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Cody Canada, Jason Boland and Stoney LaRue Made Me Cry

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Cody Canada, playing with Cross Canadian Ragweed at the Wormy Dog in 1999

I have a confession. Thank goodness most concert venues are dark because some live music shows I go to cause me cry hysterically. A Zac Brown Band show in 2012 and a visit to the Grand Ole Opry in September 2013 are great examples.

It took me a long time to piece together just why I became a sobbing sad sack at great live shows. Was it a repressed memory from a high school mosh pit gone awry? Do all the musicians I see lately just have sad songs? Was it the booze? Nope. Pardon me, but I have to go back to my parents to explain.

My father was a DJ for parties and such and he’d been in bands as a drummer. He also played guitar occasionally. My mom just had a healthy appreciation for some really good music.

They were ’60s and 70s music people who watched music do magical things like bring people together and even change politics. Like the great original Woodstock festival (which both regretted not attending, although my mom did drive up there but chickened out).

Thus, in high school, if I said “can I go to a party with a few thousand college boys who will be taking the marijuana, on a school night?” I’d be grounded for asking.

So, instead I’d say, “we got tickets for the Phish show at the coliseum next Tuesday, would you mind giving me a ride?”

For the sake of improvisational music appreciation, I would get permission and a ride. This system worked again and again and again. I even got to go to Woodstock ’94. By the time I was 17 and leaving for college, the list of live shows I’d seen was impressive. Black Crowes, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Aerosmith, Blues Traveler, Melissa Ethridge (3 times, without even kissing a girl!), Violent Femmes, Steve Miller Band, James Taylor, Primus, Cypress Hill, Blind Melon… And many, many more. At least a show per month. I started working before I was even 16 and I think that’s where every penny went. It was Connecticut, and there were numerous venues hosting big names within an hour’s drive. I went because it was what all the cool kids did.

When I headed off to Oklahoma State University for college, you might think I would have missed the big name bands. (OSU is in Stillwater, OK, out in the country and I didn’t even have a car.) I didn’t miss the big shows at all.

That’s because were plenty of live shows in Stillwater. One of the first I remember was a band called the Great Divide, headed up by a guy named Mike McClure. I heard, “Barmaid, play me some Buffett, I’m in the mood to get away; pour me a vacation, I need to leave here right away,” in a funky, really country but not country at all twang. I could see why my new college friends liked listening to this stuff. It was as cool as they were.

That show was at the Wormy Dog Concert Hall, an 18+ venue that was an offshoot of the 21+ Wormy Dog Saloon. Both were located on “the strip,” Stillwater’s street of bars. I never lived more than 4 blocks from that strip the whole 6 years I lived in Stillwater.

When I was 21, and not a day before, of course, I started hanging out at the Wormy Dog Saloon. (I turned 21 in 1999, so let’s say I heard some stuff from “a friend” about what happened there in 1998.)

The entrance to “The Dog” was set above a tall, narrow flight of metal stairs. Inside, it was a relatively small place with saddles mounted on poles for barstools. They had penny beer nights where you would pay a $5 cover and drink all the beer you wanted as long as you put at least a penny in the jar. The bathrooms were tiny and smelled terrible.  In a word, the Wormy Dog Saloon was cool. My friends were always there and the music was good. Other bars on “The Strip” had live music, too, but the Wormy Dog was kind of my crowd’s home base.

Things often got rowdy- I remember having beer bottle glass stuck in the skin on my toe for a while that had resulted from a barfight that had gotten especially violent on a night I’d made a poor shoe choice.

Weekends they would have “bigger” bands, usually up from Texas, play. Names like Reckless Kelly, Roger Creager and such.

Weeknights they also had live music, but it was more local boys. Three gentlemen who particularly stood out were Cody Canada, Jason Boland, and Stoney LaRue. Usually one or two on stage with just guitars.

They performed covers of Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keene, David Allen Coe – all artists I’d never really listened to before.  They also sang crazy original songs about nymphomaniacs and how boys from Oklahoma roll their joints all wrong and banging your head against the wall because it’s there.  They covered each other’s originals. Just because the sign outside said one of them was playing, it didn’t mean one wouldn’t replace another or jump up and play together. Sometimes, around midnight (when they probably could have stopped playing if they wanted to) they’d all wind up together.

They seemed to be having a ball. We had a ball watching them. In fact, I think maybe that’s why I didn’t notice what a special thing I was watching happen. It felt like they were just part of our crew.

