Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Life With Art

An art centered night tonight which is appreciated in this time of bizarre politicking and threatening missives. Has social media really become global diplomacy? I hope not, but know it to be true. Mine's bigger than yours used to be a joke. Not so much now. I am focused on what works. Diplomacy at every level. Kindness. Thinking. Thinking. As you know, I live in a house with a 90 year old man and a 52 year old Down's syndrome brother with Alzheimer's. So, basically, Congress.

All of our issues in this house are intensifying (see the play, first go-through at Suzanne Haskew Art Center in November.)

For the last couple of years I've chilled. Don't know how to describe this, except the rage fire is banked. We have government now that is dedicated to bringing back tall black hats and those stupid collars, along with the bows, which were never good fashion. Isn't it interested that we grew up in this country being told that those doofs in wigs came here to bring religious freedom?  And the massacre of the indigenous population that was already here was, well, necessary. And here we are. 200 years later. The same fucking lie.

I digress. We are in a timewarp. 238 years later we're at 438 years ago.

And then there's art. And photography. And nature. Children, joy, the days my brother still is in the world. The days my father, even a little, understands that there are other people in his world.

My appreciation. Gratitude changes the body, ameliorates pain, restructures atoms.

More profoundly, appreciating brings more of the same. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dollhouse Spring

Late spring in Michigan, both in the realm and dollhouse. The forsythia is blooming. The spring door wreath is up. (All the wreaths are from 4hala on etsy.) The roses bloom all year. I made the Climbing Joseph's Coat, and Fair Bianca because I had these in my yard at another house. Bearded iris and blooming hosta were made of masking tape and paint. There is an Easter basket on the bench.

A close-up of the basket, complete with eggs, chocolate bunny and marshmallow chick.

The spring set before installation. I made the White Rabbit, the egg dye cup and the baskets. The other pieces were to go in my garden shed which I haven't yet gotten around to building.

The bag of garden shed supplies. There is a receipt in here from 2004. The components included a printed set of seed packets, which I cut out, crushed seed beads [giggle] and glued together. I sold those a few years ago. As an emerging adult, I'm going to put this bag back where I found it. For now.

Spring cleanup fix-it. Noticed my garden hose was lost in the move. I'll make another. Some day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

RJ Spangler Trio with Larry Smith and George V. Johnson Jr.

You're really sorry if you missed this live jazz music appearance Sunday, 9 April at Salem-South Lyon District Library. RJ Spangler Trio. RJ percussion. Oliver Nevels, guitar. Gregory Cook on bass (5-string on Sunday.) Special guest music legend Larry Smith on alto sax. George V. Johnson Jr. brought the vocals and - wow - we are appreciative he did.

2 p.m. we got our feet tapping to Sundown, a Wes Montgomery composition. Wes Montgomery's a favorite in our house. From blues to bossa nova, we next heard L'estate (Summer) composed by Bruno Martino 1960, with "In Summer" lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Lost love and dreaming sunsets.

Stella (Stella by Starlight) featured in the 1944 movie The Uninvited. One of my top 5 favorite films starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Alan Napier and beautiful tragic Gail Russell.

RJ shared that Oliver Nevels is the group's filmographer. Talking with Oliver after the concert, he said most popular jazz standards came from film. We don't only enjoy the music mastery, the group is a fountain of music history and lore.

George V. Johnson shared with us the vocals for Summertime. For composer Lou Donaldson's 90th birthday party Johnson premiered his lyrics for Gravy Train. From NYC to South Lyon. Bam.

Charlie Parker's 1954 composition Little Suede Shoes was up next, with Mr. Johnson's 1977 lyrics.

St. Thomas, a Sonny Rollins composition with lyrics also by the amazing George V. Johnson Jr. If you have a reverbnation profile, you can come close to the experience of the live performance yesterday. You can listen to Sonny Rollins perform his composition. And for other film nerds, it's the song featured in the wedding scene in the 1989 movie Working Girl.

Find out more about RJ Spangler Trio, Larry Smith and George V. Johnson Jr.

Here you can read a scholarly paper about the blues influence in Wes Montgomery's music, and his use of call and response technique.

Check here for those who missed the October concert with these music masters. You do not want to miss the next performance! Sunday, 7 May at Salem-South Lyon District Library.

The live jazz music concert was made possible by a grant from the Jazz Foundation of America and the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RJ Spangler Trio and Tbone Paxton at SSLDL

RJ Spangler Trio with John "Tbone" Paxton played Mardis Gras jazz music Sunday, February 12 at the Salem-South Lyon District Library. New Orleans complete with Mardi Gras beads!

Tbone Paxton (voice/trombone), Jacob Schwandt (guitar), Jeff Cuny (string bass), Jake Matthews (drums), RJ (percussion), and sitting in on drums/percussion for the last tunes, Bob.

RJ knows his music history, so we learned as well as danced in our seats. Opening with Basin Street (Jack Teagarden video) written by Spencer Williams in 1928, recorded by Louis Armstrong same year. Armstrong's band performs in 1964 here. Next the musicians swung into Some of These Days, a Tin Pan Alley writer Shelton Brooke tune, published in 1910, made famous by Sophie Tucker. Hoagy Carmichael's New Orleans was next up. You can hear Art Pepper on alto in this recording.
Chocko Mo Feendo Hay or Joc-a-mo-fee-no-ah-nah-nay or Chaque amoor fi nou wa na né. Is it Creole + West African Yorumba? Johnny Crawford wrote phonetic interpretations of beautifully costumed paraders he heard musically jousting in the 1950s. Danny Barker performed this song with the same chant, without the Iko Iko. Barker spent years in NY before going south, training musicians in the old brass band tradition. Wynton Marsalis came out of this sound school.

