can’t talk about one without the other, or at least I can’t. Perhaps this is what makes it one of the more incredibly entwined soundtracks I’ve ever ‘seen’, quite literally.

If someone had told me this film was classified as a musical I would have scoffed and said – ‘no way am I going to see a musical – I hate musicals…’. However, a few months ago as I was listening to XM Radio on my TV, I heard “Falling Slowly”. My first thought, as I listened to the cadence of Glen Hansard’s singing and the way the song was written/produced was that it was a new track from Damien Rice. After I listened more closely I realized, no this is something new, deeply gripping, and pretty amazing. As the song drew to a close I hit the ‘info’ button and it showed that it was Glen Hansard (of the Irish band the Frames) and Marketa Irglova from the soundtrack to Once. WHO? WHAT? WOW! As I kept hearing the song played on XM Radio I enjoyed it more and more but then life took me away and it wasn’t until they sang on David Letterman on 10 Sept that I decided I had to see the film.

Abby being the music lover she is immediately after seeing them on Letterman downloaded the soundtrack off of itunes. Thankfully, with a guest in town last weekend, I didn’t have time to listen to it but once (forgive the pun). Odd you might think that I could be so in love with a song and not listen to it a ton of times but I really was busy and I’m glad for that.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the perfect day. It rained cats and dogs, the sun would shine, then it would rain again. As Abby and I ran around the city doing errands and getting caught in the rain our treat was going to be walking up to the local indy film theatre (Leammle’s Sunset 5) to see Once. You couldn’t ask for a better time to see this film. It was chilly, moody and the city, for as much as it can, had a romantic air about it. We settled into our seats and prepared ourselves to really like the film. We were wrong though, we ended up both really loving it.

I don’t want to give anything away. This film is too perfect to want to ruin it by talking about scenes in the film that were moving or particularly touching. I will say that Glen Hansard is the very handsome and talented love child of Cat Stevens/Yusuf and Damien Rice. This is evident in the first frames of the film where we see him on a sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon strumming his very old beaten up Takemine and singing the songs he thinks a passerby wants to hear – namely Van Morrison. We find out later that as night falls he sings and plays the songs his soul wants to play – the songs he wrote that give him life and give his broken heart a place to rest.

Guy meets Girl and you have a film that is hard to describe, easier to feel. He is the older love - weary guy living in his childhood bedroom, she’s a young immigrant and talented songwriter who doesn’t know it yet. It’s not a love story, that would be too easy, and love is never easy as is evident as the film unfolds. It’s not a musical, but the songs are part of a subtext of dialogue that have their own life and breathe in this film (the songs were written by both Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – writing partners and a real life couple who recorded the 2006 album Swell Season). We all have our stories, our paths and our history that we carry with us wherever we go and with whomever we meet. Basically, Guy meets Girl and the rest is an amazing film.

Maybe it was the rain, the fluffy, intensely grey clouds and the unusually awesome 65 degree New England Fall - like feel of a city that is normally 95 degrees and terribly ugly in September. Maybe after hearing one song I knew I would love this film. I don’t know – but I do know that all these factors made me feel as if I was in a dreary, chilly, intensely grey clouded Dublin – a fly on the wall of these people’s lives that I got to witness and feel as much as they did.

Which came first? The script or the songs? I don’t know and I can’t figure it out from my research. No matter. Because no matter what for as much as I want you to go buy the soundtrack I think I want you to see the film first. Allow yourself to hear these songs as they are in the film. Allow yourself to feel the songs as you hear the intertwined dialogues of the characters speaking and the characters singing. I think this is the best way to understand both and fully understand whatever your heart feels as you watch these fine pieces of work unfold, hand in hand.

Like me, you may find yourself unsure of whom you relate to most – the young Czech girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders or the thirty-something year old struggling artist. It’s been fifteen hours since I walked out of the theatre and I still don’t know. All I know is I’m still haunted by this film and these characters. As the sun shines brightly this morning in Los Angeles, I still feel like I’m in Dublin, falling slowly.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!!

16 September 2007

And I know where you live, and I know who you are, don’t get too close and don’t go too far…

You will forgive me for talking about Shawn Colvin again this week. I know, I know, I mentioned her last week after my trip to Santa Barbara where I bought her latest CD, These Four Walls. While I had a listen to it on the way back to LA it was only a passing listen in a noisy top up convertible going 80 miles an hour – hardly the time to really HEAR the music – but just enough to know I would enjoy a real sit-down with it. Boy did I ever.

