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 Car, A Girl and A Business Card…

Grateful Blog: Day 73: I found an old business card of mine today. It was funny. It had my name on it, right there in royal blue. ‘DanWeber’. And it had the company I worked for ‘Favorite Nurses’ and their address and phone #. The works. Pretty standard deal. My first thought was ‘Welcome to 1996’. However, I instantly remembered that guy who it belonged to. The car he drove, the job he had, the girl he was in love with and thought he gonna marry someday.

And then I thought ‘I HATED that job’ and was so Grateful that one day my awesome boss Judy said ‘My boyfriend needs someone to be his Real Estate Appraiser apprentice, know anyone?’ And being the smartass I am, I said ‘Yeah, me!’ She shot that idea down instantly. So did I. I’d be taking a huge cut in pay and she’d have to hire someone new. Nope, that wasn’t a very good idea for either of us. Then 5 hours later, while at home, she called and said ‘I know I’m going to regret this, but why don’t you come over and meet my boyfriend.’ I went right over. It was Friday afternoon We talked. About anything and everything. We actually each had a couple of coldCorona’s. That was the interview.

I got the job, with its cut in pay and I never looked back. I really dig my job now. Have for a long time. And I’ve not missed that old job a single day, not one. Finding that old business card reminded me how Grateful I was for fate intervening on my behalf. But the truth is I actually DO miss that old car I had, a 1977 Buick Skylark, the one I drove everyday to that job I hated, when I was in love with a girl that I thought I was gonna marry someday. Turns out it’s the same car I drove to my new job, and it’s the one I drove away from the church dragging tin cans and a sign that said ‘Just Married’ on the back. You know, I wish I’d have kept the car and thrown that business card away…

Springtime: A Blanket and a Fire.

Grateful Blog: Day 71: When I was 19 I bought a ‘Mexican’ style blanket in a parking lot inHampton,Virginia. Springtime inVirginiaand the night’s get cold. We were on a 6 day run of Grateful Dead shows coinciding with a non-existent Spring Break that we skipped out of classes for anyways. Warm days on the beach. Dancing in the Coliseum aisles at night. Then many hours reveling in the Bacchanalian parking lot festival that was a Grateful Dead show. Sometimes it was better than the show itself. And sometimes it’s bloody cold inVirginiain springtime. I bought the cheap blanket for $10 if I recall.

4 years later I was living in Seattle,WA. The other side of the country. Dragged that blanket with me. In fact all I brought with me was an interview suit, a handful of Grateful Dead bootleg cassette tapes and that blanket. Don’t know why. Maybe good memories. One night I went to sleep while I was writing poetry and stories in bed. Hmmm…turns out I’ve been doing that for longer than I’d imagined. Writing by candlelight and keeping myself warm on a secondhand mattress underneath that cheap blanket.

Somewhere in the night I woke up. On fire.Me.The sheets. The bed. I’d fallen asleep. The candle had burned down. Flipped over I guess. I woke up, parts of me dangerously singed and the bed in full tilt blaze. I’m not sure exactly what transpired next but what I recall best was leaping out of bed, grabbing that blanket and smothering the flames, on me and the bed. Put the whole thing out, smoke alarm still blazing. Smelled like hell. My roommate was asleep on the couch in the living room but he kept saying out load: ‘Dan, I don’t know how many times I’ve told you to cook the burgers slow instead of cooking them fast and burning them’. He never woke up. Bizarre…

Earlier tonight I was sitting in one of my favorite chairs, and oldMissionstyle rocker in the den, just relaxing for a few minutes before Sunday was no more. There’s a lot of windows in the den and I got a chill sitting there. I reached back and pulled a blanket off the back of the rocker and it was that cheap, worn, stained and yeah, singed Mexican blanket that’s kept me warm on more than one occasion and helped saved my life on another. I’m Grateful for that and for one of life’s little reminders that sometimes it gets cold in springtime…

Giant Steps: Jazz. DJ’s and Radio in the Desert…

Grateful Blog: Day 70: When I was a Park Ranger in Canyonlands National Park, almost 20 years ago, I had scheduled duty of 9 days on and 5 days off. I stayed mostly in this little ‘Sheepherder’ trailer high above this place called ‘Horseshoe Canyon’. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘128 Hours’ you’ve seenHorseshoe Canyon. It’s Amazing to say the least. That little gypsy trailer didn’t lack for much. It was pretty well equipped with a wood cook stove, propane lights and a little AM/FM car radio that ran on a little solar panel mounted on the back. We had a ‘solar’ shower too—yeah the old hang the black bag in the sun all day variety.

