Why do I choose to be social media silent on September 11th?

I'll begin by saying I have no idea how this happened so fast. When we started our daily walks up our dead-end gravel road to the blacktop and the sidewalk that led us to kindergarten, it seemed like those 6 years would be an eternity. By the time the spring rolled around, I clung to each of those walks like a little kid hanging on to a teddy bear, knowing full well that we were counting down to the end of it.

I won't soon forget that last walk home on 5th grade graduation day, holding hands like we did when you were little. Or how much I appreciated that you understood then that it was a milestone - the end of a phase of life and the beginning of another. And that there was no going back...

A middle-aged guy who has a hard time throwing away things that still work ponders relationships in the social media age.

I'm one for getting the most out of the things I own. Maybe I'm just a throwback to when it was worth it to actually fix things and keep them going because they were built to last. My tour vans have all cleared 200,000 miles. It costs money to replace things for sure, but often now it is less than the cost of repair. It seems like most things are built cheaply to be replaced, and with a set expiration date to boot.

Mid-summer means three things here; peach season, our anniversary and my birthday. This year, my sweet wife threw a little porch picking party for my birthday with a few old friends. As I looked around while we played and sang and laughed to our heart's content, I realized that I've known all of them at least 20 or more years, and their kids since they were newborns...

A daily routine comes to an end and a new world of experience awaits.

So it came. The day I thought looked so far on the horizon back in August of 2012, and that I've been dreading for weeks now. Our daily walks to school, up our dead end gravel road to the blacktop and the sidewalk. We started out hand in hand in kindergarten, and we walked like that for part of our final journey after 5th grade graduation. Bookends of a phase of childhood that is now in the rearview mirror.

That walk over the years was filled with both wonder and routine...

We went to Antietam National Battlefield this weekend, not once, but twice. It was part family visit, to walk the steps of our ancestor Aretas Culver and the ill-fated Connecticut 16th. It was also the first visit for my 11-year old, and she wanted to go back and see more. Before and after our visits, it seemed a perfect place to observe Memorial Day.

Antietam marked a tectonic shift in the fate of millions of enslaved Americans. Lee's audacious invasion of the north followed three months of demoralizing losses by the Union Army...

Fun bit of performer insight - when you're singing songs from your earlier discography that you've done at most every show for the last 5 to 20 years, you don't really have to think about what you're doing, which can be a good thing when it allows you to really feel the song and be in the moment and the setting. Conversely there are those times when the liberated mind wanders right into the completely inappropriate, profane and embarrassingly hilarious Facebook post from one of your friends, and an uncontrollable belly laugh wells right up ready to take the microphone while you're singing some sensitive sweet lyric.

Here, friends, is where the real work of performing lies.

Someone in our house hit the first "toe birthday" today. My now 11-year old and her grandma planted our rhododendron around Mother's Day back in 2011. Nothing there looks the same - the tree came down in a storm, and we have sun loving weed meadow always trying to overtake the rhody. Nonetheless, like the no-longer-little person, it grows and evolves in its space. 

The musician and music teacher becomes a music parent.

I've grown up around music. It was my "second language" spoken in my household as a child. And I learned it much as native-born children of immigrant families do - orally and aurally. I heard the sounds and the relationships. Sure, I learned to interpret pictures of chord shapes on the guitar, and scribbled out song lyrics and place the chord changes over them, but I never learn to transact in the written language of music. After a few years of playing guitar as a teenager, my ears told my fingers where to go faster than I could process the information visually...

April 4, 2018. Fifty years ago today.

Ten years ago I was in Memphis for the annual International Folk Alliance Conference. Even though we were largely sequestered in a fancy hotel and convention center, with a high rise sunset over the Mississippi River and the flat delta floodplain in Arkansas, one could quickly escape to some more "real" experiences despite the tourist trappings. BBQ ribs and the blues of course, but many of us also took the time to make a different pilgrimage as well.

The National Civil Rights Museum is in the old Lorraine Motel, frozen in time on the outside at the moment that Martin Luther King Jr. drew his last breath. Inside the museum is an incredibly powerful experience, confronting lynchings, boycotts, segregation and Jim Crow all up close and in your face. The end of the tour brings you to the balcony where the dreamer died...

I spent today chasing ghosts. In late 2014 I learned the story of my great-great-great grandfather (3G) Aretas Culver from Bristol Connecticut, and the tragic story of his Civil War regiment, the 16th Connecticut Infantry. Unlike other units that are celebrated for noble or heroic sacrifice and sturdiness in battle, their story was marked by epic failure at Antietam, and their eventual surrender in North Carolina and subsequent imprisonment at Andersonville...

3,000 miles without the radio on gives one plenty of time to ponder - the past, present and future.

One of my favorite things about the road is the stuff between the shows. The mortar of a tour that fills in around the bricks. The conversations, the view through the windshield, the moments that give one pause to reflect on coincidence or predestination.

My just completed week in Florida certainly checked all those boxes...

The annual turning of the calendar is always a good time to take stock of things. To evaluate and reminisce about what happened, some looking forward and planning for things to come. In our "share everything" social media world nowadays, posting my thoughts on the occasion make me but one of many tens of millions....

