Jersey Ride

Hey Friends,

I know I left you hanging a bit for this song. We were sick and not up for recording, but it’s posted now and here are the words. This mp3 take is from the most recent Sapphire show 3/19. I produced it myself and though it’s not “perfect” it’s real time audio footage, live and fun! Hope you enjoy!

Also, all recordings you get from the membership page are downloadable. Just click on the “download” word and you should be able to drop them into your player! Yippie!! These lyrics include the chords for any of you guitar players ;-)

Jersey Ride

 D                              A                                  G

Take me back to sweet times before cell phones and ringtones

  D                           A                                G

Smiles wide and Jersey skies and motor bike rides

          D                     A                        G

Top rolled down traveling highway 73

         D                 A                                                 G

The radio is my best friend back then in the early chapters of me.

               Bm             A

And Springsteen rambled on

         G                            A

As I lip synced my favorite songs

          Bm                            A                              G

And felt the beach air combing back my hair

Em                  F#m                      G

Some of the best days gone by

Em                                F#m                             G          A          D

Top rolled down, no cell phones and a sweet Jersey ride!  (sweet New Jersey night)

 

Skipping down the board-walk where adults talk and teenagers gawk

 

Blue collars making their dollars and custard cones

 

Free to be me with my MTV and the Rolling Stones

 

Kickball kids on a 4 corner town and Victorian Homes

 

CHORUS

BRIDGE:

Bm                                         G              Em

Sometimes you want to bottle “back then”

Bm                        G                           Em

Just to pull it out and show a friend…

Em                            F#m

The innocence of days gone by

G                                    A              D

Catching a breeze a sweet NJ ride

 

(New Jersey Ride-    Oh oh come take my hand, riding out to night to chase the promise land….oh oh oh oh Thunderoad  …..) - Bruce Springsteen tribute

This song was written in style of Jean Cardino, one of my mandolin friends. She uses upbeats and lots of words and I was playing around with her style just for fun. She did not write the song, but in a way deserves credit for a song I would never have attempted in this way. Thanks Jean!

 

Spring Grooving!!!

Hey Friends,

We are grooving with outdoor chores and yard work recently. It’s been a heck of a Spring! We are typically hustling off to other regions of the country this time of year to play but this year we are really happy to be home getting things done. Digging in the dirt never hurt and it rejuvenates the Spirit! There has been so many odd little jobs that just go to the way side once our “summer throttle” gets pinned back.

And how to “downshift” from that intensity anyway? It’s always a challenge to find the balance and I have been asking myself this question lately: “Where/How are you rejuvenated?” As I have said in my other posts (which I read before starting this one…a GOOD reminder) how do you just STOP, for a bit? Focus on ONE THING at a TIME instead of 1000? It’s such a “do do do” world and culture for us. Busyness is so highly regarded and honestly, I like to be a little busy. I like having things to do…but not TOO MUCH to do. Not so overwhelmingly so! I really LOVE jobs I can SEE the results! That is so rewarding! And to be physical, but my hips are presently telling me I’ve been TOO physical ha ha! (Those darn weeds!!!)

Stone hauling

Stone hauling

Our summer is for the most part, completely booked. I’m taking a solo journey mid summer in answer to the call of “rejuvenation” and “spiritual enrichment”. I so rarely get a minute to myself and I don’t say that as a complaint. I do love people and my partner (and of course my dog), but time to oneself is extremely important! Especially to a writer! It’s a deal breaker. No time to myself? No new songs. Pretty simple.

The great part about this life we’ve carved out is that I can be teaching a guitar lesson one minute, out in the yard the next, working on mixing a song, and at a show that night!. Also, we called in some amazing people to help us! What beautiful angels! One gal is helping us decide all our landscape needs. She has an amazing background in horticulture and has a waggy tail. Another is a sweet young man helping us to build a fence that has been needed for the past 14 years! (Have we really lived in this house for 14 years uhhh…wow!)

As you can imagine, tearing down a fence, hauling yard stone, digging, tilling, weeding, clipping, trimming has plum tuckered us out a wee bit! Ha! But here’s where we sit with the musical process aside from all of our personals, as I’m sure that is what is more interesting for all of you. You all have your own yards and chores and schedules etc.

demolition on the fence!

demolition on the fence!

Tilling the flower bed

Tilling the flower bed

Three truck loads of scratchy branches we took to recycling!

Three truck loads of scratchy branches we took to recycling!

Musically, we (finally) got the live tracks for the Sapphire show in March. I’ve never mixed a whole show before. What does that mean? What is “mixing”? It is the process of lining ALL the tracks (tracks are musical sound bytes - for example, Mo’s vocal is assigned to one track, her bass another and so on), labeling them, balancing all the sound so it blends and editing any obvious bloopers (just a couple of those *eye roll * )! It’s quite a complex process.

I use a software called ProTools. There a MANY software programs available. This particular one is considered one of the top standards by the industry. It can be complicated, especially if one is not tech savvy, or as I can be, tech challenged. I’ve grown A LOT in this department and I think this membership program has pushed me quite a bit to learn these things.

Mixing a whole show is taking about 1.5 hours of tracks, cutting them up, editing them song by song, balancing the sounds…letting your ears rest on it. Coming back and tweaking it again, panning all the players so they sound natural for a room.

For example, there will be a track for:

Cajon bottom, cajon top, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Mando, Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel, Mo’s vocal, My vocal, Roxx vocal, Earl’s vocal.

This is not our session but what an open ProTools session looks like.  Each wave strip is a “track”.

This is not our session but what an open ProTools session looks like. Each wave strip is a “track”.

That is 11 tracks. If you set between 2 speakers, say in a car for example, listening to music, you want to hear it as if it’s being played like the band. If every instrument was coming at you from dead center it would sound flat and “unrealistic” and probably overwhelming. So, I set the tone quality just as if you were watching the show. You will hear the kick drum stage left, the electric lead stage right our vocals in the middle Earl’s pedal stage left. Make sense?

This is all very interesting for ME to do as I’m hearing impaired ha ha!!! But oddly, I do a decent job with all of that. The guitar may need to come up or down, my voice up or down…all that takes “automation”, boosting or cutting certain signals that may “get in the way” of each other, or rocking the slider up for effect at various parts of certain songs.

There is a WHOLE ART to this process and I never pictured myself with this ability! It all looked WAY too complicated for me! It also costs a minimum of $60.00 an hour and as you can imagine each song takes about 10 hours of mixing! So….we are saving ourselves a HEAP by learning this stuff! Right?!! (like 12K at least!) THANK YOU!!! You have been the motivation to get to this place! Truly! If I didn’t have music to make for you, I probably wouldn’t have taken on the task.

I’m no great producer…but this practice ground has made me aware and possibly a better musician because of this process.

So speaking of that…where are your new downloads??? Yes, I know…I owe you a few now. I am under a heap of what we call “rough mixes” and you WILL be getting a few new songs/covers this month. It’s all a matter of getting time to sit and listen and of course there is that technical “hidden bummer factor” that happens like space on the hard drive. Ugh! Another eye roll there!

I like that you folks are starting to request some covers to be recorded! We can totally do that! And will! But thanks for being so patient with us. We are on a bit of a “yard diversion” due to the cool weather and before we get rolling so fast. I will “diverge” BACK to mixing and completing these recording tasks…well actually, I do this when the Sun goes down. So, out in the yard do do do…Sun drops, eat, mix, walk away, listen, eat some more, mix. Ha ha!! That’s my life right now.

Wake up in the morning, go trim that tree, set the garden, come in; write a newsletter, publish a facebook event, listen to the mix, find files ect. Make sense?!

Oh yeah and practice! I have a FUN toy I will show you next blog thanks to a very special friend of ours! But I need to practice with it first! It’s quite mind blowing. There’s my “cliff hanger” for you all to come back to the cyber campfire with us!

Meanwhile, enjoy this BEAUTIFUL Spring! And thank you for all your support and love!

Niccole



No Nose and MANY shows!!!



Hey sweet friends!

February had us running around and pushing through illnesses, which is never any good and it seems March is off to a similar start! UGH! We ran up to Sandpoint for a reunion with my family. My sister and her family from NJ came and it has been SO LONG that our families have all gotten together. It was great to see them but not so great to drive in the snow.

“Sylvia”, my trusted SUV trekked along but she needed better “shoes” for the winter drive, so many “chips” later there were new tires placed on her in Sandpoint before making the trek back to Boise. Upon arriving home through a snowy Blue Mtn. pass we settled in for 4 days to get ready to jaunt to Wyoming. I had an oil change and of course there were other things I needed attend to on Sylvia…like a radiator housing which was another “cha-ching” WHEW! ($$) I AM glad I received word about the vehicle's “illness” or we could have been on the side of the road with a blown engine due to over heating. (This is another time when I thank all our VIP’s for their contributions…you really DO help us get to the show! OMG! Seriously! Thank you!!!)

On Monday before we left I felt ill. I realized that my energy was completely drained and just felt exhausted. Ut oh! Of course I go into “herb mode”; up the water, up the vitamins and all my remedies which include (if you are curious); Cat Claw, Oregano Oil, Garlic, Elderberry, higher doses of Vit.C & D, Golden Seal, Bio Vegetarian, Isitas Gold, L-Lysine, Astragalus, Minor Blueporium, Salt water gargle, netti pot and that is the SHORT list! Seriously! I whacked it with everything I had. This “bionic germ” was bound to clobber me!

