notes/thoughts on ‘santos’…

First off, there is the title… Santos. Meaning ‘Saints’. The idea for the title came from watching Bill Murray’s most recent movie St. Vincent earlier this year, when I was fishing around for a title for the EP based on the songs I had recorded at that point. The whole idea of “saints among us”, so the EP has kind of a quasi-religious tone to it – though I prefer the terms, mystical/spiritual – from the get-go.

The image for the cover is the stained glass from St. George’s Hall of “St. George Slaying the Dragon”, taken by my mom on her last trip to the UK. When I had the title, I thought the image was a good fit; much of my mom’s side of the family is either from Scotland or the Liverpool area before they came over to the U.S. I scanned the image, then took it into Photoshop where it “cleaned up” rather nicely.

The songs themselves…
The Owl and the Lynx:
Written and recorded at the end of 2014, early 2015. The chorus vocals here are virtual vocals, synthesized, and they carry the song. The visual I get here is a video, like something that would’ve come from the 1970’s – you have an owl in flight and they’re very graceful when they fly and swoop down upon their unsuspecting prey, usually at night, and the owl has this friend, Mr. Lynx, and you see the lynx running and being stealthy and all, and they strike up this partnership, like detectives on a cop show because this is a video made to look like it was from the 1970’s and cop shows were very popular back then (e.g., Starsky & Hutch), and so there’s a lot of flying around and the lynx is always running after something when we see him, and it’s all suggestive of something happening but nothing much really happens. But it’s so 70’s cool…

Well, that was the idea anyway. It’s actually kind of a dark song. Which is appropriate ’cause owls can see and hunt in the dark. They’re night birds. In Native American symbolism, owl can see that which others cannot… and there’s a lot of darkness out there right now, my friends. Likewise, the lynx is an animal you won’t see very often – they stay hidden much of the time and in Native American symbolism, they are the keeper of secrets. Symbolically, both owl and lynx have to do with discernment, seeing what is true and separating from what is false, especially important in these days of information (and disinformation) and distraction overload.

Images from the Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams
Images from the Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams and David Carson. Illustrations by Angela Werneke.

For All the Afterthoughts:  This song was originally written and recorded way back in October, 2010, just after Nights on Venus made its debut (coming up on 5 years now), but it was never completed. This happens a lot. I have a ton of those songs which I could work on from now until 2030 (spoiler alert). For one reason or another some songs don’t come together initially as you’d like – or sometimes not at all – so you put them on the backburner. To be completed another time. But I always liked this song so I would revisit it at various times, work on it, record different parts for it. At the time, I put this one aside and wrote and recorded “The Clouds Form on the Left” which, by contrast, finished up in just a few days. I love those songs – they practically write themselves. But “Afterthoughts” stayed in my mind as kind of a… well, an afterthought.

In its first incarnation, “Afterthoughts” was very, very slow tempo-wise, around the 85-88 BPM-mark… as was most everything on that first album. Things proceeded at a glacial pace. A lot of this slow tempo came, in part, from a band I was listening to a lot only 1-2 years earlier, Spokane. Check out their song “Proud Graduates” and you’ll see what I mean. Very good, moody band – I always liked their songs. But the tempo on “Afterthoughts’ was the first thing that needed to change; it was too slow for the song and needed to be faster. I re-recorded it at a faster tempo but It wasn’t until the middle section came together late in 2014 that “Afterthoughts” became alive again. Totally by accident.

“Things turn out better by accident sometimes. But you can’t organize accidents.” – Jeff Beck, from the book Zen Guitar, Philip Toshio Sudo

Very true. I totally subscribe to this because it has been my experience, whether working in music or visual art. The book Zen Guitar itself is one of my favorites and I turn to it often for inspiration. The quotes alone – from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page to Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, and Jerry Garcia – are worth the cost and it’s applicable to any other instruments and other arts across the board. I’ve been meaning to write a review of this book but just haven’t gotten around to it. I find it invaluable and it is highly recommended.

From the Osho Zen Tarot deck... Illustrations by Deva Padma.
From the Osho Zen Tarot deck… Illustrations by Deva Padma.

The first and most important thing to know about “Afterthoughts” is that it’s not about “thinking” at all. It’s about the feeling one senses of being an afterthought to other people that you may be close to – for instance, in relationship with a significant other or even in your own family on a personal level or also an “afterthought” on a larger, societal level… as in the idea that “some people count, and others don’t”, an idea which is very prevalent in America today – and I’m sure elsewhere (and probably always has been).

5 of Pentacles... from the Morgan-Greer Tarot deck...
5 of Pentacles… from the Morgan-Greer Tarot deck…

Substitute the word “underdogs” or better yet, “disenfranchised” for afterthoughts and you’ll see what I’m getting at here. I think for most of us, we’ve all been there at some point and if you’ve been there, you know that feeling and it’s not a good one. In fact, it sucks. So this song is for everybody who’s ever felt that way at one time or another, whatever the reason. Eventually you cut out that toxicity (from others) in your life, if able and necessary, and ultimately find your own way because that’s what is required. You become a trailblazer… for yourself and your own life. It doesn’t matter what anybody else or society thinks [about you]. That the song ends on a positive note is a testament to this and hopefully I’ve conveyed this musically.

