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Life has been intruding in my budding career as a rock star. Immediately after the show I thought I would upload the pics, write pithy comments, and then post it for our adoring fans. A week later I still haven’t charged the batteries in the digital camera and I’ve forgotten all my witty comments. Another lifetime has passed since that show and I’m trying to remember what happened last week.

Memory is a frail thing. What did I wear? Jeans and some sweater, I think. What did we play? The usual set. Brian has written two new songs, folk-like tunes that I’m still learning so I probably played hand-snare. Oh right, hand-snare. I asked the Sound Guy if he was miking the snare because I would be playing hand snare. He said, “I never heard that before. Did you come up with that?”

I said in a voice that I hope wasn’t condescending (but probably sounded like it), “Uh no, John Bonham did … and Max Roach.”

That’s when I realized there was an age gap. This kid didn’t know who I was talking about. I tried not to think about it.

We played second, because one of the bands had people coming later. We were happy to go on second. I should explain now some booking etiquette. Short Punks booked the show and we were the most “well-known” band (ha!) so we were technically the “headliners” (chortle), therefore we should perform last. You know, save the best for last. But here’s the problem with going on late for people like me: if I go on too late, I get tired. And there’s that age thing rearing its head again. Brian and I like playing first or second because we’re brighter, cheerier, and, in general, a lot happier. Then we can enjoy the other performers without worrying about our set.

And the other performers were:

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Bill Liggett

jungle of cities
Jungle of Cities

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and us … oh yeah, and I forgot, I wore a red sweater.

We were pretty happy at this show (and with a few exceptions, we’re happy at most of the shows), but we were especially pleased at the maturity of these bands. Let me put it this way, Brian was the youngest one in the bunch instead of the oldest. And I was — hurray! — one of the other youngest ones. We appreciated that everyone was on-time and eager to play. There were no complaints about the “draw” (band lingo for “audience”), the lack of drink tickets, or the absence of a cover taker (i.e. guy who takes your cash at the door). Everyone was just happy to be out on Sunday night playing for someone. And the turn out was good — thanks to Jungle of Cities and their supporters.

So, that was the show. I may not sound as eager about the shows, but, in many ways, because we have done so many, my feeling about shows has changed. They used to terrify me — feel me with alternating waves of dread and anticipation. But, after two years, they have begun to feel like teaching. I walk on stage now with the casualness that I walk into a classroom several times a week. This ease, this lack of effort or anxiety, could seem like apathy, but, I think, it’s more comfort and confidence. And that, after two years, makes me extremely happy.

Before I go, here’s one more pic. Later that week, Ben fell asleep on Brian (as he does every night and at every nap) and it was too good not to post.

ben asleep on Brian
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Our New Year’s Day was so quiet that none of us moved. We didn’t stir from bed or couch or floor. We lay there yesterday as if time stood still. Yesterday, New Year’s Day, which is dedicated to celebrating the passage of time, we stopped time. We didn’t go anywhere or do anything. We laid around with piles of books and magazines and DVDs. Watch another episode of Battlestar Galactice? Sure, why not. We have all the time in the world.

In my head I had planned a New Year’s post reviewing the events of 2007, all the things I had accomplished (or not) with brief descriptions of praise or apology. That was the plan. And it stayed a plan — some amorphous idea in my brain that may or may not ever exist. It didn’t exist, and it didn’t matter. Would you or I really miss a list of the doings of my life? Or a list of plans for the next year? I wouldn’t. Don’t.

Instead, I’m noticing this moment right now. This one. Writing to you. Listening to the navy beans in the pot on the stove bubbling to softness and headed to a pot of Boston Baked Beans. I hear the pages of Brian’s guitar catalog turn while he eats banana bread. The toilet tank is overflowing again. The rabbit is tossing an alfalfa cube around her cage. Rosie stares outside at the bright, newly fallen snow. Ben…where’s Ben? “He’s on his bed.” Brian says, answering a question I did not ask aloud. Rosie blinks. Brian sighs. I write. My New Year is right now in this new moment. Hello, New Year.

cat asleep


birthday with cats and rabbit

Wait a second…is Jackson eating the birthday cake?

