Sunday, April 23, 2006

Roger Landes and Chipper Thompson

I spent an absolutely delightful afternoon listening to the music of Roger Landes and Chipper Thompson. If you have an opportunity to see them in your area, do not miss it. and for more info on each of them.

They played at the Civic Center. It was a bit warm in there - it got up to 96 this afternoon but it wasn't too bad. Well, it wasn't for us - but of course they were the ones working.

That's Landes on the left and Thompson on the right.

They were playing bouzoukis, which I was not familiar with. It was many years ago that I was a music major and I was never very good at it, which is why it was also brief. Oh, gosh, that was a former life... Although I do miss singing... but I digress. Apparently if I'd only paid more attention during The Thistle and Shamrock during my public radio career I would have known.

If you google bouzouki, you'll find many references (and spellings). It has its own wiki page, so what more needs be said. I'm just out of the loop, obviously, not that that's anything new.

The bouzouki is mainly associated with Celtic music now, but its roots are in Greece.

They had four different bouzoukis and two other stringed instruments as well as a few pieces for percussion. I'm always amazed at what gifted musicians can do with just a few pieces of equipment.

Chipper Thompson also sang on a few numbers, which was fun. To top it off, these guys were both really pleasant, and willing to chat with everyone. And they were funny, which is always a plus. I love funny.

We learned that Chipper Thompson is very fond of snakes, and they even did a song they had written together called Whippersnapper Snake, which I really liked (the song, not the reptile). I'm not going to hold his snake fascination against him. I do wish he had dropped by and taken my little visitor from last night with him.

The civic center was overflowing with music. There were about 50 people there, including Trish, Martha and Jim, and Becky. Jim had a chance to talk with them briefly about his recent trip to China with the Prairie Rose Wranglers to perform on the Great Wall.

I think the guys sold a number of CDs, which I'm happy about. I know making a living as a musician is no easy feat.

The music was a mix of tunes from various cultures including Armenian, Irish, Spanish and a host of others, as well as lots of original pieces. Many of the influences were from the Mediterranean region, which I love. It was a great afternoon.
Some of the music reminded me of things I heard in Egypt. There was a particular piece of music the taxi driver I used in Maadi played a lot in the car that I thought of today. All the Mediterranean influence had me enjoying a trip down memory lane at times.

Sometimes when you're traveling you have one of those "moments" where everything is crystal clear in your memory - the sound, the smell, the feeling - one of those for me is being in Alexandria, Egypt, and walking out to look at the Mediterranean Sea. I remember standing there, the wind blowing so hard I could barely hear my companion's words, and knowing that I was a different person than I had been before setting off on that trip.

The stars aligned for me to go to Egypt at a critical time. I needed to move past a really long-term relationship that had ended abruptly and I'm a big believer in what I call "geographic therapy." Some American expats, family of someone I knew here, graciously welcomed me into their home, and made a dream I'd had for 30 years come true. I soaked up everything in Egypt - and came back changed.

Of course, the thing about changes is that you can't ever go back. I'll never again be that woman who got on a plane alone, bound for Cairo, not knowing a word of Arabic, not having the necessary visa, never having met the people I was staying with, and figured all would work out.

I left Egypt almost a month later with a very different concept of the world and my place in it. No one in my world here has ever understood how I changed. I guess it's not of interest to anyone, as no one has ever asked. Being in that very foreign place, the first time I'd ever traveled abroad alone, I learned how to come home to me.

It was in Egypt where I accepted that I live by a different code than most. Life for me is all about this moment - only this moment.

It's why I've made big decisions in ways that seem "casual" to others. Nothing is casual to me - nothing at all. It's all intense - if I'm having a sip of ice cold freshly squeezed lemonade on a scorching hot day, or being kissed gently while the Nile river rushes by below, or sitting on a bench in Monet's garden at Giverny speaking in my halting French to a young child who approached me - it's all intense. And when I fall in love - oh my gosh - intense can't even begin to describe it. I live my life at 110 mph all the time. When you hit a wall going that speed it really hurts. But the ride is amazing. And I'm not willing to give up the ride. Never. I'll take my lumps at the end of it, but I'm not giving it up.

Most of my life people have been admonishing me to "think things through" and "be careful" and "think about what you're doing." What I realized in Egypt was that while they were thinking things through I was living and that one can't really do both. You're either living the moment or spending it thinking about another one in the future; then not living that one while you're planning for yet another one. It's not the life for me.

While others were considering their options, I was going to an Egyptian wedding and crawling around in the Tomb of Ti and climbing the red pyramid. To each his own, but I don't want to think things through. I can't waste the time. We're not here forever. Who knows what the next world will be like, I want to enjoy this one because it's all I have right now.

Thinking things through is not how one ends up inside the Step Pyramid, even though it's closed to the public. It's not how one gets the chance to be alone inside the pyramid of Unas, even though it's closed. Those were two things I desperately wanted to see. Fortunately, an educator I met at Sakkara made those dreams come true for me, as well as that trip to Alexandria.

I wanted to see the spot in Alexandria where Eratosthenes had measured the shadow that gave him a nearly accurate measurement of the Earth's circumference in the third century BC. As my trip was going so quickly, I thought I might not make it to Alexandria, and then this young man offered to go with me and negotiate all the Arabic that would be necessary for me if I wanted. I did.

I realized the day I bought the tickets to Alexandria that the Egyptian way of life really suited me in the context of "whatever will be, will be." They say, "inshallah" - meaning if Allah is willing then it will happen.

Having grown up in the American culture, I guess I never knew there were others like me out there - people who don't care to claw their way to the top of some infamous ladder that no one can even see - but who just want to live and love and laugh and feel and experience. I found, instead, that there are entire nations filled with such people. There just aren't very many of them in the United States or Europe where I had traveled previously.

I no longer belabor giving in to my whims. It may not suit everyone, but it's my way. I'll take my chances it's going to end badly, but I'm not willing to give up the chance it could be amazing.

Some people keep schedules and like it. I keep a schedule because I have to. I'd much rather live by the moment, not by the hour.

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