Aretha’s amazing grace

I took the day off from being productive and instead went to see the documentary  AMAZING GRACE. In 1972 Aretha Franklin taped a two-album gospel album over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with help from Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir (led by their incredible choir director, Alexander Hamilton).

I’ve listened to the Amazing Grace album numerous times and was thrilled right from the start of the film. Why? Because it turns out Aretha started her two-night concert with my absolute very favorite song from the album. She sang Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.” I watched, listened, and wept.

Aretha on the first night, bejeweled by perspiration.

I encourage anyone who loves Aretha to give yourself the treat of AMAZING GRACE. Her performance with the backing of that magnificent choir is mind-blowing. Witnessing it will do your soul good.

Check out the trailer:

Live music is better when people shut up. Discuss.

Last night Zippy and I went to the Bluebird Theater in Denver to hear Parker Millsap. Same as the last time he was in town, Parker put on one helluva show. Unfortunately, also the same as last time there were a bunch of rude people at the general admission/standing venue. So much talking talking talking during the performance. Last year after suffering through two women having a loud conversation in front of us I eventually pointed out that since they weren’t interested in listening and we were that maybe they could switch positions with us. They did, and happily moved their socializing well behind us so we could focus on the singing/songwriting.

Last night it was two men talking in loud voices behind us. When I went over to tell them I couldn’t hear it was incredibly frustrating/rage-inducing to realize that one of the blabbermouths was from the opening act. (In fact, two members of that act were loud and disruptive during the main event). You’d think, that of all people, performers would fully understand proper audience etiquette.


Happy birthday to my sister

On this Sunday, I’d like to thank you for a gift you gave me thirty-five years ago.

(Peace Sunday was a concert to support nuclear disarmament,
and it included an impressive lineup.)

I wanted to attend this amazing live music event, but didn’t have a ticket. You, despite not liking crowds or concerts, said we should go. Right then! So you drove us in your “Blue Goose” from West LA to Pasadena, where 85,000 people had converged on the Rose Bowl. It took us a while to find a parking space and then we walked and walked and walked. Well, meandered was more like it seeing as you had your camera and were being meticulous about noting f-stops and shutter speed for each photo you took along the way.

When we finally reached the Rose Bowl, the concert had started and, of course, there were no tickets available. We needed a hand-stamp to get in. There was a chain-link fence near the entrance and some guys standing nearby had our answer: they licked the stamps on the back of their hands and then pressed them against the backs of our hands. It worked! We had our own hand-stamps and were officially part of Peace Sunday!

Many details of that day are hazy (cough, cough), but I believe our seats were to the side and slightly behind the stage. Wherever we were, we couldn’t see the stage. And the sound was pretty crappy right there. But we’d made it! We were part of the Peace Sunday experience.

I do remember when Joan Baez brought out Bob Dylan. It gave me chills, knowing two of my very favorite singer-songwriters were so close. It was rather surreal, hearing them sing from a stage we couldn’t see.

Joan and Bob’s performances weren’t great, but because of you, I was there! Because of you, I was able to join a swath of humanity that’d come together for an incredible day of music and to say NO NUKES! It was an unforgettable gift. I hope you also have fond memories of Peace Sunday. Thank you again for being my generous and funny big sister who gave me a very special day.

Happy birthday to you.

Live music is better bumper stickers should be issued

Last night Zippy and I celebrated my birthday by going to a dive bar to hear local bands. My logic was that I’d feel less old and obsolete if I hung around the younger generation and heard new-to-me music.

The first band was a punk trio that played song after song in what felt like 45 second bursts of sonic-boom fury. People avoided standing in front of the stage because it was SO loud, and if I hadn’t feared for my long-term  hearing, I would’ve been out there pogo-sticking. There’s something invigorating about music you can feel in your spleen.


Back at home where I’m modeling my wrist band that proved I was old enough to consume alcohol. I had to show ID for that sucker!

We stayed for two more bands and had a good time. Earlier in the week when I’d told my brother and his girlfriend our plans, she’d approved of my pre-emptive logic but also warned we’d be the oldest ones there. Well, I’m happy to say that Zippy and I spotted five people in the crowd who were clearly older than us. We high-fived after each sighting.

My plan was a success.

Today was another blue-sky-and-sunshine day, so I invited Zippy for a hike up in the open space. It was blissfully quiet out on the trails.