I’m a little obsessed right now. It started Wednesday morning when I hopped in Abby’s VW Cabrio, Hamish, to avoid having to park my 12 year old Cherokee in a neighbourhood behind work that has street cleaning. A small car means I might be able to fit into the last available all day space and avoid another ticket. While driving my car, The Big Red Onion (named after my favourite bar, and former brothel, in Alaska) I listen to my old shuffle since my changer is way in the back and hard to access when parked in my garage. Since I was driving her car I thought I would take advantage of the easy to access in dash CD player. I pulled a couple of CD’s to listen to that would get me through my 25 minute each way commute – one was These Four Walls.

I had every intention of listening to another CD, I swear I did, but it never happened. For 3 days straight all I wanted to hear was Shawn’s voice. This might be one of her best pieces of work ever. I think her having a kid, not writing for three years and the general process of getting older really shaped the sounds and phrases of this CD; it’s a journey she takes you on down a river of time that far outreaches four walls.

Her narrative consists of truthfulness, honesty, admissions of childhood abuse, and tomboy toughness as evidenced in the song “Tuff Kid”. She writes “my momma had me, but she didn’t get me, I guess I broke her at the age of 5, my Daddy hit me, but he couldn’t quit me, we showed each other how to feel alive…” She takes the good with the bad and clearly knows how to forgive and love those around her – and write a damn good song while she’s at it.

In “Summer Dress” we hear the fond reminiscence of a young girl setting out on her own to face the world leaving the comforts of Carbondale, Illinois to follow her dreams. “I put on my finest Summer Dress, so light and thin it was my best, I brushed my hair I held my breath I went out to face the wilderness, I went out to face the wilderness. The men in hats the boys on bikes, the perfect girls, the baby dykes, the superstars the blighted ones, I went out to face them one by one, I went out to face them one by one. Goodbye MaryAnne, as you turn to watch me, don’t cry MaryAnne, and don’t try to stop me…” Yes, on paper, this could remind you of Nanci Griffith’s “There’s a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)” but in reality I think at some point in all of our writing processes we write a song like this. If we haven’t – we should.

I could go on and on singing the praises of this fine CD and believe me when I tell you it’s hard to stop writing about it. From the first song, today’s title tune, “Fill Me Up” to the very last desert like special – her cover of the Bee Gees “Words” (it is as if we have been treated to a surprise live performance - using just guitar and voice in it’s simplicity is quite simply brilliant and adds some credence to what I once thought of as a cheesy song) you wont be disappointed. You may even become obsessed, wanting more – like a movie you don’t want to end. At the very least you will be glad you spent your hard earned cash. www.shawncolvin.com or www.myspace.com/shawncolvinmusic

I have an old friend in town, Laura, we’ve been friends forever like Shawn and MaryAnne and I’m going to get going here. Yesterday I took her to Santa Barbara so she could touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time – today we’re staying closer to home and heading out to Santa Monica…..but it’s time to hang with her so I’m taking off…y’all have a great week!!!

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!!

09 September 2007


I’m gonna be here for you baby,
I’ll be a man of my word,
Speak the language in a voice you have never heard

I wanna sleep with you forever,
And I wanna die in your arms
In a cabin by a meadow where the wild bees swarm

And I’m gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I’ll earn your trust making
Memories of Us

I wanna honor your Mother
I wanna learn from your Pa
I wanna steal your attention like a bad outlaw

I wanna stand out in a crowd for you
A man among men
I wanna make your world better than it’s ever been

And I’m gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I’ll earn your trust making
Memories of Us

We’ll follow the rainbow
Wherever the four winds blow
And there’ll be a new day
Comin’ your way
I’m gonna be here for you from now on
This you know somehow
You’ve been stretched to the limits but it’s allright now

And I’m gonna make you a promise
If there’s life after this
I’m gonna be there to meet you with a warm wet kiss

And I’m gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I’ll earn your trust making
Memories of Us

Written by Rodney Crowell

This song, “Memories Of Us” from Keith Urban’s 2004 release, Be Here, is I think one of the most romantic songs written in the last few years. While I don’t consider myself a country music fan, I do, on occasion find my ear latching on to a tune or two and feeling touched by the message or the melody. I think mostly it’s Keith Urban. His mix of rock/pop infused country music of late is what keeps me listening.

