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Duluth

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

This past summer, I helped run a singer-songwriter contest at work. This was one of the entries.

Is that guy Minnesota or what?

Gabriel Douglas wound up being one of the winners of the contest, and I met him in San Diego when he opened for Gregory Alan Isakov. His personality is bigger than life (as is his beard); he’s like a caricature of himself. He’s out of control. And since he makes me laugh A LOT, we became fast friends.

When we met, one of the first things he said to me was, “Duluth is the greatest city in the world.” Duluth. Duluth, Minnesota. The song above is about Duluth, Minnesota. And geographical chauvinist that I am, I knew that this could not possibly be true – Gabe Douglas must be very sheltered. Minnesotans must never get out.

Those humble Midwesterners – they’re so precious.

But when a work trip took me to Minneapolis last week, I decided to make the jaunt north on Friday night to hear one of Gabe’s bands play in – you guessed it – Duluth.

And I loved it.

Duluth is nestled on the shore of Lake Superior, built right up on a hillside. When I-35 dropped down toward the city, the lights were sparkling on the water and the stars were bright as flashbulbs. I used all of my hotel points for a room on the waterfront, and then walked up the hill to the little downtown strip.

We spent most of the evening at Tycoons, a bar/restaurant that used to be the City Hall, with a speakeasy in the basement that used to be the town jail, all “Not in Nottingham” style. Since Gabe was my only friend and he was busy being the Most Popular Man in Duluth, I made friends with the locals. By the time the show was over, I’d social butterflied my way around town, crashing into bed at 3am because Duluth makes you wild and crazy.

The next morning involved a stroll along the water, coffee at a bakery called Amazing Grace, and – once again – the confirmation that my assumptions aren’t always right. Of all places, I can’t wait to go back to Duluth, Minnesota. It charmed me.

[And speaking of charming, listen to this song Gabe wrote for his niece on her 3rd birthday. It's magic. You’ll be happy the rest of the day.]

Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.

The best kind of busy

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I don’t write a ton about my day-to-day goings on at work, but trust me when I say they are many, and they are crazy. My to-do list never ends, and my schedule never stops. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but still: I am busy all the time.

Luckily, I like a lot of my projects, and none more so than THIS.

LARABAR Simple Singer-Songwriter Contest

[It’s okay, I’ll wait. Check out the link and then come back.]

Okay. Is this right in my wheelhouse or what?

First of all, if you don’t know who Gregory Alan Isakov is, you need to change that right now. He’s an amazing talent, and a great guy, to boot. He has a new record out called “The Weatherman,” and it’s all I see people talking about in my Facebook newsfeed this week. It’s really, really good – and I’m lucky enough to be joining him for 3 tour dates in August when the LÄRABAR contest winners perform during his shows.

Do you want in on this? Here are a few ways you can be involved:

1)      If you’re a singer-songwriter (and I know a lot of you are!), enter the contest. We want to hear your songs – and if you win, you’ll be hanging out with me in California next month (the real prize, let’s be honest).

2)      If you’re not a singer-songwriter, pass the contest along to anyone you know who is.

3)      If you live in California, get tickets to GAI’s San Diego, Santa Barbara, or San Francisco show – and let me know you’ll be there, because I’d like to hug you. I’ll probably be at the Los Angeles show, too.

4)      If you live anywhere else in the US or Canada, go see GAI. He’s touring all over this summer, and you’ll love him.

I’m busy. But this project is the best kind of busy. In the midst of the stress and the chaos, I feel really lucky to have the chance to work on something fun, something that makes me happy.

Top 10 reasons I haven’t been blogging

Monday, June 10th, 2013

10) TECHNOLOGY
I don’t own a computer – not one that works, anyway. My Macbook is from the year Two Thousand and Six, back when dinosaurs roamed the Internet. It barely turns on. Work has provided me with the privilege (?) of a PC laptop that blows hot air like [insert politician of choice], and when it’s 95 degrees outside and the house I just bought doesn’t have air conditioning, said laptop is the last thing I want to cozy up with. Besides, the wi-fi that I share with two (count ‘em) neighbors is spotty at best. Plus – PLUS – my digital camera is broken, so I can’t even make you a video of the Shotgun. All of these things make me want to pull out my newly dyed hair – which, sidenote, has now grown out to the awkward in-between phase. Great.

