We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Music of the Counter Culture

Lughnasa                                                                Monsoon Moon

long black veilListening to some music on youtube while cleaning/rearranging. One clip leads to another. I’d started out on the Band’s “Long Black Veil” and youtube ratcheted me along to a guy named Blake Shelton. He’s a country guy, well known in areas where he’s well known, I gather. The song was, “Kiss My Country Ass.”

This was a slick video production, an official version. It featured Blake at the Carnegie Hall of Country, The Grand Ole Opry, and shifted often to videos of fans singing along and acting out the words. As I watched it, about the last half, I noticed the glee and fervor of Shelton’s fanboys and fangirls. I thought back to my own fanboy days with Steppenwolf, the Stones, Velvet Underground, the Doors, Creedence, the Band. I sang along (quietly in less I was alone) with equal passion.

kissThen it hit me. Much of country music is protest music. It’s the protest music of the blue collar worker, the southern working class, and the white supremacist (these are not conflatable categories though they may cross over.) You may have noticed this a long time ago, but I hadn’t.

Set apart by reason of counter cultural norms, this protest differs in content, but not in sociological significance. We are not like you, and, guess what? We don’t wanna be. If you don’t like that, well, you can kiss my country ass.

Western Swing

Beltane                                                                                Sumi-e Moon

aickman2Working on a second Aickmanesque short story. School Spirit is done though it can use editing. Working now on Main Street, a story inspired by Kaye Cox who, along with three of his friends, was decapitated by a sheet of iron that fell off a truck while he and his buddies were behind it. High school. I’m finding that writing with Alexandria in mind is a rich mine, lots of feelings, lots of stories. My current plan is to write at least 12 short stories, all in Aickman’s style, all based in Alexandria. Enough for a book. Jennie’s Dead is not done, but it’s still sitting there, throbbing away. I’ll get back to it at some point. It will call to me.

Jon finished the bench! At least the until now missing top. Still needs a coat of light stain and a varnish. Looks great and is done in time for Kate’s hosting of the needleworkers. The fan that got moved has some tics, not yet a fully good installation. I think I can take it the rest of the way. He said hopefully.

20180601_204307Kate and I went out for the first time since her shoulder surgery, except for Beth Evergreen events. We went to the Center Stage venue in Evergreen to hear Katie Glassman, whom we first encountered at Jews Do Jews, and her significant other, Greg Schochet.

She’s from Colorado, Denver, but now lives in Boulder. She’s a queen of the fiddlin’ scene, extolling last night the fiddle contest culture which brings fiddlers together from all over the nation. She’s won many contests and reminded me of the Charlie Daniel’s Band song, The Devil Went Down To Georgia. She might be the best who’s ever been.

Katie and Greg last night

Katie and Greg last night

Since the night focused on Western swing, you might imagine the hats, vests, boots, and belts on many of the men. In this instance it was the roosters who dressed up, not the hens. It felt like the first truly Western event, outside of the National Western Stock Show of course, that we’ve attended.

Katie’s father was there, having retired that day from the Denver Public School system after 32 years of teaching. Gabe, who attends an elementary school in DPS, had his last school day yesterday for the year, too.

It was a sweet, fun, upbeat evening that left us smiling.


Jews Do Jews

Samain                                                                                      Bare Aspen Moon

Did my new workout. Plank and reverse crunches still ouch. But that’s good, in its strange way. Finished another chapter of Jennie’s Dead. Kate picks recipes that suit her new, more pallid palate and I make them. Yesterday afternoon it was Spanish-Cilantro soup. This is from a 12 months of Monastic cooking cookbook. Straightforward recipes for serving whole rows of robe clad monks. Good enough for this pilgrim pagan and his Jewish spouse. Haven’t tried it yet. For lunch.

jews do jews

We drove into Denver for our second musical event in three days, Jews Do Jews. And experienced the same damned sort of traffic we encountered going to Swigert for Gabe’s fourth grade concert on Thursday. We were twenty minutes late to dinner. And, we left with what I thought I was fifteen minutes of cushion. Oh. Well.

Jews Do Jews: Kol Isha is the sixth iteration of what has grown into a very popular annual series, now filling a large venue, L2 Church on Colfax across from East High School. This celebration of Jewish women songwriters, coming as close on the heels of the Weinstein/#metoo moment as it did was powerful.

Ellie Greenwich

Ellie Greenwich

Congregation Beth Evergreen was on stage and upfront in this pan-Jewish Denver event. Sherry Rubin, a wonderful pianist who plays frequently at Beth Evergreen, was on stage most of the night as part of the backup band. Her daughter, Francesca, the youngest performer of the night at 21, sang two powerful songs, one by the late Amy Winehouse and one by Phoebe Snow. Rabbi Jamie Arnold led a rousing version of Do Wah Diddy, a song co-written by Ellie Greenwich. She also wrote Leader of the Pack and Do Ron Ron. Jamie chose her because she was relatively unknown. When all the singers came out for a medley at the end, the first song was a vibrant version of Do Ron Ron. The last two were Carol King covers.

katie glassmanTwo other Rabbis sang, Joe Black and Jack Gabriel, a cantor or two, and many other Jewish musicians from the Denver metro. Joining them was probably the most polished performer of the evening, Katie Glassman. She plays fiddle in a western swing and hot jazz style, sang Willow Won’t You Weep For Me and Sunny Side of the Street in a dusky torch singer voice. She’s appearing at Dazzle Jazz on December 8.