Yesterday Abby and I took a little birthday road trip up to Santa Barbara. No, it’s wasn’t to go to Oprah’s shindig for Barak Obama. Maybe if it had been for Hillary Clinton or John Edwards I would have wanted to go. This was a way to celebrate my birthday that fell on Thursday in a way that was fun and allowed us time to spare (yes, Thursday morning/night was awesome, but I did have to work in between). It was a ton of fun, not crowded and we did our usual lunch/dinner, shopping, beach/jetty walking and even managed to walk by a wedding in progress while listening to a High School football game over a loud speaker which was kind of cool and odd at the same time.

One of the coolest things about Santa Barbara besides easy access to kayak rentals, tasty seafood, and Santa Barbara Outfitters is Morning Glory Music right on State Street. I can’t walk around that town without stopping and loading up on used CD’s. In addition to new normal priced CD’s they always have cool stuff on sale – some CD’s go as low as $1.99. It’s easy to spend a ton of money there though I did resist spending too much.

While I did my usual ‘pick up a bunch of CD’s and then wander around contemplating whether I ‘need’ them or not’, or whether I’ve heard too much of something to want to own it at this point I did manage to spend under $23.00. It was my attempt at fiscal prudence that saved me from purchasing everything I laid my hands on. It was hard, but I managed to walk out of there with only three carefully chosen CD’s.

The first CD I practically ran into the store hoping they would have used and to pick up was Shawn Colvin’s latest, These Four Walls. The CD was everything I hoped it would be and more. She (and co-writer John Levanthal, Rosanne Cash’s hubby) is a songwriting goddess, she’s beautiful and she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met (see my entry from 23 Oct. 2006 entitled “Do You Believe in a Lover or just the curve of the word?” for more on that). While it was not as cheap as other CD’s I could have bought, at $9.99 it was better than downloading it from itunes. You see, I love reading liner notes – they enhance the experience for me - you just don’t get that when you hit a button and the music appears effortlessly.

The second CD, Keith Urban’s above-mentioned Be Here, was a no brainer because of “Making Memories of Us”. This would be the song I would play if Abby and I were playing our ‘why I bought this CD’ listening game which we play every time we buy new stuff. Last night, however – we just popped in the CD and kept listening on the hour and a half drive home – playfully pointing out the songs, but it’s not the same as sitting on the living room floor in front of the CD player. While not all of the Cd is my flavour – it does get a little too country for me at times – I’m certainly glad I bought it.

The third CD was, speaking of country, Vince Gill’s Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye. Why? Because it was $1.99 and why the hell not?

Overall it was a great, fun day. Unlike last weekend where it was too hot to move/think or write my blog, this weekend we are at a very tolerable and fan-only temp which is how I like it. I actually woke up chilled this morning. But that’s cool with me – and it’s how I like it.

On another note – RIP Pavarotti – you were a force to be reckoned with and truly once in a lifetime talent. I will miss you. No doubt you were greeted by many of my late family members when you reached those pearly gates of heaven.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!! Now it’s time to really watch my New England Patriots….HAPPY FIRST SUNDAY OF FOOTBALL SEASON, ALL…

26 August 2007

After all the foolish things you put me through I can always make a start of something new and I’ll always be a man who’s open to Persuasion….

duet |d(y)oōˈet| |d(j)uˌɛt| |djuːˌɛt|
noun - a performance by two people, esp. singers, instrumentalists, or dancers.
• a musical composition for two performers.
verb ( duetted |d(j)uˌɛdəd|, duetting |d(j)uˌɛdɪŋ|)
[ intrans. ] perform a duet.
duettist |d(j)uˌɛtəst| noun
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Italian duetto, diminutive of duo ‘duet,’ from Latin duo ‘two.’

I was thinking the other day of all the people who have sung duets together over the years. I’ve always thought that the right pairing of voices can elevate a song to another, higher level. It can be down right heavenly when the energy of the two people, the music and the words all come together. Like a fine plate of true southern biscuits and gravy there can be nothing better.

