Born On The 4th of July

Happy birthday America,
Well, technically it was two days ago (but let’s not quibble about that). At any rate, it’s your special day. I was born here in Tennessee, and though we didn’t exist on your first big day, you kinda grew into us. I recently read that they celebrated with 13 toasts to symbolize the 13 colonies independence and later 13 cannon shots. We have way exceeded the 13 states and maybe that’s why we make so many toasts on this day (light beer is mostly water after all). However, our fireworks seem to represent every man, woman and child amongst our 300 million people now and not how many colonies we have. Being from Tennessee, I know quite a bit about fireworks. We’re kinda famous for them. From bottle rocket fights as teens to the quarter of a million people who will file into the state capital today to watch the massive display; we have got it covered. Like anything born over two hundred years ago, we have slowly (if painstakingly at times) grown and evolved. We’re technically still the young kid on the block though, and we sometimes act our age. Recently we seem to be in more of an argumentative mood than usual. But I’m just a babe, a tiny branch in your sprawling tree and I might not see the big picture. One thing that always sticks out to me is the fact that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; those two longtime political rivals, both died on your 50th birthday; 5 hours apart. From his deathbed Adams famously uttered his last words “Jefferson survives”, though ironically he did not. But the argument did. The long argument about who and what we are. We are still having it. Because unlike most things that preceded us, we are an idea and not a place. I still think a very good idea and one that I truly still believe in.  I don’t bring this up to raise a fuss on your big day, just trying to find a little bit of perspective on a day that should offer a little reflection. So let’s grill some dogs and raise our glasses for fifty toasts and drive all the dogs in the neighborhood to sheer terror with our normal fervor for blowing things up in the sky. Tomorrow we can roll our sleeves up and go back to work.

Love,
Stephen

July 4th, 2018

 

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Election Day


Only the one you love can break your heart. I love America; my country. And this morning about 7 am Norway time, she broke mine. She’s broke it before. She’s also given me years of love and I seek to be a good partner and understand her, but she can be emotional and nonsensical to me sometimes. I am a liberal, a progressive, whatever you want to call it. So I’m always distraught when the things I believe in don’t move forward; but this time feels different. I’m a writer, and to me words matter. There have been things said by the President elect about my fellow citizens that trouble me, and they can’t be taken back (even if they were rhetorical). If you voted for him, of course I’m not mad at you, I understand why you’re frustrated; I just don’t think he’s the answer. Still, we have a Constitution. We are a republic. And the voters have spoken. I have been talking with my Dutch, German, Swiss and Norwegian friends about how this was even possible. I still didn’t expect it to happen. This morning I awoke at 6am and grabbed my phone to see what was happening and was stunned to see how it was looking. I got up and showered and walked around sub zero Ringebu’s snow covered streets looking for a cup of coffee but nothing was open. By 8 she had conceded. At 9 the bakery below the B&B was open and I finally got the caffeine my brain was craving and a breakfast roll that went down uneasy with my queasy stomach. Nothing to do but continuously refresh my phone till the train at 10. I have family and friends who voted for the new President. They already know I disagree with them, I still love them. I hope those of us very worried about him are wrong. There has to be rule of law for our Democracy to continue. We’ll see. And I have to wonder if the situation were reversed would they do the same? I guess I have to believe they would. I have to hope. This morning on the train down to Oslo, I didn’t realize I had to change at Lillehammer and had hurried off grabbing my guitar and suitcase and trying to not get stranded in the cold; I left my gloves on the train. I ran back to grab them since there were still a few minutes. The conductor had already found them and was walking them back to me. “Thanks” I said. “American?” He replied. “Yes”. Apparently my face and eyes told the story in my heart. “I’m very sorry” he replied. I looked in his eyes and said “Thank you”.  I couldn’t tell him how much a little bit of compassion meant to me this morning. Even if it came from another Country. I’m not home experiencing this in real time with my fellow citizens. Maybe it’s harder to heal far away? I have a job to do today, so I’m gonna go do it (mine’s playing songs), just like every other American. That’s what we do, roll up our sleeves and go to work. Try to make life a little bit better. We have a lot of work to do America. Now more than ever. I pledge to do more, and encourage others to as well to make our Union stronger. I still think we are stronger together. So as I type this on the train trying to sum up how I feel, I become a bit homesick. But I’ll see you at Thanksgiving America.
Love,

Stephen

The Entitlement State

Conservatives have long had a valid point about personal responsibility and taking ownership of one’s life.  But in Capitalism there are winners and losers.  There are many people who are victims of this system.  And I feel it’s our duty to help lift these people to give them access to the advantages our great Country has.  Having said that, I do realize there will always be a small percentage of people who unjustly buy into the victim hood mentality.  While this might be human nature and something we have to tolerate within the system….it shouldn’t impede our desire to be compassionate to those who truly are victims.

