It’s about time I posted some links to YouTube videos for some truly fantastic, amazing, mind blowing LIVE BLUES by some of the greats.
Enjoy at your own risk… once you listen to these, you will be addicted to the Blues!
All comments welcome!
It’s about time I posted some links to YouTube videos for some truly fantastic, amazing, mind blowing LIVE BLUES by some of the greats.
Enjoy at your own risk… once you listen to these, you will be addicted to the Blues!
All comments welcome!
I have never been so sorry to have shown up late to a live set as I was when I heard the last 25 minutes of Joey G Clef’s set at Small’s this past Saturday night.
Small’s is a legendary jazz club, a tiny hole in the wall place where many extraordinarily talented jazz acts have played. I only recently started venturing out to hear more live music in the past year and this was actually the first time I’d been to Small’s to sit in on a set. The early set.
Unfortunately the Small’s website had an error showing Joey G Clef playing an early set and a later set (even I thought, hmm, that’s interesting…) but it was just a mistake. And so there I was at 9:35, listening to a hugely (figuratively and literally) talented alto saxaphonist and his band play swing jazz – and they were swingin’ it right!
And while I did stay to listen to some of The Jimmy Greene Group, they played a kind of jazz I’m not as into… a kind of somewhat discordant variety where the notes are all over the place and (for me at least) I can’t hook into the rhythm. I can listen to that and appreciate the artistry, but I’ll tell you what – Joey G Clef had people dancing in the aisles. People could not stop moving while his band was swingin.
Apparently he also plays with another band, which he told the crowd. It’s called the Yalloppin’ Hounds. The name alone holds huge promise!
While my 25 minutes of heaven at Small’s was totally worth the $20 cover charge, the next time I see Joey G Clef playing around, or the Yalloppin’ Hounds, you can believe I won’t be late!
P.S. If you’ve never been to Small’s Jazz Club - check it out! 183 West 1oth Street
Vacation planning can be fun, but sometimes frustrating. There is a lot of information, and when you know nothing about the place you are traveling to visit, lots of reading to ensure you are prepared.
When I travel, I like having a more personal experience so I try to use boutique hotels or bed and breakfast places. These kinds of lodgings tend to be much more personalized than a big “brand name” hotel. Large hotels have an anonymous, often sterile quality that I don’t prefer when I can stay in someone’s home whose whole occupation is hospitality and making sure you have a great time in your destination of choice.
I found out B&B’s in Amsterdam book up quickly. If I’d been better prepared (2 months advance notice) I’m sure I could have scored fantastic, reasonably priced B&B lodging in center city. However, since I only have about a month, I had to spend time figuring out which B&B’s were booked (most of them!) and which were still available. I found two lovely B&B’s close to Amsterdam’s “Central Station” and while I’m paying a bit more ($120+ euros /night), I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it. (Both of these B&B’s are still less than the brand name, ‘anonymous’ hotels.)
Travel note: From what I can tell, all B&B’s in Amsterdam require all cash payment. I have not even seen one B&B that accepts credit cards.
Travel tip: When booking a B&B in Amsterdam, if you want a simple room for under $100 euros a night including breakfast, book well in advance! ($100 euros is $130 US dollars.)
Lonely Planet suggests: Hotel Brouwer, Sebastian’s, Chic and Basic Amsterdam or Hotel Residence Le Coin. All of these places were fully booked when I checked with them, a month in advance.
OKAY… so, lodging for the Amsterdam part of my trip has been booked, and I’m satisfied I’ve found great places. You’ll know in a month in more detail about the places I stayed and how it went.
Planning Phase Two: Here’s how it looks…
Days 1, 2, 3: Amsterdam
Days 4, 5 6: Travel to multiple cities
Days 7, 8, 9: Return to Amsterdam (including a Saturday night!)
After doing intensive research and investigation of all the places I could have gone, I’ve made decisions about the cities I will visit in my three days of wandering outside of Amsterdam.
Day 4 will be spent traveling about three and a half hours by train to get to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is a medieval city that has maintained itself for centuries and looks gorgeous.
Day 5 a very short distance from Bruges, is Ghent, another small medieval city in Belgium. One of the cool things about Ghent is that it is home to SMAK, a large Contemporary Art Museum which is on my list of things to see.
Day 6 it will take me about two hours heading back towards Amsterdam to get to Delft, Netherlands which is also 10 minutes distance from The Hague so I will plan to see both Delft and the Hague on Day 6. Most importantly to me is the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague which houses Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, as well as other important Vermeer and Rembrandt works.