This week I thought it would be fun to share with you all my list of top 21 duets of all time. In addition, for good measure, I came up with a top 10 wish list; the duets I would produce if I were a famous producer and could have anyone I wanted for a week. Here you go (in some kind of order starting with my all time favourite):

1) Richard and Teddy Thompson: “Persuasion”
1A) Placido Domingo and John Denver: "Perhaps Love"
2) Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter: “One Cool Remove”
3) Jules Shear and Paula Cole: “The Last in Love”
4) Jane Siberry and kd lang: “Calling All Angels”
5) Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush: “Don’t Give Up”
6) Nanci Griffith and Tanita Tikaram: “It’s Too Late”
7) Sonny and Cher: “I Got You Babe”
8) Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow: “What You Give Away”
9) Melissa Etheridge and Joan Osborne: “Bring Me Some Water”
10) Don Henley and Stevie Nicks: “Leather and Lace”
11) Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris: “If This Is Goodbye”
12) Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joe Diffie: “Not Too Much To Ask”
13) Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow: “Cruisin’”
14) James Taylor and Carly Simon: “Mockingbird”
15) Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina: “House At Pooh Corner”
16) Roseanne and Johnny Cash: “September When It Comes”
17) Dido and Eminem: “Stan”
18) The Corrs and Bono: “When The Stars Go Blue”
19) Carol King and Louise Goffin: “Where You Lead (I Will Follow)”
20) Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”

Abby’s Honourable Mention:
Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley: “Whiskey Lullaby”

My “if I were a famous producer” wish list:
1) Elvis Costello and Sarah Mclachlan: “Tramp The Dirt Down”
2) Suzanne Vega and Mat Kearney: “The Queen and The Soldier”
3) Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter: “Passionate Kisses”
4) David Gates and Deborah Harry: “Goodbye Girl”
5) Colin Hay and Aimee Mann: “Beautiful World”
6) David Mead and Dave Matthews: “Indiana”
7) Peter Himmelman and Amy Ray: “Shilo”
8) Luka Bloom and Kate Bush: “I Need Love”
9) Jackie Green and KT Tunstall: “Marigold”
10) Michael Stipe and Regina Spektor: “Everybody Hurts”

Abby’s Honourable Mention:
Joni Mitchell and Alexi Murdoch: “Shadows and Light”

I hope you enjoyed this list, I realize that Mary Chapin Carpenter comes up a lot and to be honest, I’m not sure why – maybe because she’s pretty amazing no matter what she sings or who she sings it with.

It was a really great week; my last week of free time. I watched as much baseball as was on – I ran my errands and spent too much money. I took myself out to lunch nearly every day. I went to the gym, went running in the cooler mornings and generally enjoyed my time.

Tomorrow begins a new phase. A new job. A new sense of purpose. I am one of those people who gets more done when I’m busy. I write more when I have less time on my hands and I play more; I feel more creative because more parts of my brain are being used and after feeling a bit NUMB lately I need the stimulation.

While it might be odd at first being the only chick in the office I think it will be cool. I like my boss and I like that they love my diverse background. I think it will be a great fit and I’m so excited to get in with a new company. You have more of a chance of making a difference when you are aren’t fighting people who have been somewhere too long as was the case when I worked at the studio. These guys are young, creative and really love their work. So will I.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!!

20 August 2007

Something’s Gotta Blow when you work so hard and the sweat pours down on you….

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the Blues. I mean to say that while I’ll listen and I understand the historical musical relevance in the same way I understand Rap, I don’t choose to play the Blues or beyond Eric Clapton give too much time to listening to it. When I heard that Joan Armatrading was putting out a Blues record, aptly entitled Into the Blues, I was curious, and excited. This woman could slurp her soup and I’d clap. Ever since High School, thanks to Lauren Marano and Rachel Murdy who turned me on to her, I’ve been a fan. However, despite this, I wasn’t so sure I’d like this CD.

She’s been around since the early 70’s and this, her 18th album, is her first CD of new material since her 2003 release, Lovers Speak. Some of the songs on it, like “A Woman in Love” are not as bluesy as one would expect but are rather truer to her sense of jazz/pop influenced singing and songwriting. The same is true of the exciting tune “Something’s Gotta Blow”- it has a lot of energy, a lot of power and is very jazzy/rock-like. It even has some cool overlaying of her voice that is really kind of trippy and overall it’s a very catchy song. I really dig this tune! I think it’s my favourite on this whole CD.

Other songs, like the title track “Into the Blues”, “Empty Highway” and “Allright” are true to the form of Blues. Heavy on the guitar licks, slower moving, kind of sad and thoughtful. It’s easy to envision a smoke filled room, lots of old Gibson guitars being played, and an old stand-up piano for good measure. Don’t forget the whiskey.

