The Sky’s Gone Out

The Sky’s Gone Out

Insignificance and significance on the prairie. (Photo by Andy Agena.)

Grasses low and tall, particolored petals, and lush leaves bent to strong breezes. In the warmth of the summer morning, cottonwood canopies made their watery wind songs. Bright and muted greens and umbers were below and all around us; a saturated azure sky above with wisps and blots of white and pretty grays in the clouds. We’d come to a tallgrass prairie after the dawn of a lovely Monday, 21 August 2017, and we walked half a mile to a hilltop to spend a couple of carefree hours.

There was a joy in gathering. We were hundreds strong at our specific location, folks laying out blankets and dotting the landscape in picnicky clusters, with sodas, beer, and wine. At the same time across the United States there were millions gathering in a roughly 70-mile narrow swath, having left behind jobs and other cares of their individual and collective worlds to witness a solar, lunar, and earthly pageant.

We shared positive motivations to come together; in addition to wanting to see a fascinating and rare spectacle there was an unmistakable vibe that was both invigorating and comforting. The vibe is currently also fascinating and rare; it was an incorruptible feeling that something wonderful would occur, and that nothing controversial was at stake.

A glorious convergence of the spinning, hurtling earth with the majestic moon would give us steady glimpses of our movement as we float in space, and eventually the moon would obliterate all but a spectacular corona of our sun.

When the blockage was total, we heard and contributed to a strange and welcome new music, a music that was not conscious of itself. Organic, impulsive, sincere, and wondrous, it was the human and natural sound of music coming from simple exhalations, or murmuring words, (Oh my goodness!) or whooping in a cheer. There was music of confused animals swirling in the newly cooled and darkened air.

We made music for a couple of moments based upon a crazy shared feeling: together we were small, or huge, or at peace. Together we were awed and simply at ease. Some thought in that moment of loved ones, or of the future of their children, or of the future of the earth, or of the solar system.

It can be reported with certainty that one humbled witness thought of his fortunate life with his wife, of his dear friends and sisters, and he thought of his moon-loving, deceased mother.

Not only was the sun eclipsed from our view, but cynicism and worry were eclipsed, too. We were looking up. And we were looking at each other.

“Life is but a dream …. The sky’s gone out.”

The Sky’s Gone Out by Bauhaus.

Exquisite Corpse and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Bauhaus from The Sky’s Gone Out (1982 Beggars Banquet.)

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, the title track by Spiritualized (1997 Arista.)

Many thanks to my friend, Andy Agena, who captured the panoramic view presented above. There we were, with hundreds, millions of others, watching the sun set and rise again in the afternoon. The total eclipse at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, one of my favorite places on this tiny planet. A few inspiring moments, a treasured memory.

27 August 2017

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Dan is back

Okay, I’ve been gone for a while. Now I’m back. No excuses. As old Rob Henry used to say, “All excuses are lies.” Although I have been busy. Depending on how you define busy. Anyway, new day. Fresh start.
In contemplating this post, I tried to go back over all the books I’ve read in the last several months (reminder to self – keep a book journal, you won’t regret it.) One book jumped out at me. Like when you’re looking at a shelf full of books with a friend and you spot a title that lights up your eyes – “Oh, you have to read this one!” Well, this one is “Revolver” by Duane Swierczynski. You almost can’t go wrong with a Swierczynski book. I loved “The Blonde”, “Severance Package”, and “The Wheel Man.” He also has a great trilogy of pulps called the Charlie Hardy series.

“Revolver” is quite a departure from the outlandish, over-the-top style of many of Swierczynski’s other books. This one feels almost like a memoir. Highly realistic. It covers three generations of a family, all greatly impacted by a shooting that occurs in the mid-sixties. I am typically not a fan of generational books. Often, the story of one of those generations is less interesting than the others. Not so, in this case. As the book bounces back and forth in time, I was always happy to pick up the storyline, from each different character’s point of view.

Basic plot-line:
Two cops are murdered in Philadelphia in 1965. One cop has a 12-year-old son, Jimmy.
1995: Jimmy, now also a cop, is still tormented by his father’s death.
2015: Jimmy’s troubled daughter Audrey, a college student, investigates her grandfather’s murder.
This is a fun read, and a page-turner, but it also can be quite sad. Because it’s partially told in non-linear flashbacks, you know certain things are going to happen. But I found myself desperately hoping that the past would turn out differently. And I felt like I knew these people. All of them. And I very much cared about them.
Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
There. That wasn’t so hard. Now that I’ve re-broken the ice, I’m almost certain that I’ll be posting regularly. Stay tuned scramblers.

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More Sun-warmed Skin

Every season needs a soundtrack. Summer is a favorite, with its joyful hazy nights and its stupefying bright, hot days. Here are a couple of new things to check out that will help you fill in spots on your summer soundtrack.

