Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve/Day is My Favorite Holiday

For a self-proclaimed self-help junkie, this is the ultimate holiday. There's no religious meaning, no patriotic ceremonies. It's just the flipping over of a calendar day, year, and this time, a decade. It's just an excuse to reflect and refocus. It's like we all worship the concept of self-improvement for a day. And it makes me soooo happy.

Today we look back and what we've done, celebrate the good, mourn the bad, say goodbye and blow it out with a big party. Tomorrow we make goals, resolutions, predictions and get started on the ever impossible task of living some perfect life. But really it's all just a beautiful mess that only takes shape when you get the long view or somehow squish it into a neat little song.  And days like today are good inspiration.

I'm not sure yet how I'll asses my year, or what I'll resolve to do this decade. But I do know that I want to keep reflecting and resolving as I go. And try to fit in some plain old just-doing and being-in-the-moment while I'm at it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bad day/ Bad Meinberg

We might have had our first bad day. It was also our first day off and we didn't have a real plan, so that means decisions. Deciding where to go, where to eat, where to stay and for how long. How cheap of a hotel or hostel can we stand?

And deciding really wears you down. It is not relaxing, it's stressful. And the longer you draw it out, the worse it feels.

That's why we decided (ha!) that we'd spend the next two nights in the same place. That way, one decision covers two nights. So we mapped our trip, found a city close to our next gig and searched for hotels in the vacinity.

It was so amazingly lucky that knowing nothing about the town, and being only able to communicate with the hotel proprietress in beginner German, we were able to reserve a great clean, triple room in the resort town of Bad Meinberg where there are lovely Nordic Walking trails and mineral springs and baths.

We gave our brains a real day off, gave the car a day off and gave our bodies a little exercize. So almost everyone else visiting the town was over 70, and all the boutiques were full of flannel nightgowns and Mephisto shoes, and this amazing mineral water really just makes you poop five minutes later, it was still relaxing.

We just ate and strolled and hiked and watched a movie and tried to speak and understand German. Simple problems. And we're off again!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fondue!


More cheese please

The food has been amazing and plentiful on our trip. Every restaurant
has served from-scratch, fresh food and excellent coffee and bread.
We've had Bockbier last night, Swiss wine, Scotch whiskey, and plenty
of water "without gas" (carbonation).

We've also had so much good cheese. I think it's was served with every
meal, including the breakfast buffet. But the cheesy highlight was
visiting the old medieval town of Gruyere and eating a giant pot of
fondue. We dipped fresh French bread and boiled potatoes in the
perfectly melted blend of wine, Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese. And it
was so good, and we just couldn't stop eating, no matter how full we
felt until all the fondue was gone.

All except Charlie, that is, who loves cheese but has a lactose
intolerance. She tried a few glorious bites and vowed that next time
she comes back to Europe, she will pack more lactaid than CDs.

Oops, gotta run! Our host at this country guest house is arriving with
our breakfast. And look, he has cheese!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Travel Day

Today is the first big day of my trip and it involves many modes of transportation. Car, train, subway, taxi, and then airplane to Zurich. Leg one is done. Gonna try to catch a few Zzz on the train, but not too many, because I do want to sleep a long time on the plane.

I'm really excited to go - in a way that I hadn't anticipated. I've been so caught up in the details of planning and thinking about work that I forgot how profound international travel can be. It really rocks your core to be in a different culture, so that every minute is vibrant and special. I'm really looking forward to living in that heightened reality for a bit.

Also, I'm really excited to meet the people I have been emailing with and talking to on the phone. And to meet the local people at our shows! I feel lucky to travel in this way, not really a tourist.

AND I'm really excited to play music every night and get the band rockin' and just feel the commraderie of making art with friends.

Ok, my ticket is punched, sleepy time for me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making sure/Final preperations

Hi!!!!!!!

I'm so excited for my European tour, so all those exclamation points are warranted. I'm running around packing and getting everything ready. This message is just to make sure that I'm all set up to post blogs from my phone. Now I have to figure our how to get pictures in here. Maybe Facebook. I don't know. Better check my packing priorities and see what I have time for.