According to Wikipedia Ms. Armatrading says this is "the CD I’ve been promising myself to write for a long time". I think she has served herself, and her fans well. There is something on this album for everyone – true Blues fans will appreciate it, and her loyal fans will groove on it as well. No matter what she does she is the one and only Joan Armatrading: singer/songwriter, jazz influenced, rock and roll pop/folk artist. However she does it it all comes together and it sounds amazing! www.joanarmatrading.com and www.myspace.com/joanarmatrading

I’m not really sure what to talk about this week. It was one of those weeks that started off like any other. Unemployed, blue, trying to stay out of the sweltering 95 degree heat and contemplating how I would move back east if I didn’t find a job very soon. I had two job interviews – the first job I didn’t really want was at a recording studio (no money and well, I’m significantly overqualified). The other job I ended up wanting.

I went into my second interview as usual a little apprehensive. I had done my research and this advertising agency seemed like a very buttoned up kind of place. Not my style but I’ll go anyway (after working at the studio I don’t ever want to have to wear nice clothes to work unless for a special occasion). It goes to show you that websites can be deceiving. This place was funky, creative, the owner was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and I thought – Wow. VERY COOL!!! I really liked the place. This was Wednesday. I got offered the job Thursday. I took it. Life is good.

After a near –perfect weekend (the only thing that would have made it perfect would have been a rain storm and 70 degree weather) I’m spending this week hanging out and enjoying my last few days of freedom. There are baseball games to be watched, errands to run and money to spend now that I’ll have more of it at my disposal. Don’t worry – not too much – just some things I haven’t allowed myself to buy lately.

As I sit here sweating while typing I’m reminded of the fact that I didn’t move here for the weather. This is not my idea of fun. I don’t like the sun very much, I don’t like the heat because it forces me to stay inside and I don’t like bathing in sunblock when I need to go outside. But such is life and I’m glad to be alive, so I’ll deal while the sweat pours out of me and enjoy my time. I’m lucky to be where I am, to have what I have and I’m grateful for my time.

What does this mean for this blog? The blog I started because I had a lot of time on my hands and needed a creative outlet outside of music? It means I’ll likely post on Sunday’s. It may mean shorter posts, but hopefully it means more interesting stories as I navigate new waters in my life. Yeah – I’ll still try and push NUMB on the world but a girl’s gotta make a living (and pay off NUMB)!

Thanks for tuning until...Until next Sunday?...CHEERS!!!

13 August 2007

I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK, Good Morning, Good Morning….

As a musician, writer, and Beatles fan I would be remiss if I did not, in this forum, mention the 40th anniversary of the release (1 June 1967) of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of the album John Lennon once said: “[Sgt. Pepper] is one of the most important steps in our career. It had to be just right. We tried, and I think we succeeded in achieving what we set out to do. If we hadn’t, then it wouldn’t be out now.” (“The Beatles Anthology” [page 252] Copyright  Apple Corps Ltd. 2000)

I was not alive when this historical album was released. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 6 or 7 years old when we were living in Charlotte, North Carolina that, thanks to a neighbour who had his hands on copies of ‘The Blue and Red’ albums that I became conscious, or rather, mildly obsessed with The Beatles. Before too long tennis rackets became guitars, and we all jumped around on a waterbed pretending to be the band while listening to the albums. I played Paul, my friend played John and whomever we could find in the neighbourhood played George and Ringo. It was a very cool time, and being so young I had no idea who these guys really were I only knew that l loved what I heard. Only later on as I got older and I discovered the rest of their catalogue did I fully comprehend the magnitude of their influence – not only on my life as a musician but also on the world of music at large.

I am at a loss for words as to how to describe ‘Sgt. Pepper’ suffice it to say that it is probably one of the most amazing and complete albums ever produced. EVER. I don’t just say that as a Beatles fan I say that as a lover of music of many kinds and a lover of words. “Good Morning Good Morning” is probably my favourite tune of the whole collection with “Getting Better” and “She’s Leaving Home” coming in very close seconds. It is a masterpiece, every last breathe of it, every sound effect, every drumbeat.

Sometimes I’ve found that I have had the most fun in my life when I’ve woken up in the morning and had no plans for the rest of the day. Some days something comes up that you never imagined you would want to do but find yourself glad that you were available to do it. Life is funny that way and it’s cool when we can just, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, ‘lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach…’(from “Gift from the Sea” 1955). This is how my Saturday began.

Four sips into my morning ice coffee (cream, no sugar) I got a text message from my neighbour Holly asking if I was awake – I replied ‘barely, y?’. She wrote me that she had two tickets to The Hollywood Bowl show “Sgt. Pepper at 40” that night that she was too busy to attend and would I want to go in her place? Sure! Why not? I’ve got no other plans and it could be a lot of fun.