Hundred Waters

— Good god, Hundred Waters makes beautiful songs — perfectly formed sweets for the mind and ears. The amazing vocals, the skill of the music, and the meticulous craftsmanship of production come together to distill a very particular energy. The song linked below is a good example from a group that constantly seeks to lift listeners up. The result is the fulfillment of a simple promise to wrap you in hyper-pleasant sound.

Blanket Me by Hundred Waters, from the forthcoming release Communicating (OWSLA Autumn 2017).

David Kenneth Nance is a fascinating artist on the other side of the spectrum. Nance is more interested in spraying energy than distilling it, and the result is consistently successful and always super-vibey. Check this one-minute promo from Nance’s label, Ba Da Bing Records, for his 2016 release More Than Enough. Bring on the glorious noise!

More Than Enough Promo Video

David Nance Band in Omaha (photo by Dan Crane).

The prolific spiritual brother of Ty Segall, Nance is also channeling Brian Jones, Lou Reed, and Anton Newcombe. There is a lot of music that you can track down on his bandcamp page: davidnance.bandcamp.

His songs are little meals, and as Nance cooks them up, they are mostly meat and spuds, (guitar/bass/drums rock and roll,) but the dishes are clearly coming out of the kitchen of an eager omnivore. The influences are too numerous to count, but that is part of the pleasure of listening to Nance. That, and the cat just plain goes for it. All the time. Check out a new one linkable below.

Negative Boogie is the title track from the new release by David Nance (2017 Ba Da Bing).

— Cool, dark basements in the summer are heavenly havens. The Montreal duo, She Devils conjure up the summery feel of both a suburban home’s basement on a blazing afternoon, and a basement nightclub on a warm night. Here are sultry songs formed with samples and voice that feature the groovy, early-60s French Yé-yé feel.

She Devils

Hey Boy by She Devils from She Devils (Secretly Canadian 2017).

Come by She Devils from She Devils EP (2016).

As fun as it is to find new music, sometimes you must go back and listen to older music. A sparkling example is the 2015 full-length release by Montreal band No Joy called More Faithful. The record fairly screams “SUMMER!” Its songs explore all the dazzling excitements of blistering summer days as well as the ravishing thrills of youthful summer nights.

No Joy construct sonic walls that feature muscular, rhythmic bricks held together with a sweet mortar of swirling fuzz. Jasamine White-Gluz takes care of the lyrics, and hers are often rich with straightforward adult desire. She treats sexuality like hunger and need, both nutritional and epicurean – there is the kind of healthy expectation that sex feeds, restores, and satisfies as readily, and as often, as a snack or a meal.

Hungry. NO JOY.

Hollywood Teeth packs a lot into 2 minutes, and has some wicked time signature shifts that will make your body buzz. There are also three more titles linkable below for you to enjoy. I never get tired of listening to this record.

Hollywood Teeth; Moon In My Mouth; Everything New; and Remember Nothing by No Joy from More Faithful (2015 Mexican Summer).

20 july 2017

(Parts of the No Joy section were adapted from an earlier post.)

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Bucking the Heat

Bucking the Heat

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. You’ve heard this one, right? It is a saying used so frequently that it can often be mistaken as white noise.

I get it, we run around too much and don’t take time to enjoy the present. We are too busy and would benefit in so many ways by slowing down. We need to relearn how to appreciate what is in front of us because longing for what we don’t have is the source of all misery. The sentiment of the saying is not lost on me. I appreciate the reminder here and there.

But you know what? Sometimes it is about the destination. Take for instance last Sunday…

We had our first heat wave of the summer last week and Portlanders sweated their way through three consecutive days of commanding heat. And on the third day, the meteorologists all warned, a record would likely be broken as they were confident Portland would exceed the 100 degree mark.

If you are a US citizen who lives in a place other than the Pacific Northwest, two days of 90 degree heat followed by a day of 100 degrees may be nothing but a sweet little summer bump in the road. But for those of us used to cloud cover and an annual average temperature of 64 degrees, that kind of weather is almost unforgivable. For example, air-conditioning is not a given, in any place. In fact, we don’t have an air-conditioned house but we are lucky in that our house is a good piece of 1940’s craftsmanship. The walls are solid and the windows are arranged so that the evening breezes move efficiently throughout the downstairs. And it helps that the nights often cool down into the low 50’s.

But when faced with back-to-back days of high temperatures the house inevitably gives up and lets the heat linger in corners and eventually allows the heat to make itself at home in every room. And so it was on that third day, early Sunday morning, I padded out from the bedroom into the dining room bleary-eyed to feed cats and took time to read the thermostat. It was 76 degrees indoors before 8AM.

I moved through the house drawing shades and blinds and closing all the open windows to trap the coolest air of the day. And then I went about the task of convincing Andy not to prep for the following day’s work schedule but to escape with me somewhere into the cool.