And then you begin a journey…

The Fool’s Journey: Written and recorded in January, 2015. A.K.A. the Hero’s Journey. If you would be your authentic self, then of necessity you take this journey. And it’s definitely a journey worth taking. The road less traveled… off the beaten path. Really it’s the only path worth taking. What… you’re going to be satisfied by corporate culture which insists on hegemony and conformity? If you have any degree of self-awareness, then no, probably not. And the thing is, once you begin this journey toward greater self-awareness and [unfettered, unattached] awareness itself, you really can’t go back. The ‘Fool’ sets out on his/her journey with youthful exuberance, blissfully unaware of the pitfalls ahead. Usually as you step off a cliff.  And the hardest thing to be in society, any society, is to be your own person, truly an individual. The Individualist. It’s the most rewarding journey anyone can ever take.

journey
Images from the Morgan-Greer Tarot and Osho Zen Tarot decks…

A lot of digital delay and echo on one of the guitar parts here – it’s a wonderful thing.

Terra Incognita: Written and recorded in February, 2015. Terra Incognita means “unknown territory” and I think this is where we arrive once we shake things up and take the journey toward becoming a true individual, outside the dictates of our upbringing and of society. I think it also describes where we are on a planetary level right now – humanity – as our world continues to change and we often don’t recognize it as the world that we used to know. I think this will continue to hold true in the years to come, and yes, I’m talking about climate change here but also all the sociopolitical and economic changes that are bound to follow and are inevitable as a result. Constant change. Personally I’d rather come from a place of peace rather than fear.

It wasn’t until I had finished recording that I realized where the ending, the chord change, came from. That is an ending in traditional hymn structure (Episcopal/Anglican tradition). That is “the Amen”. Talk about upbringing…

So these are some of the thoughts that were running through my head as I was working and listening. Individual results may vary.

'Santos' on iTunes and AppleMusic...
‘Santos’ on iTunes and AppleMusic…

Eventually the Santos EP will be piggy-backed onto the full-length album, its predecessor, Perspective and released on CD – yes, well after the fact I know – probably in early 2016. Next up is the 2nd EP for this year, entitled Unearthly, which is scheduled for a December release date… unless it becomes a full-length album which it very well may.

‘Til next time…

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, has been released and is available now on CD Baby,  Bandcamp,  iTunes/AppleMusic, eMusic and Amazon MP3.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released July 8, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… released on July 8, 2015…
"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

hiking in the front range, colorado: alderfer/three sisters open space in evergreen…

The elk are out...
The elk are out…

It’s hiking season once again in Colorado – well, it’s always hiking season, regardless of snow – and now that all work on the Santos EP is complete and it’s “out there”, so are we. Out there on the mountain trails because that’s one of the reasons we live here – natural beauty, and the constant opportunity to be out in nature.

Erin on the Sisters trail at Alderfer/Three Sisters, Evergreen, early morning...
The lovely and multi-talented Ms. Erin on the Sisters trail at Alderfer/Three Sisters, Evergreen, early morning…
sisters1
Heading up to the top…

Alderfer/Three Sisters is part of the extensive Jefferson County Open Space park system. It’s a place I’ve hiked many times, especially when I was living up in Evergreen, but I hadn’t been back for a while so it was good to hike it again.

We started out on the Hidden Fawn Trail at about 7,500 feet, mostly a flat stretch that intersects with the Dedisse Trail. If you take the Dedisse to the right, you hike into Dedisse Park which is part of the Denver Mountain Park system and eventually come down the side of a mountain to the west of Evergreen Lake. We went to the left, then continued on to the Sisters Trail, took a right and started to ascend.

sisters2

sisters3

sisters5

sisters6
Tempting… but not today… Left the rock booties at home – my bad.

sisters13

sisters9
Independence and Bear Mtns. from the Sisters Trail…

sisters8Our route this morning was a loop on the Hidden Fawn, Sisters, and the Ponderosa Trail covering about 2 miles out and back. It’s a good short and easy hike that hits the highlights of the Three Sisters rock formations and the Brothers Lookout on the way back.

To get there: Take County Highway 73 south from downtown Evergreen to Buffalo Park Road and turn right, heading west. Go approximately 1 mile to the East Trailhead. Be sure and get an early start as parking at the trailhead fills up, as most of them do, by 8:30.

sisters7

sisters12

From the Brothers lookout, looking south...
From the Brothers lookout, looking south…
And to the west, Mt. Evans, from the Brothers lookout...
And to the west, Mt. Evans, from the Brothers lookout…

brothers1

The sign above the entrance at the Blue Cow restaurant - excuse, just 'The Cow' now - which has always been a favorite breakfast spot in Morrison. Great bloody Marys! Their motto: "Be nice or mooove on."
The sign above the entrance at the Blue Cow restaurant – excuse, just ‘The Cow’ now – which has always been a favorite breakfast spot in Morrison. Great bloody Marys! Their motto: “Be nice or mooove on.”

