(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
January 11, 2004   -to-   May 28, 2004


January 11, 2004

Howdy my friends,

It's been quite wintery of late here in Seattle. We usually get a few mild rainy months and have no choice but to call them winter - even though fall and spring brings in the exact same weather. But this year we have actually had a couple of snows and some lengthy freezes for a change. I enjoy that kind of weather and make it a point to put on my Sorrel Pacs, heavy fleece-wear, and big Russian fake-fur hat even when I take the garbage out. I used to rub bear grease all over myself but too many dogs got to mauling me. (I love dogs and don't like to see 'em lungin' at my neck with great fervor) When we get even a dusting of snow I put my fourteen year-old truck in four wheel drive just 'cause I have an excuse to. Whee! I carry around several lengths of chain so I can tug people out of snow banks and up hills. I don't even ask 'em first - I'm that kind of samaritan. If I see a car that looks like it wants to go somewhere, I just get out, hook 'er up, and start towing like a madman. People give me the most alarmed looks when they find themselves bouncing up a hill with their car still in Park and their emergency brake on. (That's why I recommend always keeping your transmission in Neutral just in case a fellow like me stops by to help) Quite a few of the more ungrateful types roll down the window to holler nasty things at me, but I just smile and keep on towin' 'cause that's my purpose in life. If they didn't want to go where I pull them, well the thing is, they're saving gas! So hey.

  Another reason I like the snow is that it gives me a chance to do some real animal tracking. I'm not so good on bare ground but listen here dammit, I can track nearly anything once it walks across fresh snow. It's just a gift I have, nothing I could teach you. I dress in white - like they used to in the older Bond movies when they were skiing down the Alps shooting machine guns and laser pistols - and I crawl out the back door on my belly, my little dawg, Bungee, in a sack on my back. She don't like it but hey, I don't care for snow gittin' all down my crotch either, but it's a fact of life if you're a genuine, gifted tracker like myself.

As you may recall, I feed just about every critter in my neighborhood; raccoons, opossums, wild cats, squirrels, crows, blue jays - flying creatures in general. It all comes in handy when we finally get some snow 'cause there's a world of tracks criss-crossing my backyard. Picture this: I'm on my belly, shimmying snake-like through the piles of snowflakes and taking note of pretty much every animal track you'd expect. I follow them one at a time, choosing perhaps, a raccoon trail to begin with. I put my nose right there where his little hand-like feeties were only a short time ago. I sniff, I attain the position he is in when he shuffles along the ground, thus, I attempt to become the raccoon. Crawling forward, I have become him, I sniff again - which was a mistake, because I didn't notice his fresh droppings just there under my chin. Dammit. That does it! I get up and stomp into the house to wash my chin and brush my teeth. I'm a tracker, not a dang plumber. I just don't have the stomach for it.

  Our lovely blanket of snow only lasted a couple of days before it was rained away. Since I'm not a person who goes to work every day, or has to commute anywhere, I'm the fellow that's always cheering when snowflakes start falling. I like the idea of the world pausing for a few days to get quiet, so we can walk around the neighborhood and talk to each other and watch kids sledding and throwing snowballs. I'm always disappointed when the rain inevitably comes again and washes away all the beautiful crystalline snow. I was raised where it snows every winter, usually several times, in Amarillo, Texas. But my favorite place for snowfall was Whitefish, Montana, where I spent one winter back in my twenties, working at Big Mountain Ski Resort and living in the snow for six solid months. It was a magical place and time, and still fills my songs and stories with imagery I'm grateful to still recall instead of having to imagine. (not that I'd make shit up, mind you)

One of my all-time favorite of my songs came from that beautiful winter landscape. It was late November and we'd had only a couple of light dustings. All of us living at the broken-down, rustic old cabin resort called Kamp Karefree, were depending on the ski mountain to open so we could get to work and make a living. The dirth of snowfall was making us edgy. concerned that we might run out of oatmeal and beer. People who work at ski resorts are not known for having large nest eggs to fall back on. I'd spent most of mine buying a pair of premium Sorrel Pac boots one day after I'd listened to stories at the Palace Bar all afternoon about local people who'd lost toes and even feet to frostbite. As soon as my buddy Ron and I left the bar we went to a sporting goods store and I shelled out half of my remaining money for boots. I might starve to death but there was no way I was leaving Montana in the spring with a peg-leg.

  It was already quite cold even without the snow, and I'd take long walks and go running on the roads surrounding Whitefish Lake nearly every day. I'd gotten used to coming back from a run with my breath having formed a frosty patina over my beard and moustache. (you'll think I'm joking, but on the really cold days you had to be careful because you could actually break your moustache off) One afternoon just past Thanksgiving, a few flakes had started to drift and dance down from the Montana sky. By near-dusk it was clear that this was going to be the real blizzard everybody had been praying for. I walked out the road leading from Kamp Karefree to the main highway, down past the Viking Lodge and The Place and turned right onto a road that led past cabins and homes scattered in meadows and foothills around the lake. I was lonely even though I was making lots of friends. I was reminiscing about past loves and wishing for a woman to be with. As I walked along the shoulder of the winding road the sky became filled with unimaginable torrents of snow, the flakes cascading from above as if it was going to cover the ground and not stop until the houses and trees themselves had disappeared. I could see the warm yellow glow through windows of cabins and the chimney smoke rising through the quiet storm and it made me even lonelier imagining the families and lovers inside. It was all so beautiful that I felt that kind of aching melancholy that is a confusing combination of both pain and bliss. I wanted to walk all night, to stay in that lovely longing wilderness, but I also wanted to find warmth and light myself. As darkness fell and the storm mounted it's silent assault, I turned and began my return journey back home. An hour later I stepped gratefully into the warm confines of my home, walked into my bedroom, picked up my guitar and sat on my bed. It was as if the complete melody already existed in me, carried home from my lonely walk and invited into my home. I didn't write the whole song that night, it took me a few days to find all the lyrics, but I remember so clearly writing those first lines and how good and true they felt to me ~

Once I knew all the things that I wanted in love
On this snow covered ground I was born . . .

