Thursday, December 29, 2022

My W.E.I.R.D. Daily Goals for the Next Year

I created an acronym to describe my daily goals: W.E.I.R.D.  It stands for Write, Exercise, Instrument, Read and Dinner.

Write: I have a writing thing I occasionally do where, with pen in hand, I start at the top of the page of a paper notebook and don't stop writing until I get to the bottom of the page. Kind of like a free-flowing, non-sensical diary entry. The only thing that's pre-meditated might be the first "sentence" or opening words. After that it's whatever my hand marks onto the page. It only takes about ten minutes to fill up the page with hand-written words, but it checks a creative box. It's something I've been doing off and on for over twenty years. 

Exercise: I've been working out on an almost daily basis for going on three years now. In its current form I do 25 to 30 minutes in the morning six days a week. Cardio on Mon/Wed/Fri (jog/run, slide board, mini-trampoline rebounder, exercise bike or row-n-ride), and more strength-training focused on Tues/Thurs/Sat (Y-Bells, dumbbells, steel mace, kettlebell, Lebert Fitness dip bars, shena board, wooden Karlakattai clubs). This doesn't include any walking I do such as dog-walking or hiking on a nearby trail.

Instrument: Instrument stands for musical instrument. I'm trying to get back into playing a musical instrument daily, whether it be a stringed instrument tuned in 5ths GDAE (mandolin or tenor banjo) or in all 4ths EADGCF like how I tune a guitar. I have an ongoing interest in gathering old melodies from the Caribbean/West Indies region, such as folk tunes from Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Martinique, and so on. That's usually what I would be playing, but I have nothing against scales either. I hope to get a left-handed tiple doliente from Puerto Rico this year. 

Read: Reading 30 to 50 pages a day is easy when you have a good book, like one of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller books, or a classic horror paperback by Ramsey Campbell. It's more difficult when you can't find something good to read but I'm usually pretty good about finding something. Novels over 400 pages tend to be too wordy for me. If I keep them in the 200 to 400 page range then it's pretty easy to finish a book a week.  

Dinner: I've gotten into the habit of cooking dinner most nights of the week. I have certain rules or limitations: I try to keep it vegan and, if possible, keto. It's not as hard as you might think to make plant-forward yet low carb meals. Simply replace your rice, pasta and beans with lower net carb soy beans, edamame pasta and riced cauliflower are good places to start. Most of the things I make tend to be one pot meals loosely based on recipes I have found. Not quite "ital is vital" but it feels healthy. And there's usually enough left over for lunch the next day. Favorite spices: Jamaican curry, garam masala, creole seasoning, and berbere. Most versatile and dependable ingredient: red cabbage.

I rarely accomplish all five of these goals in any given day. If I hit three of the five then I consider it sufficient. Good enough.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Best Albums of 2022

Here are some of my favorite studio albums from the year 2022, forced into contrived categories!

Best for former No Depression magazine readers: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief

Best for dudes that grew up listening to Sonic Youth or Pavement: Versions of Modern Performance by Horsegirl

Best lo-fi/DIY that's not Horsegirl: Music Box by post office winter

Best for the chill-out tent: Come Around by Carla dal Forno

Best up-tempo, feel-good instrumental: Let the Festivities Begin! by Los Bitchos

Best mid-tempo, introspective instrumental: Still, Here by Marisa Anderson

Best studio album by a jamband in the year 2022: Dripfield by Goose

Best folk/blues/traditional: Get on Board by Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder

Best in what you might call "free jazz": Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef by Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolph

Best in what you might call "soul jazz": Scary Goldings IV by Scary Goldings

Best in what you might call "world music": Ali by Vieux Farka Toure with Khruangbin

A favorite not mentioned so far: Good and Green Again by Jake Xerxes Fussell

Best from 2021 that I didn't hear until 2022: Psalms by Nathan Salsburg

Favorite re-issue/archival release of the year: Door Harp by Michael Houser

Bonus: Best new live band discovery (non-studio album): Eggy

BEST OVERALLDragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief

that just about covers it.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Goose and Trey with special guest Billy Strings - 11/17/22 Fairfax, VA

I'm feeling the need to write something about the Goose and Trey Anastasio Band concert that I went to last month in Fairfax, VA. It was one of the best nights of music I have ever witnessed, and I've been going to concerts for 30 years now. This was a pretty historic one.

First off, I liked the venue. Sure, on one hand it's just another college basketball arena. But parking was super easy and no additional cost, bars and restaurants are a short walk away, and the general admission policy for this event meant that if you got in early enough you could grab a good spot, which we did. This all contributed to being a in a very receptive, eager mood for Goose's set. 

Goose opened with Arrow and took it big, stretching well over 20 minutes. If there was any question about this band's ability to play arenas that was certainly quelled on this night at least. The song and jam went over well with the eager crowd and this didn't feel like an "opening" band kind of vibe. This was a co-headliner performing and making a bold statement. Arrow was followed by Seeker on the Ridge Parts 1 and 2. I like the slow build of Part 1 and the release when it merges into Part 2. I was focusing on being "in-the-moment" during this part of the set. A new Goose song called Thatch came next, in its 2nd performance ever, having debuted earlier on this TABoose tour.

My ability to stay present fled a bit during Arcadia, as my mind started to dwell on the hunch that Trey would be coming out next to play a couple songs with Goose. Sure enough, that is what happened. Trey sat in for two of Goose's original songs - Hungersite and Tumble. 

