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Tacoma Narrows Bridge gets us across a bit of Puget Sound on our way to Gig Harbor.

I don’t believe any musical ability came to me when I was formed. My vocal pitch is flat, I only mastered Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the French Horn in the 5th grade, I played guitar for years and years, but barely advanced beyond what I was taught as a child. I finally traded my guitar – a beautiful instrument, lovingly made in Canada – to a collector friend. The one musical thing I *am* good at, is listening to music!

The way to get more music into my life is to make friends with musicians. Luckily for me there is a lot of overlap.

In August I was excited to make the trip up north once again to gather with other expert listeners at Roy and Lucy’s house in Gig Harbor. I left later in the day because I was waiting for Tara to arrive from Corvallis. Tara had to work that morning, then make the 2 1/2 hour drive to my house. Then I drove us the 2 1/2 remaining hours. While I waited, I made my jalapeno poppers. For the first time, I remembered to wear gloves!! You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Now my skin wouldn’t burn for the next three days.

To make poppers, carefully clean all the seeds and pulp from inside the jalapeno before stuffing it with creamed cheese and baking it.

To keep the poppers warm, I plugged the crock pot in and heated it up. When Tara arrived, I pulled the poppers out of the oven and packed them into the ceramic pot, and brought the whole pot with us. This worked great!

People relax in the yard while the stage is prepared for the next performance.

A view through the trees to protect the identities of the innocent! 😉

Walking into the house I saw Lucy right away, and she greeted me with a generous smile and hug and convinced me that she really was as happy to see us both as she said she was. Roy came in from outside right at that moment and did the same thing. “You’ve come to the party so often that now you’re a regular!” he said to me, and I beamed with pleasure. I am so honored to be invited, but even more honored when they show me that the invite is not merely out of politeness, but because they want me to come. Roy even included a link to my blog review of last year’s party in his Facebook event invite this year.

Lucy and Roy McAlister call the gathering McAlapalooza! It’s an annual music party and barbecue. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and through this work and also by teaching and mentoring, Roy knows many musicians. He has invited them to his annual gatherings. The couple also invites their neighbors and friends – and if you are a neighbor or friend and want to take the stage, you’ll find total support. Roy has in mind the bigger names he wants to highlight at the end of the evening, but prior to that we in the audience are treated with an honest-to-goodness music festival, all in the McAlister back yard.

I found this short video by Joseph McAlister that highlights his shop that I always want to show in my blog posts, but can never capture it just right. Turn up your volume and listen to how Roy talks about his art. He explains that each guitar is crafted with the musician and their purpose in mind. Meaning, he creates a guitar specifically for what the musician wants to do with it. I’ve actually witnessed musician reactions to handling a McAlister guitar for the first time, and can tell you that in this video, Roy is not exaggerating about the response he gets.

Roy also finds joy in using gorgeous materials, like you see here.

My friends Andre and Diana were there again. Andre and I have known each other for years. He had just sprung a surprise on me the day before: our mutual friend, Marcus Eaton, would be there too! That is why Tara made such an effort to come. I haven’t seen Andre for a long time, not since he invited me to see the Milk Carton Kids and The Barr Brothers in November. Tara and I haven’t seen Marcus since December. It’s hard to pin those boys down when they both live so far away and lead full lives. We did some catching up and it felt good.

We arrived the same time as Jerry and Terry Holder, a duo and couple with great music but even greater personalities. These two are funny and fun, and always reach out to Tara and me when we show up, asking for the latest news and offering to let us crash at their house if we don’t want to make the long drive home.

Annual favourite Rick Ruskin, who has been playing for audiences since the 1960s and the talent to prove it. Look him up on YouTube.

Tara and I arrived late and missed the earliest performers, but got there in time for Rick Ruskin, a crowd-pleaser. We were then treated to artists we did not know: Butch Boles followed by Steve Hurley and Mary Kay Henley.

Butch Boles talks with us before a song.

Roy McAlister helps Butch set up.

Steve Hurley croons.

Jerry Holder and Terry Holder are more annual favourites that win me over every time.

Terry plays her new McAlister ukulele.

Behind the audience, a bunch of guitars rest together and swap stories about what they’re good at and where their owner took them last.

Andre was brave enough to leave his own McAlister guitar with me for a few minutes. It’ll probably be the only time in my life I touch one of those.

Then Andre needed his guitar back so that he could play for us.

Andre’s lead guitar backs up Diana’s great voice.

Tara and I were thrilled to get a chance to catch up with our favourite musician, Marcus Eaton. Apparently there was a memo about wearing black.

Marcus finally took the stage after dark.

Eaton is so good that the members of the Alec Shaw Band, warming up in the shop in the back, actually poked their heads out to listen.

Marcus Eaton played stuff we know and love, and was kind enough to drop some new songs on us (Mark I’m so sorry I didn’t get a playlist for you!!). The ones we’ve heard, we sang along with. The ones we hadn’t heard froze us in place, like usual. Marcus is my favourite musician for a reason. I know of no one who plays with such innovation and precision while seeming not to put any effort at all into it. If you are one of the few people who has not heard me rave about this guy, please please please hit that link or YouTube, and listen to a couple of songs so you know what I’m talking about. (and check out those photos – yes, that’s him on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon & Crosby, and that’s him playing beside Tim Reynolds) His guitar playing is beyond brilliant and his lyrics are connected and genuine. I can’t wait to the hear the new album when it’s ready. Marcus has been playing a lot in Italy, and the influences keep showing up in his music. It’s been a good year for Marcus, and also for his brother, A.J. Eaton. The documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019) is produced by Cameron Crowe, directed by A.J. Eaton, and scored by Marcus Eaton and Bill Laurance. It did very well at Sundance and has done well since it’s release.

Typically at McAlapalooza we see individual artists or duos, singer-songwriter folks. Roy invited an actual band this year! The Alec Shaw Band with Zan Fiskum. Good call. They were GREAT!  Alex Shaw has a great voice and together the band has a polished, confident sound that matched the mood of the night and all the music we had previously heard. I got a kick out of seeing a trombone on stage – there’s a new one for the McAlister back yard.

Zan Fiskum on the left, with the Alec Shaw Band. Sorry for the blurry photos. I didn’t have a tripod and neither my camera nor my iPhone could really deal with the dark.

More Zan Fiskum and Alec Shaw Band. Love that trombone!

Tara and I went all the way back to Rainier that night. T had work the next day and wanted a head start and a good night’s sleep before heading back to Corvallis.

While my kitchen, living room, and dining room are torn up for the remodel, I haven’t been able to enjoy Christmas in my own home. I mean…sort of. Tara came home from college and insisted we get a tree and decorate the TV room a little. It was good for my soul. I love Christmas and this remodel project has been underway since May and I am *so* frustrated that it’s still not done. Not even close to done. And my Christmas was all discombobulated because of it.

This is the TV room, crammed with furniture (and appliances – you can’t see the refrigerator, oven, and microwave to my left) from the kitchen and dining room. Note the desk to the right, that has become my new kitchen, with toaster, electric kettle, coffee and tea. And the bookcase piled with dishes.

It was a good time to go spend some Christmas holiday time with someone else. So Tara and I headed to Boise, Idaho, to visit my awesome brother Eli, his inspiring wife Addie, and their boys.

We set out early Friday morning. There were three mountain passes along the way, and the total trip would be 8 hours of driving. I wanted to have as much daylight as possible. We had coffee and granola bars and jumped into the Jeep. After two hours of driving, we were famished, and that was perfect because we had reached the town of The Dalles, Oregon. Home of our favourite breakfast stop in the region: Petite Provence.

