Jackaroo Days, Yeah

I have always been a voracious reader. It’s rare that you will find me without a book in my hands. Right now, I’m working my way through the Dark Tower Series, again. (I was gifted the Gunslinger when I was in my early twenties and I still have that book… it’s falling apart but it remains untouched by future revisions by the author.)

I remember and a kid, staying up late, hiding my clandestine after-bedtime adventures by sneaking a flashlight into my room, lifting my blankets up like a tent and sitting under them, furtively rushing through whatever fantastic book I was ingesting in great mental gulps, cramming in “one more chapter” before the inevitable sleep overtook me.

I know now, that my parents were FULLY AWARE of these events and indulged me because I was reading… and also, I was quiet.

One of the best days of my young adult life was the day we went to a garage sale and those folks had an outbuilding FULL of books for sale.  10 cents each! The outbuilding looked huge to me but I was a tiny kid so it was probably just a small barn… but I recall racks and racks of books. It was there that I stocked up on Agatha Christie.

As an aside, one of life’s great disappointments is knowing who did it before you finish the book. Don’t peek ahead. I ruined “Peril at End House” because I **had** to know… and I never read the middle of the book.. I spoiled it. Don’t do that. Enjoy the experience. It’s much more gratifying.

Anyway, a book that made a huge impression on me in my younger days, was Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt which is now, evidently, retitled “Tale of Gywn” but when I read it, only one book in the series existed (and I’m not too proud to say that at the age of almost 45, I’m not above reading that whole series now that I know it exists. I don’t care that it’s Young Adult Fiction)

Jackaroo was the legendary hero of a small feudal village and when things got tough and people needed saving, Jackaroo arrived. This story was so impactful because (spoiler) Jackaroo was a young woman who shucked off all of society’s expectations and just did whatever she felt was right. I totally loved Gwyn.. and the book remains floating around in my brain so many years later.

(I’m about to take a quick left turn on you… hold on, there is no gentle segue here..)

Now that I have my new uke (ain’t she sweet?) I have been wanting to delve more into fingerstyle and solo stuff and really build some skills. I was digging around on Amazon and settled on Fingerstyle Ukulele – A Method & Songbook For Fingerpicking Backup & Solos, Ukulele Aerobics: For All Levels, from Beginner to Advanced, and Jazz Ukulele: Comping, Soloing, Chord Melodies.

I almost got The Beatles for Fingerstyle Ukulele but decided against it because I have Stu Fuch’s Chord Solo Book and there are already a few of my favorite Beatles Songs in it.

But the free sample has “Across the Universe” as the first few pages, so I looked at it pretty closely before deciding against buying the book.

Now, before we get into this next bit of my post, let’s all agree that John Lennon did not always write lyrics that were easily understandable.

For example:

Sitting on a cornflake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation tee shirt
Stupid bloody Tuesday
Man, you been a naughty boy
You let your face grow long
I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’ joob

I also present, for your review:

He wear no shoeshine, he’s got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola
He say, “I know you, you know me”
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

So imagine (no pun intended), given that Jackaroo made such a huge impression on me when I was a kid, that I was pretty surprised when I saw that what I thought was :

Jackaroo, days.. .yeah.. Oh…

Is actually

Jai Guru Deva… Om

Yet, my brain insists that I must continue to sing “Jackaroo Days, Yeah.. oh..”

Nothing’s going to change my world… (or my brain, evidently)

Nothing’s going to change my world…



Old Songs: Part 1 – The Friday Warm Up.

I spent the past weekend in Altamont, NY at Old Songs Festival. I had been to Old Songs before but I’d never stayed for the whole thing and I certainly never stayed when it rained.

I know… crazy wimpy, right?

Let me clue you in on something else. I’m kind of a cheapskate, too. See, my past experiences of Old Songs were… fine. I’d go and I’d hear a band or something but I’d leave feeling like I’d sort of wasted my money because I didn’t really know the bands and I was too lazy (that’s right.. LAZY) to take the time to research anyone or even stretch out of my comfort zone.

These past two years I’ve been reintroducing music into my life. I pulled my dulcimer out of the box and I’ve slowly been pulling myself out of my hidey-hole.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided to volunteer at Old Songs.

INORITE? Real people.. and me interacting with them. CRAZY!

(also, free tickets and free Friday classes-  told ya.. cheapskate)

So I volunteered to work the main gate. It wasn’t hard but the best part was that my first day was super easy since I didn’t have any shifts to work. That  meant I got to go to Bing Futch‘s workshop.

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Why hello there @bing_futch

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It was pretty much the same workshop I took with him at the Sand Creek Center for the Arts last month. I’d like to say that meant that I looked really great because I had this down cold..

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@hahamommy … 😉 wish you were here.

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But I didn’t. Since we’ve moved, I’ve barely touched my instrument.