We went with Marilyn and Irv Saltzman and had dinner before hand at the Pepper Asian Bistro.

They Call It Democracy

Imbolc                                                                           Valentine Moon

This Canadian folk singer has something to say. Haven’t had music here in awhile. Found by friend and cybermage, Bill Schmidt.


Imbolc                                                                             Valentine Moon

Purnell Steen and Le Jazz Machine. Last night at Dazzle Jazz on Lincoln in Denver.

Purnell organized a playlist for the evening. It was all African-American composers in honor of Black History Month. Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Eubie Blake and some I didn’t catch. Here’s one by Art Blakey, Soft Wind.

Dazzle Jazz is a supper club with seating for maybe 100, all at tables. It opens at 6:00 pm for dining, with the first evening show at 7:00 pm. The stage is against the southern wall.

The menu has a lot of variety, from mac and cheese to braised greens to New York strip. The drink menu last night featured a “Bowling Green Massacre.” You can tell why we like this place.

Kate and I met listening to chamber music at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I realized last night that in the literal sense jazz is chamber music, too. It’s no surprise then that Kate and I have shifted our musical evenings to Denver’s jazz scene. And we get food.

Knee, Birthday, 60s, Cold

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

A diverse day, yesterday. Down to Orthocolorado for a “class” about my knee surgery. Not bad, not great.

20161103_130418At 12:30 we drove over to Evergreen for mussar at Beth Evergreen. It was Rabbi Jamie’s birthday and each woman brought a cooked or purchased offering of some kind. We had cranberry juice with tea and mint, apple juice, brie and a wonderful soft cheese, warm carrots, pistachios, cashews, strawberries, grapes, melon, crackers, chips, guacamole, a birthday cake, sea-salt caramel and chocolate brownies (Kate, see pic), with Halloween plates and napkins.

Later in the afternoon, around 5, we went down Shadow Mountain and spent an hour or so at Grow Your Own. This is a hydroponics shop, a head shop, a wine shop and a place to hear local musicians. Last night there was a former member of Steppenwolf playing guitar, a singer from a group called the Bucktones and a guy named Stan, who looked like the aging owner of a hardware store, playing bass. Time erodes the vocal chords so the singing was spirited and practiced, but range and timber suffered. Guitar chops however seemed undiminished.

The crowd was Kate and me like, gray hair, wrinkles. That question that comes to me often these days was germane: what did you do in the sixties? I don’t ask, at least not yet, but I do wonder what long-haired, dope-smoking, radical politics lie beneath the walkers and penchant for the music of yester year.

Then home to a boiler that’s out. After just having been serviced. The perfect end to an interesting day.

Family Time

Lugnasa                                                                  Superior Wolf Moon

Gabe and Ruth were up here yesterday, bringing their peculiar brand of energy and enthusiasms. Gabe tried to go fishing for dogs again with a stick tied to twine. He found the pruners, wanting to cut a stick for a reason I couldn’t understand, but it was important to him. After laying the pruners down, and watching Rigel walk around him, this hemophiliac said, “Rigel’s really clever. She knows how to walk past sharp things.”

20160820_151257Ruth came up to the loft and ate a sandwich she made, “Two cheeses, four meats and dijonnaise!” When grandma asked her if she wanted to help make peach pickles, Ruth said, “Well, I know how to make pickles, but I don’t know how to peel peaches.” So she helped. She is a sponge, soaking up Kate’s sewing skills and cooking skills. Reading books from my library and ones she gets on her own. Learning printmaking techniques from her dad as she prepares her portfolio for DSA, Denver School of the Arts. 10.

Apres le grandkids Jon and Kate and I went into Dazzle Jazz in downtown Denver to hear Roberta Gambarini. She’s very skilled. This was the next to last event in Kate’s birthday month. She has a present coming on Monday from Jon.




The Fall

Summer                                                      Park County Fair Moon

Rebekah Johnson

Rebekah Johnson

Kate’s sister BJ is a classical violinist who bows with her right arm. She has, for many years, played the Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Schecky, her significant other, a cellist, called Kate yesterday to say that BJ had suffered a bad fall trying to climb down from the deck of their new home in Driggs, Idaho. They live in the Beacon Hotel on Broadway in NYC and spend a lot of time apart due to their career, so Schecky being in NY while she’s in Idaho and Wyoming is not unusual.

Apparently the door to the deck slammed behind her and locked. When she couldn’t get back inside, she decided to climb down. She fell, experiencing a bilateral fracture of her pelvis, a dislocated shoulder and a humerus broken at the ball that inserts into the shoulder. On her right arm.