Our favourite breakfast place is in a tiny town called The Dalles, along Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge. Authentic, delicious, French fare at Petite Provence.

The weather Friday was promising. I checked the whole route and saw that no precipitation was expected that day. Still, I’m always nervous about micro-effects tucked away in the river gorge, or between mountain tops where the weather radar can’t see. We were lucky though, and the roads were in excellent shape all day. We arrived in Boise at dinner time, and met the family at a favourite restaurant close to their home. I think it has been four years since we saw them all. I could have sworn it’s been less time than that, but sadly, I think that’s how long it’s been.

We all went to my brother’s beautiful home and chatted while the very exciteable boys vied for our attention. I am touched that Eli & Addie have constantly talked to the boys about Aunt Sis (that’s me) and Cousin Tara so much, that the boys were genuinely excited to see us, even though they didn’t remember us at all.

Tara and me enjoying the hospitality in my brother’s home.

Addie is a genius at decorating, and making a home feel like Home. I can’t imagine the immense amount of work it must have taken to make their place so beautiful – like a magazine spread. There were tasteful, gorgeous Christmas touches in every single room: even the boys’ bathroom. The couch was heaped with fluffy soft Christmas blankets for curling up with – and we used them every chance we got! They doted on our every need, tried to anticipate needs we hadn’t thought of yet, and made us feel like showing up was the best thing that had happened to them in a month. I truly admire people who can do that. I am humbled by what beautiful people they are.

The next morning the boys were very eager to find what new thing had been done by their Elf on the Shelf, named Rocky. For those not familiar, many homes have an Elf on the Shelf ever since a book by that name was published in 2005. The story is that in order to help Santa know if children have been naughty or nice, the elf begins visiting their home every day, and flying back to the North Pole to report each night. The elf looks like a toy, but is alive, and holds very still during the daytime, when the children are around. Each morning, my brother’s boys get up and run around the house to find Rocky and discover what new thing has been left for them. Sometimes it’s mischief like moustaches drawn onto family photos in Mom’s lipstick. Sometimetimes it’s a treat or a project.

Eli watches as the boys mix the ingredients to grow candy canes. Forgive the grooming, we had all just climbed out of bed.

Saturday morning, Rocky left some materials and instructions for a project. There were two big bowls filled with sugar, and small bowls filled with gumdrops and M&Ms. There was an instruction card explaining that the recipe was to grow candy canes. The boys poured in the ingredients and mixed. Over the next couple of days, if they left the bowls alone, candy canes would grow in there.

Addie paints Tara’s toenails.

My fancy nails

We lounged for most of the day. The boys played a lot of video games and we grown ups drank mimosas and talked. Addie was excited to have an estrogen infusion into that bunch of testosterone, and brought out all her nail supplies and hair supplies. We did manicures and played with hair while Eli made holiday phone calls.

Tara and Addie

Nephew getting ready for Bingo night

Finally it was time for us to go to our evening events. My brother’s family has a Bingo night Christmas tradition that they were so excited to attend! The family got all dressed up in funny clothes. We were invited of course, but Tara and I had purchased tickets to see our friend Marcus Eaton perform. We had invited Eli & Addie, but they were going to have too much fun at Bingo night to give it up. So, we happily went our separate ways, all wishing the two events weren’t on exactly the same night.

Another fun thing for Tara and me was that our friend Andre had flown down to Boise from Seattle to see Marcus play as well. We managed to be seated at the same table. Tara hadn’t seen Andre or Marcus for years, so it was fun for them to all reconnect again. Because we are special friends of the artist, we were invited back stage to hang out in the green room with Marcus, Andre, and other friends before the show.

Marcus at the Sapphire Room, entertaining his hometown crowd.

Then we ate dinner in the lovely Sapphire Room of the Riverside Hotel in Boise, while we watched the show. Andre livestreamed the first hour and a half of the show for Marcus’ fans on facebook, but finally put his phone down when his arm got tired. Andre had brought his new guitar, a sister to Marcus’ guitar, to the show. The same luthier made the two guitars, using the same piece of wood. Andre loaned his guitar, tuned in a different key, and Marcus switched out during the show. Marcus also explained that Andre’s guitar is #1 in a series by the luthier, Roy McAlister, who has created the “Marcus Eaton edition.” So you too, can have one of these guitars.

Andre with his very special guitar.

Marcus sings a song from his upcoming album. You can see Andre’s guitar behind him.

Marcus has been writing songs long enough that he managed to fill the whole performance with exceptional ones – favourites for all of us. He also played a debut live version of one I’ve only seen in video (I’ll put the video at the bottom), and he played two brand new songs I had never heard. Some are so beloved that the audience was singing along. He dedicated one to Andre, and one to me. We all sang Happy Birthday to his mom, whose birthday is December 25th. Marcus brought his dad (another performer) up on stage and they did a song together.

Setlist:

  1. Shadow of a Bird
  2. Flying Through the Fire
  3. Step Aside (live debut)
  4. Black Pearl
  5. Better Way
  6. Barbie Song
  7. Handed Down
  8. Calm Beneath
  9. Drug
  10. Sunrise Lets You Down
  11. What’s the Difference
  12. Stir It Up (Bob Marley)
  13. Closer (live debut)
  14. Picture of Us
  15. Up and Over
  16. Lucky Me (featuring Steve Eaton)
  17. Fiona

After the show we went back to the green room with Marcus again. This time with his mom and sister too. They are a loving family and were so kind to us friends and fans.

On the way home we stopped to admire a house in my brother’s neighborhood. It’s astonishingly bright with Christmas lights. Tara noticed that the windows were covered in thick curtains, likely for both privacy and so the inhabitants can sleep at night.

Incredibly bedecked home near my brother’s house.

Christmas-O-Rama!

The house sits on a corner in an intersection, and every viewable angle is packed full of lights, including an arbor of lights over the sidewalk.

The next morning after coffee and cocoa, we left my brother’s house. The family had stayed the night at their friend’s house where they played Bingo, and told us they didn’t expect to get back home anytime soon. We were anxious to get started because of forecast snow. So we left a love note and off we went.

The snow didn’t begin till late morning, so I had Tara drive the first few hours. We stopped for gas and slid all over the road in the snow as we turned corners and slid to a stop at stop signs in the little town. After gassing up, I took over the driving.

A rest stop along the way.

A tiny snowman at the rest stop.

Closer to home it’s warmer, because of the marine influence along the Columbia River. So it was pouring rain for the latter part of the drive, making small lakes across the highway, and with high winds my Jeep was tossed about and spinning tires in the water. Yikes! But the rain had lightened up by the time we got home. Tara relaxed about an hour, got something to eat, filled their water bottle, and took off for another 2 1/2 hour drive home to Corvallis that night. Tara is house- and pet-sitting for friends and had to get back to check on all the critters. Long day, poor kid.

To my delight, the kid then turned around and drove all the way back home to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with me. My holiday turned out perfectly after all. ❤

My kitty Racecar stretches out on my legs, glad that I am home again.                       Me too, kitty, me too.

 

Jerry and Terry Holder are annual favourites because they are so much fun on stage, they’re lovely people, and we love their music.

