Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let's Talk Music.

Last year, Mister and I went to see Paul McCartney in concert as part of our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. (Yes, I got married when I was 5 - thanks for asking.) This was a show I had waited for since I was an old married lady of 13, and it was just my luck American Express had a presale on the tickets. Furthermore, the tickets were under $100 each. Double score!

Anyhow, Mister and I both agreed that McCartney's show was so fantastic, we never needed to go to another concert ever again, because anyone else would pale in comparison. Except for one: Richard Thompson.

If you are a music fan and don't know Richard Thompson, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go to or iTunes right now and sample some tracks. (I'll wait.) RT was a founding member of Fairport Convention when he was just a lad, and has been in the music business ever since. He's managed to set a standard for musicianship and songwriting that few have been able to meet, let alone exceed. And yet, for whatever reason, he's not a household word like, say, Taylor Swift.

Last night I got my chance to see Richard Thompson in a solo acoustic show at Nashville's historic Belcourt Theatre. We had supper right after work and got ourselves in line, which rated me a third row aisle seat - not too shabby at all. (I had already bought the tickets online back in August.) This was a mature and well-mannered crowd, not like the bad old 80s when going to a general admission concert meant you got at least one elbow in the face while jockeying for the best vantage point. No, this was a bunch of folk music enthusiasts who just wanted to hear some prime tunes.

And we did. RT did not disappoint, not once. While I'm mostly in it for the songwriting, I was blown away by his guitar playing. He didn't need a band, because he sounded like 2 people on the guitar. I'm still not convinced that he doesn't have two extra invisible hands. He played one guitar for the whole show, and he didn't change clothes forty-eleven times, and he didn't have a bevy of dancers on the stage.

One man + one guitar = one indescribably incredible musical experience. See, it can be done without glitter and theatrics.

Richard Thompson is also funny and personable. He explained that on this tour, he was asking an audience member to choose an old album title out of his Beret of Randomness, and he'd play three songs from that album. Our audience member chose You? Me? Us? which apparently wasn't a huge seller, and is hard to come by now, but the songs he chose from it were spectacular: especially "Sam Jones," about a bone collector. And you all know how much I love bones. (I was really hoping to learn this song right away for Halloween, but was thwarted when I discovered it doesn't exist in a digital download. I had to order a second-hand CD instead. Patience is a virtue, I guess.)

Of course he brought the house down with "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," which rated a standing ovation. Throughout the show, members of the small audience called out their favorites, and Thompson did his best to oblige. He also threw in at least one new song that hasn't been recorded yet, which happened to be another of my favorites of the night. Until he records it, I guess I won't get to hear it anymore unless I see his show again. Oh, what a horrible fate, Dutchy. Reckon I'll be keeping an eye on that tour schedule.

All you young whippersnappers who want to write songs - and yes, I'm talking to you, Taylor Swift - owe it to yourselves to take a few lessons from Richard Thompson. He's clever, witty, erudite, and most of all, he's his own writer. Even though he has a distinctive style, no one could ever say his songs all sound alike. Over 45 years, he's provided his fans with a wide range of incredible songs - not just his own original material, but historic folk material as well. His 1000 Years of Popular Music includes songs from the Middle Ages and 15th century along with modern-day pop hits.

Thanks, Richard. I'm a little late to the bandwagon, but I hope to be listening for another 45 years.

Till next time ---- now I just need to see Elvis Costello.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gone to the dogs.

I've been absent a little while because this is the time of year when I don't know what day it is. Fall is always our busiest season with performances and other events; even in spite of less out-of-state travel right now, we're still busy as ever. It's a fun, challenging, and stressful time, so full of activity that if an unforeseen incident occurs, it greatly upsets the apple cart.

And last Sunday night, we had to euthanize our dog, Sampson. Consider my cart completely tumped over, all the apples spilling out and rolling willy-nilly upon the ground.

Sampson was 8-1/2 years old. Our former neighbor, Stephanie, found him in the parking lot at Mansker's Station one night when we were having a sewing circle. He was a little fuzzy ball of fluff with a fat little puppy tummy, all alone in the park. We had lost our older dog just a few months before, and here was a puppy who needed a home, so of course we took him.

The fat little fuzzy pup grew into a 90-something pound goofy dog with big clumsy feet and long gangly legs. His tail was as long as my arm, and table height, so that we had to keep our drinks and breakables out of its way. He was playful and affectionate, and protective of me to a fault. We discovered the hard way that he didn't appreciate strangers all up in his face - on one visit to the kennel, the kennel attendant went to put his name tag around his neck, and when she got in his face, he nipped her. There was no blood, no lasting damage, but the young lady was frightened, and we were horrified. But once we realized this, we were able to make the proper modifications so this didn't happen again. Our big loveable goofball taught us a few new things about dog behavior.

Sampson never missed a meal, and managed to score quite a few extra, with our without our consent. Because he could reach the kitchen cabinet standing on his back legs, we lost a few leftovers over the years. One evening he decided to try gnawing on some corncobs, I guess because they were there. He also loved bread of any kind and would come trotting in from the other room anytime he heard me open the breadbox. No unguarded bread product was safe in our house.

He loved to curl up on the sofa, and many's the time he kept me close company while I was sick. When I was unemployed last summer and feeling sorry for myself, he was always right there. We went for nice long walks in the neighborhood before it got too hot. Sampson loved to go for "walkies" and would get ramped up anytime he saw his leash or my walking sneakers.

Just about two weeks ago, Sampson started to get draggy. We thought it was just his hip dysplasia acting up, so we made sure he had plenty of soft cushions to lie on as the weather cooled down. We didn't force him to go up the stairs, and the only walk I took him on was short because I didn't want to be hard on his old joints. He seemed tired, and his neverending appetite flagged ever so slightly, but I didn't think anything of it. He was almost 9 and had arthritis.

Last Friday evening, Mister noticed something wrong with Sampson's left eye. Sure enough, it was entirely red, like an albino rabbit eye. We ran him over to the vet before they closed, quite apologetic at being the jerks that show up at the last minute on a Friday. It turned out Sampson had gone blind. His bloodwork didn't turn up anything too odd, so the vet sent us home with some meds and made us an appointment to see the vet opthalmologist on Monday. (Yes, there is such a thing as a veterinary opthalmologist. Vet medicine has specialties just like people medicine.)

We took him back home, gave him his meds religiously, and let him lounge around on the soft cushions. He was tired and listless, and then Sunday morning, he wagged his tail a little. I thought maybe we were making progress. But later that afternoon, I noticed his front leg was swollen and it looked streaky under the fur. I got a good look at his skin, and it was bright red.

Not good.

Mister and I made the decision to take him to the emergency vet, where we left him overnight. New bloodwork showed drastic changes, and they weren't encouraging. Something was terribly wrong with our dog, and it was something terribly bad. X-rays showed he had an enlarged spleen and fluid around his heart, as well as suspicious masses in his lungs. He went downhill fast from there, and in the middle of the night, we had to make the choice to say goodbye. It was time.

The vets think Sampson had hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive and untreatable cancer that eventually causes the dog to bleed to death internally. There was nothing anyone could have done except what we did: we kept him comfortable. We loved on him. That was all there was. I wasn't quite ready to let him go yet, but it was the right thing to do.

I have loved and lost many pets over the years, and plan to love and lose many more, if I can help it. It's heartbreaking to let them go, but the joy of having them in my life far outweighs that. I'd like to think all my pets are waiting for me in the Summerlands somewhere. If there are no dogs in Heaven, I think I'd rather not go.

Goodbye, Sampson. Thanks for being my friend.

Till next time ---- hug your furry friends.