When I write certain songs - as true all these years later as it was back then - I get lost in the mood, in the yearning of melody and voice and guitar chords. If any of my songs moves you, you can be certain that at some point, they moved me at least as deeply. When I wrote that song I had no idea it would someday be a song that people in every city I visit would ask me to sing. I would say that after all these years it's still the song I can most count on hearing someone shout from the darkness as I stand onstage. I don't always play it, only because I have lots of songs and cannot fit them all in, but I play it at far more concerts than I do not. Whenever I sing it, I go back to that magical winter in Whitefish, Montana. To the friends and adventures, the laughter, the mountains, the long days in a lift shack on the slopes of Big Mountain, and especially to that little group of cabins clustered on the shores of frozen Lake Whitefish. After all this reminiscing, I guess the least I can do is leave you with the lyrics. Thanks for visiting me. I'll be playing concerts in several parts of the country this year and will be sure and send you notice. I wish you a loving and peaceful year.

In Friendship,

Yellow Windows  ©Michael Tomlinson
Once I knew all the things that I wanted in love
On this snow covered ground I was born
Some part of me knows what a young heart can give
And love would be warm where I live
        And I walk these hidden roads
        I love these snowflakes and this cold
        And these homes with yellow windows
        Shine their warmth into my soul
        Gentle wind, you are an angel
        Oh, if you were flesh and blood
        But that chimney smoke's your lover
        I have watched you making love
Not long ago I held a woman so close
I wonder why I let her go
Oh, what a year, I've learned to live with my fear
Will I ever hold love so near?
        And I walk these hidden roads
        I love these snowflakes and this cold
        And these homes with yellow windows
        Shine their warmth into my soul
        Gentle wind, you are an angel
        Oh, if you were flesh and blood
        But that chimney smoke's your lover
        I have watched you making love
In the mornings I remember
And I try hard not to cry
Well, she knows the love I send her
Will be warm until I die
And she walks this road inside me
With these snowflakes and this cold
May these homes with yellow windows
Shine their warmth into my soul
Shine their warmth into our souls

February 9, 2004

Howdy my friends, I must apologize for missing Ground Hog Day - I mean for not having a new greeting up on my website for that holiest of holidays. Truth is, I was out buying my first digital camera, going from Office Depot to Samples to Costco to Office Max - raising a ruckus in every store I visited because it kept me from having to reveal that I don't know shit about digital cameras. If you feign disgust over the high cost, then you can generally cover up your own ignorance. I finally settled on a camera at 7-11.  7-11 actually sells a very nice hotdog-shaped camera for six bucks. I didn't realize until I'd gotten it home though, that you can only take pictures of things that are extremely still - and even then you must hold the camera down with a heavy rock. If you try to take a picture of something moving rapidly, like say, a person napping and breathing at the same time, the photo blurs like a shot of a race car in the rain. So now I have this really neat hotdog camera that requires a hand much steadier than mine. Actually, as I get older and more leathery, this "accidental" blurring may come in handy for self photos. The reason I wanted a digital camera in the first place was so that I could occasionally have new photos to put up on my website, in my newsletter and on CDs without always having to track down one of my friends to do it for me. I thought to myself, "You know, I've got a perfectly fluffy little white dawg that don't do much of nothin', short of eat and make me chuckle a lot. What if I was to train her to snap off a photo of me now and then on the rare day when I'm looking particularly good?" (you know what I mean, you have these days that suddenly your face takes on a new shape and you wish somebody would hurry up and take a photo before your flesh slips back into it's normal position.)

So for nearly a week now I've been carrying my new camera around everywhere I go. I've got two photos to show for it - both of my little dawg Bungee, growling at me to git her a treat and make it snappy. Neither of those photos is going to make a decent CD cover. See, my problem is that I haven't read the little instruction manual. For the most part, I am not a reader of manuals. "You can read about life or you can live it" is what I always say. Which just means that I'd rather stare into the abyss for an hour than take ten minutes to read a manual. I haven't even bought a case for my high tech little hotdog camera. I've been keeping it in a purple hiking sock that actually cost more than the camera. I figure if anybody mugs me, they'll pass right over the purple sock, thinking it's just a nasty ol' sock, and all they'll get is my wallet, credit cards and driver's license (with a warning stamped across it - MAY NOT DRIVE MILITARY VEHICLES - but that's another story I'll get to sometime).

That sock sure does bring up some sweet ol' memories, though. Everytime I pull it out of my bag when I'm looking for a hanky or some damn doggie treats, I get a tear in my eye thinking back to the day I bought it. As you have probably guessed, I originally purchased it with a partner sock - also purple - but that dang sock has gone bye bye over the years. I never wore either of them after the one day I hiked in them, but they made excellent booties for my girlfriend of the time and I simply cannot see that sock without recalling that her sweet little foot was in it back in the late 80s. And where her foot was, well, her leg wasn't far behind. And that's where the memories start me trembling to where I couldn't use that little hotdog camera if my life depended on it.

