On January 31, 2010 the Gypsy Carpenters had a bit of stage fright getting ready for a show at the Starlight Theatre in Terlingua, Texas. I just refreshed my memory by reading about it HERE. It’s funny to imagine Burt and I sitting at opposite ends of the trailer playing solitaire to pass the time. The near ubiquity of internet has ruined us. No more hours at the table playing Pinochle or solitaire. It’s online Bridge or social media now. We’re nearing nine years on the road. Our anniversary of lift-off is 11/22. Back in the beginning there was more internal pressure to perform and get this duo off the ground. Until we started rambling we’d only regularly played in bands of five or more. The Gypsy Carpenters was a new endeavor and we weren’t sure we (me) could pull it off. In the gap I learned to sing harmony and play leads more confidently if not more competently. Since then we’ve played so many gigs and events and parties that we are completely confident in what we can and cannot do as a twosome and the pressure is off us to perform.
Two weeks or so ago we were waiting to meet our river floating companions as they drove in from Bluff, Utah. Our rendezvous point was Terlingua. Terlingua is home to the company that would shuttle our gear and us to the river. Burt and I popped in for dinner at the Starlight Theatre and caught a show and the memories of our gig. The side stage we played was gone and it felt like a loss because the night’s group was physically removed from the diners. But the Starlight remains a beautiful venue and has more room for dancing if you’re so inclined. The food is good, too. I had a green chili antelope burger. Yum.
I hear from Burt that a friend of a friend is doing a PhD on the music scene of Terlingua. (Are you reading this Colin?) The town has a critical mass of performers and they feed off each other. The night we were there we got to watch and listen as people came on and off the stage and formed and reformed the group as the night drifted by. It was informal and relaxed. I felt like I could just walk up and say, “I got something…” But I didn’t. I’d had my night on the stage and it was a great one.
The truck has been at the mechanic’s for over a week. Rumors of a reunion trickle in. Maybe we’ll see it again early next week. Other rumors of her possible demise were premature. She was leaking oil like a broken pipeline but it turned out to be a connector deep in the engine. So we hear. These last ten days Burt and I and the Olvis have been sharing our 24 year old Subaru and getting things done. Actually, it’s Jen’s Subaru. It was mine from 1998 until 2009. I gave it to Jen when we hit the road. Lucky for us it is a spare car in her corral now and we could borrow it for the summer. It has made for a much more interesting summer for me since I was more mobile than usual.
The job moves along and as usual for us, hitch itch is making us cranky. Some more than others. The kitchen is nearly complete. The backsplash was grouted today. The stove can be moved in now. The dishwasher and a faucet need to be installed. The faucet is electronic. You wave at it and wash your hands just like at Coscto. New skill set coming up.
Measuring, to me, seems to be the most basic skill of carpentry. You can’t do anything without measuring. This bathroom formerly had a jetted tub fit into this nook. The remodel would have a stand alone tub in the vacant space left when the old tub was removed. Our trusty carpenter Burt would have to help the client pick out a tub that fit nicely in the space and then without actually having the tub he’d have to make sure water and drains were in the right place. It’s no fun when the spigot doesn’t reach the tub. Messy, too. I am happy to say everything was just where it was supposed to be.
Work is wrapping up. We’ve got maybe half the square footage of flooring installed. The bathroom is just waiting for the toilet and shower door. Doors need painting. A kitchen back splash remains to be tiled and then it’s time to reinstall trim and do touch ups. There is light ahead.
Burt and I had to sneak into Helena for a day so I could get my night guard followup checkup. Back in May dentist convinced me it was time to protect the many thousands of dollars investment I had made in my mouth. Gold crowns that I’ve had for twenty-five years are still secure but my subconscious habit of gnashing my teeth all night long (and some days, too) had made some serious grooves. Dr. K said it was only a matter of time before I broke something. I agreed to have a custom guard made and I’ve been using it for about a month. The guard slips right in and I fall asleep fine. I even imagine it has helped me relax my throat muscles and made singing and swallowing easier. My jaw muscles aren’t as tired as they used to be but sdon’t expect me to turn into a Chatty Cathy.
After the dentist we took a beating in Bridge and then headed up to the annual Dearborn Picnic picking party. I’ve written about this destination many times in previous posts. This year we enjoyed moderate temperatures, a remodeled stream bed, and the usual fine mix of friends and music. The children of the founders and their friends now greatly out number the older generation but the music moves perpetually with the people. We can go to bed early knowing the ‘kids’ will take the all night shift and sing to the gods of the dark.
This year’s Musician’s Rendezvous in Columbus coincided with a spike in the local temperature. Sitting under the cottonwood trees while playing tunes with your buddies is a great way to spend a summer day. The campground where we all gather is on the Yellowstone River. If you want to cool off you can take a dip in its chilly waters. The Gypsy Carpenters had been looking forward to this weekend since last winter. Sad to say gNash life and an erratic heart and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit do not mix. So Burt and I came up with a mix of music and alternate cool activities for the weekend.
Day one we arrived at Itch-Kep-Pe park and found a spot with some shade. It was Wednesday and all of the really deep shade was already occupied in anticipation of the weekend’s activities. Musicians come from all over Montana and the best spots fill early. Burt and I played a few tunes with each other and went to bed when the bugs started biting. The next morning we took a walk and did some birding before the day warmed. We found the nest of a Cooper’s hawk and watched the recently fledged youngster fly all about and beg food from a parent. We also found an unattended firearm in the bed of a maintenance cart for the nearby golf club. I sent a few emails and posts around about the gun safety problem. Burt and I thought in hindsight we probably should have called the authorities instead of walking away from a loaded gun. Ethical dilemma. Personally I was afraid to confront the owner face to face. Stand Your Ground is a bad law. My fear of being shot for having harsh words with someone overrode my desire to stay and make sure the gun was properly handled.
