Hope In A Jar

Back before Christmas in what feels like another lifetime, I treated myself to a pair of loose overalls. I’d seen the young barista in the coffee shop near where Eric and I were working on a flat in England looking so cool in his and had to ask where he got them. They were made by a local company, and not expensive. Dare I? I thought. I ordered a pair in dark blue corduroy, my Christmas present to myself.

When they arrived and I put them on, I wasn’t sure. They were waistless and shapeless, but that’s what gives the wearer power, I thought. If I stood in just the right way, I felt bold and strong and free. I’m used to clothes fitting, defining my body. That’s an old way of thinking, right? This would be the new me! The clothes don’t define the wearer, the wearer creates their own shape! I imagined the whole exercise of owning a baggy pair of overalls rearranging my personality, an important step in my development as a human being. I strode around in them as much as a person can stride in all that fabric, unsure whether to commit or send them back. 

“I think if I wash them, they’ll really come into their own—when they’re softer,” I said, knowing that washing meant I had committed to keeping them.

I washed and wore the overalls once or twice in England, each time feeling my body like an ungainly child inside a bouncy castle as I walked down the street. It’s just too windy here, I thought, as fabric whipped around my legs. When I get back to America, they’ll really come into their own.

Then the coronavirus hit and again I thought “this is the moment for this shapeless garment to come into glory.” We’re all rethinking who we are and what matters to us now. Three times I’ve put the overalls on—literally to walk from one part of the house to another, or wheel a garbage bin out to the street. Instead of reveling in the freedom: no waistband! No tight fabric around my knees or calves! I’ve found myself depressed, wondering what life is all about (I guess that’s kind of a blessing, the ability to hold a pair of corduroy pants responsible for providing meaning and purpose). I hung them on a hook in the closet and will no doubt take them out and try again, only to fling them off in near rage : “I’m just not FREE enough for these overalls.” It’s helpful to have a goofy, friendly pair of sustainably made pants as a target for your anger.

*

I took a moment the other day to fold up the black cloth we use to cover equipment in the back of the car, if there are extra guitars or stands etc that don’t fit in the trunk. The cloth had been sitting there crumpled up since a gig one or two months ago. Folding it felt ceremonial, like the folding of the American flag soldiers do at a military funeral. There was a finality to it, or maybe I was just feeling dramatic. When will we use the black cloth again?

*

Do you wonder who you’ll be when it’s all over?  I read of men growing beards, women  casting off their bras, their hair dye and I think again “I’m not that free…” I like the structure of a bra. Putting color on my hair isn’t something I do for others, but to make it easier to feel like me. What will fall away and what will remain of habits, routines, work practices that we use to define ourselves?

I got myself ready to play an online gig a few weeks ago. I felt sort of like a man who’s lost his job but gets up and puts on a suit and tie, sits down at the breakfast table at the same time he used to, reading the financial section of the paper even though he’s out of money, then folds over the classified/want ads section and pulls out a red marker, circling possibilities. Setting up some lights, making a little set list, putting on makeup and boots, a sharp jacket was me feeling like I had purpose. I missed the audience though, and only days later saw that people were commenting and clapping along with each other in a comments thread. It was sweet and what makes the whole show thing worthwhile in the end—not the performing but the communion. I think next time I would just sit with the phone in front of me like a person, not a camera.

*

We’re quarantined, we’re isolated and have been for weeks. I’ve been to the supermarket in mask and gloves and the post office. Where else is there to go?

I pulled out of our street and saw children holding up signs and waving, cheering and couldn’t figure out what was going on. There were moms and dads out in their front yards too, waving their arms and smiling. I sat one in a line of cars ahead of and behind me, and as we moved slowly I stopped and rolled down the window and shouted across a lawn to ask some neighbors what was going on. 

“It’s the kids saying hi to their teachers.” I felt sheepish, a pretender in the line, simply on my way to the post office.  Kids need their teachers —no matter what they say— they love their teachers. It made me cry.

*

If I use a night cream that purports to take off ten years, and “results appear after four weeks,” and I’m aging  two years every week due to stress and fear, how can I time it right so that I’ll have stayed pretty much the same by the end of all this? I remember a product called Hope In A Jar. This is a much deeper hope, to not be wrecked completely. Will anything remain from before when this ends?

When will it end?

I just removed the next round of dates from my calendar…goodbye May in Ohio. Goodbye July festival in Nottingham.