Anyway, the day I bought that purple sock and it's partner, I was in Aspen, Colorado. Unless you're wealthy, a pair of socks is most likely the only purchase you'll find yourself making in Aspen. (I believe a candy bar was around $113 - which caused me to become a shoplifter, otherwise I'd still have a clean record) Aspen Mountain rises right out of the middle of town and on that sunny summer day I'd decided to hike to the very top. I could see the tram disappear well up the steep incline and thought I'd hike up there and then ride the tram back down. Problem is, I needed me some socks 'cause my hiking boots were new and I didn't want to scuff up my feet or put any unsightly blisters on them if I didn't absolutely have to. (I'll show 'em to you sometime and you'll see why. you'd better be sitting down though, they're some beauts)

I slipped on my brand new, very thick, purple hiking socks and barely was able to get my boots on over them. Hmm. Oh well, it's just a hike of a couple of hours or so. Then I stepped out onto the street, strode across to the lift and walked under it and began my climb up the mountain. Almost immediately, I found that the slope was much steeper than I'd calculated. I could actually reach straight out with one hand in many places and touch the ground in front of me. There was a winding, hairpin dirt road that I saw some people hiking, but that would have taken forever to follow. Hiking up in a straight line was probably a third the distance. It was just after noon and I wanted to be certain that I reached the summit in time to take the last tram down at 4:00pm. It would suck to have to come back down such a steep route on foot. I was sweating like a Texan in spelling bee but kept taking one big stride after another, straight up the mountain. Above me, to my left was the occasional tram, filled with weak-willed folks who'd rather get their exercise in a gift shop than out there in the great outdoors. I was certain they were impressed with my prowess on the mountainside - which made it confusing that a coke can hit me on the noggin.

The weather began to suddenly deteriorate; dark, ominous clouds were blowing from over the summit to hold court between the summer sun and my sweaty body. It felt wonderful to be in shade, but I'll admit that I was a little concerned, Colorado weather changes can be extreme and dangerous when you're on an unprotected mountainside. Still, it was so beautiful to be up there. I'd reached a place where I could no longer see the village below or any other hikers. Even the lift was now around the far side of a slope. I heard a whooshing sound that caused me to jerk my head around. Coming almost straight toward me was a beautiful, sleek glider. I couldn't believe I was actually at a higher altitude than he was. As he banked I could see the pilot's face, he smiled and waved at me and soared out of sight behind some trees. Over the next hour I saw him again and again, but as the sky grew darker he descended back to level ground - which was where I was beginning to wish I was, too.

Three times I was greatly disturbed to top a long-sought after ridge and find that the tram just kept going skyward, up to another unattainable summit. I was beat by now and quite worried about the time. The air was not actually cold. I was in shorts and short sleeved shirt. If I was later than 4:00pm in reaching the top, I'd have to turn around and climb back down. As weak as my legs were getting I was afraid it would be more of an uncontrolled, screaming tumble than a descent. For once, I wished that I wore a watch. I increased my pace and pushed harder, determined to make that last tram. When I made my final ridge, I was ecstatic to see the the bullwheel where the tram sat. It had just started hailing and I ran the last few yards and climbed up onto the boardwalk and stepped inside the snack house where there were twenty or thirty folks there awaiting the ride down. The clock on the wall said 3:55. I couldn't believe my timing. As it turned out, that last tram didn't go down for over an hour. The operators feared the lightning which was striking distant slopes and the hail storm had grown so fierce that the ground was completely covered in white within a few minutes. I didn't care how long we had to wait, I was just grateful that I wasn't out there hiking in the hail storm. How stupid of me to have taken off up there without a nice hardhat on.

So when I'm driving around Seattle and I see something cool and think, "I'd sure love to take a picture of that - if I only knew how to operate my new hotdog camera!" I reach inside my bag and voila! there's my purple sock and all the memories come flooding back. See, I actually do get to my point eventually.

Thanks for checking up on me, I hear from quite a few folks around the world who wonder what's happened if I go too many weeks without updating my site. Never worry about me, sometimes I just get quiet because I'm working on my life. (it needs lots of work) Inevitably, when I come back to my senses, I always write you again.

Well, I came to this place tonight to work on my book, so I guess that is what I'll do for the evening. I hope you're alive and well and taking some deep breaths now and then. Don't forget to be gentle with yourself. Once in a while, look around you and see if you can find anything to be grateful for. I do that sometimes and it always makes me feel good.

Yer ol' fren,


March 25, 2004

Howdy my friends,

I usually prefer to do my website ramblings from beneath the boughs of a big ol' maple tree, or perhaps from the cozy confines of a corner table in some Seattle coffee shop. But this time it looks like I'm going to have to make do with bland Gate B-36 of DFW Airport, which is where I'm stranded for the day. (they ran me through Security six times and were going for a seventh when I finally remembered that I'd recently swallowed my pewter pocket watch - I'd dropped it in my oatmeal and just assumed it was a big, under-cooked lump) Anyway, I reached my departing gate only to be told that I had been bumped to the next flight, six hours later. Having just been prodded, poked, scanned and felt-up by a matronly female security agent, I decided not to protest too loudly. I'm not the hell-raiser I once was and I just smiled, said "thankee kindly" and walked quickly away to express my outrage elsewhere. It didn't take me long to find a place; I went to a magazine store and spotted one of those little $49.95 disposable laptops you can buy (if you're a complete idiot). So I stole that sumbitch! Yessirree, I hid it in my USA Today along with a Mr. Goodbar and some 'Nilla Wafers. So for the 50 cents I paid for the worst newspaper in the world, I can now do a little ramblin' on a stolen keyboard whilst I wait - and munch on contraband candy at the same time. Man! Do we live in magical times or what?!!

I sure hope I make that later flight because I'm looking forward to getting home to some Seattle springtime weather. My tulips are surely up and blooming by now and I can't wait to wake up in the morning, brush my teeth with my new Black and Decker Dentalux, slip on my silk caftain and step outside to take a much needed gander at them pretty flowers. Ha! You thought I was going to step out and take something else, didn't you? I'll save that for the backyard if you don't mind. I like to keep up appearances on my lovely little street so I almost never let 'er rip right there off the porch.

