Monday, January 7, 2013

Paris – Some Impressions

After those last few detours, I’m back to writing about France, and Paris in particular.  Now, I’m not going into a travel-log, though we went to many notable places.  But, rather, I want to talk about my impressions.  And the fact that I may have located where my song, "Je Suis l’Amour," could have taken place.
So, impressions.  I felt like I was in a special place (as I was).  I could feel it under my feet, through my eyes, in my ears .. . it was wonderful.  As a side note, it would have been even better if I could read the signs.  But, that limitation (on my part) almost melted away by the 4th day.  Things that were strange and new because familiar and comfortable.  The chatter between people started to have depth and feeling.  I started to understand, just a little, but enough to feel at ease.
I often chuckle when thinking about the waiter who did not speak English.  My wife had a little cheat-sheet of words for food preparation, since I like my beef very well done (it’s biological … you don’t want to know what beef juice does to me, and quickly).  So, we stumbled through our order, he nodded and soon brought us just what we had ordered.  I had picked up some courtesies from Liane.  So, when I signaled for the check, he brought it over, dropped it off and winked at me.  Haha.  I knew he understood all along.
And, there was the old man (I have to be careful who I call “old” .. he may have been only a few years older than me) sitting at the bus stop.  He wasn’t waiting for a bus.  He was just sitting there.  He engaged me in conversation, talking about restaurants we might enjoy and how much he was thankful for General Patton.  All the time, he talked with a casual toss of his hand in a tired, humored voice.  I do not think I treated him well.  I actually was a little afraid of him.  So, as soon as the bus came, I bid him good day and jumped on the bus.
Now, on the bus, we met another interesting person.  She was from Montreal and was in Paris visiting her male friend.  She was very helpful in providing directions for getting back to our hotel, since not all the bus lines were running.  Was it Sunday?  Not sure. Anyway, we made it back just fine with her help.
So, for months I had worried about how I would get around in Paris. When the time came, the answer?  Just fine.
Now, about my song.  We went on the boat ride up and down the Seine one evening.  And, I was looking at the shore for two reasons: 1) because I had seen pictures of the house boats docked at the waters edge and 2) I was looking for where my song could have taken place.  I found two likely spots, both in the same general area on le Quai d’Anjou, either near la Rue Poulletier or at the other end of the island, where the road is le Quai de Bourbon, near a small park at the isle tip, both on Ile Saint-Loius.
So many more things come to mind.  But the hour is late and I must post this.  Also another day and another post, right? (Usually). I will continue with more little notes on this magical city.
So, bye for now.  And, remember to have fun … where ever you are.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1975 – the year I leaped and missed

I don’t know what most of you were doing in 1975, but I was trying to find where I fit in after spending 4 years in the USAF.  I was working at my 3rd job in 2 years, had broken up with my heart throb, had a new motorcycle and was working on new songs and what I was going to do with them.
I had originally marked this point as 1974.  But, after thinking back through my experiences, I decided 1975 was more correct, since in 1976 I had a total life change by following the job trail out to Minnesota.
Anyway, I had played a few bars and some back rooms and was getting positive results.  I even had an offer to join with a band out of Connecticut (which I didn’t take because I wasn’t sure it was my style). I figured it was time to search out a publisher.  {Where is that Time Machine when you need it, right?}
Anyway, my choices were the City (NYC, that is) or Boston.  I called around and both places wanted to see all new material in person.  I decided that Boston was the better route for that.  So, I made an appointment …. wait … wait … that’s what I should have done.  But, what I *really* did was make a quick cassette tape of some songs, packed a lunch and drove to Boston with an address in hand.
Now, that’s bad, right?  Well, I did this on a Saturday.  I drove all the way to Boston.  I got within a few blocks of my destination when I slammed into the back of someone making a right turn ... except he stopped suddenly.  Bam!  Luckily no one was hurt.  He had an accident earlier on that same spot and hadn’t had time to fix it yet.  But, I wiped out my headlight and right front fender.
We agreed to let it go.  I pried the fender out enough to allow the wheel full movement (mostly).  But, my headlights were toast since the circuit was shorted.  I drove to where the production company office was and went in to see the head man.  But, and that’s where the appointment would have been nice, he wasn’t in.  The receptionist said she’d take my tape.  But, I didn’t want to leave it and just left.  I got back in my busted car, ate my cold sandwich and drove home.  It was dark before I got close.  I ran the rest of the way with just my running lights on: no headlights.
So there you go.  I leaped and missed.  Poor planning, poor timing, and bad luck all rolled into one experience.
Was it bad?  I don’t know.  Who can say if any mishap is bad.  Sometimes it works out for the better.  But, the absolute *worst* thing you can do is give up.  I have never given up.  I may fall into slumps at times (even for several years).  But, the spark still shines inside.  And I suspect it will until I take that last final breath.
So, keep trying, regardless of the outcome.  And, please, have fun doing it … in any life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Minnesota Performers