I still haven’t taken my canceled/postponed UK tour dates off my Facebook header.  It’s like a little memorial to my UK book tour.

*

I’ve read people say they don’t ever want to see another photo of what people are cooking due to being isolated at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

I love those photos. I’ve cooked soup and gumbo and make dish after dish, night after night, as we all do. I feel lucky to have the money to buy fresh food. Eric is cooking a lamb stew right now. It’s the first dish he ever cooked for me, years ago, and he’s usually too busy touring or recovering from touring to cook.

*

Keith was my friend on the west coast, a musician who’d always change guitar strings for me when I used to play that Guild with the slightly warped neck that snapped strings. Over a dozen years ago, when Keith was planning a visit to New York City, he asked for recommendations. “Go ride the Cyclone at Coney Island!” I told him, among other ideas. One of my favorite places and things to do. Scary but worth it.

Keith broke his neck riding the Cyclone. He died a few days later in the hospital.

I can’t help but think of Keith now when I think of my family in New York City, the epicenter of coronavirus. My brother Michael followed me to Parsons in the late seventies. Would he have gone there without me being there? Michael is New York City now – he’s truly a New Yorker who doesn’t drive, lives in the same apartment he has for decades, is a musical fixture in the East Village.

Our youngest brother Riley found his way to New York eventually. He was heading for a career in politics maybe, when he traveled with Michael and I on tour in the eighties. He’d been a talented guitar player at school but the tour seemed to flip a switch and sent him headlong into music, and he found his way to the city where he has established himself as a studio owner, producer and player. His lovely girlfriend now wife Natalie moved from Cleveland to New York to be together, to follow her dreams.

My daughter Hazel was born at St. Vincents hospital and grew up in Brooklyn, until my desire to make a living at music sent us down to Nashville and farther into the other part of the Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover map, until she made her own way back to the city over five years ago.

I think of Keith and the Cyclone and think why did I tell him to ride it? It was a crazy fun thing I liked to do but could take or leave it and it took Keith, so now I leave it – I will never even think of riding the Cyclone and will tell anyone who listens not to ride it. I left New York City twenty years ago, always expecting to go back, until a couple of years ago when I started to realize maybe I never would go back. New York City was that crazy fun thing I did for a long time, until it wasn’t so fun anymore. But what about my daughter and my family right there  in the thick of it in the city?

I wrote to Keith’s girlfriend after he died, and apologized. Why did I tell him to ride that dangerous ride? It’s okay, she said. Everybody told him to go and ride! Who didn’t tell him to go?

Who didn’t at some point in their lives want to live in New York, the greatest city in the world? It breaks my heart to see it overwhelmed with this illness. I thought it could cope with anything.

*

I drive out to pick up takeout food for the first time in weeks. Eric and I are recording and I just need a break from the now continuous process of cooking a meal and cleaning up. Our local coffee place/bar offers Korean food for takeout only now and it would be good to support them. We drive to the curb for pickup. A guy is leaning against the wall next to the takeout window, wearing a bandana around the lower half of his face.

“It’s Ted,” Eric says. Ted the photographer was my old neighbor in Brooklyn. Of course it would be Ted. Catskill is a small town and a number of the residents were my neighbors in our former lives in the city. Ted holds up a hand in greeting. I think back with nostalgia to the elbow bumps of less than a month ago – the thought of getting that close to anyone you don’t live with, even one of my oldest friends, is unthinkable. We shout conversation to each other from a few sidewalk slabs apart.

*

Eric and I wheeled the garbage cans out to the curb at about three in the afternoon Wednesday, for pickup Thursday, like some old retired couple with nothing to do but groom the front yard and put slightly used water glasses in the dishwasher. (Usually I’m trundling out there in the moonlight mildly inebriated, or rumbling out just post-dawn with a winter coat over pajamas.) “Damn it —Ray and Carol beat us to it…already!” Ray and Carol are the nice retired couple with pristine house and yard across the street. We’re not Ray and Carol—yet.

I recorded another episode of my podcast and Eric and I are recording an Adam Schlesinger song. He was a genius of melody, lyrics & harmony. I loved Fountains of Wayne so much, I think Chris Collingwood made singing these beautiful, memorable melodies seem easy. Like Burt Bacharach or Brian Wilson songs, the listener believes they can sing along, no problem and then you find out it’s not easy at all.  That’s when you know you’re in the presence of genius. It’s a magic trick.

