Questions : Answers

Alison asked: “Old house?” Does it feel weird saying that?

No, it doesn’t feel weird. I am reminded of the house quite often, either because of memories that stir, or because I wonder how the house or landscape might have changed since August. Maybe this seems strange, but while I love that place I don’t feel the desire to be back there. Thirty years is a long time to experience something… would forty or fifty years make the experience better? Packing up and moving was hard work and I would not want to do that when I am ten or fifteen years older. On the other hand, moving should be easier now that I got rid of a lot of stuff and have some practice. :-)

Doc mentioned having dinner with James Bobchak and talking about me.

James is a great guy and I have many fond memories of him. Did he mention the “solo” he played in Pittsburgh in 1997? We were touring with the XL band and I had told everyone that they each would get a solo in the show and could do anything they wanted to. In Pittsburgh James decided to do this:
When the time for his solo came, he put down his guitar, stood up, walked to the middle of the stage, and flexed his muscles in body builder poses. We had no advance warning of this “solo” and it was quite difficult to keep playing while everyone cracked up.

Do you have a question? Leave it in the comment section of this post.


Eh Fi Amal is the 99th album by the wonderful Lebanese singer Fairuz. Ninety-nine albums? They must be counting each compilation and also live recordings but still that’s a whole lot! Her singing and the arrangements and production are beautiful.

PS: the object is a loudspeaker by Round Sound. Below is a photo of the pair in my old house.


After some tinkering with the recipe, because every oven is different and I am no longer baking at altitude, I arrived at the kind of bread I like.

It’s Okay

I heard this song for the first time in a cab in Lisbon last month. I shazammed it right away and discovered that it was called Fica Tudo Bem (Apple Music link, YouTube link) and was by a Brazilian artist named Silva. The title means it’s okay or it’s alright. The verse and chorus are very sparse, but each chorus is followed by a super-lush bridge with flugelhorn and strings.

The whole album, called Brasileiro, is very good. Enjoy!

PS: traffic is very different in Lisbon… I only heard two or three horns honking in three weeks. People don’t drive like they are competing with each other or like they are getting paid for every minute they gain in traffic. Returning stateside it only took a couple of minutes to hear the honking, yelling and squealing tires of angry drivers. Perhaps listening to Fica Tudo Bem can help us mellow out in traffic. :-)

Not very Peopley

I really should strive to populate my photos, to make an effort to allow people to happen. Something to try in the new year, perhaps.

The more you look…

…the less is there.

This is a follow-up post to Reading + Identity, from a few days ago.

When we stop spinning our wheels, when we sit down and try to get to the bottom of this strange and wonderful experience of being human, we discover that there is no ground, only shifting sand. This is true for me but not at all unique to me. Many have reported the same or similar experiences.

It’s like staring at an image and watching it dissolve.

The more we look at ourselves the more of a mystery life becomes. All of the names and identities, all of what we thought we are begins to unravel… in a good way, because this is freedom.

We lose ourselves in love, in playing music, in practicing a craft, in meditation or prayer. Strangely, we feel more complete when we lose ourselves. No more guitar player, only guitar-playing, no more lover, only loving. The self and the identifications were only getting in the way.

Going Home

This is a fun Buzzfeed called “40 Tweets That Pretty Much Perfectly Sum Up What Being An Adult Is All About”. So much truthiness. I especially recommend this Buzzfeed when you are in an airport for a long time and need a distraction.
Yesterday could be summed up in the words of Charlie Brown:

I am staying in bed Snoopy. It’s too Peopley our there

I think I am going to get a lot of use out of that word. :-)
Airports were not designed for pandemics. I kept thinking of cattle chutes while getting bunched up with other humans. There were signs everywhere to keep six feet from others but if a line is set up to fold back on itself one is forced to walk within one or two feet of others. And that’s without so many people ignoring such advice anyway and standing very close. Perhaps I was also shocked by the lack of discipline I encountered. Too many people either wore their mask in a mocking way… nose uncovered or both nose and mouth uncovered, or not at all.
I ended up wearing a KN95 mask for 20 hours. From the moment I ordered coffee in the morning, then took a car to the airport… all the way to arriving at home at midnight. No, I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, my face felt itchy and dry when I finally took the mask off. I am triple vaccinated and tested negative on Monday, so I am not necessarily scared about getting infected but I certainly don’t want to infect someone else–or by infecting them infect their grandmother.
At the airport I thought about how nice it would be to be able to rent a little room just for an hour. It wouldn’t have to be large, just big enough to lay down, do some yoga, sit in meditation, or simply take one’s mask off and read in quiet. Seven by six feet should do it? At first I thought I would gladly pay $25 for an hour, then I realized I would happily pay much more for that luxury. The problem, of course, would be cleaning the room. One could use hydrogen peroxide misting to kill germs, but surfaces would still have to be cleaned by a person who would remove trash left in the room, for example. Perhaps a clever person could invent an automated system for cleaning the space.

Totally unrelated, here is a cool bike rack:

If it was easy…

Traveling during a pandemic was never going to be easy. I am reminded of something my monitor engineer said every time there was a problem that needed to be solved in order to do the show.
“If it was easy everyone would do it”, he would say and calmly go about finding a solution.
Some days ago, I scheduled and paid for a covid test online and was given a number and an appointed time – ten in the morning. Arriving a half hour early, I saw two long lines of people leading to two doors of a container which served as a mobile covid test center. I learned one of the lines was for people to make an appointment in person, the other was for people who already had an appointment. The number and appointment time were apparently of no importance at all.
Waited in line.
If I were organizing this, I thought, there would be a screen above the entrance. The screen would show the next number and there would only be a line of two or three people because everyone else could walk around waiting for the number on the screen to go up. Instead the line felt too tight, too many people, too close.
Did you notice that people keep going in but no one comes out, I asked. This situation reminded me of the 1973 movie “Soylent Green”. In the movie, it’s the year 2022 (!!!) and earth is overpopulated and polluted. Check and check. People eat green food that is made from plankton. There are street protests and the protesters are scooped up by huge machines. At some point I remember a man running through the street screaming, Soylent Green is people!!!!
You see, people keep going into this testing lab container and I haven’t seen anyone come out. It’s 2022 and there is probably a trap door, I joked, and you fall down a chute and it’s all rather quick and painless.
Getting the q-tip shoved up my nose wasn’t painful, and there was a side door through which I exited. An hour later, I received the result, which was negative and so tonight I’ll be able to eat inside a restaurant instead of chilling with my food outside.

Reading + Identity

In 2021 I read, and listened to forty books. I discovered a number of authors who ended up greatly moving the tectonic plates of my world view around. I was thankful for that. The last book, which I am taking into the new year with me, was “The Lies that Bind: Rethinking Identity”, by Kwame Anthony Appiah.
The book is a brilliant look at identity and how it is shaped by our culture, our education, our religion, and in fact by our own perception. Who are you and, more importantly, who do you want to be? Many European nations are younger than the USA. Germany and Italy became nations only in the 1900s. Two hundred years ago you might speak Italian or German but you were a citizen of the Austrian empire. Or, if you were born in the Alsace, for example, your father might have been born a Frenchman, your grandfather a German and your great grandfather a Frenchman.
What is your identity? Perhaps one should make an annual list of the ten identities that first spring to mind. I bet it would change from year to year as different identities come to the forefront and recede. A new parent might list father or mother as their very first identity, but twenty years later it might only make the second half of the list. You might have a new hobby and be so engrossed in it that is makes the top three of your list of identities… five years later it might not even be remembered.
This could be a good exercise to help us realize how fleeting and arbitrary identity is. It is certainly hardly worth fighting or killing somebody for.

Elevator Series

I enjoyed my morning coffee, a cortado. Cortado literally means “cut” in Spanish and Portuguese, as in cut back the amount of milk that is used for a cappuccino. For me it’s the perfect mix of coffee and milk. In the US the cortado is sometimes called a Gibraltar, after the American brand of glass used to serve the drink there.

I look up and towards the elevator. Later, I walk closer. The building was finished in 1899–the elevator was operational in 1902–and looks like something out of Star Wars, I find. It goes up six floors and at that level a bridge leads across a street to the ground floor of another street. The view is amazing. The city is built on and around and through hills that define the neighborhoods.

wikipedia entry