Side note here- this was Red Dirt Music, named for the color of dirt in Oklahoma.  (You can read more about it at the Red Dirt Rangers site here.)   I’m no music expert, but I will try to tell you my impression of it.

It’s rocking, soulful and falls pretty far outside the Nashville country music “formula.”  But it’s definitely country. It has a lot of what I think of as “old school” country elements. You’ll find fiddles, peppy swing rhythms, and quick, melodic guitar riffs. But the voices are rough- certainly not out-of-key rough, these are talented vocalists- but manly and purposefully unpolished. While lyrics do cover fun stuff like traveling, drinking beer, and falling in love; they also cover darker, more personally emotional subjects like drug addiction, alcoholism, ghosts, poverty and family. A lot of topics that don’t fit in real well with the current trucks/parties/girls landscape on nationwide country radio.  (At least the really poppy stuff that makes it way up to 92.5 here in Connecticut.)

Now, back to Stillwater and the Wormy Dog and these guys playing the background music for some of the most fun nights of my life.

When Cody then Jason started getting more and more gigs with their full bands (Cross Canadian Ragweed and Jason Boland and the Stragglers respectively) at the bigger weekend shows, it was fun. When they released albums, I bought them and listened and sang along over and over. Slowly but surely they gave up their regular gigs and I’d have to go to bigger venues to see them play.  Eventually they made their way to become a part of the Texas music scene and beyond.  Cross Canadian Ragweed is no more, but several of the original members play now as Cody Canada and the Departed.

Stoney hung around Stillwater a while longer. While I was never friends with any of the aforementioned fellows, (that would have been the COOLEST), I remember at least talking to Stoney.  The first time I talked to him, I pretended I didn’t know who he was and casually mentioned I was from Connecticut and that I was impressed by Stillwater’s music scene.  (It seemed cooler than leading off with,  “I dig your music, pal.”  Also, I was trying to avoid the impression I was hitting on him, because I wasn’t.)  Almost like a little kid, he was so excited to talk about the music on the scene and politely mentioned he was a part of it. A little while into our conversation, I told him I was kidding, I’d lived in Stillwater for 5 years and I knew exactly who he was and that I’d seen him a bunch of times and was already a fan.

He told me I was wrong, then, he wasn’t Stoney LaRue, he was actually Ted Nugent. Any time I saw him play after that, if he saw me in the crowd I’d get a lick of “Cat Scratch Fever.” It made me feel SO cool.  At one party where I ran into him he was even kind enough to teach me the opening riff to Cross Canadian Ragweed’s song “Alabama.” It involved using his thumb and I told him my guitar teacher would not have approved. He said that’s why he hadn’t ever had lessons. It was very cool to learn from him.

Now, Stoney is also very well established on the Texas music scene.  In fact, he’s touring all over the country with Four on the Floor– a heavy hitting Texas lineup that also includes the Randy Rogers Band, the Josh Abbott Band, and Wade Bowen.  They’re actually playing NYC at Terminal 5 on Saturday night and then in Cambridge, MA at the Sinclair on Sunday.  Maybe they’ll wave to me when they drive through Connecticut.

Alas, I moved to Tulsa late in 2002 and then back to Connecticut in 2004.  Live music really didn’t fit into my new life that went from career-focused, to marriage-focused, to being-a-mother-focused. Every once in a while I do like to see a good live show, to remember what it was like when I was young and “cool.” But there is nothing cool about the teary mess I become.

Back in those days at the Wormy Dog around the turn-of-the-century (that’s accurate, isn’t it?) I was just trying to drink some beer and be cool. While I wasn’t looking, Red Dirt Music had stirred my soul. Now, when I go to shows with talented artists who really connect with audiences it’s like running into a an old lover I never really got over. It’s so wonderful it hurts a little. And I cry. Like a ridiculous little girl.

So, to Cody Canada, Jason Boland , and Stoney LaRue, thanks guys; thanks for having fun and being real and staying real up there.  I honestly appreciate it, even if it does make me cry. I’d like to introduce you to Connecticut sometime. Maybe you could stop and play a show here sometime in between your NY and Boston gigs. I promise I will get a babysitter and drag my husband out and even dress up a little. You know, put on some lipstick and such. I’m probably going to skip the mascara, though.

