Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Today it smelled like summer

Today it smelled like summer
Heat radiating from the warm moist ground
Like the fire from my skin where last we touched.
It's been so long since the endless days
Of lying in grass and dreaming at clouds
Waiting for sunset on the water
To bring us the moon.

I cannot fear the summer
Hours of sun to heal the pain of winter
Like the time that passes to mend my jagged soul.
It's been laid open for these hard months
Of restlessness and wondering in silence
Wishing for winds on the water
To somehow bring you back.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rain Songs

Rain. The love/hate relationship continues. Depressing, refreshing. Flowers, floods. Welcome, stop. "If the rain comes they run and hide their heads, they might as well be dead, if the rain comes....."

Since we did not have a camping trip planned for the holiday weekend, I'm a bit surprised that it rained. Usually, merely packing the tent into the truck brings on storm clouds. We've camped through a tornado in Arkansas, flash floods in the Ozarks and driving rain wind sheers that flattened the tent in Oklahoma. Canoed and kayaked in the same. We've had to find a hill to park on to tip the accumulated water out of our boats on top of the truck. Today's picnic under a park pavilion during a downpour and hail storm was just par for the course. Seems the rain and I are inextricably intertwined.

Here comes the rain again, so rock me on the water before the deluge while I listen to the rhythm of the falling rain. I'm covered in rain, 'cause the sky is cryin' like a box of rain. And it will rain when I die, when it will be the ashes, the rain and I.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You're my starlin', darlin'

My garden is full of starlings. For some unknown reason, I've developed an affinity for them. The poor things are so misunderstood. Mostly they are thought of as "pest birds" to be driven away so that the songbirds can feed. But these iridescent birds do have a song, several in fact, and can also mimic other birds and sounds like their cousins, their mynas. Mozart had a pet starling and proclaimed his song to be beautiful. I can see why.

Very late in the winter, while I was at the Botanical Garden, I heard a mysterious bird song above and just ahead. One bird. It was enchanting. When I looked to where it was coming from, there was the starling. As I drew nearer, it flew to the next tree, urging me forward. Its tune was in my head, rolling around like an unfinished symphony. I followed the starling all through the garden as the sky began to dim. At home, even now, the song is still in my mind. You're my starlin', darlin', singing to me all night long......

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The girl, the cop and the grievous angel

Perhaps fueled by the warm wind through the truck windows whipping my hair asunder, or by the memory of Jeff Tweedy sporting that Nudie Suit on Saturday night, I popped "Gram Parsons Archive, Vol. 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969" into the CD player again. What a great record. Perfect for a sunset drive.

So I pull up to the stoplight singing, music blaring, and one of St. Louis City's finest pulls up along side. Oh, shit. What did I do now? Seatbelt. Check. Full stop. Check. Anything in the car that shouldn't be? Nope. I'm still singing and I do the sidelong glance. The officer is giving me a wave, but the cherries are not on. I look over and smile, hoping for the best as his shaded gaze met mine. Early 30's, looking like a Marine on leave, he smiles back. "Burrito Brothers..." he nods his approval, "All right!" The light turns, he gives a little salute-like wave and is off.

What the hell was that?
Dumbfounded, I hit the accelerator. More, please.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wilco makes me a happy girl

Wilco made me one happy girl Saturday night. Or maybe it was the Tanq & tonics..... no, well....okay, it was both. Even without those refreshing beverages, Tweedy and company played the best I've ever seen them. Perhaps I was temporarily blinded by a stray reflection off a spangle on Jeff's Nudie suit, perhaps it was still a residual high from Friday's acquisition road trip, but the night was transforming. From Misunderstood through an unexpected encore played after the house lights had already come back up, Wilco just plain rocked. No matter that the band's home base is Chicago, St. Louis fans will always claim Tweedy as their own, so every show has that homecoming audience vibe. The crowd sang and shouted along, the older the song, the more hearty the participation. Oddly, for once I did not come out of the show saying how they didn't play this or I wish they'd played that. Not that every song I wanted to hear was covered, not even close; it just did not occur to me. I was so....... satisfied. That doesn't happen very often, I'm usually just too jaded for joy. It's nice to be a happy girl.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The days are just packed

Road trip! While I detest city traffic, a road trip is another story. Some of the best times I've had have been in a vehicle between here and there, seemingly out in the middle of no where. Discovering new places, enjoying the countryside, singing with the radio, talking about nothing. The day dawned sunny and warm, the breeze was cool, the coffee hot, the Loft was playing Jackson Browne, what could be better? Off we went.