I went to my third backyard music and barbecue yesterday at Roy and Lucy McAlister’s home. Remember how enchanted I was the first time? It’s like that every time. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and consequently knows a lot of musicians. He and Lucy host a gathering every summer at their home, where they invite neighbors, celebrities, local stars, old friends and brand new friends to take the stage and perform for all of us lucky people who are invited. The music is always exceptional. The people who show up – every single soul – are always exceptional.

Damp but optimistic audience.

We’ve had an unusually hot and dry summer here along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Day after day of temperatures in the 90s have finally dried out the earth to dust and much of the greenery has yellowed. So in between two solid weeks of clear blue skies and 90-degree temps, there was one day – a single day – of rain in the forecast. Any other day we would be cheering for the much-needed rain, but instead we remarked about the bad timing. And then… we appreciated the rain a little bit anyway, because we live here and have made peace with rain.

It intermittently poured, then broke up and splashed sun on us – teasing us and getting our hopes up – then started pouring again, for hours. We fretted about the electronic equipment under plastic sheets, hoping nothing would get ruined, hoping there would be a way to have an outside concert eventually. And yes, around 6pm the clouds began to break apart in earnest. By 7pm it had cleared up for good and people moved permanently out of the house. We sat on wet lawn chairs and got ready to be delighted.

A series of fabulous musicians took the stage!

This photo is from 2017, since I didn’t take any good perspective photos this year. Behind the stage you can see the glowing windows of Roy’s shop.

Steve Hawkins was gracious enough to start off the night with some beautiful songs. One song was interrupted by low-flying aircraft, and he calmly took it in stride and incorporated the demonstration into the show. Now there’s a performer for you.

Rick Ruskin is another familiar friend and performer. His ease with his guitar made the audience forget it was a show and just get caught up in the music.

Roy McAlister, left, introduces Andre Ranieri and Diana Brown. It was their first time on stage and Andre impressed us with his lead guitar while Diana wowed us with her vocals.

Andre has been a beloved friend for years.  We met through a mutual friend and musician, Marcus Eaton. In fact, it’s because of Andre that I received my first invite to McAlapalooza in 2015. Andre plays with Diana, and so she made the journey from the TriCities to be here tonight. I loved her of course.

Peter Jacobsen used his guitar to accompany his outstanding voice.

Christine Gill and John Resch knocked our socks off with their great songs! John played a guitar he built himself.

Christine and John get a second photo because this one was too good to leave out. They are such a loving, open, humble, and generous couple. I begged them to come and play again next time.

Pianist and singer, Grace, a McAlister family friend. This young woman’s talent will take her places. (and look how much fun she’s having)

Our hostess Lucy took the stage to introduce Save the Bees, a new act and immediate favourite once they began belting out brilliant harmonies.

This is where the guitar magic happens.

Andre plays his new guitar.

As I watched Save the Bees, Andre gestured to me from the other side of the lawn to follow him and John Resch up the hill to Roy’s shop. When I arrived he announced, “This is my new guitar.” We admired the nearly-finished instrument (missing accessories like a pick guard and strap button) that Roy has been making for him. It’s a sister to Marcus Eaton’s guitar, that stirred up so much excitement in 2015. Andre humbly handed it to John, who tuned it and played a few pieces, and then Andre finally got to hold his new baby.

Diana showed up a little later and played it too, Jerry and Terry Holder stopped in to watch the delight settling over Andre. Terry showed us her mostly-built ukulele that Roy is making. Then Andre played while Diana sang, and I was a quiet, wide-eyed witness to musicians simply reveling in the joy of making music.

Jerry backs up Terry who wrote a new song while teaching herself to play the ukulele.

I had been stuffing myself with food all evening. That’s one of the fun things about McAlapalooza: guests trickle in from 3 to 8, and everybody brings something: salads, blueberry tarts, roast potatoes, noodles, fresh vegetables, cake, and artichoke dip. The grill was fired up and then chicken and sausage appeared. Every time I walked into the house, a new dish had found a place on the table and I had to sample it. It was late, and dark, and I was tired and full of delicious food and wine. I missed the final act, James Anaya, and climbed into the Jeep and set the GPS for home.

Roy McAlister talks with Marcus as the musician gets to know his new McAlister guitar.

Roy McAlister talks with Marcus Eaton as the musician gets to know his new McAlister guitar.

Yesterday evening was another one of those times when I am absolutely humbled and grateful for the beautiful people in my life who made it happen for me. Don’t you find that remarkable things happen as a result of collaboration? It’s always that way. Keep people you admire and respect close to you, and they will make your life better. 🙂

Though we see each other rarely, one of my favourite friends of all is A, who lives out in Southeastern Washington state. He was invited to a backyard BBQ and potluck party in Gig Harbor, Washington where our mutual friend, Marcus Eaton would be playing. A couldn’t make it, and asked that I be invited to the party instead. And I was. (giggly happy dance inserted here)

It was at the home of a luthier, A told me. A man who makes high quality guitars played by musicians including Jackson Browne, Marc Cohn, Graham Nash and David Crosby. It was a unique opportunity for me to be in the presence of real artists, and only two hours’ drive from our home in Rainier, Oregon.

I got up early and made jalapeno poppers. This involves carefully cutting open fresh peppers and removing all the pulp and seeds and stuffing them with cream cheese. The task is tricky to do without tearing the peppers, which you want to close back up once they’re stuffed, so you can roast them. The bigger problem is dealing with pepper juice on your fingers. It’s 24 hours later and my skin is still burning. I always think “Next time I’ll wear gloves,” and I always forget. At least I’m consistent.

This photo doesn't do it justice, but Gig Harbor is an absolutely darling seaside Victorian town. The rain let up right before we arrived, so we were able to get out a bit, and stayed dry.

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but Gig Harbor is an absolutely darling Victorian town. The rain let up right before we arrived, so we were able to get out a bit, and stayed dry.

Down at the picturesque Harbor itself. This town is in Puget Sound, so it has full access to the Pacific Ocean, but is protected from seaside exposure.

Down at the picturesque Harbor itself. This town is in Puget Sound, so it has full access to the Pacific Ocean, but is protected from seaside exposure.

The weather was wretched and that made I-5 treacherous. The four northbound lanes are usually bumper to bumper on the way to Seattle: that’s a given. So add torrential downpours causing small lakes on the Interstate, and the omnipresent summer construction zones. Yikes. We were grateful to pull onto Highway 16 and head west over the Tacoma Narrows bridge. (I received a text from my brother that the bridge was closed due to high winds after we arrived at our hosts’ home, but luckily it was opened up again by the time we all left.)

Our plans had changed due to the weather, so we arrived rather early. Tara and I decided to explore the town of Gig Harbor and calm our nerves a bit before we ventured on. From there, it was only 15 minutes to the house.

Mrs. McAlister was as gracious as could be, considering she had never met us, and ushered us both in, introduced us to the kids, pointed out drinks and food, and showed me how to work the oven so I could broil the poppers. I met other guests and was grateful that Tara and I were not the first. Marcus was already there, and introduced me to Roy McAlister the luthier, and he introduced me to his new guitar.

The guitar should get a dedicated blog post. Sadly, I am ignorant of the technical descriptions of instruments. All I can say is that – even to me – this guitar is sexy enough to make hearts pound. Roy pointed out all the pieces: the blonde front piece, the dark sides and back, the black wood border around the face. Each piece of wood gorgeous and patterned and quilted with variations in the wood. Even the ebony of the neck was striped with lighter colours. Stunning.

Marcus begins to open up his new guitar.

Marcus begins to open up his new guitar.

His fingers blur across the frets.

His fingers blur across the frets.

