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Loren’s Travels

Cleaning the Beach

Sand...and water

Sand…and water

I spent this morning helping pick up trash along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Except they don’t call it “picking up trash” anymore; they call it “habitat restoration.” Maybe it helped them get a grant; I don’t know. All I know is that it’s an occasion for me to combine two of my favorite pastimes, walking along a beach and helping out the Earth.

It’s kind of ironic that we spend 364 days a year messing up the place and one day a year cleaning up after ourselves. Whatever happened to always leaving a place cleaner than we found it? We are so disconnected from the Circle of Life…

One of the other things I get to do while out walking the beach is let my mind wander and play in the surroundings. Ocean Beach is a fairly large expanse of sand – acres and acres, most of it above the high tide line. It’s got dunes, older, established ones and newer ones just beginning to emerge from beneath people’s footprints. And out amidst all that sand, my mind starts to wander to places from fiction, like Arrakis and Tattooine. Which leads to some very strange thoughts:

“The Jundland wastes are not to be traveled lightly…”

“Wow…someone wearing the same shoes as me must have come through here already today. Looks like they carved their name into the same type of tree as me. Wait – they have the same name I do! What are the odds of that?”

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In addition to the various stairways down to the sand, there’s one ramp. It doesn’t look like the park vehicles have been using it, and I have to wonder if it was put in just so folks in wheelchairs could make it down to the sand, where their wheels would get stuck and they could be sacrificed to Shai-Hulud.

(Meanwhile, another part of my brain envisions wheelchairs with big balloon tires that float on the sand, sort of like dune buggies for the mobility-challenged.)

I picked up about a bucket’s worth of old bags, wrappers, bottle caps, and a whole lot of cigarette butts. I don’t know what they make cigarette filters out of, but it’ll outlast the cockroaches.

It was an interesting juxtaposition of opposites: sand and water, sun/sky and clouds, beach and cold weather – it barely cracked 60 there, and it’s not even summertime yet. (Mark Twain was definitely right, assuming he ever did actually say that.)

I didn’t just do this alone; I was in the company of some of the folks from the Latitude 38 Parrothead Club. After a couple of hours of reducing the amount of human detritus out in the sand, we settled in for a fine lunch and conversation, “partying with a purpose.”

Here are a couple more pictures from my day. Enjoy!

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And one picture from downstairs at the Beach Chalet, showing a Krakenesque stairway ornament I liked:

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What did you do this weekend?

Cheers,

Loren

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On the Road, One More Time…

Hi!

I just got back a few days ago from an amazing week in Florida. The trip combined beaches, good music, fun with friends, and new and exciting possibilities in an extremely good mix.

Picture of the Sauce Boss

The Sauce Boss, mixing blues and gumbo

The main attraction was a trop rock event called Music on the Bay (MOTB). No, I wasn’t playing at it, but that didn’t make it any less fun. I got to enjoy music by some of the best of my fellow trop rockers, including Sunny Jim White, the Trop Rock Junkies, Jimmy Parrish, Jack Mosley, Michael J Weiss, and the Sauce Boss, some of whom I hadn’t seen play before. If you weren’t there, you could have heard most of it broadcast live on Songwriter’s Island Radio – well worth checking out anyway! (They play my stuff too.)

Picture of the beach at Whiskey Joe's

The Beach at Whiskey Joe’s

The event was held at an amazingly beautiful place called Whiskey Joe’s, on the shores of Tampa Bay, site of the previous two MOTB’s, and of a memorable show of my own last year. They put up a new, bigger stage this year at the other end of the beach from the regular tiki stage. The main acts were at the new stage; they had songwriters playing shorter sets at the original stage. It was a good idea that worked very well for the bigger acts and the folks who watched them, not so well for the songwriters and the vendors who’d set up by the smaller stage. It was their first time doing this, and I guess they’ll make adjustments for next year.

They’ve got about ten palapa tables scattered around the beach near the tiki bar, which were auctioned off for charity. I got to park myself at one of those for the weekend by pitching in with a friend. Having that “home base” was very helpful to me, since I’d flown in from out of town and had none of the usual beach accessories with me. (I could have borrowed from friends, with some advance planning.) Thanks to my friend Diane Rutledge for sharing her space and company with me. Diane is a friend, a lover and supporter of this music we all do, and masterful behind the wheel of her Mustang.