I've been gone ten days now, playing several events at the massive Mile Hi Church in Denver, then a concert in Evergreen and finally, visiting my sweet mom in Tyler, Texas. A radio station in Tyler has recently begun playing my music and, when they found out I was visiting, invited me in to do a mini-concert on the air. So yesterday morning I tuned mom's radio to the precise spot on the dial where I would soon appear ~ almost-like-as-if-by magic! ~ then I drove over to that little smooth jazz radio station and sang every jazzy song I could think of. Ran out of them and was just on the verge of having to sing a folksong when the dj muted my opening chord with his muddy Hushpuppy and asked me what folks are like in the gool ol' Pacific Northwest. What could I do? I had to tell him the truth:

"Oh man, they're all coffee achievers up there. Slammin' into each other in parking lots, up at the crack of noon suckin' down lattes and capuccinos and just generally living in frantic pursuit of the pick-me-up beverage."

My friends, right there live on the air I told all of radio-obsessed East Texas some of your most intimate personal details; stuff like the real color of your hair, where your dog sleeps, that secret place where you keep your emergency candy. . . The phones lit up like all git-out and I was suprised that so many of the calls were from Hollywood, where they wondered if I'd be interested in writing a tell-all screenplay on Northwesterners in general. The money sounded fantastic, but I just couldn't do that to you. I'm certainly open to donations though, if you want to make sure I'm never tempted. . .

I often think of my travels in terms of which animals I meet along the way. In Evergreen I was staying with my longtime friend, Barbi Ellen, and her husband and son. But really, I was there to commune with her dog, Dodger, and her cat, Margaret. We speak the same language - in that we all get to breathing hard when someone says "want to go outside?" Dodger and I took a hike of several miles along the trail at the foothills of the Rockies just outside Evergreen. There was still snow on the trail in places, though it was melting in the sun, and when Dodger was starting to look tuckered out ( I'm hard on dogs, tying a rope from the beasts to myself so I don't have to carry all my own formidable weight by myself) I'd hammer my boot heel into the snow and let the dent fill with snowmelt so he could have a sip of nature's elixer - and if he didn't fall over dead, I'd have one too. (actually, I can go days without water as long as I have a pony keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the car) Anyway, it was one  of the most beautiful spring days I've ever seen, the tall broom grass was golden and waving ever so softly in the breeze - up to my chin and a deep, golden-brown. After a few miles we found a haphazard stack of boulders tilting in the sun and laid out in the mountain sunshine for half an hour. Dodger likes a good even tan, so I had to wait while he turned over.

Then I went to Tyler to see my mom. We had a lovely time just talking, running errands, drinking iced tea on the front porch and watching cardinals at the feeder. Since my father passed on a year and a half ago, I go see her every few months. A sweet friendship has developed between us that I never would have dreamed  would be possible. Sometimes there is just so much pain and wounding and misunderstanding in families that it seems unlikely we'll ever be able to bridge the chasm. But some grace of consciousness blossomed between us and the healing began and now I really look forward to being around my mom. Then of course, there is her dog, Molly. Once again, I'm a sucker for any dog that likes me, so about half my time in Texas is spent on the ground wrestling with Molly or taking her for long walks where she sticks her sniffing nose in a pile of leaves and I call to her a dozen times before we can move a few feet further.

When I drove away early this morning the sky was just beginning to turn light. Mom and I hugged and kissed and then she went into the house so she could cry more freely than she allows herself to do in front of me. (mom's think we can't handle this - or that we don't really know know how hard they cry over us. But moms, we're hip, so just come on out of the closet and wail in front of us - we can handle it!) As I backed out my rental car and rolled down my window I paused to take one more look at the house. I could see the silhouette of Molly's head in the doorway, watching me, not understanding why in the world a human bean like myself, one that appreciates what a dog has to offer, one that gives little tidbits of his food and always has a jolly word and an adventure in mind for a four-legged, has to drive away and leave a perfectly good dog standing sad at the screen door. I wish I had an answer for that Molly, but I don't. It's just this thing I have about my beloved Pacific Northwest springtime. I must get home and feel that warm Seattle sunshine on my pale winter skin, inhale the cherry blossoms until my lungs are filled with the scent, get blown around in the blustery April wind and caught out in a chilly rainstorm with no jacket on. Those are all just things I've got to do. I don't think Molly understood at all. I hollered out to her, telling her I'll be back, and drove up the dawn road toward I-20 and Dallas.

By the time you read this I'll be back home and happily at my normal routines. Maybe I'll see you out around town or perhaps you'll come out to my Mercer Island concert, or Gathering of Friends  or SongwritingWorkshop. If none of the above, just email me sometime or say hi if you see me walking through your neighborhood with my little dawg, Bungee. We're highly approachable.

Take some deep breaths and remember that you can start over again with every single breath. Life may not be what we dreamed it would be but it's still pretty fine if we remember to take a deep breath now and then and take a minute to give thanks for it. I hope you're doing well. Happy Springtime to you.

Yer ol' fren,

May 5, 2004

Howdy my friends,

You know a man is definitely low on gingko biloba when you observe him whiling away his entire Saturday afternoon looking backwards through a pair of biniculars at the wondrous, tiny world around him. Anticipating this kind of harsh judgement from those-who-do-not-understand, I'd sequestered myself into the deep, shadowy recesses of my backyard, where no judgmental neighbors could see me. I'm well aware that time is valuable and that I could have been using mine to, oh, I don't know - maybe invent a better jelly jar or something, but let me explain. I'd just finished mowing the lawn, which is something I do only when I cannot see my feet anymore and the grass blades start to tickle my knee caps. What a satisfying feeling it can be to plow down a deep rain forest of dandelions in a matter of minutes, mower engine revved and stressed to the max, exhaust fumes funneling out into my face like a dark facial steam.

After I put the mower away I stood there coughing and sweating, but overall, proud of my achievement. I may not be good at many things, but I can mow down a clump o' milk thistle like I was born to it. I opened the back door to my house and my deeply disturbed little dawg flew for my throat. I caught her just in time and she spasmed there in my grip, scolding me for ever allowing that terrible chopping machine out of the shed. I can understand her dismay and allowed her to express her little outburst. Even little dawgs need to give you a piece of their minds  now and then. I only wish people would be as lenient with me as I am with her - I always end up slapped or laughed at when I bark.