So that was Friday pretty much. I did have a chance to spend some time chatting with Bing. I really find him super fascinating and an all around wonderful person. The dude just feels great to be around, know what I mean? You know those people.. the ones who just oooze good vibes? He’s one of those.

Saturday? Holy crap Saturday was amazing. I had no idea there was SO MUCH to do at Old Songs.. so much! and it was all fantastic!

I realize this post makes it sound kinda blah but there is so much more coming.. hang tight for my Saturday recap. I actually threw out ice cream. Perfectly good ice cream. I KNOW!

Seventeen going on Eighteen

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a bus with a gaggle of 18 year olds and thinking, man… was I ever that young?

Yes, absolutely. Holy crap, yes. And for as much as I really thought that I was awkward and dorky, I’ve recently gotten some actual video proof that I was also kind of awesome and in the right environment, pretty damn confident.

Please witness my adorable seventeen year old self and my old friend Boris (not his real name – it was a nickname. After Boris the Spider because he was such a fan of The Who) in our High School production of Snoopy. I was pretty self conscious about my schnoz so I really embraced the role of Peppermint Patty. I totally hammed it up… there is actual singing after all of the yuk-ing it up.

You know what I learned from watching this?

I’m awesome.

No really. I mean it. Look at that kid. Confidence! Energy! Excitement! Wow, put me on a stage and give me a song and BLAMMO! Magic happens.

Where exactly did I decide that I should sit down, be quiet, and unobtrusive? When did I get shy? And why? And why did I stop being a ham?

Oh hell, who cares when or why, actually. I’m getting that back.


Right now on this bus full of goofy, awkward 18 year olds who are ridiculously enjoying being among their peers and hamming it up.

We gals are told over and over by society to be quiet, be polite, be humble. Somewhere, I picked that up and put that in my suitcase. Probably right around the time when I started advancing in my career and overheard that everyone I supervised thought I was a bitch. And the time that my boss didn’t like how confident I was so she sabotaged me. What the hell, lady?

When I was seventeen, I remember thinking how great it would be to be an adult and know how to handle everything. I wouldn’t have to worry about doing the right thing because I would know what it was.

I’m forty two.


I still don’t feel like an adult.


This is my desk at work


Did I think some magic Confidence Fairy would sprinkle me with fairy dust and POOF! I’d know everything?


I’ve decided that adults are just as clueless as seventeen year olds. We just have more experiences to fall back on. More resources and reference material.

If social media has taught me anything, it’s that we all struggle with insecurities and uncertainties. With different things of course, but dammit, I’m done letting this control what I do and where I go.

It really shouldn’t be an issue anyway because, guess what?

I’m awesome.

(Psst! Let me let you in on a little secret…. You are awesome, too)

Aloha, Judy

Sometimes, I get an idea and I will not let it go.

Wanting to learn to play the ukulele was one of those things.

Yes, I know.. hipster shmipster… shaddup already. See, when I was *cough* younger, I used to sing a lot.. like.. a lot.. and really really loved it.. and I’ve gotten out of the habit like big time. And, of course, I can sing along with my dulcimer but because it’s a diatonic instrument, I’m often feeling constrained with what I can play.

When I went to get some picks a few months ago, I saw a display of ukuleles at the Guitar Center and was kind of smitten by their cuteness. As Mel, says “Tiny things are cute“. But I really didn’t need ANOTHER instrument I barely practice so I talked myself out of it.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and I got the Old Songs flyer about new instrument classes and lo and behold.. ukulele beginner classes.

On a whim, I went shopping on my lunch. I put my hands on a few ukes over at Hilton Music and then took a quick drive to Guitar Center. I walked into the humidity controlled room and BANG

It was love at first sight

There she was… just waiting for me.

I picked her up.. and I did not want to let her go.. she was over my budget and did not come with a gig bag so I put her back down.. I picked up a few others that were in my budget but they just didn’t feel right..

I had to have the shiny black one.. the shiny pretty black one with the mother of pearl inlay.

So I bought her.

Isn't she pretty!?

I barely got her in the car before I took a pic.

I had yoga class after work so Judy had to come with me.  My yogi says “wow! she’s so cute!!” and I’m like “I KNOW” and we both squeed and acted like giant dorks for a few  minutes.

Why is she named Judy? Because the first song I goofed around with playing was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.. however, since I can’t actually sing that song in the key of C, and I only currently have been fooling around with the chords in the key of C, I pretty much just strum the chords for right now.   Also, not sharing that.

I will share this however.. try not to laugh too hard at my total derpitude.

Sweet River

Saturday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Bing Futch perform at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in…  (wait for it).. Sand Lake, NY.

I heard of Bing while digging around dulcimer websites, and my first thought was , woah this dude does not look like a mountain dulcimer player, but I’ve since figured out this guy breaks all the rules.  He plays whatever he wants on an instrument that is generally considered limited in it’s flexibility. He has an eclectic sensibility and a freedom from restriction that comes through in his music.

