Category Archives: Free at Last

year in review 2020

When your year starts off in Hawaii, you know the next twelve months are going to have to be pretty spectacular to beat that. Actually, the year was shaping up to be a good one – daughter Bridget’s bachelorette party in New Orleans in March, and her fairytale wedding in Ithaca in July. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to January to the beach in Hawaii.

The Japanese half of the family met up with the American half smack dab in the middle – or as close as we could get if were to meet on land – in the beach town of Kailua on the island of Oahu. We took side trips to the north of the island, famous for its waves, and Honolulu and Waikiki, but most of the time was family time, eating and playing and the usual family fun. You know.

As vacations go, best ever!

Back on the mainland, life returned to normal, and the month ended on a high note, out to see Dave Jordan at the Ogden Museum. Jordan has been playing for years but was under my radar until local radio station WWOZ put his latest album, Burning Sage, in the rotation. I liked what I heard, so I was keen to see him, and was not disappointed. Here’s Tucumcari Tonight from the new album.

February slid in with a Super Bowl party over at my cousins’, and keeping to the “watching TV” theme, the next week was the Oscars. Normally, I wouldn’t watch them – it’s no fun if you haven’t seen any of the movies, which is me to a T. If it’s not on Netflix, I haven’t seen it. But this year was different. In October last year, my girlfriend Celeste came down for the New Orleans Film Festival, and we went for the whole deal – minus the gala dinners and hob-knobbing – so we ended up seeing a lot of movies, and some of them ended up with Oscar nominations. Reflecting on that now, I wonder what the 2022 Oscar ceremony is going to be like … but, hey, that’s for next year’s letter.

Mardi Gras parade season got down to serious business February 16, culminating on Mardi Gras Day, February 25; and in between those two dates, it’s all parades and partying. I have learned to pace myself, and some days that actually works. This year Dennis came to town, and we sent him home with a lot of killer Mardi Gras schwag. The day after Mardi Gras – Ash Wednesday – was a full day of NOLA MUST DO items, starting with church service at the iconic St Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The place was standing room only, everyone come for the ashes and maybe a bit of repentance. As we stood cheek by jowl, no one – well, at least not me – was thinking about COVID-19. Next on the NOLA MUST DO list was $20.20 lunch at Antoine’s. That’s their thing. Next year it will be $20.21. Who says there isn’t inflation?

The next day, we headed up the mighty Mississip to the Whitney Plantation. Unlike most plantations, which focus on the plantation owners’ houses, the Whitney tells the plantation story through the lives of the slaves. February also saw the French Film Festival come to town, so checkmark all over that! And to close out the month, dinner at my favorite restaurant, Jacques Imo’s, followed by what turned out to be my last live show of the year, Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen at the Maple Leaf. A little Jon Cleary, if you please.

March came in with a bang – first my friend Celeste arrived, fresh from Ecuador – and we settled down to some serious foodie activity, starting with another NOLA MUST DO restaurant, Sweet Soul Food. Their bread pudding is to die for. That, as it turns out, is a typical refrain in NOLA. But I’ll save all my gushing over bread pudding for another time. On the heels of Celeste’s arrival, daughter Bridget arrived with the girls in her wedding party, ready for her bachelorette party, New Orleans style. She couldn’t have chosen a better place to hold it. Better yet, I had no responsibilities other than to show up for the food and drink, and I passed that test with flying colors. I got to meet the in-laws for the first time, too, spending quality time with Joyce and Haskel out on the town.

On March 10th, the last of the bachelorette party flew home, and on March 11th, I went into lockdown. And all around me, the city shut down.

For a while there, my major (only) social event of the week was grocery shopping with the seniors at 7 in the morning. But having nothing else to do besides buying food is just what I’ve needed. It’s meant a lot more uninterrupted time to write my book. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past nine months, sitting at my laptop, writing away. I suspect that’s where I’ll be throughout 2021, and 2022, and 20…

Remember when YouTube first showed up and it was the best thing ever? Well, these days, best thing ever is FaceTime and Zoom, for all the quality time I get to spend with family and friends, not to mention violin recitals and weddings (yes, Bridget and Justin had their Zoom wedding in May!). There is so much to be grateful for this year, but like most people, I am definitely looking forward to what next year has in store.

