It’s that simple. Do what you love, everything changes. There are a million reasons why you “can’t.” Most of them come down to something very simple: fear. Living in fear ain’t no way to go—even if you call it “responsibility,” “reckoning” or “things like that don’t happen to me.” Then again, there’s the deception of day dreams - which is a big difference. If it’s a dream. A dream you dream with your whole heart. Ask yourself “why not?” and start dismantling those reasons. For when you work and live from passion, everything changes—and even the struggles are something worth weathering.
Tilly and Madame Marie. The ghosts of the midway past. The romance of sunburn and salt air, hair tangled from the ocean wind. Atlantic City may’ve been rebound high-toned gambler’s decadence (that never quite gelled), but Asbury Park remains a shell of a moth-eaten American dream that wafted out of Springsteen’s wharf rat jubilation. “One heat-infested summer, me and Tery became friends/ Trying in vain to breathe the heat we were born in.” The altar of the exaltation was the Stone Pony, there now, and hopefully, doubtfully, always. Step right up! Get your t-shirt! Buy the cloth that witnesses to what was and is, but not always be. Witness, y’all, the wonder of the scrappy blue collar romance and potency of music to arrive, survive and defy physicality with memories more potent than even desire. A gift I might add—from some high-flying boys of summer, a talisman for their dancing girl, their true companion of the road, the freckled winsome one in pink believing in “Waves On Waves,” “Baby Dolls” and being “Wrapped In You” every day when they take the stage. Ahhh, the men who make Pat Green sound so sweet—thick and strong and melodic, rolling with beats and notes, sailing on songs and dreams.
To roast a chicken so exquisitely 6 weeks later it still makes my mouth wet. All cavity stuffed with garlic and lemons. To offer up foie gras that rich, yet smoothly flawless you must make yourself stop. To do soups that’re cold without being boggy. Indeed, to run a kitchen with a wide-open face, shocks of sandy strawberry hair escaping from a Red Sox ball cap is to understand the heart and the soul of Gordon Hamersly’s elevated American food. It is exquisitely simple, yet divinely decadent. So luxe, yet straightforward in its demeanor that your cousin from Kansas wouldn’t be intimidated, yet even your foodiest foodie friend would swoon. And the room is equally matched. Open. Lots of light. Muted in the tones. Factor in a staff who is so helpful, so welcoming, so present in the experience, and you have a template for the reason to dine out, the reason to believe it can elevate the magic of great home entertaining in ways that make business entertaining pleasure, shared meals intimately comfortable and—yes, even—a lone diner feel like the meal is transformative and restorative rather than just re-fueling.
For girls, this is where it begins. Slightly waxy, a bit sweet, a waft of glamour, a dose of self-care. In one little tube—bought at any drugstore check-out counter—the seeds of what women are sits waiting. And once you know, a tube tucked in one’s pocket reminds one instantly of the innocence (and excitement) of coming of age.
My friend the restauranteur has a problem with his lady love—and all he can see is his fear. He loves this woman deeply, but he can’t seem to tell her that, only that he can’t rush into marriage. If it’s fear that he’s working from, what is her fear? Because usually like begets like. Hear what people feel, see what’s driving them from it, ask if they know how the other person’s reality might match it. And if it’s someone you truly care for, pull back the gossamer curtain of the genders, show your friend around. “She’s afraid she’s convenient,” I tell him. “She’s afraid you’re killing time and she’s wasting her’s. Tell her where you are, let her know she’s the one you want to work through this with—and you’ll be shocked.” He was; and happy!
A man, his guitars, a piano and an organ. Not to mention his songs - the hymnal for the working American struggling to get by for more than three decades. If you wanted vespers for the slightly faded, every hopeful human spirit, Bruce Springsteen’s Devils & Dust Tour is it. Rather than playing it larger than life, Springsteen maintains the perspective of one us—and takes us through the phases of human hearts: doubt, exultation, faltering, failing, exhaustion, collapsing in the arms of what was always there. Essay to come.
It was morning. Before anything was going on. And to wander away from the diesel fumes and heat coming off the idling buses, a wander across the parking lot on the Ohio River deposited me at River Downs, where the horses were working out, the day had not begun for the structure’s real purpose and the unorchestrated ballet of practice was playing out in all its glory. River Downs is a simple structure, made elegant with clean lines and classicism. Basic Southern architecture as grandstand, well-manicured and neatly whitewashed. The horses, though, flecked with sweat, sinews and tendons collecting, gathering, bolting—they were lightning covered with black and brown and gray carpets of horse hair. Breaking out of a gate, being ponied around by lead horses, jogging to cool down or warm up. It was the pony parade, but with thoroughbreds—animals being taught the way of the run for the money, but also not being expected to be a bullet from a gun.