I cried for Adam, and for our Scottish friend Davie who just passed away, and for Hal Willner, who I encountered a few times, especially when the Shams sang as part of the Tim Buckley tribute at St. Ann’s Church in 1991. When we heard John Prine had died I sobbed, thinking how we’d probably all thought he was going to hang on in and be here forever. I made us bowls of raspberries and whipped cream, and Eric and I sat on the couch at 2 AM listening to the Beatles in mono, and I thought how that kind of looked and sounded like a John Prine song and it made me cry again,

And yet Donald Trump will probably play golf this weekend.

It’s raining and cold, and Eric’s taking a nap. I can almost smell coffee—almost (my sense of smell disappeared a few weeks ago, other than that I’m fine). And I’m giving the baggy overalls another try. I’m going to adapt, adjust my character—our lives, those of us who get to go on living, will change in ways big or small whether we want them to or not. 

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Okay—forget the overalls. I’m done with them. I’m back in the clothes I feel comfortable in, even if they do bind here and there. I tried, really I did, to just let myself go but life—as we know it now and going forward—is full of enough challenges.

I spoke to host deXter Bentley for the Hello GoodBye Show on Resonance this Sat, Apr 11

You can listen or subscribe to the Girl To City podcast here.

Two For The Room

This past Monday (was it only three days ago? ) I worked the last shift serving bar customers at the bookstore/bar. I felt anxious and careful and as much as I hated to admit the reality of the pandemic, it was all hitting home when I learned that one of my coworker’s roommates works at Bard, where there are four diagnosed cases of Coronavirus. She only works once a week and I’d been in Nashville the previous Monday (I’d flown for God’s sake—what was I thinking? What were any of us thinking one week ago?) I’d been all set to fly to England until…Sunday morning when I had to pull the plug, wondering what had taken me so long, but it all came into focus now without making sense, that gigs were all off; that the bookstore had to close except for mail order/curbside pickup of books, maybe some reorganization and inventory. I looked at the small collection of drinkers at the bar and felt worried for the solo folks. How would they do, without a place to socialize in real life? Yes Eric was calling to tell me the paint I’d bought for the kitchen floor was crap and the wrong color, but that’s better than having to figure those things out for myself. I felt lucky to have a partner to go home to and hunker down with.

The next morning a Times piece on couples weathering the shutdown together made me laugh when it described the different coping styles: one person blithely going about their business (in a six hundred square foot apartment) while the other worried, stayed glued to the news, felt sure the world was coming to an end….then they’d switch places and the cheery whistling one went catatonic with fear while the worrier rallied and offered to don mask and gloves to go out foraging for provisions. The comments were the standard mix: “we’ve been together fifty years and there’s no sound I’d rather hear than my soulmate snoring at four AM” to “I’m worried I won’t make it more than a week let alone a month or more in quarantine…plus he won’t stop whistling.”

I looked over at Eric who was soldering something as he’s inclined to do and thought “I think we’ll be alright. We toured together, just the two of us, for almost a decade. We lived in rural France!” We weathered those challenges early in our relationship, so that must be good preparation for quarantine, right?

We’ve huddled together in rank band flats and hotels where the thought of your skin touching anything in the room is enough to bring on a panic attack.

Slept in freezing houses where there was a choice to shut the door and become ill from the cold or leave the door open and entertain a menagerie of animals moving in and out of the room throughout the night.

Together we’ve burned our dinner, then full of hope walked up the road towards the pizza van on the night of its weekly visit to the village, only to end up chasing the tail lights as the van picks up speed never to be seen again. 

We’ve run out of cooking gas in the middle of roasting a chicken, the only food in the fridge, all the shops closed til morning, and eaten muesli with half and half for dinner, pretending it’s crumble.

Been reduced to using coffee filters as toilet paper.

The gig in Omaha with an audience of two, one of them the promoter.

Breaking down and hitchhiking in the north of France on a Tuesday afternoon in November.

Looking for something fun to do in Albany.

Spending Christmas in Worthing Hospital with Eric’s dear departed mum Dorothy, and then trying and failing to find somewhere to eat Christmas dinner in Worthing (“we’re not eating at Toby Fucking Carvery!”)

Playing the Nick in Birmingham AL (“Eric & Amy Rigby” announced the sign out on the road) for a handful of drinkers straight out of Voyage Of The Damned.

Hearing the wind howl and shake our camping car/former ambulance in an aire near the port of Calais, wondering how we’d survive til morning.

Driving through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada, the only other sign of life a train in the distance that seemed to be racing us for the coast.

All fairly benign I realize. Yes, we’ve been broke, had surgery, been ill. But we’ve been fairly lucky in our struggles and what stands out as I write them down—we’ve always been mobile. Maybe what makes dealing with those challenges out on the road fun or romantic in retrospect at least is that the setting is constantly varied. It fuels the imagination and makes it possible to cast yourself and mate as actors in the drama of life.

What will it be like here at home? With the only other characters whoever we can scare up on our devices?

This is not like touring, or moving to France, at all.

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2006, photo by Karen Hall

How are you coping with things? It’s still early and I find being in the moment is the only approach I can handle. I do hope to do an online gig or two, and plan to launch my Girl To City: A Memoir podcast next week. In the meanwhile, did you know Bandcamp has waived all fees for online sales of music and merch tomorrow, Friday Mar 20? You can order some discs, my book or downloads here. If you don’t have Eric’s brilliant 2019 album Transience, we’ll get the LP & CD versions up to order on his Bandcamp today.

Airborne

I go along to a bar in Ridgewood to see my daughter play. It’s a lowkey night of striking, odd music. When Hazel starts pushing noise out of her fretless bass, that gets loud as an airplane landing, I think of troubadors playing during the time of the Black Death, and I think this is the equivalent. I hear the fear and rage, also a gallows humor.

*

I visit my friend Nick in Williamsburg on the most beautiful, sunny Sunday – the first day of spring forward. He is in the city from Ithaca, staying in the basement and treehouse of the house he and his wife Alex rent out to visitors. We climb stairs into the treehouse and smoke weed, listen to WFMU. Are we twenty-something or sixty-something I wonder? Stepping out of the treehouse, I face the back of their sweet blue house, now surrounded by high rises. We are definitely sixty-something.

Nick had a stroke two years ago, and I’m getting to know him as a different Nick. He was (and still is) a great DJ, the person who told me I could make a record on my own, and he helped me do it. Now we just hug, and cry a little, but we know what we mean.

*

Duck into the Whitney an hour before closing time on Sunday to see the Mexican mural exhibit. My artist’s memberships to Whitney and MOMA and the odd metrocard in my wallet are my tiny pieces of NYC real estate. Along with my family and friends and a few places like Veselka, and a million fading memories they are all that tether me to this city.

There’s only fifty minutes left til the museum closes so I do my best to take it in—like with so many things lately, thinking “I’ll really look at this later,” like I’m scrolling through my phone. Lady – this is later. You may not pass this way again. I try to narrow it down and just take time at a few paintings.

It crossed my mind this weekend how I used to intentionally hit the floor sometimes when I was onstage, landing on both knees. These were impulsive moves, like the terrible miscalculation I made once when Eric and were playing a show together in Norwich and I leapt off the stage in an attempt to banish some awkwardness and I landed okay but then slipped on my heel, wiping out and hitting the back of my head on the metal lip of the stage. I rose up all “I’m okay people!” but the looks on the audience’s faces were horrified—there was blood running down my face, like that scene from Carrie. These acts of physicality were an effort to exert control i guess, by losing it. Getting older becomes this fight to maintain control—all those in harms’ way acts of youth, drinking and driving, dropping acid in the city, sleeping with strangers; flinging the body around onstage—start to seem kinda foolish. The years pile up and the instances of being in harms’ way without wanting to pile up: near-miss idiot lane changes, that could’ve been me public shootings, hurricanes and tornadoes and Sept. 11. A pandemic. You start running from injury and shielding yourself from the inevitable.

Leaving the Whitney, maybe it was the sun blinding me as it set over the Hudson—one hour later than it had the day before—maybe I was distracted, but I tripped on the steps and went down HARD. That agonizingly slow motion descent where you think yes I can right this, but with horror you realize gravity has taken over, you’re no longer in command of your own body and oh shit here comes the ground. My knees took the brunt of it and the couple of young people who witnessed it looked stunned and then were polite enough to say “Are you okay?” as I was lying face down on the granite steps. I tried for a witty response but could only stammer “Uh-uh, no I’m fine—wow, that was graceful, wasn’t it?’ and brushed myself off jauntily and hoisted myself up signaling “see I’m fine! I do yoga sometimes!” and walking/bordering on striding away briskly until I got around the corner, out of view of the people in front of the Whitney and even the building itself, which I couldn’t bear to have witness an infirm me— that sleek modern young Whitney—I got around the corner and only then did I allow myself to stagger for a second and collapse shaking onto a bench. I realized I’d fallen so hard I’d torn a hole in my newest pair of black jeans. It could have been so much worse. What if I’d hit my head, or broken a wrist, an arm? I wouldn’t be walking the three quarters of a mile through the West Village back to my car to drive to the airport to fly to Nashville.

I walked back to my car but what had been a sweet-with-overtones-of-ominous afternoon in the city was tilting down. Should I fly to Nashville? I wondered. I could just as easily point the car back home. All the talk of virus made flying feel a little bit the equivalent of flinging myself down on stage but this flight was a means to an end and that old flinging thing was just an attempt to shake something loose.

Maybe going to the celebration of  David Olney’s life and music would shake some things loose ?

The town had just been hit by a devastating tornado. I have such a complex relationship with the city of Nashville. Like New York, it was also my city of dreams. These were different dreams than the ones that brought me to NYC, tempered by experience; more focused. I aim to write about it in my next book but coming back here pokes a wound—a self-inflicted one, like the back of my head from the stage dive— and when I examine too hard it hurts too much and I have to pull away. But it’s mainly love I feel.

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Maybe it was Tammy’s…or Emmylou’s?

Glancing the city the way I did on this very brief trip, to pay tribute and bear witness to the greatness of a man I looked up to but only briefly crossed paths with and finally in a cosmic way, I can sneak up on the pain (and I must admit it, a word that only just occurred to me and this is why I write: shame) of Nashville in a roundabout way, and take away an impression of talented friends, music, shared purpose, excellence, intentionality. Olney’s memorial at the Belcourt was a swirl of kind house concert hosts who’ve become pals, songwriting partners; coffee, lunch and touring compadres. The best. I saw Chet Atkins walk slowly to a table two decades ago in a restaurant called Noshville—“look, an elder! One who started it all!” Emmylou with her white hair was there for Olney, there’s no denying we are just about the elders now? The songs played and stories told made me want to write more songs, live more stories. (Listen to Jerusalem Tomorrow right now.) I capped the night off with a frosted half-mug of Miller at Brown’s Diner, a place already so shabby and iconic when I first went there thirty five years ago I was inspired to write a song about it. There’s a gleaming Kroger impossibly situated right across the street these days, but Brown’s stands untouched, unimproved, disorganized and that’s something. Apparently Olney would still set up and play in the corner. One of my greatest regrets now is my last question to him onstage: “Do you still live in Nashville?” Dave: “I can’t get them to pay me to leave, so- yeah, I still live in Nashville.” I am an idiot, the female Chris Farley…

*

On my flight back to Newark (Kleenex, hand wipes in constant rotation – I broke down and did the crossword in the inflight magazine, wondering how much I was risking, this is the world we live in) there was a little boy and his mom sitting next to a retired gentleman behind me. Their conversation was so beautiful, so sweet and civilized, it gave me this weird hope. I wish I had recorded some of their exchanges that began with the little boy saying “My name is Jack, I’m four years old. What’s your name?” They talked about New Jersey and where the little boy came from there and the man told him about the big water tower he sees out of the plane and that’s how he knows he’s almost home because that’s his town in NJ. I nearly started weeping when they said goodbye and the little boy asked if he could come visit the man and see his water tower someday. When the man asked the boy what his favorite part of his trip to Nashville had been, the boy said “riding this airplane, talking to you.”

Oh let’s all be four. Except the person in charge. Wait – there is nobody in charge.