Here’s three songs that launch me back in time to the Wormy Dog; I linked directly to the iTunes pages:

Boys from Oklahoma – Cross Canadian Ragweed

Proud Souls – Jason Boland and the Stragglers

Carney Man – Cross Canadian Ragweed

 

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Goodbye Mrs. Anderson

A Camping Queen Holds CourtI bet no one ever thought a jumbo box of sympathy cards, packaged up like Christmas cards, would be a very big seller. But boy, do I wish I could buy a box like that today. Because the world lost a special lady this morning and I know she is going to be missed by a lot of people, and especially by a lot of people I care a lot about.

Anyone who read my post “Reunion-bound” read that we were heading to meet up with a woman (known to most as Grammy), her ten children, most of the ten’s children, most of the ten’s children’s children, and even one of the ten’s children’s child’s brand new baby child, and of course all of the delightful, wonderful stragglers our group of campers picked up along the way.

It was a great trip and there was a lot of buzz about it being Grammy’s last reunion. Maybe I didn’t want to believe that. But it turned out to be true.

I normally only refer to myself, my husband and my pets by their actual names but that doesn’t feel right for this post because I grew up knowing “Grammy,” as Mrs. Anderson. Not sure why, probably just to avoid confusion with the other grandmothers in my life. It was a friendly, respectful title- not as formal as may sound.

As I sit here going through memories of Mrs. Anderson, I can’t come up any one specific moment. It’s a swirling tapestry of memories: of her in her blue choir robe at Dunbar United Church, her and my Grandpa talking and playing cards, talk of dandelion wine, “The Uncles,” a van and cots, the image of my husband carrying off a bottle of scotch at 4 pm for a “date” with her, fancy canes, fishing-type hats, many smiles, her distinctive voice, and many people.

Mostly I remember her kind of always being there while I was growing up except when disasters had struck and I’d overhear she’d travelled somewhere to volunteer with the Red Cross.

To say she lived an amazing, complete life and that she loved many much and was loved much by many is like saying the ocean is kind of big and has some water in it.

I know no one like her nor have I even heard of anyone like her.

I do know that without her not only would I not have all my “pseudo” -cousins and -aunts and -uncles but also a host of other amazing people. These folks, from every walk of life, never would have crossed my path if she wasn’t part of our lives. Many are who they are; some in small ways, some in very big ways, because of her.

Including the love of my life, my husband.

So, goodbye and thank you Mrs. Grammy Anderson, you are very much missed. So glad we just spent one last camping trip with you. I know what many of us will be thinking about today at 4 pm.

I am certain you are enjoying the reunion you’re attending now.

To all of her many family and friends, I’m thinking of you and you’re in my heart today and if there is a silver lining, it’s that I look forward to hearing all of your memories.

Update Thursday August 15: Here is a link to Mrs. Vera Anderson’s Obituary

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Reunion-Bound

Tonight we headed off on another extended camping trip.  We’ll be spending the next four nights camped out.  This year, it’s a little different with the drunken-orangutan-like movements of Buster, our Princess, and our brand new puppy, Emma.  But still, I’m ready.  If you didn’t read my very first post- “Roughin’ It,” you should know that I’m pretty tough when it comes to camping.  I could survive for days and days with nothing but two fully stocked refrigerators, my crock pot, my cupcake maker, a smoker, air-conditioning, a flush-toilet of my own, several cases of beer, a handle of Woodford Reserve, 100+ of my closest friends and family, and of course, my mommy and daddy camped right next door.  Because it’s only the basics like that that matter.

Really, I have all that stuff.  If you don’t know how I camp, I went into great detail about how I don’t camp in this post:  How I Don’t Camp.

This camping trip is particularly special, though, as it is a family reunion.  Grammy, a very special 95-year-old lady, will get to see all ten of her children.  They’re traveling in from California, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and probably more states I’m forgetting, to Connecticut to get together as they do every 5 years or so.

The usual crew we camp with will be there, too.  Most of them are the local part of this giant family.  I’m not actually related to most of them.  My mother’s sister married one of the ten siblings.  Out of kindness, or maybe because there were so many of them already that they didn’t notice, they’ve always treated me like family.  Which is really nice and made for some difficult explanations when putting together already-complicated family-tree projects my cousins had to do.  In fact, some didn’t realize I’m not actually related for a while.  One cousin’s husband was more than a little disappointed to find out he’d been putting up with my crap since I was 15 and there was no real blood to back it up.

