Category - personal

Scotland 2013: T-Minus 10

So titled because in ten days I will be returning to Scotland.  I hope I will have adequate time and motivation to write consistently about the trip.  I am starting now.

This is the first of three installments.  Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here.

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It seems the intervals between my visits to the United Kingdom… Great Britain… the British Isles — whatever you want to call that archipelago with the common language and complicated history —  are getting  shorter.  From 24 years to 6 years to… 6 months.

My first trip to England was in the spring of 1976.  My then future ex-wife and I went to England for a total of five weeks.  We both worked in the TeeVee industry in Hollywood and could take that much time off because it was during the “hiatus” season when all the shows we were working on were shut down, between production seasons.   We had plenty of time – and enough money – so off we went, across the continent and across “the pond.”  Five weeks was enough time to tour almost the entire country, from the Channel Islands to Cornwall to the Lake District and Wales, and with a brief, abortive foray into Scotland (another story for another time).

St. Mawes from Pendennis - one of the few photos from that 1976 trip that I still have in my catalog.

St. Mawes from Pendennis – one of the few photos from that 1976 trip that I still have in my catalog.

There’s another whole long story here about how we went to England to get married. Georja carried her custom silk-and-lace wedding dress all over the country with us, but we couldn’t quite pull it off because of a two-week residency requirement before a foreigner could get married.  We could have established residency in one place and returned two weeks later, but we had no set itinerary and didn’t want to be obligated to be anywhere at any particular time.  We were also informed that it would not be possible to stage a ceremony as we’d imagined — on the ramparts of an ancient castle ruin.  Somebody told us we’d have to be married in the office of a justice of the peace, or a chapel or something.   Not exactly what we’d flown halfway around the world for.

So we just wandered around the country, pulling the dress out from time to time and shooting photos in romantic locales, and then packing up and moving to the next destination.  We even rented the honeymoon suite at Ruthin Castle in Wales.  There are photos somewhere of Georja dancing about the honeymoon suite in her flowing white gown.   Dunno if I’ll be able to find them, they are probably rotting in a closet in Hawaii, where we moved to and finally got married in 1980 (we divorced in 1994 after I moved – alone – to Nashville).

I didn’t get back to that part of the world for two-and-a-half decades.  Moving to Hawaii for 14 years might have had something to do with that….

Fast forward to my second marriage.  After our wedding in Nashville, Ann and I spent a week in England and a week in Bavaria.   The England portion included 4 days in the Cotwsolds, near the town of Oswestry in Shropshire at a small hotel that stood literally across a stream from Wales.  The stately ruin of Ludlow Castle was nearby, and Harlech Castle was the midpoint of day’s drive through Wales.

The view from our room at the Jaegerhaus in Hohenschangau, Bavaria.

The view from our room at the Jaegerhaus in Hohenschangau, Bavaria.

We spent three days in London and then flew off to Munich — and more castles.  We spent two or three nights in the village of Hohenschwangau, a village that had served the royal seat of Bavaria when it was its own little kingdom.  From the bed in our room at a B&B near the center of the village we could look out the window directly up at the ramparts and spires of Neuschwanstein, the fairy-tale castle built in the 19th century by Ludwig II, the Mad King of Bavaria who squandered the nation’s treasure building the sort of edifice that Walt Disney would use as the model for his theme parks a century later.

Notice the recurring theme yet?  I’ll give you a clue: it starts with “castles.”

A better look at Neuschwanstein, the "fairy tale" castle that inspired Walt Disney.

A better look at Neuschwanstein, the “fairy tale” castle that inspired Walt Disney.

It was only six years before Ann and I returned to that part of the world, only this time we went to Ireland.  As alluded to earlier, it’s difficult to know how exactly to include Ireland in a discussion of “that part of the world,” because, while Ireland may be, geographically one of the “British Isles,” if there is one thing the Irish struggled mightily for seven centuries NOT to be, it was “British.” Ireland and England may have shared a common language, but the English domination of Ireland was hardly a welcome reality for the entirety of its duration.  The Irish still consider the English culpable for the famine that ravaged their island 150 years ago.  Some grudges die hard.

We spent two fabulous weeks in Ireland, during which time I was reminded again of this odd affinity that I have for Great Stone Structures – particularly if they lie in some state of ruin.

Burrishoole Friary in County Mayo Ireland - October, 2006

Burrishoole Friary in County Mayo Ireland – October, 2006

I will state for the record here and now that I do not fully grasp the source of this attraction. I know only that it is a strong, recurring presence in my life.  And, it would appear, providence is finally acting in such a way as to explore it.

Nevertheless, it was another six years before we returned to that part of the world.  I tried a couple of times.  I have several musician friends who conduct tours of Ireland every summer.  I signed us up for one of those several years ago, but for whatever reason the prospect fell through.