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a purist in my approach to people covering The Beatles. Basically, they shouldn’t. To me it is sacrilegious to even dare attempt to interpret or recreate their songs. Sure, do it in your living room, or your bedroom when no one is around. I see the point in that as it is how, at age 12, I taught myself how to play guitar, but some random cover song…nah – not for me; hence my reluctance to get tickets to see the show when it was first advertised. Somehow the last minute idea of how to spend a Saturday night in Los Angeles, the free tickets and the experience of hearing Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann, Ian Ball (from Gomez) and Cheap Trick playing these songs along with Edwin Outwater conducting The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was too much to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t.

Short of having Paul or Ringo on stage this was a very cool night of music! While the first half of the show consisted of the guest artists choice of other Beatles songs (Joan Osborne singing “Lady Madonna” was truly amazing while Aimee Mann and Rob Laufer playing “Blackbird” was nearly heavenly) - the second half was a recreation of the album in order, in it’s entirety, and right down to the last sitar. Not only was the engineer, Geoffrey Emerick, who worked on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ the engineer for the night, but all was performed and mixed as it was on the album - right down to the last sound effect and vocal arrangement and it was done LIVE!!! YES. LIVE!!! Something that had never been done before. As I listen to the CD while I write this I can hear how accurate and true to the original recording that night was.

Perhaps for me the most exciting moments were when I would peak over the heads of the many in front of me in order to catch a glimpse of Geoffrey Emerick working his magic. Oh to have been a fly in that sound booth. Oh to have been a fly on stage. Oh. I’m so lucky I was able to go and be a part of the sold out audience.

Performance - wise there was none more perfect a moment than Joan Osborne – in her own right an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer (I saw her live with Abby and my friend Jodi at The Roxy in July of 2005 – she kicked ass) – who, whilst singing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” in this incredibly sexy and bluesy voice had her long, curly blonde hair tousled and played with by the breeze that was flowing through the Bowl. There was something ethereal about that moment, something otherworldly and something so perfect about the timing that I got shivers. A beautiful moment that made me grateful that I had woken up that morning ‘empty, open and choiceless’.

As for whether my views on covering The Beatles have changed, I’d say yes – to a point. Cheap Trick playing their music (or any recreation of Saturday night) – I’d see again; Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, in a heartbeat. Alicia Keys, Regina Spektor, Jamie Cullum or Lily Allen – sure. Justin Timberlake, Rihanna or anyone from “High School Musical” – not on your life! I guess it all depends on who is doing the singing. But no matter what Saturday night was a cooooool night and it was pretty amazing witnessing a small part of history!

A note about last week’s entry: If you are interested in seeing some pictures from the trip I have posted them on my myspace page www.myspace.com/laraschuler. Also, not to point out the obvious but the song I wrote on my latest release, NUMB, entitled “Jackson Hole” is indeed a love song that tells my parents story and can be sampled on itunes.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!

06 August 2007

And I was watching you from above long after life there is love…

Headlights on a Texas Road
Hank Williams on the radio
a church wedding, they spent all they had
now the deal is done to become mom and dad

And I was watching you
from above
long after life
there is love

See those little girls dressed like china dolls
all for one, then one by one they fall
high on a hill where the world passes by
you never came back but I know you tried

Cause I was watching you
from above
when it all falls apart
there is love

All these years to prove how much I care
I didn’t know it, but you were always there
until September when you slipped away
in the middle of my life
on the longest day
now I hear you say

I’ll be watching you
from above
cause long after life
there is love…
Baby, I’ll be watching you
from above
‘cause long after life
there is love.

There is nothing I could possibly say about this Rosanne Cash song - “I Was Watching You” from her latest release Black Cadillac - other than that it is one of the most perfect songs I’ve ever heard and it may have saved my life last week. www.rosannecash.com

24 July I hopped on a plane to Calgary where Abby was picking me up after driving to Minneapolis to see a childhood friend. Our trip was somewhat last minute in the grand scheme of things. She called me while I was in Connecticut in June and asked if I’d be up for a Western road and camping trip that would encompass god knows where but I needed to get a flight to somewhere north of Yellowstone National Park. Cool, I said – but if we’re going out that way can we hit Jackson Hole, Wyoming so I can finally see where my parents got married and the place that was the inspiration for a song on NUMB? Yeah, we’ll make it work, she said. Fine. Done – I’ll book a flight as soon as I get back to Los Angeles.