Marcus had just been presented with the guitar, and played with it for a couple of hours before people started showing up, because he was trying to “open it up,” and noted that he could already hear the difference after doing that. He was so pleased he practically babbled about his gift. He said that guitars peak in sound quality after 10 years or so, and he was dying to hear the future tones of this work of art.

I was honored to be invited to Roy’s workshop in the back, filled with carved and unassembled pieces, curved and shaped and waiting to be brought to life, first by the luthier and finally by the musicians.

Guitars waiting for the tender touches of repair work.

Guitars waiting for the tender touches of repair work.

Tools waiting to be called upon.

Tools waiting to be called upon.

Roy McAlister was revealed to me by the end of the evening to be an exceptional human being. When describing the guitar for us, I could sense his efforts to maintain a calm and humble presentation but it was easy to see how excited he was. Watching carefully as the evening progressed and he hovered at the edge of the audience, soaking up the sounds of the artists with his guitars, I could see the kid inside him, straining not to bounce around with glee. If he wasn’t proud of his accomplishments while watching the musicians, he deserved to be. During the party, he talked with everyone and made each person feel appreciated, even me and Tara, total strangers. Roy made jokes all night and when he got together with Marcus, the two of them were positively juvenile. It was pretty hilarious. I teased him about being the biggest kid in the house, and he took it as a compliment.

Marcus could not stop raving about his gift. It was better than Christmas. The guitar, obviously, is gorgeous. But Marcus was just going crazy about its playability the instant he picked it up. “I’ve been fighting my guitar for three years,” he told me. “This guitar disappears when I start playing. It disappears.” You could tell by watching. There was no adjustment period as he figured it out…he just sat down and made jaws drop. In between every song he took the time to rave some more. “Sick!” he says, “I want to be more eloquent, but that’s all I’ve got.”

The rain POURED and wind raged. It had brought down a tree in the yard earlier. There was no question of being out of doors. So the lovely hosts rearranged their home and brought the show inside. That made it very intimate, and I was glad, because I was able to hear every single breath of the new guitar.

When the house was full, the artists began playing. It was a full concert with personally invited artists. I have photos only from the beginning when the light was still good. When it got dark outside, the room was dark and my little Nikon with my poor night photography skills was not able to capture anything worth posting.

Terry Holder tunes her guitar.

Terry Holder tunes her guitar.

Jerry and Terry make a great team and looked like they were having fun up there.

Jerry and Terry make a great team and looked like they were having fun up there.

Terry Holder started us off, with some fabulous back-up by her husband Jerry. I had the chance to talk to them before the show and they are both truly genuine people with quick smiles and generous hearts. Terry’s songs are as beautiful as she is, and filled with a magical, hopeful quality that I noticed is also in her personality. “Put it out into the Universe,” she said a couple of times during the night, expressing her belief that good things happen when you are true to yourself.

Rick Ruskin has skillfully wound his way around guitars for decades.

Rick Ruskin has skillfully wound his way around guitars for decades.

Rick Ruskin was up next with his McAlister guitar. Rick’s funny stories were a great accessory to his exceptional playing. It was clear that he and his guitar had been close friends for years, and his picking was relaxed and confident. He joked about playing I Wish It Would Rain the previous year, and this year’s barbecue being rained out. He played it again, hoping to cancel out the effect, and then – just in case – held us spellbound with an instrumental Here Comes The Sun. I complimented him on his set, later in the kitchen. “I give it a B+,” Rick responded. Oh, pshaww. Maybe artists find it harder to admit to greatness when there are so many greats together. But I argue: wear the coat when it fits.

Marcus in the living room of a family who play music and love music.

Marcus in the living room of a family who play and love music.

Then Marcus played a nice long set. For those who want to know, the setlist was Sunrise Lets You Down, Black Pearl, What’s The Difference, Flying Through the Fire, Reverie, I Will Be Your Shade, Better Way, The Sting, The Barbie Song, and Who You Are. His fingers fly when he plays. He sometimes watched the frets while his hands picked it out, and sometimes looked right out at us while his fingers danced and sparked like lightning. There were little gasps in the audience and quiet “wow”s around me. (I often wonder what it’s like for those hearing him for the first time) Though I have been mesmerized by his playing since 2006, twice I caught myself dizzy from holding my breath to listen. No matter how good the music is, I must still breathe. It was the first time I had heard Flying Through the Fire, inspired by a WWII messenger pigeon. “It’s about life,” said Marcus. The song touched me deeply. It’s going to have to be my new anthem. Sadly, I still don’t have the music, since it’s on Marcus’ new album. The album is so recently completed it hasn’t even been released yet!

As if that wasn’t enough music-from-the-gut, I was introduced to Keith Greeninger. First of all, his voice knocked me flat. In a good way. There is no better match of voice to songwriter ever. Each song has a message that is so profoundly beautiful it broke my heart. In a good way. I had to fight off the tears during Hop In the Truck, in which he played a mandola (everything else was on guitar). It is about American and Mexican construction workers building a border wall together because they needed the work to feed their families, and when it is finished all the foreigners get deported. The song called out politicians building campaigns by shutting out the laborers upon whose backs our country was built. After the show I found that Keith is …wait for it… deeply genuine and caring in person. He was eager to shake my hand and thank me for listening, when I was the one trying to thank him.

Every single person was wonderful, and funny, and interesting, and open. I didn’t even have a chance to meet them all, and trust me, I feel that loss. The bigger story is that I was able to meet many of them, and today my life is a hundred times richer.

My last post was about visiting family in Idaho. I had two reasons to go there, and the second one was music.

Alana Davis knocks us flat with her amazing voice.

Alana Davis knocks us flat with her amazing voice.

Marcus Eaton at the Sapphire Room at the Boise Riverside Hotel.

Marcus Eaton at the Sapphire Room at the Boise Riverside Hotel.

A few of us die-hard Marcus Eaton fans know a little about each other. So when we heard that Marcus would be in Idaho visiting family and putting on a show with newly-Idahoan Alana Davis, I got some pressure along the lines of, “You should go to Idaho, visit your dad, and catch the show while you’re there.” Thank you for pushing me guys, it was the best one yet!

I’m a fan of Alan Davis too! Years ago I found out that Ani DiFranco’s song was actually a cover of Alana Davis’ 32 Flavors, so I bought her album Blame It On Me, and became a fan on the spot. Turns out she lives in Idaho now, and was able to participate in the Idaho Songwriters Association December concert. When Alana played 32 Flavors, she brought Marcus onto the stage with her and we got to hear their guitars together. I go weak in the knees for acoustic guitar.

My brother joined Tara and me at The Sapphire Room. My brother was the manager at The Big Easy (before it became the Knitting Factory) and had seen Marcus play a dozen times, but this was mostly new music for him. The delicious surprise was that there was a lot of new music for me too! While I have seen songs like Smile, and Sunrise Lets You Down on YouTube, this was my first time hearing them live.

Marcus also treated us to a song or two from the new album, one he co-wrote with David Crosby, and a couple brand, brand new songs too! I have been *starving* for new music, and it was the medicine I needed. He played song after song, covering a Bob Marley tune with Alana, and playing a song with his dad Steve Eaton, also an accomplished musician. Marcus joked about the drawback of many harmonica players, but pointed out that “My dad can actually play the harmonica.” And he could. Steve sang one of his own songs called Asleep at the Wheel that made lots of Idaho references, making a fun song even more enjoyable.

Marcus and Alana share the stage.

Marcus and Alana share the stage.

