Sunday, March 14, 2010

California diary

I just flew in this afternoon from LA to KC. I had a window seat. I love window seats for this reason: The world looks amazing from 30 thousand feet! And this is one beautiful country.

We took off over the pounding Pacific surf and doubled back over the rolling Hollywood hills, which gave way to snow-capped Sierras...which gave way to forsaken salt flats... which gave way to the lonely high desert... which gave way to rugged (and Grand) canyons and mesas... which gave way to the majestic Rockies... which gave way to the patchwork quilt of the nation's bread basket... which gave way to rolling pastures along the banks of the Missouri... which gave way to HOME!

For the past twelve days I've been in Southern California having a blast as always, and missing my girls. I slept in a big stucco Wigwam, addressed a conference for early childhood educators, performed some shows, recorded a new CD, and met some beautiful people. It's so good to be are some snippets from my stay:

In Alhambra I met a homeless man named Chief Weeping Tree who gave me the coolest gift I got all week. After I slipped him a contribution, he recited for me his poem titled "Silent Plight." The first line is this: "Oh my, how more poor grow hungry every day where the fields weep for woe..." He thanked me by saying how much I had blessed him, when it was he who had done the blessing.


I spent an hour in the laundromat talking with Roberto, an out-of-work carpenter in his late 50s. He told me how he visits the casinos 3-4 times a week and through much patience and calculation, he works the system of free points, free play, and free buffets to actually make a small profit. After my clothes dried and I was packed up, I gave Roberto a dollar and asked him play Keno for me next time and to email me if he wins. He said he'd have his son contact me, because his son knows computers..

If you ever need a dose of reality, don't turn on the TV, go to the laundromat!


When I asked a group of school kids the other day where they can find rhythm, a little voice shouted out, "Target!" And, of course, he was correct. Rhythm -- wherever you are, there it is.


As I was loading in my equipment for a school assembly in Fullerton, I was instructed by faculty members not to use the word "kid" or any derivative of the forbidden word. They had me so paranoid that I slipped -- twice! Poor kids will be scarred -- whoops there I go again!


Some deranged old dude tried to pick a fight with me the other day at Griffith Park Observatory. (The same spot -- oddly enough -- where in "Rebel Without a Cause," Buzz challenges James Dean's character to a fight.) I was on the phone and gazing out at the Hollywood sign when he came up to me and grumbled that I was staring at him, which was "rude" and "provoking." Agreed. I told him I was only provoking the Hollywood sign. Now, move along.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

California Dreamin'!!

We are well rested after spending the night in a Wigwam on Route 66 in San Bernardino! It is one of three of the original seven Wigwam Motels in the U.S. (Check out the history of the place here.)

It was kitschy as all get-out. And comfortable and clean and a great blast from the past. Jeni and I were exhausted from a weekend at a fabulous childcare conference on the campus of UC-San Bernardino. I delivered a key-note address to 450 child care providers -- great enthusiasm in that room! Thank God there are dedicated people who are providing a nurturing environment for kids.

We now are sitting in the Crown City Studios in
Pasadena tuning up the instruments and getting ready to start recording the new CD! I'll post pics as we go.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where are we going?

Technology sure makes life easy, but I think it's making me soft.

We arrived in Ontario, California, last night with one major item missing -- our GPS! I left it in the glove box of the van, which is parked at the airport in Kansas City. We're going to be here 12 days, and I was depending on that box to get us around. I feel so vulnerable.

It's not like I'm clueless to navigating. I love maps, and I generally have a great sense of direction. So, last night why did I feel like a lost kid searching for his mother at the mall? Before we hit the streets, we fumbled around with a rental car map, our cell phones, and a phone book (what's that?) until a friendly local dude offered assistance.

I could hear in my mind the sound of my deceased father smacking his forehead and shaking his head in disbelief. He's the one who taught me a love for orienteering. One of the few tangible objects that I inherited from my father was a yellowed plastic box full of maps. There are road maps and tourist maps and mostly old maps pulled from decades-old issues of National Geographic.

One of the many skills my father instilled in me -- in conjunction with that box of maps -- is a knack for getting from point A to point B. As we prepared for the dozens of road-trips we took as a family, he would spend hours planning, plotting, and routing. He loved figuring distances, estimating times of arrival, and calculating miles per gallon. And I loved looking over his shoulder at the scribbles on his maps.

As a young adult I experienced the satisfying rush of hitting the ground in an unknown territory, getting a lay of the land, grabbing a map, establishing my bearings, and sniffing out directions. And as much as I appreciate the convenience of a GPS, my dependence on it has shriveled my nurtured abilities and left me a puny helpless tourist.

So, now we are left armed with the quaint and antiquated tools of a laptop, Google maps, and a Blackberry. How will we survive? Stay tuned...