Picture of back yard and Gulf view

Yes, you *can* see the Gulf from here!

Picture of the back gate to the beach

Gateway to the beach!

To save money, I stayed about an hour away, at the home of a couple of friends (Pablo & Diana) in Holmes Beach. To local lovers of trop rock music, it’s also known as the Sandbox, where I’ve also had the joy and honor of playing, a time or two. Tucked away half a block from the Gulf on Anna Maria Island, it’s a delightful oasis complete with pool, stage, beach chairs, dogs, and cats. When we weren’t up in Tampa, we all had a delightful and comfortable time. And you won’t find two nicer or more kindly and giving people than Pablo and Diana.

My view every morning

My view every morning

Walking the beach...

Walking the beach…

...I found some interesting shells and such!

…I found some interesting shells and such!

The best part of staying down there was that I could (and did) walk the beach every morning before heading up to Tampa. While I sing and write songs about beach life, I don’t get to live it half as often as I’d like. And there’s something about the sound of the surf that just releases all of my tension and calms my soul.

If more people started their day with a walk on the beach, I think this would be a much nicer world to walk around in.

The wildlife there was pretty active. I saw a couple of rays pop up out of the water, and dolphins swimming out beyond the surf break. I also saw pelicans aplenty, parrots, and even an osprey or two.

Picture of the beach near sunset

Sunset at the Beach

Picture of sunset

Watching the sun go down.

Best of all were the sunsets. I caught several of them up at Whiskey Joe’s, but also managed to watch one down on the island. Even without supporting clouds, it was spectacular.

In my “Copious Free Time,” as Tom Lehrer would say, I did some exploring, down through Sarasota to Englewood, including stops at a couple of beach bars, and wrote a silly new pirate song. Because I *could*. And I grew my knowledge of what’s what and where in that part of the world. I even found the local Trader Joe’s!

It was an amazing trip, during which I spent time with some equally amazing and wonderful people, whom I am truly privileged to have as friends. Thanks to each of my friends who enriched my week in some way, small or large – Diane, James, Victor, Gary, Cathy, Heather, Sue, Bryan, Effie, Michael, Millie, Koz, Terry, Batman & Jill, Rho, Gabrielle, and the rest of the waitstaff at Whiskey Joe’s, LaDonna, and of course Pablo & Diana! And to the many others whose names may be slipping my mind right now, but who are no less important to how beautifully it all turned out.

Part of what helped make it so much fun was that I treated it as an adventure, even the occasional setbacks and snafus. It’s magical, the way that my choices in the moment can help me either enjoy another beautiful day in Paradise or plunge me back into the world of traffic jams, inconsiderate people, and disturbing headlines. Yes, I still have to deal with the day-to-day world…but if I’m “in Paradise” in my head, it goes a lot more easily and I have a lot more fun at it. And sometimes, keeping my smile and “Paradise state of mind” when some narrow-visioned SOB is trying to piss me off is the sweetest kind of victory.

I won’t get back to Florida until May, but I’ve got pictures and memories to help me keep that “island state of mind” back here in the Bay Area. Not that I have a whole lot of trouble doing that most days, as we’ve got some pretty darned amazing scenery and people here too.

Picture of sunset by the Bay

Sunset by the Bay – beautiful sunsets are everywhere!

Cheers, and thanks for listening!

Loren

———

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Looking Back; Looking Ahead

Did you know that the month of January was named after the Roman god Janus? This guy had a second face on the back of his head, so he could look forward and backward at the same time.

Which is pretty much what I tend to do every year around this time, as Janus’ month approaches. And oh, what a wealth of memories lies in my past this year!

I started the year fresh off the release of my fifth album, “Of All the Rum Joints.”  Adding the songs on this album to my catalog and repertoire gave me even more depth and flexibility for playing entertaining shows.

And play I did. In 2013, I made about 40 appearances, playing house concerts, bars, yacht clubs, and Parrothead gatherings from coast to coast. I played shows in California, Minnesota, Iowa, and Florida. I played where the Atlantic Ocean blends with the Gulf of Mexico, on an island in the San Francisco Bay, and on the shores of Tampa Bay and the Peace River. Along the way, I spent time by the waters of Lake Minnetonka and the San Juan de Fuca Strait, and took ferry rides at opposite corners of the continental US. Everyplace I went, I made new friends and “evangelists” for my music and performances.

I used to joke that I’d play “weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals.” This past year, I played for a wedding anniversary and played in front of a funeral parlor. Two out of three ain’t bad. :)

I also wrote about a dozen songs, several of which will be released in 2014 and more of which you’ll get to hear at shows here and there. I think the songs being released next year are among the best I’ve ever written, and I hope you’ll agree.

In my personal life, which kind of mixes itself up with my music life, I made a decision that took me most of the year to work out: I decided it’s time to relocate. Last November, the Universe started sending me messages that I should consider moving to Florida, and after hemming and hawing and thinking about it and doing research for most of this year, a couple of months ago I made the decision to move. Not to Key West; I’d love to live in the Keys, but can’t really afford it. And affordability is part of what’s driving this move. But to southwest Florida, within easy driving distance of the Gulf and within a day’s drive of Key West.

I’ve still got some planning and prep work to do before I can pick up everything I own, cram it into something transportable (I’m leaning toward PODS), and take it and myself across country for only the second time. And I have to wait for a few things to happen, one of them definitely calendar-based, that will make it financially feasible. But by next November, I expect to be in a new home in a new place.

It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s sad, in a way – I’ll miss this place, and all my friends here.

Hopefully Janus, who presides over new beginnings and transitions, will help me out.

Getting to the Keys

In just a couple of weeks, it will have been ten years since my first trip to Key West. I will, of course, be celebrating that tenth anniversary by spending even more time in the Keys than I ever have on a single trip.

(You can listen to my song, “Living Key West,” while reading this. Just click the link.)

Southernmost - beautiful beach!

Southernmost – beautiful beach!

As part of my preparations this year, I’m rereading the book that probably did the most, after years of Buffett music, to get my fundament out of its comfortable rut here in the Bay Area and on a plane to south Florida. The book is titled Callahan’s Key, by Spider Robinson, a somewhat wacky romp by a loose “tribe” of individuals, formerly the clientele of Callahan’s Place, formerly the clientele of Mary’s Place, sick and tired of Long Island, who caravan to Key West to open up a bar and get telepathic in the hopes of saving the Universe. The back cover calls it an “improbable tale of impending doom, a road trip, space, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.”

Oh, and they all tell puns.

I’m not making any of this up.

As a writer, Spider has been influenced by the likes of Robert A Heinlein and John D. MacDonald, among many others. His descriptions and characters draw you in and keep you reading, even when you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. This book introduced me to the Keys, to Key West, and to some of the fascinating places there – Schooner Wharf, Mallory Square, and more. And motivated me to go *see* these places for myself.

So I did. :)

And over the years, I’ve collected my own share of pictures and stories about being in the Keys.

Picture of sunset at Mallory Square

Sunset at Mallory Square

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

Reef them sails before we capsize!

Even the cloudy days are beautiful.

Ten years of memories…and more to be made! :)

So this year I’m arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on 10/26. Yes, I’ll miss Fantasy Fest again. So it goes. Instead of racing to get to Key West like I have the past few years – needed to make the trip quickly in order to make gigs – I’m taking my time. I’ll spend two days traveling the 160 or so miles from FLL to Mile Zero, checking out places I’ve never been before, taking pictures, making memories. I’m hoping that Eric Stone will have his new bar, Dockside, open by the time I get there on the 27th; if not, I can always hang out at the Sunset Grill. Or both – I’ll have the time. :)

My “big gig” of the week is Monday night in Key West at the Rum Barrel. It’s my second year there, which is another first for me. I’ve got a four-hour set starting at 7, I’ll have Allen “Frankendread” Holland playing steel pan with me, and I know that a few of my musical friends will be stopping by to play a few.