Lodging in all of these places was easy to find, and it’s less expensive than Amsterdam for nicer accomodation. I’ll be staying in some charming places overlooking canals and such while being in the center of the action. Again, I’ll share more about the places I go and how it went in future posts.
Thankfully, one nice Dutch young lady who booked my room in Delft advised me to purchase “Hispeed” (High Speed) rail tickets in advance to get from Amsterdam to other locations. This is a great idea, because I can purchase the tickets online, and I can just print out the ticket and bring it with me.
Okay, that’s it for now… I’m pleased I’m making progress.
With all the running I do through airports, you’d almost think that I’d prefer to stay home for vacation instead of getting on a plane, but nah, this explorer and traveler is ready for interesting adventures once again.
I decided after numerous travels across the United States, Canada and some of Mexico in the past several years that it was time to return to Europe. (The Asia Pacific region will have to wait, as will the Mahgreb, and Central America… so many places, not enough time.)
Previously I’ve been fortunate to visit Paris, London and the southern coast of Portugal so when I began thinking about where to go this year, I knew I didn’t want to repeat any of those.
Europe is big and varied, there are so many regions offering any number of experiences, so… where to go?
After looking at a map and pondering for a while, I narrowed my list to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Dublin. I’ve never been to any of them; each had their unique charms.
It was a very tough decision, but I’ve decided to go to Amsterdam and the Netherlands. (The image below is of Amsterdam’s famous canals that surround the center of the city in concentric rings.)
Dublin and Barcelona are still on my European wish-list along with Prague, and various cities in Spain, Greece, France and Italy.
I will have the luxury of being in the Netherlands for nine (9) days (not counting my two days needed to fly there and back), which is nice because I will be able to see a lot.
Dutch friends have already told me that it won’t make sense to spend all 9 days in Amsterdam… even though I will need plenty of time to see the museums housing Van Gogh, Vermeer, Rembrandt and lots of contemporary art and galleries. I’m really excited to see Vermeer’s work in person and to get a sense of the local art scene, which I understand is vibrant.
AND I’m extremely pleased because I’ve investigated music venues too, and blues and jazz clubs are all over Amsterdam. I think I mentioned in my post about Jr. Mack playing at Terra Blues, that he told the crowd in NYC that night he had just returned from Amsterdam the previous day… so it makes sense that blues venues are popular there. That is so cool.
So now I begin the work of figuring out where else to go in the Netherlands. Do I go to Rotterdam? Maybe Kinderdijk with its charming windmills? These are places I could probably go on day trips so that might be cool. (If I was really ambitious I could probably visit Antwerp or Bruges in Belgium, but that might be too ambitious.)
Some of you, my dear readers, live in the Netherlands and others who have traveled in that area… please feel free to make suggestions for your favorite places, restaurants, music venues, and other fun stuff to do in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands (links are also welcome.)
In any case, as my plans firm up for my “Return to the Continent” I’ll let you know.
A few weeks ago while wandering the isles of The Strand in New York City, I picked up Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls her collection of short stories.
I brought the Schappell collection with me for my travels recently to Bozeman, Montana for work. While in Bozeman, I had an opportunity to walk the Main Street where they have two independent bookstores. (As an aside, Bozeman is a pretty cool town considering it is in a rural part of the plains, and a short drive to the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, but apparently the nearby ski resorts bring a lot of tourists and outside influence to the place. You can get organic salads from the local food co-op near the bookshops, for example.)
The Country Bookshelf was inviting, and the three women working there were all helpful when I asked about short story collections they’d recommend. I explained I was reading Blueprints, and that I’d be open to recommendations of local Montana talent as long as all the stories did not involve cows and horses. They did not disappoint, and handed over Aryn Kyle’s collection Boys and Girls Like You and Me, along with Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.
Both Kyle and Meloy originate from Montana, but Kyle moved east to New York City, and Meloy moved west to Los Angeles. It seems Montana could hold neither of them.
What’s so interesting about the three collections, which I read in succession, is how similar they are in their subject matter and selection of main characters. I was actually surprised by this because I was expecting each to have distinctive writing characteristics, but for me these tomes blended together…with some exceptions.
In the case of Schappell, her writing is more finely polished than the other two… although don’t get me wrong, all three of these women are very talented story tellers.
Schappell’s women scared me a little, some of them wanted to be sexually used or humiliated, others were dealing with the aftermath of rape, or they were anorexic and just generally fucked up. Most of them drank heavily or did drugs. I do not assume these women were stand-ins for the author, but there was a level of… depravity… in the Schappell collection I wouldn’t have necessarily expected. I’m no prude, but it made me wonder why the stories had to be dealing with topics so extreme.