As I was watching it go down, I wasn't sure if this much hyped sit-in was living up to its potential. Did the twin guitars of Trey and Rick from Goose contribute to a sparkling jam, or did it devolve into just a guitar duel? Hard to say. It sounds good on re-listen, but I would have preferred it if Rick had backed off and given Trey space to let the music breathe and include the rest of the band in more of a collaborative, rather than supportive, role. Before I knew it the set was done. Now it was time for Trey's band.

The original plan was to maybe leave at some point during Trey's set. I'm a big Phish fan, but (before this night) never really considered myself a fan of the Trey Anastasio Band, having seen TAB only a handful of times since its incarnation over 20 years ago. This night would prove to be different. My friend sent me a text tipping me to the rumor that Billy Strings was in the house. The plan now was to stay 'til the end. 

The rumor was right - Billy did come out to play - but even before Billy came out Trey's set was incredible. Even though I had been in attendance to TAB shows before, I almost feel like this was my first time actually seeing the Trey Anastasio Band. Seeing everything about it in a new light, getting the sophistication and message of the music for perhaps the first time ever. When Billy finally did come out, what had already been a 10 out of 10 went up to eleven! This is where the night turned the corner from being not just a great night of music, but a peak musical experience. Billy added so much in such a humbling, non-ego way.

I feel like I learned something over the course of this set and the encore. Or re-learned something I had forgotten. Here on stage with Trey and his band was Billy Strings and members of Goose. There's no reason to judge or be negative or to compare or criticize. This younger generation of bands (and their fans) is doing a great job of cultivating a community of not just positivity, but positivity plus a level of professionalism and inclusion that transcends the previous norm. It's inspiring and makes me want to be the best listener I can be.


Friday, November 18, 2022

Notes from me now to my future self - ten things to keep in mind

It's OK to spend $$$ on books and music.

Eat like a bird, and a rabbit.

Exercise 30+ minutes a day, six days a week.

Read at least 40 pages a day (always be reading a book).

Avoid or limit alcohol and coffee.

Avoid meat and limit processed food.

Drink water and herbal tea.

Always have something you are into - a healthy obsession.

Keep playing music and keep a journal.

This feeling is wonderful. Don't you ever turn it off.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Ital and Livity

There's a concept, originating in Jamaica, called Livity - that there's an energy flowing through all people and living things. Practitioners strive to live harmoniously with the environment by eating Ital.

Ital means natural, organic, from the earth, food in its original state. It's similar to a vegan diet but more encompassing, like a code of conduct or style of living. The idea is that eating pure and natural food increases one's bond with earth and nature and therefore increases Livity. 

In addition to avoiding meat and most, if not all, animal products (cow's milk, butter, cheese, eggs), those eating Ital avoid processed food, additives, preservatives, flavorings, canned foods, even salt, believing that salt intake reduces one's ability to feel the spirit because salt repels the spirt. 

Italists also abstain from alcohol, knowing that alcohol clouds the mind and has destructive effects on the body. They also limit or exclude caffeinated beverages such as coffee and soda, preferring herbal tea and natural liquids/juices.

In Ital, emphasis is placed on food in its original state. Plants, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils. One pot meals. Common ingredients include all spice, thyme, scallion, spicy peppers, coconut milk, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, mango, avocado, pineapple, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, yams, curry and nuts.

I want to return, for a moment, to the exclusion of alcohol. In our language we already have a word for a person that does not eat any food derived from animals: vegan. However, we seem to be lacking a cool word for someone that does not consume alcohol. The best terms we have are "teetotaler" or "non-drinker". This doesn't do it for me.

That's why I like Ital as something you can hang your hat on. Not only is it a variation on vegan, like a vegan+ (rejection of consumerist society, rejection of the Standard American Diet, a borderline spiritual practice), but it also provides a foundation or platform for those that want to fill in this blank: meat is to a vegan as alcohol is to a ____________. It takes two separate practices - abstinence from animal products and abstinence from alcohol - and blends them into one belief system has no interest in acts or behavior that curtails Livity. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A Week in New Orleans Without Drinking...Not!

I had ambitions of being able to write a post titled "A Week in New Orleans Without Drinking". That ended up not being the case. There was also a remote chance of being able to title it "A Week in New Orleans Eating Vegan". That definitely didn't happen. I think that's OK though, for my first time visiting The Big Easy, to get to experience it more fully as Jah intended.

Day One involved catching some drumming in Congo Square, preceded by a drink at Hotel Monteleone's revolving bar, and seeing music at Kermit's Treme Mother In Law Lounge, including an appearance by Mr. Kermit Ruffins himself. Finishing with a cheesy piano man at the hotel.

Day Two started with a long walk to a delicious breakfast at Elizabeth's in the Bywater (9th Ward) followed by more footsteps over the Rusty Rainbow bridge and a stroll through Crescent Park. A light lunch was had at Alma Cafe before seeking out Banksy's "Umbrella Girl". This led to a fortuitous side jaunt into Priestess Miriam's Voodoo Spiritual Temple. After a mid-day nap, a classy dinner was experience at the esteemed Commander's Palace, with a post dinner come down at Joey K's over on Magazine Street. But before any of that we snuck in a glimpse of the ghost table at Muriel's. The evening was completed with attendance at the weekly Super Jam back over on Frenchmen Street led by drummer Gene Harding, and getting to know Josephine - a 75 year old life-long N'awlins resident who we met outside Cafe Negril. A chance meetup with a well-dressed elderly reefer man on the walk home and a Deadhead named Ellen and her little dog too caused things to take a late night New Orleansy turn. 

