Saturday, February 24, 2018

sell the silver (video)

It's been a long few weeks and I'm finally getting around to posting the new video.

Thanks for your patience. I hope those of you who have picked up the new album have been enjoying it. We are working on some tour dates and I expect to have some information about that soon.

Here's the video for Sell the Silver.

The video was created by Juan Diego Monsalve/Estudio Trementina.

Thanks for watching.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

sell the silver

Finally, it is February 23, 2018.

As promised...

It's been a crazy two weeks, plus.

For those of you following along with the blog, let me get you up to speed.

Two weeks ago, my sister, my husband, and I moved my mother into a residence with 24-hour care. She wasn't sure about the idea at first, but my mom is now comfortable and adjusting little by little. It's not easy, but she's keeping busy and it feels like she's gone in just at the right time. She's seeing a good deal of activity and socialization that she wasn't getting so consistently when she lived with us. We visit her about five times a week and it's always nice to see her and visit with her. The nurses are really, really nice, and they have grown fond of my mom and vice versa. So, so far, so good. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, my cousin and her husband arrived around the same time that my mother went in to the home so that we could get my uncle transitioned to the new place as well. About 24 hours after undergoing the emotional shock of moving into a place not of his choosing, my uncle's glucose levels dropped quite drastically. He was taken to a hospital and for about 10 days, my cousin, her siblings, and I, plus a slew of other family members, worked to get him out of a coma, through some rehabilitation, etc. and stable enough to get out of the hospital and back to the home. I'm really, really hoping that it all works out for him. He's a special guy -one of my dad's closest siblings, and he stood in for my father at my wedding. His kids are my closest cousins and it's because of them that I grew up with the desire to become a musician.

So, yeah, basically, these last two weeks went like so... hospital, airport, hotel, home, hospital, airport, mall, pharmacy, hotel, home, hospital, airport, hotel, home, mall, pharmacy, hospital, airport, hospital, hotel, home, pharmacy, airport...

My cousin's husband said it best, quoting that famous line from National Lampoon's European Vacation: "Look kids! Big Ben! Parlement!"

We'll see if my uncle continues to improve.

Now, my husband and I are home, enjoying our place like it were brand new. I've reacquainted myself with the guest room, which will now become my studio space. I've got the NS10's plugged in and working. I'm listening to Lo Fine's Want is a Great Need, a psychedelic record that I may or may not have recorded and mixed entirely elevated. It's like a sonic sundae for me. And after listening to a bunch of my own songs for the past day or two, this is a nice transition. If you're interested in checking it out, here it is. Peyton and I worked on it with Kevin O'Rourke (mr. Lo Fine) and we enjoyed it like crazy.

Happy SPOUSE release day. Later on Friday, I hope to have a video for Sell the Silver to share with you. 

Rock out,


Friday, February 9, 2018


Last night, I did not sleep well. I can't remember what I dreamt but it was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. The chihuahuas crowded me and I kind of snapped at them. Fortunately, they don't listen to me and just curled up beside me anyway.

Today is the day we move my mom into the home. It's not exactly an assisted living place, it's not exactly a nursing home. I'm calling it an eldercare home. There, she'll receive all sorts of therapy: occupational, physical, psychological. She'll be busy all day long. There are only about 10 residents and the chef works with the residents to plant a garden from which they get all the onions, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and such that they use in preparing soups, teas, meals, etc. I like that part a lot.

I'm just hoping she makes a smooth and positive transition to the home. You see, two days ago, as we were getting ready to leave the apartment and head to my aunt's house for lunch, my mom was just down the hall, brushing her teeth. I was on the phone with my cousin, letting her know we were getting ready to leave. My mom brushed her teeth with liquid hand soap, and, realizing she made a mistake, searched for mouthwash in the cabinet under the sink. She found nail polish remover instead that the aesthetician left behind the day before when she came over to do her hair and nails. She opened the bottle and took a swig. She immediately spit it all out, but she was in shock and embarrassed. I don't think I've ever been as angry, mad, and upset with myself as I was at that moment. HOW THE HELL COULD I LET THIS HAPPEN?!!??!!