Well, I’m taking a break from stories of France because today was a special day and it made me think about another topic: performers.
Why today?  Well, first off, a good associate of mine died several weeks ago after a long, three year battle with ALS.  Then, today we buried one of my wife’s cousins who came down with ALS not more than a year ago.  She went very quickly towards the end.
So, what has this to do with performers?  Well, her cousin was well loved.  And as a tribute to her at her service a father/daughter team sang two songs, her on the guitar and he on the mandolin. They have obviously done this before.  She had a fantastically sweet voice and was excellent on the guitar.  And he was pretty darn good with harmony and playing the mandolin.
There is so much wonderful talent in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  However, I suspect these two came from the North Shore, Duluth area, since that’s where my wife’s cousin has been living.  And the North Shore (of Lake Superior, for those who were wondering) is not lacking in talent.  Michael Monroe, one of my favorite MN singer/songwriters, hails from that neck of the wood (but he’s not the Finnish rock star Michael M).  And, there are so many others.

And, the talent is abundant all over the world.  This is an incredible time for music in the history of Mankind.  And with the Internet and inexpensive hardware/software, production and distribution is almost too easy.
So, what’s the big deal?  Well, regardless of how I come across, I understand that I am no great shakes vocally and performance-wise.  I do have my “style” on the 12-string.  But, I really envy people who can pick a mean guitar or play the piano like they were born with it.

There are times when I feel so out-of-it, or full-of-it, or just plain foolish.  Just another person trying to be heard in that great cacophony of people trying to get heard.
Then, I get this notice asking me to play (in Second Life) on Feb 10th at 7pm PST for an hour at a benefit to “Be the Match” for bone marrow transplants and I feel invigorated again.
Isn’t Life (and Second Life) wonderful?!
So, final edit going in just after midnight.  And, I’m shutting down for some shut-eye.  Remember to have fun .. anywhere, in any life.

Friday, January 4, 2013

More on France: Verdun and Strasburg

It’s late Friday night and I’m tired and frustrated.  Maybe some of you are, too.  Well, we both know what the answer is, right?  Go to bed … LOL!  I will soon. J
I’m sitting here with a cup of hot coco, wondering what I want to write about.  I had picked up the guitar just a bit ago and played a few songs.  But, I don’t have the energy to turn the whole system on and really get into it.  Guess that’s another sign that I should “go to bed!”
But, being a night owl, that’s not an option; at least not for another hour.
I was thinking about what else to tell you, in a few paragraphs, about France before I jump into talking about Paris.  I was really stunned by the Verdun area: how blasted it was during WWI.  How you still can’t walk in some of the woods (they are woods again now after being just blasted dirt back then) because of the unexploded ordinance and shells in the ground.  The museum is solemn, but very complete, explaining much of the history leading up to events in the area.  The whole thing is just amazing to me.  I don’t want to go into any details because you need to be specific on things.  You just can’t say “The Germans did this” and “the French did that” because not all Germans were involved, as well as not all French likewise.  However, there is a pattern of villainizing the other on both sides that made such a conflict easier to support.  It’s a sad, repeating portrait in history to “create an enemy” so that you can do battle with them and hope to defeat them.
[A side comment on that … I just saw the movie “Lincoln” and it actually brought up that point.  His son was so disgusted and upset with the atrocities being perpetrated on “our boys” (paraphrased) that he insisted on joining up to fight the South: another example of this pattern.]
So, that was the sad part of that area.  The interesting part is that over the centuries that section of land has changed hands between France and Germany many times, resulting in a merging of cultures.  I think back to the Inn Keeper at the Comfort Inn in Strasburg.  He was a delightfully cheerful fellow who could speak three languages very well: French, German, and English.  And, for what languages he didn’t know, there was someone else on staff that might.  He and Liane would have a lively talk in French to each other.  Then a German couple came in and he had a lively chat with them. After which I, needing change for a 10 spot for the machines, had a pleasant chat in English with him.  I’d stop by there again anytime (besides the fact it was just off the Tram line, making it an easy point to go into town from).
Now that’s another interesting point about the trip:  transportation was excellent.  Trains, buses, trams, metro lines, even taxis … all so accessible and well done.  And almost everything was on time, with displays showing what’s coming and in how long.  It was really nice.
I suppose you world travelers are chuckling at my silliness.  Yes, I’ve had a semi-sheltered life: my only trip outside the States was a tour of duty in Southeast Asia.  But, I guess my point being, again, that I met many wonderful people who made the trip so magical.
Enough for tonight.  I wish you all sweet dreams … and have fun, wherever you are.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

