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
November 14, 2016 - 12:26 p.m.
I have a ton of NERFA homework to do so I'm going to make today's NERFA's blog short. I'm not going to get to my musical discoveries. My most pressing need for today is sorting CDs and downloads. I collected music for John Platt who couldn't attend this year. If I have two copies I can just give him one. Others I'm going to rip and then give him the physical CD. I also want to write a bit about the acts I particularly recommend. That's how I'll spend the day after writing his, eating, and going out for bagels and Trader Joe's.
Now on to NERFA, I can write about the magic today without preparation.
This year it moved from Kerhonkson New York to Stamford Connecticut. That is far closer, 45 minutes from here and that's with traffic. I could have taken the train to a shuttle bus but the buses to the train station and the wait for the shuttle bus would have taken longer than the entire trip by car. Peter drove up Carter and me. In a sense that's the beginning of conference as I was talking to music people.
As soon as we arrived things went into full gear. I can't walk 20 feet at NERFA without running into people I know; I might be able to make it 40 feet without meeting someone that I love.
The new digs are much nicer than the old hotel. The hotel is also much larger which has pluses and minuses. It was a bit of a maze of twisty passages all the same. I learned my way around but even the last day I made some wrong turns.
After registering for the conference, I registered for my room, and dropped my things off there. Then I raced down to the lobby to socialize. NERFA has panels and showcases and planned events but as much as anything it's about the encounters in the halls and lobbies. It's a bit family reunion, we talk to all our friends in far--flung places. John Platt is the official hugger and I took it on myself to take over his duties. I had more than a few people say that I gave the best hugs. See I have talents; they just aren't musical. I'm also there as eye-candy.
NERFA is filled with friends I see all the time, friends I haven't seen in ages, and friends I didn't know I had till we talked. There were three encounters I jotted down to write about as epitomizing as what NERFA is about.
Early on, maybe that first Thursday when I was in the lobby mingling I heard someone mention Tish Hinojosa. Then I saw her name tag and talked to her. Back in the 90s when WFUV was winning over my heart and ears, she was in heavy rotation, one of their core artists. I loved her music though I had never seen her. Now here she was three feet from me. I had to double check it was her as she looked too young to be someone I was listening to 24 years ago. But it was her, music had kept her youthful. I found out that the reason I haven't heard from her in a while is that she lived in Germany for ten years.
One of my rules of NERFA is that if I talk to someone and they are fun and interesting I'll make a point of hearing their music on the theory that their music might be fun and interesting. It's not a guarantee but it's far more likely to be true than a random musician. If I wasn't already a fan I'd have made sure to check her out after talking to her.
There are three kinds of showcases at NERFA, Formals, the biggest official events where the artists have no competition, Tricentrics, I want to call them Triassics, where there are three artists playing at once, and the guerillas which take place in hotel rooms where there are scores going on at the same time. The guerillas are in the afternoons but mainly late night after 11:45 PM and going to 3 AM or even later. On Friday night, I turned a corner while racing from room to room and somehow stopped and talked to Rachel who was racing in the opposite direction. I have no idea how we started but we stopped racing and started talking. She started as a total stranger, 20 minutes later we were friends. We couldn't pull ourselves away from each other to get to where we had been racing. At the end, she was joined by her brother Jeremy. They are in the band Belle Hallows. We of course have friends in common; Harpeth Rising played on their album. The next day I sat in the lesson, deliberately away from anyone I knew so I'd have time to make out my guerilla schedule for the night. After seven years I figured out how to do this. I make a grid on the pads they give us and fill out all the places and times of where the bands I want to check out are playing. I go through the entire schedule, which is organized by room, and fill it in session by session. It would be too intimidating to work it out for the entire conference and I'd have to keep updating as I hear about or meet new acts.
There I am at a couch being deliberately unsociable; I wanted to get this done. A young man was sitting not that far from me and was having none of it. He was going to be social, and he introduced himself. His name was Robert. I can never succeed in being anti-social, the socializing and networking is the entire reason we are at the conference. He was fun, he was interesting, that means I was interested in hearing about his music. Turns out he is the third member of the Belle Hallows. I of course did hear them later and you'll hear about that next edition of Wise Madness when I discuss the music.