I went through the emergency protocols; had her rinse her mouth for several minutes; had her re-brush her teeth with toothpaste and use proper mouthwash to help flush the taste of the acetone. I called the doctor, he gave me a few other instructions and a medication for her to take for a few days. I monitored her for a while and she insisted that she was fine. Not that my mom is a liar, but she has never been good at admitting the truth. This is a woman who, when told she had diabetes, didn't bother to tell her children. We found out eight years after the original diagnosis! Worse, she hadn't bothered to really treat it, she'd merely tried to pray it away. She tries to pray everything away. This is another reason why I can't stand the Catholic Church from several decades ago. Boy, they really fucked her up. Well-intentioned, dangerous, brainwashing shame-inducers. I shouldn't even get started down this road...

It's hard to separate my history with her in the role of mother-son from my current experience as caregiver-elderly parent with dementia. I was angry because my mom has never admitted when she's not feeling well, when she's going through a tough moment, etc. In other words, she's never allowed herself to be vulnerable with me. It makes it extremely difficult to care for her. I have to guess at things. Fortunately, my husband has her full confidence, but he also works long hours and has a really stressful job. 

And here I am, griping, complaining. Arrrggggghhhhh.

I hope today goes well. My sister, who arrived a couple of days ago, is taking care of her right now. She just messaged me to say that my mom is experiencing nausea, dizziness, and she's really tired. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for our car to get a repair done and sitting at the café next door. I should be working right now or helping my sister with stuff, but we need the car later today and this repair needs to happen. Also, I needed to write. I'm exhausted. Feeling like I just need to get through these next couple of days...

And still, the new SPOUSE release is scheduled for February 23rd. You think I've had any time to really promote it? Timing is so off.

Breathe in through my nose; exhale through my mouth. Fucking acetone.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


For the first time in over two years, come this Friday, we won't have my mom living with us. Basically, since we got married, my husband and I have been caring for my mom (with the exception of a handful of weeks here and there when she's been visiting my sister and her family). Anyway, the question keeps coming up, "how do you feel?" Well, I've mostly been feeling pretty confident in the decision to send my mom to a small, reputable elderly home very close by. We'll be able to visit her a few times a week, take her out to lunch, and make sure she's getting the attention, care, and social stimulus that she needs. And to be honest, I'm looking forward to moving on to the next stage of life. It's not guilt that I feel, but a mix of relief, worry, anxiety, excitement, and nerves. When I look at it from my mom's point of view, I think she must be kind of scared, not knowing what to expect. When I look at it from an outside perspective, I know she'll be getting all the care that she needs, plus the consistency of a solid and busy routine. Will her memory continue to decline? Probably. Just as it has noticeably done these past few months. Dementia, like I've said before, is cruel.

Anyway, these days, every free moment I've had with my husband has been dominated by the same topic of conversation: my mom. I'm really tired of it. I need to remember what my life was like when she wasn't the topic of conversation at every turn. I love her, but I'm going to be of no use to my husband, or to anyone else for that matter, unless I can reconnect with who I am, what I do, who I am married to, etc. Here's hoping it can happen soon. 

Also, it seems my spouse has decided we need another puppy. I thought that by agreeing to the idea, he would maybe opt out of it, but alas, I think my reverse psychology has backfired (-shrug-). 

When Santiago's mom passed away almost five years ago, she left behind a couple of dogs. A female Poodle, believed to be unable to have puppies, and a Shih-Tzu. Somehow, they got pregnant and had five pups on Christmas Eve. The Shih-Poo is apparently a real thing. (The other name for this cross-breed is Shoodle.) I cringe at the thought of having to house-train another dog, but I'm genuinely elated that Santiago will have another pup to cheer him up when he feels extremely stressed. Fingers crossed. I think the one that we're going to end up with is the one on the far right, which I've already named Tulipán (Tulip). Yeah, I know, the name sounds kind of gay. The little guy is going to have two dads, though...


Sunday, January 28, 2018

transition (or the calm before the storm)

When I look at things from a rational, outside perspective, I know that my husband and I have been doing the best we can with caring for my mom. A year-and-a-half ago, her health was really complicated. She wasn't doing well at all. In the stretch of about 6 months, we had taken her to the emergency room three times. With each visit we learned more and more about her clinical picture. Any one of a number of issues could lead to her death. Still, between the neurologist and her PCP here in Ecuador, we were able to find the best balance between her medication and diet and we saw an incredible improvement in her health, but in her memory; not so much. We stopped eating red meat. I think that was a big part of it. We're mostly eating vegetarian meals, occasionally some poultry, and a fair amount of seafood (which is relatively inexpensive in Quito and easy to find).