Then, last summer, Ann and I started making plans for a trip the following fall (2012).  I’d suggested at first a return to Ireland, to visit some of the counties like northern Donegal and Sligo that we didn’t quite get to the last time, when we managed to go through only six of the island’s thirty-two counties.  Perhaps we’d go to Northern Ireland – the part of the island that the British refused to let go of, the part that still belongs to “The United Kingdom” and is thus separated politically from the Republic that comprises the rest of the island.  Perhaps we’d get to see the amazing natural formation called “The Giants Causeway” that somebody told us about the first night that we were there in 2006.  “It’s the one thing in Ireland you must see,” he said, but I knew at the time we were not going to make it there on that trip.  So we started to think about including that in the itinerary if we went back…

But somewhere in the midst of ruminating about a trip in the fall of 2012, the destination changed.  As much as we both wanted to return to Ireland, Ann wanted to go someplace where she’d never been.  I think she really wanted to go to Greece, and we may yet make it there someday.  It seems a bit odd in retrospect, but we somehow compromised on Scotland.

I have already documented our trip and posted the best of the more than 10,000 photo/files we shot with the nifty little cameras that we took with us.  As a friend predicted, amid the other vagaries of life it took almost six months to make it through all those files.

And now I’m going back for more.  My flight leaves on Sunday May 19, arriving in Edinburgh in the afternoon of Monday, May 20.  I will be there for 2-1/2 weeks.

T-minus 10 days and counting…

– – – – – – –

The seed for this upcoming trip was planted during the last one.  It was late in the day on October 6, the day we drove from Inverness as far as we would go into the rugged outer reaches the Scottish Highlands known as Wester Ross (not to be confused with Westeros, the fictional world where “Game of Thrones” transpires, but maybe that’s where he got the name…?).

The day before we ventured into Wester Ross, we’d stopped into a bookstore in the town of Nairn, near Inverness, where we spent three nights at an elegant estate called Castle Stuart (seeing the theme yet?).  I’d browsed through a book of photos of a peninsula near Inverness called “The Black Isle,” and seen some photos of a ruined abbey there called Beauly Priory.  I made a mental note.  And when it looked like we had time in the late afternoon after the Wester Ross tour to make it to Beauly before dinner at the castle, I steered the car in that direction.

As time and fate would have it, we reached the village of Beauly about thirty minutes before sunset — “Golden Time,” as the cinematographers in Hollywood like to call it.  We found the priory ruins.  I pulled out my camera, my cherished 12mm ultra-wide angle lens (the 35mm equivalent of 24mm, which is what I really cherish…) and tripod and started shooting “multi-frame “HDR” photos.  Ann put the telephoto lens on her camera and shot close ups of the features.

Beauly Priory at Sunset October 6, 2012.  Ann's photo, with the telephoto lens.

Beauly Priory at Sunset October 6, 2012. Ann’s photo, with the telephoto lens.

Looking back at the photos, I’m still inclined to think that Ann got better shots than I did.  Maybe we all look at other peoples’ photos that way?  In any event, Ann satisfied her inclinations toward the site in fairly short order, while I was still wandering around looking for the definitive angle and moment.

And then there was… this moment (Ann will probably kill me when she reads this – but, then, I think she’s heard this already. If not I’m screwed…).  The sun had not entirely set, I was looking for one more set-up for my camera and tripod.  And I may be paraphrasing, or my memory may not be precise, but what I recall now was Ann saying something along the lines of, “Are you done yet?  Can we go now?”

And whether or not that is exactly what Ann said, I do remember exactly the unspoken reply that went through my head at the time: “I’ve waited six years to get to this spot… and I can’t have 15 minutes??”

And this is what you get when you see it through an “ultra wide angle” lens.

In that moment,  amid the sun setting behind the ruins of the Beauly Priory on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands, the seed for this impending trip was planted. I remember thinking as we drove away… “I need to come back here by myself…”

It seemed like an idle thought at the time.  But submerged within that thought there was this undeniable…. longing.

Idle thought or not, that seed took root a few months later when I received an e-mail from another musician friend.  At the bottom of the email, his calendar listed a concert at a very special venue near Edinburgh in May.  I sent an email back.

I’ll tell the rest of that story next week.

Happy Birthday #Django Reinhardt

574px-Django_Reinhardt_(Gottlieb_07301)I have no idea why Quentin Tarantino used the “Django” for the title character of his new slave-revenge western.

But today is Django Rheinhart‘s birthday so let’s take a moment to honor one of the most innovative and memorable guitarists of the 20th century.

You can start with the Pearl Django-triggered station I listen to quite frequently on Pandora:Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 8.39.19 AM(Yeah, I know, I was just ragging on Pandora for its limited playlists yesterday, but this one is pretty good, especially if you’re not all too familiar with this type of music.  And I hope the link above works for you, Pandora is apparently pretty touchy about how sharing its links works. The link seems to be working in Safari, not so much in Firefox.)