Slightly wilted, barely carmelized from the soy. Pungent. Spicy. Tingling. Summer given an upside down spin. A bright POP! for the green vegetable that is so common, the uncommon treatment redefines everything about what vegetables should mean. Seek them out.
My college friend Katy has been on a quest to adopt—taking her to China, to Eastern Europe, to get close, and then… But love and the will to mother are stronger than bureaucratic red tape and cultural contempt/indifference. And so Katy’s missives began a few weeks ago: LIVE! from a hotel in nowhere, waiting on the final papers and permission to leave. The word came this morning—in the middle of the night—it is done! A journey of many years complete. A child free to have a better life. An amazing woman, a momument to perseverance, rewarded. Really reinforces one’s faith is maintaining the strain for the things that truly matter.
Hypnotically lunging, rolling with a melodic sense balanced against the heaviness of the instruments. Eerie and daunting at times, tumbling musical signatures and acoustic instruments that pop out of the mix with verve. It’s swirling, stoner music that’s a bit Brit, a dash punk, a lot measured in its rancor and angst. The churning and undulation is more subdued, making it a deeper, slower burn.
I am human, a dear friend recently pointed out to me, as I whirled in an apology for just that. And yet, in that instant, I came to love my friend that much more. Just as when you see someone else’s weakness, chaos, hurt or anger as a manifestation of that, you can let it go—and love them even deeper. A sweet rule to live, love and grow by.
His name is Alex Bevan. He was my first idol; followed around by a kid in a pink buttondown shirt, certain wearing the same outfit would make him “recognize” her. Songwriting ace Bob DiPiero told Kix Brooks “He was the Bob Dylan of Cleveland;” but mostly he was the folkie who gave me beautiful words and images to tuck in my heart for times when I needed softness, the grace and the glow. I grew up. I midwife dreams. I believe in the power of songs and moments and other people’s souls. I joke that I am Penny Lane—without certain prurient functions. My friend Alex Bevan thinks so, too, arriving at Blossom Music Center with a street sign proclaiming “Penny Lane,” for any road that takes me where I want to be. A lovely gift for a journey that’s beginning to unfold.
My deceptively refined friend Matraca, who speaks fluent hillbilly, uses this as the short-cut for “half a dozen of one, six of another.” It’s verbal shorthand of the highest order. Marvelous.
Black-eyed, they take in the world about them in gulps. Stalks heavy enough to support larger than life superhero daisies cast in an ochre gold and chocolate brown, there’s a solidity to sunflowers that say lovely can be strong—and a grace to them that say lovely transcends all. Georgia O’Keefe celebrated the dark-eyed beauties with such depth and textural sense, one could almost crawl into their flower beds—and in person, those paintings almost offer up a 4th dimension unseen in most flora.
Whether you’re into the Athens, GA. jam band or not, Kayce’s profile of a 20 year band bouncing back from the loss of a key member and 18 month sabbatical is in itself a reason to believe. Having built a healthy fan-base on word-of-mouth and touring, after two decades and time devoted to settling into a non-road life, it would be easy to say “we’ve done it all,” but they don’t. And the reasons they continue have nothing to do with the roar of the crowd, the cash (or lack thereof) in their pocket or the glory of acclaim. Widespread Panic enlisted new guitarist George McConnell to replace Mike “Panic” Houser, because playing is what they do. Simply. Purely. Clearly.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, it was $16.99 plus tax. All you need is a credit card and a driver’s license—and Enterprise will hook you up. And once you’re behind the wheel in a place you’ve never been, it’s like one giant package to undo.
Pride of Winchester, Kentucky. Looking like Vernor’s ginger-ale, it packs a kick. A little bit like Blenheim’s gingerale with the cayenne kick, but way more citrus—though no vitamin C-steeped fruit flavor that’s immediately discernable. One of those beyond words deals that is addictive just by the sheer vexation/frustration of what it does to your taste buds.
My friend “the step dad” worked hard to raise a boy into a man, and was never quite sure where he stood—because boys never quite say. Wouldn’t be manly, you know. But from the time he got serious with this child’s mother, he’d take the 6-, 7-, 8-year old out in the yard and run drills and plays with him, teach him the fundamentals of sports and give him the male presence he was missing. Late last fall, the quarterback from his stepson’s football team got hurt—and they called up their second string QB during a tight game. From the stands he saw them, huddle, watched the break, then he heard his boy—by love, if not genetics—bark out “Blue 68, Blue 68.” The throw was long, good, caught; but what made my friend cry was he finally knew how deep that bond really was.
