I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
January 03, 2017 - 2:04 p.m.
It's already January 3 and I have blogged about going to a concert yet. I will rectify that now. Last night I went see Stephanie Jenkins and Ben Cosgrove. It was a wonderfully early show, 6 PM at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1. On Mondays I always go down to the Union Square area to buy bagels and shop at Trader Joe's. I wanted to leave earlier than usual to have time to do that before the show. I didn't. The sunroom where I spend most of my time is on the top floor of the building and one wall is mainly windows. That’s' why I get the great views. It also makes bad weather seem worse than it is. It sounds and looks like there is a tempest going on now. Well OK, I just checked, there is a tempest going on right now; at least it's raining with 25 MPH gusts. Yesterday it was just misting but sounded like it was pouring. I didn't want to go out in it. I didn't want to have to walk around shopping. I finally realized it wasn't raining that bad and I wanted bagels so I left early enough to get bagels and figured I'd go back to Trader Joe's after the show. That's what I did but Bagel Bob's, where I get half-priced bagels on Mondays, was out of salt bagels, the ones I wanted. I decided to not settle for lesser bagels and went right back in the subway and down to Rockwood. I got there 15 minutes before show time and there was only one other person there other than Steph and Ben. I said hi to Steph and took my seat. By the time they started, there were a few other people but not many.
They had a double set, the first was Ben solo and on the second he backed up Steph. I had never seen or heard of Ben but I wasn't going to miss him when I have to make the trip there anyway. I trust Stephanie's judgement. He is a pianist that performs original instrumentalists. He calls them songs but don't songs need singing? We don't call Chopin pieces songs. They might not be songs but they are great. It was music I can get lost in. Many of them are inspired by places; this park in the middle of Lake Superior, a town in Maine, I know the town and I'm just blanking, Acadia National Park, and the Nashua river valley. As you might guess from the geographic distribution he's a New Englander. I'd call his music classical. Unlike so much modern classical it's accessible to a lay audience, in other words me.
It's music I can close my eyes and get lost in. That's exactly what I did. It was a bit chilly so I had my hoodie on and the hood up. It was just me and the music. Soon after he started a couple asked if anyone was sitting in the seats next to me. I told her no and closed my eyes again. I opened them now and then and took some pictures. One time I did that I realized that the people next to me looked familiar. I took a good look, it was Steph's parents, Sandy and Richard. I've been to their house. They have great house concerts. They didn't recognize me as I was buried in my hoodie and it's dark in Rockwood. In the next break between songs I took my hood off and said hello. I love them and was glad to have the company. Their song Reed was sitting with them. I have seen but never talked to read. He's a fiddler; he joined Steph on a few songs. This is a musical family, Richard is a pianist. Their other daughter, Cassandra, is a singer/songwriter. I've seen her perform but at big places where I couldn't introduce myself. She showed up later. Sandy and Richard were kvelling over their children. I enjoy watching parents kvell. I kvell over people that aren't my children. In a sense, much of Wise Madness is kvelling over my friends.
Steph plays the banjo. I usually see her in the band, The Calamity Janes, or playing with other people. I'm not sure I ever saw her solo except perhaps at the Society for Ethical Culture in Brooklyn. I'm forgetting if she were by herself or played with someone. Of course, she played with someone last night too, Ben. She usually plays Old Time music but not last night. She did some old songs, including a fiddle tune without a fiddle. But she also did some originals that were not at all Old Time. They were a bit neuromusic. That's music that creates its own aesthetic as it goes along. I have no idea what she was doing that made it sound that way, something in the chord structure I suspect. The lyrics were very much not old time either. They weren't folk. It was not what I expected and that might make me love it even more
Remember I told you the room was empty at the start. by halfway through Ben's set the room was at just the right degree of fullness. Any more people and it would have been uncomfortably crowded. Rockwood 1 can be a sardine can. This was full while still giving people room to breathe. It's hard to see in there and I had to turn around to look but I didn't see anyone else I knew unless that was Sarah almost directly behind me. When the show as over and I went up and walked through the crowd to the bathroom I didn't see her so I suspect it wasn't.
I said my goodbyes to the Jenkins clan and headed up to Trader Joe's. the most important thing I wanted was eggs. I had none at home and they are so much cheaper there than anywhere else, a third of what they are on City Island. They were out. The next priority was cat food. I buy a week's supply every Monday. They weren't out but they only had four cans. I did buy a few more things so it wasn't a total waste. Then I went to Food Emporium which is right at the subway entrance and bought the eggs, they were $3.09, they are $1.29 at Trader Joe's. But like the man whose wife thought she was a chicken I need the eggs.
Coming home was frustrating. I got to Pelham Bay Park early enough that I got down to the bust stop at 9:50. The bus is scheduled to come in at 9:53. I was delighted by my perfect timing. The woman next to me asked if I was going to City Island. She said yes. She pointed across the highway to a bus heading north and aid, "there's the bus." It had come early and I just missed it. The next bus is not until 10:23. I'm sorry when buses run every half an hour they should not be leaving the stop where the most people get on early. I was the first one off the train, nobody made that bus. I went to the convenience store and waited out of the cold and damp for the next bus.
Before I went to sleep I started a new spreadsheet. I'm going to record all the concerts I go to this year. That will give me something to write about in my year-end-review next December or January. That's my prime motivation. I could also keep track of my musical discoveries. I also did something else positive in my musical life. The last two years John Platt has given On Your Radar August off. I asked if he planned on doing that to see if I could book a show in that time slot. He'd have to discuss it with Rockwood. He's not sure if he's taking off but we'll see. I want to do the same sort of show with two or three performers. I need to strike a balance between those that can draw a crowd and those I want to introduce the crowd too. I'm going to call it Wise Madness Presents. Would you go? Would you trust my judgment and see people you haven't heard of? Please let me know.
My plan is to not move the rest of the day. It is so nasty out there. Intellectually I know it's not as bad as it sounds and if I had a good enough reason I'd go out. But I don't. I could go to the Snug for dinner and eat the chicken I took out tomorrow. Perhaps I'll do that. It's half-priced hamburger day and I haven't been there in a month.
Harp, Feet, and Guitar - January 08, 2017
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