Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irrational Obsession

My son Jared Price works at Cafe Ladro and Molly Moon's Ice Cream Stores in Seattle to fund what he calls his "irrational obsession with playing rock and roll." I tell him it's only irrational if he can't fund it.

My friends ask me, "Oh, what's Jared doing now? Did he finish college?" And I say, with a smile, "Yes, he did. And now Jared is scooping ice cream and serving coffee in Seattle." But then I add, "But he's also in a band." And those who knew him growing up say, "Ah, yes."

Since he was a child, I've told him to follow his heart. Not until I was in my 50s did I give myself permission to follow my heart, which is writing and photography.  I was determined that he would find out what he wanted to do with his life without censor.

His passion for music got him through adolescence. His dad and I  divorced when he was four, and I was worried that he would either become a drug addict or alcoholic. I drove him nuts for a few years, ever watchful. But always he had his music, his guitar and trombone always in the living room for him to pick up. He later told me he didn't drink in high school because he didn't want to. 

When Jared was 12 he acquired a beat-up guitar. He quickly learned Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. I didn't worry that it was a song about drugs. I was simply impressed that he taught himself to play it.

He bought his first real guitar when he was 15, and then another more expensive acoustic guitar when he was 17, funded by working at Hollywood Video since he was 16.  He still plays his first guitar, as well as his acoustic, electric, bass, keyboards, and the trombone, the instrument he played from fifth grade to his second year in college. His senior year of high school he received the John Philip Sousa award for his trombone playing.

He majored in music in college, but his second year he decided on the more "practical" degree in business management. His senior year he called me and said, "Mom, I just want to play music." Of course, I said. I'm not sure if he was looking for permission or just processing whether it was irrational or not. He got the degree and the student  loans, and I don't think he regrets it. Aren't most baristas college graduates funding their own irrational obsessions?

He worked in the offices of KEXP Radio for a year while playing bass for In Praise of Folly and Benjamin Verdoes. That band came apart, and not long after that Benjamin, Jared, Benjamin's brother, Marshall, and Benjamin's wife, Traci, formed Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. They used quirky marketing techniques and odd videos that piqued the interest of people wondering whether or not this equally odd sounding band really had anything worthwhile to share with music fans.

After a debut at Neumoes two years ago, the band went on some cross-country tours, acquiring fans and debt.  That's about the time Jared's passion turned into an underfunded irrational obsession. He came home from the last tour frustrated.

Over the past few months, however, they've all been working at reducing debt as well as working on their second CD.  The music has gone through a transition, more mellow than their introductory blast.

They are promoting their Northwest fan base, playing their new sounds to receptive fans in Portland, Spokane, Vancouver and Tri-Cities (coming up). After the second CD is released in August, they'll go on another cross-country tour, hoping to have turned an irrational obsession back to a rational passion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Unrequited love

I was surprised to see that the apricots are blooming on the east hills of the lower Yakima Valley today. It’s early yet, and the bees haven’t  returned from their duties in California. But soon, says an orchardist's wife I met, the bees will return. Actually, there are many already here, but we just want to be sure, she says.
“We’ve had first blooms as late as April and earlier than this. Everyone gets pretty excited, but it’s really fine.”
 Apricots are usually the first to strut their stuff, with cherries close behind. Soon, the wind machines will roar through the cold spring nights. The wind on the trees will keep the frost from curling its icy tentacles around the tender blossoms.
Orchardists use sophisticated technology to keep their orchards safe, although some of the smaller orchardists still rely on smudge pots.  During a cold snap a layer of smoke will cover the valley floor.  
The valley depends on the orchardists and farmers to know what they are doing. Yakima County is 12th in farm production in the nation and is the lead producer in the production of apples, hops and mint. The Yakima Valley produces more than 1.2 billion dollars worth of 39 different agricultural commodities annually. That’s a lot of food from this small valley. The soil, fed by the Missoula floods 15 to 20 thousand years ago, is apparently the reason.
Down the hill from the blooming apricots, the Yakima River shimmers on its meander toward the Columbia River 60 miles to the south. The banks are brown yet, the tallest trees, (names yet to be discovered) in which the Great Blue Herons nest, and the willow and sumac, are not yet leafing out.
To the west, all the way past White Swan, Mt. Adams is the dramatic counterpoint to the valley floor, which is drab and almost—but not quite—uninteresting this time of year before everything bursts into bloom.
The mountain is a sacred mountain to the tribe. They call it Pahto in their native language. Later re-named for President Adams, it is the second highest mountain in Washington State.
There is a legend. Wy’east, (Mount Hood), south of Mount Adams in Oregon, and Pahto, (Mount Adams), were the sons of the Great Spirit. They competed for the love of La-wa-la-clough, Mount St. Helens. When Wy'east took La-wa-la-clough from Pahto, Pahto grieved and dropped his head in shame, which, according to the legend, explains Mt. Adams' flattened dome appearance. Since Ms. St. Helens blew her top, maybe she liked Pahto better.  Unrequited love.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Garden time

Yesterday Sue, Mary and I were in the garden. Sue dug in the pea bed, I dug up weeds and raked, and Mary talked to Jesse while she raked hay piles. The weather seemed unseasonably warm to me.

I looked up the average temperature for March in Yakima and it's 56 degrees. The temperature has been hanging out there for a few weeks. The average low is 29, which also sounds about right. The record high for March was 80 and the record low -1. So, there's a wide range of possibilities.

Tentative list of planting choices:  Cantaloupe (three plants), zucchini, yellow crookneck, different kinds of lettuce, kale, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, anaheim peppers, jalapenos, fennel, brussels sprouts, beets, chard, cabbage, and flowers to bring the bugs. And whatever else we think of that we love. Don't think I'll do beans again. Too much energy to harvest.

Taz is 15 weeks and out in her new dog run to keep her safe and us sane. A few days ago she chased the trash truck a block with me in hot pursuit in my pajamas and no bra. What a sight that must have been for the neighbors. Thankfully, our neighbors are rarely around. The only thing that sent her back my direction was the trash truck backing up with its beep beep beep, which scared the crap out of Taz. Naughty dog. Then a few days ago she chased a neighbor who lives above us. But she didn't just chase the car, she chased him to his front door. That was embarrassing. But since his dog practically lives at our house, I wasn't that embarrassed.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wheel of Fortune

Ben and I went to "supper" at mom's last night. We are trying to go there a few times a month (other than the three times a week I visit with her) to share a meal with her. It delights her and is easy for us to do.
After supper we watched the first 15 minutes of Wheel of Fortune with her. Who doesn't know how Wheel of Fortune works. Contestants spin a roulette wheel and choose letters to fill in a phrase. Whoever guesses right ... well, of course, they win.
Mom got it right before the contestants--and us--all three games we watched. Her mind is quick, seeing patterns quickly in a way I can only covet.
I wish now we had stayed until the end of the game, but life always seems to press upon me. After all, NCIS was on at 8 p.m. and we had to get home. No...that wasn't it, but honestly, it was part of it. The dog was in the car. Ben likes to get home. I like to get home. It all plays together to cause a bout of guilt, sadness, and impatience with my own impatience.
We also talked about writing because her caregiver, Rosie, told her I was going to write a book. Mom was a little surprised that Rosie had this information and I hadn't shared it with her. Truth is, I never told anyone I was writing a book. What I did say on Facebook was that I was finally starting a writing project I had put off for four years. Then I said that I was "reading" a book, not writing a book.
But I played along and mom said I could do it.
Then she told me that she used to think about what she was going to say in letters when she was ironing. She used to write elegant letters.
"I was ironing your clothes," she said. "You wore frilly dresses [which I do not remember at all]."
Some were hand-me-downs from my cousin Cheryl, she said. But since Cheryl was (and is) six years older, that hardly seemed likely.
I wouldn't dare accuse her of making it up.
She went on to share some memories of Cheryl's mother, Emma, who she remembers liking to vacuum.
I thought that perhaps Emma's vacuuming was her thinking time.
I like to drive and think about what I'm going to write. But now, instead of driving to work, I'm home, thinking about what I'm going to write, without the driving to settle me.  I get up in the morning and try to chase away my inertia so that I can think through a sentence. It's hard work getting to the point where I am actually working.
Tomorrow I think I will drive to the Lower Valley, where the action upon which I'm basing the actual book I intend to write, took place, and still takes place. Maybe the drive will bring inspiration.