!!!!!!!!!! Just for good measure.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out of Tenn

I'm trying to live as though traveling to New York or Boston for one night is no big deal. It's hard to suck it up and drive or sit on the train for hours just to see a show, but I know in the long run it's good for me. I need to stay connected to that city energy and see great live music. So last night I trekked to Boston for the Ten Out of Tenn show at Cafe 939 at Berkelee College. It's ten Nashville based songwriters touring together on Willie Nelson's old bus.

I only knew the music of a couple of the artists and I had heard of a couple of the others, but at least 6 of the artists were new to me, and I didn't know what to expect from the night. Especially since I don't generally consider myself a big fan of 'indie-pop." But about 3 songs in to the show, I remembered that every time I go out the see music in Nashville, even if it's a friend of a friend who's music is in some style I don't think I like, I'm always impressed. The level of musicianship and writing is just so great in that town, just about everything sounds good.

What I thought was going to be a loose jam by a bunch of songwriters was actually a tightly arranged band with a rotating cast of musicians held together by the solid drumming of Will Sayles. Each of the "ten" took a couple of turns at the center mic, leading the band in their songs, but then they'd scoot over to a keyboard or trade off guitar for bass and sing some harmonies. The sound was surprisingly consistent, even though each songwriter's personality came through clearly. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and the whole show had an after-school-special/Fat Albert kind of feel to it. Only these hopeful kids can really play, and from the looks of their bios and the slick TOT website, they know how to manage their own careers, too. I bought "the bundle" that included one of each of their CDs, plus the latest TOT compilation, which was only $50.

Sarah Siskind and Ashley Monroe were probably my favorites, probably because they were the more Americana part of the show and they both have such interesting voices. Madi Diaz was a Berkelee grad with lots of fans in the crowd and I really liked her, too. I wouldn't be surprised if one of her songs becomes a Fiest-y kind of indie hit. I didn't love Jedd Hughes' songs at the show, mostly because they were so loud and I couldn't hear the lyrics, but his EP is great and I'm sure I'll play it lots and try to see him again.

So worth the drive to Boston. And I was home by 1:30am. No big deal, that's how I roll.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Falling into place

I gotta say, I'm happy to be home. And by home, I do mean the Berkshires. If you read this blog, you know that's a big deal.

It's not just because of my own bed and kitchen and my love. It's because little chipmunks scamper across the trail when I go running. My garden really needs weeding and the compost needs to be turned. There is a nip in the air that is kind of exciting because I haven't felt a real Fall in 7 years. There are apples to be picked and sweaters to be knitted.

I'd gotten really good at not caring about all these things, maybe because they aren't my favorite things ever and maybe because I just couldn't have them in Texas. But now they are here and I've got them, so I'm going to enjoy this first Autumn as best I can.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm snuggled into a lavender bed at The Ginn Parents' house in rural Texas after a super-relaxing Labor Day Weekend. I've been in Austin for a couple days, then I was camping and singing and catching up with friends at the Kerrville Wine and Music Festival. And I'm happy to be in Texas, to be hot, to eat BBQ and drink Shiner Bock and be lazy in a hammock under Live Oak trees, to know my way around and to run into people I know when I'm not even trying to.

But it's not as hard as it was last time. Last time, it was so good and so different from my new life, that it made me sad to be so happy and content when I came back to visit. Now I'm much more relaxed. Maybe because I haven't lost touch with people (thanks Facebook!). My favorite places are still here, and I know I'm going to be back in a couple months. So I can just enjoy this place for what it is, instead of what the rest of my life isn't.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hate Not

Derek Sivers is a very cool guy with lots of good ideas about all sorts of things. I met him as the creator of the awesome online music store CDBaby. In his blog last week, he asked the question "What do you hate not doing?" as a way to figure out what you really love. You know I love self-help and quizes, so here are a few things I hate not doing. I'm not sure I like the idea of writing a whole blog about hate, but here goes.

I hate not performing.
Not only because I feel terribly off when I do come back to it, but because I miss connecting with people through music. I miss the challenge of choosing the right songs for the situation and hitting the right emotional tone with each performance. I miss working out my lungs and vocal chords and calluses. And I miss the attention. Can't deny that. :)

I hate not writing.
I hate that I let days, weeks, even months go by without cracking open my journal. That's the place where I let it fly without a filter and it really calms me down and gets me focused. I also hate not writing songs. Songwriting is when I take all my crazy ideas and experiences and shape them into a neat little package and summarize all my feelings about something. Sometimes it's closure, sometimes it's a manifesto. Either way, I feel more settled when a song is finished, and excited to get out there and play it for people. I hate not having a new song to share.

