Tag Archives: Music


I noticed two huge burls on this big old oak tree during a recent walk. They are at least 18″ (~0.5m) across. They are on city park land and should be safe. They are valuable wood and can be made into beautiful objects.

As I walked farther, it occurred to me I had a very tenuous connection to another burl. Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in southeast Illinois. I was born in Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University not far from his birthplace. I attended EIU. He dropped out. Sixty years later a university building was named after the school’s most famous dropout. I graduated with a master’s degree in physics education. No buildings were named after me.

His brother Clarence Estie Ives farmed only a few miles from our home farm in western Illinois. He is buried in a cemetery I passed many times as a youth.



Meet Me in Kansas City

by Jim and Melanie

The phone rang Thursday evening. It was our son. He had a three day weekend coming up. His other last-minute attempts to plan some diversion didn’t pan out. Would we meet him halfway, in Kansas City.

We’re not the most spontaneous people in the world, but we agreed to meet him on Saturday at a hotel in downtown KC, MO. It was well-located near the spots we wanted to visit. After driving through blizzard conditions for part of our trip, we arrived safely.

None of us had spent time there before, but we all had ideas of what to see and do. First on the list was the historic Union Station. As with many old city train stations, it had been a hub for both passenger and freight travel. The old building had fallen into disrepair and disuse. Efforts to renovate were successful, and it again serves as a hub for the city and as an Amtrak station.

Of course you can’t go to Kansas City without stopping for barbecue. Son had already eaten a full lunch of it, but was game to go for dinner, too. We went to Arthur Bryant’s for ribs, burnt ends, and a perfect potato salad.

Sunday began with a tourist experience of a different kind. Our son is interested in the brewing of beer and the distilling of spirits. He wanted us to tour the Boulevard Brewing Company plant. The tour included free sampling, so before heading there, we had a quick lunch of empanadas, arepas, and black beans.

Though naps were tempting, we wanted to take in two more destinations before giving in. In the 18th and Vine district, one building houses the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. In addition, there is a fine gallery of jazz-related art, most of it two-dimensional. The baseball museum was especially fascinating. Anyone who cares about either baseball or the history of post-Civil War segregation could spend many hours immersed in the rich collection of photos, film clips, and memorabilia. No photos were allowed, but we urge you to visit if you have the chance.

The day was punctuated with dinner at a restaurant called the Vietnam Cafe. It is located in an old store-front building on the corner of two very narrow streets. Tightly packed tables filled quickly, customers wanting to assure their meal before closing time of 6:00. We started with a dish of beef pho, with delicate, aromatic broth. We each ordered a separate entree and ate eagerly. The flavors were balanced well and layered, without the heavy hit of soy sauce that often comes with Americanized Asian foods.

Besides the meals and tourist stops, we all enjoyed the landscape. Broad expanses covered with rail tracks, beat-down commercial districts, and historic buildings gave plenty to take in. Kansas City proved to be much more interesting and diverse than we could have guessed. Next time Son asks us to meet him, we’ll say “Kansas City, here I come!”

Dancing the Demons Away

What do you think about in the middle of the night? You know, all those times you wake too fully, too early? My sleep is erratic. I can go for weeks sleeping well, mostly sleeping through. And then there are stretches of disrupted nights, waking regularly around 4:00, sometimes 4:30, not drifting off again.

Sunday night was particularly bad, with a 3:00 wake-up. Sometimes when this happens, I can put myself to sleep by counting backwards. I start at 799. Try it. In the English language, “seven” is the only two syllable word in the numbers one through nine. It makes it more effort to say, requires more focus to stay on task. That focus on counting, rather than all the other things a person can think of, is what sends me back to slumber.

But that night it didn’t work. My thoughts ranged broadly, from the quilting book I am writing to the tasks to complete in the coming days, a project I have on the frame… and my demon.

I don’t have many demons. Really there is only one, one person to whom I’ve granted power to torment me. When I lie awake at night, I imagine the various ways I will defeat him, if only given the chance. The fiction I write in my head would not interest most people, perhaps only me. It isn’t worthy of transcribing. It isn’t even worth my mental energy.

But I have granted him power. He absorbs my energy, keeps me from sleep, degrades my otherwise sturdy coping mechanisms. And I need to take my power back.

How do superheroes get their power back? The Incredible Hulk gets his back by getting angry. Frankly, that’s the catalyst for mine draining, so I’m not sure how that works for him. Kryptonite saps Superman’s powers, so all he needs to do is avoid exposure and put on that awesome costume.

Sunday we went to a concert. Keb Mo was performing, a terrific two-hour show with no set break. Toward the end he played one of his famous songs, She Just Wants to Dance.

And I danced. I don’t dance well. I’m kind of a dork, not naturally graceful, physically self-conscious. But I love to dance. And I feel powerful when dancing, physical and feminine and focused.

