I think to know when to call it quits, cry uncle, throw in the towel, etc., must be a sixth sense that only some people have. Timing is everything. To do so too soon means you’ll never reach whatever goal you’ve set, and it certainly means you’re going to have regrets later. To do so too late means you’re probably experiencing burn-out. You’ll also have regrets, regrets that you wasted so much time and energy on something that was never meant to be in the first place. As Ali Hale wrote in her blog entry, How to Know When to Quit,

“Quitting gets a bad rap. We’re often encouraged,
from an early age, 
to stick with our projects at
all costs—even when we’re totally fed up.”

For me, packing up the recording gear is especially hard because all I’ve ever wanted since I was 12 was to make an album, but no matter how much talent I had, no matter how many famous and influential people I met, no matter how hard I worked or how many gigs I played, it just never happened. Even now, with modern home recording tools, I can’t seem to accomplish this one thing. I gave it all up once before, in 1993, and I more recently thought that by giving it a rest, I could come back to it refreshed and with a more mature outlook about it. But it seems the universe continues to throw up roadblocks. No room to use as a studio, noisy corner, insufficient knowledge of using modern studio programs, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, etc., etc. That’s daunting enough, but with Nettl’s diagnosis (only two weeks ago) of breast cancer, I must cry out in utter defeat.

(Of course, it’s understood that I care deeply and am dedicated to the utmost degree to seeing her through this terrifying and upsetting ordeal not only as her spouse, but also her friend and caregiver, but since this is my blog and I have no right to speak for her, I will focus on my feelings and reactions here. If anyone has a problem with that, too effin’ bad.)

It’s not that I wasn’t already considering putting the music away, permanently, because I was. I mean, I’m almost 66. Who was going to buy my album anyway? And I certainly don’t have the health, energy, or the finances to tour just to market it. It’s time to let go.

What I have been doing is working on my memoirs again, In fact, the first book is already finished. Writing is something I can do anywhere. I don’t need a private space, quiet, and I know my writing programs. Sure, books need marketing, too, but I don’t have to traipse all over the country; I can do it from home. The problem is, my heart’s dream has always been music, but c’est la vie. I’m fortunate to have two things I do well. Truth be told, rock and roll is for the young; old farts write books.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging, either. The year ahead looks pretty foggy to us just now, but I will try to leave a post as often as I can. I’ve seen people through cancer before and I know how the best laid plans can go askew.

Keep us in your thoughts.
Kaye

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What It All Means

I first encountered Bob Dylan in 1964 when I was asked to perform Blowin’ In The Wind at an Elks dinner in Ballard, California. I was a tender 12 at the time and I’d actually been asked to perform two songs that night. The other was If I Had A Hammer. I’d heard that song the year before on the popular TV show, Hootenanny! but I’d never heard Blowin’. I loved that show. I’d watched Sing Along With Mitch and played albums by Joe and Eddie, the Kingston TrioOdetta and many others since I was a kid so when Hootenanny! aired, I was hooked. It was in fact the popular single, Walk Right In by the Rooftop Singers that fired my obsession with the 12-string guitar so I guess you can say I’m a folkie from way back.

Someone pointed me to Bob Dylan so that I could learn Blowin’ In The Wind for that gig, but I think I learned it from the cover by Peter, Paul & Mary. I liked the song. I thought it was pretty, but it was the lyrics that grabbed me. It sounded like an anthem. It was saying something important, a message I’d heard many times before, but this time it was delivered in a way that was like a bullet in the brain. I had to find the original recording.

When I brought home The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and tore off the cellophane wrapping, I had no idea my life was about to change and that it would continue to change and evolve for the entire time I’d walk this planet. I think I’d been prepared, though. I think all of those folksingers before had been leading me up that path, some gently—the Kingston Trio, for instance—and some not so gently, like Odetta. On that afternoon Dylan became a lifelong mentor. Oh, he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t even know I exist, but his work affected me like it has affected so many other songwriters. It’s safe to say I don’t where the hell I’d be musically if he hadn’t happened. I don’t know where music would be.

This Photoshopped image, taken from Dylan’s 1965 Subterranean Homesick Blues video, has always pissed me off. How many people have I spoken to about Dylan whose first reaction was, “He can’t sing”? There are a lot of popular artists—always have been—who can’t sing. Most popular music through the years hasn’t been moored to an ability to croon like Sinatra or Caruso so why have these people assigned Dylan as their poster child?

Something else threatens them. It’s not that he can’t sing, it’s that they don’t understand what he’s singing about and why he sings like he does, and they don’t want to investigate, even passively, by simply listening. Taking time to understand anything is nothing but work for lazy thinkers. When they run into something they don’t get any deeper than the surface level, instead of exploring it, they attack it. They mock and ridicule because it’s easy. At a very young age I learned that when someone made fun of something or someone, they were only revealing their lack of curiosity. And if intelligence is anything, it’s curiosity. If they sat down, turned off their phones and listened to Dylan they’d discover he was performing rap back when their grandparents were dancing to the music of Motown, Surf, and the British Invasion.

This being said, I already know that many of you won’t take the time to listen to the video below. That’s ok. I’m not trying to make converts, I’m sharing something with the curious, the active thinkers, the people who like to understand things. Even those of you who stay might be tempted to stop listening when Dylan starts talking about Moby Dick, but I urge to you hang in there. It’s a trip worth taking and in true Dylan fashion, his voice with its unique rhythms and meters becomes almost hypnotic. Please, please, turn off the TV, silence your phone and get rid of possible distractions. This is not background, this is not passive listening. You will have to listen and think.

P.S. The title of this post will mean nothing to you unless you listen to the video.

Many thanks to Wade Johnson and Pat Flynn for introducing me to this.

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Red Pencil Time

redpencil

I’m not always good at listening to myself. I always hear my inner voice, but I can’t always seem to make sense of what it’s saying to me. Case-in-point, Book Two, With A Bullet. It’s been sitting here waiting to be published for over three weeks. Why have I been putting it off? More importantly, why am I ignoring the fact that I’ve been putting it off? The answer is simple, but it took me a while to figure it out. There’s something about it I’m just not happy with. I like it fine until about the tenth chapter (although something almost imperceptible starts gnawing at me two chapters earlier than that), but then I just want to skim over it. I learned years ago, if a writer is compelled to skim their own work the readers definitely will. The book never really recovers, either. It burns and itches until the story ends three chapters later.

Needing something other than politics to focus on (actually, I need to retreat from them again) I’ve decided to rewrite chapters 8 through 13. Publishing this book right now would be a big mistake. Instead, I’m going to rework everything until I like it. I’m in no rush and I’m not going anywhere so why not?

I may be absent from the internet for a while, outside of my morning rounds. Also, the holidays are breathing down my neck just now, which makes doing anything with any sort of regularity increasingly difficult.

Drinking wine may be the only exception to that.

So have a great day, week, month, whatever. I’ll be back as the spirit moves.

P.S. I’m so happy not to be taking part in NaNoWriMo this year! I wish they’d move it to a more convenient time of year, like February. I’ll probably never participate again simply because it takes place at the busiest time of the year. Anyway, bon chance to all of you who are participating!

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Why You May Not Want to Hang Out With a Writer

writer2Sometimes when I’m up late, not feeling creative enough to write and I want to knock myself out so that I can sleep, I site hop around the internet. It seems I always find something worth saving, and last night I came across the following. It started out as a little meme about why you might want to hang out with or date a writer. Then someone else posted it, adding their own two cents why you would not want to do such a thing. I thought it was funny so here it is for you.

WRITERS WILL ROMANCE YOU WITH WORDS.
We probably won’t. We write for ourselves, or for money, and by the time we’re done, we’re sick of it. If we have to write you something, there’s a good chance it’ll take us two days and we’ll be really snippy and grumpy about the process.

WRITERS WILL WRITE ABOUT YOU.
You don’t want this. Trust me.

WRITERS WILL TAKE YOU TO INTERESTING EVENTS.
No. We will not. We are busy writing. Leave us alone about these “interesting events.” I know one person who dates a terrific writer. He goes out alone. She is busy writing.

WRITERS WILL ACKNOWLEDGE YOU AND WILL DEDICATE THINGS TO YOU.
A better way to ensure this would be to become an agent. That way you’d actually make money off of talking people through their neuroses.

WRITERS WILL PRESENT YOU WITH AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE OF THINGS.
Yes. Constantly. While you’re trying to watch TV, or take a shower. You will have to listen to observations all day long, in addition to being asked to read the observations we wrote about when you were at work and unavailable for bothering. It will be almost as annoying as dating a stand-up comedian, except if you don’t find these observations scintillating, we will think you’re dumb, instead of uptight.

WRITERS ARE SMART.
The moment you realize this is not true, your relationship with a writer will develop a significant problem.

WRITERS ARE REALLY PASSIONATE.
About writing. Not necessarily about you.

WRITERS CAN THINK THROUGH THEIR FEELINGS.
So don’t start an argument unless you’re ready for a very, very lengthy explication of our position, our feelings about your position, and what scenes from our recent fiction the whole thing is reminding us of.

WRITERS ENJOY THEIR SOLITUDE.
So get lost, will you?

WRITERS WEAR THEIR HEARTS ON THEIR SLEEVES.
Serious advice: if you meet a writer who’s actually demonstrative, be careful.

WRITERS WILL TEACH YOU COOL NEW WORDS.
This is possibly true! We may also expect you to remember them, correct your grammar, and look pained after reading mundane notes you’ve left for us.

WRITERS MAY BE ABLE TO ADJUST THEIR SCHEDULES FOR YOU.
Writers may be able to adjust their schedules for writing. Get in line, then.

WRITERS CAN FIND 1000 WAYS TO SAY WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT YOU.
By the 108th you’ll be pretty sure we’re just making them up for fun.

WRITERS CAN COMMUNICATE IN A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT WAYS.
But mostly writing. Hope you don’t like talking on the phone—that shit is rough.

WRITERS ARE SURROUNDED BY INTERESTING PEOPLE.
Every last one of whom is imaginary.

WRITERS ARE SEXY.
No argument. Some people think this about heroin addicts, too.

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