I hate not having balance in my social vs. alone time.
Spending says on end with people, even people I love, even when I'm having a great time, leaves me feeling so scattered. I'm very influenced by others' desires and opinions, so I tend to lose center and follow the crowd when I don't get time alone. On the other hand, I hate being alone too much. I get into boring patterns and I do stupid things like watch hours of TV or play video games when I've got too much time alone. I like having other people around me to bring up new ideas, hold me accountable and be a witness, so I won't eat the whole carton of ice cream. Lately I've been having long spates of alone time, followed by intense visits. Whew! I need balance. I'm such a Libra.

I hate staying in the same place for too long.
Even if it's just walking down a different side street. I need new sights and smells and sounds coming at me. I think I travel enough for this not to be much of a problem. :)

I hate not exercising and eating right.
Because when I do, I feel better. When I don't I feel sluggish and guilty. Hate isn't too strong a word for that feeling.

I hate not asking questions.
I'm a curious person and I wonder about a lot of different things. Sometimes I don't like this about myself, because before I have time to really delve into something, I invariably get curious about something new. But I love the beginnings of projects. I love going to a new town and learning it's history, it's local hangouts. Everything is interesting for a little while. And I hate when I'm doing the same old same old over and over again and not exploring some new business idea or region of the country.

Allright, now what did this little exercise teach me? The best lesson is that all the things I hate not doing are things I mostly get to do all the time! That's good. And when I'm not doing them it's usually because I'm being scared or lazy. So the next time I don't want to go for a run or spend an hour on booking or introduce myself to a new friend, I'm going to think "You'll hate it if you don't do this!" Maybe that will get me going.

Now I want to know what you hate not doing. Maybe this is the next "50 things"....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Falcon Ridge 2009

It's a week after Falcon Ridge and life is almost back to my normal routine, if I even have such a thing. But in sitting down to write this blog, looking back at my notes and pics and tweets, I'm so happy remembering what a great time I had. Ahhh. Reminisce with me for a few minutes...

How could I not mention the mud? Unfortunately, it keeps raining in the Berkshires and the weekend of FRFF was no exception. I'm lucky enough to live only about 25 minutes from the festival site, so I got to get a warm shower and dry bed every night, but it was still a bummer to see the rain drive people into their tents and cars when great acts were playing and a few even had to be cancelled or rescheduled. Of course, mud boots were all the rage for women and men. Mom came to the fest with me and she tried to go without rubber boots, but by day two was heading to Agway for a pair.

I was doubly lucky because it never rained during any of my sets. It was beautifully sunny and breezy on Saturday afternoon when I was on the main stage for the Most Wanted Song Swap. So breezy, in fact, that my hair kept blowing into my mouth. It was annoying and I kept wondering why none of the other four women on stage seemed to be having unruly hair issues. Headband, bangs, barrettes and hat, that's why. Lesson learned and no more wild hair in the mouth for outdoor shows.

The next day was forecasted to be stormy, so I was nervous about my sets being cancelled. Thick clouds and a cold wind were blowing when I started a song swap with John Flynn, Ellis Paul, Tracy Grammar, Joe Henry, and Lucy Wainright Roche (hello!), but we played anyway. It got around to the last song of the hour and I played "My Miner" with everyone jamming along. It was a musically transcendent moment for me with the volume and intensity rising as I sang "Let me be your light, Let me be your light" over and over. And then the clouds broke and the first bright sunlight of the day shone down on us, just like we were calling for it. I don't know if that moment was as sublime to anyone else, but I think it might have been my favorite moment of performance so far in my life. Ahhh. Maybe there is a video. Maybe I don't want to see it, I just want to remember it with all it's fuzzy edges in my mind.

Festivals are so great for seeing lots of friends, hearing bands live that you've only heard about, and unfortunately they are also great for running into people who you should know, but can't remember their name. Oi! I am terrible at remembering people and I realize that I don't even try. It's a bad habit. And I met so many awesome new people this weekend, who I've probably already forgotten. It doesn't make up for it, but I don't expect people to remember me either. I like being at festivals and conferences where most people are wearing name tags. Name tags are great, especially when they also say where you work and what city you live in. If only we could figure out a way to make them remind us of when we met and who we know in common. I think I was the only one wearing a name tag at my five-year high school reunion. Everyone scoffed at the thought that we could forget each other after only 5 years, but I knew I had forgotten people's names and I was trying to start a trend. Never was much of a trendsetter in high school. Well, there was that wrap skirt pattern and the knitting club, but other than that....

