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Personal Faves

Mrs. Hemingway

I’ve long thought Mary Chapin Carpenter (my favorite singer) should write a musical. In my dreams, she’d partner with someone like a Sondheim, though he’s probably too grumpy for her style. Aside from being a superb singer, she is also a singular storyteller/truthteller and poet, as this song amply illustrates. It’s about the breakup of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage, told from his wife’s point of view, with lines that are simply divine “the glassed-in cafe that held us like hothouse flowers.” Sigh… (I’d sing her praises longer, but she’s blocked me on Twitter, so there’s that…)

Mrs. Hemingway
– Mary Chapin Carpenter

We packed up our books and our dishes
Our dreams and your worsted wool suits
We sailed on the eighth of December
Farewell old Hudson River
Here comes the sea
And love was as new and as bright and as true
When I loved you and you loved me

Two steamer trunks in the carriage
Safe arrival we cabled back home
It was just a few days before Christmas
We filled our stockings with wishes
And walked for hours
Arm and arm through the rain, to the glassed-in cafe
That held us like hot house flowers

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, cathedrals and cloisters
And time with its unerring aim
For now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine

Love is the greatest deceiver
It hollows you out like a drum
And suddenly nothing is certain
As if all the clouds closed the curtains
And blocked the sun
And friends now are strangers in this city of dangers
As cold and as cruel as they come

Sometimes I look at old pictures
And smile at how happy we were
How easy it was to be hungry
It wasn’t for fame or for money
It was for love
Now my copper hair’s grey as the stone on the quay
In the city where magic was

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, and Notre Dame’s cloisters
And time with its unerring aim
And now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine
And now I can say I was lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine


And Now, the Very Lovely and Talented–

Sometimes, in life, you meet someone and  just know there is something special about them.

At the time I first met Angela Carole Brown, some 20 years ago, she had this really cute bob, and her sparkle and throaty laugh were immediately intoxicating.  She was working as a waitress, picking up a paycheck like the rest of us, and I would soon be her co-worker.  What I didn’t know at the time, though, was how extremely talented and diverse she is.

In those days, everyone I knew was working some entertainment angle, so when I heard that Angie would be singing at a club, I wasn’t altogether surprised.  It was L.A., after all.  But as we were sat and she was ushered to the stage, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

She had full command of the audience, and her song selection was impeccable.  Her voice can be both full-bodied and strong, then turn on a dime, becoming incredibly intimate.

While she made her mark singing standards and jazz in L.A. clubs, she also fronts Orchestre Surréal, is an accomplished artist, and published novelist.  There isn’t much she can’t do, and my hope for her is that she find an even wider platform for her art. (more…)


I Have a Need for Solitude

I’ve been in an odd mood lately.

Aside from the time spent with our family, which I love, I’m finding it hard to be positive or upbeat these days, which is just not like me.  I tend to let things roll right off my back, but am finding this funk hard to shake.

I notice it most when I’m alone, whether in the car, running errands, or just hanging out.  It hovers, enveloping, and at times grows so strong it makes my heart race.

Partly this feeling is caused by economics.  It’s hard to be enthusiastic about work — or anything else — when you’re getting paid a whole lot less than you’re used to and, indeed, far less than you are worth.  Especially when finances are tight, prices are skyrocketing, and you have that added pressure of trying to stretch your money to the next paycheck.

Part of this is impatience.  After 10 years spent writing my novel, I want it to be published and in people’s hand right now.  And yet with agents and publishers having 3-month turnarounds, there is nothing remotely expedient about this process.

Part of this is political.  When I voted for Obama, I voted for change — and leadership.  While I like some of what he has done, I was hoping for more.  I wanted to see him dismantle the big behemoths — education, healthcare, defense, environment — and start from scratch.  Put together blue ribbon panels and have the experts — not politicians or lobbyists — tell us how we can do things better.  We need to start again, from the ground up, and actually solve problems — no more patches. (more…)


(Un)Hidden Talents

Talent is an odd thing.  Some people long for it.  Others have it, but don’t use it.  And fewer still can match their talent with the drive and determination needed to truly succeed.  To be willing to do what ever it takes — to put their talent out there, on display, for all to see.

Think about what talents you have.  What are you good at?

Whatever it is, would you have the guts to go to your local mall, set up a stage and sound system, and begin to sing, or recite your poetry, or do your needlepoint, or stand on your head?

To take such a leap requires steely ambition, nerve, and the sheer belief that you will somehow — against all odds — triumph.

Not too long ago, we took the boys to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, which I hadn’t been to in years. In my memory, the area had been filled with the usual, forgettable street entertainers, with far too many interchangeable Peruvian bands, pedaling their nicely-fluted, generic CD’s.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find on this random foray not one, but two, terrific performers. The first, John West, has been performing on the Promenade for several years.  Just Google any variation of “amazing 3rd street singer” and you’ll find scores of home-loaded videos by tourists drawn in by his subtle grooves.