Meloy’s collection was very tuned into the emotional aspects of loss and despair, and many of her characters were cheating on their partners, or having family problems of one kind or another. I think the strongest story in the collection is Spy vs. Spy, a story about two brothers who don’t get along, but the older and more responsible one (a doctor) has a daughter that the younger brother (ski instructor) is always trying to impress as a way to one-up his brother by being good to his niece. The ending of the story (which I won’t give away) was a perfect balance to the relationship between the two brothers and the people that surround them. Some of the other endings were similarly adept. Overall the writing was very strong.
Kyle’s characters were mostly adolescent boys and girls dealing with issues of growing up, sexual awakenings, and similar fare. I found the endings to some of Kyle’s stories to be problematic (for me) in that she would be telling the story and going along in the present, and then within the last page she would zoom out and have the character looking back from a great distance of time. I suppose that technique could work for some stories, but it was a conceit I felt she used too often and it jarred me out of the reading and intimacy with her characters. I don’t like it when the writer is showing me she can pirouette in the story. I don’t want to be able to “see” how she’s writing the story while I’m reading it, that doesn’t work for me.
To be fair, some of these stories – from all three collections – had excellent emotional resonance and I could feel what the characters were feeling (or I imagined I could, I should say.) It’s more important to feel something about a story than to have it written and executed perfectly, so I can be forgiving about certain endings, etc.
Perhaps of interest to the writers among us (most of you reading this?) is that all of these women were published by big names for their collections. (Is there hope for short stories after all?) Meloy was pubbed by Riverhead Books, a Penguin imprint; Kyle was pubbed by Scribner, a Simon and Schuster imprint; and Schappell was pubbed directly by Simon and Schuster. Not too shabby. Yeah, and both Schappell and Meloy were reviewed in the New York Times Book Review too.
So if you’re looking for interesting women characters written by contemporary women writers, go out and acquire these three collections. And no, I’m not getting a kick-back from these ladies, I just like their work. I think you will too.
Filed under: Bookstore, Reading, Short Story, Writing | Tagged: Aryn Kyle, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Boys and Girls Like You and Me, Elissa Schappell, Maile Meloy, short story, short story collection | 6 Comments »
This story is dedicated to CT.
I’m proud to announce For Art’s Sake is now live on Word Riot; it is my third piece published in that very esteemed journal. I am endebted to Kevin O’Cuinn for his unflagging support and encouragement.
Please give the story some click-love here: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/5581
A permanent link will go on the Published Stories page.
I’m extremely pleased to announce that my short fiction work, Ozone, has been accepted by Barry Basden, the editor of the Camroc Press. This is the very first appearance of any of my work in Camroc, although I’ve been trying for quite some time.
Camroc Press is especially known for intense emotional work, and for me Ozone was an attempt at a level of emotional honesty made public that I find uncomfortable. It was not an easy piece to write, and bit by bit I’m coming to terms with how to “reveal” this part of myself to readers.
Barry has told me the publishing que is backed up about six months, so the publication date on this piece is tbd; it’ll be much later this year. When the piece comes out, I’ll put up a post with the link so you can see what I attempted. In the meantime, a placeholder will go on my Published Stories page as a reminder it’s on the way.
P.S. As a follow up to my previous post, I’m nearly over my second terrible cold in two months, although I admit my appetite hasn’t returned yet… I fly west today and have already packed all my vitamins!
A few weeks ago I wrote a post from the road called When the Bug Bites, because I got sick while traveling. This post is called Twice Bitten, because I got another bug… and yes, I can’t believe it, but I’m sick again.
It’s a good thing that I’m at home this time around.
I went to the doctor last Friday for a regular check up, and I was perfectly healthy. The woman a few seats away from me in the waiting room was not healthy, and she contaminated the whole waiting room with her cold / flu virus. As soon as she sat down, I moved away from her… but I didn’t move far enough. Two days later I was really sick, and I’m still sick despite the regimen of zinc, echinacea, vitamins, and water.
I wish doctors would have two waiting rooms instead of one. One should be for healthy patients who are not sick, and then there should be a quarantined area where people who know they are sick should go sit… in an enclosed room. I know that cold germs spread rapidly and it’s extremely hard to contain contamination, but what else can be done? You shouldn’t have to sit next to someone whose face is red and puffy, their nose is running, they sneeze and cough… it’s not fair to everyone else in the office.
The thing that happens to me when I’m really sick like this is I get delirious. I ran a fever the first few nights, and the wierdest thoughts float through my head… imagined conversations with people I haven’t spoken to in a while, thoughts that come up from the depths of my psyche, a variety of unbidden images and I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality at certain moments. It’s an “in between” state where the body has taken over everything and does not allow the mind to function in it’s usual way.
