RSS Feed

Tag Archives: music

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

How was your spring break?

Fifteen and I packed our bags, scratched the kitties’ ears, and headed out on the open road for a Spring Break trip. As I said to someone recently, “I’m the kind of poor that means I can pay for a new dishwasher or go traveling with my daughter, and I’ll pick the latter option every time. It’s easy enough to wash the dishes.” It was sweet and easy to leave dish duty behind, too.

The first stop was Grinnell, Iowa, where the recently opened Hotel Grinnell welcomed us to their boutique accommodations fashioned out of an old junior high. Attention to school-oriented details make the hotel whimsical—an apple on the desk, the black metal furnishings reminiscent of lockers, the paper on the pad lined like lettering pages from elementary school. We enjoyed dinner with Eighteen and while Fifteen took her first official college visit of her brother’s school, I spent downtime in the hotel.

IMG_9453

The Hotel Grinnell

Downtime isn’t exactly in my vocabulary. It’s a novel experience. Aside from flooding the single-serve coffee maker trying to heat water for tea, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with myself. I was reminded that easing out of one’s daily routine and relentless to-do lists and detaching from responsibilities aren’t easy tasks. But they’re important, and I left home looking for the right blend of adventure and relaxation.

Some of our hotels were more mainstream than others. In Chesterfield, Missouri, The Courtyard Marriott was on one of those streets that looks like anywhere USA. The next day, when the admissions officer at Washington University suggested that homesick students go to the mall, I thought about why we like and build these streets of plenty—familiarity. Comfort when we’re outside of our comfort zones. But the true delight of the recently renovated Marriott was the chance to spend the evening with an old friend.

The woman I’ll call “Mimi” and I met in graduate school. She was one of two graduate advisors to my teaching preparation group, and later she and I were on a committee together. After graduate school she would be in a position to hire me for a summer gig at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival; we hadn’t seen each other since. At dinner Friday night I was able to remember for her something she said that I have carried with me ever since about her happiness. It was a lovely reunion.

Saturday started with a perspective look at Washington University, St. Louis, where I was ready to enroll by the time we left the admissions talk and headed out on tour. Fifteen was less enchanted, but we agreed the campus was pretty and the school is appealing. We next enjoyed the orchids at the Missouri Botanical Center and walking the grounds on a warmish day. Then it was time for tea.

The London Teahouse had just one table available at 3pm. Pots of tea and a three-tiered tray of delights in the lovely flower-filled Hyde Park room were just right. We left with full tummies and six ounces of “Naughty Vicar” to brew at home. That evening found us in the Tudor-style Seven Gables Inn, a 1926 Irish Inn with framed art on the walls and dark wooden floors in the rooms. Two steep flights of stairs up, we found a delightful room with a view of the courtyard. The Inn had oodles of charm and is in a lovely, walkable neighborhood in St. Louis. We enjoyed ramen for dinner around the corner and snuggled in for the night.

We opted to make the Arch a drive-by as it was starting to snow. We were headed for Memphis, home of the famous Peabody Hotel, where ducks swim in the lobby fountain from 11am to 5pm, and were in time to witness their march to the elevator that carries them to their penthouse suite. The Peabody is not only whimsical, it’s elegant and stylish and the service is without compare. The concierge spent an hour helping us print and submit scholarship application forms for Fifteen’s summer exploration, even making a trip into the dining room to find us with the confirmation email she received.

IMG_9531

Always four females and a drake–the ducks spend three months thrilling the crowds at the Peabody and then return to the farm. There is no duck on the menu at the Peabody. 

Memphis was a wonderful surprise—a city that is easy to navigate and brimming with energy. We toured Rhodes College, famous for a number of aspects of the education they offer and frequently atop the list of prettiest campuses in America. It lives up to its reputation. The Memphis Zoo is right across the street, so we headed there after the college to marvel at the animals. Our feet tired, it was a treat to return to our hotel where, in perhaps the swiftest scholarship decision in history, Fifteen found an email rewarding our work the day before with a substantial investment in her summer plans. We celebrated with dessert from the hotel bakery—oh were they good!