*

I still have these gigs, nothing has been cancelled and my gatherings are small so we should have space enough to feel hygienic:

  • Sun Mar 15 Woodstock NY Colony Cafe tickets
  • Thu Mar 19 Marc Riley session BBC 6 Music
  • Fri Mar 20  London UK Walthamstow Rock n Roll Book Club tix
  • Thu Mar 26 Bristol UK Thunderbolt 
  • Fri-Sat Mar 27-28 Laugharne UK Laugharne Weekend
  • Wed Apr 1 Melrose UK Marmion’s at Wynd Theatre
  • Thu Apr 2 Radio Scotland session
  • Fri Apr 3 Glasgow UK Monorail Music instore 7 PM
  • Sat Apr 4 Edinburgh UK Elvis Shakespeare instore 2:30 PM
  • Sun Apr 5 Hull UK St. John’s Hotel
  • Thu Apr 9 Nottingham UK Running Horse tickets
  • Sat Apr 10 Hello Goodbye session Resonance FM
  • Sat May 2 Moorestown NJ Jen & Dave’s
  • Sat May 9 Willington CT The Packing House 
  • Tue May 12 Columbus OH Natalie’s tickets
  • Thu May 14 Cleveland OH details soon

 

The Moon Is Never On Sale

I can’t see you anymore.

I’m sorry Kiehl’s, but we are finished.

The same goes for you Madewell, Rag & Bone, Garnet Hill. Roller Rabbit, I know I bought a sheet from you on clearance a few years ago, and your printed cottons had me imagining myself in a caftan on a beach somewhere but enough.

The dream ends here. Goodbye.

I am unsubscribing.

It really hit me when I was over in England this past few weeks. I’d wake up in the morning and check my phone, just making sure the world was still there. (I didn’t have any kind of coffee-making system in place and was not able to write a word, duh – it only dawned on me the last few days I was there that I literally cannot write without coffee. At least I know now with complete certainty that as long as I have coffee, I can write!) Anyway, I learned that with the five hour time difference there was a sweet spot of advertising-free bliss in my email inbox, because back in New York and further west, it was still the middle of the night and the bots were sleeping. And as aware I’ve been of that kind of clutter— that every company I ever bought or even considered buying something from now considered me part of the family and was targeting me almost daily with folksy emails (“Hey, we haven’t heard from you for a while?” or “We bet this would look great on you”) -—it occured to me that I was constantly sucked in by those emails! Rarely clicking on them, but addicted to the possibilities they offer. Filing this one (plumped, hydrated skin) and that one (a pair of black jeans that will transform me into Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream – ON SALE!) away even as I hit delete a hundred times. Almost as if they saw me —acknowledged my existence -—and were writing a future for me. It’s not just clothes, beauty and home furnishings—there is my whole publishing journey there too: writing aids, story prompts, self-publishing support.  (The relentless musical equipment companies, disc pressing and packaging manufacturers are relegated to my old AOL account).  I know there are ways around it all ie don’t subscribe in the first place but I am the perfect pliant customer, not wanting to miss out on anything. As if by my interest I was keeping the deals alive! Without my awareness, $5 OFF Airport Parking Reservations would cease to exist. Forever.

But in that email-free sweet spot with the tumbleweeds rolling through my inbox except for an actual brief email from a friend or nice message from someone buying a disc or book, I saw a sense of possibility of what life could be if I was strong and told them all to go away.

As I wrote in the last post, I want to work harder. It feels ridiculous in one way to say that after publishing a book—I have never spent so many hours on a project in my life. A lot of it, the work of being a publisher, was not work I wanted for myself. It wasn’t the creative work. And maybe, like the advertising emails, I’m addicted to the grunt work—the packing and shipping etc that I could (should?) delegate to someone else. I don’t know. I get such a kick out of putting a disc in a mailer and sending it to someone. Maybe the size of my operation reflects that enjoyment?

A friend found a copy of this lovely book for me called Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. I’d mentioned it to her after hearing David Olney talk about it in a clip of him performing his song Women Across The River. We sell many similar small meditation books in the bookstore and I’ve often wondered what people get out of being told the most obvious things. Reading this book, Zen 101 I suppose, I begin to see it’s the clutter that obscures the obvious and that’s how the books help.

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So I open my email back home and press Unsubscribe and try to direct that part of my brain or spirit that wants to follow a tousle-haired model down a gravel path wearing a sweater, with stripes of such a perfect width and color combination that I will feel so much like Picasso I will BE Picasso, to a blank page, a guitar propped against the wall. Maybe even just down a gravel path wearing any old sweater.