As I wished an as-yet unmet cousin very late last year (as in a few hours ago :), here's to good health, much love, safe harbor in all storms, and a full belly soon after hunger gnaws. And if we want to make 2018 better with our fellow humans, let it begin with me and you. Cheers, Sláinte and to all a good safe night. Here's hoping none of us are those people they talk about on the news tomorrow.

We have spent a lot of time trying to learn more of my wife's Polish family this year, without a ton of success. This lovely piece showed up in a Polish Genealogy group today, and I love the idea - the "Carol of the Absent"...

It seems only fitting that the first song I wrote on the beautiful Lowden guitar I was gifted by my Irish cousins would pay homage to our working class ancestors in County Down. I imagine the Christmas holiday was a bit more dark in their day, struggling to get by...

A novelist, a filmmaker, and a guitarist/composer collaborate on a trailer for a novel. The last of those happens to be my pal Michael DeLalla. Read Michael's notes below, then watch the five minute clip and tell me you don't want to see more or read the novel...

Happy Friday - what little thing might we do to make someone's world a little better today? Imagine what it would be like if millions of us did?

Truthfully, millions of people DO do little - and large - things each day to make someone's world better....

 

Gratitudes for this Thanksgiving Eve. Maybe the most fundamental of all, to the people who brought me into the world and were my world in my childhood...

Sometimes it's the small and mundane stuff. Turning a leftover chicken into delicious Moroccan stew. Grinding through some minor 5th grade math struggles. Doing a small kindness for some folks doing some great hard work. And listening to someone figuring out a very lovely "Amazing Grace" on the fiddle. All in all, a simple harvest moon kind of night. At peace, for the moment, in the moment.

Every time it happens, I think of those kids at Newtown. The circumstances change, the body counts fluctuate, the excuses rarely do. Neither do the ghosts that visit me. Their class picture, along with their teacher and the others. I squeezed my kid extra hard and long tonight, because I still can. She was in kindergarten when Newtown happened. I'll never forget what she asked while we struggled to explain; "were they bad kids?"

I shed a tear or two; I wish I could say it was for the victims and the families in Las Vegas. They are far more than I can comprehend. It was a tear for my own numbness at yet another mass murder, and my apparent indifference, because if I haven't helped find a solution, after Newtown, the Navy Yard, San Bernandino, or Blacksburg, or any of the dozens of others that scar my memories in the last 20 years, I must be part of the problem.

Feeling overwhelmed? Me too.

It is breathtaking and stunning to take in all that has transpired since I finished last month's essay. Armed Nazis, Klansmen and Confederate sympathizers marching in lockstep through the streets of a city here in my state. One catastrophic hurricane unleashed on Houston, while another takes aim at Florida and the southeast. Wildfires in the west consuming iconic and revered landscapes. Flooding displacing millions in other parts of the world. Never-ending wars and barbarism sprawling across the lands which birthed most of the world's religions. A lunatic strapping a nuke to a rocket in North Korea. Arctic permafrost melting to a degree not seen in recorded history. All amid the ongoing daily routines, of getting ready for school, and work, and tending to the mundane rituals of life.

It seems huge and crazy, and out of whack....

And so it is done. The last first day of walking to school. I can now say with some certainty what the distance is between kindergarten and 5th grade - astonishingly short.

We began this journey 6 years ago, but in some ways our innocence about the world then versus now seems so quaint. Newtown happened within a few months of our starting this journey...

It is heartening that after flipping the odometer this many times, that one can still feel special on this day thanks to a few kind words and well-wishes from friends close and casual, and physically near and far. Each comment allowing me the gift to reflect for a moment on how or where we connected, and to think of that person in that moment. How they might be doing this very moment that they reached out to me.

I realized something not long ago that is having profound implications for me personally. I have "outlived" the imaginings of my youth...

The connection between my electric guitar and one of my favorite fruits

Music has always been in my house. I suppose it was inevitable that I would play guitar, and probably the only reason I didn't start until I was eleven or so was that Dad's classical was impossible to play, and his Supro Belmont electric only slightly less so. It took that long to be willing to put my fingers through it! But I wanted "into the club", and guitar was going to be my ticket, so I endured the seemingly six-inch high string action on the Belmont and tried to play barre chords.

By the time I was fourteen, I was craving a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar...

Most certainly an AnceStory of unintended consequences and lifelong implications.

My parents, sister and I just returned from the trip of a lifetime, the "Last Great Nuclear Family Vacation" - a 16-day odyssey to the homelands of our ancestors in Ireland and Scotland. While my parents had always had some interest in visiting "someday", two factors conspired to bring it into startling real-time relief....

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Tour Dates

  • 10/28/2018
    On Sunny Slope Farm - Harrisonburg, VA
     
  • 11/08/2018
    Barncastle - Blue Hill, ME
     
  • 11/09/2018
    Hammond Street Congregational Church - Bangor, ME
     
  • 11/10/2018
    House Concert, Bristol CT - Bristol, CT
     
  • 11/11/2018
    Central Village Congregational Church - Central Village, CT
     

HAPPENINGS

SPECIAL THANKS

Andrew is a grateful Endorsing Artist for Elixir Strings and Fairbuilt Guitars, and a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist Roster. He also is a member of The Standing "O" Project and Concerts in Your Home.

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