During the break in the Formals I went out to the lobby on the way to my room to get a hoodie, I was chilly. The Gaslight Tinkers, a band I adore was playing in the lobby. They were joined by a young woman from Trinidad with the sure to hook me name, Choc'late Allen. They had told me about her when we talked earlier. There are so many demands on my time there that I hoped to not be interested in her so I wouldn't have to go to her guerilla showcase with the Tinkers who I already know well. If that's how it worked out I wouldn’t be writing about it; She was great and charismatic and charming and I'll write more about her when I get to my musical discoveries.
There were so many idiot stories. I kept losing things. I lost my phone, … twice. It happened the first night. I went to take a picture at a guerilla and it wasn't in my pocket. I change clothes for the late-night guerillas. I watch in my sleeping clothes, sweat pants, t-shirt, hoodie, and slipper socks. Being comfy makes it easier to stay up all night. I figured I forgot my phone in my room when I changed. I went back to my room; it wasn't there. I went down to the front desk to as if anyone had found it. Someone had! I had left it in one of the rooms where the Triassics were held. Whew. All that running around meant I missed hearing acts I wanted to see.
Friday night I went to take a picture at a guerilla and my phone wasn't in my pocket. I knew I had it back in my room when I changed. I raced back to my room; it wasn't there. I figured I must have left it I the first guerilla I went to. That was run by my friends Richard and Beth. I went back to the room and Beth gave it to me. Whew. It is so hard being an idiot. On Saturday night, I noticed it fell out of my pocket. My pockets were not deep enough. After that I kept it either in my hoodie pocket or in the zippered pocket of my NERFA badge.
On Sunday, we had to check out by noon though lunch was from 1 to 2. I packed everything up, did the idiot check of the room, and went down to the lobby. I checked my things behind the front desk. Then I remembered that I did not bring one of my phone charges; I had brought two. I also brought two phones. One I use as a battery charger. I forgot the charger that had been plugged into the activated phone because it is black plugged into a black outlet. I went back and it was there.
Allison and Joe drove me home. As I was talking to them in the lobby preparing to leave I realized that I didn't have my jacket. I had hung that up and told myself, I can't forget that I need it when I go outside. I went back to the room again. I had just been cleaned but they hadn't found it. Then I remembered. I know that I'm an idiot and prepared for it. I put the jacket in my NERFA bag that I had checked so I wouldn't forget it. That's being a meta-idiot as I forgot that I had prepared for myself being an idiot.
They gave us all travel coffee mugs. I lost that Friday night. It isn't easy not having a brain. Good thing I can get by on my looks and charm.
I'm about to do something epic, I am not going to talk about the food. Don't call the police, I was not replaced by a robot at the conference. I still know that food is the most important thing to write about. It's just that I'm hungry and want to get this finished.
My first NERFA I went to the newcomers' workshop and they told us to sit with strangers at the meals; I have always tried to do that. After seven years, I found that difficult to do. I know people at every table. I still managed to meet some new people over meals.
Good thing Allison and Joe are like me and take forever to say goodbye. We stood in the lobby talking to people while they left. More than anything NERFA is about the community. We are all in this together. Some things that most of us were not happy about happened in the United States but we weren't in the United States we were in NERFA. Our new president, Mike Kornfeld is much better than America's. His inauguration was Saturday. Before that our president was also better than the America's. it was new American citizen Cheryl Prashker. Before Saturday NERFA had a president better than Obama. Till January 21 I'm going to have to give Obama the nod over Mike, just because Mike would be very disappointed if I was nice to him. Mike and Cheryl are both good friends.
NERFA is magical, just like Falcon Ridge. It's the same magic because it's so many of the same people. There are just bathrooms and showers and no rain or dust. I mingled with people from all around North America. There were people of all ages. I talked to people from 10 up septuagenarians. I somehow missed talking to David Amram so there were no octogenarians.
There's plenty of gender and sexual preference diversity, the one thing lacking is ethnic. It's a pretty white group but without meaning to I did bring up a Latina, Tish and a Caribbean, Choc'late. We are certainly open to everyone. No one should feel intimidated by the crowd. It's a business conference. It's not for people that just want to hear music. But if you are a performer or do house concerts, go. It's a gathering of the Tribe.
Now go get some brunch. I think it's going to be Taylorhameggandcheese on an English muffin.
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