Another good call on my part.

Me meandering ahead of Zippy. We'd just scared up a Red-tailed Hawk, some magpies, and a flicker.

Me meandering ahead of Zippy. We’d just scared up a Red-tailed Hawk, some magpies, and a flicker that’d been hanging out in a tree together.

So now I’m moving beyond another year and another birthday, and looking forward to any-and-all good stuff up ahead.




Live music lessons

Last night’s concert with Shovels & Rope and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats filled me with joy and admiration. I’m not a musician nor have I ever played one on TV, but I felt a kinship with the people on the Red Rocks Amphitheatre stage.

Why? Because as I watched and listened to all those talented musicians, I understood on a gut level the work they’ve done. They’re creative people who have put in years and years to get where they’re at, and they’ve enjoyed glimpses of triumph and then been dragged down low. They’ve been discouraged yet kept going and when something wasn’t working, they tried something else. Every one of them took chances and eventually triumphed.

I want to be like those musicians when I grow up.

Antique Typewriter (with lettering)




Let there be music!

In a few minutes Zippy and I are headed here:

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

to listen to opening act Shovels & Rope:

and then headline act Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats:

We try to see one Red Rocks show each summer.
It’s always a treat.




Voices of Dissent

On Monday Zippy and Wildebeest entered a Tent State University lottery for today’s free concert featuring Rage Against the Machine.
This morning Zippy received an email informing him he had two tickets.
Zippy came home, changed out of his office attire, went to the high school where he pulled Wildebeest from class, and then drove to the Denver Coliseum.
At 3:45 Zippy called to say the concert was over and that he and Wildebeest had joined the three-mile march on the Pepsi Center, site of the Democratic National Convention.
I turned on the television and listened to the usual fear-mongering spin (“Some rumors of protesters carrying bottles of urine to throw” ; “No one knows what will happen when the protesters reach their destination” ; “A hundred armed police officers are waiting outside the Pepsi Center”)
Zippy called again. I asked if he’d spotted any bottles of urine and he said he didn’t think anyone had urine to spare since they were all so hot and dehydrated.
Any confrontations, Zippy?
No, just Code Pink women giving the police officers Make Out Not War stickers which the police affixed to their gear.

(This is only what Zippy and Wildebeest experienced.  I know there have been confrontations.)


Random Notes

Last night Zippy and I, the temporarily childless couple, went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to hear Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson play.  The evening was perfect.  Dinner and a bottle of wine on the lawn as we listened to two extremely gifted songwriters pour out their hearts.  I laughed and I cried.  Loudon was coerced into performing The Acid Song (oh happy day!) and Richard sang Walking On a Wire (a song he wrote when he and his former wife/singing partner, Linda Thompson, were splitting up; Linda sang it on their album so I’ve never heard him sing it).  Wow.

Earlier in the week, R’s nurse and I were discussing the frustrations of trying to get R to drink some stuff he needed to drink before having a procedure he’d agreed to have done.  R was in rare form and had dug in his heels.  Big time.  He complained about what he couldn’t do and complained about what he wanted to do but refused to take any action that would alleviate his complaints.  It was infuriating.  The nurse told me she’d worked with him on a previous hospital stay and that R kind of cracked her up.  I told her she had a great attitude but that his contrariness was making me want to bang my head against a wall.  She said, “Don’t do that.  Then you’ll have a headache AND a pain in the ass.”  That really made me laugh (I was tired!) and I felt so much better.  Nurses are the best.

I’ve been disciplined about my writing goals this week and hit my word count five days in a row!  I’m realizing how important it is for me to establish a routine and stick to it.  And yes, I’ve had this realization before and then lost sight of it along the way so I’ll probably be back here in another few months saying, “You know?  It’s really helpful when I set a word count goal and then hold myself accountable to it each and every day!”  Feel free to laugh when that happens.

