Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Seven Year Itch—Longtime, No Blog—The Tough Love Edition

Okay! I admit it! I'm not a "blogger." I don't take my time to sit down and eloquently piece together my words, ideas, experiences, observations, or musings for the masses. I write songs sometimes. I like doing that when it hits me, but writing prose just leaves cold. It's as enjoyable to me as eating ice cream on a frigid day—no…no—it's more like hitting your thumb with the ball end of a ball-peen hammer. Yeah…it's far more like that. 

I make no apologies. I get it. I live on a boat. I am a musician, entertainer, singer-songwriter. I live an interesting life, and some folks want to read about that kind of crap. I mean, just today, I drove the boat from Port Washington, New York to Manasquan, New Jersey. We cruised through downtown New York via the East River, then thumped around in a thunderstorm that turned the ocean between the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (and, yes, there are two "z"s in Verrazzano—the one-z spelling is incorrect. You could ask Giovanni Da Verrazzano how to spell his name correctly, and if he wasn't dead a long time ago, I'm sure he'd tell you) and Sandy Hook into a bubbling cauldron of "get me the eff off this boat before I hurl!" After we passed Sandy Hook, the ocean relaxed and gave us a nice, dependable swell until we arrived in Manasquan. To me, that's what I call Tuesday. Admit it. You wish you could do that. Sure, piloting a boat through a squall is stressful, if exhilarating, but it probably beats the crap out of what you did today.

You wish you could abandon the humdrum life that is so stereotypically American. The get up, drink coffee, shower, work, drink booze until you can't see straight, stagger to bed, do-it-all-over-again American life is not what any of us signed up for. I have always tried to live and operate outside the hamster wheel, but it really wasn't until my partner, Stacey, and I discovered boating that I really perfected the life. I should write a book about it, right? No! Screw off. You're lucky I'm writing this. I'm not here to document a well lived life for you. It's mine. Get your own! I'm telling you to get off the friggin' hamster wheel and do something weird. I'm not telling you to move onto a boat and take up guitar, songwriting, and marine repair (that's the less-discussed, less-romantic part of my life—don't hate me because I'm beautiful). Life is what you make of it, and routine, despite how addictively comfortable it can be, was never supposed to be the foundation upon which our lives should be built. Routine sucks rocks. Don't do it. Escape it every chance you have. That is all I have to offer you as any sort of advice. 

What I am doing works for me. There are ten-million reasons you shouldn't follow my path. Instead, follow the example. Find that thing you love to do, and find a way to make it part of your world on a daily basis. Nobody needs to live in a 2000 or 3000 or (dare I say) 4000 square-foot house to be happy, and the people who do either have to maintain all that space or pay someone to do it for them. Life is short. Live on the cheap, and never ever let Monday look like Tuesday, or Tuesday look like Wednesday, and so on. Change it up and make yourself happy. Drag your loved ones along for the ride and let them discover whatever it is that gladdens their hearts. 

I live on a boat. I play guitar and sing. I write songs. I travel. I never know what tomorrow will bring, and I'm always surprised by the day I just had. Do that. It's much better than therapy. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Season Cometh…
As I'm writing this, I'm sitting down after a long day of filling Christmas-time CD and T-shirt orders from the DRM website, getting the house ready for winter (yes—it's coming…), getting press releases out for upcoming shows, and baking a few cookies (chocolate chip!). I could feel the chill in the air today, and the overcast reminded me that snow is right around the corner. There is still much to do and so little time—especially here in Maine as the ground is starting to freeze.

Sometimes it seems like the peas have barely been planted when the pumpkins are catching that first frost of the season. The march of the seasons persists, and here I find myself once again contemplating my holiday message to you in a perpetually troubled and wonderful world. 

As I was preparing my thoughts for this message, I was reminded of a poem Christmas Bells written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who also lived in Portland, Maine—my home town. You may know it as the carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. He wrote the poem soon after he'd learned that his son had joined up and was off to the war front in the Civil War against his wishes, and shortly after losing his wife in a house fire. It was a dark time for Longfellow. We've all had those moments of intense loss being made more intense by the holidays.