About four hours away sat the guitar I had to have. We had some time to spare. A snack here, an outdoor flea market there, the beauty of spring everywhere. And an alarming number of roadkill armadillos. We didn't used to have armadillos in this part of Missouri, but they've been migrating. Don't know how they found their way, seems they're too stupid to even get out of the way of cars. But besides all the 'possum on the half shell, there were hawks and meadowlarks, indigo buntings and owls, turkey and escaped guinea hens, all kinds of wildlife to see.

Then there was Caveman BBQ. In Richland, Mo a cave was converted into a restaurant. Very weird, very kitch, pretty amazing. The owner drives you up from the parking area through the woods, past now-defunct, old time resort cabins and up to the restaurant in a cave in a bluff over the Gasconade River. The people were nice, the food was good, but the experience was the thing. The view of the river and valley from the balcony was stunning as was the railing made of wagon and mill wheels, gears and wrenches. The owner did it all himself, a labor of love. Advancing in age, the owner wants to sell. Wish I had a winning lottery ticket.

I used to think I'd need a winning lottery ticket to own a 40-series Martin. Then again, who knew I'd ever have a "real job"? When I bought my Sigma Anniversary, it was about as much money as I had to my name. This time I did not cut it as close to the bone, being (in theory) a responsible adult. So off across the state we road tripped, and back we came with the precious cargo. It's a beautiful D-41, open and warm with incredible sustain, beefy bass and clear ringing trebles. The previous owner called it a "she", so far be it for me to attempt luthier gender reassignment. A "she" she will remain. My first girl guitar.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Stars Align

Sometimes you just have to wait for the stars to align. For years I have lusted after the Martin of my dreams. I even wrestled with the emotion, the guilt of desire for excess. It just made me want it more. After a trip to Nashville landed me in Gruhn's, I knew it was coming on time.

The D-41 haunted me. I played D-28's. No. Tried D-35's. No. Tried other body styles like jumbos, 00, 000; no, I am definitely a dreadnought kinda gal. And the only one that would do is a 40 series. (Okay, the D-28 Marquis Madagascar was pretty darn cool, but still....) Like a woman obsessed, the shopping in earnest began. Craig's List, eBay, brick & mortar, shops all across the US with web presence, I stalked them all. The longer I looked, the more extensive the list of qualifying factors became. Maybe it was an unconsciously vain attempt to exclude myself from the market. Maybe I'm just picky. Fate intervened.

Somehow, a guitar I saw on Craig's disappeared. Then, a month later it turned up on eBay. The economy sucks, and a luxury instrument is a hard sell right now. It didn't go. This was a sign. Friday I'm driving across the state to play it. If all goes well, and I believe it will, it's coming home with me. My mid-life crisis just got a little more manageable. The stars are about to align.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mother's Day Tribute

Hills roll very gently through the middle of Illinois. As I drive through the farmland, a feeling swells inside of me, even though I'm long since gone. It was once my home. That cannot change. Cresting over the highway horizon, the prairie opens up and welcomes me, knowing the visit will be short and loving me just the same. Illinois is like my mother, and it's there that she still lives.

Mom grew up on the farm. Acres of wheat and corn to seed, tend and harvest, animals to raise and slaughter, garden to plant, weed, gather and can to put by. It was not an easy life for a girl in Illinois at the tail end of the depression or during the war, but living on the farm was a blessing. There was food, there was family, there was church. They got by. When things improved, Grandma made sure her kids were better off than she, getting them the best education available. Mom became a nurse. Not just any nurse, an RN, which back in 1956 was something special. Starched hat complete with pin, red lined navy cape, and a profession to last a lifetime.

But she never gave up on her rural roots. After marrying and getting pregnant, she and Dad bought a small Illinois farm. Not enough to crop, but room for chickens and pigs, cows and horses, and a huge garden for her to grow vegetables for putting by. Room for me to run. And so she taught me what her mother taught her. How to work the soil, how to bake and sew, how to can up tomatoes and beans, make pickles; how to read, how to pray. These are the lessons that I will never forget, things that I cannot deny any more than the fullness of my heart as I see the waving prairie stretch before me down the highway.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Happy Mother's Day, Illinois.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch

Our friends own woods. Wonderful woods. Amazing woods. It is a pocket of solitude disguised as a subdivision. If I lived there, most of my time would probably be spent down by the creek, playing songs to the coyotes and frogs. But the woods are a lot of work, and that would be my downfall. There's trails to clear, non-native invasive vegetation to control, perennials to plant in the verge between lawn and wood, vandalism to clean up; it's a never ending labor of love that I could only aspire to. Lucky, they are happy to share their little slice of paradise with us from time to time. We were lucky enough to catch the paw-paws in all their glory of full flower. Hundreds..... no, thousands of them. Like delicate brown bells, the blooms danced in the breeze, enticing the bees and inspiring us to dream of the sweet, custardy fruit that is still many months away.
As rare as a brown flower in nature is a green one. You just don't see wild jack-in-the-pulpit every day, let alone while strolling through your own back yard. Our woods friends can do just that. I fantasized myself Georgia O'Keeffe, studying the fascinating flowers in the dappled, golden light of a fading afternoon. Graceful lines swirling around and over, sheltering its hidden prize. Sturdy and yet ephemeral, surveying the surroundings, nodding in agreement that it is good. So easy to be lost in the woods, even if only in thought.