 

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, has been released and is available now on CD Baby and Bandcamp. Coming soon to iTunes and eMusic.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released July 8, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… to be released July 8, 2015…
"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

photo essay: july, 2010…

First of all, Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the U.S. of A.! Hope everyone has a safe, fun-filled holiday – go catch some fireworks tonight wherever you are as we celebrate the nation’s 239th birthday!

As the final touches are being applied to the Santos EP (and now I have just signed off on it), a look back to July, 2010… literally. A photo essay back to that time… before there was a Nights on Venus.

I took a little trip out to the Mandala Center just outside of the small town of Des Moines in northeastern New Mexico. And when I say small, it really is – the population was 161 in 2010. If you drive from the Panhandle of Texas up to Colorado, you know where this town is; it’s just a place you drive though before you get to Raton and the interstate (25). For me it was a destination and a personal retreat for 5 days that summer.

I had booked the 5 days at the Mandala Center before I got laid off from my job as a web developer at the end of April, the second time that I had been laid off, as an I.T. contractor, in as many years. I could have cancelled my time at the center, gotten my money back, because now I was unemployed again, but I didn’t want to and thought it was important to have those days to myself. I was living in Dallas at the time; I’d already paid for those days and I needed the change of scenery. So I went…

On U.S. 287, the time-honored route through West Texas that every Texan going to Colorado knows because really, it’s the only route. At Dumas, you have a choice: take U.S. 87 and you go through the corner of northeastern New Mexico, the more scenic route. It’s high desert between Clayton and Raton; Des Moines and the Mandala Center is about halfway between.

"Office - Clarendon, Texas"
“Office, Western Skies Motel – Clarendon, Texas”
Intersection, Clayton, New Mexico
Intersection, U.S. Hwys. 87 & 64, Clayton, New Mexico
Cattle, New Mexico...
Cattle, northeastern New Mexico…
"Hot - Des Moines, NM"
“Hot – Des Moines, NM” … and yes it was.
"Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Moines, NM"
“Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Des Moines, NM”

The first thing about the summer of 2010 is that it was exceptionally hot. Normally, temperatures for this area, once you get up above 6,000 feet, are about 85-90 degrees F. (29-32 degrees C.) in July. Since I was staying somewhere that didn’t have air-conditioning, I had planned for that and figured the nights at least would be cool. That summer the temps were hovering around the 100-degree mark. I was a little concerned ’cause I really don’t do hot weather anymore. Not at all.

Labyrinth at the Mandala Center, Des Moines, NM...
Labyrinth at the Mandala Center, Des Moines, NM…

Essentially, Nights on Venus came into being during those 5 days at the Mandala Center.

I had begun recording a few songs back in May, the first exploratory efforts after diving into the world of computer-based recording. I had a few songs written and started with them – took my last full paycheck from the job that had just ended and bought everything I needed for recording because I figured at age 53, as an I.T. contractor and having been laid off/unemployed for 7 months the previous year, it was probably going to be the last decent paycheck I’d get to be able to do this. That actually proved to be correct…

Capulin Mtn. at sundown... Mandala Center
Capulin Mtn. at sundown… Mandala Center
Path down to the labyrinth at sunset...
Path down to the labyrinth at sunset…
Dusk...
Dusk across the plains…

earthglow

First night, Night sky...
First night, Night sky…

There were other people staying at the Mandala Center, 8 of us all total, all there on our own personal retreats for various reasons and staying in the Wolf Lodge. The Mandala Center itself I feel is a very special place; it offers workshops, classes, and a place for personal retreats in a beautiful, remote setting and you can check it out here. It may resonate with you and I highly recommend it. For one thing, the stillness and the quiet here are just overwhelming. There really are no distractions. The stars at night and the Milky Way were as brilliant here as anywhere I’ve seen them, including Crestone (Colorado). And no TV, no cell phone reception (courtesy of my carrier… from Dalhart, TX to Walsenburg, CO, the “cone of silence” was in effect) or laptop – no wi-fi! All of which made for an environment perfectly suited to thinking about “what comes next”.

Capulin Mtn., cloudy afternoon...
Capulin Mtn., cloudy afternoon…
Driving into town...
Driving into town…
Thunderheads forming over Sierra Grande...
Thunderheads forming over Sierra Grande…
Juniper trees...
Juniper trees…
The evening sky...
The evening sky…
And at dusk... earthglow...
And at dusk… earthglow…

Which turned out to be Nights on Venus… I settled on the name while I was there. “Nights From a Rooftop” (from the 1st album) was one of the songs from that first set of songs recorded in May. The title “Another Day in Paradox” originated here. That became title and the title track for the album 3 years later.

