Well, it's late July, the tomatoes are already ripe in the garden, I'm recovered from:
Never Wanting to Leave Italy
Having a Great Time in London
The Launch of "Where's Bob"
The Reality of Starting Over Again….Starting with a quick chronicle of the last 2 months
So….We finished up our Spring CD Celebrations with a show at Aubergine's with Doug Blumer's Bohemian Highway. Our long lost steel player (he's really too busy playing with other bands, actually), Dave Zirbel rejoined our ranks and we were in a night of country bliss, having that one element that glues all the love and heartbreak together…Pedal Steel...A delirious night(despite the soundman from hell), to be sure, with the band sounding like it had played a lot lately…which we had.
A short week later, I checked out of my classroom at school (with a potential strike on the horizon, and awful budget cuts yet to come), got on a plane with my sweetie and headed for the gentle wilds of Tuscany! Bologna one day after the earthquake felt very nervous, though they didn't endure the lions' share of the damage. That happened in Novi Di Modena, which lost 17 lives and a good portion of Italy's parmesan cheese supply. Our hosts' children experienced their first "duck and cover" drill…a California staple.
We headed to Barga, Italy where we found an amazing combination of food, terrain, and one serious Hank Williams fan. We stayed with Pietro and Kerry, whose son Gianni I accompanied on "Day Tripper" for the Sunday church crowd, which had convened that day to bless the ancient chapel located on the grounds of Pietro and Kerry's Agritourismo. We were attacked by well meaning Italian church ladies and experienced a food mugging extraordinaire…wild boar stew, venison, Pietro's wood fired pizzas, and pastries made with almond, chestnuts, and local honey. Crazy good! Then, one extra sweet church lady speaks to us in English (which was better than my Spanish influenced Italian), with a heavy Scots' Brogue! She was talking about her, "Grrrret,grrret, grrrranchildern." We'd heard that many of the folk in Barga share ties to the Scots of Glasgow dating back to the 19th century, when many locals pursued jobs up in the industrial north of England. It was stunning indeed to hear this woman suddenly speak like a Glasgow local, like another spirit was inhabiting her body!
Touring through Lucca, we went through Paul Lazzereschi's (of Vasco fame) list of must sees and took in the afternoon's "Pasagiatta", dinner at Bucca di San Antonio, and the oceanic splendor of the Italian Riviera, which reminded me of Zuma Beach with really great food. Now, I've travelled to summer vacation spots before, but often times found myself torn between activities, surfing, hiking, snorkeling, etc. which requires, hassling to find gear, a ride, a spare surfboard, fins, whatever! Our time in Barga was very simple: get up, cook breakfast, hike through a 10th century town built over Roman ruins on top of Etruscan ruins, decide on lunch plans, hike some more, look at what's on for dinner, and for the next 3 hours get to know your sweeheart a little better over some incredible cuisine, and a bottle of wine. Aside from the insane quality of the food, the one thing Italy understands is that wine is not a luxury item. For the price of a glass of wine in the US, you get a bottle of the excellent Italian wine. And the food, well, the way the dopamine pours through your body with every bite, I think you have to say that we, as humans, were designed to eat this food. The rewards our nervous system heaps upon us as we enjoy these simple dishes is insane! This food reminds me of our mortality…you eat some white truffle pasta, and think, "OK, I could die right here." And you wonder what will compare...
All right, enough talk about food, (with apologies to Michael Pollan, who popularized this notion of our genetic dispositions toward good cuisine)...I'm only glad that I planted a decent garden this spring, and I've got fresh tomatoes, basil, arugula in the garden right now!...Nicole and I next stayed a week in Sienna (inpired to write a new song there), a couple nights in Florence, and then we played house in a modern apartment with a sexy red refrigerator in Bologna. Just wandered around the oldest college town in Europe (Dante went to school there) shopping, walking, eating. We also made a very interesting trip to the Pinateca museum in Bologna, where I photo-chronicled some rather dubious portraits of The Baby Jesus and his partner in Christ, John The Baptist, please take a moment and enjoy these, very, eh, interesting studies of JC......Baby Jesus at the Pinoteca, Bologna Italy.
AMERICANA BOY IN LONDON
The week I spent in London was a gas. I stayed at my lovely sister-in-law Irene's home in SW London, which was once a working class neighborhood whose brewery, until very recently, still delivered its beer via Clydesdale-drawn cart. I finished a bunch of new songs at Irene's and played them for the first time at Off Broadway, a great pub with EXCELLENT TACOS, yes…thanks to owner manager Byron Knight (who also provided some home-made ales and porters, and whatever else we drank that night....)…I met and played with some super-talented and generous musicians including: Dan Raza, Allegra Shock, and Peter Conway. Reunited with musical pal Graham Robins, who I met on a trip to Ireland in '06, and I played a few songs in between sets by his group at The Goat Inn, a 15th century pub built to board travelers along the Old London Road, which was built by The Romans…oh a while back! My last gig in London was at What's Cooking in Leyton, with The Green Rock River Band, a fine collection of Muppets who write great songs and who I joined for and encore of "Shady Grove" to honor the late Doc Watson who passed in late May. It was a fine night, I played a solo 50 minute set with a hearty response from a packed house of locals… Stephen Ferguson has created a great scene at The Birbeck Tavern, and is such a generous host… Only four weeks after I played there, I See Hawks In LA graced the Birbeck with there country hippie sounds...! It's a very small world indeed when you fly across the pond...Finally, on my last day as a tourist in London I wandered rather aimlessly through old cemetaries, took in the view from parliament hill, and ambled down to see Westminster Abbey, The Tower of Big Ben, The famous rosy red cheeks of the Russian, Polish, and Belarusan children (who now inhabit London in gret, gret numbers...along with the East Indians, Jamaicans, Pakistanis, Africans, it's a very lovely multi-culti world indeed)...found a pub (surprise!),and caught England defeating France to advance to the semi's in the Eurocup (big surpirse,Rooney's back!)...The next day I said goodbye to Irene at the airport and headed on back to the US and the rest of me life…
Since back, I've done tons of gardening, dug some fence posts in the yard, and played 3 very gratifying shows back with the band. I'm so grateful for these guys' talent and generosity, we had a fine time at The Sleeping Lady in Fairfax and Armando's in Martinez on consecutive nights with Paul Olguin and Ryan Lim playing bass, respectively. So nice to hear Erik Pearson and Michael Stadler singing harmony and playing so soulfully, crazy how good these guys are, and a real pleasure to hear my songs played by the full Nearly Beloved crew once again! We got the rhythm section of Joe Kyle and David Rubin back together for a gig at Smiley's in the secret town of Bolinas, and now we're back to our regular schedule of Vasco dates, and plans for a new acoustic CD to come out next year, filled in part by songs written on this trip. Finally updated the webbie, booked some dates, played at Chuck and Jeanie's house on a foggy SF night with some great musical friends…
We're heading up to Oregon this Friday to play The Magic Forest Farm, one of Oregon's oldest and longest consecutively operated communes in the whole state. Looking forward to toting Richard Linley of the Palm Wine Boys along with our dear friend Dan Becker, who's playing his Nick Drake inspired guitar for the farmers! Life is good, y'all. Plant some veggies, see you soon! cheers,