Day Three's eating began tentatively with a curry burrito consumed before the church bells struck noon. I believe Dr. Bob's Folk Art was next, where the man himself gave us some Crescent City insider tips. A walk through the French Market led to an impromptu trip to Algiers via the ferry. The Bywater Brown ale at the Crown and Anchor pub tasted to me, in that moment, like the best beer I have had in years. After returning to the city proper, dinner got a little spicy at Silk Road in the Marigny. We briefly saw some music in the Spotted Cat before taking a long walk and leap of faith up to Sweet Lorraine's which resulted in randomly meeting a couple famous - and I do mean famous - musicians, and actually hanging out with one of them who proved how "not sober" he was! 

Day Four started with a poignant walk through Treme to view the Tomb of the Unknown Slave and a tour of the recently relocated Backstreet Cultural Museum. An early lunch at Dooky Chase's was probably the best meal of the week! Finished off with peach cobbler, of course. The rest of the day included stops at the Jazz Museum, a local brewery, and a risky yet remarkably good spur-of-the-moment for-lack-of-a-better-option meal at a Mexican/Honduran(?) restaurant somewhere in the French Quarter that I'll never be able to find again.

Day Five started with a checkbox: beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde! Then another quintessential NOLA requirement: riding a streetcar. This one led to City Park which afforded us the opportunity to see nearby Holt Cemetery before communing with nature in the park's lush botanical garden. Lunch was had at the world renowned Willie Mae's Scotch House and it was worth the wait. After lunch, we returned to the French Quarter for an afternoon cocktail at Hermes Bar (Antoine's). Another afternoon cocktail or two was enjoyed at May Baily's Place. The not-so-secret restaurant/bar Coop's hit the spot for dinner. The remainder of the evening included encounters with old-time street musicians, music at the Spotted Cat, and meeting a local named Randy who helped continue the good-vibe streak.

Day Six involved breakfast at Cafe Envie. Next on the list was a daytime walk along Magazine Street in the Garden District. A little bit of shopping, a check-in at Simon's art gallery and seeing some famous homes before ultimately landing in a too comfy neighborhood bar called Tracey's to watch a baseball game. Dinner was back in the Quarter at the only place we could find agreeable: Hermes Bar. As the dinner hour turned to evening we secured balcony seating at a nearby bar/restaurant at the intersection of St. Louis and Royal to people watch and bend an ear to listen to violinist Tanya Huang down on the corner below. Eventually, after some requisite Voodoo Juice, we made it back down to street level to get a closer look/listen to Tanya and met a nice fellow named Larry. 

Day Seven. The last day. A slow start. Six days of being a tourist in New Orleans had started to leave its mark. For breakfast, which was actually an early lunch, we returned to Coop's which didn't let us down. They don't fuck around at Coop's. Then it was off to Loretta's in search of pralines. The best in the world? Yes, maybe. An early unexpected dinner at Nonna's made sure our bellies were full for the evening's final act: a couple three sets of music by the incredibly talented Aurora Nealand!

This write-up has mostly been for my reminiscence. In Summary:

Restaurants: Commander's Palace, Elizabeth's, Dooky Chase's, Willie Mae's Scotch House, Coop's, Nonna's, Alma Cafe, Silk Road, Cafe Envie. 

Pubs/Bars: The Crown and Anchor (Algiers), Tracey's, Hermes Bar, May Baily's, Muriel's.

Clubs: Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge, Cafe Negril, The Spotted Cat, d.b.a., 30/90, Sweet Lorraine's.

Musicians (to name a few): Charlie Halloran, Aurora Nealand, Kermit Ruffins, Yoshitaka "Z2" Tsuji, Jason Neville, Meschiya Lake, Russell Batiste Jr., George Porter Jr., Tanya Huang. 

Local personalities: Dr. Bob, Simon of New Orleans, Priestess Miriam. And salt of the earth locals by the names of Ellen, Josephine, Randy and Larry.

Furthermore: Banksy art, Holt Cemetery, Rusty Rainbow Bridge, Algiers Ferry, Tomb of the Unknown Slave, Backstreet Cultural Museum, Congo Square drumming, balcony table at Royal House Oyster bar, ghost table at Muriel's.

The main things that I had on my list that I didn't do or see: a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi, the Tree of Life (Etienne de Boray Oak) and Labyrinth in Audubon park, street musician Doreen Ketchens on Royal Street, a really good po' boy, a muffaletta, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Folk Art Zone in Algiers, Vaughan's Lounge, and Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge. Next time. 

Next time.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

A List of 2022 Albums

To prove that I've been listening to more than just live Goose shows recently, here's a list of 20 new or newish albums that have been my favorites from January 'til now. My taste in music is always in flux, especially this year. I'm tired of hearing what I'm hearing and I'm tired of liking what I like. What that in mind, here's where where my search has temporarily touched down.

Scary Goldings featuring John Scofield - IV
As good or at least almost as good as A Go Go.

Nathan Salsburg - Psalms
Hebrew psalms set to music that is highly listenable, singable and playable.

Jake Xerxes Fussell - Good and Green Again
The song-catcher is back with perhaps his best collection to date.

Los Bitchos - Let the Festivities Begin
An all female band bringing back memories of Laika and the Cosmonauts - totally in my wheelhouse.

Black Flower - Magma
The Belgian ensemble continues to work within and expand upon Ethio-jazz.

Ilhan Ersahin, Dave Harrington, Kenny Wollesen - Invite Your Eye
Post-buzz, late night, Nublu music.

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder - Get on Board
The best blues album I've heard in a long, long time.

The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention
Radiohead for poseurs like me.

Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef - Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolph
Just listen, just slow down.

Horsegirl - Versions of Modern Performance
Strong contender for album of the year.

Jasmine Myra - Horizons
England is a hot-bed of jazz right now.

Shabaka Hutchings - Afrikan Culture
England is a hot-bed of jazz right now.