I am suddenly recalling the first time I ever heard the name “Django Rheinhardt.”  It was in the fall of… oh, 1966 or ’67 would be a good guess.  My step-father was a Yalie, and every year he took us to the Yale-Princeton football game.  He also made us wear a jacket and tie to the game.  Things were different in those days…

Whatever year it was, that year I was driven to the game by the son of one of my step-father’s college roommates (from the class of 1930-something).  I remember the driver’s name was Raymond Londa,   and, despite being a lawyer and a Yalie himself, Raymond Londa was kinda cool: he drove us to New Haven in something that was rather novel for its day – a VW Camper.

VWCamperRaymond somehow knew that I’d just started playing guitar (I still have my first chord book, dated April, 1966).  And he asked me if I’d knew about Django Rheinhardt.  Nope, not a clue.  And since my taste at the time leaned more toward the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, I don’t think I was all that interested.  Gypsy Jazz?  Not a clue.

All of which I’m recalling now because lately I’ve been hearing a lot of Django and Django-influenced music, and I wished I’d paid closer attention when I first heard the name.  I’m paying closer attention now, and will be listening to Django and his descendants as much as I can today.

Postscript: I’ve just been advised that the name “Django” has a long history of use in “spaghetti westerns.”

Scotland, Day 6:

OK, back to Scotland – to the Highlands around Inverness and Loch Ness.

Day 6 - Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

Our chariot

We spent three nights at Castle Stuart near Inverness, with two full days in between.  The first day, we had arranged to be picked up on a three-passenger, three-wheeled motorcycle (a “trike”) for an extended tour down the coast of Loch Ness, which – apart from its renown as the haunt of a certain “monster” – is also the second largest inland body of water in Scotland.

The highlight of the tour was the hour-plus we spent exploring the ruins of Urquhart (they pronounce it “ur-kit” Castle, a massive 15th/16th century edifice that was destroyed by its own defenders rather than let it fall into the hands of  English occupiers.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

sticky = good

After the trike tour, we returned to the Castle Stuart, and then ventured out on our own to the village of Nairn, a few miles to the east, where we found ourselves a lovely little bistro that served what may have been the best sticky toffee pudding we had on the whole trip.  And we had a lot of ’em. Like… one every day.

Here’s a video slide show of the day. Find the individual photos here.

View the other video slideshows from our trip to Scotland here and the individual photo galleries here.

(Solstice) Seasons Greetings

Yeah, I know, about a week late, but it’s still the “Solstice Season,” right?

I’m still grinding away on the photos from Scotland… I got sidetracked for about a week in order to put together a calendar to give out as Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately Costco botched the printing so they had to be done over again so, no gifts for Christmas.  Well, none for anybody but Ann…

We did manage to get a “Holiday eNewsletter” together though.  It was Ann’s idea, and though it took the better part of Sunday to cobble together (with Populr), it turned out well enough and people seem to like it.  Just click the image here to see for yourself:

I stole it from The Google Images.

I stole it from The Google Images.

If Things Look A Little Different Around Here…

…first of all, noticing that would mean you have actually been here before, and for that I thank you – and now must ask for your forbearance.

CohesionArts-logo_stamp1-400As of mid-December 2012, I am in the process of migrating and consolidating all the stuff I have scattered around the web to put it, essentially, in one place.

This site is a re-constitution of the earlier site that lived on a different server, and will suffice while I bang heads with my web development team (it always sounds so impressive when you say that, even when it’s just one guy….) to come up with something a little newer and more original.

My books… my (and Ann’s) photography (and one day perhaps her yoga instruction), all the stuff I’ve written about the evolving music industry over the years (and who knows, maybe, someday… some actual music!  What a concept!)… I’m going to gather it all under the singular heading of “”

When I first came up with that name about two years ago, I had something entirely different in mind, but… well… the universe seems to be telling me “that ain’t it, either.” The Universe has been saying that to me a lot lately.  Maybe I should just listen to my wife?

And even though it makes not a whole lot of sense, I’m going to stick with that medieval troubadour as the logo for the time being. There’s just… something I like about that guy.

So I’m going to start putting all this stuff together under one “umbrella” and see if I can figure out just what it is…



Scotland, Day 1: Edinburgh

After several months of not doing much with it, I’ve been giving some thought to what I’m going to do with this domain/website in the future (if anything)

This might be one indication.

Ann and I spent the first two weeks of October in Scotland.  We brought back so many photos that its already taken two weeks to get through the first day.  So here ya go:

The whole thing only takes about three minutes.  And it’s all in HD, so by all means, click the arrows and blow it up to “full screen.”

A Short History of… My Family

This has absolutely nothing to do with music, culture, politics, or technology.  It is a short video that my “little sister” has compiled from family photographs and a memoir that my mother wrote in the years before she died (2002).  I share it here because… well, because I can: