Ghosts in a Deserted City

This morning I awoke at 5 am with a head full of thoughts that would not wait to be thunk.  As my skin met the cool morning air and my brain registered the time and temperature I wrestled with the idea of going for my run in the dark.  The winding roads and swirling mist make for interesting driving conditions, even without runners trotting along the non-existent shoulder. But like most mornings, my fingers found the laces of my shoes and my toes met the road.  The sky was brushed with the first hint of a coming sunrise but all was silent save the one quizzical cardinal who glowered at me from his telephone pole. When you’re out so early in such a beautiful place every breath feels like it’s your first, and it’s the most exquisite thing you’ve ever experienced and every step is the most important thing you’ve ever done. The thoughts that had burst through my sleep only minutes before scattered before my questing brain.  What had been so important to wake me?  The machinery of awareness ground away at the wisps and fog of my dreams but I grabbed hold of a few shreds before they were gone. One thought was of how people reinvent themselves when no one is looking, or no one knows what they used to be.  Brevard is a place where the students seem to do that: try out something new, practice being something different.  Another thought was of all the loves who have passed through my life: how I miss them, cherish them, and yet am still glad for their...

Happy Accident

I ran into an old friend in Asheville last night.  Neither of us live there, and I wasn’t completely sure it was her, and I wasn’t completely sure it could be her.  This will take several stories to explain, but my friends know that I explain almost everything with stories, so bear with me. Ten years ago I got fired from my first full time software job.  The boss’s best friend screwed up, and I was let go.  It was actually a great day, because it launched me back into music in a way I couldn’t have predicted.  I think I might have told that story on my old website before windows-update ate it.  The brief version is that I got fired just in time to sign up for a brass music festival at the University of Cincinnati, just up the road.  I met my idol at the time, and he invited me to another workshop in Oklahoma, and the fire in my belly got re-lit by the experience of being around great musicians for several weeks. While in Oklahoma I met Deanna Swoboda, now professor of tuba at Western Michigan University.  We run into each other at conferences from time to time and have developed a friendship.  But I was completely surprised to see her eating outside at a restaurant in Asheville.  Happy accident that she was there. But happy accident that I was there too.  That fire in my belly got me through a masters and into a teaching job, then into a doctoral program and eventually to Brevard.  And on top of that, I’ll confess in...

For Ysabel, an Update

Dear Ysabel; I’m sad that you’re not here for another season of Brevardery, because you’d be having fun.  And I’d get to hear about your hootercooter again, and the joys of whatever that Chinese herb/tea stuff you bought last summer.  Oh, you’d get to say hello to your favorite singer.  Incidentally, she introduced herself and shook my hand this year, rather than snub me.  Maybe she’d still snub you.  We can hope. French Quarter isn’t the same without you.  For one, I can’t be a lazy slacker, I have to stay up and pull my weight more often.  NOT COOL.  And now I have to care what the inside looks like.  Before, you would shuffle the chairs and put out fake candles and make it look pleasant.  Now, when I find a pile of hamburger wrappers or a half-drank shake, seeping through it’s own cup into a puddle of grease and sugar on the carpet… I have to pause for a second to ask if I can get a work-study to clean it up.  Then I sigh and do it, but give the work study a guilt trip for letting me find it. It’s rained everyday, so you’d appreciate the wonders that humidity can do for hair.  Since I don’t have so much of that anymore, I can stick my tongue out and say, “Nya nya nyaaaa.”  And then cry a little inside. The cafeteria is actually pretty good, for what it is.  My vegetarian palette has been generally well served, but occasionally I get confronted with a challenge: do I want frozen salad, or overcooked frozen vegetables.  I...

Breathe

My motorcycle has a new air filter, which should solve at least in part some of the coughing and sputtering it does when people are watching.  In part. It still has a tendency to stall out just as the stoplight turns green, and there a lot of people around to hear it backfire.  Particularly pretty girls.  It’s nice to look like an ass when the members of the fairer sex are watching. But even as the bike needs to breathe to keep running, I need to remember to breathe when it stops. This morning I woke up sharply, and jumped to my phone.  I was on call yesterday, so I carried two phones around, and for some strange reason I hadn’t been called or texted with an emergency in more than 10 hours.  I was so sure that something must be wrong and I had slept through the call.  And then I took a breath. Since when is “no problem” something to panic...

My True-Love Has a 23-Inch Neck

She’s a right perty thing. I’ve had it in my head for some time to replace my banjo with something a little bit nicer, a little bit better sounding, a little bit better handling.  I’ve also had it in mind to stop spending money I don’t have.  Which brings me to my current situation. In the sleepy town of Brevard, I met this beautiful young thing, and she talked to me.  Rosewood fretboard and curly maple hoop shining in the sun; I couldn’t help but smile and stammer a little bit.  Sure, I’ve played other banjos, and my eyes wander a bit, but I keep thinking about that first impression.  Mother-of-pearl inlays staring up at me, and chrome hardware bracketing her graceful form…  I’m not sure if I picked her up or if she picked me up.  But there in my hands was my instrument.  It was just right. She’s used, but in good shape.  And really, what fun is brand-new all the time?  She’s got a better story, and a few good accessories for her troubles.  I can’t claim to be new myself, so why be picky when it just feels right? But I am troubled.  Here I am, in this period of transition.  I work, but I’m not really working.  I have a place to sleep, but no real address.  I daydream about where I’ll settle down, and how I can give that pretty little thing a home.  I have the means to march up there today and sweep her off her stand, but then what?  THEN WHAT?   What woes will this lonesome traveler have bought? So...