Every day Capulin Mountain dominated the landscape just to the northwest; behind me rose Sierra Grande. Pages of journal entries written there those 5 days (I’ve been keeping a journal since 1986) could be distilled down to a couple of lines: “No ambivalence. Work on music, work on myself.”

Obviously I took a lot of photographs while I was there… and left with some sense of direction.

junipers

dusk_1

Casa Mandala, with night descending...
Casa Mandala, with night descending…
Last light, Last night...
Last light, Last night…
A last look at Capulin, the dormant volcano, from Mandala before heading on to Trinidad, CO...
A last look at Capulin, the dormant volcano, from Mandala before heading on to Trinidad, CO…
Heading into a thunderstorm north of Amarillo, Texas on U.S. 287...
Driving into a thunderstorm north of Amarillo, Texas on U.S. 287…
Chillicothe, Texas... bank building. On the way back...
Chillicothe, Texas… bank building. On the way back…
Chillicothe, Texas street scene...
Chillicothe, Texas street scene…
Back in Dallas...
Back in Dallas…
"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, is scheduled to be released on 7/8/15 at all the usual online outlets.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released July 8, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… to be released July 8, 2015…

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

preview of “santos” EP…

Just a lazy Sunday morning (well, now afternoon) at la Casa NoV…

Currently putting the finishing touches on the Santos EP. Aside from the usual last-minute fine-tuning and other minor adjustments, mixdowns are complete and it will go to mastering next week with a release date of July 8th.

Today I thought I’d go ahead and preview the entire EP here in its pre-mastered state, excerpts of the 4 songs anyway. Hey, just like on iTunes! So here they are…


All songs © 2015 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas/Excellent Sky Records. All rights reserved.

Where did the title come from?
Santos is Spanish for ‘Saints’. A while back we watched the Bill Murray movie, St. Vincent, which is a great film btw, and a major theme in it was the idea of “saints among us”. Well I kind of liked that idea and went with it as a title; the four songs were written and recorded by that time and seemed to jel around the idea.

The full album will be up on this blog by 7/8.

Today is the first really warm day we’ve had here this month; although our trees in front don’t show it, summer is upon us…

evening_sky

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released July 8, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… to be released July 8, 2015…

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, is scheduled to be released on 7/8/15 at all the usual online outlets.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

pt. 3: adios casa… & the long drive home…

So we’ve been back home in Golden now for a few days… We’re into May now. I’m still unpacking, slowly, as is my custom, trying to find places for everything we’ve brought back and we’re back into our routines here for which I’m grateful. On this short, whirlwind trip, most of Sunday and Monday has been kind of a slow, mad rush to get outta here, stress-filled to the point where Tuesday’s long drive home – just slightly under 15 hours this time – feels (almost) like a piece of cake. Easy, in comparison.

Erin and I will both miss the Tex-Mex food… and hanging out at Drip coffeehouse on Lovers Lane in the mornings which, with its wi-fi, has been kind of a lifeline in staying connected to the rest of the world. If you live in the Park Cities area in Dallas, be sure and stop in here instead of Starbuck’s. Steve’s got everything Starbuck’s has only much better, plus a better ambience, and he’s a local business.

We leave very early Tuesday morning, just after 5:00, and it’s a “Six Feet Under” finale moment – “You can’t take a picture of this. It’s already gone…” – Nate’s ghost to Claire. Just last night it had been raining heavily for a while and I was  concerned about what it would be like in the morning because we still had the paintings and a few other items to load into the truck, but it’s dry and we finish the load-out quickly. When we’re in the truck I see dad standing in the doorway in his white bathrobe; the lights in the cab of the truck are on so I wave to him and he waves back. And then we’re off. Once we’re past it I can’t see the house because the view is obstructed out the back and we only have side view mirrors. It kind of reminds me of the years I would visit at Christmas, living in Colorado, and mom would come to the small windows by the front door and I’d see her looking out as I drove away. This is the last time I’ll be leaving from here.

We turn right onto Hillcrest, another right onto Northwest Highway; I’ve got my extra-large coffee from 7-11 and when we come to the Dallas North Tollway I turn right, heading north, because I know it’s the only freeway I can count on not to have some kind of  construction going on (you know, the concrete barriers, no right shoulder) as we get out of the giant amoeba, surging ever northwards, that the Dallas metro area has become.

We pass through Denton on U.S. 380, University Blvd. through town, and yes, the Waffle House is still there but we don’t stop at it and by the time we’re within a few miles of Decatur, the Dallas city vibes have dissipated, been left behind, and we’re free.

