All posts for my Travel category

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Flying with Guitars

Ask any musician what is the most challenging part of traveling by air, and they will all say the same thing.

At its worst, it results in situations like this one:

or this:

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 12.25.36 PM

 

 

 

And breakage is not the only thing that can happen. I have talked with many people who checked their instrument and never saw it again. I think the normal response to that (according to me, so FWIW) would be to want to be able to see your instrument at all times.

But … help is on its way. Sort of.

According to a document from the Transportation Safety Administration (the people who x-ray your baggage and you when you are flying) dated 9/28/12, you may carry on your guitar. Here is a copy of the document. I carry it with me when I fly, in the same envelop with my boarding pass and ID. You can get it at: http://local1000.org/2013/01/download-forms-and-contracts/#.VD1b1CldWiQ

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This document mainly has to do with carrying instruments through the security checkpoint, but in fact, Congress passed a law to allow you to bring your instrument aboard as carry-on baggage. According to John Thomas at Fretboard Journal:

“Section 403 of the legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, provides:

“An air carrier providing air transportation shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other musical instrument in the aircraft cabin, without charging the passenger a fee in addition to any standard fee that carrier may require for comparable carry-on baggage ….”

But at the end of the same article is this:

“Alas, we’ve fallen into a black hole in American jurisprudence. Recall that the law was to go into effect when the FAA promulgated the corresponding regulations. Recall also that Congress commanded the FAA to promulgate those regulations by February 6, 2014. Well, that date has come and gone and the FAA has not even begun the process of drafting the regulations. And, that black hole? There is no legal mechanism by which Congress can force an agency to do its job. As a result, members of Congress have been reduced to pleading, threatening, stamping their feet, and holding their breath until the FAA acts. So far, the FAA has not been impressed.”

In other words, we cannot rely on the law-makers to fix this problem.

 

UPDATE: There is now an agreement in place between the AFM, TSA and the airlines. Here is a copy of the letter:

 

Screen shot 2016-06-11 at 10.05.13 PMYou can find a copy of this letter to download and print at:  http://local1000.org/2013/01/download-forms-and-contracts/#.V1zROyMrIYI

American Federations of Musicians (of which I am a proud member, Local 1000), has been working with TSA to try to adjust the situation so that at the very least, every airline has the same rules. According to Ray Hair, AFM International president, there is progress being made in this, their second meeting with TSA and the Department of Transportation.  All interested parties were represented at these talks, and in his message this month, there was this:

“The major takeaway from our July meeting was a general acknowledgement from DOT and the airline industry that most major and regional airlines have adopted company policies concerning the air transportation of musical instruments, most of which closely mirror the requirements contained in the 2012 law. The DOT is now bringing both sides together to help clarify and negotiate protocol differences, while ensuring that the airlines’ published policies are clear and will be adhered to, so that musicians can rely on them while flying with their instruments.

“We gained tremendous insight and engaged in productive discussions during our July meeting about the obligations of the US airlines toward musical instrument air travel. The need for the dissemination of information about existing policies, protections, commitments, and remedies avilable for musicians from government and industry, prior to the issuance of final administrative rules, was well recognized by every stakeholder.

“As a result, our September meeting would concentrate on the following agreed-upon items, including but not limited to:

  • The creation of a webpage to provide public information on transporting musical instruments.
  • Improved airline communication of musical instrument policies to frontline staff, ticket agents, gate agents, and flight crews.
  • Group review of AFM member survey results concerning instrument air transport.
  • Development of a public document summarizing musical instrument carriage regulations in plain language.
  • New options on how to file air travel service complaints
  • Development of a tip sheet for musicians traveling by air with instruments.”

Despite all this progress, there are a number of people who have come up with solutions for the problems that remain formidable — the flight attendant or the gate agent who has the final word, a concept designed to strike fear into the heart of every traveling guitarist.