The next morning we were off to Graceland. One former Memphis resident told me, before we left, “Well, you can skip Graceland.” Another said, “Of course, you’ve got to go to Graceland.” I’ve been in the latter camp ever since Paul Simon released his album of the same name; if Paul Simon wanted to see Graceland, so did I. Fifteen and I had listened to a wonderful collection of Elvis songs between St. Louis and Memphis. She observed that the songs were short and catchy and nice to listen to. We were ready to learn all about Elvis.

IMG_9541

“For reasons I cannot explain/some part of me wants to see Graceland”

And we were truly panicked, for about fifteen minutes, when it seemed we were stuck in the hotel parking garage. And then we were unbearably happy throughout the tour where Fifteen’s favorite room was the jungle room, complete with shag carpet on the ceiling. Looking up at the mirrors on the staircase ceiling, she said, “If Eighteen is an eighties teen-film star, then I’m a seventies girl through and through.”

“Really?” I asked, “Why is that?”

“You raised me on Abba!” Did I mention that we both loved Elvis’ sparkle-studded jumpsuits and his flashy cars?

We left Graceland with sparkling pen key chains and a sense that we were definitely on an adventure. Even as the impetus of our trip was glancing forward, beginning the conversation around Fifteen’s college journey, more than one stop was a glance back. Lambert’s Café (the home of the throwed rolls, where we caught a roll but did not stay for lunch), was a feature from a family car trip when I was six. Hot Springs, Arkansas, has stayed in my mind ever since I saw billboards for it on a graduate school trip to visit a college friend in Little Rock. Every day was just the right combination of travel, hotel, exploration, and, yes, downtime.

Some of our adventures were decidedly less planned. We didn’t plan, for example, to go to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, but we found that it fit nicely into our itinerary and offered a fascinating look at the history that I lived and came just before Fifteen’s arrival on this planet (the story of how we all met William Jefferson Clinton in our pajamas is family lore). We didn’t plan, until we walked out of our tour of the Clinton library, to find the perfect place for cappuccino and ice cream, but we found that, too. Nor did we plan, between Memphis and Arkansas, to set foot in Mississippi, bringing the total states I have yet to visit in my lifetime down to eight. But after Graceland, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to drive ten minutes south and dine at a surprisingly good rapidly expanding fresh-food chain called Newk’s.

IMG_9566

Hard to photograph but wonderful to explore!

Some of the sweetest moments of travel are those unplanned surprises. Sometimes the surprises are significantly less sweet as when we were headed north from our Mississippi lunch, just slowing to merge onto one highway from another, and suddenly saw a mattress launch from the back of a trailer and flip high into the air heading for our lane. It was one of those moments when everything slows down, and I could categorize the responses in my brain. I watched the mattress lift up and flip, considered its possible landing trajectories, and was able to swerve just enough so that it landed inches to my left and I didn’t collide with the car on my right. The people towing the trailer had reacted swiftly, too, pulling right off the road to retrieve their bed. The people to my right gave way, slowed, and navigated the emergency such that no one was hurt (although I suspect the mattress suffered some road rash). My daughter heard me hurl the F-bomb for the first time in her life, and we shook and nervously chattered for the next ten miles. After that, it became an excellent story—that time we nearly got killed by a mattress—and something of a nightmare as I have rehashed the event and the what-ifs more than once both waking and sleeping.

It was an unplanned event of our trip and life in general that my phone rang one evening with the distressing news that a very good friend’s purse had been stolen. I was distraught that she had been so violated and dismayed to think of the hassles she would have in securing her identity and attempting to replace the contents, both valuable and invaluable. She was distraught because she was on cat duty during our absence and her means of access to our house were in her purse. Oh, yes, that’s a problem.

I wonder now if thieves have any regard for the ripple effect of stealing one woman’s purse? In this (as, I would suspect most) case, police are involved in the crime report, insurance agents in the property claim, the business outside of which the burglary took place in securing their premises for their patrons, the banker officers and credit managers in safeguarding her identity, and on and on. For just my piece of the experience, as we traveled, I had to ask my back-up cat care friend to step in. When it turned out there was no key in my lockbox, I reached out to the neighbor with a house key, but she texted back from her spring break in France. Finally I sent a key overnight via FedEx, all to be certain that my four-footeds would be fed. Again, once the anxiety settled, we ended up with a good story from the road.