I’ve got a show at Green World Gallery on Thursday at 2:30, will be in Key West Chris‘ showcase at Durty Harry’s sometime after that, and will otherwise be roaming the island with my guitar, hopefully playing a few songs here and there.

As well as getting off the beaten track every now and then to recharge and maybe write something new.

I bid farewell to Key West on Monday the 4th, and fly home on Tuesday the 5th.

There and back again, ten years after my first trip.

Should be fun.

Prohibition and Arizona Rum

I had the privilege of spending the evening at one of my favorite local watering holes, Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. They had a double-bill special program tonight, with a history talk and a rum tasting. Both turned out to be extremely interesting, and I’m glad I was there.

The talk was given by Richard Foss, author of Rum: A Global History. I’ve encountered Rich here and there over the years through some of the circles we share. His talk was “How Prohibition Changed America.” I can’t begin to remember everything involved, but here are some high points:

  • Before Prohibition, drinking was a much more integrated part of American life. There were hundreds of local breweries and distilleries, and various alcoholic beverages were marketed as healthy. Not only that, but alcohol was the basis for many of the “herbal compounds” of the early 20th Century, from Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound on down the line.
  • Prohibition was pushed as anti-immigrant (Irishmen and Germans drank; Irishmen and Germans were the Mexicans and Muslims of the early 20th Century), primarily by the then-Republican party, and much more by women than men. Drinking at bars became a predominently male occupation, and led to men not enjoying a leisurely dinner at home, because their wives were the ones pushing abstinence. (“Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine!”)
  • Many towns had two newspapers: One pro-prohibition, one anti. Apparently they seemed to report two entirely different views of reality.
  • Beer and wine distributors supported the Volstead Act (which enacted Prohibition nationwide), thinking that it was only about distilled spirits. They were very surprised to discover that they were included.
  • Americans got very creative about finding ways around Prohibition. Italian restaurants would give away wine with dinner, which helped Italian cuisine become popular.
  • The way Utah ended up voting to repeal Prohibition apparently was sold by saying, “This will be adding tax to liquor. But since we good Mormons don’t drink, we won’t have to pay that tax, though we’ll get the benefits from it.”

And there was much, much more – this is just a rapid and random brain dump. It was enlightening, how many elements of our current culture and how people try to enact social change have been around for at least a hundred years.

And then there was the rum.

There’s a new “micro-distillery” in Kingman AZ called Desert Diamond Distillery, makers of Gold Miner Rum. They’ve been open about five years, serving four rums and a vodka. I got to taste them all.

The vodka and white rum are decent examples of their respective categories. The white rum has its own set of flavors and aftertastes, very unlike something like Bacardi. I happen to think this is a good thing for their white rum. :)

They have three dark rums. I can’t recall which of them tastes like bourbon and which is just a very good dark rum, but the agave rum has somewhat of a sweeter flavor, and they call it a “dessert rum.” Definitely smooth on the palate.

“Joe-Bob says check ‘em out.” :)

All Aboard the Key West Express!

During my recent tour to southwest Florida, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to sneak away to one of my favorite islands for a day.

It’s a good long drive – 6-8 hours – each way from the Ft. Myers area to Key West. The Key West Express ferry service gets you there in about three and a half hours. If you’re prone to motion sickness, Dramamine isn’t a bad idea, especially if it’s a very windy day. But on our trip, the motion wasn’t bad – comparable to the average plane flight.

Picture of the Key West Express

The Key West Express

It costs about $150 for a round-trip, less if you buy tickets ahead of time. I got the best rate buying more than eight days in advance. You can either go back the same day, or stay in Key West for a while and go back when you’re ready.

There are several types of seating. On the main and second decks, there’s a mix of tables along the windows and “airplane”-type seats in the middle of the cabin. It looks like you can fit a lot of people on this boat!

Picture of the inside main cabin on the Key West Express

Inside the main cabin

There’s also a top deck, open to the wind. Once the boat gets up to speed, this can actually feel chilly, even in 80+ degree temperatures.