But I’m not the only non-blood-related member of this giant family.  It seems they’ve picked up many stragglers along the way who are now considered family.  They’re all wonderful people.  In fact, my husband is one of those stragglers.  I actually met him on my first “family” camping trip after I returned home from Oklahoma.  You don’t get to become family if you’re not tough enough to take some ribbing but kind enough to contribute something- whether it’s fruit pizza, a bottle of some liquor, or just good conversation.  Really the best thing you can contribute is a willingness to be the butt of our jokes for a while, I think.

I think the group needs to be studied.  You know it if you’re a part of it, but there’s no membership cards.  This reunion was well-organized by a few members of the group because it is larger and it has a few scheduled activities, but most camping trips come together with just a liaison to a campground.  The rest just happens without any official leaders.  I think everyone sees Grammy as the matriarch, but like Queen Elizabeth, at this point she’s not real interested in being in charge of everything.  She does enough of that at her nursing home (that’s another story.)  We all show up at a campground and there may be some scuffling about who camps where and how certain people behave, but we always seem to work it out.  We take care of our children and each others’.  We share food sometimes.  Sometimes we don’t.  It would be impressive if I were talking about 20 or so people.  But it’s usually over 100 and includes something like 20 dogs.

Finding campgrounds has become tough, too- we’ve been thrown out of a few.  Weird how they don’t like noise all night long, giant campfires.   One campground seemed particularly sensitive about stuffing some clothing including a shirt that matched the campgrounds “STAFF” shirts and then burning it in effigy after they’d told us to go to bed too many times.  But we’re a big group, and we like to have fun.  We’re always up front before we visit a place.  If we’re on a trip and things are getting less than fun, Grammy will even mention “We’ve been thrown out of nicer places than this one.”

As rowdy as we are during the camping, we always clean up our campfire and all other messes we create.  When a campground we frequent was hit hard by a tornado a couple of years ago, a big group of us (not me, I had two small children, so not looking for credit) went up to the campground to help clean up.  Treat us right, let us do our thing, and we’ll not only pay you thousands in camping fees, we’ll help you when you need it.

The members of the group include several races and religions.  Members of the group have a wide span as far as employment- everything from retired and current business owners, nurses, engineers, firefighters (so the large campfires are usually somewhat contained, or at least someone understands the risks being taken), military, school-bus drivers, teachers, DCF workers, realtor/railroad workers, several IT folks, craftsmen, etc.  And we all get along as neighbors for a few days.  Even more of us do when we have a reunion.  It’s an awesome temporary community and it will be even larger this weekend.  I’m so glad that my kids get to be a part of it.

Anyway, this reunion is going to be fun.  There will be even more kids for our children to play with this trip.  And we’ve managed to book an entire campground.  So I’m looking forward to catching up and telling some old stories and making some new ones.  But I better get to packing.  I’ll leave you with a nursery rhyme I wrote a couple of years ago (I didn’t use the proper name):

Lovely Mrs. Grammy never lived in a shoe,

But she has a large family and

Camping is what they do.

No broth in sight so they drink beer instead,

They burn things all night

And then go to bed.

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Motormommy, Princess, and Buster Go To Florida Without Bunny or Daddy: Part 1, Getting There

Long time no write, huh? Motor Mommy has been busy with Florida trips, blizzards, and getting a new gig. More about that stuff later, but first I still haven’t told you about our trip to Florida! Here’s the story in three parts.

Part 1:

It’s freaking cold here this winter. So, when my husband’s parents offered to host us at their snowbird getaway in Delray Beach, Florida, I accepted the offer.

I was really just an escort for the real guests – Buster and the Big Sister, Princess. Palm trees and flip thoughts were in my head as I booked the trip.

Shortly thereafter, the thought occurred to me that I’d be traveling alone with two very young children. But I did it, and I survived. So did the kids. Even my in-laws are still okay.

I learned one important thing. When traveling alone with very young children, pack only the items you absolutely need in what you’ll be hauling through the airport. Then take out half of them and leave them home. Another option would be to rent a third arm.

Here’s the highlights of the trip:
On Monday, our departure day:

4:45 am: Princess couldn’t wait to see Mimi, Poppy, palm trees, octopuses and mangoes. I’m not sure what Florida brochure she looks at.

5:25 am: During the drive to the airport Princess kept asking if we’d made it to Florida yet. So I explained the airplane process including how we’d sit down, buckle in and then we would go up in the air. She asked me which button on her seat would make it go up in the air. (It was almost a deal breaker when she found out the whole plane would be in the air.)

