What’s in a Name??? More than I thought…

Grateful Blog: Day 82: I’ve know this for a while. My whole lifetime actually. My last name is ‘Weber’. I often joke to people when I tell them ‘It’s like the grill’ so they spell it with one ‘b’ instead of 2. The ironic part is that despite being named ‘Weber’ and owning 2 grills of the same name; I am without a doubt the world’s worst griller. You name it; I can burn it, split it, stick it and generally kill it beyond taste or recognition. It’s a gift of sorts. Usually when it’s time to barbeque all it takes is a few minutes of high heat and shouting ‘oh crap!’ that brings the ‘Real’ cooks at the party running to ‘help out’. You know, the guys who just HAVE to be the one grilling (it’s either a pride or power thing I’m not sure which). They say ‘Hey Dan, can I help you with that?’ I look sheepish and hand over the tongs and the reigns, and rejoin my drink, the party and my friends in progress, which is what I’d rather be doing anyways. I’m not saying that was my plan all along and I’m not saying it wasn’t…

It turns out, that the name ‘Weber’ really has no connection to the grill and so I’m relieved by that. It’s generally thought to be derived from the noun ‘Weaver’ which I feel more qualified to do, that is if we’re not talking about working with yarn and we’re talking about TELLING yarns. That I CAN do. It comes natural somehow. But I think that comes from the ‘Winterkorn’ side of my family (Mom’s side) and I’m not sure how that relates. The meaning of ‘Winterkorn’ is likely more obvious and I’m thoroughly charmed by how the names of my ancestors come from their agrarian beginnings: Back ‘in the old country’ as my Grandparents used to say.

The thing is the world keeps getting smaller by virtue of the speed of travel, social media and the sheer volume of information available at a few keystrokes with our fingertips. I found lots of famous Weber’s out there. I may be distantly related to a few. There’s also a famous Winterkorn or 2, even one who’s now the Chairman of the Board at Volkswagon. Who knew right? In any case I’ve got a website now, www.danwebermusic.com and this blog, so I keep putting myself into cyberspace and sometimes you just never know where the connection is going to be.

So just recently I was contacted by a guy in Montana, near Kalispell. His name? ‘DanWeber’. And he’s a musician. His great-great Grandparents fled Germanyto avoid being drafted into the Prussian army against Napoleon. My Grandparents fled Germanyto avoid Hitler. Dan had his DNA sequenced a ways back and we’re checking notes to see how far back we have to go before we find a common ancestor. But I think we already have plenty in common right here in the present.

Just yesterday Dan was telling me that he “once won 50 silver dollars and a kiss from Miss Yucca Valley for playing a song.” Miss Yucca Valley “brought the silver dollars out in her apron, but said under her breath, “I aint kissin’ no hippy!!” But she did anyway right there in front of everybody!” Dan went on to say that he’d also “kissed a bear once” (waking up and have the bear’s nose right in his face) and that “having kissed both, I can authoritatively recommend the bear as the more memorable ‘kiss’…”

So you see Dan’s a ‘Weber’ and obviously a weaver too and he’s got stories to tell. We should get together. Swap a few tunes and stories. I’d even break out the grill. Put on some bratwurst from the local German deli. Maybe roast some corn. If he’s a better man with a ‘Weber’ grill than I am so be it. I’d be happy to hand him the tongs in a heartbeat. Turns out I’m not a griller, I’m a Weaver…

Let the Mystery Be: The search for Amelia Earhart goes on…

Grateful Blog: Day 81: I read in the paper this morning that there’s a new expedition in the South Pacific looking for clues of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, which happened 75 years ago. I’m too young to have grown up with Amelia Earhart but her flight and subsequent disappearance are legendary. Somewhere on July 2nd 1937, after leaving New Guinea her plane, a Lockheed Electra 10E, disappeared and she was never heard from again.