So this summer of interesting times for the Buckman-Ellis/Olson family has gotten more interesting. Kate’s driving up on Thursday to Driggs and will stay a while, maybe a week or so. I’ll remind behind with the dogs, the Timberline painters and Jon. Family is forever.


Oh, Lord

Imbolc                                                                                  Valentine Moon

Went down the hill last night to Grow Your Own, a hydroponics shop and wine bar that features local musicians. It’s just at the base of Conifer and Shadow Mountains so very close to our house. Tom McNeill sang. “I’m an old guy,” he said, “and I know old songs.”

He sang the songs of our youth: Oh, Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz, Little Red Riding Hood, Something’s Happenin’ Here, Mamas and Papas, John Denver, Pete Seeger those kind of songs. A reminder of the person who inhabited those days, the me who was out there “singing songs and carryin’ signs.”

Latin today. The Myrmidons from Book VII of the Metamorphoses

Music. Painting.

Imbolc                                                                     New Valentine Moon

We started our Sunday at the Clyfford Still Museum. A chamber music quartet played in Gallery 5. Their audience which carried some nifty aluminum gallery chairs to the room filled the gallery. They were appreciative, too, but, as Kate pointed out, they clapped after every movement. Not the mark of a sophisticated crowd.

I took the opportunity to wander through this small museum, listening to the music as I tried to get a read on Clyfford Still. A few of his later works were wonderful, brave. A favorite featured a huge, mostly blank canvas, with just a few yellow marks flying up like a flame burning mysteriously, some white, splashes of orange and a few scarlet intrusions from below.


I sat for a while in the gallery next to the one where the music played looking at the painting below. Somehow, I don’t even remember how now, I became a chamber music fan. For seventeen years I went to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, attending most concerts in their season with a subscription.

I’m not a sophisticated listener from a musical point of view. That is, I don’t really follow the construction of a piece, nor do I understand the intent a composer may have had. Not an impediment. This music reaches inside my rib cage and squeezes my heart. Often, I would sit, eyes closed, watching small sparks, sometimes large ones, dance behind my eyelids, called into existence by a note, a run, a solo performance, a particular melody.

Other times a profound sense of melancholy would overtake me, followed by jubilation. With Charles Ives’ pieces, he’s a particular favorite of mine, a small crack in the fabric of space-time could open to reveal just a glimpse of what lay beyond this moment.

I mention this because while I sat in the gallery yesterday, a question, not an original one by any means, came to me: what is the difference between music and painting? Both are art forms. Both with artists engaged intimately. Both requiring tools for the artist. Both appealing to a desire (or need, even if undiscovered) to see or hear the world in a new way, a way not possible in the everyday. Both requiring some seriousness in the listener or the viewer, some attention to the work, some willingness to be vulnerable. Both chamber music and abstract art with long histories.

Still 600

Yet the differences were stark. The music floated through the galleries, taking up aural space everywhere, yet visible nowhere except Gallery 5 and even there only the artists and their tools could be seen: cello, violins, viola. One of the wonders of music is that we can see the musicians at work, bow in hand, reed wet, embouchure quivering yet we cannot see what they make. So music is invisible and painting very, necessarily visible.

Also, music is ephemeral. A painting, with appropriate conservation, can last centuries, even millennia. Once a note, a run from the quartet was heard, it died away and others filled in behind it, the linear drive of the music creating a certain expectation, a sense of beginning, middle and end. Still painted this canvas in 1972. With the exception of some possible changes to the linen and the paint-and I don’t know if there have been any-this work looks now like it did when he laid down his brush. So a painting is in that sense static.

That static nature of a painting is, in fact, a part of its meaning. We have confidence that we stand before what the artist intended; so a painting provides a moment, unmediated by others, when we as viewers can connect personally with the expressive power of a person often long dead, think Fra Angelico or Rembrandt or Poussin. Still died in the early 1970’s.

Music, in contrast, requires mediation, at least in chamber music. We hear, usually, not one artist, but many interpreting through their instruments the musical idea of a composer no longer able to comment on his or her intention. And we hear that interpretation, in the instance of live music, only once.

But, and here was an idea that was new to me, I might leave a concert whistling a melody or a particular portion of a composition. I might remember much of it, be able to recall the work as I go on from the concert hall. But, in the instance of abstract art, it is very difficult to recall what I’ve seen. The lack of representation of things familiar leaves my mind adrift when it comes to recall. This may, of course, be just me, but I imagine not.

So in this aspect, interestingly, the abstract painting becomes ephemeral, seen, then not recalled or recalled poorly, while a symphony or a concerto or a smaller chamber piece might remain, at least in part, accessible long after being heard.

In this case the apparent distinctive elements of stability and ephemerality are reversed, music being memorable, no longer ephemeral, and painting being unstable, as impermanent as the music I listened to yesterday in the gallery.


September 2018
« Aug