Leaves, Books, Memories

SK Waller in Fort Worth
Enjoying the hotel life

Getting back into the swing after my week in Fort Worth has been a bit of a struggle. Coming back home to housework, refilling prescriptions, taking care of business, and my usually placid day-to-day lifestyle hasn’t been easy. Okay, I admit it. I really enjoyed the hotel life. Really enjoyed it. I enjoyed working on music with Wade Johnson (who’s in the studio as I write this, recording one of the two songs we wrote together), and I loved going out to hear live music with him and his wife, Terri.  When I was younger I went out like this with friends every week of my life, but these days I’m lucky if I get out once a year. So here I am in my wing back chair with the cat beside me while a driveway full of leaves begs to be raked. Am I going to get up off my butt and do that though? No. Not today. And not tomorrow, either. Probably on Saturday, but it may wait until Sunday. Or next week. I can’t seem to bring myself back to writing, either, damn it. I spent Monday on the house thinking it would free me up to spend the rest of the week finishing Book 2, but it, like the leaves outside, waits. In the meantime—until I can locate my motivation—here are some photos of the night we went to The Railhouse to listen (and dance!) to A Band Of Brothers, a great group that played everything from country to R&B.

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With Wade and Lynette
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With Terri and Lynette (Don’t ask about the 13. I have no idea why I grabbed it; it was just our table number)
kaye_wade
With Wade Johnson, my music buddy since 1972
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A Woman Walks Into a Bar…

hotelbar

It has long been a secret desire of mine to spend my life living in a hotel. It doesn’t matter where, although the larger the city, the more appealing that life becomes. If money were no object, if family could re-adjust the values I planted in them about hearth and home, kith and kin, yeah, I could live indefinitely in a hotel. Sure, having your room cleaned, your laundry washed, and your bed made by someone else every day, not to mention the convenience of hotel restaurants, room service, reduced long-term rates and all that, makes it a sweet trade off for utility bills and fees we pay to “sit tight,” but there’s more to it than that. Hotel life isn’t for people with children, dependent elderly parents, or collectors of Hummel figurines, but it works for some people.

The thing I love best about spending any real time in a hotel (more than three or four days) is sitting in the bar late at night, say, an hour or two before last call. This is when you see every sort of human being, or at least those who can afford at least one night away from home. In the course of my life I’ve sat in a lot of hotel bars studying humanity as I sipped at my two glasses of white wine appearing, I like to imagine, to be someone who’s treating herself to a nightcap after a long day at some creative endeavor. If I’m not in a hotel for some cool reason (in London it was the recording business; in Venice, Florida and Vienna I was on film location; in Spokane I was featured in a film during a film festival), I’ll stretch the truth a tiny bit to give people what they’d really like to hear. Let’s face it. Hearing someone say, “I’m here on music business” is more exciting than saying, “I’m tagging along with my spouse who’s attending a conference.” But I never stretch the truth to an out-and-out lie. This week I have worked on music with Wade Johnson, a local musician, so that’s what I’ve said when asked. “I’m working on writing some songs with a local artist.” That I’m in an 4-star hotel leads people to believe this is some kind of big deal. Why not cap on that? What harm is it? Why do I do this? That’s easy. I live by the old show biz adage: “GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.” So sue me.

It doesn’t matter in what city I’ve stayed, or what hotel. As long as they have a bar the clientele never changes. There’s the woman in the slinky dress sitting on the corner of the bar sipping a split of champagne. Is she a hooker? Hard to tell. There’s the older businessman, distracted, but eyeing the women from either the end of the bar or from a table while he tries to look important as he makes text after text. There’s the loudmouth who bellows about his room, the service, the price of the drinks, anything he can think of. Anything to be noticed by everyone else, who largely ignores him. He’s the one who pisses off the bartender, who angrily throws the empty beer bottles in the trash with a deafening clang while she impatiently watches the last fifteen minutes of her shift tick by on the clock. There’s the couple, usually sitting at a corner table kissing and nuzzling, preparing to go upstairs to their room for a night of wild monkey love. There’s the dad who slipped down to the bar for a beer (no glass) after his wife and kids finally fell alseep in their room. There’s the group of conventioneers complaining about the traffic and sweating themselves through glasses of Jim Beam and gobbling the overpriced burger plate while trying to outdo each with  how early their wake up calls are going to come in. And then there’s me, sitting at the bar, largely invisible, listening to the conversations and studying the human condition.

