Thursday, August 30, 2007

August 17, 2007 - Stillwater, MN...

I had the indelible pleasure today to be a part of an invitation-only performance at the Hannah house. Karen, my dear friend who is a gifted and inspired pianist, has been working up a major piece by Russian composer Nikolai Kasputin. Myself, Ken (her husband), and Phil Kadidlo - another good friend and piano phenom - were the lucky ones to be invited to this intimate and thoughtful musical sounding session.

Karen played beautifully. This piece was easy neither technically nor conceptually, but she gave us a tour through Kasputin's wandering jazz-influenced fantasy that kept my attention from beginning to end.

Thank you, Karen, for sharing your heart and soul with us. You said much with this piece. I would consider jumping the Pond just to be in your parlor again. Wishing you many caring and curious sets of ears in the months to come...

August 10, 2007 - San Diego, CA...

We had the great pleasure to share in six days of fun and sun with Dave's Brenda, dad Norm, brother Dan with wife Cady and two kids - Jack and Lily, and sister Audrey with husband Craig and two kids - Ben and Jonah.

Memories are many from our Coronado getaway. But a few highlights include a beachside smore party, a nighttime excursion to Mexico (with an uncircuitous return trip to the US!), and the three nephews all attempting to surf and (see photo above) Ben actually STANDING while riding a wave! Way to go, Ben!

Thanks for the fun, everyone! Here's to our next trip together...whenever and wherever that may be...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

August 14, 2007 - White Bear Lake, MN...

Take a moment and try to think of the most flattering thing that a stranger could do for you. Go on. Think about it.

Would a drink after you? Carve your likeness out of ice? Or maybe give you birthday greetings on a gas station billboard?

How about this one...They call your mother, informing her that they painted a picture of you and that it's on display at a hospital in town.

Mom and I went to check out said painting, without expectation or pre-conceived ideas when...heading down the hallway that hosted this woman's other paintings, we spotted an oil painting no smaller than four feet wide and three feet tall of a young girl who looked awfully familiar.

Sure enough, in an ample kind of way, it was the pictoric likeness of yours truly sitting at a ficticious grand piano, donning a floor length gown and some serious Bananarama hair.

"Without a doubt, that's me..."

This really was a funny moment. Truly. I just stood and stared for a few minutes. The question that came to me immediately was why this woman wanted to paint a picture of ME? I was at once fascinated by whatever it was about this twenty year old likeness of me that compelled this artist to put paint to canvas.

Although she took a few liberties with the setting, the composition of the picture was familiar to me. I had played in a competition and a newspaper photographer took a photo of me. It appeared in the paper the next day. Many years later, the artist completed this painting based on the photo and it has been traveling with her exhibit for years.

I couldn't help but to feel profoundly flattered. I blushed right there on the spot. Nurses passing by stopped to ask me if I was buying the painting for a daughter who played, or something like that.

"No, actually...that's me..."

This painting freezes a time in my musical life that was truly unfestered by expectation, fueled solely by the mystery and discovery of what every new song presented. This was that beautiful point at which I had enough physical ability at the bench to say something that hinted at sophistication and yet I didn't know enough to know that I knew very little about so many things. I just cared about expressing emotion. The technical stuff was secondary. So much so that I would just pick and choose which parts I would learn to play and which ones were going to get in the way, if I tried to tackle the technique.

I don't know where this painting will end up fifty years from now, or if it will survive that long or longer. But the thought of this painting, this snapshot of such a beautiful embryonic moment from my life, hanging in front of my children, grandchildren and (heart be still) beyond takes my breath away.

Living with passion, curiosity and clarity. That would be a legacy to be proud of.

August 5, 2007 - St. Paul, Minnesota...

I'm trying to imagine being 91. To have lived through almost a century of changes. Victories and defeats. People coming and going. And to think of all those things one does and accomplishes in life over the span of nine decades...all the sub-lifetimes encompassed by those years.

