Tuesday, November 30, 2010

She only marked the ones she wanted.

We have WiFi now. That means that I can sit in the kitchen with my daughter and my laptop. I did that last night. Waiting for a friend to arrive with missing ingredients so I could complete my chocolate chip cookie dough, I was killing time emailing back and forth with a client about the look and feel of her Web site, while Soul Fry browsed through the American Girl holiday catalog with a giant black Dry Erase marker in hand. "I'm just marking the ones I want, Mommy."

"Ok," I said absently, then like Naddick, fired off a witty quip to New York, and anxiously stood at the baseline awaiting my opponent's Federer-like return. (She calls it tennis, not me. I just call it e-mail.)

I turned to inspect Soul Fry's "wish list." And this is what I saw:

Not bad. "Just marking the ones I want, Mommy." At $95 a pop, fulfilling that page's order alone will only cost us $1900. Add in the horse on the next page ($75), the $28 travel set (a mini plastic suitcase), the spa day set ($150)--this page is where she figured out how to circle rather than black out her intended--the nail care kit ($10), the salon station ($85), the baking table and treats ($85+$28), the Western saddle set ($32), and five full outfits at appx $28 each... oh forget about it. I lost count. Soul Fry lost focus. I went to the change jar to start counting pennies. We have a very large change jar, you realize.

Please file all of the following under the heading "Get Over It." To wit:

1. Each doll costs a little more than we were making every Sunday at our regular gig, after we overpaid the babysitter and tipped the bartender.

2. Each doll outfit costs $1 less than the dress I bought on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters for our CD release party.

3. Children are being marketed to unfairly, and parents are being manipulated.

4. The dolls aren't made in America. Each doll costs more than the person who made it makes in a month. Worse, the dolls probably aren't even organic.

5. She's four. FOUR.

6. Capitalism is evil! Commercialism is worse! America is in ruins!

7. Two of my favorite friends do only hand-made gifts.

8. Christmas is about peace, love, and chocolate chip cookies, not gifts.

Yeah, I get it.

Please register further complaints with the Marker Queen's mother. Her office hours are Sundays, 11:59 pm to Mondays, 12:00 am, but she'll be out of the office for the next four weeks because she'll be shopping for Barbie dolls that are wearing (gasp!) mini skirts and heels. Please try your call again at another time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A REAL Plymouth Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving morning, Plymouth, Mass., America's Hometown. I woke and the house was quiet, save for the whir of the fridge and the occasional ticking of the subfloor heating ducts. Seven were due for dinner at 2:00, and I had a delectible feast to make. While everyone else slept, I sat at the kitchen table and made a detailed work plan for the day, not because I am meticulously organized but because my writing experience has taught me to break down the big projects into small steps. Then you only have to think about the next thing on the list, not the overwhelming whole.

Thus satisfied, I took my tea cup to Facebook. Friends everywhere were posting inspirational Thanksgiving messages and warm wishes. People had put quotes from Thoreau (or was it Emerson?) on their status. Bloggers dug up the most rare and beautiful poetry they could find. And in response to all this, I thought: " ."

Translation: Nothing. Big flat blank.

I tried to get into the spirit and posted "Happy Day" on the Lindsays Facebook page. A few people "liked" it. You liked that? Thanks.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thankful enough most days of the year, and on Thanksgiving morning, I was not thankful. No. I was overtired and feeling a bit wedded to crushing clove after clove of garlic, picking and chopping fresh sage, and getting grossed out when I had to slide my herb butter-covered hands under the turkey's skin to separate it from the flabby flesh. Our turkey came as a gift from our bestest organic farmer friends, and I had brined it for 24 hours. It smelled a little funny.

Then I went to work organizing the potatoes, the squash, the carrots, the sweet potatoes, the peas, the corn, the stuffing, the rolls-of-bread-in-a-can, and the molded cranberry sauce that only my sister eats. Oh, and also cleaning up the house, which looked a little like Kabul on October 7, 2001. (Coincidentally, that's about the last time we dusted.)

In the middle of this, one of the guests called and admitted that he'd eaten part of the the bread he was supposed to be bringing. Having spent more than $250 on food, beer, and wine in multiple shopping trips, and having been up most of the night before cooking pies and a butternut squash bisque, and now in the middle of trying to get it all organized while also foolishly and mindlessly tending to our resident diva, who lately has learned to shout orders in a booming voice (for a four year old) from the living room, I did what any sane person would do. I took a deep breath, exhaled, thought about my response, surrounded myself with white light, smiled, levitated just a little, and said in my softest, most gentle and sensitive voice, "GEEZ! AFTER I SPENT TWO DAYS COOKING ALL THIS FOOD AND DOING ALL THIS, YOU CAN'T EVEN BRING A FULL LOAF OF BREAD?!?!"

I got hung up on. (I'm very, very uptight, you know.)

In the spirit of Thankgiving, I spent the next ten minutes in silent yet heated conversation with all those who would categorize my superhuman energy level as some form of neurosis. Then I did like the unions: I announced that at COB Thankgiving Day, there would be a work stoppage. Soul Mama's on strike. What this means is that you might not get a Christmas card this year. Not because I don't love you, but because I've put myself on a low-stress diet, where I sit around and eat fudge all day and someone else does all the work. If you need me this Christmas, I'll be on the couch in the middle of a crush of beer cans, farting.

This Thanksgiving weekend, what am I thankful for? That's it's over. Oh, and that I learned to say what lots of very sane people have been saying for a very long time: "Oh, the hell with it."

The reason for the season, indeed. This, people, is why once a year we gather together, like Samoset and Squanto, with the Saints and Strangers who gave us the small pox blankets: because they're here to stay, we're outnumbered, and we have only two choices—shake hands and break bread, or resist and perish.

Plus, it reminds us that it's really okay to get up at 4 am the next day and get as many gifts out of the way as quickly as possible and with as little thought as possible at Black Friday's doorbuster sales. Then, we're free to spend the rest of the month singing carols, baking cookies, and driving around town light-peeping.

Yes, yes. I'll get right on that. Right after I finish this beer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blind Tired

I never thought it possible to go blind from tiredness but it (almost) happened to me yesterday. After three CD release gigs, late nights, and a good bit of hoopla, my new glasses did nothing to prevent blindness. Wow. What a weekend.

Now it's Monday and the Lindsays are feeling a little like that sock you found behind the dryer last week: a little linty, crumpled, and you don't know who it belongs to.

But what fun! Best part was the session we had last night at Pilgrim Sands. We invited friends to join us for a session, and a monster night it turned out to be. Denya LeVine, Dinah Mellin, Nikki Engstrom, Rose Clancy, Janine Randall, Sean Brennan, Tom Rohde all in one room: heavenly music, and all for the reason it's there for: fun!

Here's a video from Friday night's show at the Tinker's Son.

Thank you for sticking around to see us through.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CD Release Parties This Weekend!

Tonight begins a crazy CD release weekend and we're ready. This CD took longer than a year, and its big lessons are dual: 1) Pay attention to detail, 2) Be yourself.

Any anxiety or nerves I had a few days ago are wiped away by the immediate responses we've gotten from friends, and especially musician friends. When a musician tells you "I listened to it six times! I love it!" or says "Awesome!" or "Feckin' brilliant," then you know you can be pleased. Not everyone will like the CD, of course, and that's okay because the ones who've mattered most dearly to us have already spoken and they love it.

Last year at this time, we were prepping for a series of Celtic Christmas concerts, and I admit: I was stressed to bits. Up every night at 3 am worrying, wondering whether we'd do it well, etc. This time, guess what? No nerves.There are two reasons:

1) We've paid attention to detail. At engineer Rob Pemberton's urging, we did it through the entire CD making process. It's our natures to say, "oh, that's just fine" and let things go, so as not to appear too persnickety or particular. But Rob said, "Look, you're here, I'm here. Let's get it right." And he kept saying that til the very end, and never lost patience. And he was right. Now there's nothing on the recording that we don't like.

2) We have just been ourselves. That's all we have to do this weekend, too. Phew. This recording reflects a wide diversity of what we do, and we did it, unapologetically. It's Irish. It's not Irish in places. It's not trad. It is trad, in places. It's not rock. It is rock, in places. It's not folk. It is folk, in places. It's not too depressing. It is very depressing in places. It's not too happy. It is very happy in places. We're not a concert band. We are a concert band in places. We're not a bar band. We are a bar band in places (especially places like bars). It is what it is. And it's done!

3) So the final lesson: Don't be afraid to be proud. We love what we did. We worked hard. We're proud! Now we get to celebrate.

Here's the weekend:

November 19, 2010 9:00 pm
CD RELEASE: The Tinker's Son
707 Main Street (Rte 123)
Norwell, MA 02061-2328

November 20, 2010 8:00 pm
The Village Manor
427 Sprague Street
Dedham, MA 02026
Fundraiser to support Dedham Girl's Softball. Tickets are $10.00 at the door.

November 21, 2010 12:00 pm
Liam Maguire's Pub and Restaurant
273 Main Street
Falmouth, MA 02536
From 12-3 pm, a CD release party at our favorite bar on Cape Cod!

November 21, 2010 5:00 pm
SESSION at the Sandcastle Lounge at Pilgrim Sands Hotel
150 Warren Avenue
Plymouth, MA 02360

For this last one, we're inviting a load of friends to join us Sunday night for a session, rather than the normal "gig" we do there. Please come. Bring your instrument.

Now... what to wear...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing about music is NOT dancing about architecture, ok? OK!???

One of the big challenges of teaching young students about music is that they listen to music differently. That is, they don't listen to it. They surround themselves with it, and let it into their minds, but they don't necessarily LISTEN.

Just like in the 1920s, 1950s, and part of the 1970s, we're in a singles market, and being a music junkie doesn't appear to be in fashion. People buy songs, not to albums, and from what I hear, they use it as a soundtrack... background music to pump them up or chill them out. Album sales have been ridiculously low for the last ten years or so, but based on the sales of iPods and concert attendance, music pundits tell us that music is as popular is ever. It seems that no one is buying albums anymore, though, and with the easy shuffle functions on MP3 players, it's easy to infer that very few are LISTENING to whole albums anymore, either.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I teach a class on the History of American Popular Music at Bridgewater State University. It's been hard to figure out a way to engage students and make the class more than just a fact party. Every semester I try something new. Essays, papers, films, discussions... all so-so.

This semester, I tried something new (in addition to stuffing their minds with facts, like sleepy, empty Thanksgiving turkeys). I assigned listening journals. I have students listen to an album a week. The goal is that they really listen: sit down, don't do anything else, and pay attention. Then, write about it. A few of them have been able to sit down and focus, but based on what their journals say, many simply have their players on in the background while they're getting ready to go out. Then, they write a hasty overview and try to make it look like they listened. (They don't fool me. I did that, too. Like, last year.)

For the writing part, they have a list of questions to consider, about the order of tracks, the flow, the overall "theme" or "vibe," and any other observations they can make. Mostly, they're writing, "It got me pumped up to go out," "I really liked it," and the all-time favorite, "It's very soothing." Believe me, all of these students have thoughts. They are not vacant. They have ideas. They think. They can talk for hours about the things that interest them. Just not to me.

The journals are supposed to be the practical complement to the fact-regurgitation lectures. The challenge of the journals, however, is that in order for them to get the most out of it, we need to follow up with discussion. A survey history course is about stuffing minds with facts, as fodder for ideas. That's the goal... the teacher gives facts, and hopes the student can use them for his or her own ideas. But it's not working that way. They're still writing facts about the album, and if they have thoughts about what they're hearing, not all of them are writing about it. Only a few are actually writing down the ideas that the music brought to them. Why? I'm not sure. Either they don't know that they're allowed to, or they also need to also be taught to process and to actually formulate ideas--to know how to learn. Like my old alma mater, Hampshire College's motto: "Non Satis Scire"--to know is not enough.

It's said that writing about music is difficult. People credit Elvis Costello as having said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." It's a very popular quote among music writers, but I think it's total bullsh$t. Writing about music is NOT like dancing about architecture. (God, I've seen that type of dancer and I wanted to strangle myself and then run out of the building screaming.) Writing about music is simply writing about music. You just write what you think. The challenge of writing about music is not the writing. The hard part of writing about music is in the THINKING.

This morning, I'm going to try to teach students how to think about music. Hm. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Do I have to change my identity so that I can swear here?

Got the call from the CD manufacturer and the CD is in.

Nerves and anxiety, bedamned. I'm so f$%&$($*&%($ excited I can barely work.

In response to my post-project anxiety post, there were all sorts of theories, from dear and loving friends:

One said, "Meditate. Breathe deeply. Be here now. Today is the only day."

One said, "You have castration anxiety and exhibitionist guilt. Suck it up."

One said, "Are you okay? It's hard to be anxious. I get that way, too."

One said, "Stop worrying! You are great!"

Two said, "It's never as good as the next one's gonna be, so get started!"

I said, "Thank you, you terrific people who I love so much. Thank you for being there."

I also say: "We did something big this year, and we hope people like it. At the beginning, we had a sister in town for three days, watching Soul Fry so that we could get started. (I love her.) We had amazing musicians join us. We had a genius at the mixing board, getting incredible sounds, giving us subtle creative direction, and sticking with us on every detail until the very end. We had so much fun. We had fights and epiphanies. We had a fabulous designer do photo shoots and posters and CD covers and download cards and postcards and even our website and now we have a priceless new friend."

And now I say, "HOLY F#$(*&#$. We have a CD today!"

No names have been changed, because there ARE no innocents. Oops. I swore. Please don't tell my daughter.

We have a $(*&#$$# CD today!!!!!

Oh yeah. Here's how you can find out more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Anxiety of Completion

Why, why, after doing this for more than twenty years, would a new CD release be a cause for anxiety?

It's a product we're proud of. A product we know is good. The music is enjoyable, the variety is captivating, the design is impeccable (thanks to the amazing Megan Verdugo). The whole thing is something we're excited about... and yet, as I announced the pre-release promotions yesterday, I got a jumping in my chest that didn't go away all day.

(Oh yeah. You wanna buy? Come to our store.)

This is not excitement. It is anxiety. And I wouldn't admit this publicly, except I know I'm not alone:

—A dear friend just finished a book and approved the final designs. Ready to send to the printer. The next day, she went to see her shrink complaining of extreme depression. He upped her meds.

—Another dear friend called me the day after her successful CD release party, and admitted that she was depressed. We talked it through, hung up. No resolution.

—Then there's me. I'm one of those annoyingly optimistic people who never gets depressed. So my emotions manifest in anxiety.

People, what is going on here? What are we worried about? There are questions:

Question: Will anyone buy it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone like it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone hate it?

Answer: Yes. But they probably won't tell you, so who cares?

I'm stumped. What could possibly be the reasons for anxiety, except the above givens, which are supposed to get defused when we admit them out loud. I write to beg you for your insight, because I can't figure it out and I can't stomach the idea of a shrink.

What do we fear? (Not "Fear itself." That's out. So 1932.)

1) BARING THE SOUL. When you put out an artistic product, you're telling all. You're laying yourself bare, for public criticism, and they WILL criticize. They will notice and comment to their friends (but not to you) on the misplaced hairs and the cellulite. Don't fool yourself. They will. Whatever.

2) TAKING A STAND. When you put out an artistic product, you're saying, "Look at me. Look what I have to say! Look what I can do!" and though we do this musical thing for sharing of our hearts, surely there's a bit of ego in there, too. Personally, I find that embarrassing. Ego? Me. Blech. I'd like it to be all about giving, but it's also about showboating what I can do with all the work I've put in. Yikes. It gives me palpitations even now.

Your thoughts? (No Freudian analysis, please. My parents were good to me.)

No matter what, it's done. It'll be out in a week.

So what is this anxiety? Perhaps it is simply the unexplained anxiety of completion.

Roll over, honey and hand me that lighter. I need a cigarette.