 But many modern conservatives;  both Layman and politicos, seem to have a rather different type of entitlement in their minds.  The politico hides behind deficits that they helped bring about and the everyday layman seems to confuse being patriotic with some sort of shallow slogan of entitlement; of living in the greatest country on Earth.  In other words;  America is the greatest country in the world. If you question it you are unpatriotic.  If  you don’t support the War,  you don’t support the troops.
We are not entitled to be the greatest country on the planet we have to go earn it every day. You have to go be a better citizen every single day.  You don’t just wear a T-shirt that says you are, and therefore you are entitled to it.  None of us are entitled to anything.  Remember?

Ten Years Ago Today…

Ten years ago today, on my 30th birthday,  I walked into my bosses office and told him I was quitting.  I had been thinking about it for a long time.  I had been saving, planning, and thinking it to death for what had become too long.  And I didn’t really want to do it that day, but felt like something was forcing me.

The week before I’d started recording what would become my debut studio album; LAST CALL with Producer/Engineer Eric Fritsch over at his studio in East Nashville.  I knew the first day we started working together It was going to be perfect to make the album I’d always wanted to make.  I had spent years writing and pitching songs and playing gigs, often till 3am and then being back at work at 7:30am every day, sending off demos, making meetings, and generally spending almost every hour away from my day job either writing/recording/gigging or trying to figure out how to “safely” transition from a day job to making a living playing and writing music.  I had hoped for a record deal, a publishing deal, any deal that give me the proper excuse to jump off that ledge.  What I ultimately learned was that we don’t need an excuse or anyone’s permission to pursue our passion.  “Leap and the net will appear” as the old saying goes.  Or as Guy Clark put it, “Spread your arms, hold your breath and always trust your cape”.

By the time my 30th birthday rolled around that morning I already had made up my mind it was time to leave my job.  All morning at my desk as people wished me happy birthday and kidded me about getting older and hitting the “big 30”, I had a fluttering in my belly that was unsettling.  The notion kept popping in my head, as clear as a cartoon character with a  “thought bubble” hovering over him;  “I need to tell my boss I’m quitting today”.  I tried to suppress it, but it was a pesky and stubborn little thought that would not leave.

 I told that little voice in my head that once I finished the task I was working on, if my boss was still in the office I’d sit down and talk to him.  Then the power went off in the entire building.  I rolled my eyes at God.  This went on for several minutes and considering we were an Electric Power Cooperative it was quite odd.  I relented, “Ok, I’ll go talk to him”.  The lights came back on.  “Phyche!” I thought.   I had been given a reprieve.  Silly notion really, like some higher power would use the actual “power” to move my ass to action.  I once again told the little voice “maybe later when I finish this task IF he’s still in his office”  BAM!  Out go the lights again.  Rolling my eyes once again towards the Heavens, “Okaaaaaaayyyyy…I’ll do it already”.  Once the lights came back on I grabbed my Boss and told him I needed a word and we grabbed an empty conference room.  We sat down and he already knew what I was going to tell him.  We were very good friends and he’d trained me and had my back the entire time I’d been there.  I kept my music career aspirations mostly secret from everyone, but he sensed what had been coming.

 That was ten years ago today, and I’ve hit another milestone; becoming a Quadragenarian, and It makes my little head spin to try to recall where my life’s taken me since then.  Pursuing my passion has taken me literally all over the World.  I have been able to perform those songs I was writing every night years ago (not to mention all the ones I’ve written since then) from stages in amazing cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Paris and Oslo to tiny villages in Spain, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Norway and hundreds of little towns across the USA.  I have met so many amazing and interesting people along the way and have had experiences that I value more than any sum of money in the world.  I would be lying to say it’s been easy at all.  Writing songs and singing them on stage remains the only “easy” thing about my life.  Everything else is work.  Work like I’ve never known in my life.  But work that’s been so rewarding that it’s been life reaffirming.  And those moments when that fleeting thought comes around that I’m right where I’m supposed to be, I am at peace.