France – Alsace/Lorraine

Last September (2012), my wife and I joined two other couples to take a week tour of the Alsace/Lorraine area of France, finishing up with 5 days in Paris.  I’ll talk about Paris later.  For now, I want to mention the trip and our companions.
The trip was organized by our good friend, Liane, who basically does this for a living.  But, our journey was one to catch places she and her husband, Jim, had not really spent much time in before.  This was fine with me … anyplace in France was new for me.  Plus, since she speaks fluent French (as opposed to my 10 word vocabulary), it was a no-stress journey through Wonderland (voyage à travers le pays des merveilles?). {Isn’t Google wonderful … LOL}  Our other travel companions are a fun couple and friends: Jim and Janet.
Now, it wasn’t without it’s mishaps.  Right away, our rental van was not there.  It took a few hours to get one that would work for six with baggage.  But, it all worked out well in the end.  We loaded up the van and were on our way.  The GPS was unpacked and plugged in (for insurance on getting where we were headed) and christened “Gracie.”  {I should note that Gracie gave us quite the chuckle now and then with her pronunciation of some of the French names.)
Later, at lunch at an open air café, I had the distinct pleasure of “wearing” a demi of beer.  I saw it happening in slow motion as the waiter leaned forward to set down one beer and the tray started to tilt. Now, I must say, if you are going to spill beer on someone, I’m your guy.  The poor waiter (in training) was terrified.  But, I just laughed, and wondered if I should suck it out of my shirt.  Liane had a lengthy conversation with the head waiter, who said he would offer me one of his suits, but I was obviously not his size.  LOL.  It’s all good.  I am NOT his size. I am probably twice his size. They paid for the dry cleaning and I got a great story out of it. And, I’m sure the waiter in training got quite the scolding.  I do feel badly about that, though.
I’m not going into details on every day.  We were in Reims for two days (the site of my beer bath), across the border to Luxembourg for one day, back down to Strasburg for two days, then two days in Colmar before heading back to Paris for five days.  And between each stop were lovely, peaceful small towns, castles, battlefields, and cemeteries, as well as one detainment camp: Natzweiler.
And grape vines! As far as the eye could see, covering hillside after hillside. We even got the chance to see a load of grapes “de-stemmed.”  It is fascinating how the machine can take the grapes off the stems without damaging the fruit itself.
But, the true delight of the trip was in meeting many, many wonderful people, including the many friends of Liane’s (because of her business and travels).  They gave us personal tours, shared lunches and dinners with us, and just added so much fun and laughter to an already marvelous trip.
So, I must say that if you travel to places new to you, do it with someone who knows the area and the language.  You will have so much more fun than just taking a standard tour.
As always, have fun … anywhere, in any life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, Old Life