I'm picturing going through a challenging transition that begins the day someone I care about tells me I can no longer take care of myself, launching me into yet another new era. Grandpa had merely been a visitor for the previous seven years, when grandma went into the nursing home after her stroke. He could come and go as he pleased. He was just a visitor.

So many great things to see in children, as we visualize their futures and all they will accomplish in their lifetimes. But on the other end of the spectrum, how often does someone in their nineties get a chance to be recognized for all they did in the past? To be validated for what has already moved into the black and white of history books?

I am so grateful to have been a part of a very special reunion today...

In 1957, my grandpa was one of three guys who put together a drum and bugle corps (ensemble) for the St. Paul Boy Scouts. Grandpa was in charge of teaching and coaching the horn players, while the other two taught the drummers and coordinated the travel and expenses incurred. He remained a part of the corps for nearly 10 years.

Grandpa wrote arrangements for the band as well, and as the history goes, this crew was the talk of the Midwestern drum and bugle scene. They were known for their unique musical selections and their maticulous attention to presentation details.

In the last year, half a dozen or so of the original band members decided to pull together a fiftieth anniversary celebration, complete with a concert and an exhaustive written history, complete with photographs and any sound files they could find.

Grandpa wasn't well enough to attend, so - out of sheer goodness and gratitude and respect - five of the planners brought the party to him. And Dave and I got to be a part of it. I couldn't have been more thankful.

Grandpa was saluted for nearly two hours, with these five "kids" laughing and telling stories about grandpa's industrious (if not intimidating) teaching methods, his leadership as a conductor, and his presence in their lives at a time when they really needed solid male role models.

Grandpa can hardly hear now and, even after they had repeated their names countless times, he could still just barely grasp who they were specifically. But he got why they were there. They were thanking him. After fifty years and all of the countless sub-lives these and other ex-corp members have lived, they spent a Sunday afternoon honoring him.

Of course, I have always known that grandpa has taught hundreds of young horn students over the years, and that long ago, he had initiated the drum and bugle corp. But not until today did I even think about the personal impact he had on countless numbers of young men. One of the five even cried a bit talking about how much grandpa and the corps meant to him and helped launch him towards a happier life than the one he had seemingly been dealt.

This was a really special day. Not to be forgotten. I'm so proud of what he did.

The above are pictures of grandpa and the corp in action, and a copy of one of grandpa's handwritten arrangements. In the first picture, he is the man conducting. In the second, he is the one at the forefront corner of the unit. In the third, he's the adult on the far-right side of the second row. The boy in the first row far left, and the one in the first row far right are two of the guys there today.

August 20, 2007 - Buffalo, Minnesota...

Well, ladies and gentlemen...big news. Big furry news. We are welcoming another dog into our family as of today.

Number Five (uh...any other dog name suggestions out there?!) came home with me (and Alaina) after spending the first four months of life with his breeder in Kandiyohi, MN (three hours southwest of Twin Cities).

I found the breeder on the internet and discovered that, lo and behold, she had one pup left from her last litter. And this little guy is a gem!

Unfortunately, Dave left for Amsterdam a few days before I met the little guy, so he had to just trust me to make the decision on this. It such a bummer that he can't be here for all of the fun first days with the pup, but I try to send him updates once a day.

He's compiling what I write and the pictures I send on a separate blogsite. Click here to check it out.

Welcome, little pup. We're so glad you're a part of our family.

August 7, 2007 - White Bear Lake, MN...

The good times were definitely rolling at Saints North skating rink tonight. Round and round in counter-clockwise fashion, we had a reunion on wheels tonight. Mom and dad hosted a wonderful "Welcome Home, Lynn and Dave" party for us at their weekly roller haunt, and it was a blast.

I was absolutely floored at how many folks showed up to strap on some skates and go for a spin. Friends, family, offspring were all in tow.

Much to my absolute delight, I got to see some long-lost friends. I hadn't seen Kyle in six years. I hadn't seen Lance in probably eight or nine years. And that Dave was there to meet everyone and put faces to names and stories was priceless.

Many of you know that my parents skate many times a week and are really REALLY good on the rink. Pictures of grace out there. Don't know how we're related in that sense, as I'm just focused on not skating over anything or anybody ahead of me when I'm wheeling around. But it sure is fun to watch.