OK. One more happy story. Last year, lots of folks were really disappointed that the tornado that hit the fest prevented Gandolf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams from performing. I've been hearing about them for a couple of years from every direction, so I was excited to hear them for myself. I have to say, they didn't blow me away. I think they are a really fun rock band, and the way they get their fans lathered into a frenzy makes for an exhilarating concert, but I guess it's just not my thing. Still, even I was getting really nervous as they took the stage on Saturday evening and the clouds were moving in. It would be too sad if their set was rained out again, leaving the fans wet and hungry for their music. They made it through a great, high-energy batch of songs and came to the encore as the sky was getting darker and more ominous. The lead singer shouted, "Get out your umbrellas, cause we're gonna play another song!" As they rocked out "Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express" a parade of umbrellas formed all rainbow and flowered and polka-dotted, spinning and bouncing and snaking through the crowd. I had to join in. And it didn't rain one drop.

Here's a video of them playing the song a couple nights earlier in the dance tent:


OK. I've written too much already. But I also got dizzy spinning in a contra-dance while Blue Moose and The Unbuttoned Zippers played. And don't miss Dressing Room Tour, Part 3 with special guest Randall Williams, OK. That's enough. It was so fun! Can't wait for my next festival.... Move the Muse in Brockton Mass August 22!

video

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Hibernation?

Many musicians tour all summer and stay home in the winter writing and recording and storing up energy for the next busy Summer, but Summer is when I want to be home. When my garden is growing and producing flowers and food. When I want to cook dinner on the grill and have friends over for the evening or the weekend. When the sun comes up early and stays up til 9pm, so I don't mind sitting in my bright office working at 8am with coffee or 6pm with a Mojito. Summer is when the Berkshires are full of activity and people and events, so I can pedal my bike to the Guthrie Center and hear some folk music or take a picnic to Jacob's Pillow for a dance performance. This is when I get inspired to sit on the porch and practice my banjo or open all the windows and play beginner piano for all the neighborhood to hear. Summer is when I want to spread out an old blanket on the grass (well, clover) in the backyard and read a book. And if I fall asleep and don't wake up until Mr. Ding-a-ling comes by with his truck full of frozen treats, not to worry. That's what summer is for. Any given week in July, 20% of the country on is vacation anyway, so you usually get a break if you don't respond to email right away.

When I complain about winter, the dark, the cold, the stillness, most people tell me to embrace it. They say I should take the opportunity to rest, plan for the warm seasons, write music, read, take up skiing, knit, sleep. And that does sound really nice. I like all those things. But there is something chemical that happens to me, to lots of people, and it just feels sad to stay home. And I start to get a little crazy. I want to go the bed early, like at 7pm. And if I'm not in bed then, I might be whining and crying and generally freaking out. And most of the world is still out there working, so it doesn't really do to completely shut down for 4 months.

Years ago, when I was waiting tables in Maine, I learned that if I kept busy during those early evening hours, life was a lot better. I'd go to work around 4, just as the sun was setting and run around serving mussels and pinot noir until about 10. Before I had a chance to look up, I'd made it through the difficult part of the day and it actually was time to go to bed.

It's really unusual for me to have a whole month of no shows, but I'm right in the middle of that. It is kind of unsettling, I tend to forget who I am and what I do when I'm not performing for so long, but I am enjoying a gorgeous summer. And more importantly, I have the time to completely fill up my Fall and Winter calendar. I want as few off nights as possible in those cold dark months. I want to take trips to Florida, Texas and California and thumb my nose at Winter.

Seasons are nice. I like natural rhythms and all that. It's been such fun watching my garden grow and change, but I just can't do the winter hibernation thing. I'm a disaster in the dark and cold. I've got to keep moving, keep myself under those artificial stage lights, and trick my body into thinking it's the growing season. And then if I need to rest, I'll invest in a hammock for next summer.