9) JUICING
I saw “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” okay? And yes, now I’m doing the trendy thing and spending ungodly amounts of money on produce just to distill it into vegetable sewage. The process of juicing is time consuming and the cleanup is a beast, but I’m hoping that switching out a meal or two a day will help me feel like my old self, back when a mere breakup was the hardest thing I’d experienced, before the years of hard living got me down. (But seriously, if anyone knows a fruit/veggie combination that won’t leave me tasting liquid spinach with a celery splash, please let me know.)

8) HOMEOWNERSHIP
Last Friday, I came home from work with big plans of reading a book, relaxing, maybe drinking an end-of-week cocktail. What did I do instead? I set up my newly purchased ladder and, rake in one hand, iPhone in my teeth, climbed onto the roof. I spent nearly an hour filling three turbo-sized garbage bags with leaves, sticks, twigs, dirt, and the remains of a few unfortunate critters. When I’m not spending time on my roof, I’m taking things to the cellar (we can’t even call this hole a basement – the entrance is a HATCH in the backyard). And when I’m not taking things to the cellar, I’m painting my bathroom or running loads of laundry or paying bills or trying to decide if buying a house was a good decision (it was).

7) CROSSFIT
Let’s not lie, I’ve only gone three times. I’m supposed to be there right now. Whoops.

6) NIGHTMARES
Maybe it’s the aloneness. Maybe it’s the book I’m reading. Maybe it’s watching Toad get more fragile. Maybe it’s reading about deaths on the mountains I’m planning on climbing this summer. Maybe it’s just turning on the news, hearing about massacres and beheadings and building collapses and freak accidents. Whatever it is, I’m not sleeping through the night these days.

5) MUSIC
But don’t go feeling sorry for me – I’ve had some great music to keep my toes tapping and my heart humming. Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy” makes me happier than everything. The Band Perry’s sophomore album “Pioneer” is solid – they’ve won me over, despite their hair. One of my favorite writers, Gretchen Peters, came to Swallow Hill a few weeks ago, and I took my mom; sharing the music I love with the people I love is one of my favorite things. I saw David Ramirez at the Soiled Dove last week, and his new EP “The Rooster” is songwriting at its best.

Also, joining a group guitar class 16 weeks ago was the greatest, most life-giving decision. I love the new friends I’m getting to know, and it’s good to have a reason to practice.

4) DATING
Sike. Haha, sucker.

3) SOCIAL MEDIA
If being online wasn’t such a big part of my job, I’d scrap it all. Social media is a major source of envy for me, since it’s easy to read other people’s happy posts and assume that everyone’s life is perfect except mine. We’re bombarded with a steady stream of highlights and never the low points – which makes sense. I don’t particularly want to share my Ugly Cry face, or the moment in which I say the very most hurtful thing – why would anyone else? So we continue to revise our wording, and crop our photos so no one sees the mess, and pretend that everything’s okay when it most decidedly is not.

2) DREAMING
Someday, I’m going to hike the Colorado Trail, record another album, live out of my car, write a book, fly first class, spend quality time with my nephews, hold every one of my friends’ babies, sit still, speak the truth, drive all the way to Alaska, cook a turkey, take an art class, stop guarding my heart and start using it, do something drastic, trust, read so many books, finish climbing the 14ers, stay at a bed & breakfast, and sing to old people in a nursing home.

1) NO GOOD REASON
I miss you. Maybe that sounds weird, since to you I might just be words on a screen – but you (yeah, you) are more than that to me. You are an important part of my community and my life. My posts may be sporadic these days; I suppose that’s the season I’m in. But I skipped doing anything “important” tonight just to write, because that’s what felt important and significant and as necessary as breathing. This space matters to me, and you matter to me, and it feels good just to say hi.