The day was over too soon. We said our good-byes as the red tailed hawk waved from his ride on the thermals. When we return there will be a host of new treasures offered up from the wood, maybe even some freshly picked fruit. Paw-paw ice cream, anyone?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

You, too, can Fumanchu

When the girl isn't busy trying to be rural, it's usually music or food that brings her out of her shell. Friday was a lucky day, it was both.

On the way to the Emily Kaitz concert at The Focal Point in Maplewood, we stumbled into the first night open of a new pan-Asian-fusion-y place called Fumanchu. I was really in the mood for "dirty Chinese" (you know, storefront fried rice of negligible origins eaten out of a greasy box while sitting someplace not quite legal), but Fumanchu's door was open so....what the hell?

It's all about the small plates, sushi, fushi (rolls made without fish) and bowls. The appetizer list is extensive, the sushi list not so much. We tried the Fumanchu sushi roll; spicy tuna, snow crab, smoked salmon & kiaware garnished with hoisin, & wasabi aioli. The spice of the tuna stood out, as did the unmistakable flavor of smoked salmon. The crab was sadly lost in the mix. Still, it was a standout munchie. As was the fushi wrap of Grilled Ginger Marinated Beef with mango cream cheese & scallions and Korean BBQ sauce. Ginger & beef always sit well together on my palate, and the fruity mellow cream cheese dually complimented those flavors. It was melt in your mouth good. Korean BBQ Pork Ribs from the appetizer list were three in number and meaty if a little dry, but the Peanut-Ginger-Lime Gremolata that they were stacked upon was the perfect Asian slaw, sweet & tangy.

Both of us being dumpling fans, we also ordered the Shumai Dumplings with pork. Opening day jitters brought us instead the Vegetarian Potstickers. That was serendipidous, as they turned out to be the better choice of the two. Not too doughy, they arrived to the table in a steamer, hot, flavorful and moist. The plum sauce was average, more than acceptable. Similarly presented, the Shumai Dumpling had a ginger-spicy pork filling, but was wrapped in a won-ton wrapper that needed more time in the steamer. It was served with Dragon Tail Sauce, which by name you'd have thought would be hot. It was satisfying, but could have been much hotter to our tastes. To make up for the error, they brought us out a complementary serving of Asian Guacamole. A fun twist on guac, using what seemed to be a pre-fab base accented with Asian herbs and spices. The fresh cilantro was welcome and the crispy won-ton chips with black sesame seeds were a nice touch, but not something I'd order again.

The endless appetizer list offered many things we would have liked to try, such as Honey Marinated Lamb Chops, Dynamite Mussels, Spicy Japanese Eggplant, Chicken Yakitori and Kobe Beef Sliders with Tempura Onion Rings. We also would have liked to try the Bowls; noodles or rice topped with beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu and a host of pick your poison ingredients and sauces, but were beginning to run out of time and still wanted to try dessert. We shared both the Ginger Creme Brulee and a Raspberry Mousse Wonton. The wonton was a bit like a sopapilla, and the raspberry mousse was as light as flavored air, not too sweet, plenty to share. The Creme Brulee was also sharing size. Its top was carmeled crisp for the fun of cracking into the creamy custard. It was very rich, even buttery, but did not have the punch of ginger that I'd expected. Still, I'd have it again.

Next time, we're going to get the Fumanchu You. "Let our chefs prepare non-menu items and favorites for you, until you can't take anymore! (Requires entire table participation) $32. per person." Oh yeah, we can eat a lot of Asian small plate stuff. Like Homer Simpson in an all you can eat do0nut shop. Scary.

Fu Man Chu seems to be a new offering from the folks that brought us BARcelona in Clayton. You'll find a full bar, tall tables, normal tables and booths in the old Grateful Grill space. Tin ceiling, old wood plank floors and that wonderful bar is still there. A lovely deck with low Asian table seating is out back and there is a host of well trained, polite wait staff eager to earn their tips. Give them a try, we're glad we did.