Off to search for a list of winter festivals in the South.... I think I'll just do that with a Push-Up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Northwestern Adventures

Just a quick list of random things I noticed when I was in Oregon and Washington last month:

Starbucks on every corner in Seattle, I think I get why you need to drink so much coffee in that gloomy weather.
I found myself driving down Sleater-Kinney Street.

In Bellingham, I got to see the sun set over the water for the first time. Ever.

Old Town Cafe in Bellingham where you can sing for your supper and they judge you if you order bacon. I went for breakfast which is way to early to sing. Of course I had to order the bacon. It was burned.

Powell's books is overwhelming, but really inspiring, too.

Stunning coast in Oregon and surfers there are fun and nerve-wracking to watch.

I ate lots of seafood, especially loved my baked salmon sandwich from a little counter lunch spot near the Pike Place market. Think it was called Three Sisters Bakery. I also ate Morels and Fiddleheads. And drank lots of coffee.

I saw Elk and I think I saw an Eagle. I know I saw a sign on a rural gas station that said: "Espresso and Hot Dogs."

Started out cynical, but admitted that it really is an awesome area. But that still doesn't give people from there the right to be smug.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reasons last Friday was awesome

1. I had prepped Sticky Bun dough the day before and then cooked them Friday morning and they were perfect and delicious and sticky sweet. Alison took a big tray to work to share.
2. It was the best weather the Berkshires have seen in 2009. Sunny and up to 68 degrees.
3. I met a super cutie little 2 year old boy that I'm going to babysit every now and then. He really liked me, too. It's such an ego boost when kids like you, cause they are generally not polite when they don't.
4. Bought gas for $1.27. Hello! Our grocery store has an unfortuneate name, Price Chopper. But if you sign up for their big brother savings program where they study everything you buy, you get gas discounts. Ours was up to $0.80 a gallon and I cashed it in! It's disturbing how good it feels to hear the pump click off at only $18.00.
5. I visited Great Barrington's music instrument store for a couple new harmonicas, the local record store, Tune Street, to set up selling my CDs there, and the Berkshire Community Radio station to drop off CDs for airplay. Started to feel a bit more connected to the local music scene.
5b. Visited the mix and match licorice counter at Robin's candy store. Most of the exotic ones were awesome, but I don't know about that salty stuff. Still really fun to try them.
6. Got a check in the mail.
7. Got a bunch of email from Alison's co-workers about how awesome my sticky buns were.
8. I played a show at The Dream Away Lodge. It is such a special kind of secret hidden restaurant with this cozy music room full of squishy couches and foot stools. All the dishes and furniture are vintage and mis-matched, kind of like eating in a very clean antique shop, but a quirky cool one like Uncommon Objects, not fussy. The food and cocktails are amazing and you drive forever on these back roads until you think you are lost and you almost turn around, then you are there and there is a party going on. I love it. The only way it could be improved is with BBQ.
9. I went to a party full of New England hipsters where the music was Brad Paisley and Dixie Chicks and Sugarland and Keith Urban. I don't think most people noticed, but I loved it.
10. At the party, people described to me in full detail how obsessed they were with my sticky buns.

I think we can see the theme here. My new mantra: put down the Facebook, pick up the cookbook. Sticky buns are the secret of life.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pic from Philly


I had a great overnight in Philadelphia last weekend. I loved walking around downtown and seeing all I the amazing murals. Art that pops out of your everyday setting and surprises you is my favorite. Why do we keep it all in museums and theaters? Site specific is the wave of the future!

Wowzers! I'm blogging from my phone now!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Home again

I made it home! It was a really great trip. And I really needed it.

At the beginning of the trip, folks would ask me how life is in Massachusetts and I would almost burst into tears as I admitted that it had been a really hard month. And then when I got to Austin and it was so warm and vibrant and cool stuff was happening everywhere and I had friends to see every night, I thought I might not actually never go back. But by the end of the trip I heard my language change, it was a little more positive and hopeful. When I talked about the Berkshires I would say, "Spring is coming" or "I still need to find my favorite coffeeshop." I distinctly remember the morning I woke up and thought, "I want to go home." It felt like such a relief. I always knew that I would go, now it wouldn't be kicking and screaming.

I saw so many friends and family members on this trip. Actually, I kind of overdosed on socializing. I used up every minute I had to see everyone I wanted to, sometimes having three or four social engagements a day. I'm not really that popular, it was really more like bingeing on your favorite food before going to have gastric bypass surgery. It seemed like now or never. But that is actually one of my favorite parts of this job, it's easy for me to visit everyone. Maybe if I could afford to stay in a nice hotel every night, I wouldn't see as much of the inside of my friends' guest rooms, but we'd still have drinks after the show or get breakfast the next day. (That reminds me, I nee to Yelp about the cinnamon toast at Patachou!)

So now I'm home, all happy and unpacked, but there is a new problem. Now I only want to do homey things, especially gardening. I got a blister from raking yesterday and every time I sit down at the computer to do some booking or publicity, I end up searching for heirloom tomato seeds or compost pile design or even new knitting patterns. I want to hang pictures and dust and vacuum and refinish this vintage sewing table and faded wing chair. I want to bake muffins and read books and watch movies. The thing is, if I don't book some shows, I really won't be going anywhere.

I'm guessing this is just a swing of the pendulum and I'll find my center again soon. But this summer, I'll be centered with a garden full of tomatoes. Maybe all my friends and family should come visit ME!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lucky Friday the 13th

My trip to Nashville wound down last Thursay with a great songwriting session with Eamon McLoughlin and then listening to inspiring sets by Sarah Siskind and Will Kimbrough at 3rd and Lindsley. Whew! That was a typical day, very busy and productive and creative and fun. I was just absorbing music all night and then spitting it out all day. Awesome.


I headed out of town toward Georgia without really looking at the map, but I found the venue and got there right on time after a gorgeous windy mountain drive to the Crimson Moon in Dahlonega. Maybe it was the beer I drank on an empty stomach, or the sleepy vacation vibe of that old gold-mine town, but I was in a great mood. The show was an in-the-round with Reed Waddell, who reminded me of Jason Mraz, and David Berkeley who is a little Nick Drake-esque. They were both excellent songwriters and performers and though our styles were very different, the audience really responded enthusiastically to every song and I just loved being on stage with them. We all chatted at the bar and talked about life and it was just really nice to carry over that friendly, we’re-all-in-this-together feeling from my time in Nashville. Here is a pic of all of our matching tuners daisy chained together on one power cord. Awwww, how sweet!

I have been laying low in Atlanta for the past two days. I really needed some alone, quiet, sober time to recharge from Nashville and get ready to dive into SXSW. Here we go again! My schedule is here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nashville Days

Being in Nashville for two weeks is awesome. I think two weeks is really a great amount of time for a visit to a city, to really get beyond the obvious tourist destinations. The first week you are getting settled, learning your way around, meeting people, getting a feel for the atmospheres of differnt neighborhoods. I've been to Music City at least 10 times, so luckily I know my way around already and have a good handful of awesome friends here, so I don't have to do all that initial exploring anymore.

Also, the weather has been so gorgeous. It's sunny and warm and flowers are blooming and buds are popping and people are out walking and dining al fresco. In Austin, Spring is great, really my favorite time of year, but it doesn't have that sense of relief and exuberance that you get in a place where there has been a real winter. I'm sending warm thoughts to the Berkshires and soaking it all up before I go back to a potentially cold April.

Back to the two week plan. You need week 1 to run into people and then you make plans for week 2. You need a week to establish a pattern. To become a regular at the corner coffee shop, and then a week 2 to maybe hang out with those coffee shop folks outside of the cafe. You read the paper and see listings for shows happening next week, and yay! you'll still be here, so you can go. You've got two chances to fit in that great band that plays every Wednesday at that great bar where you'll know people who will introduce you to more people who will become your Facebook friends and make plans to see you next time you are in town. You find a couple of good running spots. You get to go back to that restaurant where you couldn't decide what to order, and order the other thing. This is how you stay in a city for two weeks.

I think I'm getting some work done. Probably not as much as I should. Damn these blue skies and sweet friends and fun clubs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Last Days as a Texan/ Massachusetts for better or worse



My last night in Texas was really bittersweet. A bunch of friends met up at Polvo's and I gorged myself on Mexican food and margaritas. Then we headed over to the legendary Donn's Depot where my producer Chris Gage holds down the piano on Mondays. I sang a few with him and said goodbye to too many of my favorite people. The only reason I'm even letting myself think about it now is because I'm going to Austin 3 weeks. Yay!

Winker took these pictures that night.

Chris, Abi and Christine Albert @ Donns Depot - 11/12/09

I can't help comparing the two places, even though there really is no need. I mean, can't each state be good in it's own way? Can't I have a happy life in two states? Actually, I've always wanted like 5 houses. But right now, I have one, and it's in the Berkshires.

And here how it is Better:
*Mass Turnpike beats I-35. Hands down, no contest. I'll take trees over billboards any day.

*I can walk to the Post Office. And it's so cute! And there's never more than one other person in line.

*My home office has 4 big windows, so I can watch the snow covering the street.

*No social life = cooking at home. I love cooking, it's cheap and healthy!

*Fresh Air at 7pm instead of The World. Sorry Marco Worman.

*I get to run around here, the awesome cemetery. It's not Town Lake, but I don't have to drive to get there, just walk out the door.

And here's how it is Worse:
*No breakfast tacos.

*No Shiner Bock.

*No two-stepping.

*Aforementioned no social life.

*Dry skin.

*Seemingly all day call-in shows on public radio. (One day they actually had people call in to talk about the weather. And then they ask for money??!!)

*The music "scene" has yet to reveal itself. (Actually some people laughed at me when I said I was excited to get to know the local scene!)

But many of these problems have solutions. (Knitting club. Lotion. KUT iPhone App. Drive to Northampton.) So I'm not too worried yet. And the thing that is the same and totally awesome is that I still get to drive around and play music and visit all my favorite places. Now Austin is on my visit list. But I'm gonna make it a long one this time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My 25 Things

I love this game that's going around Facebook. We get to learn little secrets about all our friends. I was surprised at how confessional I got. So here are 25 random things about me...

1. I get distracted really easily. Especially on the computer when I have half a dozen windows open, like now. So it will probably take me all day to write this, bit by bit.

2. Sometimes I'm scared that I don't have very discerning taste, because it seems like there is hardly anything I don't like. I like Cracker Barrel and Taylor Swift and J.Crew. Very "least common denominator."

3. I like high-techie things, and also old-fashioned things. I love to Twitter on my iPhone and write letters and send them through the mail.

4. I love stamps and put lots of them on my packages.

5. I love collections of things, but only when they are neatly displayed or used. My apron collection is starting to stress me out in the drawer.

6. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is go hear live music.

7. It is hard for me to ask for help or admit when things aren't going well.

8. I put a lot of commas in places where they shouldn't go. And I have to really resist the urge to overuse parentheses.

9. I'm not really scared of guns, but knives really creep me out. Sometimes I see a kitchen knife in the dish drainer with the blade sticking up and I instinctively clutch my wrists to my body.

10. I don't like to pick favorites. Or make decisions.

11. I miss the South.

12. I learned to play guitar only so I could join a band, but got sidetracked with a solo career.

13. I think Austin has the best food: Mexican, BBQ, Southern Home Cookin', and hippie healthy stuff.

14. I like self-help books and the possibility of improving.

15. I was vegetarian for 10 years. Now I eat all kinds of meat and never want to give it up again.

16. I wish I could be a photographer or a letterpress printer.

17. I never use shampoo.

18. I love learning small, intimate things about people.

19. I get really scared when I drive in rain or snow and I can't see the road.

20. I unconsciously furrow my brow all the time. Even in one of my first baby pictures.

21. Now that I live in a cold, small town I think I might have a drink every night.

22. I love rock anthems. And country anthems. And folk anthems. Turn it up and sing along!

23. I'm really trying to floss my teeth every night.

24. My friends and I had a knitting club in high school. Waaaaaay before it was so popular.

25. I often don't finish what I start. But not this time!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What is home?

I don't want to lose my Texas self. Already I feel the Northeast creeping in to my psyche. I'm telling myself it's not so cold at 40 degrees. I'm looking forward to snow. I'm thinking puffy coats are kind of cute and tall trees that I once complained blocked the sky are nice and shady. Fireplaces are cozy and hardwood and tall ceilings are a good substitute for concrete floors and open kitchens. Creative vegetarian food everywhere is worth giving up easy access to the best pork ribs I've ever tasted. Wait, I'm not there yet. In fact, I want to go to Luling right now! I know I have to do this to survive and be happy, but it's sad and confusing for my identity.

