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
March 21, 2017 - 12:16 p.m.
I'm sleepy again. Coffee will be my reward for writing. I'm a hardcore blogger.
Last night I went to my home away from home, Rockwood Music Hall, to see Jess Klein. It was a co-bill with Joseph Parsons. I first saw Jess when she opened for Moxy Früvous that, must have been in 1998 or 1999. I had never seen Joseph before.
I asked Jess if I could do the merch so I wanted to be there early. That is what created the delays on the train. I just had to walk one stop, something I often do anyway, but there was a platform packed with people late because of me. Good thing they didn't know it was my fault.
I managed to get there early anyway, just not as early as I planned. No big deal. I didn't set up the merch to after the show anyway. Someone did beat me downstairs, I was there right after doors opened. For a change of pace, I didn't sit at my usual table, I sat in the first row on the opposite side of the stage, audience right aka stage Dave. Do any Früheads still read Wise Madness? They are the only ones who would get that reference. There was a time when all of My Gentle Readers were Früheads.
I have broad musical tastes and I'm always on the hunt for new musicians to love. You might think that I look forward to hearing someone for the first time; you might think that but you'd be wrong. My expectations are low unless I've heard great things from the right people about an act. My feeling when I'm about to hear someone new is trepidation. By definition, most performers are mediocre. I am not a fan of mediocre.
This was my first time seeing or hearing Joseph Parsons. I felt trepidation. The verdict? He is not mediocre. You should know that I would have never used that introduction if I didn't like his music. His music and his voice are an unusual mix. His songs are gritty and poetic, the kind we associate with Dylan, Springsteen, or Leonard Cohen. They all have gruff voices. Joseph's is beautiful. It works and I'm sure there are others that have that combination. I should have taken notes. There were some specific songs I wanted to talk about. That just means I will have to see him again.
Jess just keeps growing on me and that's something after almost 20 years. I wonder if I would have liked her more from the get go if the first time I saw her I wasn't on a terrible date. That can be kind of distracting. I didn't start to love her till she performed at The Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival. She blew me away there and I've tried to not miss her since. It's hard to imagine me not loving her. She also has a beautiful voice. I'm tempted to say beautiful but not pretty. Pretty is too delicate. Her voice is powerful, and I don't mean loud; I mean her voice projects inner power as does her songwriting. She could have been an ermine violin, soft and making a pleasant sound but she has too much substance for that.
She recited a poem she just wrote. She found out that the cemetery her grandmother is buried in was one of the many Jewish cemeteries that were vandalized recently. She wrote the poem about her grandmother and addressed to the vandals. Jess has a last name that is often but not exclusively Jewish. I was never sure if she was Jewish till last night. That poem was as Jewish as you can get; not religious Jewish but my kind of Judaism, cultural. The recurring epithet for her grandmother was "She made chicken soup." That's my people, not because Jewish mothers make chicken soup but because food is so central. You see that in my writing. That's the part that made me smile but there was so much more. It was the story of her grandmother's life, coming here from Russia as a child, facing poverty and anti-Semitism and raising a family. The poem is a mixture of sorrow, joy, and humor. If that's not what it means to be Jewish I don't know what is. Her voice was breaking as she read it. I thought she might start crying but she didn't. She still smiled and laughed at parts. Her emotions were an open book. She said she's going to post the poem but she should do a video of her reciting it. Her emotions are part of the poem.
After the show, we went upstairs and I set up the merch. Good news, Rockwood installed a light over the merch table. People can now see what they are buying. I met Jess's husband Mike and had a great conversation with him. It was typical conversation I'd have with a friend not a random person. One thing we talked about his Iowa as a hotbed of musical talent though nobody thinks of it that way. He said it's also a great place to play. Jess and Mike have been married a year but I'm sure they will be relieved to hear that I approve.
Somebody came by and said, "Hi Gordon." It was Ina May. She was there to see Janey something or other who just finished on Stage 2, Jess and Joseph were on Stage 3. Lots of other friends were there too. Somebody deliberately bumped into me. I turned to see who it was, it was Joe. Allison was there too. Allison was glad she got to hug me and she couldn't give me a goodbye hug on Saturday because she was driving. Peter was there and introduced me to a bunch of his friends. I found out on Facebook today that Lisa was there. Janey is clearly a musicians' musician. Every friend there is a musician.
Because of all the socializing I stayed longer than I wanted to; I always do that. Sorry I know great people whose company I enjoy. I have an idiot story. I stopped at Trader Joe's on Sunday to pick up a few things. When I got home I remembered that there were other things I needed and forgot; back to Trader Joe's I went. One of the things I needed was coffee. Being out of coffee constitutes an emergency.
I got home late, around 10:30 and made dinner. I have a new obsession, fried bread. Now it's fried flatbread. I was extra sinful. I made bacon in the morning and hadn't cleaned the frying pan. That was intentional. I knew I'd use the fat to cook dinner. I lightly fried the middle eastern flatbread and plantain in the fat. Then I wrapped hotdogs in the flatbread. See I'm Jewish food is important, even if it's trayf.
Speaking of food, I'm starved. I have to post this, eat, and then edit photos from Folk Fights Back. I invited friends to like the page and over forty of you came through and did it. Thank you. If you haven't already you can do it now. Then you can do more than like the page and get involved. Food and coffee are beckoning me. I can no longer resist their siren song.
Lavash Praise - March 27, 2017
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