Hey Pocky Way (Neville Bros. here), followed by Li'l Liza Jane, also with West African roots. This video is Ms. Nina Simone and her tambourine. You got up and danced, did'in cha?

Eh La Bas (Preservation Jazz Hall band). One of my trips to New Orleans, I went first to the Jazz Hall. On the door was a sign "gone to Detroit, back in 2 wks." !
On that trip I bought a Leo Meiersdorff print (a jazz musician himself.) I put it away and forgot it for a few decades. Last week, on the hunt for another piece of art, I found it, unframed. I dismantled one of my own framed watercolors, and stuck the piano player in it. Love this!

One more song! Going Down to New Orleans, written by New Orleans native Earl King. RJ said you hear this song coming out of car radios, bars, and apartments with windows open. A great article on King's life and legacy is here. Another Detroit connection: King came to Detroit to find a place at Motown, and 3 tracks with King playing can be heard on Motown's Blue Revolution, recorded in 1996.

For those who want more music - Rhythm Rockers (with RJ and Tbone) will be at the Rochester Mills Beer Company on February 28, Fat Tuesday, even if it's not on the pub calendar yet.

For those who can't wait, stream WWOZ - home of New Orleans jazz music.

The concert was made possible with The Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant. Patrons can enjoy 2 more concerts this year at SSLDL!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dollhouse Beginning 1992

My sister was cutting my hair in her kitchen in Detroit, while my other sister talked about what needed to happen in that house before the arrival of the baby, due in 2 months. Crib assembled, supplies laid on, daycare acquired. Susan quoted some prices, having 2 children of her own in daycare. So much money! I peeked around my hair - for an infant? What do babies do? Sleep, eat, eliminate, sleep some more. I told my pregnant sister - if I don't have a good job by then, I'll watch the baby. A week later, my niece was born prematurely. We started running. Paint the room, assemble crib, lay on supplies, get to library to learn how babies really do work. That tiny girl changed my life. She didn't sleep in a crib for a year. I had to watch her breathe. In out in out. I called her mother to report every new skill - working mothers miss all that great stuff. And when my other sister figured out I wasn't going to abandon this lovely role, she brought her 2 out of daycare. My day started at 5 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. when I dropped the baby off at home. Three years of love and learning and joy. And I banked every nickel I could, because a divorce was in my near future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The dollhouse began as all stories do. Once upon a time. One time a long time ago a little girl like the first line I write on a blank paper. In 1992 divorce was in my near future. I was blessed to have my sisters' little children in my care then, and having never put away my childlike awe, we played and learned from each other as hearty loving equals. I started the build of this dollhouse and finished the construction in 1994: the year the divorce was final, and I had a new home in my mind if not in real estate. In 1996 I was diagnosed with cancer. I needed a haven, respite and safe harbor from the world of disease. The outfitting of my alternate reality commenced in earnest. Most of the accoutrement in the house is art from life. The wreath in the bedroom stairway is a scaled reproduction of one I still own. The bedroom furniture is modeled on my set which is 120 years old in 2017. The Black Mariah stove is constructed to resemble my great-grandmother's, and there is a coffee grinder with real coffee in it. On the fireplace mantel is a miniature of the hand-tooled clock I bought for myself in 1980 which still keeps time and good company on my desk. As the years went by, I gifted the house. Last year was a plate of artisan-made springerle cookies.This year is the 20th anniversary of being cancer free, and I think this is the year to donate the dollhouse. My lovely friend Carol suggested C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. With that goal, I will chronicle the tale of the dollhouse here. Life is stories. Parents and ill children need good stories. And a place, path and passion to imagine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cancer In A Jar

January 1997.  I no longer remember the exact day. We had to be at Harper Hospital at 5:00 a.m. Another woman was checking in as well, and we "no, please, you first" responded to the call for next. An O.R. was scheduled for 12 hours to get the cancer in my head out. In the room would be my surgeon, a maxillofacial prosthedontist (and his spare parts, including a nose, maxillary bone, eye socket) a back-up plastic surgeon, many other professional medical people. My sister said she couldn't imagine what I was about to live through. I told her it would be her who lives through those hours. I'd be awakened in post-op after it was all over. I awoke in recovery to a guy in surgical gear calling my name. First thing I said was there are duckies on your cap. He said it's in a jar. Do you understand me? It's in a jar.

That January day was preceded by a year of trying to get a surgical referral, of learning at high speed through a traumatic situation how to get what I needed. How to hurdle the gatekeepers, trample the stoppers. That was the year of Flat Alice: anyone who tried to get in my way. The year of Beckie being at my side for each encounter, of her agreement to hold my consciousness until I was ready to take it back, of her getting me to a chair before I passed out when I saw the room of face parts in the MP's office as I hung up my coat. Of sitting in her car in the freezing cold after the MP told me he could replace my eye, but he couldn't make it blink, and Beckie slamming both hands onto the steering wheel, shouting "Damn it! Why can't he make it blink?" Of her being my ears, my guide, as well as continuing to be my Best Friend in the Whole Wide World.

Of children who became my spiritual advisors. Of my mother, unaware she was going to die of cancer soon, trying to find a way to bond with me that did not include disease.

A year of fools and misogynists and incompetent famous doctors and ridiculous healthcare network rules and paperwork. A year of miracle workers, angels on earth, and family, friends, laughter and terrible pain.

There would be another six years of surgeries to repair and replace. Six years of deepening and new friendship and acute self-discovery. Six years descending into personal financial crisis, and ascending to gratitude and awareness. Six years of losing my mother and friends to that awful disease.

Through it all there would always be that day in January when Dr. John Jacobs said it's in a jar.