It’s very unpleasant to be so incapacitated that I can’t get up out of bed, or only with an extreme level of effort to motivate myself to get a drink of water, or get tissues (the box of tissues is in bed with me now.)
For some part of the time I have been in bed I wondered how I could turn this misfortune into something creative… but the body has been stubbornly refusing to give me relief…
In this brief moment I’m taking out of bed I wanted to say “hi” to everybody, and I’m not going down without a fight, but for right now the cold is winning…
Sometimes you see live music and you’re so blown away you have to tell everybody.
Tonight was one of those nights.
After having dinner with a friend, I decided to head over to my favorite Blues club in Manhattan (actually, it’s the ONLY Blues club in Manhattan) … Terra Blues. They attract the best local and international talent around, and Jr. Mack and his band proved again tonight why Terra has the stellar reputation it does as a showcase.
Jr. Mack just got back from Amsterdam, he told the crowd, and he said he was a little jet lagged. If this is how he plays when he’s jet lagged, I can’t imagine how he plays fully rested! He and the band repeatedly brought the house down with his renditions of Born Under a Bad Sign, Melissa (he sits in with the Allman Brothers when they come to NYC) and original tunes like I Believe I Need to Make a Change.
Clip of Jr. Mack playing I Believe I Need to Make a Change:
Not only does Mack play the blues, he is also a jazz musician and sprinkled in jazz riffs throughout the night. His band backed him up every time, and the second guitarist (Bobby Bryan) did an amazing job alternating the lead parts with Mack and then singing a few tunes too. The bass and drums were also impeccable.
Oh yeah, did I mention Mack was just nominated for a Grammy? Yep, his album And Still I Rise, with the Heritage Blues Band was nominated for Best Blues Album in 2012. He’s really the real, real deal.
If you’ve never been to Terra Blues and you are in the New York City area and like live Blues, you absolutely must go. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear talented guitarists like Jr. Mack wail out the blues with such emotion and force, you can hardly stand up when he’s done.
My flash fiction work, For Art’s Sake, has just been accepted by Kevin O’Cuinn, fiction editor at Word Riot.
This is a new milestone for me, a third piece of flash being pubbed in the same journal: Woo Hoo! (Deep endebted thankfulness to Kevin, as always.)
The pub date has not yet been determined but when it’s published I’ll let you all know with a joyous announcement and link for your reading pleasure. For now, a placeholder will go on the Published Stories page…
Filed under: Art, Blog post, Short Story, Small Literary Magazines, Story Submissions, Writing | Tagged: flash fiction, For Art's Sake, kevin o'cuinn, short story accepted, Word Riot, writing | 5 Comments »
Right to left, east coast to west, then turn around and come back again…
I’m finally back on the east coast in my beloved New York City. I was supposed to spend two weeks in California, but plans changed and I wound up staying a third week. After two weeks on the west coast I started to feel homesick, and by the end of three weeks I nearly danced onto the plane to get home.
When we landed at Newark airport, and I saw the city in the window, my heart leapt up to meet it.
One thing that’s surprised me is how short term vs. long term memory works as it pertains to my travel schedule. What I mean is… after being away from home for three weeks, it feels much longer. I start to lose my day to day familiarity with the places I haunt regularly when I’m not there.
I know this because when I return home and go to my regular diner, for instance, they seem surprised to see me. “Hi!” they say, “I haven’t seen you in a while!”
Yes, they sense it too. I’ve been gone just long enough to seem really gone, and when I come back, it is surprising and somehow feels new. My first diner meal when I got home? Greek salad with toasted pita. East coast diners know how to do that right.
And on the west coast, I’m developing a set of go-to places too (a survival tactic). I found a diner, well… let’s call it a diner, but it’s a California diner which is not really a diner but it’s as close to a diner as I’ve found out there. It’s got chrome on the outside; inside it has a counter with swivel stools; a dessert case with eclairs the size of your head; and strange low-slung booths covered in vinyl; plastic plants: all the accoutrements of what is known as “diner.” The menu is decidedly west coast though. Most omelettes come with salsa and sour cream, which is just wierd; and the waitresses don’t call you hon. (I hate that!)
Yeah, Silicon Valley is a massive, sprawling suburb. The towns are intersected by large 10 lane freeways and 6-8 lane expressways and busy four lane “local roads.” The traffic there is oppressive. It is not unusual to be completely stopped on a 10 lane freeway, and when traffic begins moving, you’re doing 10 miles an hour for miles and miles. A trip that should take 10 minutes takes 30 during the morning rush hour. (The price of one gallon of regular gas was $4.35 when I left, incidentally.)