As Fifteen read and I drove along, watching for signs of spring, I mused about perspective—maybe it’s an obvious truth that all over the world there are people going about what they do, earnestly, some with bold ambitions and the best of intentions, some with selfish inclinations and the most harmful of results. Travel brings us face-to-face with all of it—the big and the small, the luxurious and the necessary, the markers of the past, the fulfilled intentions and goals, the way our actions reverberate in the world, and the surprises and how we handle them.

IMG_9553

Just the car for our next road trip!

If you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you—we made it home without further incident, with another happy reunion with a dear friend, and without, yet, a college of choice. The laundry done and folded, the cats soothed, Fifteen was ready to pack the car and head out again. The next great family college-search road trip will likely be summer 2018. I, for one, can’t wait! Happy Spring Equinox, with all my love, Rxo

Advertisements

My Funny Valentine

My Funny Valentine

Wha?? You’re letting it go?

When you move, it takes time to find new light switches in the dark. Everything is so new that it’s comforting to cling to the belongings you’ve brought with you. But even the perfect car for your old life might not fit as well with the travel requirements of your new world. Thus it was that I fell distinctly out of love with the Volvo wagon, a tank of a car purchased when my peeps were small to keep us safe in the bustling traffic of Bethesda, MD. I’m something of a serial monogamist when it comes to cars. The Volvo’s replacement?

The sales lady didn’t know it, but it was love at first sight when I saw the cool vanilla PT Cruiser with 12,995 miles on the odometer. The car had been a rental in California, no doubt leased by enthusiastic visitors at LAX who thought it would be fun to drive a convertible down to Mexico. As a result, over the course of the first couple of years I owned it, the car had an array of mysterious mechanical problems we blamed on bad Mexican gas, but they were miraculously covered by the warranty and I didn’t much care. More than a few people commented on the booster seats in the back; my peeps enjoyed tooling around in the car with the top down as much as I. With the upgrade to an auxiliary plug, I stopped constantly listening to classical music, a hold-over I had adopted when pregnant and driving a respectable yuppymobile, and reconnected with the music I loved growing up.

img_7872-1

Our last date in the sun, Valentine’s week 2017

I drove that car more than 100,000 miles, year-around, through more than one challenging winter storm, once getting stranded by slick roads with my daughter on a wintry night when the car desperately needed new tires. I drove it as far east as Athens, Ohio, and as far west as the Omaha zoo. Together we went north to Mankato, MN, for yoga teacher training nine times in every kind of weather and made countless trips south to pick up friends from the airport … but mostly I drove it to and fro, from dropping my son at TaeKwonDo to picking up my daughter from dance, from the grocery store to the yoga studio, from home to the coffee shop for writing time. When the warranty ran out, I found a mechanic who kept it running, who seemed to understand that the car was more than transportation for me.

I retired it for pleasure use only when I bought the Orange Dart in 2013 and hauled it out of retirement when Seventeen became a licensed driver. Sometime around then, my constant spate of car troubles became blog fodder, eye-roll-worthy updates on Facebook, and the source of more than one giggle and many-a grimace when I referenced my fleet of erratic cars in conversation.

The Dart is its own story, a brief fling with an unreliable machine. In its own way it served and the lessons I learned are the stuff of another essay. We said farewell to the Dart in December and hello to the handsome new Beetle named Mercury on the last day of 2016. A new love for a new year meant I had one too-many convertibles. What to do with the Cruiser?

img_7643

With just 1542 miles on it, Mercury rolled right into my heart … our first date: the Starbucks drive through on 12.31.16. And yes, it was warm enough to test it with the top down and the heated seat on!

The weather turned freakishly warm in February. I got the car out, mindful that it needed to be driven, and took it to the full service car wash. Every time I drove that car it felt like my escort, a loyal steed, my chariot of nuts and bolts. As if giving my squire voice, one of the car wash employees opened the passenger door, crawled halfway in, and interrupting himself while inquiring what they might do for me announced, “You are SO beautiful.” I told him he had just made my day as I left my baby in his care.

