Movin' on over

In my quest for living a well-integrated life in which all ingredients are properly folded in, kneaded, and given time to rise, all future blog posts will be coming from www.EricaSmithMusic.com, which also contains my music stuff.

Hope to see you there!


One for Coyote

I am heartbroken to share the news that our dear friend Sean Dolan passed away this week. He died peacefully in his sleep at home.

Sean and I met as work colleagues and became friends. Not long after Sean moved into his office it became clear that his retiring persona belied a depth of intellect and feeling. His bulletin boards were plastered with colorful postcards, drawings, and photos that slowly spilled over onto the surrounding walls. As they say, bulletin boards are the windows to the soul: in this case, a startling bounty of tones, images, and ideas.

About a dozen years ago, Sean shared his writing with me. Epic doesn't begin to describe it: in the pages and pages of writings and drawings he made, Sean ruminated on Crazy Horse, imaginary pirates, haunted trains, winter roses, Sonny Liston, the Apocalypse, Easter Sunday, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, sainthood, and silence. He was obsessed with Scripture and Bob Dylan. The coyote was his spirit animal.

When we met I was just getting started writing songs and playing guitar in public, struggling for confidence and for words. He was so encouraging. When I asked Sean if I could adapt some of his beautiful words to music, he agreed -- and never gave me any shit when I needed to edit something to make a line scan or fit onto a commercial CD. (I'm not talking marketing here, I'm talking *fit.* Unedited, one song could easily eat up practically all the audio a CD can hold.)

I remember ruminating with him over a picture of Nina Simone. He leaned back in his office chair, tugged at the leather cords and pendants around his neck, and said, "just look at her. Just look at her face."

We went to see Emmylou Harris together, and cried. He saw an after-hours Bob Dylan show at Tramps, and gloated.

When Sean started playing guitar and singing his own songs, that was huge. He sent me recordings of what he had done. He had a beautiful singing voice, very warm. Unlike me, he didn't edit the songs down. It was like four cassette tapes and he was just getting going.

Sean loathed buffoonery. He was fascinated by his son Brian. Above his desk, he had an enormous color picture of Brian's face: a windswept little blonde boy staring straight at you. If that face didn't drive out buffoonery, I don't know what would.

Like the coyote, Sean was a trickster, showing up when you least expect and always slipping away too soon. He came to so many of our band shows but we never seemed to get enough time to talk as much as we wanted to afterward. I sense he really enjoyed hearing us play, though -- and when we played one of his songs, the guys in the band really made it sound like rolling thunder. I always felt so comforted feeling Sean's presence in the back of the room when I was singing.

Often when I asked Sean how he was doing, he would say, "forget it. I’m through. I'm going to go ride the rails."

The moment I learned of his death, a train whistle blew in the distance. Now he is riding. I'm broken but hopeful. The afterlife may be the only place that can fully realize his ecstatic, tangled visions. Travel safe.

Sean Dolan's writings live here:


Muppets and Puppets

Today, out and about:

To the organic, fair-trade coffee bar in the site of the former Joe Jr's diner, with the perfectly weathered blue barn boards and multiple compost stations bearing instructions, with tiny tables and raw wood stools that are too high for your feet to rest comfortably on the ground, and yet have no lower bar on which to perch a foot: your coffee tastes like cold-brew dirt. However, your barista (barrister?) is very handsome and your organic peaches are very juicy.

Elsewhere, in the mental sphere, it occurs to me that "The Muppets Take Manhattan" might have been more than just a movie to me, it might have been an unconscious life choice.

In the physical sphere, I note that the fine network of collagen that holds my body more or less together is showing subtle signs of breaking down. Thirty-nine and a third. Not bad.



The snow started early yesterday afternoon -- first just a few wet, scattered flakes. Then dirty slush piles started to gather on the black pavement. Then the snowflakes started to swirl, whip, and pelt crosswise in the wind. Then the wind started to scream.

The view from our window went white, then pinkblack as dusk set in. Lightning stuttered. Thunder and wind.

I curled up on the couch, writing and watching Marilyn Monroe movies, an odd John Candy drama and later, together with John, remastered old Super-8s of Wings. All of the window blinds were pulled all of the way up. Snow filled in the corners of the windows.

We stayed up late and, when we turned out the light, the bedroom lit up in pink snow-glow.

I woke up late to bright white walls and icy blue sky, the smell of coffee brewing, and Wings on the stereo in the other room.

All of the blinds were still pulled all the way up. Sun warmed the apartment: the honey-colored floors, the baby blue couch, the white blanky.

John continued with Wings on the headphones and I curled up with a novel and some coffee. No plans.

All is well.


The 2010 mix is here

Hi all:

So, at the end every year I make a music mix. Many people compile their "best of" the new releases of that year, but I tend toward capturing the songs that were in my head and in my life, and the new memories that have formed around them. Usually I keep these mixes strictly for personal use, but here -- have it and enjoy it!

[Clicking above will start a download of "2010.zip."]

I hope you enjoy these 51.2 minutes. It was a pretty terrible year, but if the music is good, it can't be all bad.


The Big Ride, Part 3

Corlears Hook Park and the ampitheater. I had to go back and take pictures since they weren't on the original roll. The park has mellowed nicely as autumn has rolled along.

Park entrance looking east from Cherry St.

Looking southeast from the park entrance

The mall as you enter

The bridge over the FDR drive lifts a little


The Big Ride, Part 2

Once you get outside with the bike, there is a decision to be made: Right or left. I usually go right, which is the opposite direction from my destination, but has its advantages.

Unlike other people, who seem to accept riding in traffic as a necessary danger, or a welcome thrill, I avoid it at all costs -- sometimes even doing the Bad Thing and riding on the sidewalk. The choice comes down to a quick equation involving how many other objects you are likely to encounter. Under the bridge there is a bike lane, but there are also cars backing out into the lane without looking (on the right of it), cars whizzing by (on the left of it), and double-parked cars and even schoolbuses (on top of it). I'd prefer not to get a rear-view mirror stuck in my ribs, so up on the curb we go. Unless a corporate softball game has just ended and there's a small mob coming back from East River Park to party at Boss Tweed's, you're unlikely to encounter more than one or two people.

There are times I've continued straight on Delancey and pedaled up and over the bridge that spans the FDR Drive. I don't like it, though. The bridge has a steep incline and then a few hairpin turns on the descent. The first day I started riding again after 25 years, embarking on this bridge was goofy indeed. I was still piddle-paddling with my feet along the pavement every so often, trying not to fall over. Once I hit that first angle on the bridge, it was hard to keep upright and keep my dignity.

So instead of hitting the bridge, I cut right onto Lewis. There is a bike lane here, but far less activity -- it's a side street. And after a few beats, I make the momentous (for me) left turn onto Grand, and then cut behind onto Henry.

This part of the neighborhood is unfamiliar to me. It's behind the supermarket, so I never need to go there. It's nice and quiet. I can hop the sidewalk without encountering anyone. And within the space of a few pedals, I'm at Corlears Hook Park, with its long, virtually empty mall and slow ascent to a run-down ampitheater. Heaven.