I was so annoyed thinking the flu I got in January would some how immunize me for future sicknesses but apparently it did NOT. Infact here I sit, about to go into 4 shows this weekend with NO NOSE….AND a BIG PRODUCTION at the Sapphire Room coming up!

So, that’s a bit stressful. I am just practicing being present with what is and letting it ride over me. I have found surrender beats the fight in your head any day. I may not be at my best vocally, but I still have a lot of energy and love fortunately to give that amazing audience next Thursday. That is what it is really about!

In fact, let me tell you our Teton story! We made the drive over to Wyoming. Storm warnings all abound and really wondered about pulling the plug on the whole run out. We decided to buck up and go despite my run down feeling. We reunited with a wonderful old friend of mine Pam, and her partner just happens to be an Nurse Practitioner. I was bit mortified showing up “snotty” but they were wonderful. Michelle doctored me up with all kinds of Western medicine remedies. Mucinex, Advil/Tylonol, Flownase etc.

It snowed like hell and I laid around most of Wed. Then geared up for Thursday’s quiet, you can’t hear a pin drop concert, at Dornan’s. I just prayed a lot. I didn’t know where the energy was going to come from or how my voice would be. Blowing my nose also plugs up my ears and when you don’t have a “nose” you can’t sing through your head very well. When that chamber is plugged up, it’s almost like you have to sing “around a hole” in your head. I’ve done this before and it’s a bit tricky, but I’ve gotten better at it with all our years now.

So it’s snowing and side ways winds. We leave Pam’s house early and set up our equipment to play and Dornan’s was a success. They all dug it, which for me was a pleasant surprise as we are our worst critics, I knew the cold had altered my voice! The next day was suppose to be sunny! Yes, bring on the sun, as we’ve seen nothing but snow snow snow over 5 days!

I woke early and got a sneak peak at the beautiful Tetons in the morning hue. It was breath taking. Poor Mo went into “sherpa-mode”, you know…she looks like a walking coat wrack schlepping all of our luggage and belongings back into the car. I was still very weak and wondered again, “How in the HELL am I going to pull this off?!”

We checked the website to make sure the pass was clear. All clear, or so it seemed. The Teton pass has been known to have avalanches and in order for us to get into Wyoming, we had to drive an alternate route south to Hoback Junction which adds about another hour to hour and a half on an already long drive.

We get out the door after saying goodbye to our reunited friends and all their sweet animals and we are off in a shot to the Trap Bar at Grand Targee Ski Resort. Andrew, our sweet “Bond-fire member” (all the way from NC!), had shot us a text, “Have you made it over the pass?” and I replied we are on our way. I had a sinking feeling in my gut that moment and sure enough on a clear mountain day, the pass was closed due to avalanches!

Avalanche.jpg

Damn it! We were going to be late. We drove like bunnies down to Hoback junction and up over Swan Valley pass to finally ascend Grand Targee. We both felt disappointed in ourselves for not being able to get the hell out the door earlier and we left word with Andrew to tell the manager at the bar we are sorry we are running behind. And HOUR behind! Ugh! (More stress!)

It was in that moment going up to Swan Valley pass I looked at Mo and said, “Ya know honey…it’s going to be what it is. We can’t change this, so the best thing we can do is just pray for a forgiving crowd and when we take to that stage…give them hell! Make it a show worth waiting for, let the rest of this stressball go! It does us no good”. So…we tried. We drove and I took in the beauty of this mountain scene. The whites and the blues, the snow capped mountains, the dilapidated barn struggling to still stand with heaps of weight on it. “How was I just like that barn?” “I’m feeling old right now.” “Believe in yourself Nicc, I know you think you are rusty right now, just do the best you can!” My voices in my head. “How are you even going to load this equipment in?”

We get to the Trap and the “load in” is up 3 flights of stairs. Let’s face it, the load in is a bitch! It’s like running 3 football fields with a snotty nose to boot! We schlepp our stuff up into a massively crowded standing room only bar! I could barely move my guitar through the people!

The men right below the stage tout, “You better be good!” ha! This was a beautiful representation of growth right here…I simply laughed and said, “Right? If I suck there’s going to be a riot on our hands!” And we all laughed. It was funny and I wasn’t the least bit rocked or knocked off my game. I had a mission. To overcome how I felt and WIN this audience. To sing the best I could and give 110% and deliver the best performance I could muster up, even though my battery was 1/4 charged. Ha!

We did it! We blasted “Folsom Prison Blues” right off the bat. We took into it. Nobody wins a bar crowd better than Johnny Cash. Our sound guy was fumbling through and did NOT have the mix in the monitors very well. I suppose it sounded good in the house and this kind of thing happens all the time. You simply can not let a terrible distracting mix distract you from doing your best. We didn’t. We moved on through. We hit the next song, fast…”Find My Stride”, they were getting the “flavor” of Blaze and Kelly. They were loud, rowdy, fun and beautiful! They cheered, clapped, hooted and hollered! Then we played some originals. They liked it! We even played “Only the Lucky” to this raging crowed and they slowed down and took it in. I saw the big guys in front of the stage start to tear up, the ones that told me, “you better be good”. They shook their heads speechless.

What a moment! I had dared Mo to do “Shallow”. She refused at first, of course! Ha ha! (That is Mo’s “M.O” at first and rightfully so about this song.) We hadn’t learned it but a week or so and it was risky. I sang another and then said, “I think that song will go over well with this crowd”…and we went for it! She NAILED it! As soon as I played the first 2 chords the audience cheered! Many have seen the new movie, “A Star is Born” and if you listen to the radio, you’ve heard that beautiful song by Lady GaGa and Bradley Cooper! It’s a wowsa! And Mo gets the highlight! How fabulous! It was such a great moment!

This show at the Trap, honestly…it probably belongs to someone younger. We’ve had our turn at it for the past 10+ years and every time we get the green light to come back we are slightly amazed. I’m not saying we are “old” and our time is done, but this show somehow symbolizes a high energy, slam dunk, bring it band! And we do our best to step up and into that. As much as two ladies can, WITHOUT A DRUMMER OR ELECTRIC GUITAR to give it the ROCK energy that the crowd so seemingly desires. But here’s the take away. They loved us anyway! What a true gift!

We sang REAL MUSIC to them and they ate it up! We played what they liked and then we played them our stuff and they took the whole show in and clapped like hell. It was such a gift! I will never forget it! It showed me that I can rise up even when I just want to go to bed! Ha! It taught me that even when I think I suck, I don’t. And Mo is right there with me, every step of the way, no matter what we’ve gone through, she is that beautiful voice and that booming bass line. What a power she possesses.! Wow!

I got to be a fly on the wall of my own performance that day. I was so high from the illness that there was a part of me 4 feet above my body just watching us! It was spectacular! Not that we were super stars with spellbound leads and musical virtuosity…but we came right from the heart, despite all the hell we had been through days and even minutes up to the show!

3 days prior to this show we learned that Mo’s mom went to the hospital and was having a rough time. This rocked the both of us and we both felt a bit helpless and of course wanted to get down to San Francisco immediately. That whole saying, “The show must go on!” is kinda true…and in situations like this, kinda sucks!

We were worried, exhausted, sick and worn out from stressful drives through snow storms up and over passes, time and energy NOT being on our side…and we STILL BROUGHT IT! And people still dug what we had to share! Hallelujah!!! The tip jar circled around the audience and they were truly generous! The next day I abandoned ski plans as I was way too tired. I dropped Mo off to ski with friends and I had myself a good cup of coffee and shed many tears thanking Divine for all these gifts and blessings. I was somehow restored from the idleness of this winter’s and lack.

We closed our chill time in Wyoming/East Idaho down days earlier than planned and raced on home so Mo could fly out to be with her mother. I stayed home to take care of the “fort” prepare for the Sapphire Show and of course take care of Juno! Juno, our amazing travel doggie, is a solid waggy tail, reminding us constantly of all the good there is in the world. What a terrific attitude that dog embodies!

Skipping forward it is now a day before our big production. Yes, I have a million details in my head and I’m finishing this blog. I am a writer before all things. It helps me make sense of my world and organizes my thoughts, and you people have been on my mind through our travels, our “oh shit” moments and our successes!

Leading up to this show, behind the scenes…we have dealt with illness not only with Mo and I but also our Sax player who can’t make the show. No one knows just yet, but he is out with influenza. Meow! Also our lead guitarist doesn’t think she will make it in from Billings as there is a wicked snow storm delaying and cancelling many flights from Denver. Zoiks!!! So…..

Ha! Here is the Universe, once again showing up for us to SHOW UP regardless of the circumstances! Here we are rearranging the set list in the final hours before a SOLD OUT SHOW!!! We have Rochelle and Earl. I know what Mo and I are capable of and I know what our accompanying players are capable of; and now I must see the vision and pull it all together to make the very best of what we all can do together - happen!