Thanks, mom and dad, for a great night!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

August 2, 2007 - San Diego, CA...

A troubled bridge over water...

To get to Grandma Jane and Grandp Hutch's house, we had to drive over the tall bridge that connects the banks of Woodbury to the shores of South St. Paul. Throughout childhood, I had a terrible fear that our car would somehow be flung over the side of the bridge, always causing me to clutch doll Suzie close to my chest as I'd stare hard straight ahead or seal my eyelids shut until terra firma on the other side.

Yesterday, this seemingly irrational fear played itself out only miles away from the origin of this nightmare. A piece of the I-35 thoroughfare that I and every other Twin City commuter had crossed a thousand times mysteriously crumbled.

Reminiscent to other tragic days, phone lines in the minutes and hours after the crumble were jam-packed as loved ones tried to connect and make sure all was okay.

Within a half hour of learning about all this, I discovered that all Hutchinsons but one were accounted for. A slightly unnerving two hours (and dozens of messages) later, I learned that my brother was safe and sound in a meeting, unaware of the collapse. He had driven over that bridge only an hour before its demise.

I sat and stared at the pictures on the screen last night. You would think that a post-911 mind would be more immune to it. But I just couldn't get over how this familiar stretch of town was just simply destroyed. It doesn't seem possible, and you there it was.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of those lost, to the rescue workers and those in the medical fields who are tending to the injured, and to the folks back home who are shocked, saddened and maybe now fearful of what was once assumed safe.

July 25, 2007 - Los Angeles, CA...

Here I am. Back at a coffee joint in LA, thinking about love and music and life and legacy.

At the table next to me sits two, a pale-skinned pencil of a man with a massive spherical afro and bright yellow lens-less glasses. I have him pegged as a musician. The other, a pretty young thing, both anxious and defeated. Clearly, an actress.

A classic scene in Hollywood. Artists seeking fame and opportunity from a tough unforgiving mecca of creative output join forces over a $4 cup of coffee to discuss recent attempts to tame the Beast. DJ Lollipop clearly enjoys his LA seniority as he offers an impassioned pep talk to the girl. Using his hands, his voice and his eyebrows, he expounds enthusiastically on the importance of "putting yourself out there everyday," "preparing to accept rejection," and "not giving up." "It's all about packaging," he continues. "If what you're doing isn't working, you GOTTA try something else."

Ah. Industry talk.

The girl goes wide-eyes and acts the willing pupil, pleading a bit over how she had been in LA for six months and was still waiting to do what she "came out here to do."

How many of these conversations of this very nature had I heard when I lived in West Hollywood? many of them was I a PART of? Countless dozens. It's the fuel of the city. It's the open air electricity that makes so many things go. To live there as an aspiring artist entitles you to such things. It's the free therapy offered to help you sort though and survive the uncertainty of it all.

Call me crazy, but there's a sprinkle of something magic in what spurs these dialogues. It's a faith that belongs to no holy building. It's belief in something bigger and greater than ordinary. It's the great questions of If? When? Will it be? For so many, it's the tangible result of a lifetime of inclinations and desires...of facing what middle America tells them is just a foolish and sparkly enticement...Living in LA. Living the dream.

This one goes out to these the writers, the music makers, the actors, the film makers...everyone sitting over a cup of coffee tonight in LA, waiting for their phone to ring. May all your greatest dreams come true.

Born in the USA...

Okay, friends...I have been absent for over a month. I have been busy experiencing so many varied things on my trip home to the States, and still have a week and a half to go.

At least once a day, I've given more than a fleeting thought to the backlog of mental substance building up in my brain...all that good stuff that I want to prattle off, that will in turn connect me to you and authenticate in memory the fineness of my experiences.

Turning the pages, one by one, of the last six weeks (six weeks?! is it really true?!), here's the view...not necessarily in order...some of it written at the time it happened, some in retrospect...But the titles will reflect the where and when.

Thanks for stopping by...