6:00 am: Bags are checked, I am loaded like a camel, Princess has her tiger backpack on and we all kiss Daddy goodbye just outside the get for security. Princess tells him she can’t wait to get to Florida and will call him soon and see him Friday. Due to the small nature of my children, we go right through the special lane bypassing the line for security.

6:02: THE DADDY CRISIS: Passports are checked and we are waiting to load our belongings and everything onto the conveyor belt for the X-ray. Princess begins bawling inconsolably. “I want Daddy. Daddeeeeeeeeee come baaaaaaack!!!!” This continues through the conveyor belt, metal detector, and retrieval of all items. Tears are streaming down her face and she keeps saying, “but I want Daaaaaddddeeeeeee!!!! I am sure some folks were using their phones to make sure there wasn’t an Amber Alert for Princess.

6:07: After I put my shoes back on and pick Buster off the floor after I’d used both hands to reassamble the stroller where I then deposited him, I am able to pick Princess up and discuss the situation. “We’ve discussed for weeks how Daddy isn’t coming but we’ll see Mimi and Poppy soon and there will be palm trees and pools.” Her response? “Daddy, come back! Sob sob sob!” A less than rational conversation ensued over the next few minutes at a rather high volume for the other travelers to enjoy.

6:10: Motormommy Lightbulb! I ask Princess, “Do you want a cookie? She pauses then whispers, “I think I do.” I hand her a breakfast cookie and she tentatively takes a few bites. Then she shouts, “lets go to Florida!!!” CRISIS RESOLVED.

Princess, World Traveller, Post-Cookie

Princess, World Traveller, Post-Cookie

6:15 am: I take a sick joy in observing the other passengers faces as we approached the gate before boarding. They glance nervously at my brood and me, trying to read the seat number on my boarding pass from hundreds of yards away. “No! Not a baby!” I delighted in this so much that I sat in between four gates while waiting for the flight home, terrifying four times as many travelers.

6:35 am: We board the plane and after some serious squirming, Buster settles in and falls asleep.

8:15 am: Princess enjoys her flight and two trips to the potty.

8:20 am: After the second potty trip, someone comes up and asks us if we’re Mike Greenberg’s wife and kids. I admit I am and ask who she is. She says she’s his “friend” from college, Tanya. I realize she is “the” Tanya, one of hubby’s prior serious relationships. I’m delighted to realize she is pretty and nice, further proof that I was selected from an impressive field.

9:07 am: THE BUNNY CRISIS I notice that Bunny, Princess’s best stuffed friend, is not on the plane. She’s never spent a night without him since he arrived at Easter, 2010. Swallowing a scream, the morning’s events flash in front of me and I wonder if he’s gone forever in an airport bathroom. A deep breath and I am only slightly calmed by the realization that he never made it out of the car. In my mind, I come up with several plans to handle the crisis. Hijack the plane and return to Hartford? $30 on overnight shipping? Try to buy a replacement? After careful consideration and a cost/benefit analysis, I resolve to carefully ignore this crisis and enlist hubby’s help in crafting a backstory should this prove impossible.

9:55 am: The flight lands. The seatbelt light goes off. I immediately send the following text to my husband: “You have bunny. Please take pics of him sledding, tea party, etc. ASAP. call your parents and tell them not to mention him or your uncle.” Hubby’s mother’s brother is Bernard. His nickname is Bernie, which was shortened to Bunny some time ago. For the duration of our Florida trip, he is Bernard.

10:05 am:Princess runs into Mimi’s arms, screaming “Happy Birthday!!!!” (It is actually her birthday. Still, all I hear is, “Bunny Who?!!!!!” BUNNY CRISIS DELAYED). We wait for our one suitcase in the baggage claim, and joke about how silly it is that I brought such a huge suitcase for so few items. Mimi tells Princess that we’re heading to Mimi and Poppy’s house. Princesslooks confused, so Mimi explains that it isn’t their regular house, it’s their “Florida House.”

From that moment forward, possibly to eternity, Mimi and Poppy’s two bedroom snowbird apartment rental becomes “The Florida House.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous. There is a screened porch overlooking a pond sans alligators (as far as anyone will admit), beautiful furnishings, spacious dining and bedrooms; but the “Florida House” Princess describes to people is slightly exaggerated. The four-bedroom home on a bunch of acres that they actually own in Connecticut will never compare to the “Florida House,” in Princess’s eyes.

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