LOL.  Strange title, that one.  But, it’s very appropriate for me.  I am still working on what I wanted a decade ago.  Some things just take time, I guess.
So, what is that?  Well, I suppose it’s what many people want … to show a wide range of people (the world, maybe?) what you are about.  For me, that’s my music.  It also might be my thoughts.  But, then, I have a lot of personal thoughts that I don’t share, mainly because they are mine and not shared by many around me.
But, the list of things I do want to share in this New Year and new endeavor (this blog) is huge.  The short list is …
-          Impressions and experiences of my trip to France.
-          Paris … City of Lights, city of Love.
-          Enya, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, etc, etc, …
-          1974 … the year I leaped and missed.
-          What *is* the Cost of Freedom (referring to my song)
-          Choices … make them or lose them
-          On Aging
-          On “Looks”
-          Missed Opportunities
-          MAS (Minnesota Association of Songwriters)
-          My Father
-          My Mother
-          My Sisters (that could be juicy .. but don’t be fooled)
-          My Wife and boys
-          Songwriting … my approach
-          Evolution and Intelligence
-           I watched three birds a-singing
That should takes us through January (assuming I keep writing one a day).  We shall see what February brings.
In the meantime, “New Year, Old Life” just means to me that not everything changes with the calendar.  I still have similar agendas.  I still need to lose weight (I still need to work on that). I still need to work, period (for a little bit more, anyway). I still need to treat everyone with dignity and respect, even when I don’t think they deserve it.  And, I still need to remember to buy flowers for that special woman who puts up with my silliness and forgetfulness every single day of the year, regardless if it’s a New Year or not.
So, until next time, have fun … in any life (or year).

Blog VS Website

Well, just a quick note here to comment about the fact that I have my website (Sounds-of-ray dot com) and this Blog at Blogspot.  Both have blogs.  Both have lists of my songs.  Both have links to similar things.
So, what gives?  I think I will answer that by saying that *this* site will be more blog-like than the website.  Plus, I’ll be talking more about my music on the website and more about my feelings about music and things here.
So, if you want info, go to my main web site.  You want my impressions and opinions, look around in here.  In truth, this blog should end up more interesting than the other.  But, “interesting” is in the eye of the beholder.  So, you decide.
Short post this one.  Another longer one coming later today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Real Life, Second Life?

OK.  The question I get asked the most is, “You play where?”  And, when I say, “In Second Life,” they usually stare blankly back at me.
So, what’s up with this “playing in Second Life” stuff anyway?  Well, back in October of 2006 I got wind of this virtual world called Second Life where a lot of musicians, singers and DJs were starting to strut their stuff to world-wide audiences. It sounded like a cool idea.  So, I joined up (opened an account).  At that time you could create your own first name but had to choose a last name from their list of names.  I decided to keep “Ray” as my first name (has had its pluses and minuses) and chose a last name that sounded musical: “Weyland.”
Now we could diverge here because that’s what I did.  I got into building things.  So, I didn’t actually start performing until early in 2008.  Before that, I had created a small meeting place (a virtual Bar, you might say), put together a 60 minute taped show of my songs and streamed that 24/7 at my place.  I did that because I sent an mp3 to someone who wanted to hear me.  They really loved the song and set me up with this capability.  But, it was not effective because it required that someone come along and actually stay for the “show.” That seldom happened.  Later, another friend I knew, who had a “venue” where she hosted Live shows, wanted to hear my music.  So, I sent her a 3 song demo.  She signed me up immediately.  And that was the start of my performing in Second Life.
I don’t perform in “Real Life” (that’s what people in SL call it) because I’m not equipped for it.  Plus, I have always had terrible Stage Fright.  Thanks to SL, I could probably get over that now.  So, the gear is the limiting factor.  Having said that, I’m sure the first few gigs would be traumatic. 
Now, it’s not like I haven’t sung in RL before.  I was a member of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters (MAS) for a number of years and joined into some of their group jams and played in one group outing at a local mall.  It was loads of fun.  However, you should have been there.  I started sweating.  I was dripping sweat so badly I couldn’t see.  One of my fellow performers gave me some paper towels to dry off with.  It was a hoot (sort of). But, that’s where I also learned that I was improperly equipped for doing Live gigs.
So, there you have it.  That’s why I perform in Second Life as Ray Weyland.  Besides the fact I can play in my PJs and no one would know.  Plus, the audience can chat with me while I play and you can have all sorts of special effects going on (I don’t but many do) during your show.  And, I have played to people from Minnesota to England to Australia.  It really is great fun.
So, until next time, have fun … in any Life.