Instead of the “rock & roll” I thought electric lead and sax would bring to the table, we may just kick it back and be a bit more heartfelt. The beauty is, we don’t have to WIN the audience. This audience is already a waggy tailed true blue wonderful audience (and many of YOU folks will be there, tails wagging). That is a great thing, but I have a code and a standard in me that wants to bring the VERY BEST I can to these wonderful people! So in the next 24 hours, I have my work cut out for me in how to re-develop my “game plan” and offer up an amazing set of music! (Despite my still nasal nose and Mo’s hacking cough!)

The biggest take away from the Trap Bar? What I can apply to this sold out show tomorrow? It doesn’t matter WHAT SONG you sing…as long as you put your whole heart into it!!! I AM like that old barn weighted with snow….I’m still standing! ;-)

I love you guys! Thanks for reading!



old barn.jpg
packtetons.jpg

The Grand Teton like a solid pink beacon saying farewell to another day.

The Grand Teton like a solid pink beacon saying farewell to another day.

Juno with that same long tongue and classic easy going attitude that says, “I love the way snow feels on my belly!!!” Always a cheer up!

Juno with that same long tongue and classic easy going attitude that says, “I love the way snow feels on my belly!!!” Always a cheer up!

Fever this way lurks!


An unusual “writers den”.  Penning “Jersey Ride”.

An unusual “writers den”. Penning “Jersey Ride”.

Wow!  All I can say is WOW!  Ten days ago I had a crushing headache that gained intensity and then waned.  Soon after my symptoms slowed down Mo fell into a sickness that I would watch drain the blood out of her face and leave her in bed sweating, with a fever, chills and body aches to boot! Wow, Mo never gets sick.  

She held up in the bedroom as I bought her flowers, tea, water, juice, meals (well, I tried with the meals) and whatever else she needed and wanted.  I had NO fear that I would be coming down with the same thing 5 days after her but holy shit that’s what happened.

So I went down. Fever, body aches, chills, sweat, chills, sweat, sinus drain, more sweat.  If you lifted the covers you would have thought it was a green house under there! I felt like I had been cocooned and my whole body was liquefying.  I kept thinking of the caterpillar story and held out for the butterfly vision! It took serious concentration! I haven’t had a wave of utter sickness with fever hit me like that in YEARS!!!  

I had thought I’d been so careful as to not get the bug.  Keeping myself healthy, eating correctly, water, exercise, vitamins. After the holiday I departed from all alcohol and began juicing and doing “all things right” and I still got nailed!  Not only that, I had a serious case of sciatic pain running down both legs. I was a mess! In fact, WE were a mess.

After Mo’s symptom cleared she threw her back out with a simple task.  You know how that goes. She lifted a pan out of the oven and “click”. “Ut oh!”  I was still healthy enough before “my fall” of illness to help massage the intensity out of the back issue as a temporary fix and then I was down.  Down down down….and OUT!!!

The whole time I observed EVERYTHING!  My thinking. All the shit I had to get done.  I had plans. I was in a productive mood. I was taking care of business!  Ha! Funny how when you make a plan sometimes the Universe laughs. “Oh silly girl!”

I am on my 2nd day out of the fever woods. Yesterday I was a zombie and today I am still a bit nasally but I feel SO MUCH better and I am compelled to write about this so I will NEVER forget what a GIFT that illness was!  

As I said, I watched my mind.  I watched everything that came over me.  All my thoughts I investigated. I wondered how did I get here? Sick?  What did I do? What didn’t I do? And I realized that I dragged all my “homework” like a good student into the bed with me as I was sick.  

We are hosting a house concert, we have plans for a big Sapphire production here in Boise. We have a ticketed event in Wyoming and a prestigious bar gig to play there too!  We are inches away from signing some contracts with Art Centers in the Northwest for music this summer. Larger acts, larger gigs, tighter sets, elevated musicianship, larger pay checks, ticketed events, blah blah blah! All good.  All great! All our goal! And here I am. Paralyzed by sickness. Thinking I can THINK my way out of this sickness! What. A. Joke. Nope!

I was on such a train in my head it took the ultimate fever to come down upon me to release ALL plans of productivity.  It took a boiling circulatory system to pry and unhook my mind for it’s need to control the things I will NOT be able to control!  

What could I have done better before the illness?  STOP. Just STOP. Stop adding the coal to my “cho-cho train!”  The wheels of my mind were churning (pre-sickness) to an ultimate 100 mph.  Obsessing with new systems, the endless promotional, the mundane task of deleting emails, the new ideas of set list creation, practice, rehearsing,searching for more tone, more practice, lessons, more practice, booking meetings, decision making, fighting procrastinating and plowing through!  

It’s a new year boys and girls and I was on my way to becoming a different administrator to this thing called “Blaze and Kelly” we created!  And yet here came 101 degrees and then slowly 102.

I released.  I pushed all my books and papers and notes and things off my bed.  I just laid there. I shut my eyes too achy to fall asleep and somewhere in the dizzy haze of all the sheer panic I caused myself, I managed to stop; to disconnect; to let go.  Sleep finally came and so did the fire. The fire of my blood, the pounding of my head, the weakness of my body. This was baptism by fire into a New Year, a new mind state, a new way of being!  It all makes sense now, but then I felt like I was the character in the book of Job.

For a whole day I laid in bed, eyes to achy to read or even TV watch, I just lay there.  On occasion Juno would bound up and love me up and I was ever so thankful for that beautiful pooch.  I mainly sat there and meditated. The fever had me. I was caught in it’s vice-grips and I knew it would not let me go until I completely surrendered to it and so I did.  I went on many visionaries in my mind. Not quite asleep, but not quite awake either. It was transcending.

“The world looks good now and then upside-down!”  - Juno humor!

“The world looks good now and then upside-down!” - Juno humor!

I let go of all the “to do” stuff I thought I needed to get done.  I even disconnected from this life a bit. I found my focus lifting away from my current and daily affairs.  I kept coming in and out, seeing the larger picture, then my “little life” and then the larger picture. Where we’ve come, how far we’ve come then back into where we want to go, what we want to do, then as if from an angels point of view, “look at all you’ve done... all you do”. I rarely give myself time to think of it that way.   

This January marks the first month we have not had stacked shows in over 10 years!  Mo and I haven’t gotten off the “merry-go-round” since 2004. We have been working so hard on this music thing with extreme intensity for over 15 years.  We’ve risen to the level we are now. Not bad, not famous, not wrong, not rich. But in tact. Still together. Still making new songs. Still making new records. Still packing our stuff up in our car and heading to the show. Still practicing. Still dreaming.  Still loving music, each other, our fans.

After the fever slowly eased, I laid in bed listening to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography on audio books.  I’m close to finishing it now. This was so perfect. Bruce Springsteen emulates my New Jersey roots. He is an American legend whether you like his music or not.  He offers up fervor, passion, tenacity. His was the first rock and roll concert I ever went to back in 1983 at the Philadelphia Spectrum. In New Jersey...Bruce was and is...KING!  He was the man that put Jersey on the map.

Listening to his story made me appreciate once again my roots and the long tenacious, driven path we’ve chosen.  This man rocked Philadelphia for 4 hours! I was a freshman in high school and we were on our feet for the whole 4 hours!  I was alive with a rock and roll high for days after that concert. Not any drugs, just a high from the energy that the show delivered.  It was and STILL is the most amazing concert of my life! He would play his guitar with such passion and he would sweat and dance and he had everyone on their feet all night.  You didn’t WANT to sit down! He changed my life. Absolutely. His songs spoke true hardships of our state and current affairs at the time. His imperfect voice rang with a truth, and honestly and an authenticity that is so rare in this day.  I will always love Bruce for his gifts and now, trapped in bed he was in my ears like a long lost friend.

I was listening to all the backstories. How he struggled.  How he was fired and boo-ed. How he sucked for a while. How he was poor. He took me back with his words for the love of my homeland and spoke with that accent that I grew up with.  So nostalgic is his music that it will always make me cry. It just does. I can’t explain it. Memories of childhood and Jersey living flood back to me. I leap out of this current life of cell phones and face book and emails and task after task of multi-tasking.  

I stepped back in time of my Jersey days.  A slower time. Not necessarily a better time.  Just depends on how you look at it. But an innocent time indeed. A simpler time. Wow.  We really DON’T think of one thing at a time anymore. Everyone has ample things on their minds constantly. People are firing on 8 cylinders all the time!  When is there peace? Peace of mind? Bruce played the guitar and got his clooney friends together, formed a band, hit the streets, worked hard and now??? Now most musicians spend hours behind a screen pushing their playlists on Spotify waiting to be discovered.  It’s crazy.

I stopped listening for a while to the story.  I just allowed my mind to cruise. Remembering our house I grew up in.  Remembering the town. Remembering high-school days; my mother, my friends, the smells, the shore, the food. I simply focused on ONE THOUGHT AT. A. TIME.  

The next day, my fever broke completely!  Oh hallelujah! STILL not out of the woods I was exhausted.  My body would still sweat a bit but I clearly felt the pull of the fever off of me.  As if you can breath again. I picked up my guitar and brought it to bed and tinkered around on it.  Wondering how Bruce learned to play and how many other boys were into it and how many called him a freak.