Except…Nordstrom. I don’t know why but I just can’t let Nordstrom go. See, they have this BIG SALE every late February…

Amy Rigby/Girl To City on tour

  • Sun Mar 15 Woodstock NY Colony Cafe tickets
  • Thu Mar 19 Marc Riley session BBC 6 Music
  • Fri Mar 20  London UK Walthamstow Rock n Roll Book Club tix
  • Thu Mar 26 Bristol UK Thunderbolt 
  • Fri-Sat Mar 27-28 Laugharne UK Laugharne Weekend
  • Wed Apr 1 Melrose UK Wynd Theatre
  • Thu Apr 2 Radio Scotland session
  • Fri Apr 3 Glasgow UK Monorail Music instore 7 PM
  • Sat Apr 4 Edinburgh UK Elvis Shakespeare instore 2:30 PM
  • Sun Apr 5 Hull UK St. John’s Hotel
  • Thu Apr 9 Nottingham UK Running Horse tickets
  • Sat Apr 10 Hello Goodbye session Resonance FM
  • Sat May 2 Moorestown NJ Jen & Dave’s
  • Sat May 9 Willington CT The Packing House 
  • Tue May 12 Columbus OH Natalie’s tickets
  • Thu May 14 Cleveland OH details soon

 

Life-Changing Magic

I took two big bags of old clothes to the Salvation Army today. In an attempt to streamline and simplify my life, I’ve been trying to be ruthless with stuff I never wear or use. I have a lot of company, with Marie Kondo’s book and show, and another book called Swedish Death Cleaning, popular with the entire country or world. We can’t take it with us when we go, and we are going to go. Even while we’re here, does anybody need clothes that no longer fit, books we don’t read, charming teapots that haven’t been filled with hot water since the auction of Andy Warhol’s cookie jars at Sotheby’s? 

On the top of one bag, I dropped the pretty patterned scarf I’d received in a tote bag when I’d checked into 30A Songwriters Fest in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida last week. I love scarves, and I love patterns, but I just didn’t think I could bear to look at that scarf again.

The festival started off fine, after I missed my connecting flight from Albany through Charlotte. I didn’t mind, because Tommy Stinson was on my flight and we hung out together and that was great. I’ve met him a few times up in Hudson and always thought he’d be a good guy and he is. We had to fly into a different airport than the one we’d planned for but a nice woman picked us up and drove us to the hotel where all the festival artists were checking in.

The first person I saw on check in was David Olney. He had a new look from the last time I’d seen him, about two years ago when he was in the audience at the Bluebird where I was playing an in the round with RB Morris, Jon Byrd and Bob Woodruff. Having David Olney in the audience was terrifying and a huge compliment, he is an artist I’ve looked up to since my Nashville years. I was excited to play an in the round at the festival with  Virginian Scott Miller and Olney in his new Mark Twain guise, heavy white beard, fedora —a look befitting a guy with towering songwriting credentials and mordant wit.

Unless you’ve been sequestered in a bunker with the witnesses and evidence for the Trump impeachment trial, you have probably read or heard that David Olney died in our round last Saturday. Aside from my mother’s car accident when I was twenty-nine, and Eric’s mother’s decline, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I wrote an account the morning after because I wanted people to know how peaceful and elegant his exit was, but that wasn’t the whole story.  No matter how much someone says they don’t mind going out doing what they love to do, we don’t want them to go. We want them to stay with us, to keep being who they are, and showing us who we could be, if only we were better, worked harder, were more loving and giving, dedicated, anointed. I believe David Olney was all those things and isn’t it amazing that now he’s gone, it hits everybody with a force it’s not possible to feel when a guy is just toiling away in excellence as he had done for many years? I feel so sad for his wife and family, his lovely manager Mary Sack, all his Nashville community and people who loved him all over the country and beyond.

I picked up the scarf off the top of my Salvation Army bag and held it in my hand. I thought of how I felt just a week before when I had arrived in Florida, and got a hug from David Olney, was riding in a car with Tommy. I was checking into a beach house I shared with two young female artists with everything in front of them and I got ready to play, ready to show what I can do. I don’t think I really did that in Florida. I guess my purpose there was not that. I’m not sure why, but I want to work harder and be better and I don’t know if I’ll wear this scarf but I have to keep it. I have to keep it.

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Last week, when I was still young

Outside of the emotion of this post, I realized it would be good to thank everyone for messages of support – it really means a lot. Thanks to Scott Miller for such strength and kindness, to Don Dixon and Marti Jones who looked out for me in Florida, Diane Gentile for buying me bourbon and key lime pie, Mary Sack for reaching out to talk on the phone and my friends and family who I’m so lucky to have. Thank you David Olney for who you were.