Inspired by Longfellow's words, I put pen to paper this afternoon and created my own poem of the season. 

'Tis the Season…

A poem by Dave Rowe
Dec. 1, 2015

Frost on creaking stair
Leaves crinkle underfoot
Still, crisp air tickles the nose

The autumn has left its fleeting mark
Soon flakes will cover fallow ground
As winter takes its place

Trees will be gathered and brought inside
Glowing warmly in windows
Laden with lights and garlands

Anticipation and hope of rebirth
For a world rife with hardships and pain
Soon it shall come

The day, the feasts, the parties
Friends and families gathered by tradition
Bound by love, embraces, and cheer

Until the final day of the year
So it continues, this year to the next
So it shall always…

May the season bless you all,

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yesterday I asked Facebook friends and fans to comment on my website. I got a a number of very helpful responses (I've already implemented a number of suggestions), and one common thread was that folks seemed to want to see this blog more active. I'd love to promise that. I'd love to say that I'm going to start blogging as a daily habit—every day I'd have something new to say about some interesting topic. Monday I'd extol the virtues of house plants; Tuesday I'd wax poetic about the lesser-known virtues of bacon; Wednesday I'd talk about how much I love gardening, and so on…. It would be a wonderful, continuous monologue about the world from my point of view. It would be filled with meandering verse about my hobbies, habits, foibles, pet peeves, and interests and cover topics as varied as songwriting, auto repair, sauna maintenance, and cuisine. I could demonstrate to all who care to read exactly how fun and interesting my life as a professional musician is—and it is.

The truth of the matter is, however, that despite my best intentions when I started this blog, I'll never be a regular blogger. Not only do I lack the discipline to sit down regularly and do this, but I also lack the time and energy. Entertainers necessarily have to spend a lot of time pounding on social media to stay relevant to their friends and fans so that they will come out to shows and buy our latest work, and I fear the time I spend doing that really is my limit for tapping out ideas on the old computer keyboard. I'm far more likely to put out a 140 character tweet on Twitter (I'm @daverowemusic) or repost someone else's cat picture on Facebook (Music Page: http://facebook.com/daverowefolk or Personal Page: http://facebook.com/daverowemusic) from my cellphone while on one of my daily walks than I'll ever be to pen a full blog post like this on a regular basis.

I'm flattered that people want to read my musings, and I'm certainly not going to stop blogging or take down this blog, but committing to blogging as a regular part of my life is something I just don't see happening…at least not until I can fill out a staff of full-time minions who are willing to take care of all the other crap I have to do and are willing to work for barbecue leftovers—despite the fact that my barbecue is ranked among the best within a three-house radius and my cole slaw is to die for, I still don't think there will be a line forming outside the Dave Rowe Music H.R. office to fill the positions any time soon. If, however, you are a motivated individual looking for thankless work and willing to work for less than the average border collie's annual income, feel free to email your resume and qualifications to humanresources@daverowemusic.com and someone will get back to you soon.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How Can I Keep From Singing?

I have had a number of people ask for the text of the homily I delivered Sunday morning during the annual music service at The First Universalist Church Unitarian Universalist of Auburn, Maine. Here it is in its entirety. 

How many times have I heard: “I couldn’t carry a tune if it was strapped to me.” “You don’t want to hear me sing.”Or  “I can’t (or don’t) sing.”? There are many variations on this theme, but the net result is always the same. For one reason or another, every person who utters one of these phrases has been told (or convinced themself) to give up singing. I often hear such things when I encourage people to join the church choir. I’m just waiting for someone to quote Jarod Kintz from his book “Who Moved My Choose?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change by Deciding to Let Indecision Into Your Life.” He wrote: “I only sing in the shower. I would join a choir, but I don’t think my bathtub can hold that many people.”

It’s only been in the last 500 years or so in western culture, and mostly in the last 100 years, since the invention of recorded music, that the line between audience and performer has crept into our social consciousness. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told that most extant aboriginal cultures use the same word to mean “to sing” as “to dance.”