At this point, I’d like to insert that I fly Southwest Airlines whenever I can. This is not because I’m affiliated with Southwest in any way. I’m not. But of all the airlines I’ve flown, I can count on Southwest not to give me a hard time about my guitar. I once got aboard a flight with a 9-piece band, all carrying instruments, and me with my guitar. No one batted a single eyelash, nor was there a single murmur. (BTW, if Southwest is not an option for you, the next best choice, running a distant second, is American Airlines. They usually don’t have a problem, but you can’t count on everyone who works for them to follow through. Not affiliated with them either, in case you wondered.)

Lots of people have lots of advice, but the best I found online was from CDBaby’s DIY blog. Their 5 tips included

  • Try to get aboard early. Southwest takes care of this with their “Early Bird Boarding”, which you pay a little extra for when you buy your ticket. If you’re on another airline, try to choose a seat at the back, which allows you to board first after First Class.
  • Ask if your guitar can be stored in the closet up front. If there’s room in it, this is convenient for all concerned, since you won’t have to carry it through the plane, though I always wonder what would happen if someone else took it from the closet before I got back to it when we landed.
  • Have it in a case that could weather the conditions either in the cabin or in the hold. My guitar is in a foam case that fits in the overhead (like the TRIC case that comes with the Seagull guitars – though you can buy them separately. Again, no affiliation.) and will protect it if you have to gate check your guitar – though not from theft.
  • Make sure your guitar is protected against conditions in the hold. Loosen the strings, add a humidifier, wrap the headstock, add some padding, if you can.

And my personal favorite:

  • If the gate agent tags your guitar to be gate checked, and tells you to leave it at the end of the jetway, just cover the tag with your hand, and try to board with it. Pretend ignorance, if you get caught. Flight attendants are too busy to pay attention to that stuff.

Far and away, the best advice I found was, ABOVE ALL, BE POLITE. Ask with a smile. All the airline personnel are people with families, issues, feelings, worries, etc. just like yours. Play nice, kids. Bon voyage.

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Tales of 14-Songs-in-14-Days: Live blogging This Challenge

Well, it’s live blogging -ish.  I didn’t want to inundate everyone with trivial comments about songs that might not turn out to be “all that”.

So this is a summary at the end of the first week, and a sample of the first week’s best.

Day 1:  Based on a conversation I had with Andy (my husband, for those of you who don’t know him).

Pretty Good

Fact is
Things are not as they should be
I hear it every night on tv
And see it in the news

Y’Come home
And find me in a mess again
And you don’t have to guess again
Why I’ve got the blues

And then we talk for awhile
And you find my smile
Just like I knew you would

And baby, thanks to us
Thanks to us
Thanks to us life is still
Pretty good

Was there always
This much greed and selfishness
Everything and everybody overstressed
And overused.

I come home and find you hangin’ on
By a thread that’s almost gone
So I do my best for you.

And we laugh for awhile
And I find your smile
Just like you knew I would

And baby, thanks to us
Thanks to us
Thanks to us life is still
Pretty good

Day 2:  The first person to contribute to my Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds to mix and master my new CD, was Tommy Adair. I had offered to write a song for the first contributor, so here is the song for Tommy. I didn’t know him personally, so everything I learned about him came from his YouTube channel:

Tommy Pick Your Fiddle Up

Back before he was a teen
He played with the symphony
They said he was a prodigy
But he put his fiddle down
Friends would ask him why he quit
Cuz I want to be a kid
Gonna miss you, teacher said
But he put his fiddle down

Now the strings are old and rusty
On the shelf the case is dusty
And inside of it smells musty
Since he put his fiddle down
Sometimes he imagines when
He felt the bow in his hand
But he hasn’t picked it up again
Since he put his fiddle down.

And everyone who knows him
They all want to tell him

Tommy pick your fiddle up and play us a song
Put a smile on all our faces
Make us dance all night long
Tommy you’ll remember how
It’s not too late
Tommy pick your fiddle up and play.