Anyway, in February, we're moving my mother to a full-service eldercare residence that is nearby (about 15 minutes from where we live), but in a lower part of the valley, where it is warmer and quite pleasant. Throughout the day there are about 12 personnel and on average there are between 12 and 15 residents. That ratio is really good. The place has a really excellent rating and we're hoping that they can give her the level of attention and activity that she needs. It's not cheap, but with her pension, she can cover the monthly costs. And, in comparison with facilities in the U.S., this place is a rare and promising find. We will, however, most likely see a decline in her memory. That comes with the territory and this is the part that worries me. 

This past week, I haven't been keeping up with the blog because I was spending time organizing this upcoming transition with my dear cousin. She was easily my dad's dearest niece. He and she would chat often and at length. My dad adored her like a daughter and thought the world of her. My cousin and I took my dad's remaining siblings and my mom out to lunch this week. Here's the photo that she took of us at the restaurant:
Lunch with my father's remaining siblings and my mother (far right)
My cousin has been more of a sister to me than my actual sister. She's been the positive role model and constant source of support in my life, and (as I reminded her recently) she is the first person to ever hear me sing a song. When I was six years old, we had just returned from Colombia. My aunt had given me a guitar for Christmas and as I sat on the steps at my cousin's house I started making up a song and singing. My cousin, unbeknownst to me, was sitting at the top of the stairs listening on. When I finished, she clapped and congratulated me. In contrast, the first time my tone-deaf mother heard me sing and play guitar, she yelled at me to stop and told me it sounded like someone was dying. (Ugh. Ya, that latter experience really hurt.)

My mother and I had always had a pretty contentious relationship. In hindsight, she was extremely distrusting, controlling, and not at all supportive of my musical endeavors. She was critical and would sometimes say really mean things. Maybe she used to see all of that very differently. I'm sure she loved me and obviously, she still loves me. I love her, too. I used to say to my sister (and I am a bit embarrassed and ashamed of this), "I love my mom, but I don't have to like her." Thanks to the experience of caring for her these past few years, I can now say that I do like her. Sadly, I think this has everything to do with her dementia being a major factor. She's regressed in a lot of ways. She's like a little kid. She's doesn't act like my overbearing, controlling, hyper-Catholic mother. It also helps that she hasn't said anything mean to me in a while. 

To the outside world, my mom is sweet, kind, absolutely lovely and dearly loved by just about everyone. That is all legit. For me, however, it's been a different experience. When I turned 18, I explicitly told her that I was no longer going to do anything she asked of me. She cried. I was angry though. So often my mother would say to my sister and me, "You are good for exactly three things: nothing, nothing, and nothing." Imagine hearing that, day in and day out. It does a number on your self-confidence. That's for sure. So, yeah, now is the chance to make peace with that part of my past and to acknowledge all of the really good things she did for me and my sister. She was definitely not a bad mother by any means. She did a lot of things well and I am grateful for all of that. The way I see it though, I don't want to repeat her mistakes. Writing about my experience is what I know. This is the space I've created for it. This is part of my therapy. I lived it. I am writing about it. 

This brings me to the point of this blog entry. I'm sitting here on the terrace, enjoying an unusually mild day, I'm anxious to reclaim my life, my free time, my mornings, my evenings, my weekends, my productivity, -and here's the part I'm feeling a little weird about- my space. My mom moves in to the facility on or about February 10th. I'm working with an architect to design a murphy bed for the guest room in our apartment, (the room that my mom has been occupying). The murphy bed will hopefully give me the space to make music, to work, to record, to hang out and to listen to music. At least, that's what we're thinking.