Kris Orlowski / The Last Bison

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

My introversion has taken a beating lately. I’ve been running from one thing to the next, constantly surrounded by people, without any down time – and you introverts know how we need our down time.

But each person I’ve been around has been 100% worth it, and none more so than the 5 guys we had staying at our house for 3 nights this week. My dear friend Mark Isakson plays guitar(s) with singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, and the band was in Colorado for a few shows. We piled them in every corner of our house, had a couple of late (way fun) nights, and on Monday, saw them open for the Last Bison.

The Last Bison are completely mesmerizing. Billed as “mountain-top chamber music,” these kids create an organized sonic pandemonium, all while dressed like Little House on the Prairie (girls in floor-length calico gowns, guys in brocade vests). They are insane and entertaining and completely worth experiencing.

And Kris’s songs – oh my word. As we left the show, Hannah said, “No one would not like that music.” And it’s true – his voice is gorgeous, his melodies surprising, and the musicianship top notch. In the spirit of Hannah’s comment, I dare you to not like his songs.

The guys are touring with the Last Bison for a few weeks, and if they’re coming through your city, you must go. You MUST. Tell them I sent you and get a free hug*.

March 21 (tonight!) :: Treefort Music Fest – Boise, ID
March 22 :: College of Idaho – Caldwell, ID
March 24, 2013 :: Media Club – Vancouver, BC
March 26 :: Doug Fir – Portland, OR
March 29 :: Rickshaw – San Francisco, CA
March 30 :: The Mint – Los Angeles, CA
April 2 :: The Loft – San Diego, CA

*Not a promise, but… well, no, I bet I could promise it.

“O Holy Night”

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Here is my friend Charlie Hardin Murphey of Commitment Bells singing “O Holy Night” better than anyone ever.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

- – - – -

Don’t forget to enter the Stuck giveaway – a winner will be chosen on Friday.

Joy to the World Wide Web

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Thanks to our office Christmas lunch yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to spring out of work early and take myself on my standard 9-mile walk.

Wearing my new Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (which is the perfect weight and warmth for winter in Denver), I booked it from Sunnyside down through LoHi, across the Highlands to Sloan’s Lake. I looped the lake just in time to look back and see this sunset.

Given that the only daylight I see anymore is on my drive to work in the morning, witnessing this was a rare gift.

As I turned toward home and the light faded from the sky, I had the thought that an amazing(ly horrible) holiday album would be “Jolly Old St. Nickelback.” And as is the case with ALL of my genius ideas (trust me, there are plenty), I posted that very thought on Facebook this morning.

Little did I know that my friends would take it to a whole new level.

With a little help from my friends, I present to you:

Holiday Albums That Should (Never) Happen
What Destiny’s Child Is This?
We Three Kings of Leon
Mary J. Blige, Did You Know?
Santa Babyface
O Come All Ye Faith Hill
The Friendly Beastie Boys
The First No-LMFAO
It Came Upon a Midnight Everclear
Deck the Hall and Oats
Little Drummer Boyz II Men
O Come O Come EmmanuElton John

Joy to the World Wide Web, y’all. And joy to your Wednesday.

Things you are dying to know

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

1)      I’m back from New York.  “Newsies” was the definite, absolute highlight of the weekend.  I smiled basically the entire time – that is, when I wasn’t tearing up (and then just letting the tears spill over) during “Santa Fe.”  If it’s even possible, I think I’m getting MORE EMOTIONAL with time.  Suitors to the left.

2)      In addition to getting good, quality time with my pal Val, a twist of serendipity brought Nashville Miranda to the city on the same weekend – something we didn’t put together until we were already there.  So fun to get some unexpected time with her and her awesome boyfriend, Brandon.

3)       Speaking of Miranda and Brandon, I like to think of them collectively as “Mirbranda.”  I’m waiting for it to catch on.  So far, I might be the only one who thinks this is a good idea.

