On Opera, Tornadoes, and BBQ

I just looked back at my recent posts and was shocked at how obsessed I’ve been over the redecorating of Bookends Cottage. Enough already! Today, I’ll just make a sort of unbulleted bullet list of some of the other things that are going on around here.

Judging by the picture above, you probably can guess that we saw an opera. Man, did we ever! The Met live-streamed Mozart’s Idomeneo re di Creta to a large number of movie theaters across the country last Saturday and Nettl and I went to OKC to see it. We’ve both been to the Met and, sure, it’s wonderful to be in the actual hall, but sitting seventh row center in plush chairs with an unobstructed view and a box of Twizzlers was pretty cool, too. Oh, come on. In Mozart’s day people ate, drank, gossiped, played cards, flirted, snogged and shagged at the opera! Last time I was at the Met, I was up in one of the balconies and couldn’t see facial expressions at all, and I certainly didn’t have any Twizzlers. We’ll definitely do this again.

I was impressed with the cast, each artist fresh, unjaded, and flawless, but it was mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (Idamante) who totally rocked my world. I’ve long been partial to mezzos (hey, I married one!) and I confess I’ve had no favorite since Frederika von Stade retired. That certainly has changed now. It would be enough that Ms. Coote possesses a rich, emotional voice, and it’s almost too much to ask that she be an excellent actor as well, but she delivers, entirely, profoundly. I spent several hours in YouTube last night listening to her in other roles and in each she owned her character, spot on, fully engaged and strikingly believable. It’s a wonder to behold. Try this out. And then this. You won’t be sorry. The chorus, too was in great form; this opera is really chorus heavy and the Met chorus is phenomenal. After the opera we went to Guthrie to Stables, our favorite BBQ place. Opera and BBQ… culture in Oklahoma. Oh, how my life has changed since my active years as a composer and conductor! Meh, don’t listen to me. I’m much more relaxed about these things these days and I’m perfectly happy with that.

Apparently, we survived the season’s first tornado watch last night. I don’t worry about them as much as I did when I first moved here 17 years ago. Anymore, it’s the fracking earthquakes that get to me. As a native Californian you’d think I’d be better at that, but living in Quakenado Country has a way of keeping one on edge.

I’m still trying to get this house finished, but it’s slow. Also slow (but that’s my own fault) is getting back to my CD. There’s only so much energy to go around these days, and I have to choose my battles wisely.

Have a great week!

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Controlling the Chaos

My current project of decluttering my life is already producing the effects I wished for. With each thing I discard I feel freer and lighter. This isn’t confined only to the material possessions I’ve kept through the years, it also includes outdated, ill-fitting, or otherwise unnecessary ideas and goals, but it begins with the material world and filters on through the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Funny how that works. I’ve always maintained that our outer environment reveals the condition of our inner state and, this cottage, with its doilies, figurines, lace, and old family chotchkies revealed my need for a home life I enjoyed growing up. It’s been nurturing and safe, but I’m ready to step out from that womb. I’m not saying I don’t like the cottage style, I’m just tired of it. It’s holding me back and it no longer resonates with who I’m evolving into, and who Nettl and I are becoming as a couple. Oddly, when I was younger I adored the grandma look, but now that I’m of the grandma age, I want a more active look. As I said to Nettl one night last week, “I don’t want the ‘Arsenic And Old Lace’ look anymore.”

I have about two weeks to get this place ready for the new furniture and as you probably have experienced in your own life, when you pick out a new sofa you notice other things that need to be replaced. Suddenly, the drapes are tired, the coffee table is out of place, and the walls are no longer crisp. Fortunately, our current wall color, a warm café au lait, works well with the new colors, which are taupe, tan, and espresso, like this Peppered Tones palette, minus the blue. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I wasn’t looking forward to painting these two rooms again. But buying the right paint really paid off. It hasn’t faded, chipped or washed off a bit since we rolled it on nearly eight years ago. Now, that’s great paint!

The most arduous part of this project is emotional, though. Thoughts of Oh, look. Mom’s doilies! and I remember when we bought this! flood my mind, and I’m forced to decide which box something is destined for: “Keep on Display,” “Store in Attic,” “Donate to Habitat,” or “Trash.” You have to be mentally and emotionally ready for this kind of decluttering; it isn’t something I’d advise you force yourself to do. You’ll know when (or even if) you’re ready when the urge to feel unencumbered  outweighs your sentimentality, and when your peace of mind is crowded and pinched by the things you’ve been holding onto. Whether it’s an idea, a habit, a relationship, an attitude, or a table, you’ll know when it’s time to let it go. If it happens at all. I mean, it’s not mandatory for everyone in order to maintain their happiness. For me, it is. I’m done with the pain, the drama, the fear, the xenophobia, and the chaos of modern life and I’m creating a private world where curiosity, the arts, intellectual pursuits, wanderlust, and the celebration of our diverse and magical world can be celebrated. As above so below, as without so within.