When the top dried in the sun, I dropped it for the last time and drove, enjoying the sunshine and remembering so many happy trips. Once, after a successful black-belt test, when Seventeen was just Ten, the sun was setting in fiery reds and dark clouds scattered fat raindrops on our victory lap home. I remember Ten testing his voice, yelling “promotion skies,” his celebration the last of his post-test adrenaline. His sister in her cow-spotted booster seat pumped much tinier fists, her fine blonde hair blowing in the breeze.

On this, our last date, I parked the clean Cruiser by the lake near my house and took more pictures of it than I needed. Top up, top down, doors open and closed. My favorite shows water just beyond the dash as though the car might actually be about to launch, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s long lost cousin.

img_7876-1

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s long-lost cousin–I do believe my Cruiser could take me everywhere!

The next day I posted my car on Craig’s List, photos, TLC needed, and all. Within twenty minutes I had a very interested potential buyer. By the time I went to bed there was a slew of inquiries, but the very interested buyer was scheduled to come the next afternoon and everyone else would have to wait.

In a series of events that underscores my faith in the universe, the buyer, a couple in fact, had lost a PT Cruiser in an accident just a week before. When they arrived in their rental to look at my car, they had just picked up their insurance settlement. My car sat waiting for them, glistening in the sun on my driveway. Although I showed them it’s ailments and infirmities, they were focused on the positives—it was their favorite car, a great color, and they had never owned a convertible. The new tires and a new battery meant they weren’t perturbed by the broken glove box or quirky back hatch. They drove it for about five minutes, arrived back and announced, “sold.” We shook hands on the deal and they went off to procure cash.

While I waited for them, I took the plates off the car and worked on cleaning out my garage. The youngest of four neighboring children arrived, a little girl in her Girl Scout sash, her father trailing her and dragging a wagon full of cookies behind him. I never buy Girl Scout cookies because once I start eating them I can’t stop (what’s in those cookies?), but the day felt like a day for spreading good will, so I bought two. My car’s new owners arrived and they bought four boxes of cookies on the way in the door to sign the paperwork. In a manner of minutes I had a brand new-to-me pile of cash and they drove off, the husband trailing his happy wife in her new-to-her convertible. I wonder if she ate any cookies on her way? A fan of snacking and driving, I certainly would have.

Happy New February Moon—with Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror and spring glimmering around the corner. May you find that all is well in your world as you launch new explorations. As ever, Namaste, Rxo

Owner-(of the)-Ship

Whose rights are they, anyway?

The chair of my graduate school thesis, Professor Paul Diehl, opined in class one day that if he were ever to be some sort of lawyer or legal expert, he would take up copyright law. It was the end of the eighties, a decade that has come to be both celebrated and castigated in a way I find unnerving since it was the decade in which I became an adult. By the time I was enrolled in Professor Diehl’s class, big hair and leg warmers had given way to rolled-up jeans and rap music, a genre that left me behind, and I was studying creative nonfiction.

Copyright law was changing with the infiltration of computers and the “publish or perish” mentality at research universities. Under the construct of “educational fair use,” my fellow graduate instructors and I all-too frequently created dittos of favorite essays and foisted them upon our students. We were admonished by our department and textbook publishers, and many of us worked around the issue by customizing print-on-demand style reading packets available from some of the major textbook publishers.

Ever since, I have tried to walk a careful line and give credit whenever it’s due; I insisted my children learn MLA-style citations long before their teachers required them to include their source notes in school projects. As an editor I check carefully my client’s footnotes, endnotes and works cited lists, sometimes following hyperlinks for many pages and other times querying “indicate source?” in the margins of their work. I’m aware that when a play is performed, even by a group of high schoolers, or when the artistic director of the local ballet company chooses music for his dancers, the producers must secure permissions if tickets to the performance will be sold.

Nonetheless, I was startled awake by a recent article sent out by Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance is the governing body through which yoga instructors register; their newsletter is usually full of information about their business of yoga conference and partnership deals for discounts on yoga pants.