My other cool writing-related development is that I have a new technique for handling my inner critic.  Lately I’ve really been plagued with negative thinking whispered in my ear by that horrid inner creature.  I guess William Faulkner’s off drinking or having sex or something because he’s not doing a very good job watching my back right now.  But that’s okay because I now have an actual voice to put to that inner critic.  And that voice is………………R’s voice!  That’s right, folks.  Whatever nastiness starts echoing in my head (You know, Tracy, this isn’t very good.  No one’s going to want to read this.), I repeat aloud in R’s rasping whisper.  And then I laugh!  And keep writing!  I totally recommend this method for thwarting your critic.  Not everyone is as fortunate as me in having a near-constant negative person in my life who complains about everything in a very unique voice (his vocal chords were damaged years ago) but I’m sure you could use your father-in-law’s voice or that nosy neighbor’s or the twit at the bank the other day.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Wishing everyone a glorious weekend.


A little of this, a bit of that

Saturday night Zippy and I went to Red Rocks for the concert. 
Mavis Staples – WOW!
John Butler Trio – very good.
Michael Franti and Spearhead – TRANSCENDENT.  One of the most moving experiences of my life.  MF is angered by the daily dose of bullshit and criminal behavior we’ve been subjected to for the past six and a half years BUT he’s also filled with hope for the planet.  He’s a minstrel bringing messages of awareness and hope to the masses, and the people respond.  I absolutely recommend seeing Spearhead’s live show, especially if you’re feeling so worn down you just can’t go on.  Did I mention you’ll dance?!

Wildebeest and Zebu are back from camp.  I picked them up Tuesday morning.  Monday afternoon I received my one and only letter from camp.  It was from Zebu.  Dated Friday, June 29, the letter began:  “Dear Mom, For me, the past two days sucked.”  He went on to document how the powdered Gatorade container he volunteered to carry on their hike up a mountain opened in his pack, covered all his stuff, and coated his arms which made him “a feast for the mosquitoes.”  He listed other travails which I read through my tears.   I got there early on Tuesday morning, expecting a sad little camper eager to leave the mountains.  HA.  We were the last family to leave.  My two guys kept laughing and talking with the counselors, doing card tricks and taking photos.  It’s nice having them home again.

I haven’t written a whole lot in the past few days but I did manage to get over that bad spot and find my way back into the story.  I’ve gone back to keeping the book secret as I write this second draft, and it feels better.  William Faulkner is doing a good job guarding the circle.

I have a new addiction.  I learned about Betty Hoop when there was an article in the paper about her Bolder Boulder run.  She hooped the entire 6.2 miles without the hoop hitting the ground!  Anyway, I just love my hoop because it’s made for adults (heavier) and stays up when I twirl.  I always thought I couldn’t hoop but now I can go nonstop and am feeling all sorts of stomach muscles I haven’t used in years.  Hooping mellows me out but also energizes me at the same time.  Plus, it makes me smile!   (If anyone is interested in getting one, the GAIAM hoop/DVD  was on sale for $24.50 when I ordered by phone.  I haven’t used the DVD yet, am having fun just twirling and staring into space).

Tomorrow morning we take off for a week in Yellowstone and Montana.  It turns out

 will be in the same Yellowstone lodge at the same time!  We’re going to meet!  I’m so excited!  Can you tell?!

I’m taking my travel hoop on the trip.  Hooping next to the geysers!  (Right.  As if Wildebeest and Zebu would allow that).

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Zebu’s birthday

Yesterday was Zebu’s 11th birthday.

He spent the day at Water World with his friend and Zippy Ramone.
(The way I saw it, if I could handle 26 hours of labor Zippy could handle six hours of heat, wet shorts, crowds, lines, and sunburn).

Zebu’s friend gave him a birthday gift.
A ticket to join friend and friend’s father here
for a Bob Dylan concert.

I’m the Dylan fanatic in the household
and I didn’t get to see him in concert until I was 15.
Zebu probably couldn’t name three Dylan songs.

But he’s very excited
and I’m happy for him.
A Red Rocks concert is something he’ll never forget.

When the Dylan tickets went on sale, Zippy and I debated buying two.
However, I’m feeling a bit disconnected from old Bob these days
in large part due to this.

We passed.

But we suddenly had a craving to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
It’s an incredible setting.
We really wanted and needed one concert experience there this season.

We checked the roster
and bought tickets for Michael Franti and Spearhead
(and Mavis Staples!!)

I’m probably done seeing Bob Dylan in concert. 
I have a slew of memories from all those concerts.
I’ll never see him at Red Rocks
but that’s okay.
It was time for something/someone new.

Zebu can’t wait for his concert
and neither can I.