Well this wasUtah, and it was 168 miles from the nearest ‘real’ grocery store inMoab,Utah. It was 46 miles of dirt and sand and rock road to get to the highway. It was 68 miles to get the mail. So there wasn’t much for towns around and there wasn’t much for radio. About 5 varieties of 90’s era country stations and one NPR/all jazz station. I listened to a fair amount of country, some NPR and a bit of jazz too but mostly it never struck me. I think something about that vast desert and jazz seemed incompatible. You could probably make a case for classical music and the ‘western’ variety of country but jazz found profoundly out of place. Until one night, that is, when I was back in the trailer listening.

The DJ that night got to spinning old jazz records. CD’s were here to stay by then but he still liked to spin the real thing even though it was more work. That one night he played John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’. The song’s less than 5 minutes, short by some jazz comparisons, but I remember the singular beauty in which Coltrane descended and ascended the scales with such precision, fluidity and beauty. It was the very first moment that I felt like ‘Oh, now I GET jazz’. I was riveted, just stopped in my tracks hearing it. When the song ended the DJ lifted the needle off the record and came back on the air. He audibly sighed and then said in deep-voiced manner of all classic DJ’s, ‘That was THE John Coltrane and that was Giant Steps. Wow, wasn’t that great? You know, I dug that so much I think we should it again? What do YOU think? Yeah, alright. Well then let’s hear it again. Here it is. Mr. John Coltrane and Giant Steps.’

And then he played it AGAIN! You could hear the needle drop, the crackle, and the opening salvo and the intoxicating ride started over again. It was like going back to your Senior Prom and getting to do it RIGHT the second time. I don’t know how he knew, but that DJ KNEW I was riveted to that little AM/FM radio, running off the last of the day’s suns rays, high atop the mesa above Horseshoe Canyon, probably 400 miles to the nearest jazz club in Salt Lake City, awash in the beauty of ‘Giant Steps’…

I’ll never forget that moment. So today I wanted to say how Grateful I am for that DJ and for DJ’s near and far, who go out on a limb and play what their heart desires. A bunch of them, Diane, Jack, Jim, Scott, Wayne, Kathy have been playing songs of my new CD, ‘Ash and Bone’ a lot and I’m in their debt. Every time someone plays one of your songs on the radio and it puts it out there over the airwaves into the universe it’s hard to know what happens next. But having been on the receiving end of so many great songs for so many years I can only say that sometimes magic happens, and it doesn’t happen without a DJ who’s willing to play what touches their heart. And every time I hear one of my songs on the radio I’m inspired, to write a better one, next time. Every one is but a small step on the way to Giant Steps…

My new Biggest Fan…

Grateful Blog: Day 69: I heard through the ‘grapevine’ that I’ve got a new fan these days. He’s a bit of a ‘mover and a shaker’ as it were. I don’t want to say his name because I don’t want to get him in trouble. He’s been listening to my CD ‘Ash and Bone’ a LOT and has become a really big fan very quickly. Clues? Well, his favorite song is ‘Take the Central GeorgiaHome’. He not much for long-winded prose and I’m not sure he’s ready to go on record yet in public, but privately he told a friend of a friend who knows my wife that he pretty much can’t be in the car without hearing it.

That’s pretty damn cool. In fact, its waaaay cool. Alright a few more clues? His name is Gavin? Ummm Gavin who? Well, I can’t say. That might just be the name he’s going by right now. The thing is he’s a BIG fan of mine and especially that song. I heard every time he gets in the car he yells ‘Mommy, play that train song!’ Seriously, Gavin’s like 4 now and a serious DUDE of the world. And his favorite song is ‘Take the CentralGeorgiaHome’. You can find it on my new CD at www.danwebermusic.com

I don’t know what’s cooler: That Gavin’s Mom is driving around playing my CD non-stop because she and her son dig it or that Gavin totally dig’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. Either way I’m Grateful. I’ve sure gotta meet Gavin one of these days. Like I said, he’s a BIG fan of mine and well, I’ve gotta say in all honesty, I’m a BIG fan of his.

And one last thing: ‘Mommy, play that train song!’ Damn straight Gavin…Damn Straight!