The headline, “Legal Risks of Playing Music in Yoga Class” (Yoga Alliance e-newsletter, August 28, 2014), caught my attention. As a studio owner, I am so often taken aback by a legal risk or wrinkle about which I knew nothing that I should be used to it by now. Not only am I not, but I tend to freak out when I see things like:

You have a few choices for legally playing music in your classes:

Pay the licensing fee to the PRO [Performing Rights Organization] that is requesting payment. You could also decide not to pay the fee, but that would entail a significant risk. While it is rare for the PROs to actually bring an action for infringing on a copyright owner’s public performance right, … the fine under the Copyright Act for a public performance violation can be as high as $150,000 per occurrence (i.e., per song played). (https://www.yogaalliance.org/music-licensing-information, accessed 10.21.14)

With concern, I read the article, clicked and followed the links and thought about which of my trusted advisors I might consult. Since I had a meeting already set up with my accountant, I started with her. It made sense to me, since at bottom line—whether or not Radiant Om Yoga should pay for music licensing—was in part a financial consideration. I thought she might help. She’s amazingly versatile and promised she would share the issue with a copyright attorney/friend. His reply was instructive if not precisely definitive:

It is advisable for your client to get licenses from ASCAP and/or BMI. Those are the two biggest licensing associations. Unfortunately, there are overlapping artists in both associations, so getting a license for both may be somewhat duplicative; but getting a license for only one would mean there are some artists your client would technically not be able to play on a CD or MP3.

For a small business owner it is difficult to determine just what songs you can play in your studio (although there are radio licenses too), so I find that a lot of people are not as concerned as your client is; they just decide to bet on the proposition that ASCAP or BMI would not approach them for licensing royalties. The problem with doing this is that ASCAP and BMI end up wanting past royalties, which can be expensive for a small business.

Generally, ASCAP or BMI is more likely to pursue your client based on the number of customers she has, but they have a bad reputation for being pretty ruthless when it comes to seeking royalties. If there are not many people in her yoga classes, then she might not even be “publicly performing” the work, and in such a case it might not make business sense for her to obtain licenses. (personal email, 9.23.14)

How small is small for class size? Who are these organizations? How do I know what’s playable? If I pay them, how do the musicians actually get their piece of the pie? Radiant Om Yoga’s third birthday came along and I put aside the music quandary for a bit. Then I had an appointment to discuss all things yoga with a trusted friend who is also a teacher and a studio owner, and I pulled together my online research to show her and discuss our options.

As I understood it, my options were: shut up and pay the license fees, move to some sort of music provider like Sirius that has a legal avenue for business to play music at their locations, wholesale with license to play a few CDs, or take the stereo out of the studio and cease playing music all together.

That was on a Friday. The very next Tuesday I got an unsolicited email from ASCAP (The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers) offering to save me tremendous time and effort if I would just please sign the contract to license music-playing in my studio and send them a check.

I remain suspicious that Big Brother Internet somehow reported my searching, but the ASCAP rep I spoke to on the phone, after more consultations with the lawyer, insisted that they are researching and contacting every yoga studio, that her region was Des Moines. Okay, I asked her, just how do the musicians make money from the sum I’m paying you?

“I don’t really know that,” she answered. “I do know you’re paying the reduced rate for yoga studios,” this negotiated on our behalf by Yoga Alliance. I asked for a few other changes in the contract, corrected their spelling of Windsor Heights, and asked her to send me a new file. Radiant Om Yoga would toe inside this particular legal line, alongside taking the fire extinguisher to be officially tagged each year and having an ADA-compliant ramp, the engineering of which nearly drove the landlord’s central contractor insane.

Writing the check, signing and copying the contract, and putting the whole mess in the mail (and to bed), I couldn’t help thinking about how many knotty problems I deal with on a regular but never routine basis—all of the issues that come up when you’re the captain of your own small business. Some days I handle it with ease; far more often I struggle through the nuts and bolts and work hard to come down on just the right decision. At those moments, I think it might be a huge relief to let someone else take on the burdens—just have a job where I show up, work and leave. Then again, at that fantasy workplace I might not be able to get away with wearing legwarmers and the silver hoop earrings I bought in the eighties.

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Wherever you are and whatever you’re wrestling with, the new moon plus a partial solar eclipse give us new inspiration. Maybe hunt up your favorite wardrobe embellishment and toss it on, connecting your past self with your present enthusiasms and future creative energies. And thank you, as always, for coming along with me on my journey. In gratitude and with love, Rxo

%d bloggers like this: