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Saturday, December 29, 2001

I actually prefer working on the weekends, for two reasons. First, I have no life anyway, so why not?

Second, on the weekend I have no defined responsibilities and no distractions. I can sleep as late as I want, take a break when I need one, and generally give in to my aversion to structure. It's a bit of a paradox, the fact that I work better the further I get from feeling chained to my desk. Or maybe it's just human nature (mine, anyway). Nobody bothers me, not the Boss or the company's creditors or anyone else. If the phone rings, it's probably personal. I don't even get wrong numbers on Saturday, the way I do all week.

So I worked today. I slept late, but then I worked. It was mindless data-entry stuff, the kind of chore I hate. But I didn't hate it today, for two reasons. (Here we go again.) First, I didn't have to be doing it, at least not today.

Second, it was something I could do while listening to Our Roots Are Showing on KRCB-FM, the local public radio station. All Saturday afternoon they play folk and acoustic music, and I listen when I can. Today was special, because they did a tribute to the music of the sixties and seventies. This is the music I grew up loving, almost in spite of what everyone else was listening to.

They played a lot of John Denver today, possibly because his birthday is coming up (he would have been 58 on December 31). I was also happy to hear Hoyt Axton again, and the Kingston Trio, Ian and Sylvia, and the New Christy Minstrels ("Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine..."). I have all these artists on vinyl, but it's been a while since I've had a turntable connected to my stereo, so I haven't heard them lately.

I don't care what happened to Cat Stevens after he left the music business (and the real world). He still made some of the most spiritual pop music of the seventies, and I can listen to it over and over. I can't listen without singing along, though, and that can be a problem when I'm trying to work. It was definitely a problem when Tom Paxton launched into a live version of "The Last Thing On My Mind." Well, he insisted that I sing along, and so I did. There weren't many songs on this program that I couldn't sing along with.

When I was a freshman at UC Santa Barbara in 1967, I saw Phil Ochs in concert. I went through many awakenings that first year away from home, and one of them was discovering that there was a singer whose sensibility was both as fragile as a child's tears and as strong as a warrior's heart. "You won't find me singing on this song when I'm gone, so I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here." Oooh. I still get chills.

For local color (and a nod to the fact that women sing folk music, too), they played Maria Muldaur (she wasn't all "Midnight at the Oasis") and the incredible Kate Wolf. They also played Don McLean (the long version) and Bob Dylan - the version of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" where you can actually understand the words and hear the melody.

Peter, Paul and Mary are all over PBS during pledge week, but you never hear "The Great Mandala" any more. I never expected to hear it again, and in fact it's been so long that it struck me as suddenly new and freshly poignant. ("What's that they're saying? 'Kill the traitor! Kill the traitor!'")

In this company, even a song you hear on the oldies station all the time, like the Byrds doing "Mr. Tambourine Man," is exalted to the status of classic folk music once again.

Some of this music is sad. There's a lot of death in folk music, a lot of loss. Maybe that's another reason they played so much John Denver today. His songs are almost always hopeful and positive, and as this year comes to an end, hope is something worth seeking out and singing about.


This sunset is from about two weeks ago.

In spite of all this nostalgia (and obviously, I took a few notes), I got an incredible amount of work done today. That's good, because I wasn't inclined to go out in the storm (which mercifully let up a bit for a while). The one time I did go out to the post office, it rained harder than it did all day. I didn't take down the tree as planned because I didn't want to have to drag it out through the mud. Besides, it's still keeping its needles (and its holiday spirit) rather nicely.

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One year ago: Can the Laughter

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