On that fine Tuesday evening two weeks ago Abby, after traveling for a week on her own, picked me up in Calgary and after a brief stopover for dinner in a grocery store parking lot, we headed up to Banff. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. Finally, Banff – a childhood dream realized. It did not disappoint as we pulled up to the gate an hour later and then half an hour later or so found our camping site. It was truly amazing and while we set up camp I think we were both pinching ourselves thinking – we’re finally here amongst these very tall trees, this beautiful sky and darkness that doesn’t come until after 10.30p! WOW!!!

The next day we packed up and headed north to Lake Louise (a glacial lake within Banff) – we drove the long way after an amazing breakfast at a Chalet and took in the glacial rivers, tall trees and winding roads with the VW Cabrio’s top down (aptly named Hamish by me and my ‘sister’ Suzanne on a road trip to Santa Barbara when she visited from Scotland last summer). After a hike around the lake and many attempts on my part to keep my feet in the lake for more than 10 seconds we grabbed some ice cream and around 2.30p headed south on Route 2 out of Alberta and into the States.

Our goal was to get to Glacier National Park, which is partly in Alberta and mostly in Montana. We wanted to enter in Montana because Abby has a National Park Pass that we weren’t sure would be accepted at the Canadian entrance (and at $44 a night to camp in Canada we were wanting to save some cash). We arrived shortly after 9p only to be told that the campgrounds were full at this, the eastern side of the park, and that the nearest site within the park was a mere 50 miles west, through the mountains, more glacial runoff and narrow, narrow roads. If we’re lucky, we were told, it should only take about 2 hours. Ok – lets go for it…the sun was beginning to set, and we would want to drive through the park anyway at some point so why not, as a deeply existentialist soul, have a reason to do it? We’ll simply get up and head back east in the morning, see the part of the park we missed in the dark and set up camp closer to the road that would take us to Yellowstone Park (Route 89 if you want to map it) and have the rest of the day to see another part of the park.

At 11p we set up camp for the night – after a shot of Vodka Surprise (a vodka and juice mix started when we went camping on Catalina Island over four years ago that we have never let run out and have added to for every trip we’ve taken) which had been cooled by me standing under glacial runoff holding the cooler while Abby and billy goat laughed, we settled in for the night surrounded by RV’s and more tall trees.

The next morning, Thursday, after the 50 mile ride east we got to another campground by 11a – we were told to get there early to secure a spot - even with some construction traffic to rebuild the main road within the park we arrived early enough to get a site. We set up camp and then got back in the car to go up to Twin Glaciers a part of park that was about 20 miles away, and worth the drive.

We stopped at a little store – did a little shopping and then headed to a lakeside chalet that promised boat rentals by the hour and if we were brave – we could swim anywhere we wanted to dock the boat on the lake that, yes, was fed by glacial runoff - my favourite term of this piece. After 2 ½ days of traveling, some very hot weather, and some lonely stretches of highway we were both ready for a swim. We hopped in a row boat – I paddled my heart out as if I was a kid again escorting my family around Griers Ferry Lake in Arkansas where my grandparents had a lake house, and we found a quiet little spot, took off our clothes to our skivvies and jumped in. EXHILERATING!!!!!!!!

That night we built a fire, had some vittles, and we were joined by some neighbouring campers from Michigan who were traveling around the west with their Vespa’s heading to/from a conference all the while kayaking and seeing some of their favourite National Parks. It was cool talking to other people, getting advice and being reminded of that time in life when car camping felt like more of a community and less of a nod of acknowledgement (I later realized that this was more about camping in California, and not about how ‘times have changed’).

Friday morning it was time to pack up and head to Yellowstone Park where we had reservations for 2 nights at Bridge Bay Campground. We knew it would be a long day anywhere from five to seven hours in the car down route 89. Having never been to Montana I was excited to take this drive. Yes – we avoided the fires that have now set that part of the world ablaze. We were lucky, that’s for sure.

Around 5p we got to the main gate of Yellowstone. WOW! I was so excited and despite the 100 degree heat jumped out and took a ton of pictures of the gate and the surrounding town. We had a ways to go before getting to the campground but it was so cool driving through the park, encountering bison, and generally just being in Yellowstone.

All in all we spent two days there, we saw Old Faithful, walked within feet of a bison that was near our camp site and Saturday evening took a swim in Yellowstone Lake – the highest altitude lake in the world. That was amazing, I have to say, and while everyone advised us it would be too cold (we’re from New England - have you ever swam off the coast of Maine? I replied) after four and half days without a shower and only one swim we needed a bath. It was a little chilly – but it was also one of the most incredibly beautiful swims I’ve ever taken. I highly recommend that if you ever get to Yellowstone you take a dip in the lake.

