An Homage to Home

I knew this place, I knew it well,
Every sound and every smell,
And every time I walked, I fell
For the first two years or so

On Tuesday, we went to a memorial for my Uncle Roger who passed away last fall. It took place out on Cape Cod, a place where Roger and his wife Marge had gone for sixty of their sixty-two married years. My cousins were there, three men whom I don’t believe I’ve seen since they were boys over thirty years ago, yet there we were, family. While our family trips had been mostly to other parts of the Cape, the words of David’ Mallet’s song, I Knew This Place, came back to me.

There across the grassy yard,
I, a young one, running hard,
Brown and bruised and battle scarred
And lost in sweet illusion

My cousin Scott told stories of growing up. My grandfather died when my father was twelve and Roger was thirteen and they both worked hard through out their childhood, so much so that when my uncle joined the navy as a strong wiry young man, he astounded the folks at basic training with his ability to do pushups. The story came back to me as I read an op-ed suggesting that perhaps for lesson in shared sacrifice, we should send Congress to boot camp.

Scott talked about growing up in Waterbury, CT, before moving to Albany, NY. I always thought of my uncle, aunt and three cousins as being the ‘Albany Hyneses’ and hadn’t heard much about the Waterbury days. Scott told stories about how his parents had built a basketball court in the backyard, as well as other things to keep the kids at home, and in many ways, their house became the gathering place for the kids in the neighborhood, as Roger and Marge kept a close eye on everyone. It harkened back to a day when families and communities were stronger.

Scott traced the family’s travels to Pittsburgh as the Steelers ended their winning ways and then to Baltimore when the Colts slipped out of town under the cover of night, watching local meat packers close down with the advent of refrigerated trucks and more centralized packing.

By then the kids were all off on their own, and I suspect the house wasn’t that much like the House in Baltimore that David Glaser sings about,

grew up in a house in Baltimore
We marked our time with presidents and wars
and our days fled like a passing summer storm
In that little house in Baltimore

Yet one of the verses captures some of my memories of being a kid back in those days,

Dad, he worked a lot - we never saw much of him
Sometimes on sunday nights - we would gather round the TV
Widen our eyes - to the Wonder World of Disney
Family night - the Twister mat spread on the basement floor

My mind wanders back to “I Knew This Place”,

And as these thoughts come back to me
Like ships across the friendly sea
Like breezes blowing endlessly
Like rivers running deep

Life was really hard on me when my first marriage fell apart. I spent time talking with a therapist as I tried to make sense of all of it. At one point, she asked if what I was looking for was a “Father Knows Best” type of world. Not being much of a television fan, and being a strong believer in equality, I said I didn’t really think that captured things, but as we explore the idea she was trying to communicate, something about strong families staying together through tough times, it seemed like there was at least something to the idea.

Home is an important idea, not necessarily the fifties home that David Glaser sings about, although that may be closer to my ideal that much of what passes for family life these days. Perhaps a little bit closer is the home that David Carter and Tracy Grammer sing about in “Gentle Arms of Eden”,

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that i have ever known
And should i stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden

So, how do I tie this all together? Perhaps by pulling in a few other songs about home, like Paul Simon singing Homeward Bound,

Homeward bound, I wish I was homeward bound
Home, where my thoughts escape, at home, where my music's playin'
Home, where my love lies waitin' silently for me

Then, upon returning home, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young can finish it off with “Our House”

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you

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Wordless Wednesday

Falcon Ridge, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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The Falcon Ridge Moon

As I pulled the 2005 Grey Prius laden with camping gear off of Route 22 in Hillsdale, NY onto a small farm road, and then into a field, my wife proclaimed to our nine year old daughter in the back seat, “We’re here!”

I rolled down the window and spoke to the young man standing in the field. He echoed a similarly excited welcome to us. The day before, there had been volunteers on the road holding up signs saying, “Welcome Home.”