The Magic Beans - Unzipped
These cats are beating other cats at their own game.

Michael Houser - Door Harp
Some of the prettiest melodies I've ever heard are on this reissue.

The London Odense Ensemble - Jaiyede Sessions Volume 1
London jazz meets Danish jams.

Felbm - Elements of Nature
I have a soft spot for DIY music.

Amir Bresler - House of Arches
Talk about a planet of drums.

Vieux Farka Toure & Khruangbin - Ali
Appointment listening.

Marisa Anderson - Still, Here
This is what I call Americana.

Flock - Flock
London is a hot-bed of jazz right now? Ha!

Seeing Goose for the First Time

Goose fans are a happy bunch. And why shouldn't they be? Rather than racking up yet another lifetime achievement award, their band is winning the World Series this year. Could this 2022 team beat the best that 1997 or 1977 had to offer? That's not worth debating or comparing. That's because Goose fans are living in the now. This very present moment, riding a wave that is showing no sign of a crest.

Goose fans are also a very friendly and talkative crew. By observation, it's hard to discern between close friends who know each other well and folks meeting for the first time and bonding over their favorite subject. They definitely speak a language I'm familiar with, although it has tinges of a foreign tongue only because it stems from an earth-like planet that I haven't made that many voyages to yet. I'm in no hurry to shake off that dewiness. I want to relish in it as much as possible.

My contrary nature doesn't always make it easy for me to engage, but whenever anyone learned that it was going to be my first show they were very excited for me. "It'll change your life," I was told. It kind of felt like a time warp to the year 1994, being in on a not-so-well-kept secret called Phish and welcoming new guests to the party. Only this time I was the Oldy Olson being ushered into the flock.

My first Goose show was now two days ago - 9/29/22 at The National in Richmond, VA. Being a local, I've been to The National many times before but I had never sensed anything like the pre-show energy or excitement of this crowd. Apparently, the line outside had started forming that morning, but it still wasn't all that long by the time I got in line at about 5:30pm. After a 90-minute wait, the doors opened and I went straight down and stood close to the stage. Not on the rail - that space was already spoken for - but not too far back from that. I managed to stay in this spot all night, even as it got tighter and tighter packed to the point where it seemed like the 1,500 capacity venue couldn't have held another human.

The only pic I took. The stage before the show.

Jamband aficionados call their concerts "shows", so that means that Goose is in the show business. Showbiz. Since it was my first time seeing Goose I tried to take it all in and probably over-analyzed some aspects of it. I'm fairly convinced that Goose has a formula or a reason behind everything they do, on stage or off. The marketing side of their collective brains never really shuts off, but there is an equally strong artist persona that also shines through. And just a drive. A professionalism. A blend. A mix. A need to create and perform.

In general I think I pretty much liked all of it. All of it was awesome. Do I like being in a crowd of sardines like that? Definitely not. But I tried not to let that bother me. If you were aware of your personal space and surroundings it made it troublesome to dance freely because there simply wasn't the space to do so without bumping into your neighbor, or being bumped into.

I most dug the parts where Goose seemed to let the music breathe and let the moment dictate the compositional path of an improvisation. I can respect the allure of falling back on a patented and crowd-pleasing jamband 101 tension/release build that uses the lights to help induce a jovial and cathartic release, but those moments are to be expected and weren't really what I would consider the highlights. If that was all that Goose was about then it wouldn't be as good as it is.

Goose played two nights in Richmond, but I only went to the first of the two. Despite only going one night, I don't really feel like I missed anything. I was perfectly content and happy to watch last night's free webcast from home. Loveseat tour. At this point for me, Goose simply has an overall sound and I got a good dose of that in-person on Thursday. Enough to last for a couple months at least. Or at least until my ears stop ringing. Next time is going to be in a much larger venue. The intimacy may be gone but I'm going to enjoy being able to spread out.

Will Goose change my life? I don't know. I feel like I'm already living a changed life, changed for the better. Goose wasn't the catalyst of this change but it complements it. Hmmm. Adding Goose to the recipe doesn't really feel like a change but more of a return after a 30 year detour. Circuital. Maybe me and Goose - our relationship - can remain pure and untainted. That would be the best outcome of all.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Where to Paddleboard in Virginia

This was my first summer paddleboarding. Here are the places I checked out.


Ragged Mountain Reservoir

Ragged Mountain Reservoir, Charlottesville
- This lake is beautiful and pristine. What I imagine paddling in the Adirondacks to be like. The water is very clear and the surroundings are stunning, with no houses on the water. Perhaps the most zen-inducing place I went to this year. No motorized boats are allowed so it's just you and a few other paddlers on the lake. Despite the clearness of the water I saw almost no fish but I did see a few turtles. Round trip is about five miles. The small gravel parking lot is shared with people hiking and mountain biking so it does fill up quickly.

Swift Creek Lake, Pocahontas State Park - There is peace and tranquility at this popular local state park. To find that peace and tranquility, as well as solitude, it helps to get there early. The 225-acre Swift Creek Lake is narrow and long, resembling a river with no current. You probably won't beat the early morning kayak fishermen, but once you paddle beyond where they are it can feel like you have it all to yourself. A dam prevents you from paddling extremely far, although at approximately 4.5 miles round trip this is an almost perfect out-and-back length. It is common to see herons, kingfishers, and other birds on Swift Creek Lake. There is a fee to enter the park. As of this writing it is $10 on weekends, less on weekdays.