I think I first learned of her watching old 1980’s episodes of the show ‘In Search Of’ where the host Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek’s ‘Spock’) would delve into topics such as the Bermuda Triangle, the Loch Ness Monster and Amelia Earhart. Later, when I used to attend bluegrass jams at Seattle’s New Melody Tavern in the early 90’s, occasionally someone would lead the group in a rousing version of a song dedicated to her. There’ve been many songs dedicated to her, from artists as diverse at Joni Mitchell to Kinky Friedman to Bachman Turner Overdrive. I once stayed in the ‘Amelia Earhart’ room in the La Posada Hotel inWinslow, Arizona. Amelia Earhart’s legend got around…

But nobody exactly knows what happened to her that morning while attempting to circumnavigate the globe with her only crew member Fred Noonan. One only need to look at her Wikipedia page to see it rife with theories, myths and urban legends of what may have happened flying over the vast South Pacific ocean. The most salient is that through a series of navigational errors, they missed the island they were attempting to land at, ran out of gas, and crashed at sea. And for 75 years, only Amelia and of course Fred Noonan, know what happened…

The new expedition used the phrase of ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ when explaining their chances of finding meaningful evidence but I honestly hope they don’t. In today’s technologically driven world it feels like we’re one step removed from a computer algorithm telling us that we’re not human or real at all, that we’re somehow less than the sum of our parts. I know that’s far-fetched but we’ve already broken down the world into it’s smallest atomic particles, mapped our DNA and explored the new frontiers of nanotechnology and the far reaches of the universe alike.

It’s not that I’m a Luddite or that some of those scientific findings might not be good in advancing the cause of the human race, it’s just that I’m a romantic at heart. I like to think that some mysteries should just remain exactly that. That maybe the legend of Amelia Earhart should live on, in songs and stories and in our imaginations, rather than in an inglorious ending finding an aluminum strut washed ashore on some remote South Pacific beach.

So let them search for Amelia’s needle in that vast blue haystack, let them search and search and search until they’ve exhausted their wits and their funds. And let them return home empty handed like so many have before. Let the mystery live for another 75 or 175 years before technology rules every square inch of our beautiful and endlessly complex planet.

This morning, in the absolute middle of 64 million square miles of the beautiful, vast and calm South Pacific, there is only the rhythmic sound of the waves, the sea birds that sail over it’s waters, and the low, throaty ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ of Amelia Earhart’s silver Electra, still looking for a place to land…

I’m Grateful that Amelia’s still out there, and that some mysteries may never be solved…

Hope Springs Eternal…

Grateful Blog: Day 80: Today is the First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! The First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring! First Day of Spring!…

And yet for some damn reason its freezing cold and raining sideways? Well, I’m Grateful anyways. Because Gratitude, like Hope, Springs Eternal…

The Last of Winter’s fires…

Grateful Blog: Day 79: It’s the last night of Winter but you wouldn’t know it. It’s been cold lately and even snowed yesterday. It didn’t last but still, it’s pretty weird for around here. Just three months ago I spent the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, sleeping on 19 acres I’m borrowing from God for a while up the Columbia River George in a place called ‘Klickitat’. TheYakimatribe used to ‘own’ it, not all that long ago. Me I just go up there, throw down my sleeping bag on the ground and watch the stars come out. When it gets cold I make a big fire, drink a little whiskey and maybe play a few songs that feel right under the bright, clear Milky Way.

But that was 3 months ago and even though this Winter felt short and maybe just a little bit sweet, it’s been hanging on of late; Throwing us a curve. Tonight when I came home I took out the trash and noticed the temperature, like the level of oil in the tank for the furnace, had dropped precipitously again. Winter just doesn’t apparently know it’s supposed to politely exit stage left, or at least take one last bow and be gone.

In any case I put the trash can on the curb and walking back up the driveway remembered that I might still have a little wood left. I get a fair amount of it up in Klickitat:Oregonwhite oak mostly, some maple and some ponderosa pine. The dry climate up there is so different from the moisture we get here but that oak burns as long as the pine burns fast. Sometimes in the mornings when we’ve been ready to leave for work, we’ve noticed that last night’s oak log is still in the fireplace, still smoldering. It makes you wonder ‘should I really leave the house?’ or just re-stoke the fire and call in ‘well’.