Physically, the hardest part is redoing the gallery wall above the piano in the music room. I’m already taking down the Baroque frames and now irrelevant images, which I want to replace with photos of our travels, book-related events we’ve attended, and our musical performances. All that frilly filigree? Gone. Likewise, the larger wall in the living room is undergoing a radical change. Three framed pieces are being moved to other walls to make room for a grid of black and white photos we’ve taken through the years. Not photos of people, but of architectural elements, storefronts, and other interesting things we’ve shot here in Stillwater.

Mostly, my work right now consists of cleaning out the debris and clutter I’ve accumulated in myself through the years. The physical part of this project ends at the close of the day, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts continue.

Hm. I wonder how my inner self will relax once my outer self is planted in the recliner we’re buying…

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This & That


Around Bookends Cottage 2017 has started out with naught but a yawn. Not a yawn of boredom, mind you, but a yawn of exhaustion. I keep looking over at the Christmas tree, the lights off and the gifts all gone, and I know I have to take it down, but I just can’t seem to find the energy to do it. It’s always such a joy to put up every year, the entire family gets into the act, friends come over, food is nibbled and drinks are drunk, but where is everybody when it’s time to take it all down and put it away? I always end up doing it alone, which is why I didn’t want to go all out this year, with decorations in every room of the house. It’s too much for me to take apart when I’m worn out from the holiday season. We have about a gazillion tree ornaments and all those new strands of lights we had to add and that need to be pulled off. And then there’s all of the outdoor lights, wreaths, ladder-climbing and et cetera. Oof. I’m tired just thinking about it…


I’ve been trying to get back into my project of finishing Book Two (With A Bullet) and sending it off to print. In reality, this should take me only about two weeks, but all of my creative motivation has disappeared. Music, too is on my list, but that’s really pushing it. At my age, singing is an athletic event and I have to be in peak condition to do it well enough for a recording. And then there’s the setting up and tearing down…


I’m well aware of the fact that it’s going to take the entire month of January to get back to where I was, engery-wise, last October. Damn you, Hashimoto’s, you soul-sucking bastard. One of the things I can do now that I’m on Medicare is make an appointment with an endocrinologist, but going to a new doctor is always difficult for me. Because we live in a cherry red state, and because the only endo in this town who takes Medicare is a born-again who touts her religious beliefs on her website, and because I’m married to a woman, I’m more than a little hesitant to go see her. I’m absolutely worn out from dodging the bigotry bullets in the Bible Belt. Oklahoma is just southern enough that these doctors are sugary sweet to your face, calling you darlin’ and hon, and saying “Well, blay-ess yer hart” with a big smile on their face while unsuccessfully hiding the aversion they feel toward you. Sure, I get the same medical attention as anyone else, but navigating all that crap is psychologically and psychically harder than I can describe. I’ve lived in this state for nearly 20 years. You’d think I’d be used to the way their eyes glaze over when I have to explain that my spouse isn’t a man. And it happens in all situations here, from introductions at social events to buying an anniversary present from a helpful shop clerk. And since the election the socio-political ice has gotten a bit thinner around here anyway. I’m not sure if I want to get out and try to walk on it just yet. Not with the 20th looming on the near horizon…


On a completely different subject, I came into 2017 wanting to give this blog a new look, but after spending an entire night looking for a new theme, I gave that up. WordPress has a gazillion themes to choose from, but only a handful of those are designed for actual blogging. Most of them are for businesses, services and products, and photography. And even those they say are for blogging are dominated by featured slides, huge pictures of emo girls sitting or standing forlornly with pigeon toed feet, extreme closeups of glamour dolls or of twenty-something hipster dudes looking for all the world like they love their commute to their cubicle every morning. And there’s no place to write any actual content anymore. I suppose the blogging craze is over and I should really just give it up, but after 17 years that’s not easy to do. Hell, I don’t even know if anyone even reads these entries. Maybe I’m just wasting the two or three hours it takes me to put one together and post it. But that’s another whole issue…


Nettl returned from her New Year’s New York City excursion bearing some amazing gifts. One was a large tin of authentic Hungarian paprika that she bought at a shop in Grand Central Terminal. To celebrate this delectable spice I made a pot of Viennese Goulasch last night, and I’ve made a pledge never to buy the domestic crap ever again. There’s just no comparison. It’s kind of like refusing to use margarine after tasting sweet cream, unsalted butter. I don’t care if it costs more. If I can’t afford it, I simply won’t make anything that requires it…


Back to Book Two. One of the reasons I never seem to finish this book is that things keep coming up that need to be added to the story. Sitting on it for so long as brought up a lot of things that need to be addressed where my characters are concerned. Katy is only now beginning to flesh herself out so that I can understand what truly motivates her. I don’t know how I have avoided her inner workings for so long, but she’s coming along and I enjoy writing about her now. This is really important, too, because it leads me into Book Three more seamlessly and effortlessly. Being these people’s creator, shrink, and biographer isn’t easy, but it eventually is fun…

And with that (pun intended) I shall leave you until the next time. This Christmas tree has been giving me the stink eye for three days and I really need to quite literally put it in its place.