Tommy thinks that he forgot
How to get sweet music from that box
But he didn’t lose what’s in his heart
When he put his fiddle down
Sometimes he will write a song
And he will sing it all night long
Tommy’s music does go on
But he’s put his fiddle down

And everyone who knows him
They all want to tell him

Tommy pick your fiddle up and play us a song
Put a smile on all our faces
Make us dance all night long
Tommy you’ll remember how
It’s not too late
Tommy pick your fiddle up and play.

Day 3: In the middle of trying to sort out bill payments and tax issues, I expressed my discontent with this song about how nice it would be if all I had to do was music. Truth is, I know I’m lucky that ANY  of what I do is music.  But part of my philosophy is that a perfect life contains stuff to gripe about:

Mainly Music

Don’t get to do what I want to do
Wishing I was a kid again
Don’t get to say what I want to say
Wishing I could do what I did back when
I was a child and life was
Mainly music.

Mostly the world is a noisy place
Often the world is so dark
Mostly I’m just trying to walk the path
Of my life with a loving heart
Mostly I want a world that is
Mainly music.

No one knows what heaven looks like
I’m just hoping for some peace
But I’ll bet the angels sing
In exquisite harmonies

I have my share of comfort and joy
I’m a dreamer I suppose
I have my share of disappointments
I’ll try not to dwell on those
If I can have a world that is
Mainly music.

Day 4: This one was started awhile ago, but never finished. Now it’s “finished”. Maybe.  The trigger was exactly what the first verse says:

Question

So if I trip on the sidewalk
And if I skin my knee
Then I may cry for my mommy inside
But the mommy I want is me.

And if I stubbed my heart on someone
And I’ve splintered my self-esteem
And I say that I need a lover to hold
The lover I need is me.

When do we learn to love ourselves
The way we say we want to be loved?
When will I stop seeking someone else’s approval?

If I need a shoulder
Of a friend where I can lean
Why shouldn’t I be my own best friend,
And that shoulder belong to me?
Eh?
That shoulder belongs to me.

Day 5:  Now I’m in my car, driving to Utah. Actually, I started this trip on Day 4, but I had a song for Day 4. So I’m driving through southern Utah.  If you’ve never driven I-70 west from Grand Junction, CO to I-15, you should get in your car immediately (well, asap) and do that.  I thought at one point, “I should get out my camera and get pictures of this”, and then was struck by the utter pointlessness of trying to capture this huge, overwhelming and overwhelmingly spectacular landscape.  I’ve seen wall-size paintings that don’t do it justice.  So I wrote a song instead:

Let Me Take You West

Let me take you west
And fill your eyes with beauty
I could show you pictures
But they’d just be small and puny
And I would not be satisfied
And you would not feel blessed
Like if you saw them with your own eyes
Let me take you west.

Let me take you west
To timeless earthly majesty
In ever-changing robes and jewels
Left here by the sea.
And you will hear me speak of it
And I will seem obsessed
There’s only one solution
Let me take you west.

Let me take you west
Among the brooding silent canyons
And the shouts of pointed rocky spires
Reaching to the heavens
Spend a day or spend a lifetime
Whatever you suggest
Let me show you how I love you
Let me take you west.

Imagine this at sunset
Let me take you west.

Day 6:  There is one other person doing this challenge with me, Leora, because everyone else in the group did it two weeks ago. I was in Hawaii two weeks ago, and I knew I’d never stick with it, if I tried to do it while vacationing. Leora said something in one of her songs, “Virtual”, that triggered a response in me. This was the result:

Big Brother

Back in 1949 George Orwell wrote a story
About people acting like sheep and the world in an endless war
They didn’t question why. They never questioned who.
Everywhere they looked they saw
“Big Brother is watching You.”

And they lived for Big Brother
And they breathed for Big Brother
And they worked for Big Brother
And believed in Big Brother
Cuz Big Brother was watching.

1984 came and went, and tho the picture isn’t pretty
It’s not as dire as predicted. At least not in your city.
And Big Brother never came to pass
Because it didn’t need ta.
We the people volunteered
And called it “Social Media”

And we dance for Big Brother
And we sing for Big Brother
Tell our hopes to Big Brother
And dreams to Big Brother
And Big Brother is watching.