Adios... vaya con Dios...
Adios… 6822 Northwood Rd. (1965-2015)  Vaya con Dios…

Dallas
I can sum up the experience of Dallas, as it is now, in just two words, both this time and the last time Erin and I were here 2 1/2 years ago: Too. Big. As in too big for your britches. It may come as a surprise to those who have heard me bashing on this city since the mid-1990’s, but I really used to love this place when I was growing up here in the 1960’s and early 70’s. I really did. I loved Dallas and that was really the time to be here – it was a big city that didn’t feel overwhelming… like it does now.  So many memories that are still fresh in my mind and too many to list here. They should go in a book.

Maybe a lot of this feeling comes from having lived in a small mountain town of 420 people for four years (Empire, CO), but I can think back to the late 1970’s when I was in Lubbock and the city I’d come back to over Christmas break and for the summer really started to change. It started to change even more in the early 80’s when I was doing singing telegrams here, playing in a couple of bands, the pace of life here always ever accelerating, but even back then it still seemed more-or-less manageable. I’d hang out in Lower Greenville or the Lakewood area (which we didn’t get over to on this trip) and those were the cool places to be… and then I moved away to Santa Fe.

Well, nothing about Dallas feels manageable anymore; it just appears to be go-go-go all the time, non-stop, and just try to keep up, even when visiting, and woe to the person who can’t or chooses not to.  This is not your place. Erin pointed out that the traffic lanes on the roads we were driving seemed more narrow than what we’re used to – claustrophobic, and the parking lots wherever we went were always full, the spaces hard to pull into because they’re narrow too. Try to squeeze in as many people as you can – gotta make that extra buck. That’s Dallas. I noticed the same thing too and it wasn’t just because I was driving dad’s Buick. Getting around anywhere just produces a lot of stress that doesn’t need to be there. And this is inside LBJ Freeway (635) – Dallas proper. I’m not talking about the suburbs and outlying areas here. Another odd thing is that all the traffic lights at intersections seem interminably long… which only adds to the stress and frustration when you’re trying to get somewhere/anywhere.

I lived in Dallas again during parts of the years from 2007-2011 but the energy here now just feels completely different even from that recently and even more alien. More scattered, frenetic… hyper is a good word to describe it, and oddly more generic (i.e., soulless). A lot of this can be seen in the McMansion monstrosities that are devouring the old, familiar neighborhoods in Preston Hollow, where my dad lives (for another month or so), and some, though less evident, in the Park Cities. Neighborhoods that once had character. Well, a lot of them still do, but what about Dallas screams ‘Tuscany’ that people and home builders feel compelled to put up Italian-style villas on these blocks, complete with palm trees?! Lose the freakin’ palm trees!! They’re not indigenous to North Texas! Ugh.

And it doesn’t have to be this way. As we drove around Preston Hollow, we saw plenty of ranch homes, the staple of this neighborhood for so many years, that had been updated along with mid-century modern homes that were beautiful with beautiful landscaping ’cause hey, you can grow anything here (reference the backyard picture from Pt. 1 of this series).

At one point Erin said that Dallas feels like Orange County, California. In other words, it’s all about appearances and keeping up with everybody else. Since I haven’t lived in the OC since late 1980 I’ll take her word on that.

The problem with all of what I’m seeing here is that people start to think (and get used to) all of this as being just “normal” and that the pace of life here is “normal”, and all it does is just produce nothing but stress from the competitiveness of it all, and really, there’s nothing “normal” about any of it. It’s just pathological.

That’s more of a rant than I’d intended, but it is sad to see as I have loved this city… and really, now it just pisses me off and I want to get outta here and get home.

Driving through West Texas, near Childress... The cloud cover has cleared off; nothing but blue skies ahead.
Driving through West Texas, near Childress… The cloud cover has cleared off; nothing but blue skies ahead.

The House Itself
With the house on the market now comes the realization that eventually and soon, it will sell, and when I pull up the address on Google Maps a year from now, most likely the house will be razed to the ground or there will already be a new house – another generic, McMansion monstrosity – in its place. I don’t have a problem with that so much because it’s inevitable given that the house now is a total tear-down, a scrape-off… but it will seem weird when I actually see it (via Google Maps).

Dad had it appraised recently and has listed the house at its appraised value and even I know you can’t do that with a tear-down. You’re only selling the land it sits on. He’s still under the illusion that someone will want to buy it, update it, and basically keep the house intact, but that’s just not going to happen given its current state. Why did he not update the house, cosmetically-speaking, over the years? Both inside and out. Why would you not do that when your home is arguably the most important investment, financially, you’ll ever make? The baby grand piano in its current state – needing the keys, hammers, and strings all to be restored – is a metaphor for the state of the house. Why, why, why did he not restore such a beautiful instrument like that? And him being a musician. I don’t get it, but this is where things stand.

A friend from high school who’s a realtor told me that he’s seen the house and the comps in the neighborhood, and thinks it should be listed for about $50k less than the price that dad is asking. I had been thinking the same thing – the current price is too high. After a month on the market, that’s why it’s not selling… but what can you say here? Some resistance to selling it going on perhaps?