Northeast Creek Reservoir, Louisa - I like this little lake, which is a pleasant 45-minute country drive away for me. Fishermen know about this place but recreational paddlers not-so-much. No gas motors are allowed, just electric, and like most places with this policy the folks out fishing cause little or no disturbance to anyone just out for a paddle. It's about 3.5 miles round trip, perfect for a quick 90-minute summer evening workout. There is plenty of room for parking. Warning: geese and ducks hang out at the parking lot and will come right up to you expecting food. 

Hunting Run Reservoir, Spotsylvania - Not all of the public lakes in Spotsylvania allow SUPs, but this one does. Hunting Run Reservoir is quite big. When I paddle a lake I like to stick to the perimeter and the perimeter of this one must be well over six miles. On my first and only time there I cut it short and still managed to get in 4.8 miles. There are some houses, some very nice houses, on this lake but the no gas motors and no swimming rule helps keep things placid. I enjoyed my visit to Hunting Run and can't wait to go back. There is a fee and you pay at the check-in station near the boat launch - up to $11 for non-Spotsylvania residents.

Hunting Run Reservoir

Rivers (slow-ish moving flatwater rivers)

City Dock, Fredericksburg (Rappahannock River) - I was surprised to discover that there is great flatwater river paddling right in the heart of Fredericksburg! If you enter the water from City Dock Park off Sophia Street and paddle up the river, you can go almost 2.1 miles before hitting rapids. Along the way it is a very pleasant river paddle against a mild current that goes under a couple scenic bridges with the town on your left. The town gives way to a collection of parks on either side of the river where Hispanic families tend to hang out on weekends. There are some great spots for jumping in the water to cool off. Once you turn around, expect your return trip to be about twenty-percent faster than your upstream paddling time. There are several restaurants to choose from in downtown Fredericksburg after you're done. This was my overall favorite river destination. I recommend going during high tide.

Chain Ferry Road, West Point (Mattaponi River) - West Point is where the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers meet to form the York River. There are many places to enter the water around the town of West Point but I chose the primitive and discreet Mattaponi River launch site at the end of Chain Ferry Road. There is a small public parking lot and a sandy/beachy place to get in the river. I headed right onto the big wide and slightly turbulent river, paddling away from the bridge off in the distance and went about a third-of-a-mile until I saw a large creek on the right that looked like it was worth exploring. It was. I don't know if this creek has a name or is just another section of the Mattaponi but it was heaven on earth! I went about 2.4 miles up this creek before turning around and I only turned around because I wanted to, not because the creek was ending. I saw an impressive amount of fish jumping, lots of birds, and a couple nutria! Paddling on a creek like this was a new experience for me and it makes me want to find more places like this. Bonus: ice cream and coffee at The Lazy Cow.

Deep Bottom Park

Deep Bottom and Four Mile Creek (James River)
- At just 35 minutes away, this park in Henrico is one of the quickest drives from my home to a place where I can get on the water. It somehow feels both well known and a well kept secret. You have a couple choices at this spot - either stay on a flat section of the James River or explore Four Mile Creek. Or do both. I am not sure how far you can go down Four Mile Creek because I haven't gone that far down it yet. In my two visits to this location I mostly went up or down the river portion and only did the creek as an afterthought. The James River is tidal here. I went once during high tide and once during low tide and there was quite a difference between the two. There are gas motor boats on this part of the river but the park tends to be less crowded than you'd think it would be. Lots of birds, such as osprey, diving into the water for fish.

Wake Beach, Wake, VA (Rappahannock River) - This small, picturesque beach is popular with families. The swimming is good, when there are no jellyfish that is. Being near the Chesapeake Bay, the water is starting to be salty here. The river is very wide and a little choppy so it can feel like beach or bay type paddling. This would be more of a recreational choice. I like to paddle a bit, hang on the beach some, and then work in a visit to a favorite outdoor-dining waterside restaurant called Merroir. 

Tucker Park at Maidens Crossing (James River) - Trailers put in on the Powhatan side of the river, but there is a kayak launch on the Goochland side at Tucker Park. From here, you can paddle up stream toward Powhatan State Park. It's a little challenging for paddle boarding because you kind of have to navigate around some things but that makes it fun. You might encounter people tubing from Powhatan State Park down to the boat launch. This is not a place I would go all the time, but at less-than 40 minutes away I will be keeping it in mind as an option.

Old City Point Waterfront Park, Hopewell (Appomattox River/James River) - Hopewell is where the Appomattox River meets the James. Whatever you do, don't go right onto the James River portion toward the chemical plant. That should be a "no duh", but I thought I could paddle past all that ugliness to Bailey Creek but it totally wasn't worth it. And the water was strangely hot. I don't even want to think about it. After two miles I cut my losses and backtracked. The only good thing was I saw a bald eagle up close. The Appomattox River portion is much, much nicer.  There are some homes around the bend on the Appomattox with impressive little private beaches. Since I had already paddled two miles down and two miles back on the James, I only did one mile up and one mile back on the Appomattox. When I go back I will check out the Appomattox more and maybe put-in at a different location. There is a coffeeshop with excellent food in the heart of downtown Hopewell called Guncotton Coffee for when you are done. One of the great things about river paddling is there's usually a small town nearby with an interesting story.

Randolph's on the River, Port Royal (Rappahannock River) - Randolph's on the River is an enjoyable restaurant overlooking the banks of the Rappahannock River in Port Royal, VA. You can park at the restaurant and get in the water at the boat launch on-site. The restaurant features a covered deck for outdoor seating where a loved one can hang out while you are paddling or for a meal afterwards. This is certainly a calm section of the river, no rapids anywhere nearby and the current is slow. What I don't love about it is all the vegetation in the water. Definitely go during high tide. When I went I saw a bald eagle nest in the middle of the river inhabited by an adult and a couple juvenile eagles.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Successful Summer of (non-drinking at) Concerts

After a two-year break where I saw almost no live music, I had a pretty full summer of concerts in 2022. At most of these events I didn't drink at all, not even one beer. That's the biggest personal change in my approach pre to post pandemic. For anyone that loves live music, seeing music now is likely to be different than before both in how you experience it as an audience member and as how the performer presents it to you from the stage. In my case I had the additional benefits of increased focus and appreciation due to not being influenced by alcohol. Each and every concert I experienced this season felt like a very special moment...

