Spring Muse, in her down time…

1. If you want to ripen an avocado,
Put it into a bag with an apple
The switch is flipped,
And the hormones start to dance. Soon.
Flesh will give to gentle pressure,
In the dark,yielding sugar..

2) My story, ripens on the kitchen window sill,
Surrounded by trinkets of whim and practicality.
I truly hope my heart is not akin to a non-climacteric fruit,
If plucked too early, the strawberry, grape or cherry,
Are destined for hard disappointing shelf lives,
And possible bitterness.

3) Everyone knows that grief will ripen,
6 feet down in da dirt.
Also, in that peculiar cemetery of memory.
Flesh bleeds, when tapped on the shoulder,
And time or tears,
Are greatly unpredictable

4) So, to ripen tantalizing mystery,
Coax it to a circle of fire.
Burn love and science for heat and inspiration
Try grooving hard to the beat.
The rhythm of a cherry tree
Blossoming, at midnight.

writing for spring


Cuppa tea?


To the band: Frigidity. Walk me out. Blurt. Chill. Keep company.

“One must have a mind of winter,” wrote Wallace Stevens splitting for the Keys of Florida. Mind Winter. Month of the Wolf Moon. Midnight scored with wind “feels like -33.” Read crucifixion. On the flank of the stove, St. Hubert prays to the stag he planned to kill till its lucky antlers sprouted a cross. You have no cross to bear, having fed its final splinters to the fire. Heat Slut, keep it tropical. Size up the kitchen chairs for sacrifice. Admit you love this slice of Siberia. Suit up in sable, felt and down. Bake potatoes for your pockets in the microwave.

Tic-tac-toe says the sleety snow. Nix logistics. Shovel in lasagna. Now, shovel-ready, choose a lubricant so drifts will slide. WD-40, Pam, Crisco, canola, chanukah candles, leaf lard? Wesson from latke party of 2003. And elbow grease. Huzzah for the blizzard. Heave high. Hi-ho. Where are the dwarfs of yesteryear: Speedy, Flaky, Doper, Munchy, Artsy, Dreamy, OCD?

Repose in motion. On snowshoes, ash and gut, you stride to the summit. Snow Sahara. Blaze of cobalt. Dunes of soft-serve. Greylock greets Monadnock. Slow plume snakes from the nuclear power plant, not dormant yet. In the valley, a log truck moans to the woodlot, With a light hand I’ve come to harvest you. In their great coats, the dogs beg and joke. Crack up. White laughter. In air the skin is fiction as tulips drop pink petals in the kitchen.

2. Seed Porn To the band: Reverie. Heady. Hands in the soil.

Sampled from Fedco, catalog of choice, quirky, gloss-free, p.c., sex-in-the-text. Repeat after me.

∑ Spice boys cinnamon basil

∑ Painted serpent cucumber

∑ Sugar buns sweet corn

∑ Fluffy ruffles poppy

∑ Kiss me over the garden gate

∑ Green meat radish

Green Meat Radish (55 days) Open-pollinated. Unique miniature daikon with striking lime flesh. grows 6–9″ long and 1–3″ thick. Exposed shoulders blush a deep green while the tip remains white. Fine-grained, crisp and sweet “distinct green apple flavor.” for cooking, pickling on homemade bread slathered with butter. O, green meat radish keep firm in my root cellar till May!

High Brow/Low brow

I keep putting this blogging off, but today, I will try to persevere  for two reasons: One, I am home sick, and need to feel more useful or risk winter depression (and with no warmer climes trip on the horizon, this is NOT a good thing) and Two, my talented friend and sometime writing partner,Verandah Porche, has offered to write the next entry after mine about the “cold.” I NEED to read this soon, so I guess my assignment is clear.

I will spin the story of the Opera, and the DFJB condoms. I am thinking I may need to start making stuff up soon, but for now, I will stick with the truth.

On the High Brow theme, is the story of going to see Tosca at the Met. My friends Jeremy and Heidi, have offered me a “taste of the great opera going experience,” and I am totally hooked. Each note takes me deeper into understanding and LOVING this great art form – the floating high Cs, the facile runs, the sets, the costumes, the melodies, the orchestra…!

It is true that I am theatre easy, and pretty happy just to simply wander that beautiful building. I love the SOUND in there (well, duh,) and I thrill to the curtain and the raising of the chandeliers even before the music starts. AH, but when the music starts, I am transported to treasures I never knew before. I am a trained singer, but a microphone diva, and I appreciate what it takes to fill that hall (sometimes even lying down while singing!)
In my short sampling, (Tosca, Carmen, La Traviatta, and Aida) it seems that the plot can be summed up as this: There is a great and wondrous love, terrible and evil complications and then, everyone dies. It is comforting to know in advance, that all will NOT end well. I mean, really we will all be leaving here eventually….. Lets sing about it.