As for the house itself… the wallpaper in the rooms where it’s been applied (from the early 1970’s) is peeling off and just looks supremely dated and tacky; most assuredly there is mold in them thar walls and nobody wants to deal with mitigation there, and the attic… after squirrels had made their way through the east side of the house to the attic, nobody ventured up there anymore. Total. Tear-down.

I had intended to be a bit more mindful of my time in the house, knowing that this was going to be the last time I would ever be in there, but by Sunday afternoon I’m ready to get on the road and mindfulness goes out the window. I am glad we took an extra day on Monday when we picked up the truck (and it doesn’t suck… only 11,000 miles on it, everything in good working order), because it allows me time to walk through all the rooms one last time and had we tried to leave Monday it would have been too hectic. By Monday night I’ve made my peace, I’ve said my goodbyes. And then there’s the Christmas tree…

The Christmas tree in the den...
The Christmas tree in the den…

The legendary Christmas tree in the den is still there – yes, I know it’s April – where it has been since sometime in the mid-90’s and it has its own special story. I visited Dallas one time in March, maybe 1996, and my parents still had the Christmas tree up. I said something about it and mom said that dad would get around to taking it up to the attic. I mentioned that maybe if it was still up in March, they should just go ahead and leave it up all year round. So they did. I plug the Christmas tree lights in one last time before I go to bed Monday night to see if they’re working – obviously they’ve been changed out since the mid-90’s – and they all light up.

Now that we’ve been back for a few days and I’ve had some time to reflect on a few things, it seems that the strangest thing about last weekend: the incongruity between the fact that everything is about to change (radically) and that inside the house everything looks the same as it ever has, same as it ever was, even after we took out everything we did, and it’s just business as usual, and that it could go on that way forever.

You just never know what you're gonna see on the road... Here it appears a VW Beetle is giving birth to a fully-grown dairy cow in Amarillo. Whoa!
You just never know what you’re gonna see on the road… Here it appears a VW Beetle, with Minnesota plates, is giving birth to a fully-grown dairy cow in Amarillo. Whoa!

Shmoopy Takes the Wheel…
At Trinidad, just inside the Colorado state line. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon. The original plan had us arriving here at around 2:00 for lunch, but we had breakfast at IHOP in Wichita Falls and driving into a headwind we made Amarillo around 12:45 and ate lunch at McDonald’s. McDonald’s… we never eat at freakin’ McDonald’s. The Big Mac I order tastes good except there’s too much thousand island dressing on the two all-beef patties and it gets all over my hand. But the fries are great! Except for the stretch between Amarillo and Dumas, I’ve driven the whole way – the boring part of the drive. The prairie and farmlands. I have a high tolerance for boredom. Erin (Shmoopy) does not and coming into Trinidad she tells me that she just wants to get home and she’ll drive us the rest of the way. We’ve been in the truck for 12 hours at this point and I’m like, “Go for it.”

We’ve had various classic rock stations on the radio in the truck because the truck is old school with AM/FM radio – no CD player, no iPod connection. Not even a cassette deck. The most memorable of the radio stations has been The Big Dog FM, coming to you out of Altus, Oklahoma and we’ve been hearing a lot of Stones, ZZ Top, and Rush. It’s two-fer-Tuesday! We’ve crossed the Red River just above Estelline and there was actually water in it for the first time in ages… and the water was, appropriately, red, and I’m listening and a lyric from Rush’s “Freewill” gets lodged in my mind:

“You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice.”

And now that it’s Sunday I’m still hearing this. After we watched “Whiplash” at home last night. Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, wrote these lyrics and as we were driving through West Texas I thought about books that he’s written – I’ve read both “Ghost Rider” and “Traveling Music” and both are excellent. I highly recommend them; Neil is an excellent writer and I enjoyed these books immensely.

It also makes me think about the possibility that this could be the last time I drive this particular route between Dallas and the Denver area. Over the years, certain music has been designated for certain stretches of the trip – Alice Cooper’s Killer for the stretch between Childress and Memphis, Ziggy Marley’s two albums, Conscious Party and One Bright Day between Amarillo and Dalhart; The Cars’ 1st album between Walsenburg and Pueblo, Colorado.

By the time we get to Trinidad, Shmoopy notices I’m tired so she takes the wheel. We stop in at the liquor store on Santa Fe Trail and I pick up a few shot bottles of things that sound enticing, try a couple of them in the truck now that she’s driving and try to nod off in the passenger seat. Of course this is not going to work ’cause I can’t sleep in a moving vehicle and like looking out at the scenery too much, even if there isn’t any, but we’re back in Colorado now and that won’t be a problem. The Big Dog morphs into 107.9 FM out of Colorado Springs… more Stones… “Gimme Shelter”.

And Erin becomes a “woman on a mission”… We get home before 8:00 and before it gets dark. And then we start unloading the truck…

Despite the challenges and the frustrations, this was a good, memorable trip for all the right reasons, even if it was born from necessity. We had to go, but it was the right time.

