Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Loves: Vancouver #1

Tomorrow, Jen and I leave on a plane out of Kansas City, bound for Vancouver, our old stomping grounds. Why Vancouver B.C.? Why now? Is it just that we love and miss this incredible city?

I think it's safe to say that's part of it -- we are thrilled to visit the 'Couve again.

But this time, the truth is, it's all about The Weed.

No, we're not by any means that cool. "The Weed" is the favored nickname for our buddy David Aupperlee. And lest you think otherwise, he's not that cool either. At least, not "that cool" in pothead hipster vernacular.

David in the Greek pronunciation?


Da Weed.
Or often enough, just "Weed." Like this: "Hey Weed -- are you actually looking for something in there, or did you just fall asleep with your head in the fridge?" (And without fail, ten minutes later: "Hey Weed -- is that your twelfth bowl of Corn Pops?)

So then, our confession is out: Jen and I both love The Weed. And that alone would be enough to answer "Why Vancouver?" But that still leaves another: Why now? Because over the weekend, the Weed ties the knot. Yes, that knot -- to the Helen of his dreams. We couldn't be prouder, or more Vancouver bound.

Attaboy, Weed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Loves: Coal, or, Leaving Harlan Alive

Here recorded by Patty Loveless and the Del McCoury Band:

“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”

I first heard this song, written by Darrell Scott about five years ago, in a cabin in the Tennessee mountains, where I spent several rare, treasured days with my old college friends. During the course of those few days, I occasionally snuck out to the car crank up Track #4 on what, then, was just some promo compilation I picked up In Asheville. I listened to this one track over and over, always deep with emotion. I wasn’t sure why.

Par for the course, I lost the CD, and didn’t hear the song again in the five years since.

Then, two days ago, in a car southbound to New Bloomfield, it came on KOPN. As it played, I cried for the first time in months, maybe years. Why?

Forgiveness – that’s my guess. Five years ago, this song forgave me for leaving the southern mountains – forgave me for moving to Maine, Vermont, Northern Ireland, Vancouver … anywhere but home; forgave me for changing so much; forgave me for forsaking bluegrass & backroads to live the city life. Reminded me that I’d really done less changing and forsaking than I’d thought – that home was still home, and would wait. Now, five years later, I was forgiven again; forgiven for being almost thirty; for having a mortgage and a day-job; for losing my “guitar calluses”; for saying “I used to…” almost with no regret. Forgiven again, and welcomed back home.

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I traced my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
"You'll never leave Harlan alive"

Oh my grandfather's dad crossed the Cumberland Mountains
Where he took a pretty girl to be his bride
Said "Won't you walk with me out the mouth of this holler
Or we'll never leave Harlan alive"

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin'
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
Till a man from the northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills
Said "I'll pay you for your minerals"
But he never left Harlan alive

Grandma sold out cheap and they moved out west of Pikeville
To a farm where Big Richaldn River winds
And I bet they danced them a jig
And they laughed and sang a new song
"Who said we'd never leave Harlan alive"

But the times got hard and tobacco wasn't selling
And old grandad knew what he'd do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to grandma
But he never left Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin'
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

You'll never leave Harlan alive

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Loves: Aloe

There's probably no better way to introduce myself than to introduce my loved ones. And that's what I aim to do over the next few days. You can't know me, and neither can I, without knowing what -- and whom -- I love.

By "loved ones" I mean something broader, and I think more accurate, than the common connotation. Certainly I mean loved friends and family --- I'd be a fool not to love them most. But here I also include loved memories, loved agendas, loved arts. And so on: loved itches, agitations, imperfections, unknowns.

But first things first. To talk about love, we'll need to start with one deep breath: inhaling generosity (big inhale) .... and then slowly exhaling our tendency to find love saccharine and naive until we've triumphantly unearthed its darker complications and thereby reinforced the deep-rooted sentiment of all burned idealists that we should not expect too much because Life Isn't Like That (okay, big inhale again). Good. Now that we're breathing from the diaphragm, I'd like to start with Jen.

Aloe to a burned idealist.

Nay, skin grafts. The whole nine yards. Mere weeks before Jen first stopped by my basement suite in Vancouver, B.C. – with her lame excuse that she wanted to show me a photo, and my lame excuse that I wanted to show her Dad's weblog “so she could see the Blue Ridge Mountains” – I had decided, yet again, that monastic life was for me.

Or more to the point, I’d decided that the marked alternative – life with another – was NOT for me. My relational record spoke for itself.

1998: Idealist first burned, and badly.

2000: In love again. Idealist again. Burned again.

And really, from then on, a long string of returning the favor: a twice-burned idealist, like a trained specialist, administering burns.

And then came Jen Rice, spring of 2005, just weeks into my monastic idyll, bringing her own lame excuses and accepting mine. That was the last of chants and candles; an hour later we were deep in the Vancouver woods, wandering beachward, two burned idealists playing hooky, and healing.