The tale of the DFJB Band “specialty” very colorful DFJB condoms is not such High Brow Art, but a good “Low Brow” tale nonetheless. The condoms are the initial brainchild of Scotty and my very politically active daughter, Melissa. She has worked with AIDS education organizations around the world, and is well aware that a condom can save a life, and also protect women from unwanted and /or unsustainable pregnancies.

We pondered the idea. Why not print our website on a matchbook cover that acts as a case for the condom and hand them out as a promotional item? Now mind you, THIS was the answer derived from our merchandising brainstorming, “Lets give stuff away! Hell, Yeah!”

It seemed like it would be easy, but dysfunction set upon us (complications!) First,the manufacturing company could, not fit the cover design submitted by a friend who is a design pro, onto the cover.  OK , no big deal. Then the “price” on the internet was “wrong” (“must be an old site!”). Then right before the Xmas consummation of the deal (shipping) Pay pal went on the fritz in New Jersey and our payment froze. We were left with hideous visions of long, package- laden lines at the holiday Post Office. This danced in our heads as we debated the merits of certified mail and personal checks simply dropped in unknown PO boxes.  The check ultimately made its way, and cleared,  and the delivery was soooo near when not one but two blizzards hit NYC, and UPS managed to drop one digit from our house address! The box of 1000 condoms was really getting around, on the truck, back to the warehouse, on the truck…. REALLY? We waited, and not always so patiently, especially when UPS called at 7AM waking us up to say that because of the snow, perhaps there would be no delivery, but in order to find out we needed to call back (AND sit on hold) after 8:30! Happy endings ensued, and eleven days later the most handsome UPS driver in all of Brooklyn delivered the “Units” into our hot little hands.

They looked great (if such a thing can be said about a “specialty” condom.) We had debated, and joked about what should be on the matchbook cover. Our logo and website for sure, but we nixed using the photo of the band as too creepy and the “Blessed by Benedict” as too topical and obscure. Who knows for how long the Catholic Church will sanction the use of condoms. At first “Have one on us” was in contention but, then Charles thought up “Thanks For Coming ” and we hope you do …. come, to see a show. The band will strike up a lovely tune, and we’ll give you one free and SING (with a microphone, and in harmony). There may be complications (we ARE family AND musicians), but hopefully no one will die (just Yet).

Living for the City

Sometimes as a Vermont girl I start to wonder just what it is I am doing here in Brooklyn. Hauling the laundry down 4 flights of stairs only to have the cart, me, and a few weeks worth of dirty clothes get knocked into the street by a sudden gust of Red Hook wind, I nurse my skinned knee and plan my escape. On those days I curse the cobblestones. But then on moonlit nights I wander to the pier and the beauty overtakes me.

Black cat on a moonlit night.

Other times when I wake to the crashing and clanging of the garbage trucks I consider what is means to miss silence. I think of Pablo Neruda

Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente,
y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te toca.
Parece que los ojos se te hubieran volado
y parece que un beso te cerrara la boca.

Neruda always calms my soul, but he also makes me wish I could replace the sound of helicopters, and the distant clanging of the buoys, with the meditative repetition of waves on the shore.

I was having one of those get me out of here days a few weeks ago until the city cast it’s spell on me again, with music. My mom and I had just finished our class – yeah we take a class together – up at the Local 802 with the swing goddess herself Nancy Marano. We made our way to Greenwich village to the Knickerbocker, with a short detour on 11th Street to pass my mom’s old apartment and mourn the loss of Bradley’s.  We had a thirst that could only be sated by some live music – and boy did we get lucky. On the piano was the New Orleans prince Davell Crawford – a talented and gracious man who played and sang his heart out.

Sitting in front of the piano was a group of earnest listeners, and a very dapper older gentleman who caught my eye – those of you who know me know I have a thing for the dapper lads. Suddenly he has the microphone and he begins to belt out the most divine version of “Time Is On My Side.” It turns out to be none other than Jimmy Norman, who wrote the lyrics. As he slipped into the soothing melody of Lionel Richie’s “Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For” I remembered what brought me here to New York, and why I love this city even when it knocks me down. Have a listen for yourself right here… Hello