Moving forward: the house will sell, certainly within the next couple of months, and had I known about it beforehand, that he was going to do this, dad could have come up here to live with us. We could’ve moved into a bigger house, in the mountains, Evergreen probably, and the baby grand could have been saved, but the invitation is always open. I don’t know right now where we’re going to be spending Christmas this year, whether he’ll fly up here and join us at our house or if Erin and I will be flying down there, in which case we’ll be getting a hotel room and a rental car. I suspect it will be the latter. I do know this: the Christmas tree in the house on Northwood will finally come down after a successful 19-year run or thereabouts. This year.

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released June, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… to be released June, 2015…

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, will be coming in June, June 25th to be exact.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

weekend in dallas, pt. 2: the reunion and packing up…

Saturday… we get an early start and the paintings start coming down off the walls. I put plastic sheeting over them and staple it to the wood stretcher frames so they’ll be ready for traveling. There are 18 paintings coming back with us, the largest measuring 6 feet x 6 feet, 9 inches (183 cm x 206 cm). I remember mom used to ask, “why do you paint so large?”, and I told her it was easier than painting small and minute; you get to use bigger brushes. It is – the materials just cost more.

Soon, the walls are completely bare in three rooms of the house; I can’t remember ever seeing them completely bare like this, except maybe when we moved in. I was 8 years old then and I really don’t remember that.

Standing in front of the tree I used to climb as a kid in the front yard... which has now grown into a "sequoia".
Standing in front of the tree I used to climb as a kid in the front yard… which has now grown into a giant “Sequoia”. I will not be attempting a climb this morning as it would now take a 20-foot ladder to reach the first branch.

The house might look more empty… if it weren’t for all the clutter everywhere else. Just overwhelming clutter still. After a few hours, we’ve hardly put a dent in any of this and I know we’re not taking that much furniture back with us. Dad said he’d had some friends help him and that they cleaned up quite a bit before we came down. Well… we’re here now and there’s very little evidence of that.

Books stacked up on top of each other horizontally, on top of low bookcases about 3 feet high, the spines turned sideways so you have no idea what the titles are. I go through a few of them… the Time Almanac from 1994, World Almanac from 2001, how many books on “natural folk remedies” do you have here?… and give up.

Dad says to take any of these that I want, also any CDs, DVDs (Erin grabs a handful in passing – Goldfinger… score!)…and, oh look, VHS tapes! There’s nothing here and not a whole lot of time. I guess the plan is to let the estate sale people deal with whatever’s left and there will be a lot to deal with. Erin and I start boxing up all my stuff; by mid-afternoon we’ve hit it hard and go out for a break and an Internet connection.

It’s while we’re sitting in Cantina Laredo on Royal Lane for a late lunch… we see the news on the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal. Just unbelievable devastation in Kathmandu. We have a friend from Colorado who’s there to climb Mt. Everest, again, and knew he had just arrived at Everest Basecamp earlier in the week; we quickly wonder if he’s OK and see that he is. You can read his first-hand account of the earthquake and the events of the last few days at the link below. It’s a very compelling read…

http://www.jonkeverest.org/blog/2015/04/30/Post-166-Full-Summary-of-Earthquake-Avalanche-Everest-Season-Over.aspx?alt_id=1M7BR-4A743-5N7&ts=1430393981544

Seeing the first images of the destruction left behind by the earthquake online puts everything back in perspective. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Nepal.

***

The reunion that night is definitely the highlight of this trip and a necessary respite from the work we’re doing at the house and from some frustrations that are starting to mount, chief among them being the communication connection issues (and no, Mercury is not retrograde). It’s great to see all my classmates from those years at St. Mark’s, most of whom I haven’t seen in 43 years. You try to place the faces in the present with how you remember the way they used to look when everyone was 14, 15 years old. We trade stories…

Brett, who was one of my best friends all through high school, reminds me of a truly awful trip we made to Lubbock to check out Texas Tech University during our senior year and how we spent most of a Saturday afternoon in a muffler shop waiting room with our host who was getting work done on his car. Yes, I remember that too. Brett ended up going to University of Texas in Austin.

Paul and I talk about the French class we took in 8th grade from a teacher who I remember – now that a long-forgotten memory has kicked in – looked a bit like Jeanne Tripplehorn with glasses and everyone apparently remembers as being “nice”. He also reminds me that I came up with a cartoon character for the middle school paper and that has been long-forgotten, now unearthed as well.

We talk to just about everyone there and find out what’s going on in their world and I’m surprised to learn that there’s a good-sized contingent of the class who now lives in Colorado so I hope we will stay in touch. The one thing we don’t see, and it’s not until we’re leaving that Erin points it out: no one there is checking, looking down at, or is otherwise glued to their cell phones. In fact, no one is even taking pictures or selfies with them. The cell phones are nowhere to be seen.

Special thanks to Marc and Wendy for hosting the reunion at their beautiful home. It was a very memorable evening.