That night we sat under that stars, built a fire, cooked some food and drank some local beer. It was our mission on this trip to taste as many different kinds of local brews as can be consumed by two small girls who aren’t capable of drinking more than a couple in a night. YUM!! Everything we tasted was well worth the time we spent seeking it out and buying ice for the very small cooler we had packed. Word of advice : anything you buy that comes from Montana, or Wyoming will be tasty; there’s something in that glacial water that makes a fine brew.

Sunday the 29th it was time to pack up and continue down Route 89 and essentially start the drive home, but not without driving through the Grand Tetons and stopping in Jackson Hole. As we drove into town we pulled around a corner and found a parking spot in front of The Wort Hotel. I turned to Abby and said “wouldn’t it be cool if this was the building my parents got married in? But I’m sure it isn’t because I think there were married at Town Hall”.

We got out – basically ran to the famous antlers where my dad proposed to my mother, and I called him. Without saying a word he knew where we were despite not having spoken to him in days because of non existent cell phone coverage. I think I started to cry while we were on the phone and he told me how he proposed and how three days later they were married at The Wort Hotel. Yes - the very same place that we pulled up in front of to park. I had no idea. I’m guessing someone was guiding my way to that street and that place and was glad I was there.

After walking around town and debating about whether to camp in the heat for another night or treat ourselves to a hotel, we found a great little place called The Sundance Inn, around the corner from The Wort (they were booked or we would have stayed there). After grabbing our stuff and carrying it up this old, narrow spiral staircase we settled into a nice little suite with a patio that overlooked the mountain that my parents woke up seeing every day that summer of 1963.

We had ourselves a great night, I cried more tears and pictured my mother – the woman my dad said was the most beautiful woman in all of Wyoming - she looked like Natalie Wood so I’m guessing he was right – walking around and beginning her life with my father. Another life long dream fulfilled. Though I never found the cabin they lived in at the base of the mountain (most likely replaced by a bigger house) I did walk those streets, and I did feel my mother’s presence. Thankfully much of the town is how they left it as was evidenced by the clearly older buildings and houses that still stand.

Monday around Noon it was time to head out and start the sojourn back to Los Angeles. By this time we were both ready to get back and I think for both of us, the trip was ‘over’ when we left Jackson Hole. The rest of the trip would be utilitarian driving and occasional stopping to fill our bellies and stretch our legs. One more night and we’d be home in time for dinner.

After Monday night in ‘Deliverence, Nevada’ we got up early and hit the road. Great! We’ll be back by around 4.30 at this pace and we’ll have the evening to chill out before life goes back to normal reality.

Hmmm….not so fast. It was around 12.30p – we had just driven through Idaho, more miles of mountainous deserted highway where the ‘nearest gas’ is 140 miles away – and we had to stop for construction a mere 4 or 5 miles from the California border. Ok – not so bad, a minor delay and even though it’s over 100 degrees out here in god’s country we’re still closer to home – only 280 miles to go. Just after we stopped, Rosanne Cash’s song “I Was Watching You” came on my ipod on random play. The song has always made me think of my mother, of course, so I naturally weeped a tear or two than had a sinking feeling. Oh my god, something’s going to go wrong, I thought, I panicked, I imagined the worst and on this our last day of travel we might not make it home. After a few moments I calmed down and started to breathe again. Whatever happens, the song says, I’ll be watching you. I knew then we would be ok.

Half an hour later we were allowed to pass behind a convoy truck that led us through the construction site. We were on a hill, I went to step on the brakes to slow down and they weren’t entirely there. Holy shit! What now? We’re 70 miles from the nearest town, we don’t have any brake fluid, if that’s even the problem, and how the hell are we going to make it that far? We did. In fact, after a 2 hour layover in Bishop, California and a diagnosis from a local mechanic (Hamish’s rear brake disc was cracked and was leaking fluid – they didn’t have the part) Abby took the wheel and guided us safely, if not gingerly, back home. We were OK. We were back in one piece and yes, clearly someone was watching over us.

Despite the headache of that last day it was an amazing trip. One day I want to get back to Jackson Hole for more than 24 hours, and I would love to spend more time in Banff and Glacier National Park. Every moment was priceless and worth the hours on the road with Hamish – the toughest little car on the highway.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!