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Somebody grab the rabbit before she eats the cake!

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Oh…too late…

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Happy Birthday Brian!!

I’ve been on the road — no, not touring with the band — traveling for work. You know, the day job. Or, as some musicians call it: the day gig. My day gig as an academic professional means that I occasionally go out of town to “read a paper” at some educational institution somewhere. And, yes, reading a paper sounds about as un-exciting as you can imagine. For academics, it can be a thrill — you know, ideas and things — but for me, this week, it seemed more annoying than thrilling. Giving lectures or reading papers grip me with the same sort of anxiety that used to plague me when I was first starting to play out as a drummer. The major question in my head for both academic and music gigs is: Will I look like an idiot?

Happily, I didn’t this week. There were even positive comments afterwards; I walked away with the satisfied, relieved glow with which I leave some music gigs. But I’m not so much interested today in the lectures or the music gigs. Mostly, I wanted to write about how nice it is to come home.

In the last two weeks I’ve been out of town twice to two different states. I’m not a world traveler so weekly visits to the airport is not usual for me. I’m not a casual, let’s-fly-to- London -this -weekend kind of girl. Flying anywhere is a big deal. I have a friend who used to work in the corporate world and when I once asked how her weekend was, she responded, “It was fine. I was in London.”

“Oh. That’s nice.” I said, feeling distinctly unglamorous.

The next time I asked about her weekend, she said, “Fine. I was in South Africa.”

And the time after that: “Italy,” she said.

It was only after I knew her for a while I realized that despite being in interesting places, she never really got to see them. Most of her time was spent in hotels and meetings. I thought of her in the past few weeks as I returned repeatedly to the airport. Could I have done this for a living?

I think not. I like the comforts of home. I like seeing the daily changes of the leaves turning various shades of red, yellow, and orange before they are swept into my yard by a big rain. I like seeing the women with the baby carriages marching like birds into the Starbucks down the street. I like smelling the bread that bakes in the bakery nearby. And, in my condo-building neighborhood, I like knowing which buildings have come down today.

I am not world traveler. Which is not the same as saying I will not ever travel. I’ll travel, but, for me, knowing that there is a place called ‘home’ makes the traveling more interesting. There is in my mind some place that I can compare every other place to.

So home means 2 cats basking in the front window, a rabbit chewing happily in a cage in the music room, and one husband, lying on the floor of the living room with a Vintage Guitar magazine on his chest and a TV remote beside him. That’s my home. It’s often untidy and usually dusty. Books are piled in corners where they were left once we finished reading them. Cat toys collect dust bunnies around them like nests. The bed is always made, because I can’t feel my day can begin unless the bed is made. Brian, when I am not home, eliminates the need to make the bed by just lying on top of the made bed with a blanket wrapped around him. That is home in all its unrefined, messy glory.

Later, I’ll write more about where I was during the past two weekends. But for right now, I just want to relish where I am, sitting at home at watching two cats sunbathe in a window.

cats in window

Brian took Rosie for a walk today. Well, sort of. Rosie is a cat. Cats don’t get walked. They get tethered. And once you tether them, you better be prepared for the cat to make the rules. Cats always make the rules, but it is only when you leash them and try to make them act like something that they are not that you begin to realize finally that they are not dogs or weasels or horses. They are cats. They live by their own rules.

Brian has been sick. And his daily perambulation consists of sitting on the porch with Rosie on his lap while he sniffles and coughs at the August sunshine. Brian hates summer. Having a cold during the summer just makes a bad situation worse. So while he sits on the porch and hates his cold and his summer and longs for the bite of a Chicago winter, Rosie sits with him

Today, however, she seemed more enchanted by the outdoors than usual and rather than sit contentedly on Brian’s lap while nature came to her, she decided to investigate nature. This meant an attempted leap off the porch. The only thing stopping her was my hand on her tail and Brian’s hand at her collar. That’s when I suggested he leash her. We tried using a harness once, but she bucked it like a wild horse bucks a saddle. She leapt up and down throughout the living room and kitchen, toppling guitars and chairs before I had the presence of mind to grab her by the back of her neck like a mother cat grabs a kitten while Brian unbuckled the harness.