Ahh, it’s good to be home. I can jump on the PATH train for 2 bucks and be in New York City within minutes. I can stroll around my Manhattan and enjoy the early signs of Spring arriving (I’m choosing to ignore the weather prediction for light snow showers tomorrow…)
The thing is, I’ve spent this weekend doing a lot of laundry, paying bills and doing my best to catch up on all the tasks, large and small, that need doing but can’t get done if I’m not home.
For example, the handle broke on my heavily abused suitcase when I yanked it off the carousel at Newark baggage claim. So part of my weekend was spent in the search and acquisition of a replacement.
As I brought the luggage to the checkout, I casually mentioned to the cashier that I had just come back from California and the handle broke, so I needed a new bag, yadda yadda yadda.
She said, You were traveling in California? That sounds so glamorous.
That was the word she used. Glamorous. And I said, well, traveling for work isn’t glamorous, trust me.
But it sounds that way to me, she said.
I asked her, Do you have family here?
She tilted her head quizzically. Yes, she said.
Okay, imagine leaving your family for three weeks and living out of a hotel while going to work everyday, I said.
Her brows creased a little, Oh, she said, I guess I see what you mean. That must be kind of hard.
Yeah. That’s what I mean.
And soon I’ll be hitting the road again. And by soon, I mean tomorrow. I’d better enjoy the minutes and hours I have left while I can…
In the meantime, I’ve got to throw the laundry in the dryer………….
Readers, this writer is prone to thinking too much. I spend a lot of time analyzing the world, myself, other people (those I know, and those I don’t …in overheard snippets on the subway, in diners and at the airport…) and today my laser sights are focused on what is “normal” behavior and how does that affect creative output?
At some point in the past I realized I was normal in some ways, and in others very much not “the norm.” As a kid in junior high school, I hung out with a strange bunch of friends and we played Dungeons and Dragons. (D&D is a fantasy role playing game.) We used our imaginations to escape our regular lives to become magicians, knights in armor, theives and monks for a few hours each week as we pillaged and fought our way through imaginary towns and dungeons. We were often required to come up with innovative solutions for puzzles and problems we’d encounter in our “travels” and learned to work well as a group (or our characters would suffer the consequences!)
Once I got to college, I was out of the “norm” again as I joined a select group of kids who met in a basement in the student center once a week to put together a poetry magazine called The Anthologist. We too used our imaginations to debate and decide which poems would make it into our esteemed publication and which would not. (We often played “guess the rhyme” with the worst submissions, for our amusement.)
Out of the original group of D&D kids, there were a disproportionate number of us who were artists. Some of us liked to draw, others of us liked to write, some composed music, and now as adults we’re still doing that. Out of the Anthologist group, every single one of (the four) of us have published novels, poetry, short stories or academic works. Two of the four are university professors of English Literature, another is an English teacher at the high school level, and then there’s me… living in the corporate world but a weekend-warrior writer.
If I look across my lifetime of romantic relationships, it’s chock-a-block full of artists. My first boyfriend (one of the D&D kids) was a fantasy artist, something he makes a living at to this day. In college, my most important boyfriend was a writer, who now has published two novels (with more on the way). I’ve also had very significant relationships with painters, who are of a moody sort that I can’t seem to shake myself loose of… but none of these people were or are normal.
And these days I have too many friends to count that are writers, painters, photographers, musicians, dancers and others loosely or closely affiliated with creating artistic output as part of their daily lives.
I’m thankful for all these people who influenced (and keep influencing) me creatively and shared their out of the box thinking with me. Those that were the most “out of the norm” taught me the most about not conforming to standard ways of thinking or what society expects. Still others taught me about the philosophical underpinnings of creativity (and are still doing so.)
This, in turn, got me to thinking about how creative ideas manifest themselves. For those who are more constrained by “the normal” ways of living and thinking, does that mean they are hampered from coming up with the most innovative ideas for their fiction, paintings, or music? One of my good friends, an author, recently said to me that he thought I was too inhibited in my thinking and that it might prevent me from creating the most dramatic stories and situations. He may be right, maybe in that sense I’m still too normal?
In today’s shrill sensationalistic environment where people have the attention span of ten seconds perhaps being outside the norm is what it takes to attract attention to oneself and one’s art. I don’t know.
How about you, reader? Is your art outside the norm, and if it is, has that helped you? If it isn’t, do you think that is a disadvantage?
I’m going to continue to cultivate my abby-normal self in my creative life to push the boundaries of my stories, characters and imagination. I’m going to keep embracing the quirky, the odd and the unusual in friends and those close to me. Maybe, if I’m lucky, even more will rub off on me.