After bribing my little dawg, Bungee, with a handful of treats to get back on her good side, I sat in my historically accurate (plastic) Adirondack chair and leaned back to gaze up at the Seattle sky. The clouds were towering, billowing one out of the other, a brilliant, sparkling white on top and a heavy somber slate drooping below. They seemed weighty with spring showers and in search, I suspected, of a wedding party or picnic somewhere to dump their load upon.

Lost for a time in my peaceful gaze, I caught glimpse of two dark dots against a lighter pillow of cloud and thought I might be seeing a pair of far-off eagles soaring. I ran into my house and brought my binoculars out. It took me a couple of minutes to find the dots again but when I did I felt absolutely silly. They were not eagles at all, but only a child's lost balloons. They were so high that I wondered whether, if one were up there hanging onto their trailing strings, they could see over the Olympic Mountains and out to the Pacific Ocean. (this is still undetermined but I'd wrassle to the death that they could) I watched them rise and float away on cool currents until they disappeared above the trees behind me. That's when I heard the dreaded clicking sound. No, not a neighbor cocking a shotgun because he assumed I was ogling his wife, but that terrible, dry cracking sound that happens somewhere at the back of the neck when vertebrae twist and contort in ways men my age cannot tolerate. As whimsical as it was watching those pretty balloons, I regretted cranking my neck into that odd position - because now I'd be crippled for a week, forced to walk backwards everywhere or - if I could drive at all - to do so with one leg sticking out the passenger window and my chin strapped to the dash. It's actually doable, I once drove all the way back from Santa Fe back to Seattle like this, and even entertained passengers along the way. I did notice though, that nobody drifted off to sleep the whole trip, they were wide-eyed the entire trip.

Anyway, like I mentioned, I was deeply engaged in looking through my binoculars. I glanced around for things other than balloons to observe and had a marvelous idea but all of my neighbors had their curtains closed. (it's weird the way they snap shut every time I take my binoculars outside) For some reason it occurred to me to check out what things might look like if I turned my field glasses around and looked through the wrong end. Whoa! I'm not shittin' you one bit when I say that I began to channel Alice in Wonderland. (Alex, I mean) Suddenly my backyard stretched to the size of a city park and the little dawg in my lap appeared twenty feet away. (insolent and still irritable from there, even) And what amazingly long legs I have! The daydreams began immediately...

"What size pants will you be requiring sir?" asks the exotic salesgirl in the see-through sarong.

"Oh, probably a 24-inch waist and a 17- foot inseam ought to do me!" I holler from up near the ceiling somewhere. (I'm generally uninclined towards braggadocio but let me tell you, I'm one tall, slim sumbitch through those lenses!) "Oh, and leave me a fair amount of extra material in that left thigh, will you, honey?" I raised my eyebrows and grinned knowingly, as if it was a secret between just the two of us. She reached for the wall to steady herself, nearly passing out at the mere idea.

I reluctantly wrenched myself back from my daydream and sat there in my backyard for another half-hour, my head jutting at an unnatural angle, and continued to peer out my backwards binoculars at my vast domain. I was in no hurry at all to go back inside - and not just because my back door was now half-a-mile away, but because it reminded me so much of the wonder of being a kid. Remember what it was like to play on the ground, turn on the water hose and make rivers and lakes in the dirt, then funnel your little-kid consciousness onto the small/vast world created in a clump of grass? That's what it felt like - and then something happened that changed my life - for the next two months at least.

As I've mentioned numerous times, I feed daily the horde of raccoons, opossums, squirrels, feral cats, crows, jays and birdies of all types that visit my back yard. I figure I owe them this for all the asphalt we've poured over what used to be the Great Pacific Northwest. None of these animals get overly close to me - even after eating my food for five years - yet I don't take it too personally. The thing is, every time I open the back door, Bungee chases every living thing she can see. She flings her little fuzzy-tornado-self upon the natural world with great vigor. She means no harm, and in fact, makes friends with all kinds of creatures, (her best friend is a bee) but she just cannot resist this wonderful startling effect her hurtling body has upon all living things. If you were seven pounds and a ball of fluffy-white fur, you too would dig causing larger animals to fall all over themselves getting away from you.

On this particular day one of the cats meowed at me. Now, that may not seem like a big deal to you, but feral cats, wild that is, do not meow. They hiss now and then if I get too close, and they howl up a storm when they're fighting or mating, but they don't meow. This cat meowed and walked up to me. Clearly, she was a domestic cat, lost, abandoned, a runaway, I don't know. I pet her for a bit and she allowed this. Wow! The first backyard cat in five years to let me pet her.

For a few weeks I'd watch for her and about every couple of days she'd sneak up on me, meowing and telling me all about how hard it was to be a domestic cat abandoned in the wild with all these fierce jungle creatures. About three weeks ago I reached to pet her and realized that she was pregnant. Uh oh, this was not good. In five years I've only seen one feral cat have kittens, I don't know where she lived but when the kitties were old enough to travel she'd bring them to my backyard feeding station. It was because of that mama and four kittens that I'd bought a larger feeder and started buying unreal amounts of dry cat food - considering that I'm a man who doesn't own any cats. Surely the people at Costco thought I was either running a kitty mill or paving my driveway with it.

This little domestic mama cat had me troubled. I didn't particularly want to be a cat owner, I have one little dawg that I can take practically everywhere and that is just about right for me. My life would be considerably more difficult if I had also a cat to consider before I could go on tour. And I rent a house where I'm not really allowed a cat. Yet, I just couldn't abandon this sweet cat to give birth out there on the street somewhere. I began to buy a little wet food to mix with the dry I normally buy and coaxed her to my front porch. She'd follow me, meowing all the way, and devour the food I gave her. Wow. Eating for a whole litter is impressive to watch. After a week of this I made a little towel bed on the porch and found her sleeping there one day. Okay, something was starting to happen. On warm days I left the door propped open and gradually, she started coming slightly into the living room. Bungee loves cats and wanted to get immediately into licking her face and playing chase but this seems to be something that pregnant cats do not practice. (I only have the one to go on)

I began calling her Gracie. For a man who values his free-roaming, unencumbered ways, this may have been a mistake.  