Even if that’s not the intent
We don’t control how the money is spent
After it leaves our hands.

So look out for Big Brother
Tell your friends ‘bout Big Brother
Never doubt that Big Brother
Is watching.
So we must carefully watch
Big Brother too.

Day 7:  This one is so sketchily sketched out, that I can’t post lyrics here.

Also, Day 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are not yet recorded, which isn’t strictly according to the rules, but those 4 days I spent driving to and from Salt Lake City, where I took 2nd place in the song competition, by the way, were pretty much drive, leap out to play music, drive, sleep (maximum 6 hours) and drive.  No time to record. I lost 6 pounds because there was no time to eat either. I’m catching up as I can.  Maybe by the time of next week’s blog, I’ll have more for you to listen to, but here’s the song from Day 2.

Tommy Pick Your Fiddle Up

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Over the Mesa

Highway 65 continues up from Powderhorn Resort, where we stayed, so we went up to take a look.

I should mention that we’re driving a rented bright red Prius which has been driven pretty hard. It has half the miles on it that mine has, and yet it is in marginal condition. Not the car itself. It got us where we were going, and pretty economically, all things considered. But the accessories are mostly not of the working persuasion. For example, Priuses have a touchscreen display on the dashboard between the driver and passenger. All the controls for the climate, radio, information about the motors – electric and gas, and controls for the screen itself are there. Only none of them worked on this car. You would push things, and they would remain stubbornly unproductive. You couldn’t turn the air conditioning up or down, you couldn’t dim the screen, you couldn’t turn the fan up or down….you get the picture. The most notable thing about the screen was that (I’m making this up, but I really think this is what happened) someone at some point had gotten fed up, and there appeared to be the mark of a fist in the middle of the screen.

 

Lots of aspens lined the road, and then lots of spruce trees, with the last winter snowpinklupin still unmelted at their feet. Then meadows, one of which was host to a pair of mule deer. Lots of wildflowers, wild roses and lupins in blue, red and pink. Small white flowers that I never got the name of, but they looked like petunias and grew on vines close to the ground.

 

We continued in the Prius up the mountain, and about 12 miles higher we found a road that claimed to go to the “Land’s End” observatory. A dirt road. I have an over-active imagination, so I imagined that dirt road was going to turn into a donkey track at some point, and I’d either have to back up down an incline or try to turn around. Instead what happened was the dirt road suddenly became a paved road about halfway to the observatory.  Why? Dunno. Nor did anyone else…

 

Bravely, we (that is, I) drove on not knowing what to expect next. And finally reached a lookout point. There was a parking lot, a boarded up ranger station, a bathroom (thank goodness) and several other people standing at a wall overlooking a sheer drop and about 80 miles of gorgeous view. In the distance, the Gunnison and Colorado sparkled, as did Grand Junction. The valley was beautiful and 187 different shades of green. We could also see the mountains to the south where Ouray (pronounced You-ray) and Telluride are located.

 

A family at the wall were feeding potato chips to the chipmunks, which you’re not technically supposed to do, but the chipmunks didn’t object.

 

One of about a dozen chipmunks who didn't object to potato chips.

One of about a dozen non-objecting chipmunks

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Grand Junction, CO

picture-5I have a gig here in Grand Junction, at the Unity Church of Grand Junction. I got up at 7:00 am to play the Sunday morning service. Drove back down Highway 65 to I-70 and then 15 more miles to Grand Junction.

Rev. J. Douglas Bottorff, minister of the Unity Church of Grand Junction.

Rev. J. Douglas Bottorff, minister of the Unity Church of Grand Junction.