The Cowboy Junkies

Melvin Seals and JGB


Trombone Shorty

Phish (three times!)

Leftover Salmon

My Morning Jacket

And that's not all. I still have Goose and Billy Strings coming up in 2022 where I want to continue this positive trend. Not only did I not drink at concerts, but I successfully completed a 100 day gong where I didn't drink at all during that stretch of time. Many of these concerts took place during that time period and I found it easy and life affirming to attend. Now that I've completed a 100 day gong, I see no reason not to make it a perpetual groove.

Dumpstaphunk Charlottesville

Leftover Salmon at Maymont

Phish in Charleston, SC


Friday, September 16, 2022

Exercise Conversion Chart - One Mile Walked Equals How Many Miles on a Bicycle

I found a handy dandy exercise conversion chart. Now that I've been recreationally bicycling and paddling it's good to know how those activities compare to the exercise of walking. 

According to the chart, for bicycling on a road or paved trail you take the distance you cycled and multiply that by .3 to convert it to miles walked. For example, this morning I bicycled 10 miles, so that equates to 3 miles walked. To put that into minutes, in my case it takes me about 5 minutes to bicycle a mile which averages out to 12mph. To "walk" 3 miles on a bike means cycling for 10 miles which would take me about 50 minutes.

For canoeing/kayaking (moderate) - and I'll add stand up paddle boarding to that - you take the hours paddling and multiply that by 2.0 to convert it to miles walked. By that standard, to paddle the equivalent of walking three miles or cycling 10 miles you would need to paddle for 1.5 hours. So 90 minutes paddling equals 50 minutes pedaling! See how I did that!?

I'm not a jogger, but interestingly one mile jogged is about the same amount of exercise as one mile walked. Of course, when you're running you're going faster than walking so if you only have 30 minutes to walk 1.5 miles or run three miles you're going to get more exercise running the full 30 minutes. But if all you're trying to do is get from point A to point B and those two points are three miles apart you're going to get approximately the same exercise whether you walk or run. You'll just get there faster by running!

I also have a mini-trampoline or rebounder at home. It's not on the conversion chart, but according to some stats I found online I feel at liberty to say that 11 minutes on the rebounder is the equivalent of walking one mile. Therefore, 22 minutes equals 2 miles and 3 miles would be 33 minutes on the rebounder.

I also do slide board! I don't really have many stats for slide board, but based on the little that I have seen it seems like about 9 minutes on the slide board equals one mile walking.

2.5 miles walked = 8.33 miles bicycle, 75 minutes SUP, 27.5 minutes rebounder, and 22 minutes slide board.

2 miles walked = 6.66 miles bicycle, one hour SUP, 22 minutes rebounder, and 18 minutes slide board.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

I Chose Paddle Board, But...

As recently as four months ago it had never occurred to me to take up kayaking as a hobby, let alone paddle boarding. Now that I've had some experience with both I can say that stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is an activity that I'd like to continue.

I find SUP to be a better overall workout than kayaking with less risk of repetitive motion wrist or elbow injuries. I also like the perspective you gain by standing up and looking down into the water. Thirdly, SUP as an identity or image is something that I find more easy to align with...sporty and athletic. Lastly, it is common for a SUP to be inflatable and lightweight, making transport and storage a breeze with many brands and options to choose from.

I'm pretty good at research but I still didn't really know what I was doing or what I would want when I bought my first SUP a few months ago. The SUP I got is like what is referred to as an "all around" board. It's 10'6" long, 34" wide, and 6 inches (15cm) thick. Those dimensions are pretty common for a beginner board but it's not the fastest or the straightest and the 325 liter volume is more than I need.

the SUP I got

I don't have any plans to enter competitive SUP races and I have no plans to do overnight camping trips with a SUP, but I am a fitness-minded paddler. I like to SUP at a moderate to fast pace for a couple hours straight. As a full body workout. I don't use it for yoga or for a leisurely float on the water. I like to move. So for my next paddle board I want something more sleek.

The characteristics I'm looking for in my next inflatable SUP include:
-A displacement hull. SUPs with a displacement hull typically have a pointy nose. This helps it cut through the water more efficiently and track straighter. These are usually called touring boards. I want to get more out of each paddle stroke. More speed and better tracking.
-A width of 28 to 30 inches. A wider SUP, like my 34" wide board, is too slow. It's also probably too wide for my body type which can disrupt my paddle stroke. I'm a smaller paddler so I need a more narrow board. I don't bring a bunch of gear so I don't need much storage space.
-A thickness of 12cm as opposed to 15cm. This one's not a must because there are some good boards out there that are 15cm (6") thick, but I'm under 150lbs so based on what I've learned I stand to gain by going with a 12cm (5") thickness offered by premium brands. Lower center of gravity = more stability.
-A volume of 300 liters or less. A board is going to respond differently to me than it is to a heavier person. I'm not bringing along a child or a pet or gear and I don't need a lot of weight capacity. Ideally I'd like to find a board designed with a 130 to 160 pound person in mind. Also, a board with less volume requires less pumped air! I don't mind manually pumping up a SUP but I'll do anything I can to speed up the process.
-Durability. This would seem like a no brainer but sometimes racing boards are made with one thing in mind - speed - and may not be designed with as much durability as an all around board. So the goal is to find a board with the above characteristics and durability. Lakes and rivers can have rocks and sticks.
-A weight of 24lbs or less. Most boards meet this characteristic but there are some hefty ones that would be disqualified by weight alone.  