When I picked up the guitar in the 70’s I had the same fascination he did.  I was 7 or 8 years old and it was hard. My little hands couldn’t do it just like his experience.  But I so was driven by a desire to learn that I went right out and picked it up again as I got older. I went to work as a machinist when I was 17 and my first paycheck bought me a Guild acoustic out of Trenton NJ at the “Hamilton Music Shop”.  Only 20 minutes from where Bruce Springsteen grew up. (I got lost in Freehold NJ once when I was 17. I drove around in circles for hours down the dark forever country highways, scared out of my mind and there was no cell phone to save me or Google Maps.)

I played this guitar strictly in my bedroom.  I was a “closet player” forever in those days.  I did NOT bring my guitar out. If you asked my graduating class if I played a musical instrument only super uber close friends would tell you about the guitar, but most had NO idea.  It was NOT cool for a GIRL to play guitar at that time! Simply not!!! Although I was a tom-boy and rode motorcycles I was “undercover” with most aspects of my true self at the time. Things I didn’t even KNOW about myself and one of them was- I wanted to be a musician.   

The thought of back playing guitar back then was not only thought as man’s world and art but if you reached for something “so high” you were “out of line”; an “attention seeker”; “a loud mouth”; “show off”; “unfeminine” and God forbid...you MUST be a “lesbian!”  These were the typical belief systems that were invisible to me at the time but that had their influence, like it own magnet. I would inevitably have to rise above these beliefs in my future.

So at that time...I kept it on the down low.  I wrote songs in my room to get over my poor teen turmoil.  I never sang them for anyone. And here Bruce tells me how he went “after it” all those years ago.  Wow! What would that have been like to be alive then, just a decade or so before my time? Could I have been Carly Simon or Carole King or someone like that!  Ha!!! What women could “go for it” and beat the streets and how many DID try but just got laughed at or a door slammed in their face? It became ok for women to sing but to yield an instrument, especially a guitar. There is/was something machismo about the guitar. We can STILL get looks from certain men now and then that make us wonder.

Overall, I am HAPPY being me born in my own “time-zone” of life. Truly.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  But it’s nice to day dream, to wonder and to be out of technology for a while.  I picked up my guitar and started to jot something down. I came up with a new song! “New Jersey Ride” of which I will post when my voice is back to normal.  I’m still not 100%. We ironically had a show tonight but the venue cancelled so, the Universe must be taking care of us with more rest.

The song is a simple look back at my Jersey days.  That concert, the excitement, driving down the shore, the air, the magic of being young.  I haven’t had a song spill out in one heap like that in a long time. It felt good. And Springsteen even stars in the song.  Ha! It may or may not resonate with you. But it’s about being grateful. Grateful for your roots, your health and those you love and a simple “ride” down memory lane.  

We’ve come a long way.  I’m gonna give myself that one. What an epic journey. And for one who has ample irons in the fire, I am practicing how to tend to one thing at a time again.  Multitasking is overrated. I’d rather have one thing on my mind than a 1000. And complete one task right then a 100 tasks half-ass. Mama always said, “Do it right the 1st time!” Ha!  

Thank you for listening.  Thanks for reading. Thanks for being.  

Niccole




Another year closes!

Hello Friends,

Well…December and the year of 2018 is almost over!  Why does it seem at the end of every year we say, “Wow…that went fast!”?  Yes, time ticks along and we are singing songs, day by day!  It IS incredible how quickly life has moved along.  My Dad came down for the Christmas Holiday.  He is 87 years old and though he looks amazing, I can tell he is reflecting on very much these days.  He can’t move as swiftly as he once did and he needs to rest more but he is doing very well. 

I reflect a lot without being 87.  I think this is part of a singer-songwriters mind.  I wonder, “How would I feel if I were in his shoes?  What thoughts would I have, knowing that I’m closer to the end of my ‘ride’”?  I know, a bit morose but when do we get to talk about these things?  No one wants to bring anyone down, but we all have the same questions.  “Where do we go after this?  Did we do what we set out to do in this lifetime?  Will we see those we love again when we cross over?” 

December is a month of inward reflection. We get together with friends and family we haven’t seen for a while.  We see age lying upon our faces only when you don’t see someone in our everyday world. 

It makes me feel better to know, on a gut level…we will all be “around”.  When we do cross over, there is another realm we will be transported to and we will have experiences with those we know once again.  I don’t know how it happens, but like all things in life…there is a circle so with death comes re-birth in some form or another. 

I remember the weeks after our beloved Osa dog passed.  I went to the gym to go for a swim.  I put my feet in the seemingly cold water and sat upon the edge.  I had many sad feelings about losing Osa and I just couldn’t seem to take the plunge into the pool.  I didn’t want the cold to lie over my body and I shivered just thinking about it.  I remember thinking, “where is she now?”  I pondered that thought.  I looked at the water and in a way, heard a deep wise voice from within saying, “this is exactly what transcending feels like…” and to my surprise, as if involuntarily, dove in the water.  Wow!  The cold rushed over me, but only for a second.  I was a little shocked but delightfully floating, no body weight to pull me down.  I was flying in the translucent liquid and I felt a FREEDOM!  I was swimming and my body adapted to the coolness in NO TIME!  In fact, the water was indeed, warmer than the air! That moment I had clarity of where we all must go. We move into a different reality and form, like ice melting into water.  We get reticent about the immediate departure and have many emotions before the “plunge”, but the instant we do it, we are truly OK. Truly FREE.    

There are many deaths we feel during life.  We feel the loss of love ones.  The pain of change or the seasons that call us into our winter fold.  We see wrinkles on our faces, missed dreams, blown opportunities.  Yet the glory is, we get to see the birth of many things too!  We get to feel ALIVE and expanded! We see dreams come true and meet new people to love. 

And new puppies too!!!

And new puppies too!!!

All this is to say, we are constantly expanding and contracting.  We go inward to uncover, we go outward to discover.  It’s like breathing.  We are not always on the exhale!  Much like the seasons we can shift our expanding and contracting in one day or within minutes!  Yet BOTH are valid.  I would not yell at the ocean for being in low tide, nor would I expect to always be inhaling.  We must DO both and value both.  We think about life and opportunity and greatness and excitement.  We think about death and loss and missed chances and pain.  The ALL of it, makes up our lives!  The ALL of it is - o.k.

I cannot come to a blog, a person, a crowd and be in expansion all the time.  There are moments I wonder, “What in THE HELL am I doing?!”  *Big Laugh!*  And I let the moment take me.  If a sad song comes up on my set list and I’m resonating with it or feel the crowd is cued for it, I must play it because that is just as true as a happy song.  All we really can do is be the best we can be in that moment, and sometimes in those moments we feel little deaths.  And sometimes in those moments we feel little births.  That IS Life.  Isn’t life beautiful?  The ALL of life?!! 

And with that, I close this blog.  Knowing that YOU dear reader will take from it what you will. May you move forward to this next year of 2019 embracing the ALL of life, its expansions and contractions, its births and deaths.  May you be blessed now and for the years that will buzz by, “Oh, how I wish I had, another 100 years with you…”  May we have another hundred years as we sit with our feet in the “pool” with anticipation of what is to come, and like a faithful dog, enthusiastically leap into our “freedom song” and swim gleefully into a new dream!!! 

Great Niece Mina, Juno with Nic & Mo Christmas Eve 2018!

Great Niece Mina, Juno with Nic & Mo Christmas Eve 2018!

Many blessings and much love!

Niccole

Oh Mexico!!!

Hello beauties!

Well...this is my second attempt to tell this tale.  I labored for 7 hours to write an extensive, funny, moving story of our travels...only to have it snatched from the cyberspace thief!  Oh it was a heavy blow this morning! I suppose the cyber thief was daring me with the challenge to RE-write some things again. Relive the experience one more time and make the writing better.  “Are you a writer?”, It questions. Hmmm? The first draft was a pretty epic page, so here goes!

We had the lovely opportunity to be invited by our friends Jen and Mary to join them on a 10 day timeshare trip to Zihuatenajo, Mexico! We haven’t been to Mexico since Cancun in 2004. We said yes to this well needed break!

We had our concerns about the language barrier, the currency, the water and, oh yeah, the Mexican drug cartel. Despite the news and some horrible tales told about the country by friends and relatives we opted to just go and not live in fear. The girls, Jenn and Mary, flew from Portland into Mexico City and had a 5 hour layover rounding up to 21 hours of travel time! Mo does NOT like to miss her beauty sleep, and I concur, so we opted to fly into LAX and lay over for the night and then it was a quick 3 hour flight into Ixtapa/Zihuat.  (The South Pacific side of Mexico.)

Mo in her happy place!

Mo in her happy place!

Upon landing, we flew over groves of coconut trees and once the plane doors opened, we felt the heat and delicious humidity curl its way over our bodies, hydrating my skin and watering my brain!  Funny, I disliked the humidity in New Jersey when I was a kid, and now this climate is like an old friend.

Mary and Jen had graciously gifted us  our own room at the World Mark Resort. Once there we were greeted with Margaritas and happy faces!  The weather always hung between 85-93 but felt hotter with the humid tropic weather. Strangely, cactus and palm trees sat side by side  in the hills off the shore. The rugged green mountains rose high and made the perfect backdrop to the stretched out sleepy bay. Sunsets were spectacular and when night fall came, twinkling lights of the village illuminated like stars set upon the landscape.  

Zihuatenajo at night!

Zihuatenajo at night!