***

Once Erin and I get back to the house for the night and I have a chance to see all the work we’ve done, I’m glad we worked as hard as we did during the day. I can already feel an energy shift as the focus moves toward finishing up the packing and leaving early Tuesday morning. It feels like we’ve been kind of jogging along since we arrived Friday, at a faster pace then we’re used to at home in Colorado as Dallas in no way could be described as laid-back, but by the time we get home from dinner with our friends Jeff and Pat tomorrow night, it’ll be an all-out sprint to get everything done and get on the road and we’re both already more than a little stressed.

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Nights on Venus, "Santos"... to be released June, 2015...
Nights on Venus, “Santos”… to be released June, 2015…

The new 4-song EP, “Santos“, will be coming in a couple of months, mid-to-late June.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

weekend in dallas, pt. 1: the storm…

Friday… We land at Dallas Love Field a little after 11:00, Erin and I; it’s been raining and is expected to rain more today, possibly some severe thunderstorms with a chance of tornadic activity. I’m glad we’re on the ground. I had been following the weather forecast for the last week or so and saw rain for Friday here and there had also been thunderstorms during the week. I hadn’t been on a plane for almost fifteen years (yes, really).

So we’re on the ground safely – Erin minus her little ‘girly’ Swiss army knife on her keychain which has remained at Denver International Airport courtesy of the TSA (and I tease her about being such a troublemaker) – and we’re here for the weekend. Originally we booked this flight back in January for the 40th Reunion Weekend of the St. Mark’s Class of 1975, a group of classmates I didn’t graduate with but went to school with from 7th through 9th grade. My dad had his 86th birthday in March but we weren’t able to make it that month; the reunion weekend in April seemed like a good idea. In between came the news that he’d put the house up for sale so now the weekend has taken on a different tone altogether. It’s also moving weekend!

I’d only been bugging him to sell the house for the last 8 years or so; we moved into the house on Northwood in July, 1965. For 50 years this has been the family house – I grew up here and over the years it had become kind of a repository for much of my artwork and a few other things from my various moves, especially since 2007 when I closed down the gallery in Empire (CO). Now, all of that has to come back to Colorado with us. Half a century! It seems like this must be some kind of record but I’m sure it isn’t. In fact, I’m sure it’s pretty common… but 50 years! So this is kind of a big deal and it’s kind of been freaking me out a little.

From a logistical standpoint it means that the original plan of driving a rental car back to Golden has been scrapped in favor of having to rent a truck. Budget turned out to be the cheapest so we went with them. I hope their truck… doesn’t suck.

The first thing I notice as we’re driving through the Park Cities from the airport: everything looks very green and very soggy. Dallas in April.

Within 20 minutes, Erin looks like she just stepped out of a 1970’s disco with big wavy, disco hair.

And of course the first thing we have to do is get lunch… at El Fenix. If you live in Dallas and have people visiting from out of town, you are going to go to El Fenix for some Tex-Mex at some point during their stay. It’s tradition and obligatory. I order my fave, the Puebla Plate, and two Inca Gold margaritas (hey, I hadn’t flown for almost 15 years and it’s humid as hell). They are refreshing.

At the house, we step back into 1976… just the way I remember it when we were last here 2 ½ years ago. I look out into the backyard; it’s a freakin’ jungle out there. Erin asks me if my dad has a gardener. I reply, “Does it look like he has a gardener?” For his part, dad says that it’s been raining a lot, and I’m like, “Ya think?”

Costa Rica? No, just the backyard at dad's house...
Costa Rica? No, just the backyard at dad’s house.

By 6:30 the weather is on TV, ongoing coverage, and we have a severe thunderstorm warning in effect. A line of thunderstorms is moving east through Fort Worth and Arlington at 60 mph and projected ETA’s are given for the Dallas metro area, 7:05 for where we are. Heavy rains and wind gusts of up to 65 mph, possibly up to 75 mph. I hook up my laptop to the Ethernet cable from the old computer (it’s still there) to get a connection ‘cause I know we don’t have wireless here… and get nothing. Dad tells me there’s no Internet (and not because of the storm). OK, we will have to go out to connect to the world.

The thunderstorm brings only the heavy rain, no high winds. We both feel grungy from traveling and the humidity. Welcome home!

I keep thinking of Steely Dan’s last album, “Everything Must Go”… There will be an estate sale in a couple of weeks. If you want a 1919 Steinway baby grand that needs the keys, hammers, strings, and probably a few other parts restored (but the soundboard is good), it can be yours at a reasonable price. Send me a message. I would’ve loved to keep  the piano, could certainly have used it, but just don’t have the room for it in our current digs, not to mention the cost of moving and restoring it. Which is ironic… we don’t have the room for it in our house?…. The baby grand piano was the reason we moved to the house on Northwood 50 years ago in the first place.

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Perspective” and all previous albums  from Nights on Venus are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

excursions in sound and consciousness with the band Nights on Venus

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