Our ancestors would not have been without music, and before the radio, before the phonograph, if you wanted music it was performed live, and nearly everyone was a musician of some sort or another. They would gather around fires or in kitchens with voices and instruments and some lubricating beverages to play, sing, and dance. It was fun, it drew people together, it passed long winter nights, it celebrated weddings and births, and remembered departed souls.

Sea chanteys were invented and sung by sailors to synchronize hard work on ships, like the pulling of ropes, or spinning the capstan, before the machinery existed to automate those jobs. When we sing these songs now, we tend to clap in the places when the work would have happened.

We’ll roll the old chariot along, we’ll roll the old chariot along, we’ll roll the old chariot, and we’ll all hang on behind.

The songs were infectious enough that the men would sing them after the work was done during the mugup below or in the pub onshore. They’d make up more verses, sometimes very humorous verses. I still sing some of those old songs in pubs, and people still sing along.

Today’s music service theme is our church’s mission: “Rooted in the sacred and strengthened by our diversity, we equip ourselves to minister through the transformative power of Love.” We recently lost a man who lived out a similar ministry. Rooted in the sacred and strengthened by the diversity of the entire human race, Pete Seeger equipped himself with banjo and voice to minister to us all through the transformative power of Love. Pete’s voice fell silent last week. He entertained us and got us singing for most of his 94 years. He gave us the gift of timeless songs: “Where have all the flowers gone, Long time passing, where have all the flowers gone, Long time ago…” He gave us questions to ponder: “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” He called us to arms and told us to peacefully go forth and sing to change the world: “Well I have a hammer, and I have a bell, and I have a song to sing all over this land. It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom, it’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”

Wendy Schuman asked Pete his views on religion. He said: "I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature. Or looking up at the stars. I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.

I’ve had preachers of the gospel, Presbyterians and Methodists, saying, “Pete, I feel that you are a very spiritual person.” And maybe I am. I feel strongly that I’m trying to raise people’s spirits to get together." That’s exactly what he did when he got people to sing together.

That’s what I try to do. In some ways, Pete gave me my career. He was the archetype. He set an example which I and countless others hold up now. It’s the reason I am the choir director at this church. It’s the reason I write songs and feel compelled to shout them out. It’s the reason I remind people they can sing—they should sing. We all should sing. It’s the reason I sing old songs which are worth remembering and handing down again and again like prized family possessions.

The voice is the only instrument we all can play, the only instrument that is hidden inside of each one of us, the only truly organic instrument. When we are born, the first thing we do after taking our first breath is to make a sound with our voice—our innate instrument. The cry of a newborn baby is music, just as the twitter of birds, the rumble of thunder, the babble of a brook, or the silence of the dawn. Every sound—every vibration moving through the air which meets the ear is music. The sound of a mother’s voice to her baby is music. The purr of a cat in your lap is music. So is the slam of a door or the whistle, clickety-clack, and rumble of a train. All music.

In 1952 Composer, John Cage, wrote 4’33”. It’s a piano piece in which the performer takes the stage, sits at the piano and proceeds, stop watch in hand, to not play the piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, at which point he closes the piano cover and exits the stage. Many people have mistakenly thought that the piece is about silence. It’s not. According to Cage, the music is the sounds of the audience: occasional coughs and sneezes, shifting in seats, the rattle of someone retrieving an item from a pocket, and so forth. The point is every sound is music, and if we accept the premise, then every voice sings.

Singing feels good. It’s good for us. It releases endorphins in the body. It makes us healthy and happy.

Let’s try something together. Let’s all take a slow, deep breath together, hold it for a couple of seconds and then slowly let it out by humming. This is not a recital, there is no wrong way to do this, so please just try it.

Did you feel that? That feeling of calm come over your entire body? That was a release of endorphins. It’s actually good for you. Laughing actually does the same thing (laughter is singing—it’s music).