We really had NO plans and NO agenda to DO anything, which meant NO expectations (which later means NO disappointments *wink - try that sometime, it’s the PERFECT vacation plan). And with that Spirit in mind we quickly got into our suits and jumped into the pool.

The fun of short hair. Jen turning me into the “devil”!

The fun of short hair. Jen turning me into the “devil”!

The resort is small. Only 23 rooms available and a few of them were unoccupied.  What that meant is a tight little community of guests and a chance to get to know them while swimming and basking in the Sun.  The pool was never crowded as many a day we had it all to ourselves, overlooking the bay upon which 4-5 lovely beaches rested down below.  Happy hour came and we chatted with other guests about what they experienced that day. It was wonderful to get to know the folks and listen to their stories.

Pool over looking the Bay.

Pool over looking the Bay.

While by the pool, the first few days, Ignocio the bartender at the Resort approached us with a “fishing excursion”. The girls including Mo jumped on this and truthfully, I was a bit reticent. The man wanted us to keep it on the down-low as it would compete with the concierge of the resort and I was mixed and also didn’t catch all of the details. They were all excited so I decided not to be a stick in the mud although I had my reservations.  It’s not like I thought we would be hacked up by machetes and thrown to the sharks or anything. I was just apprehensive about the secrecy of it all and didn’t know what we were getting into.

Currency was actually pretty fun.  I downloaded an AP that would convert Peso’s to US dollars and vise versa!  It was a kick! I could do math again and Mo could speak Spanish again. These skills that were asleep had woken up!  Pesos were akin to monopoly money and Mexico truly is so much more affordable. The dollar stretches much further and that is refreshing.  Example, about 1000 pesos per person (50.00 US) paid for this private adventure for the 4 of us to fish, snorkel, and feast! I was very happy that I put my own concerns aside and listened to Mo and the girls about this.  Little did I know it would be a day I would simply hold in my heart forever!

Old School

Experiencing the Mexican culture and finding out what kind, generous, sweet people they are rejuvenated my soul!  With a hearing loss and a language barrier, you could bet I was a bit apprehensive in conversation but these people went out of their way to please you. They would greet me and say, “Buenos días, cómo estás?” (good morning, how are you?) and wait for an answer with bright enthusiasm pouring from their eyes.  I would respond, “Bueno!” and they would grin. They would say more and then we would giggle because they knew that was about all I had to offer in the ways of their language.  Mo on the other hand, she will tell you she doesn’t know the language yet that is not true! Her brain retains remarkable words and phrases, don’t be fooled! She made the locals laugh with her dramatic pronunciations.  She was a real kick with the locals.

The Mexican culture is delightfully “old school”.  We Americans have a certain standard. We like all of our buildings to me “plum and square” and I can own that we can be germaphobes and we like our space!  We need wider, cleaner streets and God forbid if there is a dog running around. In Mexico the streets are tiny! The proximity is CLOSE! There are no lines on the road. Drivers merge together all at once like bees to the hive.  There are dogs sleeping in the streets and running around in packs all day. The dogs know if a taxi driver is the kind that will swerve to avoid (and let them sleep) or if they need to wake and get OUT of the way! The steps are not unison in Mexico, and when you have enough Margaritas you certainly notice the non conformity of the steps and streets and angles and “tripping zones”. In Mexico,  “Natural consequences” take the place of all the Americanized regulation! You don’t pay attention, you fall! The children have a wider range to roam and play. There are no seat belts and helmets! You see kids loose in pickup trucks. My mind shot back to those good old days. The wild and reckless fun of being a kid. The exuberance of these people was contagious. The energy was electric and the night air continued to quench my thirsty mind with it’s delicious humidity.

We strolled the town and my nose lead me to coffee!  I smelled the most delicious aroma! I had to find it!  We went a few blocks down and at the corner there was a cafe, or so it seemed. We entered the little store to find an older woman who could not speak one lick of English and her young “grandson”, about 8 years old.  We noticed they sold coffee (beans), and coffee liquor, and syrups and vanilla; a famous purchase in Mexico is pure vanilla. I gestured to the little boy if they had cups I could drink, now. He took the time to try to understand me.  His dark little eyes reading my face and hand gestures. He tried to pour me samples of coffee syrups and I said “no-no” and began mimicking. This all took about 5-10 minutes and the boy was extremely patient with me. Then the light bulb came over his head and he took me by the hand and led me out of the store into the next store which was where the barista was!  Ah ha!!! “Oh”, I said, “Gracias!” The Barista knew a bit of English and I asked him for a “Cafe’ Latte’ with Vanilla, ‘pequena’,” I learned a new word - small. The little boy joined me with a smile on his face happy that he solved the puzzle.

I took one sip of the delicious coffee and was amazed.  You know, often when I go to a new barista in the States I am often disappointed.  It’s bitter, or just off. This was perfect! Strong, hot, creamy, not too sweet! I was so happy and I told him so.  The price? 30 pesos! $1.10 OMG!!! The good old days...I was reliving them now!

I happily strolled back to the little boys’ original store where the other girls were still looming and buying vanilla and I purchased the same syrup the man used in the coffee I was drinking.  OMG I love Mexico and its authenticity!

Our strolling landed us in the park in the middle of the town.  There were restaurant owners lining the beaches trying to coax us to come in, sit and eat.  But our bellies were full and they let us go with no huge guilt trip. Just a smile and a nod.  We were not held hostage by any vendor. And though it may seem like scarcity or impoverishment, it feels as though, it’s simply doing business.  Sure they hustle for a buck and they will sell you anything if they can find it, but there was never a “hard sell” energy that came with it. The offer of the goods are there.  They ask the question, you give an answer and the deal is done. You purchase or don’t, no emotion about it, unlike some of our own vendors here.

We came upon some girls and boys playing (on the same team), a serious game of basketball at the park. Their whole family’s were cheering them on!  I took in the sight. I saw little kids (2-4 year olds) on their little toy quads riding around the food vendors. I saw parents playing with their children. But you know what else I saw?  NO ONE on their cell phones!!! They were all interacting! They were engaging with each other!

I saw NO Mexican person smoking or vaping, I heard NO HORN HONK in the “beehive” of crazy cars!  It was beautifully old school. I did see one “Gringo” (white guy) scrolling on his iphone and I laughed, “Yes...this culture has their priorities in the right place”, I thought.   

I had chosen to step away from all technology. I only unlocked my phone once, days before our return, to check for any gig prospects, urgent messages and of course see about Juno who was staying with Rev. Jackie.  I could feel her doggie curiosity about the mamas through the thousands of miles, wondering when we were coming home. She was fine and enjoying Aunt Jackie and her doggie cousins. I did not miss the phone, or the computer. (Um, remember I lost the first draft of this writing!  Ha ha!!! No big surprise I did not miss the computer!)

Troubles in California were abound.  Jen and Mary were quite in touch and had been on their computer and found out about the fires and the shooting!  So many beautiful and tragic things happening simultaneously. My heart broke as so many people lost everything and “spoiled me” was drinking a margarita by the pool.  I cried. I said a prayer. For them. For us. For California. For America.

What do they think of our President?

It’s been on Mo’s bucket list to para-sail.  You know, be connected to a boat via parachute and fly up high in the sky!  I vowed if there was ever an opportunity, I would make it happen for her. Before we knew it, we were in a truck with Philippe. He personally picked us up from the resort and escorted us across town to Plya LaRopa (“Plya” meaning beach and “LaRopa” meaning clothes. It is a beautiful beach! Perhaps they just want you to keep your clothes on so they had to name it that so people wouldn’t strip? Who knows, I’m  making this shit up!)

Philippe’ was a strong handsome gentlemen, probably in his late 50’s early 60’s; truly in shape and very friendly. We chatted and our conversation turned political.  I couldn’t help but ask what he had thought of our president.

Philippe’ explaining how Mo should land.

Philippe’ explaining how Mo should land.

He said,”Your president is not stupid. He is a smart businessman.  He just wants people to be in the States legally that’s all.” Hmmm??  I had to mull that one over. Philippe’ just saw it as business, much like the vendors down by the beach.  There was no anger in him about our president. No slanted rant or objection. He went on to say how rich his country is and there is a lot of money in Mexico, which came as some surprise considering my ignorance and interpretation of dilapidated buildings and some places looking as though we pulled into a 3rd world country.  Now and then we would pass Militia wearing masks driving army trucks looking like the SWAT team! (They wear masks so the drug cartel does not recognize them in a drug bust and threaten their families.) He had many things to share of which I could not comprehend at times as Mo was sitting closest to him in the truck and his accent at times would trip my understanding.  But emphatically, I picked up that he was not mad about the way things were going in our country. It was just fact. No guilt. “Do you want a seat at the restaurant? Are you hungry? No? OK”, like all business in Mexico. Factual, not emotional. We are emotional about politics.  

“I can’t believe our administration wants to put a wall up from these people!”, I thought.  What 8 year old American would take time out for me if I were not able to speak the English and graciously see me to a coffee shop away from their own store and protection of “Grandma”? I was caught in thought for sure only to be aided by the sail of a beautiful parachute and then later a Margarita!  Many a margaritas were drunk!

And then the best day came! (Did you think I forgot?  You should have seen my first draft...I milked this part out so well! Ha!)  

Let’s Go Fishing!!!