Fraboni supervising the grill at Come Over CD Launch Party

The DFJB at the Come Over CD Launch Party, Guilford Vermont

For our 34th Unofficial” Anniversary, while I was recuperating from an emergency appendectomy (maybe, if you’re lucky, the subject of a future blog), Patty bought me Keith Richards new critically acclaimed autobiography, “Life”. And while I haven’t read it yet (that sort of book is more her cup of tea, but, hey, who doesn’t love Keith Richards), I did turn immediately to the index to see if our good friend and musical mentor Rob Fraboni was referenced. He was all over four pages and here’s a small bit:

“Twenty-odd years after I began playing with local Rastafarian musicians, I went back to Jamaica with Patti for Thanksgiving 1995. I had invited Rob Fraboni and his wife to come and stay with us – Rob had originally met this crew in 1973 when I first knew them. Fraboni’s holiday was cancelled on Day One because it turned out that at this moment all the surviving members were present and available, which was rare; there had been a lot of casualties and ups and downs and busts, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record them. Fraboni somehow had bits of recording equipment available courtesy of the Jamaican Minister of Culture and promptly offered to record the setup. This was a gift from the gods!

A gift because Rob Fraboni is a genius when you want to record things outside the usual frame. His knowledge and his ability to record in the most unusual places are breathtaking. He worked as a producer on “The Last Waltz”; he remastered all the Bob Marley stuff. He’s one of the best sound engineers you can ever meet. He lives round the corner from me in Connecticut, and we’ve done a lot of recording together in my studio there, of which I’ll write more later. Like all geniuses, he can be a pain in the arse, but it goes with the badge. “

He goes on to explain how Fraboni helped him find an audio pathway out of the technological nightmare that recording had become. Richards and Fraboni believed that the idea of separation of the musicians was the total antithesis of rock and roll. They built a studio in Keith’s home and experimented recording the room as opposed to dissecting every instrument with microphones and the result was the Grammy winning recording of “You Win Again” on the Hank Williams tribute album “Timeless”.

We met Fraboni when we had just finished the mix on “Come Over”, the latest album from Patty Carpenter and the Dysfunctional Family Jazz Band. The album had been recorded at Hugh Pool’s Williamsburg (Brooklyn) studio, Excello, and at Northern Track in Wilmington, Vermont and we loved the sound and were debating whether we even had to get it mastered by a specialist.

With perfect timing, Alan McCarthy, Melissa’s husband and my son-in-law, had just met Fraboni at the 11th Street Bar where Alan was tending bar (amazing how many of these connections are greased with the sociability and other comforts of the local pub). He played him the album. Fraboni was impressed and intrigued and offered to master it at a substantial discount. We signed on and our minds were blown by the increased clarity and just pure sound of the mastered version when A&B rolled (compared) with the earlier version (which we had loved).

Melissa and Alan were with him at his studio for the two days he devoted to the task, watching him move from one corner to the other, scrunch up on a couch or on the floor, listen for awhile, turn a few knobs, listen from another perspective and so forth. Melissa and Rob bonded over memories of Wayne Shorter and Milton Nascimiento’s album “Native Dancer”, which Rob had mixed. As a child, Melissa used to fall asleep to the record every night and the DFJB had recorded Ponta de Areia on the first album “Under My Hat“.

He also put the songs through a software program called Real Feel, a software program which he has developed, which, as much as I understand it, connects the missing dots at the high frequencies of digital sampling, resulting in a warmer, more analog type sound. Fraboni claims it is the new dolby. I just know the record sounded a lot better after he got through with it.

If you follow the links and look up Rob Fraboni, you’ll find someone who has had a long and varied career in the music industry. He’s a sound geek who has speakers named after him and who has designed and built studios for the likes of Keith Richards, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. He’s produced, recorded, mixed and mastered a veritable Who’s Who list of major artists over the last 40 years. He’s also worked the business side of the equation having been a vice president for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records and as the manager of his own boutique record labels for a number of years.

A few weeks after the mastering session, we were all having dinner together at Barbone a fine Italian restaurant on the Lower East Side. Rob is rail thin, but he can still put away the food like there’s no tomorrow. He is also a person whose mind is constantly running way ahead of his ability to get the words out. At one point, I asked him if he could be of any help to us in finding an agent, or management, or a record company or any of the accoutrements you would think we would have after so many years in the music business. His eyes brightened up and he said that he was trying to start his own boutique record label, the prospects for funding looked good, and he would love to take on “Come Over” as one of his first releases.

We knew the music business, especially in its current downward spiral (the recording industry once worth $18 billion a year is now worth $7 billion, approximately), is a universe of smoke and mirrors. On the other hand, Rob was enthusiastic and our best contact, and slim is always beter than none. Suffice it to say that after a year of ups and downs and possible breakthroughs and coulda, woulda, shoulda, the idea of the boutique label crashed and burned. Back to DIY.