Back in Denver, I’d had a pretty disturbing conversation with a friend, that I was still attempting to interpret on Sunday morning. Despite the fact that the scenery was awe-inspiring, I was still ruminating about what the conversation might have meant, and I had a giant case of the “I-shoulda-said”s. For one thing, it had to do with Israel, which always draws my undivided attention, and for another, it was loaded with Faux News talking points, which always makes me feel a little desperate. The gist of it was that our new president (who, according to Fox News and my friend, who is a smart man and should know better) had sold Israel down the river and that, once Israel was disposed of nuclearly, we would be next. Oh, and  by the way, Obama is a Muslim and not even born in this country. All of which is untrue — just so you know. And I would still think he was the right man for the job, no matter what his religion or lack thereof.

I was probably more charitable than I might have been otherwise, because I had just read Rev. Bottorff’s book, in preparation for this gig. In the chapter he asked me to be familiar with and to choose my songs around, he discussed the way in which people tend to have the same negative experiences repeatedly, because of what they are bringing with them to the experience (AKA “baggage”), and their negative self-image.

But during his sermon, he talked about a catamaran trip he took with his wife on Lake Powell in Utah, where they camped on a tiny spit of land on the river that feeds the lake. The catamarans they were using could be pedaled, paddled, or sailed. People had warned them of the winds, which rose while they were camped. Gale-force winds. Nothing small and benign. They made it through the night, in total darkness and high winds and finally, Doug decided to go out into the lake, just to find out if they could. He kept a journal of the whole trip, and at one point during their adventure, this is what he wrote:

“It occurs to me that fear is a lot like a flashlight beam in the night. When you turn it on, the beam it throws is all you can see. But if you turn it off, you can see the stars, perhaps the Milky Way, even the Universe”

As soon as he said it, I realized that these words were the real reason I was here in this place at this time. All of that conversation that had me so upset had to do with fear, which is what Fox News feeds. Fear is contagious. I probably need to be more careful, not only about the judgments I make, but also about how influenced I allow myself to be.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears, so they say.

Scenery on the way to Grand Junction:

Coming down the mountain from the Powderhorn Goldenwoods Resort

Coming down the mountain from the Powderhorn Goldenwoods Resort

grandjunction5grandjunction2grandjunction6

On the Interstate, just east of Grand Junction, which, by the way, is the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers.

On the Interstate, just east of Grand Junction, which, by the way, is the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers.

grandjunction3

One of the great mesas of the Palisades.

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The drive across Colorado – complete with pictures!

We got up early Saturday morning and got into the car to drive all the way across Colorado to the resort where we would spend the next 6 days. Most of the way, we were on Interstate 70. Here’s a sample of what we saw.

snowcapmountains

Snow covered mountains on the way to the Continental Divide

The Eisenhower Tunnel under Loveland Pass - otherwise known as the Continental Divide.

The Eisenhower Tunnel under Loveland Pass - otherwise known as the Continental Divide.

The Continental Divide is the place where the Eastern and Western Rocky Mountains meet.  All the water that runs down the eastern slopes ends up, eventually, in the Gulf of Mexico and then the Atlantic Ocean. All the water that runs down the western side ends up in the Pacific Ocean. Hence, the Continental Divide. There must be a similar place on every continent, but I don’t know where the others are.

We stopped in Frisco, CO to buy some groceries, as the resort is 20 miles from the nearest grocery store, and to have lunch. Next to the supermarket, we found a little restaurant named Food Hedz, owned by Gourmet Chef David Welch and his wife, Mary.  The food was simple and wonderful, and we want everyone to go to Frisco immediately and taste it, or at least look for the place the next time you’re there.

After lunch, we continued down I-70, stopping again at Glenwood Springs where we would be staying after the days at the resort. Glenwood Canyon was pretty spectacular, so we stopped at a scenic overlook to take pictures. Here’s one of them:

train

This train fortuitously happened along just in time for my picture -- lucky me!

From there, we went on and finally arrived at Exit 49, and started up the narrow mountain road to the resort, stopping halfway up in Mesa to buy the foods that had to stay cold. Here’s a sample of what we saw on the way up:

canyonnearmesa

All these pictures and others will be on my website as soon as I get them organized.