Report from the Road-Portland March 10-13-2005

March 13, 2005 Portland Sunday morning

Portland is blooming with flowers in trees, bushes, everywhere it's flowers and sun. Not the usual rains. Everyone's loving it but nervous about the lack of rain.

A revelation: I have to give myself over to the music so it will give itself over to me. It's that way with anything.

I flew in Friday and was driven by a friend M. from the airport to her and J’s house for a sweet lunch of salad and pasta, then to Willamette University in Salem for dinner at La Margarita’s. Then to Cone Chapel for a performance. Several Chemawa Indian students come. The chapel resonates beautifully so does the performance. Janice Gould plays guitar for Grace. I sing as well as read. Long lines for signing. Many books and CD’s sold. We drive back to Portland. I crash out in the backseat during the drive.

Friday J. picks me up and we go to a high school. I speak to a few classes of students in an abandoned band room. It’s the saddest thing. No music classes and the students are dying for music. I almost died for music a few times in my life. The students ask the best questions I’ve heard anywhere. They are thoughtful, profound even. I can see that the quality of education is missing. The talent is there. Then to a school across town, Franklin High and once again I am in the band room. But Judy Rose is the choral teacher. The students are bright, supported. Sun streams into the room giving light. There’s music. Janice and I perform. I’m tired of talking and wondering how I’m going to get it up to perform. I've been up at 4AM every night for two weeks. I’m in that sleepless haze. The flowers compoud the surreal measure of the world. (My eyes aren’t even open as I type this in on a Sunday mornning.) The sun isn’t even up yet here in the Hotel Mallory.

Later on Friday Janice and I go to lunch at a Thai place. I pour too much hot sauce on my Pad thai. My tongue says delicious, my stomach roils and punches for a few hours in response. We head over to Powells to get the set up in place so we’re not sound checking in front of the audience at seven. The backdrop is an outrageous art exhibit by a young man from the south who is enthralled with cheap sideshow art. His sculptures are the best feature. The paintings garish. Reminds me a little of Red Grooms. I shop a little, buy a Hugo book of poetry that’s been long out of print, The Lady of Kicking Horse Resevoir, a collected poems, Celan, O’Hara and several Creek books. Then Janice drops me at the hotel. I get ready and go downstairs. Anxious. I feel energy. It courses through me. That means there will be a good audience. It’s energy I can use though I feel a tone of a little test…but I will do my best whatever it is.

Powell’s is packed. There are few books. The order didn’t come in. Janice and I warm up in the rare books room. My reed is stiff and uncooperative. What I learned on this trip since Saturday night at Powells: have three or four good reeds going. Do not try to fly on a stiff new reed that needs working.

We go out. The sound is okay. I start Eagle Song after reading the intro to Ploughshares. With no warning my fingers flub the intro. Strange. I fall a moment. It’s a very noticeable flub. But I keep going. And I keep going. I redeem myself later but it’s very difficult to stay on it after that…my voice however loves the opportunity to sing.

i've been giving myself over to my voice. It's been locked up since childhood, since being forbidden to sing at fourteen by the proverbial evil stepfather.

I meet D., journalist and music writer. We've corresponded. Never met in person. I recognize him right away before the reading. It’s his eyes. We almost don’t need to introduce ourselves. Afterwards we go out for a bite with Janice to Jakes, a seafood place near Powells. Then Janice takes me back to the hotel. I crash. Up at four again.

Up early, again. More sun. I stand in the window of Hotel Mallory and drink it in. The sun is my constant friend. And again the hotel gym, breakfast and work for two hours on a story that’s over due. D. picks me up and we head over to Portland State to look for the Indian House. Floy Pepper is there speaking at some kind of meeting. We eventually find it, after being given the wrong directions that took us blocks out of our way. Floy is speaking to a group of Indian parents with children with disabilities. I learn something, actually. It’s difficult to hear, acoustics, well, sound is flying everywhere but succinctly into sense. I make out the example of a situation that happened of a child calling a teacher a name, and the decision being made not to tell the child what to do, but to give the child the space to make it right himself. He does; he did. If I back off and give myself the space to do the right thing: She does; I do. Lunch is served and I sit with Floy and D. and we have salad and a great three sister soup. Then D. and I are off to his place before Janice is to pick us up. I enjoy visiting with him. And fall in love with his Klein guitar. Perfect fit, sound and size and I have to have one. (If anyone knows where I can find a Klein electric guitar for sale please let me know.) I also see rare footage of Pepper playing an amazing rendition of Georgia. But what is most helpful, D. backs up the tape and I see Pepper flub the opening of Witchi Tia To. I watch him and feel him surround the impact of the flub with his mind...and keep moving. That's what we all have to do when we make mistakes, is keep moving.

THAT was a gift. Thank you, I'm human.

Janice picks me up to drive me to the powwow at Willamette. On the drive we are taken over by flamenco. All the way down to Salem we hammer out rhythms, dance, sing. Flamenco brings me to my knees and back up again. Even my tears are on their knees in tears. I love that music.

Janice and I stand for quite awhile in an existentialist fry bread line. There's a line, and then there isn't, but there is.

I enjoy circling the dancing, visiting the booths, the art, the people, and make friends with Frank who has a booth where I buy a jacket that says Native Pride for my cousin. He buys the last three of my CD’s. He at one time lived in Liliha! We leave near the end of the Apache exhibition crown dance by students from Chemawa. The students are very good. They are at nearly an hour of performance when we leave. I have a jones for fried clams. We stop at one place. None, then another...had soup instead. Almost seven am. Better finish up that overdue story. And get dressed to fly out of here for LA.

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