One of the things that Bing does is take advantage of technology.  He uses a loop pedal which allows him to lay down a few tracks and basically play with himself..

wait.. that sounds wrong…

It allows him to play multiple parts for one song by laying down a track on top of a track and then he is free to play harmony or melody or even another instrument. In this case, the Native American Flute.

The entire performance was amazing.  Bing is engaging, entertaining and generally seems like a guy who just loves what he does.

But when he played this song..  it was all I could do not to start bawling… something in this, this combination of chords and notes and melodies and harmonies just got me.. right there.  In fact, I’m a little teary just writing this. I went to bed on Saturday with it in my head and when I woke up on Sunday it was still there…

This will seems like a slow start but once those tracks start looping, Bing really shines.

Sweet River isn’t currently on any of Bing’s Albums but he says he get’s so many requests for it, it will probably be on the next one.

In the meantime, I’ll have to be happy with the Dulcimerica version.

One thing I did pick up from the show was a copy of Manitou: In the Garden of the Gods which is a collaboration of seven artists, including Bing, who basically got together and improvised music at Pike’s Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado. It’s a gripping and emotional album that I immediately ripped into my mp3 player.

I truly hope I get to see Bing perform again… it was something I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

Sweet Song: My Cranberry Gathering Experience

DulcimerI play an instrument you’ve probably never heard of (and by “play” I mean I plink away at some strings in a relatively melodic and rhythmic manner).

It’s called the Appalachian  Dulcimer.. or a Mountain Dulcimer.  It actually has a pretty interesting history but I won’t bore you with it…  You can Google it yourself and find lots of bits on it.  Supposedly, the word dulcimer, translates from the Greek “dulce” meaning sweet and the Latin “melos” meaning song, thus the name means sweet song.  Basically what you need to know is, it’s a diatonic instrument (meaning you don’t get ALL the sharps and flats…. you get a scale.)   Essentially, if I’ve tuned my instrument to the key of D, if I use only the melody string, I can play these notes.

D E F# G A B C

Now, my instrument has an additional fret, which they think was added in the 70’s when it became popular in the folk music counter culture scene, so I also get to play C#.

Neat, right? Sure as heck makes it easier.  The dulcimer is a three stringed instrument, but it also sometimes has a fourth string which doubles the melody string.. and sometimes it has four equidistant strings. You can change the tuning to change the scale and notes you can play.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  It’s not like modern instruments.  It’s simple and elegant and easily adaptable to the musician.  Traditionally, the melody is played on the melody string (duh) which is closest to the player and the other two strings are left to drone.  Which makes sense when you consider that the Appalachian Mountains were settled by a lot of Scottish immigrants.  Don’t know what a drone is?   Think bagpipes.  There you go.  More modern players are also playing chords on the dulcimer.  I’m one of those.  I also enjoy the drone but I like the flexibility of chords.  If you want an example of what the drone sounds like on the dulcimer, check out Don Pedi at the Pickin Porch

My dulcimer sat in the closet for almost 15 years.. maybe more.  I have reasons. I won’t talk about them, so don’t ask.   When I saw Cyndi Lauper playing her dulcimer on the Tony’s, I said out loud, “hey! where is my dulcimer?”

So LB can blame Cyndi for my current obsession. (LB is not impressed with folk music and has been patiently tolerating my “practicing”)

I decided I needed a little help. I’m pretty ok.. I mean I can play a few things but I’m mostly self taught so I decided to seek out an instructor to help me break any bad habits and learn some new good habits.  My first point of reference was Old Songs, a local organization “celebrating and nuturing traditional music and dance since 1977” and they had classes listed on their website.

Long story short (too late), Susan Trump pointed out to me that the Cranberry Dulcimer and Autoharp Gathering was coming up and it was in Latham…  LATHAM… that’s a 20 minute trip for me.

So I went… and it was amazing.

These two together seemed apropos

These two together seemed apropos

Cranberry isn’t a festival.. it’s a gathering.. people from all over come together to learn from each other and play together.  I had SO MUCH FUN.  I took all of the beginner classes (I think I could have gotten away with some of the advanced beginner classes).  I learned some new chords and a bit more on fretting.  I think my favorite class of the day (no offense to the other instructors) was taught by George Haggerty who runs the August Dulcimer Daze (which I cannot get to because of previous commitments)

George has this bumper sticker on his case.

I know it's upside down. That's how it set it there.  In case you can't read it, it says "Possum: the Other White Meat"

“Possum, the Other White Meat”

After all of the workshops, George was kind enough to show me how to replace my well worn strings on my dulcimer. He really was a hoot.

All and all, I’m so excited that there are SO MANY dulcimer players around. For an instrument no one has heard of, there sure were a lot of us.

Have you ever heard of the Appalachian Dulcimer? If so, where did you hear about it. I’d love to know!

Oh and if you want to get an earful of how flexible the dulcimer can be, Bing Futch will be at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in October.

I think Bing has a few extra frets here… possible a 1+ and definately 6+ (that’s the one I have)