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The Long Goodbye

When one is getting ready to move away from the place where one has lived for over twenty years, there are usually some goodbyes that need to be said. Today’s was one of the harder ones of this particular cycle for me.

I first met songwriter and songwriting teacher Jai Josefs back around December 2002, right after I released my first album. At the time, I was just starting to learn about the wide world of songwriting *and* performing, and beginning to wonder what I’d stepped into. I got a critique of one of the songs on that first album, and while I don’t remember which song it was or what was said, let’s just say that it wasn’t a glowingly positive review. In spite of (or perhaps because of) that, I heard that Jai ran a regular songwriting group here in the Bay Area, which I promptly signed up for.

Eleven-plus years later, I attended my last Songshop today. In that time, I’ve really matured as a songwriter. I’ve learned the craft of songwriting, learned what makes contemporary songs successful in the marketplace, and learned how to craft my songs so that others can resonate with them without losing my “voice” in the process. I’ve met and worked with quite a few other songwriters who’ve been in that group, many of whom I’m still in touch with. And I’ve released four more albums, each of them notably better than the one before and all of them light years beyond that first effort of mine. I’ve still got plenty of room to grow…but I’ve come a long way, in large part due to my participation in this group.

And now it’s time to move on. The current cycle of classes ended today, and I won’t be here by the end of the next cycle. And while I’ll still be in touch with some of these people, and while I’ll still be able to work with Jai (and possibly attend future classes) via Skype…it’s still the end of an era for me, and one of the harder goodbyes of this current crop.

But that’s what I signed up for when I told myself I wanted to follow this dream, this purpose. And part of the lesson of this cycle is learning how to both stand more on my own feet and to network more intelligently with more people, as I move into the next stage of my life.

Jai, thanks for everything. It’s been a long road the past eleven plus years, and I’m a much different person today than I was when I first bounded into your group way back when. I think the changes have been all to the good, and you and the people in that group have played a part in that, over the years.

Goodbye and hello again, as always.

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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Springtime Songs

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Bay Area. So I decided to spend some time inside recording “living room” quality demos of a couple of songs I’ve written in the last little while. A couple of them came out well enough to share.

You may notice that I’ve been experimenting with some contemporary musical styles. I think it’s important to keep adapting to what the rest of the world is listening to, as long as I can still express what I’m trying to say. And in some ways, contemporary Americana/folk is starting to circle back around to and incorporate musical motifs that I was playing with a while ago, while still taking them forward.

Wonderland

I’m always looking for new ways to describe my way of choosing to enjoy the best parts of what’s around me, creating that “Paradise state of mind” that I like to sing about and surround myself with. I’m not the first person to tag that type of world and life “Wonderland,” and I probably won’t be the last. But I think that “living life in Wonderland” is a good description of how I try to approach each day from a sense of wonder.

I couldn’t do a song with that title justice if I didn’t pay at least some tribute to Lewis Carroll. So I did. Hope you like it:

Wonderland – Loren Davidson (living room demo)

Apple Pie

I’ve experienced both of the extremes I describe in this song – the ups *and* the downs. And there have been times when someone’s loving attention really has made a difference in dragging me out of the downs. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say here. As for *how* I say it…I think I’ve managed to tap into some of the spirit of what some contemporary bands and artists are doing musically. Let me know how it tastes.

Apple Pie – Loren Davidson – (living room demo)

Cheers,

Loren

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I Only Have Ice For You

Image of ice spheres including mold and drink usage

Ice spheres for your drink

A friend of mine, bartender Lauren at Forbidden Island, just posted a link to this article on the history of ice harvesting and ice-making in the US. It makes for very interesting reading.

I particularly like the way they describe those crescent-shaped icemaker cubes as “shitty hotel ice,” and then talk about how the search for a better ice cube, that won’t water down your drink.

Apparently the larger the cube the better, and the *good* machines will keep the water in motion, so that air bubbles don’t get trapped in the ice, clouding it.

Interesting Ice Cubes

Technology these days gives us the capacity to make ice “cubes” in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For example:

What’s your favorite ice shape?

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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Drinks Inspired by Variations on a Song

Today’s tasty concoction was inspired by me riffing off an old 60′s song, “Wild Thing,” by the Trogs. My creative brain kicked in and came out with:

“Wine thing…you make my head ring…you make everything boozy (or blurry)…”

So I decided to come up with a drink called “Wine Thing.” I figured it had to be deceptively strong, with enough sweetness to increase the odds of a hangover, should one drink too many of them. Here’s what I came up with:

Wine Thing

Into a 12 ounce glass, combine:

  • 1.5 oz white wine – I used Chardonnay; you can try something stronger and sweeter
  • 1.5 oz brandy (for fortification – I may try vodka and report back)
  • .5 oz raspberry syrup – sweetness, masks the alcohol flavor
  • 3 oz lemon-lime soda, like 7-up

Add ice. Consume with care.

As an alternate, I may try it with Cruzan Raspberry Rum instead of the brandy and/or the raspberry syrup. I’ll let you know how that works out for me. :)

 

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.

