Thursday, April 15, 2021

I'm Just a Vagabond Blogger

    For the past several Summers, I plan a trip up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to serve as an artist retreat. First, I started exploring Greensboro, and for a few years, stayed at The Highland Lodge.

Another time, I was in Danville (a roadside Americana motel, called Injun Joe's Motor Court, overlooking Joe's Pond) and Westmore (The historic Willoughvale Inn (overlooking picturesque Lake Willoughby) and another time in White River Junction (the historic Hotel Coolidge). 

Two years ago, I went to Lake Winnepesaukee, to relive some childhood memories. But those were memories mixed with sadness. I kept visiting all of these places alone.


 I always wished I could travel to visit these wonderful places with a companion who could see it through my previous experiences, and enjoy it for its pristine pleasures.

Lucky Me!

Last year I returned to the Highland Lodge, to stay at the Stegner Cottage, and hike Barr Hill (where Stegner's ashes were scattered).


This year, many places have already filled up in the Northeast Kingdom. No longer a secret, this is now a destination for people who want to get away from it all. As a consequence, tourists have come and filled most of the vacancies for that narrow three month period of Summer. So I decided to look for other nearby places to discover and become inspired by.

Areas to the East of Lake Willoughby are even more remote, and I found a charming region surrounding a small town called Brighton - once the only stop on a railroad that went from Montreal to Portland, Maine. 

The station is still there, and some downtown buildings that seem too large for such a tiny town. The big attraction out here is the outdoors. Burke Mountain boasts skiing and mountain biking, snowmobile trails are everywhere, and numerous lakes, ponds, rivers and forests provide all kinds of activities. I've seen Moose, Bear, Bald Eagles and Osprey aplenty. The focal point of Brighton is a summer village called Island Pond.

Being a musician, it is enlightening to discover that renowned musician, singer and bandleader Rudy Vallee was born in Island Pond, and the house where he was raised remains. I recall some research I did about the Hotel Coolidge, and that revealed a movie filmed in town starring Lillian Gish (from a similar period of time as well).

So interesting to find the history that goes back 100 years, where entertainers seemed to co-define an area otherwise filled with loggers, hunters and railroad workers.  

Monday, April 12, 2021

Shots Fired!

People are against a lot of things these days: The Earth is flat, we've never been on the Moon, the Election was a fraud, the COVID thing is a hoax, the Vaccine has a microchip, etc. etc. etc. If any of those things happen to be your opinion? We probably won't see eye to eye on very much, and it might be best to limit any conversation to things like Guitars, Hiking... and Wallace Stegner.

Since this is my page, I can let the public know about some opinions I have regarding the Pandemic, COVID-19, and the vaccine (which I receieved the first shot of just other day, and feel fine right now).

I have a close associate who got sick with COVID last Fall, and I had to get tested. Fortunately, my results were negative, and the tracing ultimately left me out of being at risk, but not after some anxious moments. I've heard people downplay getting sick with it, and equating it to just having a mild case of the Flu. 

One thing I have seen from the experience of seeing my parents having had various cases of Influenza over the years, was they never came back to being as strong as before they got sick. Also, they became less resistant to getting sick in the future, the recovery time took longer, and more serious infections were common. Eventually, my mom passed away from COPD and my father became seriously frail after a bad case of the Flu hit his nursing home, leaving him confined to a wheelchair. 

He passed away just as COVID started hitting our country last year. A year later, and we still haven't buried his ashes. 

When SARS caused a brief scare about 17 years ago, I developed a serious upper respiratory infection, resulting in a severe sinus condition that required a regimen of strong antibiotics, which I never want to experience ever again. In the years since, I haven't been sick too many times, but when it has, much like my folks, I didn't feel quite as strong as before. I don't consider myself to be an active person, but I do enough to stay relatively fit. I've put on 10 pounds like many other people in the past year, and hope to work that off this Summer when things start to open up even more around here, and the weather continues to improve. 

But the thing I want to stress, is I don't want to get sick with ANY kind of flu, which is why I got the other Flu shot when it was available last year, so I could limit even more chances of getting sick. I have friends who lost friends to COVID and family members to it as well, and I know their opinion is that the threat is very real. 

Their pain is not a hoax.

In the social media world, posting about getting the vaccine invites all kinds of negative opinions. Running from mild paranoia, to toxic cynicism, to conspiracy theory craziness. None of it is contructive to me, and is downright hurtful, because if my parents had gotten more flu shots, noticed when they were sick, and did more to take care of themselves when they were sick, they might still be around for each other, and their loving families who now painfully miss them. So I'm going to try and take care of myself, so I can be around for the people I love, and this is part of that process. 