Picture of the top deck on the Key West Express

From the top deck – departing Key West

Once the boat gets under way, after the obligatory safety talk – where to find life vests and rafts in the “unlikely event of an emergency” – there’s a cute tourist video describing some of the wonderful attractions of Key West, most of which have probably paid for product placement. That didn’t bother me; I was on my way to Key West. But it’s worth noting that at least one hotel in town and the Conch Train have special deals for Express passengers.

For the rest of the trip, they’ve got movies playing. This trip, the focus seemed to be on science fiction and comedy; I’m guessing that other trips might have other movies. Or you can read, play games on your phone, or just watch the water slide rapidly by.

Speaking of your phone, there’s no Internet access and spotty phone coverage on the trip. Once you’re mostly out of sight of land, it’s two bars of signal at best and no 3G or 4G coverage. That’s on Verizon; other carriers might have better coverage. Truth to tell, I managed just fine for several hours without Internet or phone service.

You can also buy food – breakfast-type stuff on the way down, hot dogs, burgers, chicken strips and such on the way back. You can get various beverages, and they have a bar. Which I did spend a bit of time at, for research purposes of course.

We were coming into Key West at about the same time as a cruise ship, and I discovered something I’d never really noticed before – cruise ships are taller than the entire island!

Picture of Key West from a distance.

Key West on the horizon! Note the slightly higher bulge of the cruise ship at the right.

Once you arrive on the island, there’s a service willing to store your bags until it’s time to check into your hotel, motel, or B&B, cabs willing to take you wherever you want to go, and other people willing to help you get where you’re going and find what you want, for a fee. And it’s not a huge island; you can easily get wherever you need to go without a car.

Something you should keep in mind: It’s important to show up early, to make sure you get on board before departure. The earliest passengers also tend to get the table seats by the windows. The KWE Website has all of the necessary info on boarding times both ways – read it. In general, you’ll want to show up about an hour before the posted departure times.

I love driving down the Keys. Most trips, that’s how I get to Key West. And I’ll keep doing that when I can. But it’s nice to know there’s another worthwhile option for getting into town.

Loren’s rating: Five rum drinks (on a scale of zero to five).

One Night in a Roadside Bar…

Tonight’s commute sucked rancid, hairy swamp water. A commute that would normally take me an hour or so, and by 50 minutes in, I was maybe 2/3 of the way home.

At times like this, I do what any sane individual would do: I get off the freeway, find a place that serves booze and food, and hang out until the traffic eases up a bit. It’s usually a much better way to spend my time.

Tonight, I washed up on the shores of the Applebee’s in Fremont, right off 880 at Mowry. I think I’ve been there before, but it’s been a while. I bellied up to the bar, ordered myself a rum ‘n diet, and checked out their happy hour food menu.

One of the first things I noticed was that a fair number of the bar patrons seemed to know each other and the bartenders. While this isn’t necessarily something I’d expect from a chain restaurant, I adjust fairly easily. So I paid attention to the various conversations, and managed to contribute the following:

  • A lady next to me was on her way home from the hospital, where she’d left her husband for a knee replacement surgery. It sounds like he’s likely to turn out well, as this isn’t his first rodeo there, and we talked a bit about local stuff (I lived in Fremont for about five years) and the area in the Sierra foothills where she actually lives, where I got to spend some time about 15 years ago.
  • I met a very young (about a year old) and well-behaved man named Joaquin, who was supervising his dad while dad got himself something to drink.
  • A nice couple about four seats down apparently get there regularly, and were enjoying their evening.
  • A gentleman between them and me was away from his wings and beer more than he was enjoying them, because he apparently had to keep taking phone calls. I got a smile from him when I suggested he might suffer a “battery failure” until he got to finish his food. And his beer.

And so, half an hour or so later, after enjoying the company of a half-dozen total strangers, I was on my way again. Traffic had thinned out, and I got home in a reasonable amount of time.

Adventure and fun are where you find them.

Hunting the Sunset

Tonight I fed my soul.

I can’t speak for anybody else, really, but I know that my soul tends to need feeding on a regular basis. There’s a lot of stressors structured into the society I live in that suck out soul-stuff on a daily basis; if I don’t renew that, I get cranky, and start to forget the important stuff, like sunsets and loving myself enough to take time to enjoy them.

There’s somewhat of a universal appeal to a sunset, it seems. Tonight, for example, I went to what I think is part of Marina Park in San Leandro, about fifteen minutes from where I live. There’s a peninsula separating the marina from the Bay, with a fair bit of parking along the breakwater. It’s an easy destination for me, and for others.

Tonight, I heard at least two languages other than English out there, and saw folks from a number of different social, economic, and ethnic “communities” here. I saw people in tattered denim; I saw one foursome in formal wear. Each and every one of them went out of their way to come down by the water’s edge to watch the sun go down over the Peninsula.

In Key West, they’ve made sunset a celebration. They have jugglers, musicians, one guy who’s trained his cats to jump through hoops, dancers, and the occasional fire eater. And when the last edge of the sun disappears below the horizon, or below Tank Island (Sunset Key)…people applaud and cheer.

I was the only person who applauded tonight at San Leandro Marina, but that’s cool.

Just being by the water calms me. It was near low tide tonight, so the water was *way* out. The wind was almost calm; the water was almost glass-like. I also like the sound of waves slapping against the shore, but that wasn’t part of tonight’s symphony.

Picture of approaching sunset

Sunset Coming Soon

Advice for the Would-Be Sunset Hunter

I highly recommend showing up early. There are plenty of resources online and smart phone apps that will tell you what time sunset occurs where you are; look this stuff up ahead of time. If you plan to show up a half hour before actual sunset, this is enough time for you to really “arrive,” to let go of any stress you might have had about getting there in time, and if you take pictures or want to set up a folding chair, to figure out where you want to be and get settled there.

Another sunset picture

Low tide at San Leandro Marina – taken while waiting for sunset

Some clouds are good. Clouds are the stuff that the reddening light of the setting sun will color. A few strategically-placed clouds will turn an “ordinary” sunset into a spectacular one. If there are no clouds, you’ll still see a great sunset, but the truly photogenic ones have some high clouds in them.

I use my iPhone to take pictures. I have friends who use fancy cameras. They get better pictures. I get pictures that are still pretty spectacular. Use what you have. If you have a smartphone, try using the HDR setting on your cam software, or download an HDR app. This will take two pictures at different exposures and combine them. This can compensate for the sun’s glare, at least until the sun has gone down, and brings back other details in your pictures. Sometimes you get weird “ghosting” effects in an HDR picture, but if you’re digital, you can always delete it. :)

Roughly the same as the first sunset picture, with HDR

Up until the sun starts to cross the horizon, all the interesting stuff to look at and photograph is what’s around you – if you’re by the water, maybe the birds or boats are doing something interesting. I got a picture or two of a blimp tonight, which was in the air as a camera platform for the 49ers game at Candlestick. I could see the lights at the ‘Stick from my vantage point.

Contrails make a nice composition touch

Don’t look directly at the sun! You’ll go blind. Look off to one side or the other, or through the viewfinder of your camera/phone.

I take a bunch of pictures while the sun is crossing the horizon, trying to capture the exact moment of sunset. If I’m someplace like Key West, where I can see the sun crossing into the sea, I’m still hoping to see and get a picture of the “green flash.” When I’m by the Bay, I can’t see that of course – the sun disappears over the hills, and isn’t low enough to give me that view. But as I’ve written elsewhere…the sunset is still worthwhile. :)

Once the sun has set…wait. Keep watching. This is when the sky starts to turn interesting colors, especially if there are clouds. This stage of sunset can last another half hour or more, and is well worth sitting through. You can get a hint of what the clouds nearer the west will do by occasionally looking east – the colors will show up in the east first, and then travel across the sky with the Earth’s shadow.

Half an hour after sunset – worth waiting for!

If you’re taking pictures, rotate the camera from time to time – take some shots “portrait” and some “landscape.” You never know what’ll look great later.

After the red part of sunset starts to fade, you’re probably done taking pictures. Kick back and watch the sky for as long as you like before heading in.

I hope you enjoy many sunsets!