Halfway through the trip we have a day bag packed and we are walking in the wee hours of the morning down to the pier to catch a ride with Ignocio and Christian.  We aboard the small fishing boat and head off to find the fishys!

On the boat with Iggy (seated) and Christian. Two great men!

On the boat with Iggy (seated) and Christian. Two great men!

The boys packed lures and plunked 3 lines in the water and we slowly made our way to the end of the bay and the beginning of the Sea.  Zihuatanejo is an old fisherman’s town and it was evident as we got out on the bay why the called it that. The fish would leap in the air and in clouds they would strike the surface of the water which looked like a fishing frenzy.  If you’ve ever thrown crackers to a pod of fish, you know the scene!

There would be these pods we would run into.  We would see them jump and then see the whole pod as the swam close to the surface.  Teams and teams of fish in the water and the black tuna are in abundance.

I could feel the boys getting frustrated due to lack of nibbles on their lines.  I whispered to Jen, “I think they are bummed they didn’t bring live bait”. Only one other boat  was on to this hot spot besides us and they were pulling fish in by the droves! They probably had live bait.  So I prayed they would find the most appetizing lure for our fishy fish, not losing hope.

Then a strange thing happened.  We saw something off the 11 o’clock point.  “What was that?” It was big! “Was it a dolphin? There it goes again!”  Christian swung the boat around and headed towards the strange creature.  We waited. We watched. The Sun kissed our faces. Anticipation filled our hearts. The ocean air curled up into our nostrils and we were fixated and present.  “Ohhhh!!!” We all cried in unison as it leaped up out of the water and came down with a smash right next to our boat! A STING RAY!!! “Oh my God! Oh my God! Look at that!”  Up the bat like creature broke the water again and then another and then another all to belly flop hard back in the water with a resounding splash!!! “Is this really happening?” I thought!  I could not believe my eyes!! What a sight! 6-10 feet they would fly like a bird, some 10 feet in wing span to deliver the most epic return as gravity pulled them back in again. Hang time would catch them and yet it was split seconds of beauty we would see each time one of them lifted and “flew” only to swim again!  

We were all so amazed and each time they lifted we would cry out, “OOOHHH!!!” all at once.  Of course the boys didn’t do this but we girls did and we would laugh! I could hear the boys talking in Spanish.  I could feel they were probably saying, they are more into the Rays than the fish, what should we do? Follow the Rays?”  Ha! We were so intrigued! It was a spectacular once in a lifetime thing to see! I will NEVER forget it as long as I live!  All morning long the Ray jumped out of the Sea, as if they were there for our entertainment. We were all mesmerized and knew without a doubt that this indeed was a very special gift to see.  (Here is a link to check out what we saw: Flying Manta Rays

Christian turned the boat and at one point we could see thousands upon thousands of Manta Rays under the boat and beside the boat.  All “flying” in the water and so beautiful! I could have cried, heck I probably did!

And then something cool happened!  Ignocio got a fish ON and handed me the pole!  Wha-hoo, now this was wild! I reeled and reeled and even though my forearms have had some issues the last couple months, I was determined to catch the first fish of the day! It came in closer and darted under the boat!  Christian put his hands on the line as it lifted and up it came and she was a beaut!!! A black tuna! My FIRST ever Sea catch! She was pretty and silver and black with an iridescent dark blue streak down her middle. I admired it and also felt sorry for it but gave thanks for its bounty!  Yummy Tuna!

Then Mo got the pole and reeled and reeled.  That fish also darted under the boat as this must be a tactic maneuver to deploy and it came unhooked and got away.  Mo was not disappointed in the least. I think she was a bit relieved as she hates to kill anything. We followed another pack of manta rays and hook on!  Mary stepped into the reeling chair and pulled in another beauty! Ignocio hooked one at the same time and Jen was busy filming Mary so we gave Iggy the honors of reeling that one.  He pulled in a Mackerel! We had diversity!

As the day got on we made our way eventually to an area called Manzanillo (named after the chamomile trees).  Here we jumped off the boat into the aqua blue ocean water! Little dart fish swam close! Much like the Mexican people, it seemed the fish had a closer proximity too!  Now and then, that would creep me out. I felt one nibble on my hand once and screamed into my snorkel only to laugh at myself! What a goober!

What a masterpiece the sea world is!  So many colors tantalizing our eyes! Blue, purple, yellow, orange, black; like a work of art!  What a landscape! Everyone is hearing impaired like me underwater as communication happens with gestures and signs. I completely have the advantage as this is my everyday!  Thousands of little “tink tink tink” sounds I could hear as the fishies were biting the coral reef! I feel so at home swimming! It’s like defying gravity and flying! My giant lungs fill and I can go deep for long periods of time and then surface and reclaim my humanness on the inhale.  I am part fish somehow. I love the water and the freedom it brings!

We ended our snorkel with the sighting of an eel and climbed back on board the boat.  Once we were on, Iggy handed us crackers and pointed to a board that had cut up RAW tuna with some sort of sauce, lime juice and red onions.  “Hmmm?” We all peered at the plate. It kinda looked like dog food and we looked at each other. I imagine we looked like a bunch of 4 year olds trying broccoli for the first time.  Our eyes darted around with anticipation with who would go first. Mary stuck her cracker in and we watched her like the “Hey Mikey” commercial for Life Cereal (I might have lost some of you young folks on that one ha ha!!!)  She expressed joy upon chewing so that relieved some of our anticipation. When in Rome, or in this case Mexico!!! We sheepishly made our way over to the plate and I took my first bite. OMG! It was amazing! Absolutely amazing! It was basically “Sashimi”, what you would get in a high class Sushi bar and probably pay $100 for the size of the plate we had!  Wow! And that was only half of the fish I caught!

Las Gatos waiting for our “catch of the day”!

Las Gatos waiting for our “catch of the day”!

We then boated back to a beach called “Las Gatos” (The Cats - ? Maybe many strays were found here; let’s make up another story about it!).  We were VERY close to the rocks as we boated back. The cliffs that hung and outlined the bay felt an arm length away and the water was vibrant blue.  I couldn’t believe when Christian steered between the cliff and a rock band! I wondered how he knew how deep the water was and that there weren’t “surprise rocks” for his propeller to find.  I suppose this wasn’t his first rodeo and he knew this bay like the back of his hand. It was exciting to boat so close to the rock! Pelicans would sit on their perch and looked to be judging us with there eyes as we passed. I imagined them having English accents for some reason (ha!).  They would take flight and plunge into the water big beak first! Wow!

We pulled up to Las Gatos and got off the boat and walked along the beach to a restaurant called Arnoldo’s.  Christian and the cook were good friends and we had a great table under a grass hut with our feet in the sand facing the ocean only 10 yards away!  “Margarita por favor?!”

Every drink and dish was decorated with little elegant purple flowers! The Chef took great pride in his masterpieces!  We had guacamole and fresh chips and more Sushimi and then out came the main dishes family style! All the fish were cut in such a way, bone removed, and rolled to what looked like a cinnamon bun!  They looked like fish cinnamon buns that could feed 4-6 people each! This was a Thanksgiving meal for sure!!! Oh my! There was one with a pepper sauce which was my favorite. I hogged out on that one! There was a dish in marinara sauce, almost Italian style. And then a garlic dish too!  The other gringos looked at our dishes and asked questions, “Where did you get that?” Ha! We all stuffed ourselves and one thing I noticed; the men did not partake until they saw that satiated look in our eyes and our eating slowed. They waited until we filled up and then they began to eat!  Ummm...I’ve NEVER witnessed this before! That wouldn’t happen in the States! Ha ha ha!!! Old school or just a culture politeness, it was worth noting.

A fun pack!!!

A fun pack!!!

I could not get over how wonderful everything was!  What an epic day! What an epic trip! I read a book too while on vacation!  Ahh to read again! I also wrote in my journal everyday for which I extracted some of my memories to this page.  Ahh to write again! I read “The Art of Asking” by a musician Amanda Palmer. I was so inspired by her story and filled and delighted to write just for writing.  I was excited to write you this story and to share our time.

Thank you Mexico for re-hydrating my mind, heart and soul!  Thank you for your beautiful generous gifts! Thank you Amanda Palmer for igniting a fire in my pen again!  I have missed pen to paper, I have missed myself. I need to write like I need to swim, eat, sleep! I am not myself when I can not express through writing.  And I have been away from myself a bit trying to find my way back from all the busyness. Mexico has brought me back again, reminded me of “old school” and I am forever grateful, forever thankful!  Thank God I did not let fear or ignorance keep me away from this experience and deprive me of the Manta Ray, deprive me of a beautiful culture that embraces family and sees you as you are. Thank you Mary and Jen, Mo, Ignocio, Jorge, Philippe’, Amanda Palmer, Rev. Jackie, Juno! You all shaped my experience!

Though the cyber thief stole my first draft, I hope you had a good “walk” with me on this second draft.  Things spilled out in a different way, perhaps I was more poetic in the first, but writing this all over again teaches me that...why yes...yes, I’m a writer.  A singer-songwriter, poet, swimming human-fish, dog-lover, artist! Thanks for the second stab and thank you for reading! May you have a beautiful season of Thanks!!!

Immense Gratitude!!!

Immense Gratitude!!!

Mo loving Life!!

Mo loving Life!!











Showcasing in the Northwest!

Surf dog at the Pacific!

Surf dog at the Pacific!

Hello Beautiful VIP members!  The last several weeks have flown by, and now we are encroaching November already!  Hope you’re Autumn Season has been beautiful, and that perhaps you’ve had some much needed R&R, or quality time with loved ones, or adventures in nature, or all of the above!  We’ve had you in our thoughts as we’ve traveled along the fine state of Oregon, and here are a few stories to share about this fantastic Northwest tour. 

We landed in Baker City, OR. two hours west of Boise on Fri. 10/5. It was a blustery, stormy day so we wondered how many peeps would come out that evening.  We loaded in Barley Brown’s Brew Pub on Main Street in our usual fashion….begging one of the fella’s at the bar to help us up the flight of stairs in the back, then through a small, hobbit door, 4 feet tall, 5 feet wide, to a stage 12 feet above the brewery floor below.  As the evening unfolds, I try to stay away from the edge of the stage as vertigo tends to set in after a beer or two. 

Juno sacked out up in the loft. She would occasionally look down at other dogs and wag her tail our Francine and Lynda.

Juno sacked out up in the loft. She would occasionally look down at other dogs and wag her tail our Francine and Lynda.

So we’re setting up, and low and behold, two of our VIP members from Washington surprised us by showing up to the Show!  It was Francine Henderson and her good friend/traveling compadre, Lynda Russell!  They decided to spend the weekend getting to know Baker City a little better, and kicked off their time with some B&K music!  How cool was that?!  The pub was packed that night, and our CD’s were very popular, so between the great company, new listeners, stellar food and brews, and of course, getting to play at this wonderful local hang out, we were happy campers!  We thought, “What an incredible great start to our tour”, and we couldn’t have been more right!  Thank God! 

Shane is the sweetest guy.  He and Mo look like characters from Kung Fu Panda in their fun hats!

Shane is the sweetest guy. He and Mo look like characters from Kung Fu Panda in their fun hats!

We joined Francine and Lynda for breakfast at the infamous “Lone Pine” downtown at “foggy-thirty” and were graciously gifted with their time, gifts of the heart, and breaking bread together.  Thanks ladies!   You made our day! 

Then we made our way via John Day to the Sisters, OR. to visit our friend, PJ.  We drove through John Day National Fossil monument, and what an extraordinary landscape to behold!  The drive to Sisters from Baker City via the Sumpner Hwy is gorgeous, especially during the Fall, but we found ourselves very tired after nearly a 6 hour drive, so we were grateful to land in the woods of quaint, little Sisters.  Had a hot tub, and did our best to shake off the anticipation of what was to come next week at the conference.   Also made plans to mountain bike some single trek trails on our way back through in two weeks. 

Beautiful drive from Baker City to Sisters

Beautiful drive from Baker City to Sisters

We made our way to Eugene the next day and landed at our friend, Wendy’s apartment that was like a beautiful decompression chamber.  She had books that inspired us, and spoke to our hearts, inspirational messages and art on the walls, and a quiet, meditative balcony overlooking a grove of trees.  The hummingbirds frequented the deck all day long.  It was a true Oasis, and exactly what we needed to rejuvenate and unwind with the rigorous Arts NW booking schedule ahead.

The Holt Performing Art Center…in Eugene. They liked our act too and asked us to play next year!!! Wowsa!!!

The Holt Performing Art Center…in Eugene. They liked our act too and asked us to play next year!!! Wowsa!!!

 We hit the ground running on Monday with a workshop by Patti Morrison. Her company is called “Inner Fire, Outer Light” and she helps artists find their vision for their craft and put it to work. Her talk was called “How to Quit your Day Job.”  Well, we are already so blessed to be doing this full time with your on-going support and encouragement, but we never stop growing as artists, and it’s important to continue to find ways to expand and improve your act, so we thought, this would be a good starting point.

Juno making friends IN the exhibit hall at the conference. Anyone who has treats and is close to the ground is a perfect friend in her book!!!

Juno making friends IN the exhibit hall at the conference. Anyone who has treats and is close to the ground is a perfect friend in her book!!!

We learned we’re doing some things really well, but our systems for tracking and follow up with folks needs improvement.  She asked specific questions that made us realize, we need to work on our vision and get as succinct so we can manifest more success in our musical career, and have our music  best serve our world, and enrich our lives too.  We won a free consultation with her on Wed. 10/31 so we’ll keep you posted on what we discover so that you too, can help us hold the vision for this musical career going forward. Collective focus and energy is the key to manifestation. We can accomplish anything with enough minds holding the vision.

Juno was better than cookies, candy, and even beer to lure the presenters over to our booth!!! She was also a great stress therapy dog for all conference goers!

Juno was better than cookies, candy, and even beer to lure the presenters over to our booth!!! She was also a great stress therapy dog for all conference goers!

We were offered a showcase spot for this year’s conference, but it wasn’t until Wed. evening at 8:45pm, the last night of the event.  We’d been searching for just the right songs that would capture what we can offer to the talent buyers, and once we selected the songs, we practiced it, and practiced it, making sure it didn’t exceed the 12 minutes allowed for the showcase. 

Our sound check was at 7:15pm, and we were an easy set up because we were the only band without drums.  However, somehow Nicci’s tuner pedal got reset to a half step below, and we couldn’t figure out why we’d tuned, but were not in tune.  So as we entered this Twighlight kind of zone, with that oh so familiar surge of heat and sweat that overcomes your body, Nicc finally figured out what was wrong, and we got it all together, and sound checked, after the mini heart attack. Wow, that was a trip!  The Universe likes to test us every now and again…..

For our set, we performed four shortened  classic rock tunes (Marshall Tucker’s “Can’t You see,” into “Summertime,” then a little of “The Letter,” by the Box Tops, but in Eva Cassidy’s style, and of course, a little “Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash.”  And then we offered up our recent ballads, “Only the Lucky” and “Thankful.”  There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience when we sang Nic’s tune, “Only the Lucky.” 

Our artist friends and talent buyers alike finally understood what our music can do; move people into gratitude and joy.  Touch that tender part inside that’s been so eager to express itself, but kept so tight under wraps.  It’s challenging to describe the musical experience B&K can offer people, but when they actually experience it, then their interests were perked.  The executive director, a well-known presenter, and Sundae and Mr. Goessel (artists from Seattle, WA) gave us big fat squeezes when we came off stage, saying “We killed it.”  Love that feedback, and I believe we’ll get some good work out of this conference.  They start booking in November for their 2019/2020 concert series, so keep your fingers crossed.

Meeting up with friends and collegues is part of the conference experience. Here is the lovely Sundea & Mr. Gossel!!!

Meeting up with friends and collegues is part of the conference experience. Here is the lovely Sundea & Mr. Gossel!!!

We were approached by talent buyers from Seaview and Port Angeles, WA; Redmond and Eugene, OR; and Crescent City and Red Bluff, CA.  Also Salishan Resort on the coast of Oregon near Newport.  We watched showcases from other artists each day of the conference, attended keynote speaker luncheons, did the dine around with some of the talent buyers, sat at our exhibit booth for hours each day talking to folks, and meeting other artists, and agents.  We even joined the entire group for karaoke the last night.  It was great catching up with old friends, some of which had been signed to an agent since we last saw them.  Juno was a big hit with everyone, and got us some good action at our booth, so darn cute and personable.  Who can say no to a waggy tail, right?

We left for the coast Thursday afternoon and landed in Lincoln City!  The weather was absolutely beautiful the entire weekend! What a blessing to have such exceptional coastal weather in the middle of October.  We played at a quaint little bookshop/café in Newport called “Canyon way” that has been in operation since the 1970’s.  While we donate our time to perform, there’s a tip jar on each table.  Most tables were reserved, about 15 total, and folks sat and listened with open hearts after they’d enjoyed a most splendid, home cooked meal.  We did really well, and folks bought CD’s, and signed up on our mailing list.  It was a feel good evening, and we were grateful to have been invited back to play for the community again; the last time had been in June.  The drive home that night to Lincoln City, though only 45 minutes, felt like 2 hours, we were so exhausted from all the escapades at the conference, and hadn’t had time to really digest all the information we’d taken in.  Needless to say, we slept like rocks that night, even Juno too.

Saturday we prepared for the house concert at Rudy’s Piano bar in Lincoln City, and we’d offered to bring appetizers since they weren’t hosting house concerts anymore, but had made an exception for us knowing we were coming through.  There were about 45-50 folks that attended, and it was nice to see everyone again.  This crowd listened temporally with their heads, but had a hard time getting to their hearts.  Still we took them on a journey that brought everyone together. Intermission was a lively time of everyone catching up with one another, and I was grateful that Rudy and Marilyn had opened up their home again to allow this special community bonding to re-occur.  It felt good to be an instrument in people coming together. Isn’t that what music does?

Sunday was our free day, yeah!  We took a stroll on the beach, did a little shopping in the quaint, novelty shops of downtown Lincoln City, and had some appetizers and a drink at our favorite lounge in the Spanish Head!  Ocean views as far as the eye can see, 10 stories up!  We had the perma-grins sitting on our “perch”. What a fabulous way to end a very successful tour! 

