AmericanaramA and other events

Hello! Man, you get out of the routine, and it’s hard to get back in! I missed writing when I went up to visit Mom and Dad the weekend of July 19-21, and then it just didn’t happen!

Here are some things I did:

– On July 26, I went to a poetry slam at San Diego Art Institute. The San Diego slam team was there as part of a fundraiser. I decided to be a judge. While I got booed several times for my scores, I was also extremely consistent. Slam poetry is its own animal. A lot of it, I don’t like much. But sometimes, there are gems. I’m also fond of the group pieces. The SD team has a number of group pieces, and they’re cool.

One of the best things about that night though was talking with Chris Wilson, who is the slam master. He gave me props for helping make slam happen in San Diego and asked me to come to one of their regular events to let ‘the kids’ know what’s up. It was definitely gratifying.

– On Saturday (7/27), I had acupuncture (awesome!), then the Acoustic Duo had a gig that night at a new house concert being run by Java Joe. It was not the best attended, but it was a neat setting and the folks who were there really enjoyed it.

– The whole next week, I worked on my presentation. See, at work, we do this thing the first Friday of every month called Knowledge Feast. It’s voluntary, but when you volunteer, you get to create a presentation on anything you want. It has to be about 30 minutes. We bring in breakfast. So after the one in July about the aesthetics of rock ‘n’ roll, I was inspired and signed up for August. All week I immersed myself in my poetry past, my house concert past, and researched the concept of hosting artists in homes dating back to Ancient Greece. I made a PowerPoint that had video, photos, screen shots, and a 7 page essay that went along with it. On Thursday, I went out to the San Diego poetry slam event, Battle for San Diego. It was the SD team vs. the Hollywood team vs. a youth team. It was packed and very cool to see. I think the SD team (and the Hollywood team) will do well in Boston next week.

So Friday, August 2 was the big presentation day. I took in props. My books, my poetry memorabilia, my Meeting Grace newspaper article that was mounted on a lovely wooden plaque. And I gave my presentation. It was awesome. And the coolest thing was that nearly everybody was super engaged with it (there’s one guy who didn’t seem into it, but I don’t care for him much anyway). I got many compliments about it afterward. It was great. A nice trip down memory lane, and a call to arms a bit about what’s next.

– Saturday, August 3, Han & I took off for Irvine around 1:30 pm. Traffic was insane for some reason. We got to Oceanside at 3. We should have been there by 3 pm. Anyway, we went to our hotel room, then made our way to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (formerly known as Irvine Meadows). We were there to see the AmericanaramA music festival featuring Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan. The show started at 5:30 pm. Han and I hung in the car in the parking lot and watched thousands of people file in. We could hear faintly when Ryan Bingham went on and then off, and then the same for MMJ. Thankfully, the theatre had posted the set times on their FB page so we had a good idea of what was going on.

We meandered in around 7:30 pm, about 25 minutes before Wilco was supposed to start. We had lawn seats which meant a climb. Irvine Meadows (as I will refer to it) is a dinosaur. Not ADA compliant in any way. Everyone on Yelp! talked about how awful all the walking is and how steep the lawn is.  We were not looking forward to it.  But on the way in, there was a group of fresh-faced Verizon employees selling upgrades to the terrace seats for $10 each. Sold! It was still a steep climb up to the terrace, but it wasn’t that long. We found our seats, I bought a $10 beer and we were ready.

Wilco was amazing. Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer, was thoroughly engaging & entertaining. I have a couple of their records, but Han loves this band. For their musicianship, lyrics, everything. Jeff Tweedy used to be (like a million years ago) in a band with Jay Farrar called Uncle Tupelo. I have their records. They broke up and Jeff formed Wilco and Jay formed Son Volt. For a long time, I was on team Son Volt. I still really like their records. Jay eventually went solo, but Jeff has been fearless with Wilco, and it has paid off. They may not be very mainstream, but they have super loyal fans, plus they have some wonderful songs.

Anyway, after about 3 or 4 songs, Jeff Tweedy says that on this tour they’ve been able to have special guests from each of the areas they’ve played, and then he introduced Nancy Sinatra! The woman is 73 years old and she sounded great. Wilco backed her up on “Bang Bang” ( and her classic hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” ( So fun! Then later, they brought out Ryan Bingham and Jim James (of MMJ) and did California Stars (a Woody Guthrie song that I adore). Their set was awesome and worth it just for them.

After their set, there was a break and they set the stage for Dylan. Man, Bob freaking Dylan. He’s also in his 70s, but he got into it. I didn’t care for his phrasing much (he kept lilting up on the ends of lines), but it was still cool to hear songs like “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” and “All Along the Watchtower.” There were songs I didn’t know, too, but his band is so freakin’ good, it’s a pleasure just to hear them. Toward the end, they brought everyone out and they did “The Weight” by the Band. It was super awesome. After the show, we waited a while to let the theater and parking lot clear a bit. We still ended up waiting in the parking lot for a while, but it was okay. We ordered pizza on the way back to the hotel and had a late night dinner. It was a great night.

That pretty catches you up. Last night I went out for a glass of wine with my friend, Lindsay. As I mentioned earlier when I was talking about the presentation, it brought up all these emotions and wonderings about what can I do next? I think I might start seriously working on that book project. I think I’ll start attending more poetry readings. But what else? That’s a good question to ponder.

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