I do feel guilty about planning ahead like this. I feel guilty about sending my mom to live in a residence with folks her age and older; some of them in much better shape than others. Then again, I also think she'll be able to bring a really positive energy to the residence. My mom has survived a ton of tragedy and suffering in her life and, largely, kept her chin up. My uncle, one of my father's brothers, will be moving in to the residence at the same time and I think the two of them will be a support to one another. Their personalities are almost totally opposite, but my hope is that somehow, my father is making this opportunity happen; guiding it from beyond, for everyone's benefit. My mother will get the level of care, constancy and activity she deserves, my uncle will get the stimulation, routine, and medical attention he needs on a daily basis, and my husband and I will finally get to experience married life without having to take care of my mom all the time.

The transition is going to be a challenge. I know that many elderly parents don't always adapt to these sorts of changes. They can become negative, bitter, confused. It makes me nervous, but I have to keep reminding myself, that it is a very reasonable solution to our collective conundrum. Will I miss my mom? Well, I'll be visiting her often. I expect my relatives will also be visiting her and my uncle when they visit the residence. This is a good thing. Also, if I don't end up having more time to work, study, and make music, then I'll know that the issue for me is time management and not necessarily the added responsibility of caring for a loved one. We'll soon find out. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

El coronel no tiene quien le escriba

I work for a public school system. The city where that public school system is located is responsible for paying my invoices. I have a contract but no benefits other than the fact that I get to work from wherever I am, so long as I have my computer and an internet connection.

Why am I mentioning this? Because, it takes forever to get paid. Funding for public education on a national level is not the priority it should be. The school system that I work for, saw a freeze in the fall. As I understand it, only some of the funds to pay translators were released to the city due to budgetary restraints. That means that I've been paid only twice since the start of the school year back in August/September.

I have a brutal time saving money because I have a giant cash-flow problem. When I don't get paid on time, I incur debt. I have to take out loans. Then, when I get paid, I have to immediately turn around and cancel out as much of that debt as possible. And what remains, I use to pay taxes, maybe stash a little money in my IRA, keep as much cash on hand but then, what? How long will it be 'til my next paycheck? And the cycle starts up again. It's excrutiatingly frustrating. 

So, it's nearing 5pm on a Friday. I haven't seen a paycheck in about 6 weeks. I'm owed about a quarter of my yearly earnings, I have taxes that I still need to pay. It's my husband's birthday and I can't even go out to buy him a present or invite him to dinner. It is aggravating to say the least, and I no longer feel any satisfaction raising a fuss about my invoices not being processed on time when I call the Accounts Payable department. I feel like a brat for complaining. Then again, bills are due when they're due and I hate borrowing money like I've had to do for the better part of these past five or six months. Maybe the answer is to find another job, or another profession. Music isn't necessarily going to solve my financial woes, but in the past, it has always been that extra pad of income to get me through tough times like this. And for that, I'm really grateful to all the folks who have been following the blog and purchasing albums from the Bandcamp. I really appreciate that. It has helped me keep food in the fridge and I am always conscious of that fact.

Anyway, as I sit here this afternoon, returning emails and messages, and trying to stay organized with stuff, it occurs to me that one of the great Colombian authors, Gabriel García Márquez, has already captured what I'm going through, perfectly; much more profoundly and eloquently. So, this afternoon, I recommend a book that I read shortly after my father died. It's called El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (in English: No One Writes to the Colonel). Here's a link to the Wikipedia entry about the novella.  

From Wikipedia: The novel, written between 1956 and 1957 while living in Paris in the Hôtel des Trois Collèges and first published in 1961, is the story of an impoverished, retired colonel, a veteran of the Thousand Days' War, who still hopes to receive the pension he was promised some fifteen years earlier. The colonel lives with his asthmatic wife in a small village under martial law. The action opens with the colonel preparing to go to the funeral of a town musician whose death is notable because he was the first to die from natural causes in many years. The novel is set during the years of "La Violencia" in Colombia, when martial law and censorship prevail.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

the routine midnight hike

I spent the past five minutes thinking about what to write about. I confess that I figured this exercise (keeping a blog in 2018) would be easy; that I'd have lots to write about on a regular basis. The point of it, on a personal level, was to do something productive. I wonder if at this point I shouldn't just focus some of the time I spend blogging, on writing and playing music again. I should. I still don't have a space. Here's hoping it'll happen.

Anyway, I remember the period of about 4 or 5 years that I last spent living in Portland, Maine. The place that I rented and took care of for a time was located in a neighborhood that bordered the beautiful back bay just to the west of downtown Portland. I could walk into town in about 40 minutes. The walk was brisk in the fall, freezing in the winter, comfortable in the spring, and delightful in the summer; utterly fantastic.

Life then was a special thing. I was developing a routine. Musically speaking, this period overlapped the last SPOUSE album, Confidence, and the first, self-titled, A SEVERE JOY album. The routine went like this: wake up around 6:30, eat breakfast, work until around 1 or 2pm (I telecommuted), if possible, go play tennis, come home, shower, cook, medi-tate/cate, work on music, record, print a rough mix of whatever I was working on, and take it for a walk. Often, I'd leave the house around midnight. I'd walk as short as a few blocks or as long as a few miles. My favorite walk was from Bryant St. to Back Bay. I'd walk partially around the boulevard and back. I would last about 25-30 minutes, depending on how far I walked. It was safe. I felt safe. When I got home, I slept. Really well.

I made a really wonderful friend then. She was my next door neighbor, Carol. She passed away this past November. I was at her side to say goodbye. I loved her a ton; she was a really amazing woman and a terrific friend. I'll write more about her one of these days. I promise.

Many times, I've wanted to walk around Quito at night, but it's just not advisable. There are muggings here. It's a big city with almost 4 million inhabitants, and it isn't safe. During the day, it can be a bit safer. For instance, on my birthday last year, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend took me for a walk around the old city, which makes me feel such nostalgia, even though it's relatively new to me. I wouldn't mind living in the old historic center, but I doubt we ever will. There's a lot of activity and a lot of traffic. Lots to see and do: old churches laden in gold, cool plazas full of morning doves, little cafés, funky dives, tourist shops, restaurants, and... 

I just remembered something. Last Friday, I took my mom and my father-in-law to a concert in the old city. The event was being presented for free at what was formerly a military hospital and has been remodeled into an art museum and café/salsa venue. What a cool venue. The concert began. It was mobbed. They'd been expecting 50 people and over 400 arrived. Also, it was less 'composed work' and more 'composition of sounds'. It was super arty. One couldn't see anything. It took place in the dark, in a small courtyard, with inadequate amplification. My mother and my father-in-law wanted to leave after about 3 minutes. It was raining like crazy, too. Still, I bet it was a magical event. I wish I'd been able to stay, but we left. :( I remember thinking, "'s the responsibility of caring for older parents -sigh-".

The city at night here is beautiful. I wish we would go out more.

Back the point of this blog...

The walks in Portland, late at night, were terrific. I think all of the A SEVERE JOY songs are designed to be good for listening to when walking. That's the point. These records are meant to be taken for a walk. The tempos are built for it.

A Severe Joy is here if you're interested.

One thing you should know: it sounds the way it does on purpose. The high-end is cranked. There is a lot of sonic activity in the high end. These songs are tracked in layers. Lots of them. If you get a chance to listen to the album, I hope you will enjoy it. Thanks.

Monday, January 15, 2018

something lost, something found...

Yesterday, we had a lunchtime get-together for my husband. He turns 44 later this week. My in-laws came over along with a few of our nephews and nieces. It's an odd feeling. 11 years ago, I had no nephews or nieces. Now, my spouse and I have nine, plus a grand-nephew. It's an interesting feeling. 

My point, I guess, is that when I was bouncing back-and-forth between Maine and Hawaii about 5 years ago, one of the things I longed for was to have a stronger connection to family. I wasn't particular close with my sister at that point. Let's just say, it was really hard for me to have a conversation with her without veering into politics; a subject that would continuously drive a wedge between us. Years later, I would gain some clarity in realizing that the knowledge she lacks when it comes to current events, she more than makes up for in NFL stats. Maybe my real sister was kidnapped by mad scientists and replaced with an android? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, we're relatively close now. If we lived in New England, we would likely see each other more frequently. 

When I made the decision to move to Ecuador, part of the reason was so I could be closer to my father's family. They are comprised of several cousins and a few remaining aunts and uncles. What I discovered over time is that, while still close to my father's family, I actually see my husband's family more frequently. Part of it, is simply geographical. My in-laws all live within a kilometer or two of our apartment. My cousins live nearby, but with traffic, it can take up to an hour to get to where they live. 

So, yeah. When I left Maine, when I left Hawaii, when I left Western Massachusetts, I lost the family I had (comprised mostly of musicians and close friends), to the degree that I stopped seeing and interacting with everyone as frequently, but what I found in moving to Ecuador is the experience of family that I had yearned for. The concept of family varies from culture to culture. It hasn't always been easy for my husband to get along well with his siblings, but time passes, people change, and here we were, enjoying the day all together, hanging out, playing games, and chatting. It was kind of a perfect day as far as family goes. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

cancer, guns, holding up, losing patience

Everything that I've been experiencing today ties in directly with why I hate guns. Guns are designed to do one of three things: intimidate, wound, or kill. My father died because he was shot in the head by mugger with a gun. My mother was with him when it happened. She survived it. It was the most tragic thing that has happened to my family. My mother now suffers from dementia. That dementia is made worse by the fact that she never sought psychological therapy after the incident. She dealt with it by trying to pray it away. Just like she tried to "pray away the gay" of her son for many years. She experienced a perpetual cycle of fear, and she never truly got better. She just lost more and more of her memory.

My father, a few months before he was killed, had just survived cancer. He had just retired from his job. They had just moved down to Florida. He was getting ready to enjoy the next stage of his life, with my mom, happily married. It was so short-lived. Why? because some young thief felt he had to respond to my mother's screams by shooting my father in the head with a gun.

I was online looking for a sweatshirt to order for my niece a couple of nights ago. I searched for "young miss hooded sweatshirt, lined, sherpa, with zipper". One of the first hits was a brown sweatshirt fitting each of those search items, but modeled by a young man. The hooded sweatshirt said, "If guns kill people, I guess pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat." I felt sick to my stomach when I read that. GUNS ARE DESIGNED TO INTIMIDATE, WOUND, OR KILL. THAT is the difference. Pencils are designed for writing; cars are designed for transportation; spoons are designed for feeding. The point is not that the person is the problem - that part is obvious. The point is that if someone owns a gun, that gun, in order to be used, will accomplish one of its design goals, meaning, it will either intimidate someone, wound a living being, or kill a living being. Still, these ignorant folks are fed such a bogus argument, and they run with it, mistaking it for legitimate stance, all the while ignoring the safety of the community and the nation and the planet on a much larger scale.

Yeah, so, a gun lead to my father's sudden death, my mother was widowed, and now my husband and/or I spend pretty much every weekend and most every afternoon and evening taking care of my mother. If my father were still around, maybe things would be very different. My parents would be keeping one another company; experiencing things together; maybe enjoying time with their grandkids. Our weekends and weeknights would give my husband and me a chance to enjoy our time together. Maybe I would be playing more music or creating, recording, performing more?

Yesterday, I finally got caught up with work. If I didn't have the responsibility of caring for my mother, I easily would have spent last night and all of today working on music. Instead, I spent the evening supervising my mom in the kitchen, helping her bake a cake, showing her where to put away dry dishes and glasses, and just keeping her company. I know that has value as well. Maybe, one day, I'll really miss those moments with my mom. It's just that when I spoke with my sister over the phone this evening, she asked me, "How are you guys holding up with mom? I know it must be so overwhelming." Honestly, I felt like crying. I'm stressed, I'm overwhelmed. I could tell I was losing my patience with my mom this afternoon. How could I tell, because I've memorized every question, every worry, every concern before she even utters it. 

My mother said to me, (as I was preparing some tea for her and some coffee for me), "You know, I've been thinking..." 

Before she could finish her sentence, I interjected, "I know, you want to go back to your house. You want to live in your own home, which is in another country, to which you want to travel by bus. You want to leave right now. You think you can just call up a friend and have them come stay with you so you can live in your house again. Okay, but the problem is: you cannot live in your home by yourself and there is no one who is in a position to drop everything and look after you 24 hours a day. Plus, your home is in another country. You can't really get there by bus. You can't travel alone, and we tried living in Florida with you, but you hate the day program there and refuse to go. You get depressed when you're there. You only see your friends maybe two times a week. You've almost lit the kitchen on fire twice, and you interrupt us all day long so we can't get any work done."

I look at my mom. She is sad. I feel like a dick, but on the inside, I've just circumvented a 90-minute conversation that I've had about 10 times already just since the end of December.

Dementia is a very challenging disease. Yes, I'm losing patience. I'm holding up, but only because I have no choice. My sister is in no position to take care of my mom; she has three young kids, just recently went back to work, and her mother-in-law is living with her family. My husband and I are in a better position to care for my mom. Problem is, how much longer will we really be able to give her the care and attention that she needs?

When my father died, this is the song I wrote (with my friend and fellow SPOUSE-mate, Dan). Maybe we should have included it on Relocation Tactics? I waited to put it out on Confidence, instead.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


One of the things that I love about Maine is that they have wonderful coastline. In 2012, I bought a scooter. It was a Honda Elite 80. I loved it. It broke down on me several times, but I loved riding it around town and I've never told anybody this, but when I, (or the me from a parallel universe), wrote Love in the Summertime, it was envisioned with and inspired by this...

It's not technically "150cc". I think I got it up to 45mph one time (yes, on a downhill slope). Anyway, the rest of the song is what it is. It's a warm, summer feeling that I was going for. It was living out a fantasy in a song.

This is the tune:

I miss singing it. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

progress, naps, impending doom, protest, and more progress

I had a productive evening of returning emails and trying to set up some shows for SPOUSE in the near, but not so near future. It reminded me of what my life was like eight years ago or more. I would split my time between music and translation work, occasionally working additional jobs, too. Anyway, it was a neat feeling. Just figured I should point that out to myself. Soon, I may be moving in to a studio space being vacated by my future pseudo brother-in-law. He's moving in to the space next door, which I think is bigger, and I'll, hopefully, finally have a place to set up my recording gear and be able to practice and record. Fingers crossed.

This afternoon, I was sitting at my computer, trying to work. I kept falling asleep (damn 'decaf' coffee). I decided to take a nap. I woke up about 30 or 40 minutes later, with this awful, overwhelming and negative feeling, like something really bad is about to happen in the world. I felt this same sort of 'impending doom' about two weeks before Hurricane Irma. That was such a giant, awful, pain of an experience. My husband was stuck in Ecuador at the time. My mother, our dogs, and I were stuck in Florida. I made a decision to prepare for both scenarios; getting stuck in Florida for several days, assuming the house would withstand the hurricane, or fleeing north. It was such a nerve wracking experience. A lot of responsibility, a lot of indecision; not knowing in which direction the hurricane was going to hit, receiving multiple phone calls and messages from friends and loved ones asking if we'd left yet or if we were going to survive. It was alarm and panic and ultimately, I made the decision to drive north. We almost ran out of gas, traffic was the worst, and we spent 7 days with my Republican uncle in Georgia, whose wife hated our dogs and who seemed genuinely bothered that we had to spend some time there. I don't think my uncle was all too comfortable either. It was really kind of them to host us, but, let's just say, I'm glad that is over. The one positive thing is that I got to see my cousins, whom I love and have always gotten along with and my mom got to spend some time with her brother. It was interesting to hear about my cousin's experiences and perspectives growing up in our extended family. Possibly for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like I was alone in that family.

Anyway, ya, I felt some weird thing this afternoon and I wasn't able to shake it. Something is on the horizon and it scares me. Last week I tweeted about how everyday I wake up and the first thing I do is check the news to make sure the orange demento hasn't initiated a nuclear war with North Korea. It's sad to have to think this way, but it is this sort of stress that has become part of my daily routine. Even several thousand miles south of the US, I'm experiencing traumatic stress.

I remember in 2004 when John Kerry lost the election because Ohio. (I still contend that there were massive voting irregularities that day, and the data seems to back me up.) I was so angry about the wars that had been initiated under false pretenses. I was, and am still certain that Dick Cheney is a man of no moral or ethical conscience. He's truly a sinister human being. I was able to channel my frustration into a track that almost made it onto Relocation Tactics. Alas, it only exists as a bonus track through the SPOUSE bandcamp site. This is the track I'm talking about...

Last year or the year before I remember being approached about contributing to a protest album, given the current administration and all the long-term damage they are perpetuating. I wasn't in a place to contribute because I just couldn't focus on it. Maybe I'll write something in the future, maybe I won't. Who knows.

Of course, talking about protest or political songs. I remember living in Maine while the then-recently passed gay marriage law was overturned in a special election/referendum. The Catholic Church of Maine spent about $4 million dollars lobbying against gay marriage that year. Fuck the arsehole in charge of that decision, and the sad little lambs who ended up voting against love, fairness, and compassion. I wrote about that when I got home from the event where hundreds of us were gathered together, watching the returns. Everyone in the room was devastated. It was just a vicious, cruel thing to experience. Thankfully, progress.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

FMC = favorite movie in common

Very few people know much about my husband. I don't talk about him much, I don't mention him on Twitter. To the extent that I've been on FB, I don't mention him much there either. I've learned a few things over the years. Keeping one's private life, private, is not easy for me, (as you can probably tell from following along with this blog), but it has its benefits.

That said, tonight, I feel the urge to write about how my spouse and I discovered a favorite movie together, and later, how it turns out we both have another favorite movie in common. 

I don't remember why, but we ended up watching Drive together one night at our old apartment. We'd been married for a little over a year. We were in Quito. Apart from renting a place on the 4th floor of a building, we also rented a small office space on the 2nd floor, with a balcony -we probably rented it FOR the balcony/terrace. We kept a garden out there. I kept the office pretty empty. There was a chair. There was a desk. There was an old futon. It offered me a place to work where I could get away from my mother and her nurse for a few hours and focus on translation work, while still being very close by in case my mom needed something urgently. Late at night, the small office space was where I would go to maybe play guitar, or listen to music, or sit outside and enjoy the neighborhood sounds at night. If you're thinking to yourself, "That sounds cool." Yeah, it was probably cooler than that, even. Not as cool as walking around my old neighborhood in Portland at 2am, like I used to, but almost.

Anyway, Drive. We loved it. Everything about it. And the soundtrack; SOOOO GOOD. That movie stayed with us for several days. We finished watching it and we were both excited about how good it was. We never talked about the soundtrack. A week later, I'm in my office space on the 2nd floor. Sitting on the futon, listening to "Under Your Spell" by Desire. 

It had been a really challenging year, a good one; but, challenging. 

Santiago came downstairs to check on me. It was maybe 11pm and my mom was asleep. I was listening to this track on repeat. He just sat down with me and we listened to the song together at least a few times. We sat outside and listened to it under the stars, or what we could see of them.

That song captured our emotion so well. The blend of the instruments; the way it is sung; even the subject matter...

It's no wonder several months later, while chatting with some friends, we each revealed that we love Pretty in Pink. We were both kind of shocked. It took me by surprise because rarely have I been in a relationship with someone who enjoyed that movie, let alone someone who enjoyed that movie as much as I did. Yup. Turns out we're married.

Monday, January 8, 2018

no such thing as a bad mic

My friend Thom, a pretty well-regarded and very talented record producer, once said to me something along the lines of, "There is no such thing as a bad mic. Every microphone is really good at doing at least one thing. It's an engineer's job to figure out what that one thing is and to know when to use it."

Thom recorded and produced the first SPOUSE full-length, Nozomi, and part of the follow-up, Love Can't Save This Love. He was still fairly new at the whole record-producing thing back then, but everyone knew he was talented and driven. He's worked on a ton of albums since, many of which you've probably heard and enjoyed. I haven't spoken to him in about 4 or 5 years, but hopefully, he's doing well and keeping busy.

Anyway, back to what I was explaining about the microphone... I think people function in the same way. I'm not sure what my one really good thing is. I don't know if it's singing, songwriting, coming up with bass parts; I'm just not sure. If anything, I guess, until I do, I feel like a generic knock-off of an SM58; I'm not popular like a 58, I'm not even part of the cool brand, but I'm dynamic, if not entirely reliable.

Here's one of the tracks that Thom produced. I originally tracked the song on my Fostex X-28 4-track recorder. Thom and my other friend Mark (who co-produced Nozomi) took the 4-track recording and expanded on it. I learned a lot from those guys.

While I was combing through my catalog I came upon a track that was previously only available as a bonus track (and was thus not visible to most folks). I made it visible 'cause I wanted to share it. This is a demo for one of my ASJ songs. I think it captures the energy I hope to aim for the next time I get a chance to write and record.