So we released it ourselves this summer in a beautiful field in the Vermont country. It was done as a benefit for a local group working to shut down the nearby nuclear plant in Vernon.  We got lots of local press and some great reviews. We recorded it with three HD video cameras and expect to have some songs coming out soon. Rob and his new girlfriend Kelly came and stayed for the weekend.  They are expecting a baby girl sometime in the near future.

At any rate, I wanted to give a shout out, as the tv talk show hosts say, to Rob Faboni who took our album to another level, but who also has become a good friend and member of the extended family.  It’s nice to know that Keith Richards feels the same way. And, btw Keith, if you ever want to sit in with the DFJB just drop on by.

I took A Trip On A Train

I have many wandering notes about my train trip, but first let me make a pitch for more support for our rail system in this country. We subsidize the airlines; we pay for the roads, WTF?
I took a lightning raid train trip to NYC last week. It was quick and efficient on the way down, and a bit long and slow on the way home, but I did get to read a whole novel, finish most of my music homework, and send off a bunch of flirtatious text messages (to my husband). All of this is difficult while driving, although the lack of being able to sing does slow down my learning a new song, but I am not so sure singing and driving should be legal for someone like me, I get really lost in the music!
I live in Vermont, and often walk in the mornings with my friend Susan Bonthron. She is an incredible book artist, check her out at: www.otterpondbindery.com We spent some time talking “Trains,” and she sent me an old poem about her ride up the East Coast. Here is an excerpt:
The Train I’m On

The Yankee Clipper chuffs out of Newark
ten minutes late, slides quietly on
sidings, clicks across tracks, makes
its connections in the cross-hatched railroad yard
and picks up speed.

I read, but can’t keep my eyes on words
when the window slides past so
many private places people treat
as if no one could see, though trainloads
pass by regular as clocks and whistles.

I was reminded of the trip I took from Mexico City to Oaxaca by train (no longer an option!). The train wound past sights not visible by car. I saw sights that broke my heart, like the endless miles of toxic chemical dumps where people live under plastic tarps, and scrounge for garbage. No tour guide listed sight was revealed here, but one that I hope taught me to continue the fight to change the world, even if it is in a small way, and to remember compassion and humility in a BIG way.
I awoke that night to visions of wild and perilous trestles on the backside of impassable mountainsides rising out of the early dawn mist, and slept again to the clack of the wheels.
After my trip last week, I have a new fantasy. I “wicked” want to travel by sleeper car somewhere-like Chicago or New Orleans. I waited for quite a while in front of those train schedule boards, where everyone gathers before hurrying off to the announced track for their train. Kind of like a dance. I listened to the list of towns and final destinations, and this being November in the Northeast, I had to restrain myself from trying to board the one that ended up in Miami! Oh well, the trees are bare, but, today, my heart is full. What is that word my friend Trish taught me in her Brooklyn garden “Saudage?” That is for another blog!

Mom's first try

So, I am the least tech savvy of the DFJB and tend to prefer a pencil,  a piano, and a tape recorder, but I see that the big E-world is out there and I am gonna try it.  I would rather try this than have to call a guy about a job, and I already emptied the dish washer.

I need to pack my bag for 2 Halloween shows in  NYC.  I am packing my little red Nord keyboard, matching  feather boas, crystals, and fishnet stockings. I really didn’t need to go shopping for a costume, but I did fall for a bit of light up LED riff raff at the dollar store. My closet is rife with outfits that really should be only used for Halloween! Melissa was seduced by a bit of LED technology for her costume also, but her disguise sounds much more elegant. She will be the Blue Curasao Fairy for  Sunday night at the Rodeo Bar!

Does any one have favorite Halloween songs? I am really loving “That  Old Black Magic ” this year! Harold Arlen was a genius. The repeating rhythmic features on single notes ! Wow.  I watched some various YouTube versions , but the Marilyn Monroe one won my heart. I hope Jimmy Stewart jumps up on a table to quiet the crowd at the Rodeo saloon during MY rendition! I also just learned Spooky, and got behind the simple GROOVE.  A good 2 chord vamp will take you many places if you let it.

The Honey Crisp apples from our local Vermont orchards are sweet as cider, and I have gummy ghosts and good chocolate to give away as well . I think I will become a fortune teller and bring my Tarot cards  along this year. However I have never done a reading for any one but myself. I will see if I actually step out of the closet once and for all. I am not an absolute believer in anything.

Some say that this is  a time of travel through the “vail of life and death.” I did decide recently to embrace mystery over certainty. Somehow, that makes me feel better about the great beyond, all this certainty seems to cause a lot of trouble in the world . So, here is to the mystery of the season, here and hereafter!