All these past 6 1/2 years, I've been learning to be a Texan, to use frontage roads, to know good BBQ and to automatically say "Y'all." I think the desert and scruffy juniper are beautiful, and I adore Live Oak trees, with their 200 year old sprawling limbs that stay green all winter. I've lived in Texas more than anywhere else, and I was just starting to feel like I had a home state, not just because of the years spent here, but because I wanted to be here and it made sense with who I am. If I live in Massachusetts, what does that mean? Does it mean I've abandoned my home? Does that mean something else is more important to me than place? That a person, a relationship, a job opportunity actually means more to me than the city or state or region I live in? I guess so, and that is pretty cool, but humbling, too. Because I admit that I have judged people before - country singers from Brooklyn- I've never believed them. Even though their lives may have been more full of rural life and tradition than mine, I have felt that because I lived in Texas, I was a more authentic artist. Who cares if I live in Austin, the fastest-growing, most educated, youngest, transient, artsy, latte-drinking, Prius-driving city in Texas, we still know how to Two-Step, even in the gay bars. Do I lose my legitimacy when I leave, or just my self-righteousness? And is that such a bad thing?

What scared me the most is that I'll lose the ability to call myself a Texan. Even though I've had to qualify it (I was born in Alabama), I realize it has felt good to have an answer when people ask me where I'm from. Even with all the explanations (We moved a lot, my Mom lives in Ohio...), when I said I was from Texas, it was really starting to feel true, emotionally at least. I'm from these big skies and long wide roads. I'm from these friendly people who brand everything with stars and add hot peppers to their cooking and turn on the air conditioning in December. I drink Shiner Bock beer and margaritas, because that's what we drink. We. Us Texans. Will I get to say that anymore? Will I feel that? Will Texas just recede in my identity and be just another place I've lived? Will I start to feel like a Massachusettsian (what are they called?) or a New Englander? or just rootless?

All this capitulating to the cold has reminded me of how adaptable I am. I pick up accents and colloquialisms everywhere I go. I'm open to new foods and have a great sense of direction. Lately, I've been taking comfort in my ability to adapt to new situations, fit in and change. It might be an even bigger part of my identity that my Texan-ness. I enjoy and crave going to new places, and for a while I even took pride in that. It felt cool to say that I'm from all over, I don't need a home. But in Austin, with all these friends, I made one anyway, almost without trying. And maybe I can adapt to a new place and make new friends and learn to love it, but will I make a home again?

It's always been pretty easy for me to move, and I had chalked that up to my adventurous spirit, but I've never really left a home. I've left places I knew I couldn't stay (college) and places I knew I didn't fit in (Portland). Now I'm up to a real challenge.

Massachusetts, please take it easy on me. Just give me a mild February, and I'll compost and honk my horn and eat chowder and even try snow-shoeing.

Austin, leave the light on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Moving Announcement

So, I debated about going public with this information. I thought maybe I'd tell my close personal friends and family, but not my mailing list, and I would not send out a press release. But I'm really no good at keeping secrets, especially when this is such a huge part of my life, something I think about all day, Twitter about, and will probably end up writing a song or two about.

And the news is: I'm moving to New England. More specifically, to a tiny town in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. The reason is because my brilliant girlfriend (of almost 10 years) got a great job in development at Jacob's Pillow, or as she calls it "The Mecca of Modern Dance." She has such a passion for dancing, watching dance, and bringing dance to a wider audience, so this is the perfect fit for her. And the truth is that I can do my job form just about anywhere, so I'm going North too. And it's really hard to say goodbye to Austin. I love it here, I have so many friends and endless inspiration. But wasn't I the one who wrote the song(s) about leaving? About all the possibility of the unknown, the new friends I just haven't met yet? Kind of cool that my own words can buoy me up in a hard time.

Also, I'm going to keep traveling and playing music, like I always have, so I'll see Austin often. With the internet, status updates, skype and all the other whizbang programs, I can keep daily tabs on all my friends, and live in an international community like Angelina and Brad. Can someone just please get on that whole teleportation thing already so we don't have to deal with fossil fuels!?

So that's the big news. I don't expect to write a whole 'nother album about moving, but if you see me Twittering about wardrobe boxes, you'll know why. Can't wait to see you New Englanders more often and love you Texas more intensely when I'm back!