Most of my shots were from behind the stage, since that is where our seats were.

Most of my shots were from behind the stage, since that is where our seats were.

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We had been there nearly three hours when the show ended. I introduced my brother to Marcus and Tara was finally able to say Hi (she is prohibited from attending all his 21+ shows). Those two wanted to go home and sleep, but I was soaring on adrenalin and wanted to stay. My brother gave me the number for a local cab and I handed him my keys.

After the show I was approached by Melissa, who had noticed my camera and asked if I would take photos, since their usual photographer was not there. I happily acquiesced, and the after-show shots of all the folks involved with the concert and the Idaho Songwriters Association turned out great. Turns out that Steve Eaton founded the Idaho Songwriters Association, and remains active and supportive in it. While waiting for others to come together for the photos, I was able to meet and talk with Steve. His enthusiasm for his son’s career, and his love for his son, was evident.

After photos Marcus was swarmed by fans, friends, and family (and those categories totally overlapped). It was a brilliant thing for me to see: the musician at home. Something I feel honored to have witnessed. The love and admiration was palpable. I stood to the side, waiting for my turn. I had the chance to talk with his brother, and his sister, and his mom. The whole family is warm, wonderful, generous, the way I’ve come to expect of the Idahoans I’ve known. Everyone was buying up the gorgeous concert posters his brother made, then getting autographs all over them. It was a frenzy of favors and silver ink and laughs.

Steve Eaton, Alana Davis, Marcus Eaton.

Steve Eaton, Alana Davis, Marcus Eaton.

When most of the people were gone, a few of us fans followed him to another room where he packed up his gear. Marcus’ sister begged him for the use of his phone charger. His mom came in with a friend and we all sat around a large round table and told stories and got to know each other a little. Marcus is a born storyteller, periodically having to get up and act out the tale, once even enlisting the help of the Ohio fan to play a part of “ordinary guy” to his “obnoxious L.A. native.”

When it was time to go, Marcus overheard me calling a cab. He told me to call them back and cancel, and I got a ride home with him and his sister, while his mom drove. Now THAT was the pinnacle of a great evening for me. I couldn’t sleep for another two hours, just lay awake and grinned.

Marcus Eaton at the Star Theatre in Portland November 19, 2014

Marcus Eaton at the Star Theater in Portland November 9, 2014

It’s been too long since Marcus Eaton was in Portland. When I got the news he would be coming through, deciding to attend the show was a no-brainer.

As I told a friend:  “I am sort of miffed at Marcus (not really, I’m joking) for moving to LA. He used to have this Pacific Northwest circuit, where he’d play Seattle, Spokane, Kennewick, Portland, Boise, and sometimes smaller towns in between. I could catch those shows. Seattle and Kennewick are only 3 1/2 hours’ drive, so practically around the corner.”

Marcus has been busy in LA, still doing shows in Italy, working hard with David Crosby, and has completely changed the old routine. He’s connecting to thousands more people than before. Now that our little secret is getting out, the old fans are having to relinquish our personal time with our favourite artist, so he can satisfy the new fans. It’s a bummer, but I’m also thinking: it’s about time he gets the exposure he deserves.

Enjoy the fire, a drink, a smoke, and watch people walk by on the street.

Enjoy the fire, some gyros, a drink, a smoke (Oregon just voted in favor of marijuana legalization)  and watch people walk by on the street.

Here's the rest of the view from the fire. Great atmosphere here.

Here’s the rest of the view from the fire. Great atmosphere here.

I showed up early (because, Duh, it’s Marcus!), so I had to wait around. Marcus had the audacity to leave after sound check, and get a bite to eat I presume. Imagine, thinking about food at a time like this. One of the employees pointed me through a door to the outdoor patio and Zaalook mediterranean cuisine. There was a fire pit beside the sidewalk and that’s where I soaked up a little of the city while I sipped my drink and waited.

He showed up with 2 minutes to spare. There he was! No glasses, short hair, but the man I was looking for. I practically leapt across the theatre for a hug and a hi and then watched him hit the stage.

Playlist for Mark (you know who you are!):

  • Sunrise Lets You Down
  • What’s the Difference
  • The Calm Beneath
  • Close Your Eyes/ mashup with Bille Jean
  • Fiona

Marcus had expressed some worry that the sound would work out, since there had been problems earlier during the sound check. I don’t know what the problems had been, but we were bombarded with bass at the beginning of the show. Luckily the sound guy pulled it off somewhat over time. Sadly, a residual effect of this was when I managed to get a super-great close up and undisturbed video of The Calm Beneath, I played it back home and found it absolutely worthless due to the sound quality.

On the beautiful stage of the Star Theater

On the beautiful stage of the Star Theater

Marcus claps into the microphone while he builds a loop.

Marcus claps into the microphone while he builds a loop.

I allowed myself to be annoying and snapped about 7 shots with a flash, but it didn't improve the photos and mostly just gave Marcus glowing red eyes.

I allowed myself to be annoying and snapped some shots with a flash, but it didn’t improve the photos and mostly just gave Marcus glowing red eyes.

I have told this tale before, trying to describe how much I love his music. As soon as the guitar began to sing, my heart was melting. It sounds like a serious health condition, but jellied innards are a sign of big-time fan worship. And it’s a good thing. I was trying to soak up the melodies, the atmosphere, the idea that I was finally seeing him live again. The crowd really went bananas when he played Bille Jean. I’ve heard him do this before, but it doesn’t fail to please. And five songs later, it was over too soon. The audience tried cheering as payment for one more song, but we were ineffective. Melted heart broken.

It was fun to notice that at least half the audience was there FOR Marcus…which I am not used to seeing when he opens for another act. It has almost been a badge of honor to be the only fan who shows up for ME, and not for the main event. But the tides are turning and ME is coming into his own time.

Yes, he was touring with his longtime friend and even longer time guitar hero, Tim Reynolds. I had seen Marcus Eaton and Kevin Rogers open for TR3 before, several years ago. While we waited for TR3, one audience member told me, “If you like Marcus, just wait till you hear Tim Reynolds. Your life will never be the same.” She had no idea who she was talking to, ha ha! She should not have been so confident that our worlds had not already been rocked by a guitar magician. I chatted with no less than seven other people that night, who all swore they had only come for Marcus Eaton. One couple had never even heard of Tim Reynolds. Ha!

So yeah, Star Theater‘s big act for the night was TR3 with Tim, the bassist Mick Vaughn, and drummer Dan Martier.  They were really entertaining and the music was much more rock and roll than what Marcus gave us. And all those guitars you saw stacked up in the photo at the top? Tim played them all! It was a great show from beginning to end.

Tim Reynolds wows the audience

Tim Reynolds wows the audience

The boys even brought Marcus onto the stage so we could suck the last bit of ME music out of the night.

I could never get Mick Vaughn into focus. That man is one high-powered bundle of energy.

I could never get Mick Vaughn into focus. That man is one high-powered bundle of energy.

I had not seen Marcus emerge during the TR3 set, and didn’t know till nearly the end of the concert that he was in the back with the merch, available for chatting. As soon as I learned this, I went back to chat a little, but kept it brief cuz I didn’t want to abandon my date. We were able to exchange a couple of personal tidbits to catch up on each other’s lives. He empathized with getting my braces off – yay!! A friend snapped this photo during our few minutes together.

Awww, reunited.

Awww, reunited.

After the show, I stood beside him and got in a few more questions in between fans gushing and buying CDs. Marcus said he loves L.A., loves his neighborhood, loves the music, the beach. It’s hard to stay mad at him for living there when it makes him so happy. The answer to the most sought-after question of the evening: The new album is still not ready, no new songs were introduced, no insider info. He’s got most of it done, he told me. Aside from the beautiful song Better Way, we will just have to be patient. “Soon!” promises Marcus.

Marcus and me last month in Portland

Marcus and me July 10, 2013 in Portland

When someone is in love they want everyone else to share that love. Indulge me while I rave about some extraordinary music that I am crazy about, and the story of how I met the man who makes it.

When I heard Marcus Eaton’s music for the first time, I became instantly and forever devoted. Yes, I confess. It’s not a relationship with a person I’m talking about, but a love affair with sound.

In 2006 Marcus Eaton had been making a profound impact on audiences for several years, but I had never heard of him. While I visited my Pa at his oasis on the Snake River in southern Idaho, the nearby Ste. Chapelle Winery had cleverly invited father and son, Steve and Marcus Eaton, to play their Father’s Day concert.

It was a splendid day with my family. We picnicked, drank wine, and danced in the shade. Steve Eaton’s music was a perfect choice for the event. His son played a few solo tunes and KNOCKED ME FLAT. With a studio perfect voice, flashing his guitar as his pass into my soul , Marcus Eaton’s melodies spiraled together world beat, singer songwriter, Latin rhythms, jazz and rock. After the show I stared at this young guy hanging around the stage, and he saw me. I’ll never forget his face at that moment. Looking expectantly at me through his glasses. I was dumbstruck with pure fan paralysis, and eventually ducked behind something and escaped.

At the Father's Day concert at Ste. Chapelle winery in Caldwell, Idaho in 2006

The Father’s Day concert at Ste. Chapelle winery in Caldwell, Idaho June 28, 2006. That’s Steve Eaton on stage. I didn’t take any photos of Marcus that day. How could I have known?

I scratched his name onto a napkin and carried it home to Massachusetts, and eventually bought The Day the World Awoke by Marcus Eaton and the Lobby. I played the CD till my 10 year old daughter had it memorized.  That CD has the brilliant Fiona, which never fails to win converts.  In fact, l want you to hear Fiona. The following video begins with a short intro in the midst of an interview, so if you’re bored with my blog post already, please just skip to 5:40 and maybe you’ll decide to read more.

In 2008 I was compelled to write a review of the CD on Amazon. It was an amateur review I grant you, but borne of genuine admiration. That was the best thing I could have done!

I got a friend request on facebook shortly after; from a person I didn’t know. I checked her page and couldn’t find a single thing in common except that her page mentioned Marcus Eaton. I asked Kitty, prior to accepting the friend request, “Why did you friend me? Is it because I adore Marcus Eaton?” The answer was yes, and that is how I became friends with Marcus’ manager at that time. When I tried to purchase The Story of Now, it had been sold out, so Kitty sent me a personal copy instead, plus the CDs Live at the Gorge, and Live at Larkspur 2007.

In the meantime, I had seen him at a couple of concerts. Marcus is one of those artists who – live on stage – can explode your expectations. Here you were, expecting to be musically entertained, and instead your aural world is turned inside out for two hours. At one show he said, “I’ve been playing around with loops…” and he was not kidding. These days, incorporated into every show as though looping his own background tracks at a live show is as natural as announcing the next song, Marcus almost effortlessly builds in a whole percussion and vocal ensemble behind himself in solo performances.

Wanna see him looping?

I was always the bumbling fool after his shows, trying to make words come out of my mouth that would give him the impression that I loved the music. I wasn’t new to music: I was authentically impressed. My dad plays guitar, and I grew up with summertime bands (in the basement to hide from the heat), whiskey-laden, smoke-infused strains of mandolin, drums, bass, and my dad playing slide on his pedal steel guitar drifting upstairs to the rest of the house. I played guitar in a bar in Tamarack, Idaho for a few months when I was  10 years old, my timid voice attempting Kenny Roger’s hits while bearded loggers  shouted at me, “Louder!” I have always been drawn to stunning fingerwork, and was drooling in front of Michael Hedges in little theatres in Boulder, CO and Burlington, VT when I had barely hit my twenties. In retrospect, I imagine the deer-in-headlights look must have given Marcus a clue that I was an incorrigible fan. Or, in need of sympathy, heh.

Kitty invited me to a backyard party prior to the annual Gorge show in George, Washington in September 2009. By then I was living in Portland, so my daughter and I made the drive up to Seattle suburb and joined the party. Stopped in my tracks, I spotted Marcus at the food table. “Hi, it’s great to see you!” he said, and came toward me with a big smile and arms out for a hug. “You can’t possibly know me,” I said doubtfully. “Of course I do. I recognize you from the shows,” he insisted. I told him my name, and we chatted a little. I told him about the Father’s Day concert at the winery. He said it was almost an annual event for him and his dad.

Marcus at a backyard show outside of Seattle, September 3, 2009

Marcus at a backyard show outside of Seattle, September 3, 2009

This is how intimate it was. So many of these people turned into friends that night.

This is how intimate it was. So many of these people turned into friends that night. They now make up my ME family.

It adds to the beauty of the music that he’s a beautiful person. Listen to the stuff he writes; it’s all about finding peace in this world, finding the best ways to love, recover from pain or judgement, and to value what’s important. He sings about growth and about childlike joy. Listen, just listen to him!

The rest, as they say…

Marcus met my mother at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland one December night in 2008. He sent me a facebook message the next day, “Nice to meet tu madre.” Our girls’ night out, when I finally got to share with her such a Crystal-ly favourite part of my life, is a truly precious memory. When I think of Marcus, he keeps her alive for me in a special tiny way, because he reminds me of that night. My mother died in December 2010.

I was at The Roxy in Kennewick the night somebody brought in a case of his newly released CD, and cut it open right there. I bought two copies of As If You Had Wings: one for me and one for another friend of mine with a guitar in the family.

Miss Tara (right) finally gets to see a real Marcus Eaton show!

Miss Tara (right) finally gets to see a real Marcus Eaton show!

When it was my daughter’s turn to catch a show at Jimmy Mak’s in February 2012, she embarrassed me by knowing the words to the songs better than I did. Marcus’s hug for her was as huge as for his other friends.  Last month I caught him at the White Eagle in Portland, and Marcus asked about her. “Is your daughter old enough to get into shows yet?” He commiserated with Tara, who couldn’t come because she is still too young to get into bars, talking about the time when he drove like a mad man to get to a Tim Reynolds show only to be turned away for being under age.

My love affair with the music continues, and I want more all the time. Lucky for me, he’s making new songs like crazy. He’s played a couple of music festivals in Italy, and I can HEAR it in his new music. He’s been collaborating on an album with David Crosby (Yes. THAT David Crosby.) and the experience of working with such a respected and experienced musician has polished up Marcus too. Now that his project with David Crosby is wrapping up, Marcus is dying to make his next album.

And I want your help!

Drummer Kevin Rogers, me, Marcus at the

Drummer Kevin Rogers, me, Marcus at the Aladdin Theatre with Tim Reynolds April 9, 2010

More to the point, Marcus wants your help. His next batch of astonishing finger acrobatics and vocal rollercoaster rides are hidden from me until he gets funding for his next album. Marcus Eaton has put together a great little video to advertise his Kickstarter campaign to earn enough to be able to begin recording.  You should watch it.

He has invented 20 creative ways to pay you back for any donation. For only $5, you can back him. For the price of a grande double caramel soy latte, you can get new music and give a handsome guy a chance to fulfill a dream. If you can give more, there are so many awesome incentives available. Would you want to visit the studio during production, have help guitar shopping, get a copy of a personalized recording, or have an original painting by the artist? Do you like David Crosby? Want him to play a concert with Marcus at your house? Just asking…

There are 10 days left to make it happen. I’ve already pledged and I WANT that money to be pulled out of my account, but Marcus doesn’t get a penny unless he meets his goal. You have to help him reach the goal so that I get this chance to pay Marcus back for all the memories, and for his beautiful beautiful music. Watch the video, please. For me?

If you are willing to watch the 3 minute video, please CLICK HERE.

Andre, me, Marcus, and Tara at Jimmy Mak's

After our full morning with the Mt. Hood Cherokees, Tara and I then had an awesome evening when we took Arno to see my favourite musician, Marcus Eaton. ME also plays with Ben Burleigh on bass and Kevin Rogers on drums, but often I catch him in Portland when he’s solo. This was one of those times.

Two bonus items of the night, in addition to the awesomeness of catching ME live: our good friend Andre came out from the Tri Cities, and Intervision was the headliner show. Damn. Just can’t go wrong with the whole combination.

When you make dinner reservations, you can bring minors, so we were able to have Tara there in Jimmy Mak’s with us. Jimmy Mak’s is an excellent little jazz club that offers the perfect atmosphere, surprisingly stellar food, great drinks, quick service, and the best size for keeping things intimate with the musicians.

The venue didn't provide enough intimacy for Andre, apparently, who took matters into his own hands

Arno, Tara, and I arrived early and before ordering dinner I asked a server whether any of the musicians were around. She pointed to the bar, where Marcus sat with Andre having dinner. Yay! We went over to say hello, and big smiles, introductions, and hugs were passed all around. Tara thinks Marcus is a big-time famous personality (and of course she would… since she’s been listening to his music in our home for as long as she can remember), so she was beaming light rays in all directions. I was so excited to see both Marcus and Andre I totally forgot to include Arno in the conversation (luckily he was able to pick right up with Andre when I turned to talk to Marcus). Sorry Arno!! I get a bad case of Fan Idiocy whenever I’m around Marcus. Blerrg.

gourmet burger!

We settled in and were soon eating the establishment’s delicious food and imbibing their drinks.

Marcus opened, and, I was a little disappointed with the sound quality. His guitar, which is the firepower that carries the whole thing, just sort of faded into the background. On pieces where I got ready for lighting fingerwork and ka-blam percussion dropped on top of heart-rending melodies… well… it was too fuzzy. I had to listen carefully to pick out the guitar from the rest of the sound. Ok, this is probably exaggeration. I have this stuff memorized. Maybe it was a factor of us sitting on the side of the stage, so perhaps there wasn’t a problem with the equipment at all. But …this guy is my musician hero. I want his stuff to always sound PERFECT, not just really good.

Marcus engaged

His vocals knocked us out, as always. And refreshing: ME had a bunch of fans in the audience this time! I am more familiar with two groups of people when Marcus opens for someone else: 1) those so focused on wishing he would hurry up so their fave band can come on stage that they don’t hear him, and 2) those having their world rocked because they have just heard him for the first time. My suspicions were confirmed later when a woman said her husband recognized me from another concert, and wondered if I was related to Marcus. “Nope,” I answered, “Just a big fan.”

But, don’t let me disparage the concert! Just because I noticed an imperfection in the sound equipment quality is not a reflection on the always-inspiring Marcus Eaton. He doesn’t stop with talented guitar playing. He turns his instrument into a machine for his creativity. His fretwork has no boundaries except on the neck itself, he uses his pick, his voice, the heel of his palm, to thwack and thump and twang and knock and ting! ME will pop all that stuff into loops until the playback sounds like he’s got 8 people on stage with him, then he casually segues into words with a voice so compelling it makes people in the audience  turn and look.

Leanin' in for the win

Paul belts it out

Over all too soon, Intervision took the stage. My feelings of disappointment for not having ME on stage lasted about 3 seconds until I was reminded of why I *LOVE* catching Intervision in concert. Cripey, that is one groovin’ croonin’ happy jazz band. Love it, love it. One of my favourite things about Intervision is the obvious individual personalities I see on stage. Though I don’t know them, I get the sense that these guys might not have anything else at all in common except that when you put them together they make magically moving jazz. I don’t even consider myself a jazz fan, and this stuff is irresistible. In no time I was wiggling in my seat as much as I had done with my favourite ME songs. Who can resist great music?

It was a night I’ll use in the future to explain to myself why I love Portland so much.

Friends reunited

Marcus Eaton at the Roxy Wine Bar in Kennewick, WA

There has been so much going on that I have not taken the time to blog it, and thus I find myself way, way, way behind.

First a little blog-world happiness. A person I’ve never met and never really exchanged communication with (unless you count my comments on her blog) is having/had a baby today! Because she and her husband were facing foreclosure the same time Mark and I were, I began reading her blog. They had to leave their home and find something else (but avoided foreclosure – whew!). Over the past couple of years she has turned from emanating city savvy in a Los Angeles suburb to now mowing the grass and planning ferry trips out of Friday Harbor in the San Juans to the mainland where there are stores.

Isn’t it a wonderful world now? While I do lament the lost (I found myself wishing to see a caboose at the end of a train the other day.), I embrace the new. Today I spotted the latest message from my sweet friend Mohamed in Luxor, Egypt just let me know he finished his exams and now he’s working in tourism hoping to be a university professor in Egypt someday…. And at the same time, I’m all happy for Stephanie and Bob and their new baby, only because they suffered like I suffered – a long time ago. In one moment the three of us (and, gosh, hundreds of others in my web!!) are brought together through the Internet and pure random love and friendship. Brought together in my blog only by the common denominators of “me” and “Internet.” Life is so awesome.

I never blogged my trip to my Pa’s. I talked about Map Rock, but of course, that deserved a blog of its own. It is a 4th of July tradition to go to my dad and Michelle’s place out on the Snake River in southern Idaho and shoot many illegal rockets off and watch their sparks tumble into the river. The Snake is all fat and lazy on July 4th. Days are hot and dry out in the desert and nights are cool and breezy. My folks have a whole herd of cats that rule the place. It’s a riot to watch Pa and Michelle chirp over them like mother hens.

Parker Perry

Highlight: My brother Eli came over from Boise and brought my nephew Parker, whom I had not yet met. Parker is 14 months old and a great personality. Handsome boy, just like his dad. Poor Parker somehow BROKE his foot while in his crib. Eli and Addie only noticed in the morning when they got him out and he wouldn’t put weight on his foot. So the kid has this full leg cast up to the middle of his thigh and down to his toes. He was apparently just about to learn to walk when this happened, so when I saw him he was just about to learn to walk again – only with a cast. Eli was calling him hop-a-long, cause he wobbled along on a foot, then on the toe end of the cast, then foot, then cast. I was really bummed not to see Addie, but she is a nurse and had just finished up an overnight shift and her husband (thankfully) had convinced her to sleep instead of drive out into the desert. Miss you, Addie! We’ll hook up soon. Maybe at the secret surprise Thanksgiving Gathering Of The Children at Mom’s house this Fall. Shhh! Don’t tell Mom, but I’m trying to pull that together.