Two sticks of bite sized bits of chicken marinated in something yummy—rosemary is definitely part of it—skewered with cherry tomatoes, onions and peppers, then grilled to absolute succulence. Served with half a Greek salad and a savory rice pilaf variation that lets you know what the Rice-A-Roni people were going for, this is the best healthy meal in Nashville.
With that milk and warm honey voice bound with just enough sinew to let you know the arms are strong enough to hold whatever you got, no one weaves hypnotic melodies quite like Todd Rundgren, the Wizard/A True Star, the Hermit of Mink Hollow. There’s a deep romanticism to what he does with pop idioms, yet there’s also a bent kink to the way he thrusts himself at jagged rocking moments.
Drug store beauty products are the great equalizer - and the best news about 2000 Calorie Mascara (besides the fact that it clings to your eye lashes rather than smudging right off) is that it lengthens without taking you to the valley of Tammy Faye. Thickens the lashes just enough to have heft and body, but really pulls them out there. If you wanna look more without looking drag queen, here’s a good bet for low dough.
Lost in thought, my head down, the man and his mount came sailing by. As he passed on his trusty charger, my knight in a flapping t-shirt hurled this advice onto the wind. He was right, of course, this man streaking by at breakneck speed—what deserves to be seen is before you, beyond you, above you. If you wanna see the horizon, embrace the moment, be in the now, the ground is the last place—even when you’re daydreaming, curing a disease or imagining sinking the final putt at the US Open—to set your gaze.
It’s the 40th anniversary of a sweet small town festival, beauty pageant and rodeo in LaBelle, Florida, a town with old style Florida architecture, Spanish moss in the trees and a pace that reminds us that life should be lived and savored, not thrashed through and digested with Maalox. For so many years, I would drive through LaBelle on my way to other places—see the signs and let my imagination wander. What is—after all—a swamp cabbage? And why would someone created an entire weekend celebration to honor it? It is the joy of the overlooked personified
Real life evocation of a classic lyric is always brownie points! Heck, to me, it’s a 3 pointer in the face of a full-charge. Given that it was a crew guy sussing out some female talent, but delivered reflexively and with utter awe, I’d say this brings Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” kneequake to a very relevant place almost (yes, children) 30 years later. Sometimes it’s about merging the soundtrack of then with the honor and celebration of now. Ironically enough, upon return at 4:something this morning, driving away from the bus, I popped on the radio and found myself awash in those warm down-stroked acoustic guitar chords, that smoky dry branch lonesome tone of wist and remembrance—and remembered the way we’d all look knowingly at each other—even though we didn’t have a clue about what time it REALLY was—when the line “I used her, she used me/ Neither one cared. We were getting our share.” Innocence rekindled, indeed.
In anything, everything. My girlfriend Janine puts it in cookies and banana bread. A margarita is transformed with it. Chin Chin on E. 49th in New York does unholy things with it—when combined with walnuts and leeks. Drizzled on ice cream, poured in chocolate cups. Too sweet perhaps to drink over ice—even for kids—but as a flavor enhancer/wakener/enlivener, it is beyond BEYOND. And that bottle looks soooooo sophisticated on the counter!
Peeling and weathered, witnessing the elements waging their toll on the planet. Water washing away, sun burning and fading, wind kicking up dust to further pit and grit—and yet, the more worn they get, the more dignified they seem. And that truth goes double for painted barns, usually advertising some roadside attraction or brand of chewing tobacco. Occasionally, you’ll find one that’s just a design—something set there to enhance the countryside.
Made with love, hands bobbing and weaving, coming together, drifting apart. There are few things I love more than seeing people in the scarves I knit for them; and every now and then, someone will give me the same burst of love and time. A friend of my father’s who’s become a friend since his passing just sent me a throw—in white and every pastel color of the rainbow. Just seeing it brings so many things to mind that add the warmth of life lives beyond thermal insulation, making it blessed, indeed.
Once upon someone else’s time stands the monument to who they were and how they got this way… The ghosts of what was, the hopes of what could be, the devastating beauty of potential, the wasting reality of the passage of time. There is something vast to the way memories imperceptibly cling to the places they were made, unseen, yet felt. This is a window into the soul of the people who’ve gone, if you’ll just be still and feel them. And you can imagine the moments—joyous or sorrow-filled—that created a life, a life that went on to be so much more.