Tonight when I checked the garage I found there were just a few buckets’ left. There was enough for a fire tonight. That oak that had been storing summer’s heat in its tight rings, would finally release some of that heat, at just the right time. Enough to keep away the chill of the last night of Winter, and enough to remind us that Summer, with all it’s beautiful, sublime and sensual heat, is coming once again. You have no idea how Grateful I am for that…

A Phone Call, A Diamond Ring and an Old Friend…

Grateful Blog: Day 78: Last night was typical Saturday night. I didn’t have a show to play but I did have at least 4 friends that had gigs. I meant to go to one or possibly 2. But then you know how that saying goes ‘Life happens when you’re making plans.’ An old friend called. I think we’ve known each other 16 going on 17 years now. When we met I was getting ready to ask my girlfriend to marry me. I made the tour of jewelry stores, big and small, downtown and in malls. And yeah, I even went to the Shane Company because I thought I ‘had a friend in the diamond business’ (I didn’t). I asked questions but mostly I think they see you coming like used car salesmen see you coming. My friend was working for a time at one of the other mall stores. What I remember most when he sold me my ring was he said ‘Look, it’s going to be beautiful. She will absolutely love it and she will say ‘Yes’. But if in some strange case she doesn’t, bring it back, no worries”. I have no idea if he could actually back up that boast but I was sold. Frankly, he’s about the best salesman I’ve ever known.

So I bought that ring from him and my girlfriend Diane said ‘yes’. The rest as they say is history. Except when I bought the ring from the guy I said ‘Well, if I’m going to spend that much on a ring, the least you can do is buy me lunch!’ It seemed like it took him back at first. Buy you lunch? But then he said ‘I’ll do one better, once your girlfriend says ‘yes’, call me, and then you can both come over for dinner’. So we did. Weird right? Perfect strangers. The salesman who sold me the ring. Perfect strangers until our wives met and we looked at each other and said ‘Uh, I think we’re friends now’.

So that was 16 years ago. We’ve seen each other’s lives change immeasurably since then. There have been some real triumphs like the birth of his son and some real low points, personal and financial where both of us despaired for the future. So when he called last night and said ‘I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but today’s the 11th anniversary of my brother’s death. Come over for dinner. I’m making soup’ (he’s the world’s BEST cook btw) I put off going out to spend the night seeing friends play music to re-connect with some old friends who I treasure dearly. The company couldn’t be better. We shared laughs and some of the same old stories we always tell and we talked about the future like it would always be there. The meal was this amazing homemade lentil soup; Desert was that morning’s leftover Voodoo Doughnuts. In a word it was perfect.

I had brought him a copy of my new CD ‘Ash and Bone’. He hadn’t heard it yet and he opened it, said we had to listen to it right then and there—loud(!), and to be honest it sounded better than I remembered it. He took out the booklet and asked me to sign it. For about 10 minutes I just stared at it because I had no idea what to write on it. There’s not enough room in a 5 inch square to say what needed to be said. As we drank wine and caught up I kept looking back down at that cover and wondered what I could say that would cover 16 plus years of friendship. Finally, standing there next to my lovely wife of 15 years I wrote the one thing that maybe scratched the surface of those years just a little bit: ‘I’m so glad you sold me that ring’.

I can’t tell you how Grateful I am that he did…

Swing and Country: ‘Good Old-Time Country Music’

Grateful Blog: Day 77: This morning was one of moments as a musician you always dream about. I got asked to play on one of my all-time favorite radio shows, ‘Swing and Country’ on 90.7FM in Portland,OR. You know, a half a dozen years ago when I started writing songs in earnest I never allowed myself the thought that I’d get to do that someday. But I’d listen to the show every week, getting up sleepy eyed at 6am and record it on my old cassette deck to be able to listen to it later when I got up. Then I’d make mix tapes of my favorite songs and compiled some 60 hours of classic shows from over a decade. I was always careful to keep some of the DJ’s on there too, to preserve the feel of the show. There was just something about hearing those familiar voices in the morning that felt like old friends. I’m no the first to feel that way about a DJ nor the last, but I memorized their voices and the songs they played.

So it was such a joy to go down to KBOO this morning and play on ‘Swing and Country’. A double treat that we had an enthusiastic live studio audience that sang along with my songs as well as country classic’s like Roger Miller’s ‘King of Road’, Hank Williams Sr.’s ‘Ramblin Man’ and Buck Owens ‘Act Naturally’. Everything about the show felt right. But maybe the best part for me was getting to meet the DJ’s. Most of the guys I listened to in the old days are gone now, but the guys and gals holding down the fort now, Wayne and Kathy Johnson, Henry Weeks and Moggy, Don McLaren and his son Mike are carrying the torch in fine fashion, blazing their own trails though the finest of what former DJ ‘Uncle Sam’ used to call ‘Good Old-Time Country Music.’

So I was Grateful today to have that experience. To soak up the ambiance of the station, to play in front of stacks upon stacks of records (Yeah, records!). But I was even more Grateful to be able in a small way to give a little something back in the way of music, to the show that’s given me so much joy. It was on ‘Swing and Country’ that another past DJ ‘Uncle B.’ pushed the bounds of ‘Country’ a bit and introduced me to both Tom Russell and Dave Carter. Hearing their songs on my cassette tape that morning (which I still have), inspired me as a songwriter in more ways than I can describe. And meeting them both, after shows and on trains changed my life. I can’t tell you exactly how, but the seeds of my life transforming in some ways were right there, on those cassette tapes. Believe it. It’s true.

So I’m so Grateful that Wayne and Kathy invited me to do the show, I’m Grateful I didn’t gush too much on the air (God knows I tried), and I’m Grateful for the folks that came and stopped afterwards to buy a CD, chat and tell me how much they liked one song or another. You know, that is the singular best part of being a songwriter, connecting with you audience in some meaningful, personal way. It beats everything else hands down, because that ‘Connection’ is why we do this. Or at least it’s why I play music. That connection is so important. And I was Grateful for just one Saturday morning, on ‘Swing and Country’, that I was able to tell the people I only knew as voices, how much’s that’s meant to me, all these years and 6am Saturday’s ago…

Or as the King of Country Music, Bob Wills would say ‘Awwww Haw!’ Indeed Bob, indeed…

P.S.: You can hear ‘Swing and Country’ every Saturday morning from 6am to 9am PST on 90.7FM in Portland (in Corvallis 100.7FM and HoodRiver 91.9FM) and streaming on www.KBOO.fm

P.P.S.: And if You’re not a ‘Member’ yet of this great local, community, non-profit station, give it some serious consideration like I did roughly 10 years ago. I think find that being a member is about a lot more than writing a check, it’s about being part of a community…

Waiting for the Echo…

Grateful Blog: Day 76: The unexpected happens when you’re least expecting it. Last night just about midnight I was standing in a friend’s driveway, tired, getting wet, and getting cold. We were talking about a friend who’s been going through a rough patch. A REAL rough patch. The kind you often never get through except to maybe the other side. It’s such a helpless feeling. To know what is likely, what is unlikely and what is most likely inevitable. It’s not a rock and hard place; it’s just a hard all over.

So my friend says ‘Hey, any chance you could sign a CD and I could pass it along. It’d mean a lot.” I thought to myself, in the big scheme of things I can’t imagine how it could, but maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the ‘point’ already happened when 2 friends stood out in the rain and commiserated how ‘F’-ing unfair life can be sometimes and how blindsided we can be by the way it unfolds.

Although I’ve not been a ‘musician’ for long, my music’s meant a lot to me and I often hope it means a fraction of that to someone else who chances to listen. So I signed the CD. Did the best I could with what few words one could say at the time like that and in a 4 ½ inch square. It felt equal measures resignation and hope and wondered like if the gesture would ever be enough, like throwing your voice into the dark canyon void and waiting for the echo.

I don’t know. I know less now than I did last night. I’m still waiting for that echo. But I DO know this: Being a musician has taught me more about being a human being, than being a human being has taught me about being a musician. It’s taught me to be patient, humble, and to treasure the moments. I’m truly Grateful for that. I’ll stand in the rain with a friend or for a friend for hours any time, any place and be Grateful for the moment…

Peace my friend…

‘What if Today we were Grateful for Everything?’