I told him how our GPS would always say as we approached our destination, “You have arrived!” I’ve always thought that was an especially appropriate announcement at the end of a long road trip, and it held especially true for that moment in time when we arrived at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Not only were we arriving physically, but there was some sort of emotional or perhaps spiritual arrival as well.

I’ve gone to Falcon Ridge pretty much every year since 1994. My wife Kim has always gone since we met, and Fiona first kicked her feet to the music of a drummer on the main stage a few months before she was born. The words of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer came to mind

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known

It was going to be a hot weekend, so we set up camp as quickly as possible and headed to the local State Park; an old quarry turned into a swimming hole. Everywhere we turned we ran into people who had become our friends in previous years of the folk festival. In the evening, I listened to some music up at the Lounge stage, and the next morning we headed off to the dance stage.

Falcon Ridge is a place where I’ve always felt comfortable letting my children run free. It is a safe, loving community. This would be the year that Fiona would start pursuing this freedom, especially if it meant more time at the dance tent. Friday morning, I headed down to the dance tent with her and ran into some friends who were struggling to make ends meet. They talked about their part time jobs and the goals of making enough money to feed, clothe and shelter the family, so that they could spend as much time on creative community oriented tasks as possible.

The idea stuck with me as I later listened to a performer introduce a song. She spoke about having watched a bunch of documentaries like Fast Food Nation or Gasland and wondered what had gone wrong with our country that we were allowing men corrupted by greed to destroy our nation. I thought about the impasse in the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington. I thought about some of the extremely wealthy folks I had worked with on Wall Street who seemed incapable of soaking in the enjoyment of a gathering like Falcon Ridge.

Now there's smoke across the harbor, and there's factories on the shore
And the world is ill with greed and will and enterprise of war

I often come back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. How is it that some of the richest people I know are stuck in the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, seeking to satisfy only their physiological and safety needs, even when they have more money than they could ever spend, when money simply becomes their way of keeping score in the game of life?

Yet here I was, surrounded by people just barely meeting their physiological needs so they could focus on other things like loving, belonging, esteem, self-actualization and self-transcendence. Falcon Ridge is a place where we feel loved and belonging. It is a place where people live up to creative potentials.

It is an inclusive community where all religious beliefs are honored. Yet I return back to the religious framework of my formative years. I’ve always thought of humans as being created in God’s image. Yet what is that image? It isn’t white skin, or brown, two eyes and a nose. No, the essence of our creation to me has always seemed to be about being creatures capable of creating, of loving, and of forgiving.

Later in the festival, I listened to Red Molly perform Susan Werner’s great song, “May I suggest”

May I suggest this is the best part of your life…
This time is blessed and shining almost blinding bright…

My mind returned to those who seem incapable of savoring the best part of their lives, to the people I have worked with on Wall Street and in politics that have gotten stuck fighting to run up the score in their financial balance sheets at the expense of being able to find love, belonging and esteem. My mind went to the words of Woody Guthrie’s song, “Pretty Boy Floyd”.

Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

It then drifted to the great old Zen Story:

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

I looked around at the crowd on the hill enjoying the music and the moon over Falcon Ridge, and I thought about the poor fellows fighting to defend taxes breaks for the wealthiest and wished I could give them this beautiful Falcon Ridge moon.

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Music Monday - #FRFF Recap

So, it is Monday evening after Falcon Ridge. I am exhausted, but there is so much that I need to write, I figure I’ll power through this blog post, and hopefully write another one tomorrow. This one will be about some of the music

We arrived at Falcon Ridge Thursday at around noon. We set up camp, and headed to the quarry to swim and cool off. In the evening, I went up to The Lounge to hear some of the pre-festival music.

I didn’t make it there until around 6 PM and missed the first couple sets, catching only the end of Joe Iadanza, Hugh McGowan, and Marcia Hendricks’ set. Unfortunately, I listened to so much music they all kind of faded into part of the general blur.

The next set was supposed to be Charles Nolan, Chris O'Brien, and David Glaser. Unfortunately, there was a mixup and Chris O’Brien wasn’t there. I was disappointed, since Chris O’Brien was one of the performers I really liked from last year, both in some late night performances on the hill and on the main stage as an emerging artist.

I had forgotten about David Glaser. I had heard him the year before, and really liked his music. Thinking back at this point, the one song that particularly remains in my mind is “House in Baltimore”. It is a great song that I’ll want to listen to more closely again as I write other reflections on Falcon Ridge.

This was followed by a short dinner break. After the break was ilyAIMY. They sang a song entitled ‘Phantom’, talking about the itch that can’t be itched that people who have lost a limb sometimes experience, part of phantom pain, and comparing it to the phantom pain of a relationship that had gone bad. This was followed by a song about ‘Dune’. It was a really good set.

The next set was Brittany Ann, Phil Henry, and Bethel Steele. I had heard Brittany Ann last year at The Lounge and really liked her as well. I think she sang October during that set, as well as Puzzle Pieces. She was one of the Emerging Artists and sang Puzzle Pieces the next day on the main stage and it was this morning’s ear worm.

This was followed by Spuyten Duyvil, another band I really enjoyed last year, when I heard them at The Lounge as well as being one of last year’s Emerging Artists. They did not disappoint.

All of this led up to the penultimate set of Thursday evening at The Lounge, with We're About 9, Pesky J. Nixon, and Anthony da Costa. This was an incredible set. Again, much of the music blurred together, so there aren’t any particular memories, other than one point when Anthony da Costa said something to the effect of, “Okay now, time for the audience whistling solo”. The audience pulled it off incredibly. There were some great songs for singing along, and the audience also excelled there.

I figured I’d end of the evening on a very positive note, so I left before the last set, which I’m sure would have been quite good as well.

Friday afternoon was the emerging artists showcase. Twenty five different performers get ten minutes on the main stage. I had listened to each performer online already, so I had a sense of who was who. One thing that had bothered me was that many of the female vocalists sounded all the same online, sort of a generic female vocalist. However, there were two pretty amazing exceptions.

Bulat Gafarov wowed just about everyone. Falcon Ridge always has ASL interpreters. Typically when there is an instrumental piece, the interpreter does something to indicate what the music is like. When Bulat was on, the interpreter just sat there, leaning her mouth, which was open in awe of the performance, against her hand, transfixed by the performance. Perhaps that is the best way to summarize Bulat’s performance. They only other words would be overused superlatives.

The other performer that I really liked was Paul Sachs. Again, in the haze of the festival, I don’t have the clearest recollection of the songs he sang, other that Dirty Trucks. The rough and ready lyrics matched his voice for a powerful performance. These two performers clearly had to be my two to picks.

Three of the performers from The Lounge were also in the emerging artist’s show case, Pesky J. Nixon, ilyAIMY, and Brittany Ann. In my mind it was probably a three way tie between them, and at this point, I can’t remember who I picked.

I love seeing and hearing many musicians who perform regularly at Falcon Ridge. They have become old friends and their songs have found their place in my canon of favorites. Yet the Emerging Artist’s Showcase has always been a special part of Falcon Ridge for me, a chance to meet new performers to add to my list of favorites. This year, The Lounge further amplified this wonderful part of Falcon Ridge.

To be continued…

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Music Monday - #FRFF Emerging Artists Showcase notes

For the past few years, I’ve taken to searching out the emerging artists for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival online before the festival and listening to their music, so I have an idea of what to expect. I share the results of my searches on my blog. In earlier years, I mostly found performers on MySpace. Then, I started finding them on SonicBids, since they need to use SonicBids to submit their material to Falcon Ridge.

This year, I am starting off by using Spotify. It is a little hit and miss. However, I’ve included some of the links below.

I’ve been pretty busy and dragging a bit, so I have some of the links, random notes jotted down. Nothing as extensive as I would like, but it’s getting late and I really want to get this up on Monday.

So, with that, here are my random links and notes about some of the performers. General reactions: I like just about every performer. Bulat Gafarov jumps out at me, because he’s different. Brittany Ann and Pesky J. Nixon jump out at me, because I’ve heard them playing on the hill late at night last year. A bunch of people have songs about autumn, and particularly, October. Beyond that, a lot of it all sounds a lot the same and is blurring together for me, but then again, I’m pretty tired.

Blair Bodine (Ambler, PA)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter

Pleasant listening, fairly polished. Nothing outstanding.

Brittany Ann (Philadelphia, PA)

SonicBids. Twitter,

If I recall properly, Brittany Ann was one of the performers that I heard at a Thursday night performance up on the hill last year, and I was really impressed. She’s not on Spotify, and the songs on her EPK don’t really do justice to her performance on the hill on Falcon Ridge, although the last two songs on the EPK, “October” and “Puzzle Pieces” come close.

Brooke Annibale (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sonicbids. Facebook, Twitter

Another polished female vocalist. Nice.

Bulat Gafarov (Moscow, Russia)

SonicBids. Facebook

World Music. Lots of interesting instruments and music.

Devlin Miles (New York City, NY)

SonicBids, Facebook, Twitter.

Her EPK says, “Devlin Miles is causing a ruckus with her Sarah McLachlan, Bonnie Raitt, Shania Twain concoction.” I don’t know anything about the ruckus, but the quote seems to capture what she is about. Well worth the listen. Autumn Fires

Ellen Bukstel (SW Ranches, FL)

Spotify, SonicBids, Facebook, Twitter.

I have mixed reations to Ellen Bukstel. Some of her songs, especially about fathers, or exploring protest issues are powerful. However, her songs about menopause and whining kids, while mildly funny, are mostly just annoying.

Friction Farm (Greenville, SC)

Spotify, SonicBids

I really like Friction Farm. Great vocals. The sort of songs I like to listen to when sitting on a farm hill in the middle of summer.

Gail Wade (Colchester, CT)


Good guitar, good vocals, Really enjoyable to listen to. October Moon

Grace Pettis (Harrisonburg, VA)

SonicBids, Twitter
Pure, simple, enjoyable.

ilyAIMY (Baltimore, MD)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter.

Initially, this group didn’t really do a lot for me. Perhaps I was tired after listening to a bunch of performers. However, the longer I listened, the more I enjoyed them.

Jason Myles Goss (Brooklyn, NY)

SonicBids, Twitter, Facebook.

Also sounds really good.

Karyn Oliver (Boring, MD)

Spotify, SonicBids

October Day

Layah Jane (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Spotify, , Facebook

Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli (Metro West, MA)

Spotify, Sonicbids, Twitter

Louise Mosrie (Nashville TN)

Spotify, SonicBids, twitter

My Brothers Banned (Westchester County, NY)

Spotify, SonicBids, Facebook, Twitter

Talks on the Facebook wall about camping in a tent at Falcon Ridge, and staying up all night playing with friends. Sounds good.

Occidental Gypsy (Boston, MA)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter, Facebook.

A little whistling.

Paul Sachs (New York City, NY)


“A cross between an acoustic Springsteen and Harry Chapin”.

Only three songs on Sonicbids, but the first one sounds really good.

Pesky J. Nixon (Boston, MA)

, SonicBids, Facebook

Looking forward to hearing Pesky J. Nixon at The Lounge on Thursday.

Putnam Smith (Portland, ME)

Spotify, SonicBids

Sharon Goldman (Metuchen, NJ)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter, Facebook.

Songwriting, meet art — art, meet songwriting. Hmm, maybe Miranda should check out Sharon.

Really enjoyable. Stands out a little better than a bunch of the other female vocalists.

Split Tongue Crow (Rutland, VT)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter

Suzie Vinnick (Toronto, ON, Canada)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter

The Whispering Tree (New York City, NY)

Spotify, SonicBids, Twitter, Facebook

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