Buck Lake.

It’s a semi-secret lake. You can Google it and get directions, but you have to know about it first. And then you have to have the determination to follow the damn crazy directions to get there.

Pristine Buck Lake

I drove and Andy navigated, unraveling the following directions whilst looking for the poorly marked forest roads:  

Take 224 through Estacada and at approximately 20 miles turn onto Forest Road (FR) 57. From FR 57 drive approximately 7.5 miles to the junction of FR 58. Stay left. Then at the junction with FR 5810, turn right. Drive east until FR 210. From there it’s just another mile to the trailhead.

Only two of those Forest Roads were marked. We backtracked a few times. More than once we ended up on a road that was crowded with fallen trees and pocked by burst asphalt only to eventually spy a sign directing vehicles to turn around as the road was no longer maintained.

We muttered to one another when we had to turn around on a precarious road, this is how people get lost and die in the wilderness.

Hiking into Buck Lake.

Buck Lake Trail.

Length: 1 mile roundtrip.

Elevation change: 310 feet.

Location: At 4000 feet, somewhere around FR 210 in Clackamas County in Mt. Hood National Forest. Good Luck.

Yep after all that driving, you still must hike into the lake area. The trail is steep and rocky at the outset making it difficult to carry coolers and floaties. Plus you’ll be pretty pissed about the drive in and that won’t help your footing. So watch your footing because if you fall and break anything it may be difficult to make it safely to civilization with one driver and an incapacitated navigator.

And you know at 4000 feet you’d think it would be cooler than what it is.

The trail does become easier- not quite as steep, not quite as rocky -and the shade gets better as the trees get bigger. Yet even then the trail certainly feels much longer than ½ a mile so go ahead and send a kind-hearted husband ahead to assure you are on the right trail, because today probably has not been a lucky one for direct routes. It would surprise no one if you have started out on a wrong trail.

Be sure to thank the heavens (at whatever point on the more-than-likely-longer-than-a-half-mile-trail) for a good partner who also happens to be a capable scout and has an ability to cleverly frame uncertain messages so that they sound more positive than what they really are. “I see a clearing”, he may say all sweaty because he has run ahead fleet-of-foot and back again so you are not alone for long on the trail.

Because you are weak, you may jump at the positive tone of the message but think again about that sentence, “I see a clearing”. You know, it is not the same as “I see the lake”. Force clarity: “Does that mean there is a lake ahead?” Do not be surprised at an impish grin, he is good but he is also mischievous.

Andy on a tube….floating.

Sometimes the journey can suck, but the destination is well worth it. And as you paddle about in a perfectly clear spring-fed lake be sure to tell yourself, well this time it was all about the destination. (Even though now from this point in the storyline the journey can be re-framed as satisfyingly adventurous).

View of Buck Lake from our day camp where we read and relaxed and fed cookies to chipmunks.

Then go enjoy chocolate chip cookies, bbq Pringles, coke-a-colas, and the Sunday New York Times under a canopy of old growth trees. Wait out the final hours of the heat wave in the gentle embrace of the trees and an aqua lake with the one you love best.


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Intoxicating Spring



spring, swirling breeze-whipped blossoms,

color rioting

Intoxicating spring.

A walk on a windy spring day can make you feel like you’re half in the bag. You get tipsy on the beautiful twinkling sunlight and the plays of shadow dancing on leaves, on branches, on particolored blooms. Pollen motes form ghoulish specters, visibly shifting shapes in the air, and flower dust goes to your head to haunt you like a potent-proofed shot. Gusts move the tree limbs and with your eyes closed will make them sing in a staggering imitation of the rolling sea.

Like a walk on a spring day, listening to some of the best shoegaze music can make you feel half drunk, too. There is a mental modulation and you begin to hear and feel things a little differently. Electronically generated sounds undergo massive manipulation and distortion yet come to feel as if they are purely organic.

Weed, an outfit from Vancouver, Canada, will release their third LP later this month. They conjure the type of shoegaze magic that I mean with this brand new song:

Born Wrong Love by Weed.

Are We Cool by Weed from Born Wrong Love due 28 April 2017.

In the “old dog – new tricks” category, here is a song from a Chicago shoegaze band called Airiel. This group has been around for over a dozen years, but only recently revealed themselves to me through the Pandora service. What a treat to find something like this, falling on fresh ears after having been available for a long time.

Sharron Apple by Airiel from Winks and Kisses: Melted (2004 Clairecords).

Spread intoxicating loveliness.

Here is a fellow enjoying warm breezes in Mexico. It is a good guess that he is about half in the bag. Perhaps he is closing his eyes to pretend that he hears wind through the springtime trees while listening to the rolling sea.

26 April 2017

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