Yeah. That’s what I love about hotel life. It’s not about the room or the service or the little soaps, it’s about the people. Forget the gym, forget the pool, forget the spa. The bar is the only place you’ll encounter hotel humanity.

__________
Written and posted from the Sheraton Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX

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Over the Southern Border

fortworth

A week from Monday we’ll be going to Fort Worth, Texas for a few days. For Lynette it’s a business trip, but for me it’s a chance to get out of town to write, walk around downtown, linger in coffeehouses and pubs, or just sit on my arse and look out our hotel room window at the city below. Who knows?

We’ve made plans to get together with family who live in Dallas, and I have an old Ventura County friend, drummer/songwriter Wade Johnson, who lives next door in Arlington. We met back in 1972 when we were young, irrepressible musicians looking for our place in the Hollywood – Laurel Canyon scene. We’ll be getting together for dinner as a foursome one evening and then alone one afternoon to work on a song or two. The area has a booming music scene so I’m hoping to catch some live bands. I’m still researching that.

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With Wade at Band Tree V

Texas and Oklahoma have been locked in a feud forever I’m told, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Texas at different times in my life and I’ve always enjoyed it. I almost moved to Houston after spending a month there in the early 1970s. I liked it that much. I’ve also spent some time in Austin and liked it.  I’ve never been to Fort Worth or Dallas, though, except for passing through on the interstate, so this will be a new experience. As a native Californian I’m not involved in the feud. I can’t even say I understand it, but there you go.

Anyway, my next entry could very well be from Fort Worth.

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Modern Minstrelsy

storyteller

When friend and musician Wade Johnson visited me last week, we had an hour or so to play some of our songs for each other. As I said in an earlier post, I’ve missed this kind of fellowship the past couple of decades, and I intend to attract more of it into my life. Wade’s songs are poignant, crystalline glimpse into moments of his life that move him, whether that be a song he wrote for his daughter’s wedding or a more recent song about no longer being able to tolerate people’s games. After he finished a song he wrote for his mother’s funeral, I said, “Your songs are so personal. They get right to the heart of a moment. Mine just tell stories; I wish I could write more like you.” To which he replied, “Are you kidding? I’d love to tell stories like you do.”

I think that a great many musicians have shared conversations like this. It’s what has kept folk and acoustic music alive for so long. We’re all storytellers, each of us using our unique voice to put across feelings and insights for others to experience. Not only did the time with Wade put me in touch with his music, it lured me back to my own, and I’ve spent the past couple of days working on my CDs “Veil Between the Worlds” and “A Polite Little Madness.”

Yesterday I worked on “Waterland,” a song in the story telling tradition. On the surface, it sounds like a simple folk or faery tale, but it’s actually about something much deeper. Let’s face it, faery tales always hide a deeper message whether moral, spiritual, or philosophical. Let’s look at “Waterland.”

In a yellow field near a magic lake he walked alone that morn,
Looking for the answers he had sought since he was born;
All his life he’d felt removed from the things that men call real,
And sang his songs about the things no others seemed to feel.
His song awoke her sleeping heart and she rose up from the deep,
“Whoso dares to tread my shore and wake me from my sleep?
Whose song dares to stir my heart kept numb beneath the cold?
Is it answers you are seeking, bard? Come, if you be so bold!”

And he stayed with her a season in the spring,
And every morning she was heard to sing:
“If there be secrets you would know,
Come lie beside me, do not go;
Everything is here for you,
Mysteries nine times nine,
And all the secrets you desire
Are lying here in mine.”

Night times passed, their loved waxed full and soon the season turned,
He felt the human need to go tell others what he’d learned,
And shining like a golden god he rose up from the deep,
And her heart was overflowing with the love she could not keep.
To sing his songs he traveled out to countries far and near,
Much acclaim at his command, fame was his for fifty years;
And when he knew his life was done he set out for the lake,
Not one soul did he tell, not one thing did he take.

And lying on her shore, his heart took wing
As he saw her rise and as he heard her sing:
“If there be secrets you would know,
Come lie beside me, do not go;
You can travel all your world,
Around it nine times nine,
But all the love that you desire
Would still lie here in mine.”
And his age fell away like scales
As she took him by the hand,
And no more had he need to leave
Behind her Waterland.

To most people this song is a simple tale about a mortal and an immortal getting together, separating, and then getting back together for a happy ending. May I tell you what it’s really about?

In a yellow field near a magic lake he walked alone that morn,
Looking for the answers he had sought since he was born;
All his life he’d felt removed from the things that men call real,
And sang his songs about the things no others seemed to feel.

This man has spent his life seeking the deeper aspects of life and has come up wanting. The yellow field represents the dormancy he experiences in his artistic life as the things that other people find important—house, car, job, family, TV, etc—only remind him of how set apart he is from the rest of “normal” humanity. We don’t know what chain of emotional events and traumas caused him to lose touch with his creativity, but when he found himself in the dead grass around his newly discovered wellspring (the Lake), he was looking for some answers.

His song awoke her sleeping heart and she rose up from the deep,
“Whoso dares to tread my shore and wake me from my sleep?
Whose song dares to stir my heart kept numb beneath the cold?
Is it answers you are seeking, bard? Come, if you be so bold!”

Ah, the Watery Tart, the Lady of the Lake, the Witch of the West-Mer-Lands, the water nymph… this is a common image in Celtic folklore and folk songs. She represents many things, but in my song’s case she is the Self, the hidden creatrix within all artists, the deeper part of oneself from whence all art flows. This aspect of our hero has been dormant, asleep, cold, and unfeeling for a long time and it awakens, calling him to the wholeness and fullness of his creativity. But this path is not for the weak, the lazy, or the cowardly. It takes courage to encounter the Self.Who knows what lies beneath the surface of that dark water?

And he stayed with her a season in the spring,
And every morning she was heard to sing:
“If there be secrets you would know,
Come lie beside me, do not go;
Everything is here for you,
Mysteries nine times nine,
And all the secrets you desire
Are lying here in mine.”

This is pretty self-explanatory. Art promises us all the magic and mystery of life—the secrets of life itself—and these are freely given if we aren’t afraid to dive beneath the waters of our unconscious and look at ourselves honestly. It’s not a path for everyone; some people aren’t even aware that they have a Lake inside them, and some people deny it’s even there (“I’m not creative,” “I can’t sing,” “I haven’t done anything creative since I was a kid” etc).

Night times passed, their loved waxed full and soon the season turned,
He felt the human need to go tell others what he’d learned,
And shining like a golden god he rose up from the deep,
And her heart was overflowing with the love she could not keep.
To sing his songs he traveled out to countries far and near,
Much acclaim at his command, fame was his for fifty years;
And when he knew his life was done he set out for the lake,
Not one soul did he tell, not one thing did he take.

Our hero stays awhile in his Lake. Actually, in the original lyrics he stays “one year plus one day,” the usual time of initiation in folklore, and when he rises from the Lake he sees that no time at all has passed in the “real” world (same old hum-drum). But as people do, he can’t keep the magic to himself. He knows something! He has to share this with everyone! Rising from his Lake with the golden radiance of the charismatic, self-actualized artist, he seeks fame and fortune and all of the trappings that go with them. He sings the same songs over and over and eventually his luster begins to wane. He spends years neglecting his creativity and it begins to run dry. Fame and wealth did nothing for his soul, and he begins to die. Knowing he needs to to reconnect with his creative nature, he starts the journey back to his wellspring, telling no one (rejecting fame) and taking nothing (leaving behind the trappings of the ego).

And lying on her shore, his heart took wing
As he saw her rise and as he heard her sing:
“If there be secrets you would know,
Come lie beside me, do not go;
You can travel all your world,
Around it nine times nine,
But all the love that you desire
Would still lie here in mine.”
And his age fell away like scales
As she took him by the hand,
And no more had he need to leave
Behind her Waterland.

He falls to the shore, his creativity nearly dead, and the immortal in him recognizes his innocent hunger to reconnect. And, because I do like a happy ending, this connection helps him to shrug off the weariness his chosen way of life has brought him, and he is renewed to his full creative powers, and he remains connected in the Lake of the creative unconscious.

Now, did I know I was telling this story when I wrote “Waterland” back in 1984? No. I simply wanted to tell a nice faery tale. But that’s the wonder and beauty of folk lore! Our unconscious will give us the stories—they’re in all of us. That’s why we recognize these deeper truths in all our human race’s storytelling. That’s why we have storytelling. Each of us mortals has this Lake, this wellspring of creativity within us, and each of us has an immortal, creative nature that promises fulfillment if only we are brave and bold enough to accept its invitation.

This is my demo of “Waterland.” The actual studio recording will include penny whistle, alto recorder, and bodhran. The quality isn’t what it will be in the finished product, but it’s good enough to serve for this post.

__________

Waterland © SK Waller, 2016, all rights reserved.

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