The board that best meets all of the above characteristics appears to be the Red Paddle Co. 11'0 Sport model.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

How Simple Can You Make Music? No Theory, No Chords, No Key, No Genre, No Style, No Nothing

The last 2.5 years have been weird. In a lot of ways. Musically, I've gone through a period of not wanting to play music at all, to a period of extreme creativity, to a phase of wanting to learn complex music theory and harmony (not successful), back to a stage of not wanting to play at all, and now in a state of trying to maintain some type of interest and keep it going as a hobby. At the moment, the best method of doing so seems to be trying to make it as simple as possible.

Kimolas chase the rabbit

The simplest way I can think of is whistling. Whistling a melody would be an example of keeping it simple. Playing that whistled melody on a musical instrument is just one step up in complexity. If you can find those notes on a musical instrument and play the melody, then no further thought is needed. Done, done...and done. 

I could leave it at that. But I'm going to add two more things to it:

1) Because I am aware of the major scale (do, re, mi, et cetera), I am going to analyze that melody by figuring out which number of the scale each note conforms to. In other words, can I make the entire melody fit within the notes of the major scale? Most melodies will fit. When it does fit it is diatonic. It's like a puzzle. Half-steps are either going to be note 7 to note 1 or note 3 to note 4. Once this major scale puzzle is conquered I assign each note a number based on where it falls in the major scale.

2) Independent of number 1 above, I take time to practice playing the major scale on my fretted instrument using two different fingerings. In the first way of playing, note 1 of the major scale is under my middle finger. In the second way I have note 1 of the major scale fall under my pinky finger. That's it. Now I know two different patterns to play the same melody because I can see how the melody is simply a variation of the major scale. That's it. 

That's it.

And that's it!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Stand Up Paddleboard vs. Folding Kayak

I almost got an Oru folding kayak but didn't. I got an inflatable stand up paddleboard (iSUP) instead. Next year I might still get an Oru, but for this summer I decided on an inflatable stand up paddleboard that could double as a kayak. Specifically, I chose the Tahe Beach 10'6" SUP-YAK over the Oru Lake/Lake+. Here are some things I thought about when making this decision.

Portability: tie

Folding kayaks and iSUPs will each fit in the trunk or backseat of your car, making packability, portability and storage essentially a tie. 

Set Up Time: advantage Oru Lake

Here's a category where the Oru stands out, especially the Lake model. Once you get good at it, it's said that you can easily fold/unfold the Lake in under three minutes. It takes me almost ten minutes to pump up the iSUP to 15psi and then three or four additional minutes to attach the seat or chair and footrest. You're in the water ten minutes quicker with the Oru. (So far, I don't mind manually pumping the iSUP for 8 to 10 minutes. It's kind of like a pre-kayak warmup workout. You can always get an electric pump...for an additional cost.)

Weight: tie

The Oru Lake weighs approx. 18lbs. The Tahe Beach SUP-YAK weighs 23 to 24 lbs. That's a nominal difference and since you're not lifting anything up onto the top of a vehicle and all you're doing is carrying it to the water, I consider this a tie. It wasn't significant enough of a difference for me to make note of it. Both are easy to carry.

Versatility: advantage Tahe SUP-YAK

Simply put, it's super easy to go from sitting (kayaking) to standing (paddle boarding) very easy with the SUP-YAK. That's exactly what it's designed to do. Pretty much anything you can do on a folding kayak you can do with the SUP-YAK, plus you can also stand up to paddle. That's a win-win.

Speed and Tracking in the Water: advantage Oru Lake

The Oru Lake will get you from point A to point B faster than kayaking on a paddleboard. It more than likely tracks better as well due to the way it cuts through the water. That said, the SUP-YAK is a pretty smooth ride. Which leads me to...

Stability and Confidence in the Water: advantage Tahe SUP-YAK

By the time you've pumped the Tahe Beach SUP-YAK up to 15psi, you've got a rigid board that is going to be very stable in the water. It's 34 inches wide and you can stand up on it, so of course it's stable! You can also feel pretty confident in rougher conditions. There's no need for drain holes or being worried about it taking on water because with the flat design water just rolls off. If I had an Oru Lake I would only want to be out in calm, flat conditions and although it's unlikely that either are going to fail, I'd be a little less confident in the folding kayak.

Comfort - advantage Tahe SUP-YAK

The seat that comes as part of the SUP-YAK package is quite comfortable and substantial. You can also upgrade to a low frame camp chair type seat, sold separately. I like the one sold by Airkayaks. Either way, you'll be sitting up higher off the water in the SUP-YAK than in the Oru, and that may also make it more comfortable.

Dry Off - slight advantage to Oru Lake

One of the knocks on inflatable kayaks is that they are tricky to dry off entirely and failure to do so can lead to mold. This is not as much of a problem with inflatable stand up paddleboards. A SUP's flat design means that there aren't any nooks and crannies for water to hide. Still, after initially drying it off when coming out of the water, I like to unroll the SUP again once home so that it can air dry. I wouldn't want it to be put away while still damp. I can only assume that the drying process for the Oru Lake is slightly easier, but the advantage isn't as distinct as when compared to inflatable kayaks.