Now, we just attach the leash to her collar. She gets the idea anyway. She knows she’s attached to something and instead of going to explore as we think she would, she sits down instead and bats at the leash or pulls at it with her head. This is perhaps the only time when she seems like a dog – rather, a puppy. Which, by the way, is one of the ironic nicknames we use for both cats – “puppy.”

So Rosie sat there on the porch peering at her green leash while Brian waited at the bottom of the stairs. It was there that I remembered a story I read – the only story I remember, really, and not even a story at that – about Shelley Manne, the drummer. Manne was a great drummer who began during the big band era. I still remember my first sight of him on a DVD of jazz drummers. He sat on a riser above the band behind a white drum kit with a bass drum the size of a coffee table. He had a solo. The bandleader signaled him, but instead of a flashy Buddy Rich solo, the kind I had been accustomed to seeing, Manne did something subtle instead. A quick roll. A swinging beat on the hi-hat, and then without hesitation he moved to the floor tom and changed to a slower tempo but it still swung. You could hear all the beats even when he wasn’t playing them. Wow. And he was cute, too.

What’s that guy’s name?” I asked Brian who was holding the remote.

“I don’t know. Let’s see…” He skipped back on the DVD. “Shelley Manne.”

Be still my heart. Shelley Manne. Where are you?

Turns out, he’s dead. Long since.

 

A quick Wikipedia search told me he had died. That was all I really learned aside from the usual listing of recordings and famous appearances and friendships with other musicians. But that’s not what I wanted to know. I wanted to know some story, see some picture of the musician that would help me see what kind of person he could have been. A few weeks later I ordered a book about him from the library. In the dim light of my library carrel I skimmed over the names of records and appearances and then I read an anecdote about where he grew up. His father was a music director in New York City and young Shelley, perhaps no more than 7 or 8, would walk his cat on a leash through Central Park.

Walk his cat on leash through Central Park. That’s what I needed. Every time I see him play or even think of him playing I see that picture of him in my head – a young boy in short pants, a boat under his arm, walking toward the pond in Central Park with a cat on a leash. A cat that undoubtedly would stop and sit and pluck at his leash rather than walk.

So this morning, while I watched Rosie chew on her green leash and while I watched Brian wait patiently for her to notice him and not the leash, I saw in my mind a young Shelley Manne, seven years from his first drum set, try to walk a cat through Central Park. It’s these odd pictures years apart in different cities and lifetimes, but which are remarkably similar that remind that we are all the same and that once Shelley Manne, just like me, had to learn to play triplets, or hold his sticks properly, or accentuate a beat, or come in from a break. That’s why stories about famous people are so comforting to us. We realize that’s once they were just like us – just like us trying to walk a cat on a leash.

walking Rosie


 

We have a demanding management team. They demand that we work hard. They demand that we rehearse relentlessly. They demand productivity. And most importantly, they demand unrelentingly for liver treats.

Yes. This is the management team. Ben (left) handles security, promotions, and distribution. Rosie (right) handles strategy, public relations, and bookings. Both are so respected by SPiL that due homage was paid in song. Rosie is the subject of the song with the same name on Short Punks’ first CD, and Ben was honored in a short, instrumental piece on the second CD.

The production facility which produced all of the SPiL’s first CD, and half of the songs on the second CD, Good All Over, was named also named for them: Litterbox Productions. Litterbox is located in the spare bedroom of our apartment, and houses not just the recording equipment but also the catboxes, the food, and the odd stuffed mouse toy.

We wanted to take a moment to honor Ben and Rosie because without them there would be no Short Punks in Love.

Ben, Rosie – we salute you!

For more about the band, go to: www.shortpunksinlove.com

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