Grateful Blog: Day 75: Today was one of those days. I was Grateful for everything. You know: I woke up. (Amen!) There was coffee in the house. (Yes!) There was hot water too—and heat. (Sweet!) And I still have hair, and my jeans fit. (Nice!) And my wife loves me—a lot. (Yea!!!) And I had a job to go do, which pays me actual money. (Phew…) Then I had practice with my great guitar playerJerry Towelland we rocked it out a bit. (Righteous!)  We talked for awhile, the way a couple guys do, about nothin’ and everything. (Yeah…)

Then I came home, to my favorite cat of all-time, Zeke (Prrrrrr…) and my wife Diane, who still loves me a lot, even if it’s harder to fit into my jeans and I have less hair than I used to and I spend Thursday night practicing and rocking out a bit. She knows that tomorrow we’ll both be Grateful that we woke up, were able to get out of bed, fit into our jeans and have jobs to go to. Mostly she’ll be Grateful that our cat Zeke worships the ground she walks on, that I still love her—a lot, and that I’ll come down stairs early tomorrow morning and make sure the coffee will be ready when she get’s up to start her day. Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell.

So ‘What if Today we were Grateful for Everything?’

Indeed, I am.

A Subscription, Rodney, a Civic and a Swowobile…

Grateful Blog: Day 74: I got my annual ‘SnoWest’ snowmobiling magazine today. It comes delivered to my house exactly once a year after most of the snow has fallen and is on its way out around here. I’ve been getting it now for 15 years. I get to peruse the latest and greatest and most powerful models from Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat, Polaris and Yamaha. Most of ‘em have more power and bigger engines than my 1980 Honda Civic station wagon did (although few would survive a barbed wire fence at 80 miles per hour like my Honda did).

I went snowmobiling a number of times in college. It was a blast. It was even more fun when you’d been drinking. And then it was not only fun but it was stupid and dangerous as hell. You’d lay on the throttle and suddenly your whole body would slide backwards, damn near off the seat (which would’ve hurt). The only thing still keeping you held on was a death grip on the handlebars, which were squeezed tight around the throttle. The ‘Catch-22’ lasted until you could scoot back up and regain your position—and composure on the seat. Once a guy I was snowmobiling with hit a tree. Not going all that fast, but he still hit a tree. Wrecked it pretty good. I think we were smart enough to be wearing helmets…I think…

Somewhere along the line I developed a healthy respect for those powerful machines and decided it wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t my thing like motorcycles and firearms. And redheads. No offense ladies but I know beautiful trouble when I see it. But I still get ‘SnoWest’ magazine without fail, every year. I don’t pay for it. In fact, it’s addressed to someone named Rodney G. U’ren who used to live here before I bought the place in 1997. I have no idea why they keep sending it. Is it a lifetime membership? Just totally free to every household inAmerica(do YOU get one too?). And what else was Rodney G. U’ren (if that’s even your REAL name Rodney) in to??? The mind reels and my spine shudders…

The thing is Rodney’s been doing me a favor, once a year, every year for 15 years. When I get the magazine I actually read through it. It’s filled with that certain bravado and machismo that almost all guys get when they’re about to do something exciting (Read: borderline crazy) and downright dangerous. It’s that “Hey guys! Watch THIS!” moment. That magazine reminds me that yeah, once I did dig riding snowmobiles at outrageous speeds. It reminds me that I use to like redheads maybe a little too much and I used to climb rock formations with no clear plan how to get down. And I once crashed a perfectly good Honda Civic station wagon in Spanish Fork Canyon, Provo County Utah into a perfectly good (until I got there) barb wire fence going 80 miles an hour. I have the arrest record to prove it…

All I’ve got to say today is that I’m Grateful for having survived those reckless and maybe somehow necessary transgressions of my youth. And I’m Grateful for Rodney, wherever he is, for somehow setting me up with an annual subscription that reminds me that I need to slow down, take a deep breath, and take my hand off the throttle for a bit…

P.S.: I just looked up Rodney on Facebook…and sent him a friend request…stay tuned!