Have a wonderful week!

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Membranophone Metamophosis

Vintage 1960's "Hollywood" Ludwig set
Vintage 1960’s “Hollywood” Ludwig set

For those of you who read my posts in Facebook, this will be yesterday’s news so I grant you leave to back out right now. But for those of you who aren’t on Facebook, I just have to share what happened yesterday. Actually, I have to go back a couple of weeks. No, let’s go back to 2009 when we moved into Bookends Cottage. It was a day much like today, actually. Blistering hot—in the triple digits—too damned hot to be moving a five-bedroom house into a smaller three-bedroom cottage that’s about 1500 square feet smaller than the other house. Even with the help of sons and friends we all about killed ourselves.

In the garage there’s a set of those pull-down stairs that lead up to a nice-sized attic, and while putting stuff up there I noticed a set of drums that had been left behind, probably by some college kid who’d lived here years before. I didn’t really look at them. All I saw were three drums in disrepair: bass, floor tom, and mount tom. They were black, unmarked, and looked pretty neglected. I’m surprised I didn’t check them out; I come from three generations of drummers, after all. I guess I figured that if someone left them up there to brave Oklahoma’s weather extremes, they must not be anything special. Just some cheap set a kid bought when he felt a solitary, short-lived pang of rock star envy.

A couple of weeks ago when I was in the attic looking for my boxes of journals, I took a picture of the drums to share on Instagram and Facebook. Nothing special, just a nice little picture. My son Micah even suggested we might make some patio and living room tables out of them. It was then that my old SoCal friend (an amazing drummer, prolific songwriter, and seasoned performer), Wade Johnson, spoke up: “I WANT!” I blithely replied that he could come get them. Wade lives in the Fort Worth, Texas area these days, only a four-hour drive from here. We made our plans and I brought them out of the attic and into our music room to clean up and rescue from one more spell of excessive heat. Wade explained to me that they were a Ludwig “Hollywood” set from the late 1960s. (There are actually four drums, not three. Another mount tom was hiding inside the floor tom.) Wow! Vintage drums like Ringo played! To make this story a little more interesting, Wade told me that when his band, Gunpoint, played in Oklahoma City back in 1978 (they also played here in Stillwater, another little coincidence), his drums were stolen. His drum set? A Ludwig “Hollywood” set just like what I’d found in my attic. We laughed about that, saying wouldn’t it be weird if these were his drums. Not likely, but fun to pretend all the same.

At Eskimo Joe's.
At Eskimo Joe’s.

Wade came up to Stillwater yesterday and although he spent only four hours, it was full and fun. He took Lynette and me to lunch at Eskimo Joe’s, where we sat at the bar and had a good time with the bartender. Lynette was on her lunch break, though, and had to take her meal to-go. After lunch we drove up the Strip to see if Wade could locate the place his band played in 1978. Back then, it was a place called Whiskers, which is no longer in existence. Afterward, we came back to the Cottage and broke out our guitars to enjoyed sharing our songs with each other. Now, if you know anything about me at all, you now that this is something I most love doing and I’ve often bemoaned that fact that I’ve had NONE of it since I moved here 16 years ago. For about an hour I was in heaven. If you’re a musician you understand the importance of this kind of fellowship.


“Good music comes out of people playing together,
knowing what they want to do and going for it.
You can’t do it by pushing buttons and watching a TV screen.”
Keith Richards


It’s no wonder my music has had such a difficult time surviving the past couple of decades. With no one around to do this with, I’ve been completely isolated from my peers. It think it’s time for this solitary confinement to end. I’m consciously creating certain voids in my life so that the Universe can fill them with what I really love, that is, music and musicians. Sure, I’ve never lost the music, but it’s been a daunting struggle. I’m finally inviting the vast, earthly pool of musicians into my life so that I may learn from them while sharing my own work. Not an unreasonable request. I mean, when you want 20 people to come to a party you invite 50, right?

Wade playing one of his songs for me
Wade playing one of his songs for me.

THIS is what this living room was meant to be. A place where musicians can get together to share their creations. And I think the best way for me to get this ball rolling is to start getting serious about holding some house concerts. I may invite Wade’s duo, BillyWade, to perform since I’m nowhere ready to do my own concert. That one will coincide with my CD release party. By the way, Wade and his band, The Metro Rocket Band, will be performing at the House Of Blues Dallas this Friday night, from 9:00 to 11:30 pm.

My feelings about these drums are this: I was given so much last year during my recording equipment fund drive (almost the exact amount these drums will we worth once they’re fully restored), I feel that giving these drums to Wade is a way of showing gratitude. Sort of a karmic pay-it-back. When he said he’d get me back for it I told him there’s no need. It’s my pleasure and honor to give them to him. His plans for the drums are to get them restored to their former glory. I’m really looking forward to his photos of their metamorphosis.

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