I talked with my friend, Laurie, last week, who has more than a score of varied animals on her farm a couple of hours south of Seattle. She told me something deeply disturbing: that tom cats often kill the kittens so that the female will go back into heat sooner. Damn. There went my idea of her having the kittens on my front porch. Even to the end a man will drag his feet about commitment, doesn't he? I'd been clinging to the idea that she might have them on my porch, I'd feed them, and then they'd all go on their merry way. This was perhaps not going to work, now that I knew the kittens would be in danger.

I needed to offer  her a place inside my house or garage, yet Gracie wasn't used anymore to living in a house. I had no idea how long she'd been roaming free, but I suspected a year or so. From that night forward I began to coax her into my garage, where I'd leave her a bed, food and water for the night and then let her out in the morning to roam as she was used to. When I went to check on her a couple of days ago, I heard a sound high up in the loft above my car. Oh no, she'd climbed up into the rafters and over the top plate of the wall frame. She was stuck in a little cavity out over the soffit and couldn't get back into the garage. I climbed up into the rafters and tried to help her, wondering if she'd claw me to pieces. She didn't though. She knew I was there to help her. Unfortunately, I couldn't get her out. Her belly was just too big. Pulling her back into the garage was like getting a watermelon into a fruit jar. I went down and got some food and came up again and this caused her to renew her attempt with greater determination. I reached behind her and pulled towards me, hoping we weren't hurting the kittens in her womb. Finally, her big ol' belly plopped over the board and she was safe again. It was a bonding experience, I'll tell you. Of course, I plugged that hole to the soffit immediately. If she'd have been even one day more pregnant, I'd  have had to take a saw to the wall frame.

The days were warm so I continued to leave my front and back doors propped open. I wanted her to have every opportunity to be inside if she chose. She began coming and going more often, staying on the living room floor for naps and exploring my house. I knew she was looking for her special place. I still didn't know where I was going to coax her to have her litter - or if I even could - but I decided to pay attention, feed her, pet her and see what I could do when the time came. I ended up making three different places for her to give birth; in a closet, in the garage, on the porch. The cat had options. She chose none of them. Yesterday morning as I was reading on the couch, she crawled underneath and had her litter of five. After all my efforts, she'd chosen a place about a foot from my body. Isn't that amazing? I feel like I've learned so much from animals in my lifetime and a great deal this springtime in particular, watching birds and raccoons, squirrels, etc. But that she felt so safe as to give birth directly under the spot I was sitting is quite an honor - I think.

I checked on Gracie, off and on for several hours, allowing her space and privacy, checking back as each kitten was born, to see that she was okay. Bungee was in the room and all seemed peaceful between them. She did moan when I'd get too close. And when I eased some water and food near her she ate and moaned at the same time, ravenous for nourishment but tormented to have to be two feet from her babies.

By afternoon she came out from under the couch when I came close and allowed me to pet her, she seemed desperate for loving and affection after having expended so much energy and affection herself. I babied her and sweet talked her and rubbed her belly. It took me some time to coax her to go outside but I knew I needed her out of the room in order to move the kittens to a place better than the dusty carpet under my couch. I had already taken a large, foot-deep Rubbermaid container and enfolded it in layers of soft, dark cloth. I'd made a cave of it and put it in the garage. While Gracie was outside I crawled back behind the couch and carefully lifted two new-born kittens at a time and transferred them to their new dwelling. When I had them all moved I let Gracie back in. Let me just say that I'm most fortunate to be physically able to type this for you. She might well have shredded me beyond recognition - and I thought she was going to. I showed her their home in the garage - where she'd been perfectly happy the last few nights. But she instantly started carrying them one at a time back under my couch. It was impressive really, the determination she exhibited. But I outweigh her and insisted on the garage. Gracie is house broken and uses a litter box, I'd found out because I'd seen her using my wild flower garden and had scooped some dirt from it in a box and put it in the garage. So that wasn't why I wanted her in the garage, I wanted her there because I'm afraid for Bungee's life until the kittens get older. A mama cat is a fierce creature and Bungee has no concept of any being wishing her harm.

So I'm telling you this tale for a couple of reasons:  1) It's kind of a sweet story to share.  2) I'm hoping that someone will want these kittens when they are old enough to wean and leave their mama. And oh, actually, three reasons:  3) Gracie will need a home, too. As I mentioned, I am not allowed to have a cat where I live and my traveling creates additional problems. Would anyone out there like to have this adorable cat? She is honestly the most loving cat I've ever seen, not finicky about being petted, in fact, she insists upon it. And before she gave birth she never was aggressive - it's only natural that she's overly protective of her young litter.

She gave birth on May 3. I won't be able to give her or the kittens away for about 6-8 weeks - that is, if I can keep track of them. UPDATE: It's May 11 and I just spent an hour looking all over the yard and house for where Gracie moved them to. Finally found them under the driver's seat of my Malibu convertible in the garage. If it had been a sunny day, I might have been fifty miles from here discovering that I had five kittens in desperate need of milk and not a dang thing I could do about it but to hurry back home and find Gracie. A couple of the little critters are spoken for, but if you'd like one, particularly if you live in the NW where you can easily come and get one, I'd love to hear from you.

This is probably my longest-winded website rambling so far. I hope you held in there. I just want to finish with a great big thanks to you for listening to my music, for sharing it with friends, and for checking in on me now and then. I hope this is an uplifting, heart-opening springtime for you. Don't forget to take some deep breaths now and then.