 Today, July 28th 2013, I just released my new album, Hearsay, it’s my 7th studio album since that day ten years ago.  It’s available everywhere, Good Lord willing and the lights stay on.  In a way I’m amazed I’m still here doing this and in another way, I knew I would be.  Anyway, thanks to all of you who’ve been with me on this ride the past ten years.  I’ll see you when I see you, as long as this cape still fits.


~Stephen

SuperSS

Paul Ryan is Anakin Skywalker

Watching (steely blue-eyed) Paul Ryan on MTP this morning:  I have to say that Mr. Ryan reminds me of Anakin Skywalker in the Lucas’ Star Wars prequels.  In that he’s branded by GOPers as the “Young, good looking, bright, serious, HOPE” for the future of the Conservative Republican Brand.  But I can’t get that scene out of my head of Mr. Ryan pretending to wash dishes as a volunteer because he had missed the actual event; yet he still wanted the photo op.  And I recall a news commentator saying “that tells you all you need to know about this guy”.  And like the Actor(s) playing young Anakin Skywalker: he was also put on a very bad display of acting. (but I digress- it’s not his acting skills that bug me).  We all know Mr. Ryan is going to go to the Dark Side.  Who do we believe?  You or your lying blue eyes?  I’ve long thought the obvious comparisons of Dick Cheney as the Evil Emperor from Star Wars was right on, but his influence in politics has faded.  Unfortunately I feel like I’m gonna have to watch another 20 years of prequels as Ryan morphs into Darth Vader.  Does this mean he’ll bear a child who will be the real “Hope” to rescue the Republic one day?

Contemplating God

Contemplating God sometimes I feel like I can almost imagine that which is unimaginable.  To comprehend that which is incomprehensible.  My mind drifts off into the cosmos and just when I encounter a vague “that’s it” feeling of discovery, I experience a rush of burning butterflies in my belly and then it’s gone.  And I’m left to wonder:  Have I just reached a new level of spirituality, a deep state of divine meditation, where a billion ancient particles and burnt out stars in my gut call out to me to say;  “yes, I’m here”.  Or is it the attempt to imagine something so vast, something man in this world will never comprehend, that I’m left with the overwhelming feeling of just how small my place is, and the accompanying anxiety of knowing I can’t know.  It is human folly to try to put into words that which is unexplainable.  Yet it is also quentisentially human to always ask “why”

I’ve Been Noticing The Sky More Lately

I’ve been noticing the sky more lately.

Here in Ireland, in late Aug, before heading out to a show:

All week in Ireland, the skies were their usual impressive self.
Like this eve, right before showtime.
Bronte Center:
After flying into Frankfurt, I met up with my guitar player in Germany for the rest of the tour.
The skies the first few days were magnificent.  Swirling thick clouds, with sunlight piercing in and out of them.

Even my little crummy digital camera couldn’t help but capture some of the amazing textures and colors.

Small town, Southern Germany:

As we drove on through The Netherlands it continued to catch my eye.
I was convinced the skies back home never looked like this: 

In the South, we have a tradition of burying bodies in graveyards facing East.

So that when the Lord comes back, you’re ressurected facing him and the way the sun rises.

 

Not sure what direction we were here, but this was certainly a gorgeous view from this graveyard in Holland.

And this was probably my favorite picture of them all…still driving down the road in Holland:

 

But after returning home, I realized the crazy skies have followed me home.  I just haven’t been paying attention lately I suppose.

Even my puny phone camera, from my buddies balcony on the river in East Nashville can capture it:

Or sitting in a red light downtown, wishing I had a better camera with me to catch the amazing rays shooting through the clouds:

 

 

Or at a truck stop in Johnson City, Tn, headed over to Asheville, NC for a show:

And even finding old pics of the sky left in my cell phone from earlier this summer…

when I wasn’t paying as close of attention…

of a gorgeous honey sunset in Northern California one afternoon:

Grey Skies

Grey Skies

I only see swaths and splashes of swirling greys in this world.  There is no black.  There is no white.  Only the varying degrees to which they intersect.  No Alpha.  No Omega.  Everything is neither or.  Raised in a sect where there is only right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark; The judgemental certainties that surely follow the practice of deciding anddiscerning which shade and stroke is which, has left me with a healthy dose of repulsion with the entire process.