Oru Lake kayak

Tahe Beach "SUP-YAK"

For me the thing that mattered the most was versatility. I love having the option to sit or stand while paddling. Sometimes I'll paddle up the river and SUP all the way back down. If I never wanted to stand and only wanted to kayak, then the Oru Lake would probably have been my first choice since as a kayak it's going to perform more like a hardshell.


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Goose - My (and Your) New Favorite Band

At any point over the last 30 years, if someone had asked me who my two favorite bands were the answer would have been The Grateful Dead and Phish, or Phish and The Grateful Dead. The same answer either way. When Jerry Garcia died in 1995 that pretty much made The Grateful Dead a "past tense" band for me, leaving Phish as the unrivaled top-favorite "present-tense" group. 

Number two behind Phish was always a distant but still fervent second, occupied at various times by bands such as Leftover Salmon, .moe, String Cheese Incident, Dark Star Orchestra, Yonder Mountain String Band, Sound Tribe Sector Nine, My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, and Ween. None of those ever came close to knocking Phish off its perch. Now, out of nowhere, there is a band rising higher than any of those contenders that came before it, and that band is Goose. 

I believe my first exposure to Goose was while watching their debut at the 2019 Peach Music Festival where they struck me as a talented yet generic jamband. Another in a long line of generic sounding 2nd or 3rd tier jambands not worth my time. Fast forward to spring of 2022 and that general impression remained about the same. I actually hadn't thought much about Goose at all. That changed when I again found myself watching a live festival performance, this one being the April 2022 Sweetwater 420 Festival. No question Goose had gotten better, but I was also now more receptive to what they had to offer. I soon watched that Sweetwater 420 set a 2nd time and liked it even more. After that it's been non-stop Goose.

I was wrong to write off Goose as a generic jamband at some minor-league level. Yes they are most definitely a jamband and in fact that is their number one attribute. They jam. They jam at a level that rises above all the criticisms and comparisons to some new territory that is both familiar and unique. You can get into it. You can get lost in it. It is not going to let you down. I love how Goose goes straight to the epicenter of the genre (if I may), then works its way back out from there. They scratch that itch, whether you currently have poison ivy or got rid of that rash years ago. They scratch it.

Jamming is one thing that sets Goose apart but it is not the only thing. More important than the jams themselves are the foundations on which those jams are set and for Goose those are very stable blueprints. They flat out have some awesome songs. I feel like I am just getting to know these songs and there are probably some I am still unfamiliar with. And at this point instant classics are constantly being introduced to the repertoire. Was Animal really just played for the first time on 6/11/22? I guess I'm not that late to the party.

You have to love the song first before you can really love the jam. To use Phish as an example, a 20+ minute Soul Planet or Set Your Soul Free is never going to feel as good as a 20+ minute Ghost or Tweezer. With Goose I don't know if we are on hallowed "Tahoe-Tweezer" style ground, but they seem to at least get to "Ruby Waves" level on a regular basis, if you know what I mean.

Another thing that sets Goose apart from, well...everyone else, is that they have a really good singer. Guitarist Rick Mitarotonda can actually sing in a way that would appeal to the casual pop music listener, and that is a rarity in the jam-dominated live music world. I put him in the same league as Jim James or maybe even Thom Yorke when it comes to that. I'm surprised that I don't hate Rick's use of the autotune/vocoder thing but in contrast I have even come to like it in a weird way. I see it as a vocal tool he uses to his advantage similar to how Jim James would use reverb when My Morning Jacket first came out.

The overall sound of Goose is appealing, regardless of the song or the jam they are in. It's not all rock or jam all the time. For example, there are hints of bossa nova and calypso, hints of middle eastern scales, Paul Simony grooves, hummable hooks and melodies, and way, way more to it than that. And of course there seem to be passing references to all your favorite other bands. Yeti could totally be a .moe song. Hungersite would make for a killer My Morning Jacket number. There's some song I don't know the name of yet that reminds me of 46 Days. And so on. I've come to view these as good things.

Rick is a good, might I say, great guitar player. I don't yet know where he falls in that tradition or whether it's just within the jam world or the larger world of guitar, but I can say that he really shines during the acoustic Radio City Music Hall sets from June 2022. He also puts off an aura of being someone that you can put a lot of faith in and that is a characteristic he shares with Jerry and Trey. 

The piano sounds in Goose, when the guy Peter plays them, are extremely tasteful. I cannot believe that he didn't start playing piano until he joined Goose in late 2017. Unfathomable and quite impressive. (Referring to him as "the Peter guy" is one step up from his former title of "mustache dude". He's growing on me and I'm sure at some point soon his goofiness will become endearing).

The twin drumming of Goose - drum kit plus percussion - is something I find myself focusing on. It's easy to draw comparisons to Widespread Panic there. Goose seems to have cut and pasted that drum+percussion vibe and planted it in the middle of what they are doing and it works very, very well for them. 

However, the thing I probably find myself listening to the most in Goose is the bass. I don't know why this is. The bassist's name is Trevor Weeks or Weekz. Anyway, it's not like his playing is real flashy and it's certainly not a reproduction of Phil Lesh or Mike Gordon. If anything it's like a better Rob Derhak but I admit that's a lazy and unfair comparison. 

Phil Lesh, and to some extent Mike Gordon, are always "soloing"... adding bass counterpoint to the lead line. This particular style of playing has heavily (and perhaps negatively) influenced many that are trying to follow in those footsteps. Trevor doesn't really do this. He is mostly supportive, adding nuance in a more standard bassist function, and yet is still very prominent in the mix making it very easy to hear what he is doing. Very tasty.

OK I've rambled enough. I was originally only going to write the first two paragraphs above but kept adding more thoughts that weren't really very well fleshed out. At this point I'm only like three months in to really listening to Goose so these impressions could definitely change with time.