Monday morn came quickly and we buggered off back to Sisters for our epic bike ride!  We’d come full circle, traveling 1290 miles, with over 24 hours of driving time.  We had a nice quiet evening, Nicci and her friend, Kathy sharing their new songs with each other.  PJ and I listening with quiet appreciation.  And that hot tub never felt better! 

A bike ride in nature…our obvious happy place after all the business!

A bike ride in nature…our obvious happy place after all the business!

Tuesday we made tracks downtown to rent mountain bikes, and skedaddled into the mountains on Peterson’s Trail; 30 miles of single trek trails through the wilderness, and only 6 blocks to the trail head from the bike shop.  It was an absolute blast!  We rode over rocks, through small openings between the trees, through gully’s that were tricked out, by lava beddings and outcroppings, all amidst the vastly wooded forest.  I could hear Nicci hoopin’ and hollering in the distance. She left my ass in the dust cause I was a little more cautious, especially going downhill.  We definitely had some cheap thrills! 

We rode to an overlook point of the Sisters mountains and three fingered Jack (also a mountain, not a man with only 3 fingers), and took in the incredible panoramic views!  12 miles and road hard, thank God for the new suspension on bikes these days.  Hard seat though, and our butt muscles have yet to recuperate from all the activity, but soooooooooo worth it!  We hadn’t done a bike ride of that caliber in at least a decade.  It felt good to blow the carbon out and also take time to do something enjoyable and athletic in nature.  We’re always off to the next destination it seems and rarely get the opportunity to do these things, so we felt really good about making this special little treat happen.  We’ll never forget it!

Spectacular view up up up 6 miles!!! Then down down down…whew whoooo!!!

Spectacular view up up up 6 miles!!! Then down down down…whew whoooo!!!

We got back late Wednesday, a long 8 hour drive home on Hwy 20 through Burns.  At this point, as we were unloading the car, everything seems to weigh double of what it normally does, but we managed to get all unpacked, then went downtown to our favorite pub, Bittercreek, for a burger and brew.  A wonderful way to end a wondrous tour!  And thank you again for coming along on this magic carpet ride with us! It keeps the proverbial flame of our music alive!  Namaste to each and every one of you! 

Take the best of care, and we’ll be in touch soon!

Mo and Niccole

 

Home to 45 bags of leaves to pick up! :-)

Home to 45 bags of leaves to pick up! :-)

 

 

Exploring the Depths

Hey Friends,

 We’ve been thinking of you and hoping you are ebbing into the shorter, cooler days with some reverence for “slowing down” and getting into autumn mode!   We caught the general population up with our blog we released last week.  Funny, as I was writing the blog last week I was very happy that all of you knew the inside scoop because that general blog was a doozey and many details were left out (like the pile of ladies in the van at the winery in California! LOL!)

Mo did a great job keeping you up to snuff on that tour and I wanted to go into a bit more detail about the lake at Alturas and my inner experience with this conference coming up in October this year.

We were moving and a grooving in July and also August, but we had a chance in August to just ‘STOP’ for a little while.  It was amazing!  Never in our musical career have we stayed in a campground for over a week solid!  It was unheard of and something we definitely want to repeat! 

 The cool part is that we had gigs all around the vicinity in the Stanley/Sun Valley region, so it was a “working vacation” in some senses.  After our crazy 8 shows a week, we landed at a serene campground and we parked our chair by the lake.

 I was empty, out of gas, content but tired.  I sat there. No book, no phone, nothing but the water lapping on the shore and a relatively quiet campground.  My mind first drifted to a revisit of what we have done this summer, last week, and then it got “macro” with, “what are we doing in general with our music…or lives?”   

I felt ever so grateful to be sitting by the lake, and even though the air quality was poor, full of smoke because of all the fires in the region, I felt truly blessed to be in company with Mo, Juno, and this still body of water.  Water has always been so healing for me.  Mo and I are both water signs, perhaps that’s why we blend pretty easily…..infact, Juno is too! (Just made that connection…I swear she has some “fire” in her though ha ha!!!)  Juno absolutely LOVES the water (as many of you witnessed from the face book video). 

 I broke my paddle board out of its box that trip. It had been in that damn box for over 4 months!  “How ridiculous”, I thought, “not breaking this out sooner”.  But in all honesty…when did we have time?

 I brought my bicycle too! Her name is Xena! (I hadn’t been on it all summer either!)  So now was the time!  I paddled out to the middle of the lake.  It was still, like a mirror.  No wind.  I laid down and went into a deep dreamlike meditation. 

 Something about those still, quiet moments…something I can’t place my finger on or put into exact words came over me.  I felt changed forever!  As I laid there looking up at the mountains I closed my eyes and imagined the water beneath me; so deep and so cleansing. With each deep breathe, I could feel the fullness of the lake, and an  energetic shift that overwhelmed me with gratitude. 

 All that I was ever miserable about was “make-believe”.  It was a story I told myself and I could STOP telling myself a miserable story at ANY TIME!  It was as if my Spirit guides were talking to me.  It was quite incredible.  

 No one’s life is ever what it seems on the surface.  Like that lake, we all go deep.  We all have inner wounds that need healing.  We all look one way on the surface but we have a depth that sometimes even we don’t understand. 

I laid there for an hour.  I drifted.  I stopped.  I hit the refresh button as this beautiful place filled my soul and gave back to me the depth that I know I indeed possess and I am here to help others remember they have too!  It was so awesome!  I felt like I dropped 50 pounds of emotional wreckage and the water just washed it away.  I touched the center of my soul, so to speak, and I liked who was there!  In fact, I loved it!  AND, I let myself love it!   

How often do we get uncluttered enough to simply acknowledge ourselves IN our being-ness?  Right?  We are all humans walking a path. We all have been dealt some cards (good and not-so-good).  All we have to do is love ourselves and each-other.  It’s that simple, but that gets clouded over. 

 The lake washed this away for me…and THEN!!!

We played at Redfish lake a day or so later.  Normally when we go to the mountains, the altitude is something of a challenge. The Red Fish gig has a “status” tied to it. We are the ONLY all female band to play it all season (so sad but true) and it can be a bit of mind game to feel worthy of landing this gig due to the amount of folks who wish to play it and how few dates are available. So we consider ourselves lucky!

 And this year, the parking angel opened a spot, friends helped us easily unload or equipment, and when my mouth opened I felt my voice resonate from the depths of my Soul.  I could have held a note for 10 minutes it felt like!!!  I was blown away!  It was as if I took the lake with me and was unafraid to go deep!  Unafraid to sing a song which allowed people to cry and feel! It felt a bit freeing, to see folks emote freely, and know that this truly is part of my/our calling.  It’s what I’m here to do!  It’s what you’re here to experience! What a gift!

I may have felt this in my past on some level…but I truly got it this time!  And I feel our shows have been different ever since then.  I’ve been wanting to feel deserved, to be “worthy of being on stage” etc.  And for the most part I’ve been really feeling it.  I don’t ever take this gift of playing music for granted.  But to have my heart SO OPEN and so calm and so intuitive…holy cow it was awesome!  And surely if I can keep my cup filled, I can help others fill their cups too! It’s simply magical! 

 And isn’t life funny how it gives you a chance to exercise what you’ve learned and what you “think” you know.  Next month we’ll be playing a showcase at the Northwest Booking Conference in Eugene, Oregon.  This conference hosts many musicians, dancers, comedy acts, etc. and the talent buyers come to select the acts for the coming year’s line up. 

 It’s basically…a big freaking deal.  So keep your fingers crossed!

 We were selected to showcase (another big deal and quite an accomplishment in its own right) which means we have 12 minutes to perform our “magic” to the talent buyers and also in front of our peers.  Hopefully, many will love what they hear from us and wish to book us at larger (more lucrative) venues, like theaters, festivals, and concert series all over the Northwest. 

 We have exactly 12 minutes!  Not a second more!  They will pull the plug on you if you go over.  Mind you, most of our songs run 4-5 minutes long! 

 So, yesterday Mo and I sat down with a formula for the showcase because I was getting nervous that we haven’t yet prepared for it and it’s coming up Oct. 8-11th. 

 We decided to do a montage (truncated version of songs) 4 classic, active, fun songs, so this means we are taking the best out of some songs like; Summertime, Can’t You See, The Letter, Folsom Prison to show our diverse covers, then plan to have some good old fun and create a BIG sound with the 2 of us, ending with “Only the Lucky” and “Thankful.”

 People often put us in the ballad box, or country.  Nothing wrong with that box, but it’s nice to be versatile too.  So, if all of you can say a little prayer for us the 2nd week of Oct. while we are at the conference…we would be so grateful. 

 These conferences are usually something I dread, but it really comes down to taking this opportunity to fully believe in ourselves.  Music constantly gives us a chance to step out and “in” to ourselves.  It can be quite a vulnerable place. I will draw from my meditation from lake Alturas and also from all of you who so generously support us and believe in our music!  Having you behind us brings so much more confidence to the stage!  We will keep you posted and let you know how it goes. 

 Meanwhile, I hope you all are adjusting to the Earth shifting on it’s axis and finding beauty in the changing of the leaves! 

 

Be well! 

Lake Alturas 2018 - Juno is quite the proud “surf dog”.

Lake Alturas 2018 - Juno is quite the proud “surf dog”.

 

Niccole