Anybody else has a problem with me doing that, can keep it to themselves... unless they want to start their own blog of course. 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Getting Back to Something Familiar

Four years ago, I was writing up a storm. Going out every Wednesday to showcase new material I had written. This went on for a solid year and a half. It resulted in one record's worth of original songs, and and an EP after that. By late 2018, I had joined a full time cover band, learned a full show on bass and vocals, and had a different focus on life. A lot of inspiration for my songs came from sadness, and music was filling an emptiness that I deeply felt at the time. Once I started feeling joy again, I put writing on hold, and learned how to enjoy life and embrace happiness. 

I sometimes thought, "How am I ever going to write again?" 

My girlfriend said, "Maybe you could write about feeling happy."


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Warming up to the Idea

Every day, I try to take this beautiful walk for about 20 minutes to maybe a half an hour. 
A giant field has been set aside as preservation land. When the grass grows tall enough, it is cut and baled as hay for the local horses. Meanwhile, it provides beautiful, unobstructed views of the local mountains and hills. Some of it reminds me of Montana and the Bearpaw Mountains (which are much smaller than the Rockies, and jut out from and otherwise lightly rolling terrain.

Very little traffic comes along the road, and so many people use it. 
Walking their dogs, or strolling with children. Joggers, bicycle riders, and in the winter cross country skiers and the occasional snow mobile rider show up. 

I'm starting to get a feel for the energy around here, and it's already had a creative effect on things. Writing songs, always playing an instrument. Writing in general (like here) is a healthy outlet during these COVID times. 



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Start Making Sense

 One of my favorite quotes from Wallace Stegner is "We write to make sense of it all"

The truth to that is what has helped me over the past several years.

It was this time a year ago when I was saying goodbye to my father for what would be the final time. He had been living in a memory care facility for the final year of the nearly-five years at River Ridge in Avon. The last few years were very hard to watch. But watch I did, just as I did with my mother several years earlier. Fortunately, my father and my mother both went peacefully. It was just getting there that was anything but peaceful. Literally, the day after my father passed, COVID-19 was forcing rest homes to shut down, and it was a struggle just to get his belongings out of his room.

 I had two shows that weekend, and then all clubs were shut down. I had nothing to do but sit at home and wait for several months before I would play any sort of working events. I didn't write any songs however. I was learning a lot of cover songs, but no material of my own was coming out, until nearly a year into the shutdown, when I was tagged in a songwriting challenge that takes place every February around the world. My partner and I jumped in, and together we came up with over 10 songs in less than a month.Writing quickly forces me to draw inspiration from all kinds of places. Some I want to go to, but don't know how to express simple (or complex) emotions. Some I would rather not go to, but have been waiting to be expressed, and now I had a chance. So I went for it. All of it. 

In a few short weeks, I dove deep into a pool of sadness, and joy - I wrote about my father, I wrote about my grandfather, I wrote about the breakdown of my previous relationship, and the journey I had gone on after find myself ready to write new chapters in my life, and find love anew. After much soul searching, I ultimately discovered I was in a happy present, but was still carrying around some very sad memories from the past. I guess, once I start writing, it's like the floodgates open, and all that volume spills forth. 

But it is a strange process. When I read back a lot of my lyrics, they often don't align with specific events in my life... they often merely capture a mood, and the details within the rhymes could be about anybody.

Another Stegner quote that has always struck me was, "To write good Fiction, you must be Truthful"

Maybe my quote should be, "Write about something you know, and you could be writing about someone you've never met." 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Winter on the Wane


Temperatures are ready to soar into the 60s this week. It certainly feels like Spring is on our doorstep.

A few weeks ago, things looked like this. 

Making it through another winter is never easy for me. I am no fan of shoveling snow, or driving in it. We ony had a few major snowstorms, luckily, and I didn't have any shows, so there was no worries about driving. I manage to do a fair amount of walking, and taking pictures. Also wrote over 10 original songs with my partner.

I also spend a lot of time playing guitar.

I own a bunch of them. 


Friday, February 12, 2021

The Waters of Turners Falls

 Not sure why I am drawn to this area. It would have been the last place I would want to be when I was younger. The polar opposite of a thriving, active city like Boston. But the wide main street, the brownstone buildings, the rushing waters of that ever-present Conneciicut River. Made me feel preconnected to the town 20 years ago.

I saw a few friends of mine play at a small club called The Rendezvous over the years. That place gave me hope for some kind of scene to develop, and it has. In years since, I have seen bands play at the Shea Theater, and even played there myself on one occasion. I played several gigs at The Voo, and have been a dinner guest many times over the summer with my partner. 

Only a 15 minute drive away. I can show up and walk around to take pictures of the waters from the canal, and the old metal bridges that cross it. I get some great pictures, and really enjoy spending time here finding beauty in between grocery runs.

There is also a nice little music store called Replay, and I go there every month or so for small items, but they have nice gear.

Found an old replacement pickgaurd for a Telecaster on my most recent trip.