All my best wishes to y’all for the new year!


P.S. If you want to receive my very irregular posts, go ahead and add your email under the Follow Me button up there on the right. I don’t anticipate an onslaught of posts happening, but one never knows.

que ha estado pasando, or how I spent the Donald Trump years

You know, I am generally pretty good about keeping my promises. But apparently not perfect. Just moments ago I read my previous blog post, which dates all the way back to the end of 2016. I made a few promises in there about all these blog posts I’d be writing momentarily, and wouldn’t that be fun!

As we can see, that never happened. What happened instead is I began writing my book. In Earnest. Actually, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Making this story short, on your behalf, at some point very early on, I realized how much work it is to write a book, in this case, a historical novel of saga proportions. I knew that was going to be true going in — I’d learned that lesson when I wrote the Astral Weeks book. But just let’s say I was reminded of that lesson. Only this time, 10 times worse, because this book is big, at least in terms of words. And the very short of it is I adopted my favorite Edna Ferber anecdote, which was, and I paraphrase, she is sitting at her upstairs window, type type typing away at her current script and looks out the window to see these lovely brawny young men working on her landscaping. She thinks she maybe should go down and help them out, being cordial and all. Then Edna, the wise one, says to herself, “If you’re going to be a writer, write. If you want to be a gardener, garden. You can’t do both.” So for every time I came up with a splendid idea to blog about, I’d chastise myself with a “No dilly dallying, sistah, you’ve got a book to write, and no one else is going to do it for you.” At this point, I figure the book is going to take me 10 years to write. I hope it’s less, but I’m inclined to think I might be underestimating. So that’s my excuse for not blogging this time. I’ve had years of experience making excuses, but this one, I gotta say, is my best excuse yet.

Que pasa? Escribiemo un libro. And that’s how I’ve spent the Trump years. I tuned him out the minute he showed up. I had already done the same for Hillary long before, so whoever won was going to go ahead and do whatever big government thing they wanted to do, and they weren’t asking me for my input. So politics doesn’t really interest me anymore. I’ve kind of opted out of all that. Perfect time to write a book!

Based on what I said earlier — the no blogging while writing the book – you’d easily come to the conclusion that if I am blogging now, I must have finished the book, right? You’d be wrong on that.

My book is intended to be in four parts. Last week, I finished writing Part 1. That’s meant a shift in gears … Part 1 is now out with my three readers, who have a gargantuan task ahead of them (but I’ll save that for another day – but remind me, OK, in case I forget?). The main thing for blogging purposes is that I am not writing the book this week, maybe I’ll take a couple of weeks off. So I can blog to my heart’s content. Ensconced in New Orleans during the Trump years – there was nowhere else I’d rather have been, and I’ve got lots to tell you about it. Stay tuned.

to-do list

Remembering back to …

September 27, 2012

Bridget and I have been on the road for almost 10 months, and every day now, we are constantly aware of one thing – how free we feel. We can count up any number of ways we feel free, but at the bottom of it is that being on the road is what has set us free. I don’t think it’s the miles that we slice off, it’s really the idea of being wherever you want to be. Continue reading

Masscann freedom rally – Boston – 2009 edition


Hard to believe – 20 years Masscann has been hosting this rally on Boston Common. I’ve been to a couple of them over the years, but it’s been a long few since the last time. This was a good year to get down to the Common, for a number of reasons, among them that this was a milestone year for pro-potters — the Massachusetts legislature, for all its warts, did good on January 2, when it changed the possession laws in the state. It’s no longer a crime to be in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. It’s a civil offense, mind you, but decriminalization is a good thing. Continue reading