What is really amazing is that we almost missed him.  He was performing next to a loud and energetic hip-hop dance troupe, which normally would’ve held our boys interest.  But just to the side of them, a guy sat quietly with his guitar, with another guy on drum.  Despite the frenetic show in front of us, the kids pulled us away, gravitating toward him and his really smooth sound.   The songs he played were the kind of hypnotic thing you’d want to listen to after-hours, drink-in-hand.  Music you linger in… (more…)


Gratitude

Too often in life, we forget to give thanks.  While we may offer up a quick word to our party hosts on our way out the door, or send a prayer up to God, thanking the big guy for some request we’ve made that he actually delivered on, how often do we show gratitude for the simple act of existing?

Taught by her mother at an early age to write Thank You notes, Leah Dieterich does just that — for everything.  With humor and affection, she is able to give thanks for things both big and small, positive and negative, in the most unexpected and thought-provoking ways.  Whether it is in thanking the days of the week, or finding praise for a 1983 Shalamar record, Leah manages to see the good, even in the thick of bad.

On her blog thxthxthx, browse her notes and you’ll quickly discover how she reaches past herself,maintaining perspective by focusing on the bigger picture.  In a thank you note to Melancholy, for example, Leah points out that she is most productive during such states, and “always ends up making something.  You’re a better house-guest than sadness,” she notes, “because you leave gifts.”  Looking beyond her own emotions and insecurities, she allows herself to give thanks for such “negatives” as the breakup of a relationship, or her anger, or even for her period.

Quick and easy reads, the brevity of space forces her to distill her thoughts to their essence, and her take on life is well-worth sharing. 

And, to help you do just that,  200 of her notes havebeen released as a book, and having even more of Leah’s Thank You notes to read is something we can all be grateful for…

Brian Lane Green, singing John Bucchino’s “Grateful”: http://tinyurl.com/3pem6a6

 

 


Eva by Heart

My partner Russ is a huge — and I mean HUGE — Donna Summer fan.  He’s told me that, when she sings, it is as if he is hearing the voice of an angel, as if God himself is singing through her.  I feel the same way about Eva Cassidy.

I first discovered Eva about 10 years ago, while sampling CD’s at Barnes & Noble. They’d installed scanners in their music section, and I loved how you could just wander around, pick any disc at random, and immediately hear snippets of its songs. To me, there is something about the tangible act of holding something, acknowledging its artwork, weight and various attributes, which iTunes, for all its convenience, just can’t duplicate.

But there I was, on my lunch break, in the racks of B&N, hoping to make a new musical discovery, when I suddenly stumbled upon Eva.  I’d never heard of her, but as the red light scanned the plain black and white bar code, unveiling the opening strains of “I Know You by Heart”, I was entranced.  Such a soulful voice, pure and unforced, as if she were singing directly to me — it immediately struck a chord within. I listened to all I could, then put in another of her CD’s, and listened to that as well.

But, somehow, as I continued to listen, I inherently knew that she was dead.  Don’t ask me how — I just knew. (more…)


The Dreaming Fields

Growing up, we often spent summers in southern Georgia —  Waycross, to be specific.  My mom, Dottie, had grown up there, and it seemed that whenever someone got married or died, we’d return.  That is, until I was old enough to protest, and stay on my own.

During those early years, I felt incredibly connected to my southern relatives.  They had big, friendly hearts and outgoing natures, but it was hard to see the connection between them and my often-rigid mother.  Still, I felt close to them.

Every trip, we would stay at Waycross’ finest, the Holiday Inn, the lobby of which retained the faint hint of cigarette smoke, escaping through the cocktail lounge door.  Aside from the pool, the motel also featured a putting green, where we kids would play for hours.

I always noticed, though, the division that seemed to exist between black and white.  There would be African Americans by the pool, or at the lake where we often had family functions, but it was almost as if I could tell they were eying us cautiously, making sure that neither side stepped over an invisible line into inappropriate behavior.

There was something about the inhabitants of the south which I found intriguing, regardless of color.  Something about their unhurried pace and languid tongue…  The way the humidity didn’t seem to bother them at all, while I, on the other hand, almost felt as if I were suffocating. (more…)


Where to Get Great Soul Food

For me, I am all about the rich and nuanced experience. Whether it be food, wine, writing, or conversation, the richer it is, the better. Cookie-cutter, big box chains drive me crazy. I’d much rather discover some unique and offbeat place, where I can linger for hours, senses fully enveloped.

After a visit to Feeding Andrew, I find myself having experienced the best, and fully nourished. No, it’s not some cool new restaurant, although it could be one day, but — rather — it is the blog of my longtime friend Don Wilson.

Don unexpectedly became both an accidental and purposeful father, and his tale of parenting is inspirational, to say the least.  Fully worth the read, his posts revolve around his relationship with his son, Andrew, as they forge a new family and life together.  He has a great writing style, is smart and insightful, and — better yet — each post is accompanied by a wonderful recipe.  (Just look at those pop tarts!)

So whether you’re looking for true “soul” food, or merely good food, at Feeding Andrew, you’ll find both, and never walk away hungry.  Check it out and share with your friends today!