OK, I admit it, some days I don’t feel like singing. Sometimes I don’t want to “go to work.” I don’t want to get in my car, drive to a pub, set up my equipment, and sing and play guitar. It’s a job after all. But after a few songs, after the audience starts to smile, clap, sing, and dance, I start to get into it. I start to become energized by the music, and suddenly I realize: I love this. I love doing this. I love making music, but most of all I love watching and hearing all those people singing timeless songs with me. And that is what places me in the great circle with countless other singers, the great circle that includes Pete Seeger; Woody Guthrie; Joan Baez; John, Paul, George, and Ringo; John Denver; my own father; and innumerable others who have stood on stage or in kitchens or in churches like this and encouraged a room full of people to join their voices together.

Stephen Sondheim said, “If I cannot fly, let me sing.” I certainly agree. When I sing, I feel like I am soaring. My troubles cannot follow me when I sing. It’s a true escape, but it’s an escape best shared. The shower is a wonderful place to sing, but that’s just the warmup. Be free with your breath, your voice, your music. Share it and feel the rewards it brings. Invite friends and family to your kitchen, tell them to bring guitars and fiddles, and start doing what we are wired at birth to do. Let’s start today, in this room, with our music service. Let’s enjoy the musical offerings this morning, and let them be the catalyst for a musical-spiritual experience.

Gangai Victor founder of the Indian Christian Blog, VotivePraise.com wrote: “It’s easy to sing the song, but to pray the lyrics from deep within… that’s worship!”

Let us worship.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cold Fall Rain

Quiet except raindrops,
The crackle of fire,
The chair creaks, straining under lazy weight.

Chill, the scent of fall in the air
Colors—orange, red, yellow
Mingle in flight, lighting on fields not yet fallowed by frost.

The world seems to slow,
Hot drink in a hand
The melancholy of fall rain envelops—

Steam in the nose rings the head
Pleasing and at once comforting
In the presence of the seasonal spirits.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Latest Song

Before anyone accuses me of taking sides, all I want to say is that I believe all politicians lie. Paul Ryan just has the misfortune of having done it recently and having a last name that rhymes loosely with "lying." All political songs have expiration dates, so enjoy while this is still funny….

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What the Republicans Should be Doing

If I listened long enough to you
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe
                         -from Reason to Believe, a song by Tim Hardin

Ronald Reagan was president during most of my formative years. I freely admit to admiring him as the Gipper. I came from a household of Reagan Democrats, though I didn't know that then. I really didn't know much about politics as a kid. It was not common dinner conversation in my house, and I was blissfully ignorant of the differences between Democrats and Republicans. It wasn't until the Iran-Contra hearings that I started paying attention. I remember watching Oliver North give days of testimony on TV, knowing that some bad stuff went down on Reagan's watch, then seeing the 40th President of the United States in the hot seat repeating his "I don't recall" mantra. Of course, knowing he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, that may have been true. Still I have never been a Reagan hater. I always liked the man as well as his successor, GHW Bush. I turned 18 during the first Bush presidency, though when I cast my first ballot in a presidential election it was for Bill Clinton. Of course during Clinton's presidency I was again enraptured with congressional hearings—this time not of arms for hostages, but discussions of what happened under the president's desk when the First Lady wasn't looking….proving to me once and for all that there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans and solidifying my status as an independent. Both sides are equally ready to screw with the other in order to be the dominant party. Throwing each other under the bus is just par for the course.

So here we are again, fourteen years after discussions of stained dresses and alternate uses for stogies, the RNC convention is going on in Tampa, Florida while the world watches; Mitt Romney has ascended to clench the top spot to run against the incumbent Democrat, Barack Obama for President of the United States. The economy is slowly returning after years of being beat to a pulp by the previous president, GW Bush, who famously thought the way to national prosperity was to remove regulation in order to allow business to flourish. Of course, what instead happens when regulations are removed is business will run rough-shod over the economy hoovering up every last dollar from every unattended wallet until businesses are fat and people are broke. Perhaps that was the intention. The Democrats would say it was. Romney is promising to undo everything President Obama has done if elected in order to "bring back the middle class," clearly missing the point. Obama is promising to continue trying to reinstate regulations in order to slowly pull money back out of the clenched fists of corporate interests and the crazy-wealthy in order to rebalance the distribution of wealth and reinvigorate the middle class.

There's only one problem with the promises of the candidates, only one of them is believable. President Obama has been doing what he says he's going to do. Mitt Romney's only experience as a public leader was as Governor of Massachusetts where he famously did at the state level most of what Mr. Obama has done as president, and now he's got to profess that he'll do the opposite if elected in order to make the constituents of GOP happy. He's not believable. The rank and file Republicans know this, but they are lining up behind Mr. Romney anyway under the assumption that, as a Republican, Mr. Romney will surely be better than what we have now. The only problem with that is there is no proof: no proof at all that the former Governor of Massachusetts will actually be effective as a leader. All he's done so far is impugn his own credibility by running away from his accomplishments in order to get the Republican nod. In other words, he appears to be a desperate man who will do or say anything to become president. And now that he's done/said what is required to become the Republican nominee, he is going to try to do that in the general election. The Republicans have a problem, and his name is Mitt Romney.

Of course, they could have elected to circle their wagons around Ron Paul, but the problem with Ron Paul is he is incorruptible. He will not say anything to be elected. He is willing to speak what he considers to be the hard truth, and no one wants that. Mind you, I do not agree with Mr. Paul on a lot of things, but I do believe he's a man of integrity. Mitt Romney clearly is not. And now the Republican party has even changed the rules of the convention to push Ron Paul out of any possible contention. If they did that the year Abraham Lincoln was nominated, we would have had a different 16th president. The Civil War may have had a different outcome (or never happened at all). The Republican Party should have let the rules be and should have played by them. Of course, the uncertainty of doing so was likely more than they could bear. The Grand Old Party has now shown itself to be spineless. I'm disappointed.

I think they need some help. I think they need some advice. I think they need to return to their core values as a party. Here's my advice to the GOP. Stop it. Stop ignoring fact. Stop pandering to religious interests. Stop listening to the ramblings of all those drooling, unstable Tea Party types. Stop being so stubborn. Admit it, there sometimes is good reason to raise taxes. Ronald Reagan knew that. He raised taxes. George HW Bush knew that, even after saying, "Read my lips: no new taxes," he was convinced he made a mistake by saying that and raised taxes. Of course, that very fact was one of the main reasons he was not re-elected, but it was a risk he was willing to take as an honorable patriot. The Republicans could use a few more like him.

My main bit of advice to the Republicans though, is to forget this election. Mitt Romney has already lost. Unless President Obama makes some dastardly error, Mitt Romney's dreams of becoming the next president are hopeless. The Republicans should concentrate their efforts on maintaining their majority in Congress and retaking the Senate. Don't waste another minute or dollar trying to get Mitt, whom the Republicans are lukewarm about anyway, elected. Line up behind the Republican congressional candidates and try to continue doing what has been done for the last two years, which is to say disrupt Washington, and ruin any chances Barack Obama has of being remembered by history as a great president. Actually, I was being a bit facetious with that last bit. If the Republicans do receive another chance to lead the congress, they should seize that opportunity to start forging compromise with the Democrats. As long as we are divided, the people of the United States are the one's who lose. One of the reasons Reagan was a successful president despite his troubles is because he worked with the Democrats when push came to shove. He didn't just disagree with them on principle. The current crop of Republican legislators will not do anything the President would like because they don't like him and don't want to see any success on his watch. Stop that too. It's not patriotic to be obstructionist for political purposes. Ron Paul has the right idea: speak the truth as you see it, even if it's an unpopular truth. If more candidates did that, our country would be better for it.

Finally, a bit of advice to the victors of this election, whether Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or otherwise: you are being entrusted with the People's work. This is a sacred trust. Do well by us, or we'll vote your ass back out. We're sick of lying politicians. Don't be one. Learn to get along with each other. Your predecessors did it. You can too. If you can't figure it out, we will find someone who can.