4)      To complete my month o’ travel, I’m heading to Nashville this weekend.  Out of all of the trips I take, ones to Nashville are my favorite.

5)      Did anyone catch the Broncos game last night?  I did, because I’m so sporty.  GREAT GAME.

6)      I bought a 2013 calendar, and already have things to write in it.  Things like…

7)      BECCA’S WEDDING.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re gon’ have a weddin’.  Michael Murphy is joining our family in January, and we couldn’t love him more.

A sense of home

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years.  Fifty-seven.

She spent the entirety of her marriage there.  She raised her children there, from infancy to adulthood.  Her kids, her grandkids, and her great-grandkids have eaten in that same kitchen, swam in that same pool, and sat on that same front porch.  She has attended the same church, shopped at the same grocery stores, seen the same neighborly faces, and driven the same streets for a lifetime.

I recently sat down and made a list of how many times I have moved.  In the 12 years since I left my hometown of Montrose, Colorado, I have moved 18 times.  The longest I have lived in any one place is 2 years (a studio apartment in Seattle); almost all of my tenures have been less than a year.  A total of 13 scattered months have been spent with no address at all, squatting with friends or family for short fragments of time, all of my possessions boxed up in basements, garages, or storage units.  I am on my fourth set of friends, with countless other relationships far-flung around the world like a constellation.

Perhaps this is the norm for my generation, but at this point, the concept of home barely rings a bell.  I don’t know where my home is.  But I know that I crave it with every ounce of my being.

Last night, I went to Red Rocks for the first time ever, and heard James Taylor play “Carolina in My Mind.”  Before he began, he told the audience that he wrote the song in 1968 in London.  There he was, recording overseas, with the accolades and attention of some of his heroes (two of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, are actually featured on the track); by all worldly standards, he had reached “success.”  But even with his accomplishments, he explained, he had been so homesick – and that prompted him to write and record this song that so many of us now know and love.

Old or young, famous or not famous, home calls to all of us.

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years – but we know that her time here on earth is winding down.  Even for one with a very strong sense of home, she can’t stay.  What an ache.

But I believe that our true Home is more than just a spot on a map.  It’s more than geography and more than circumstance and more than time.  It’s where my grandma is headed, and it’s what James Taylor sings about, and it’s what my own heart longs for.  It’s absolute familiarity and comfort and permanence, a lack of insecurity and an abundance of joy – and it’s closer than we think.

In the meantime, while I’m in this life on earth, I am thankful for little reminders of Home: a cup of coffee in whatever house I wake up in, a flawed but precious lineage, and the songs of James Taylor.

What I’m loving

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Everybody loves things. These are the things that I’m loving right now.

To kick us off to a boring start, I’ll tell you that I love a water bottle. But listen, this isn’t just ANY water bottle – it’s the Nathan Quickdraw Plus. It has a hand strap so I can take it on my 9-mile walks, and a pouch big enough for an iPhone and a set of keys. In short, it’s a life-saver – probably literally, since without water, I would surely die.

A few weeks ago, we cracked open a bottle of Isabela Malbec, and it ushered the kingdom of heaven right there into our living room. If you see this wine out in the wild, buy it. Spend the $12.99 and feel like a champion. I found it at Fairfax Wine & Spirits on Colfax (attached to Marczyk Fine Foods).

Last weekend, I bought the “Embroidered Eyelet Blouse” (its given, Christian name) at Anthropologie on sale for $39.99, and good grief, I love this shirt.

The Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” is my current favorite song. The first time I heard it on the radio, I cranked it loud – because even if I had never heard it before, the song just feels so good. Then I listened to the words, and felt my heart grow three sizes bigger. The video is a little cheesy, but sorry, that’s country music for you. At least they have a scene where they’re rocking in an alley with sparks flying behind them – a personal dream of mine (can someone arrange this?).

And while we’re on the subject of country music, Jason Aldean‘s “Fly Over States” is killer. Never have I so badly wanted to be blue collar. We all know that in a parallel universe, I’m a truck driver.

And finally, anyone who makes me laugh – you are my favorite.