Yer ol' fren,

May 28, 2004

Howdy my friends, There is something about sitting next to a chilly, rain-splattered window as the furious downfall pounds the ground outside that just about takes away all my ability to think. I've just spent half an hour driving back roads and neighborhood streets across Seattle, avoiding the traffic-clogged, rain-blinded freeways, in order to reach my favorite coffee shop. It's across from Green Lake and I've come here to work on my book. Only, now that I'm here I cannot focus on any such thing. I mean, this ain't some regular Seattle springtime mist coming down, this is real rain, more like Texas rain, Florida rain, Brazilian Rain Forest rain. (Continued . . . )

The rippling rainwater is rushing down the gutter like a river, taking with it the last of the cherry blossoms - and my attention as well. My memory and imagination are swept up in the current and drifting away quicker than I can say "ah, them good ol' days of yore." (I swear, I never thought I'd reach an age where I could get away with a phrase like that, but if we've both had a couple of beers it sounds like I practically invented the phrase) Before I realize it I am typing out my reverie instead of working on the damn chapter of my book that I've been stuck on for three months. But wait, maybe this is not a delay tactic. Let's call it spontaneity, okay? A willingness to see the world through the eyes of a child. Can you work with me here? If you'll go along and allow me the occasional sip of my hot tea and a long, unfocused glance out the window, I'll repay you with another of my little rambling tales that leaves you wondering just how much is true - if any - and what is not. Let me put it this way: just like they say about five o'clock; it's bound to be true somewhere. ~

I was riding in the back seat of a taxi from Miami to Key West. You might think that would be an expensive fare - and you'd be right - but I wasn't paying a dime.  At least I hoped I wasn't. My plan was to jump out at a red light as soon as we hit the heart of Key West, but I was trying to work out how I was going to carry my guitar case and bag and still outrun the driver. Actually, I knew the driver. And if I was gentlemanly and serenaded her adequately on the highway, there seemed to be an excellent chance that she would charge me nothing. Melanie was only woman I'd ever known who owned an authentic Checker Cab. It was a doozey, too. You never think how big those old cabs are until you ride in one with a friend. It's like a city bus, you don't think all that much about how big they are but if a friend of yours owned one, you'd be plenty impressed.

It was 1992 and I'd flown to Florida for a concert to celebrate the release of my new CD, "At Your House." I'd planned to swim with dolphins, as I'd done once a couple of years before, but found that reservations were full. You always hear how smart the dolphins are, but did you ever think they'd  actually organize and take reservations and advance payment to swim with them? I was surprised at their savvy and missed the old days when you could just hail a passing dolphin from a boat and, for a sardine or two, take off gliding around the harbor. Feeling all dejected over the dolphins, I called Melanie in Pompano Beach and asked if she'd like to hang out for a day. She had a better idea, having just bought a gigantic taxi cab and quit her job. She invited me to drive to Key West and wander around with nothing to do for a couple of days.

What I found out upon entering her cab, to my great pleasure, was that the back seat is large enough to play guitar in. I found this out because when I opened the door to get in the front passenger seat, Melanie let me know right quick that this was off-limits and kicked me in the butt, sending me sprawling into the back floorboard. What a joker that girl was. She'd have never gotten away with it if she wasn't so danged beautiful, I'm telling you. Otherwise, I'd have stood my ground like a man. Still, as I mentioned, in that back floorboard I discovered a great venue for rehearsing. You'd think you could play guitar in almost any back seat but I'm here to tell you, unless you have one arm about a foot long and another one about four feet long, (which is rare these days) you just can't manage it. I once did actually manage to play most of a song lying on my back in a locked trunk, but the faster the car-jackers went, the more the exhaust was drawn in and I nearly died of fumes by the time the third chorus came around. I think they let me out 'cause I couldn't play disco.

As big as Melanie's cab was I couldn't stand up in there of course, but I could sway like a dandy in the open expanse of that back seat, and let me tell you, I showed off big-time, trying jiggles and pelvic moves that I'd always longed to do onstage but had never had the confidence to attempt. I don't know how in the world she stayed on the road, hypnotized by the rear view mirror as she was. It was very freeing to be my real show-stopper self. As much as I'm honored that people often bring their children to my concerts, if I'm completely honest with you, I have to admit that it's put a big damper on my pelvic thrusting and more sexually-explicit moves. Just 'cause I'm a mild mannered folk slinger don't mean that I ain't got some sexual healin' in me.

Whomever was the idiot (or most likely, group of tax-payer subsidized idiots) who decided to build a road connecting all of the Florida Keys to the mainland, should have been given a lobotomy for their trouble. I mean, what is there about an island that makes it so special? Duh. It's all alone out there in the water! The beauty of it is that you can't just drive on over and have a taco anytime you want. 'Cause, for all you engineers who just love the old, worn-out  Man-Against-Nature style of engineering, once there's a highway running across the island and connecting it to every other chunk of land in the hemisphere, it's no longer an island! Does this make sense to anyone? Hell, Mt. Rainier is too damned high for my tastes.  I cannot easily get to the summit gift shop for a key ring. So let's chop it down! Not all the way down, leave it swellin' a little bit over the surrounding area, but let's trim a few thousand feet off the summit and  call it Mound Rainier!

I apologize for my ranting. I just dislike the mentality that says all things unpaved are basically worthless.

Fortunately, I did not delve too deeply into this harangue on the way to Key West or I'm sure Melanie would have made a detour and dropped me off in Alligator Alley. As it happened though, she agreed with my stance and we took turns ranting. In between, I would sing songs that I was writing for my Calling Me Back to the Wild, CD. It was wonderful to sit in the back seat and sing all those new pieces of unfinished songs to someone for the very first time.

We arrived in Key West and found a hotel room, not quite sure how to go about it, since neither of us had ever shared a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex with whom we were not lovers. It was funny actually, taking sheepish turns in the bathroom and trying to figure out what to wear until we each climbed into our own bed. (I wore a lovely running shorts/flannel shirt combo) Though I couldn't help but to take quick glimpses of her lovely legs, I was kind of proud of us, able to be friends and not necessarily dive into the sack together. But then, I could have changed my mind on a dime.