 

“I Came for the Waters”

As a writer, part of my job – both of my jobs – is finding the right words for things. As Samuel Clemens once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

One of the great joys in my life, these past few years, has been driving through the Florida Keys and enjoying the many colors of the water on either side of the highway.

One of the great frustrations in my life, the past few years, has been trying to describe what color(s) that water is. And the blessed stuff keeps *changing* on me, with the weather and the tides. I mean, what color is this:

Blue-green-turquoise?

Or this:

The “commute” down the Keys

Sometimes it seems as though the water almost fluoresces from its own inner light. I don’t have a good picture of that one. And most of the time, no matter what I do the pictures I take don’t look like the water I see.

Then again, occasionally someone else gets it right, such as during my “catamaran cruise” gig this past trip:

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

I got to be out on a sailboat in water that looked like that for several whole hours. I was short on sleep and therefore not entirely awake…but it was one of the best times of my life so far.

There’s something about being down by the water that I find extremely healing and renewing. I can be dead tired, short on sleep, borderline sick, frazzled, overloaded…but put me in a chair where I can watch sunlight dancing on the waves and hear the water flirting with the shore, and I relax. And I’m happy. It doesn’t seem to matter where that water is.

I’ve enjoyed the Keys water from a seat in the Key West McDonald’s:

Beauty is everywhere.

I’ve sat and watched the water several times from the deck outside the Postcard Inn, formerly known as the Holiday Isle, in Islamorada:

I’ve been calmed standing or sitting by the San Francisco Bay, whether in San Leandro near my house, or up in Emeryville:

Sunset through the Golden Gate

For that matter, it doesn’t have to be an ocean or a bay. Listening to the water in a fountain or stream calms me as well.

I don’t understand why or how this all works. I’m guessing it’s something primal, that somewhere in my genetic memory is a time when we hairless apes lived by the water and were content. Perhaps it’s an echo of the primordial ooze from which our ultimate ancestors emerged, billions of years ago. I don’t know.

I just know that I love being by the water, and try to spend time there whenever I can.

Living on Key West Time

It’s my fourth day in the Keys, and I’m taking advantage of a spare hour to jot down a few random thoughts that have been floating through my brain as a result of this time here.

First: I really like being in Key West. I’m not sure it’s at a “time to move here” level; it’s certainly at a “I really need to figure out how to spend more time here” level. How I’ll manage that is, as they say, an exercise for the advanced student. :)

Second…being here when most of my Parrothead friends aren’t is a very different energy from when they are, and I like that energy. I love hanging with my friends – just spent the morning at the Casa Marina, getting registered and catching up with various and sundry good people. But for lunch, I tried out a local fried chicken place on Flagler, partly because all the shady seats down by the Casa pool were full.

This is my tenth Meeting of the Minds (MOTM), and each one has been interesting and fun in its own way. I remember a moment back in 2005 when I thought, “Oh, am I just going to keep doing the same stuff over and over and get bored?” Well, that didn’t happen. I started trying out different places and exploring more. I still haven’t seen it all. And i keep finding new places to try, and new things to see. Because I decided I *wanted* to. And my intention created this very fun reality.

I’m also playing a fuller schedule of gigs this year, which has been way cool. I’ve been making notes on what I need to do differently next year, of course…but life is an iterative process. And I enjoy having the ability to tell people where to find me. I forgot to print up reminder cards with the schedule this time…but I trust that people will show up where they need to.

The feedback I’ve been getting on the new album has been very positive and encouraging. According to several people, it survives repeated listenings. :) And those folks who’ve made it to my shows have been having a very good time, and hopefully telling *their* friends.

And the best part is, I’m only halfway through the week. :)

On another, more serious note, I almost feel guilty having such a good time here when so many people in the Northeast are without power, and some without homes. My prayers continue to go out to those people, and I hope that life returns to normal there soon. It feels funny to be sitting in Key West watching hurricane damage in New York and New Jersey. Fortunately, most of those who were trying to get here for the week are here, and others are getting out today and tomorrow. And those of my friends I’ve talked to seem to still have homes to return to, and this is good. Then again, if things are worse for someone, odds are I won’t hear from them for a while. :(

I love my life and love my world, and I am very thankful to be in this place with so many wonderful people.