Obviously I need to dance.

This post from KQED shows eight different problems you can solve by dancing. The problems include boredom, self-image, bad bosses or family members, and bullies. None of them deal with defeating demons.

So I came up with my own playlist for dancing the demons away, with Jim’s help on the Grooveshark list. To focus on dancing, these songs are not just great dance songs, they are about dancing. Play them loudly and dance along!

Laurel and Hardy dance to the Gap Band — this doesn’t quite meet the criterion, but it’s so much fun to watch I included it anyway.

Wild Cherry, Play That Funky Music

Grand Funk Railroad, The Locomotion

Chubby Checker, The Twist

Kenny Loggins, Footloose

From Grooveshark:

Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Dancing in the Street

Lionel Ritchie, All Night Long

Michael Sembello, Maniac

The B-52s, Love Shack

And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I Hope You Dance.

Squirrel! | A Nearly Ubiquitous Rodent

by Melanie and Jim

Squirrels. We got ’em. They are found nearly everywhere in the world. Australia, you might have them, too. For those of us who enjoy being outside, squirrels are a source of amusement and sometimes annoyance. One evening in the fall, we had dinner on our deck. It’s a screened porch that backs up to just a few feet from the trees behind the house. An unusual evening in a way, we were able to enjoy our meal without the drone of mowers anywhere in the neighborhood. We had that in the middle of summer, too, deep in the drought when the grass wasn’t growing. But then it was too warm to enjoy being out for long.

From our deck we can see the birds flying in to the feeders. There are three, plus a suet feeder in the winter. One feeder is for the hummingbirds in summer, one is a small tube feeder that the chickadees and finches use, and one is a larger tube. The large tube feeder is well stocked with sunflower seed. Almost all of the birds enjoy that feeder, with the nuthatches swooping in so fast, taking one seed and darting away. Flickers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and red-bellied woodpeckers all stay longer, taking their time before flying off again. Chickadees, titmouses, house finches, blue jays, all take their turns. We get quite the show from our deck.

The squirrels would love to feed from it, too. But, they have a problem with it.¬†That feeder is a Yankee Flipper, made by the Droll Yankees company. (We are not associated with the company in any way, but we have found their “squirrel-proof” feeder effective and their customer service helpful.) Watch what happens to this squirrel as it tries to access seed from the Yankee Flipper in our backyard.

We’ve had our feeder for several years, and for the most part, the squirrels don’t bother it anymore. The first few days of it were great. Old Uncle Fred must have taught the young ‘uns what happened when he tried it once.¬†Instead they glean the seeds from the ground below, the bits and pieces missed or dropped by the birds.

There is more about squirrels below.

Last Night I Found My Wife

My version of this story.

I saw the story in the local news several weeks ago that Buddy Guy was to be in town. The calendar got marked. In an email yesterday our good friends said they were going, too. They would try to take up some extra space so we could join them. We packed our collapsible chairs and headed for town.

It was a beautiful evening for an outdoor concert of this blues legend. I often listen to him online. We walked the 3 blocks to the downtown street venue. A warmup band was on stage. We approached from the side and passed the crowded space by the beer tent. I kept checking behind me to make sure Melanie was right there. We scanned the seated crowd for our friends. Nope. Not there up close. We decided to check a little farther back.

We had to go off the street, around a vendor tent, and get up on the sidewalk. It was really loud and distracting. People were milling about. The visual and sound interfered. As we stepped up onto the curb a person we know walked rapidly by us from the opposite direction. Did he see us in that brief moment of passing? I got stopped by a jam of people and waited to let them clear. I was carrying two chair bags on my shoulders and needed to be careful not to knock anyone down. In the wait, I checked a few more seated rows of people. Still no evidence of our friends.

I checked behind me for Melanie so we could proceed. Where was she? I didn’t see her anywhere. Maybe she and that other person we know stopped to chat. Nope. Not back there. Did she go ahead of me? I couldn’t see her anywhere ahead. What should I do?

I decided to wait a couple of minutes to see if she would come find me. We always told each other to stay put if we get separated. Don’t make it worse by roaming around. She was no where to be seen in front or back of me. Now I was getting concerned. The noise and music added to the confusion in my head as I thought it over. Clearly, she was not behind me. That was easy to see. I will go ahead slowly toward the corner where we were originally headed.

I neared the corner and caught a glimpse of her facing away scanning the crowd for me. Relief. Now stay put as I shuffle through this crowd. Don’t move. I reached out to gently touch her arm and let her know I was there. There was a welcome embrace.

We’ve been in much bigger crowds up to a million with the inauguration last January. It has never been hard to keep track of each other. This time a small thing threw us off. It was so simple and quick. I don’t want to do that again.

I’m glad I found my wife last night. She seemed gone way too long. Time is relative to what is going on. It was probably only a brief event. But, it seemed to take forever while it happened.