My Pa is too thin. He’s always been one of those tall, skinny, beanpole men. “167 ½ pounds,” he always bragged to me. “That’s what I weighed in high school, and that’s what I weigh now.” He’s probably 140 now, and it looks frightening. He has IBS and is trying to work with it, but damn if it isn’t heartbreaking to see. My Pa raised me, and thus I know his internal inclination not to mention any health issues, so I didn’t say “Oh my god!!” to him, but we did talk about it a little. Hopefully they get through it. Michelle and he both had the West Nile disease two years ago and are slowly slowly pulling out of it. Michelle is not well either. Oh man. Two such awesome people should not be sick. It’s so not fair. She hasn’t even retired yet.

Kevin Rogers plays for Marcus Eaton

Right now. Right now, I’m at the Roxy Wine Bar in Kennewick, Washington. The drive was actually 3 ½ hours, and I’m wiped. And I wasn’t really sure when the show would begin, but it turns out it begins at 9:30. Ohhhhh Marcus, if only you know how I’ve sacrificed tonight. He’s got his NEW CD here and I am so psyched psyched to listen. Of course, I imagine I’ve heard all the songs already, but still. AND his new bassist is here tonight. AWEEE SOMMEE. No Internet here at the Roxy, or I’d have updated my facebook status already!

Oh yeah, so here I am in Kennewick. Crazy. I guess I have to do some crazy things now and then. My alarm will go off in 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours from now. I think I will re-set it, and not go in so early tomorrow. Yes, AND, throw in another 3 ½ hour drive to get back home. Ha ha ha. Well, I’m not twenty anymore, so this hurts. BUT, I’m not 60 yet, which means I can still DO it. I’ll try to get at least four hours of sleep tonight. I forgot to bring my iPod for the drive, what a dork. So I guess I’ll get caught up on Christian talk radio. The one signal I can always count on out here in the desert….

I knew I would get to the concert early, so I brought the laptop to catch up on my blog while I waited for the show. I did get to say hi to Marcus, and then the band was done with their warm up and they took off.

So hey! Next weekend is Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon. I get to see my little girl and gosh, I miss her so much. She’s only been at her dad’s since school got out, but I can feel the hole in the family. Life is NOT RIGHT without her. She is the coolest kid ever. Interestingly, she seems to have taken after my brother Travis more than anyone in the family. He is in awe of her. He calls her Awesomespawn. My girl truly is awesome. I am so, so lucky to have perfectly beautiful and perfectly brilliant and perfectly funny and perfectly kind and loving with only a teensy, tolerable portion of obnoxiously lippy all packed together in one teenaged daughter. Yes! Teenager! Her 13th birthday was last week. Whooo man. That makes me the mother of a teenager. Yipe.

I finished a couple more tiers of my terraced garden out in front of the house. We jokingly call it the Obama Victory Garden. This June was the cruddiest beginning to summer ever, with a drudging continuation of May’s 40-degree rain. June was 4 more weeks of 40 degrees and rain, so my garden was cranky and nothing grew. But the spigot turned off in July, the heat came on, and everything exploded! With the new real estate created by extra terraced levels, I put in new garden items, but somehow it still seems like there was more last year. No watermelon this year. It was such an eye-catcher last year that our neighbors are asking this year, “Where’s the watermelon?”

Earlier this year, when I was building terraces

So, we can only afford a few pallets of bricks a season. I’ve put those into the wall and the remaining tiers will have to wait till next year. Dude. I so wish I was retired and could just take care of my garden and blog all day!!

I adore Marcus Eaton

I was invited to a pre-Gorge concert gathering for friends of the Marcus Eaton Trio. I’m more like a FAN than a friend, but friend definitely sounds better. I’m actually one of those people who gets tongue-tied and goofy in the presence of someone I admire. I hate that. But… that’s what I do.

The Marcus Eaton Trio was scheduled to open all three days in George, Washington, for the Dave Matthews Band who had his annual Labor Day concert in the Columbia Gorge.

The Marcus Eaton Trio

I know that hardly anyone has heard of Marcus Eaton (unless you are one of my facebook friends, then you are possibly sick of hearing about him and John Ondrasik, another musician I’m always shamelessly promoting). But just imagine that there’s a musician whose music makes you shout euphoric expletives when that’s not something you normally do. Imagine that there’s a musician whose guitar sings to you so powerfully that your mouth drops open – and you’re listening to that track for the 47th time.

Jan and Mike's back yard

Then imagine that you get to go to somebody’s house in Seattle amongst 30 or so other people who have been invited, and you get to listen to that musician play right smack in front of you. Close enough to pick a fuzz ball off his sweater. Like I said, I get goofy.

Even though I had a busy week prior to Thursday (picked up Tara from Mom in Pasco, WA, had an hour and fifteen minute meeting at work on how to improve my performance, worked extra hours to earn a longer Labor Day Weekend)… and even though I had a busy week planned for after Thursday (drive to Boise to spend the weekend with my dad, visit my grandmother, and possibly visit my brother and new baby nephew, Tara’s first day of school on Tuesday, spend Wednesday with my friend Charlie Brown visiting from Flagstaff)…

And even though I’m getting old and almost never stay up past 9pm anymore, I begged my supervisor to let me leave work early Thursday and make the insane drive from Portland to Seattle in rush hour traffic. I first picked up my kid who had made a dessert for the potluck (she’s so awesome), and we zoomed northward. We zoomed until about Olympia, till we slowed to a crawl… and varied between a crawl and a creep for the final two hours until we made it to the house northeast of Seattle.

We knocked on the door and were welcomed graciously by our hostess whom I had never met or heard of. She was fabulous and introduced her parents to me, and introduced her daughter who bonded with my daughter immediately. I was thrilled to finally meet Kitty in person, who was the one that had invited me. I found it easy to talk to everyone in the group. To my utter delight, I met Marcus at the food table, and he threw his arms around me and said, “Hi!” as though I were a long lost friend. Yes, we’ve met, but I was certain I hadn’t made enough of an impact for him to recall my face. I guess I don’t really care if he only recognized that I was one of his fans, because that one-minute exchange was the highlight of my night. (Ugh, I KNOW! I’m so pathetically fan-like)

I got to see the Trio for the first time. It has just worked out so that every time I’ve seen Marcus, he has been solo. I finally had my opportunity to hear Garrett and Kevin close up. And we’re talking… like 8 feet away close up. This was like every backyard potluck you’ve ever been to: I munched carrot sticks and hummus and chicken-and-green pea salad and drank Chardonnay from a clear plastic cup. My kid and the other kids and they had been running in circles and shrieking for a good hour and a half. I was kicked back on patio chairs next to a delightful young woman who also didn’t know anyone there. And the Marcus Eaton Trio was making their music right there. On the same backyard deck. The weather was divine, the moon was bright. I was deliriously happy.

audience providing snap percussion

Their music is SOOOooooooo good. I can’t stand it. So good. Why hasn’t everyone had the chance to hear these guys? Why isn’t their stuff on the radio?

Kitty and me

I met as many people as I could, but I was only there a few hours. They were all WONDERFUL and friendly and fun. Finally T and I were too exhausted to hold it together any longer. (I had been up since 4:30 am) We said our goodbyes and made the long trip home to Portland. I had echoes of that incredible music climbing through my brain and keeping me awake on I-5 southbound. Luckily the trip home with hardly anyone on the road was only 3 hours, compared to 4½ hours going north. We got in a little after 1:00 am.

A few hours later, we got up again and packed the car for our 8 hour drive to my dad’s house.

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