Giving Thanks – 2013 Edition

Yep. It’s that time of year again. Though I like to think I’m pretty good at giving thanks on a daily basis, for the blessings in my world. So this is perhaps as much of a recap for me as an annual meditation, but I thought I’d share it anyway…and go a bit deeper.

I’m going to be a bit politically incorrect and give thanks for having been born when and where I was, into the family I was born in. Yes, we were Jewish, which had some stigmas attached. But we were in the United States, in good communities, my dad was a veteran and able to take advantage of the GI bill after World War II, and he worked our way into the upper middle class. A whole lot of people in this world start with far, far less, and while I don’t intend to feel guilty for that…I do appreciate that a lot of where I am in the world was made possible in part by where I started.

I’m thankful that we had access to absolutely amazing, state-of-the-art healthcare, when I was very young and afflicted with something that could have left me in need of care my entire life, and that I was able to go to a couple of schools that gave me the space to be more than a square peg in a round hole, which could very well have left me labeled a “troublemaker” and undesirable.

I’m thankful that I had parents who, despite their flaws and issues, were both there to raise us with love. Yes, I’m still sorting through some of my childhood issues…but I could have had it *way* worse.

I’m thankful for my brother. We’re not particularly close, but he’s still *there*. I’m thankful to still be somewhat connected with some of my other blood relatives.

I’m thankful for the friends, the lovers, and the adversaries I have and I’ve had over the years, and for the “family” I’ve accumulated with whom I share no blood. I’m thankful for the teachers I’ve had, officially and otherwise.

I’m thankful for each step I’ve taken on my songline, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without each and every one of those steps.

I’m thankful for all of the places I’ve visited, from Cologne to Key West to California. Thankful for having had the opportunity to learn to think in another language, and the perspective that brought me. I’m thankful for the many wonderful people I’ve met in my travels, and for those who’ve become my friends.

I’m thankful for a bit of musical talent and a connection to my Muse and to the greater Muse of which she’s a part, and thankful that my halting efforts to manifest that Muse have found favor with some of you. I’m thankful to those who’ve helped me on my musical journey, some by offering support and others by offering criticism. And those who’ve offered both. In the long run, it all helps.

I’m thankful for a warm house, a comfortable bed, food on my table, and the means to continue to have these things.

And I’m thankful to the Universe, in His/Her many faces and guises, for helping me shape my luck a bit now and then. :)

This is the greatest life I’ve ever known.

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.

Turn it Down; Turn it Up

On the subject of manifesting Paradise in everyday life:

(to the tune of “Island Standard Time“) – you can click and play this while reading.

I made a change in my life about a month ago that is shifting more things in my world than even I had originally imagined. And this one change has me thinking today about how I – we, actually – can change our world by changing what we input *into* that world.

In short, turn down the negative; turn up the positive.

In my Secret Identity as a mild-mannered tech writer, my previous office was in San Jose, which was about an hour’s commute each way. Last year, my job function and responsibilities shifted significantly, to where I no longer had to work in a particular office to be near a particular product team. Since I work for a big company with multiple offices here in the Bay Area, I asked to be moved to an office in Pleasanton, about a third as far away mile- and time-wise. That move finally happened in late August.

I’d anticipated some of the improvements – an extra hour’s worth of productive time every day, less money spent on gas and tolls. What I *didn’t* expect was how much less stress I would have as a result of this one change. A lot of things that used to cause my gut to clench…don’t now.

Part of that is just not stressing the commute, or anticipating stressing the commute, which was *also* stressful. But now that I have a shorter commute that isn’t as variable due to traffic, I don’t listen to news radio anymore on my way to work, or if I do, I just turn it on for what I want to hear and then turn it off. This has reduced the amount of stressful input into my cognitive world by quite a bit. I still have my Internet news…but I can choose what to read and to not read that way, rather than taking whatever gets shoved down the pipeline at me.

Net result: I’ve turned the volume on my stress *way* down, by turning the volume down on several causes of stress.

Meanwhile, I’ve got that extra hour and a bit on each of the three days I used to commute to San Jose. What am I doing with that?

Part of that time is going toward being more productive in my Day Job. This gives me a sense of getting stuff done rather than chasing my tail, which reduces stress and increases positive feelings about *me*.

And part of it…when I get home, I am making more of a practice of just sitting out on the front porch with my drink after I get home, rather than just plugging myself into the Internet. And *that* is radically turning up the pleasure and relaxation quotient in my life.

When I’m feeling more confident and more relaxed, I’m also more likely to pick up the guitar, rehearse something, or work on writing something. When I *do* get online, I’m less likely to be dragged down by someone’s angry rants, and more likely to respond with humor, empathy, an attempt to turn someone else’s stress down and their relaxation and joy up. Which doesn’t always work, but is always worth trying.

Turning down the stress and turning up the joy. It’s a very simple equation. The important things usually are.

It’s easy to resist doing even the little things. Habit is a powerful master. But “if you can’t change your mind, do you still have one?” Try something small, like not reading something you know is gonna piss you off.

And a new saying, that I’ve just invented, borrowing from others: Minds are like diapers. Every now and then they need changing, and generally for the same reason.