We had a lovely time wandering the musty streets of Old Key West, peeking in the windows of Hemingway's rundown winter home, stopping in the doorways of patio bars to hear singer after singer give their nearly identical renditions of "Margaritaville." Down the street from Baby's Coffee, a Jamaican man approached us with a machete and a bag of coconuts and asked if we'd like a true tropical drink, and for a buck he whacked open a couple of coconuts and inserted straws for us to sip through. I can count on one hand the number of men who've ever approached me with a machete and I can't tell you how relieved I was to find that he wasn't a psychopath. I never told Melanie, but I was on the verge of screaming and running when I realized the bag was full of coconuts and not heads, as I'd logically assumed.

The way back up the highway to the mainland was wistful and quiet. I played a few more songs but mostly we just quietly drifted as the heavy Florida wind rushed through the windows and roamed around us in the big white taxicab.

It was over a decade before saw Melanie again. She'd joined the Peace Corp and spent a year in Indonesia, adopting stray beach dogs and teaching tiny children how to speak English. According to her, they taught her much more than she taught them. We met up on Pearl Street in Denver before my concert, found a rustic coffee shop not at all unlike ones we'd found in in Key West, and told each other stories of the last ten years of our lives. It's funny though, when you try to cover such an expanse of time it sounds like you've not really done all that much over the years. I mean, I can show you five albums I've put out since 1993 and tell you about two girlfriends, but I have to work hard to come up with anything to actually account for my time. She outdid me considerably with her Peace Corp tales. What am I going to talk about - a little seven pound purse of a dawg? I guess I have gotten my share of mileage out of that little pooch.

Well, I'm back in the present now, my rainy afternoon in Seattle has turned to a damp, gray evening. When I walked into this coffee shop a couple of hours ago, there was hardly a place to sit. Now there's only four of us winding down the day. Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending upon how I choose to interpret it, I found a seat next to a wall outlet so I cannot use a low battery as an excuse to go home and not get around to working on my book. So I'll  close this out in a minute and thank you for hanging in there with me. I really did get lost in the currents of rainwater swirling down the street. It's nice to surrender to such reverie now and then, isn't it?

Last weekend I played a concert at Lake Chelan at a wonderful new winery called Tsillan Cellars. I loved the concert, the warm crowd that came, and the incredibly sincere and friendly staff and ownership of Tsillan Cellars. They treated me and my friends with the utmost kindness and even invited me back for a Christmastime concert. Their architecture feels like it's right out of old Italy, commanding a majestic view over the land sloping down to Lake Chelan. And the large tasting room is elegant, earthy and inviting, all once. I encourage you to stop by sometime when you're east of the Cascade Mountains and taste some of their wonderful wines over a friendly conversation. I enjoyed several glasses throughout the weekend and every wine was excellent. They are just a mile or so west of Chelan and you can find them on the web at  I hope you'll give them a try. I'll certainly let you know when I'm performing there again.

About them dang kittens: I'll explain for those who may not have read my last rambling. As you may recall, I feed all living things in my neighborhood. You would not believe the raccoons and opossums that show up in full daylight in my backyard, looking for a drink of water or a snack. Because I put out so much food for all creatures, there is almost never any fighting. A few months ago I walked out at 11pm with a flashlight to see if there was enough food at the feeding station. Gathered around the trough were four raccoons and only a few feet away were five cats awaiting their turn. Now, that's neighborly courtesy.

Anyway, though there are usually only feral cats around, a sweet domestic cat showed up and was the first cat in five years to allow me to pet her. I grew concerned for her when I realized she was pregnant. It's bad enough to be any pregnant creature in a city of such size, but it's got to be considerably tougher for a domestic cat to be out there with all those tough feral cats. I made her a bed on my porch. When my front door was open one day she crept in and gave birth to her litter under my couch - precisely under the spot I was sitting. My ass took it as a great honor.

Bungee checking out
our new housemates

I heard from a friend that it is common for tom cats to kill the kittens so that the female will go back into heat sooner. I couldn't let that happen, so they now have a home in my house and garage. It's been quite a circus around here. I allow Gracie, as I named her, to go anywhere she wants. I've offered her countless places to nest with her litter of five but she keeps changing her mind. Several times I've found them under the seat of my convertible, which, at this time of year, I begin  to drive fairly often. So over and over again, I take them out and she puts them back in. I finally put up the top and raised the windows. Now she  finds other obscure, out-of-reach places to put them and I end up crawling around in the dark looking for the mysterious spot where I hear all  the tiny whining coming from. This morning, to my shock and dismay, I found them in a loft above the garage. I had to climb up there and dig through boxes and stacks of items until I could feel the first soft bundle of fur. She hissed at me viciously and I tossed it off as no big deal, though I was actually nervous that she might leap to my face with all four paws and begin shredding.

When I left the house a few hours ago they were all safely back in the little cave I'd made them. But who knows? When I return tonight, they could be in my boots. I just don't know.

They were born on May 3 and I will not give the kittens away until sometime between July 3 and August 3. So far, two are spoken for and possibly two more. I just wanted you to know in case you're someone who might want a sweet little grey tabby cat for a companion.

The real tough thing will be giving Gracie away because, I'll admit it, I'm very fond of her. But I'm not allowed another pet at my house and since I travel, it's already difficult enough to find a place for my little pup every time I go on tour. So if you'd  like a wonderful indoor/outdoor cat, solid, light-grey (not a tabby) and a sweet, affectionate disposition, I may have a cat for you by August. Just email me if you're interested.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the rest of your springtime and that this summer brings peace and fulfillment to you. Don't forget to breathe. Thanks for stopping by.

yer ol' fren,

Go to Past Ramblings XIV