After our walk we did what all smart people looking to avoid a hot day do…we drove to Billings and played Bridge. An air conditioned day of cards. What could be better? That evening we headed back to our superheated trailer and pondered the next day’s survival plan. We debated simply leaving and heading to the high country but the lure of tunes was strong. People we only see once or twice a year were on hand and eager to play. Luckily, Montana still cools off over night. We decided to play music until noon then get in our truck and head for the hills for the late afternoon and evening, come back after dark, sleep, wake up and play more morning music. It worked out perfectly.
Friday we played tunes in the morning and then drove an hour and a half to the Beartooth Plateau. We looked for the black rosy finch, a high altitude bird, but only found white-crowned sparrows, solitaires, and gray jays. The altitude (10,000′ or so) was easier to take than the heat. Burt and I and the pooped poopies returned to the gNash at 9:30. Things were just starting to cool down. Burt took a dip in the Yellowstone while I lay on an ice pack.
The next day we decided to head to electricity so we could run our air conditioner for the 104 degree spike. So after a few hours of fiddling with Barb and Zondra we pulled up and headed to Emigrant to do some maintenance on the client’s property we built 6 years ago. We arrived safe and sound but we have also learned our truck has sprung an oil leak. We fear it’s the end. She’s got a gusher.
I am a civil engineer. You all know this. I fell into civil engineering because I wasn’t smart enough to fly rocket ships. Moving stuff was too hard for me to calculate. Civil engineering keeps things stationary. I could get my head around those equations. Once in CE I realized I really liked learning about how things were built, where water ran, and how CEs did a lot of public works from roads and drinking water, to stadiums and landfills. It’s a wide ranging field of study. I worked my way through college on construction sites but I chose to spend my career in environmental remediation and enforcement. I wanted to clean up the world and it was heartfelt work but my love of building never went away. I even won the balsa wood bridge contest in my senior structures class. I had a partner but I made the design. A structural engineering friend said two things to help me: keep it simple and remember the moment of inertia. A light bulb went off and I realized a triangle with a skin (sort of like a covered bridge) was the way to go. Balsa wood bridge fail at their glued joints. We eliminated all but three joints. The bridge came in at less than 100 grams and it held an astonishing weight. The most in our entire class by at least 2. I can’t quite remember the details. None of the elaborately constructed truss bridges my classmate produced came close.
This week Burt and I built our first actual, rather than metaphysical, bridge. It’s lightweight, and ready to breakaway in a flood. It’s also darn scary. Our client is thrilled. She wanted it up above the flash floods that roar in from the fire damaged land above. Climate change has made the creek more prone to catastrophic flooding. Heavier rains and less vegetation to slow the runoff makes for higher peaks of flood waters in Cave Creek Canyon. I spent a lot of time researching the hows and materials for this and then I consulted with Burt. I couldn’t quite figure out how to attach the bridge to the trees n either side of the creek. Burt solved this critical problem. We wrapped the trees in a big circle of cable and tightened it up. I found away to attach the cinch without girdling the trees and it all came out great. See pictures. If you ever want to build a cable bridge check out YouTube. Lots of ideas there. I melded together a bunch of things to make something inexpensive and strong. The client bought the cable and the hardware. The wood was found onsite. Our labor was in trade for her providing accommodations to our staff during Portal Irish Music Week.
Burt and I are leading a trip to the Galapagos Islands in early February 2018. We are thrilled to be hosting this fun extravaganza of nature and music for Naturalist Journeys. Are you interested in seeing this exciting, animal filled wonderland and enjoying fresh tunes in the evening? Come sing and dance with us! You can check out similar itineraries at this LINK. Our trip isn’t posted publicly because this particular offering is currently only open to our friends and fans. Let me know if you want the specific details and I will send them to you. Space is limited.
Even though he kept me up half the night snoring last night I still have warm feelings for this guy. He was a rock last night during our first show in 2 months. I was unaccountably unsettled. Where Burt was forceful and had a presence I felt timid and the notes recalcitrant. Our venue was Las Fuentes in Todos Santos, BCS, MX. The owners made a romantic ambiance for Valentine’s Day with flowers, candles, and balloons. They arranged the tables so everyone could see us and they installed a STAGE. All of this extra effort on their part has heretofore been unseen by any venue host in the history of our career. There were dinner specials and a house sangria. Usually we show up to a cafe and we have to move the tables and chairs to make a space to stand. We have to find room for our cases. In our experience nobody thinks ahead. These people asked if they could help us unload our stuff! If they want us I am sure we will be happy to go back.
Great hosts and then a passel of new fans made for a nice night. Previous events in Todos Santos have only yielded a few diehard followers. Sara Gay and her friends. The Elias Calles crowd makes the trek (kudos to them) but they’re not Todo Santeños. And that was about it in our 6 years of trying to get a thing going in TS. A lot of shows would be 6 or 10 people. Bridge is what changed the game. Duplicate Bridge friends came out in force and brought their friends. Add them to Sara Gay and the Elias Calleños peeps and a few random strangers and we nearly filled the large restaurant. And then everyone stayed and listened.
The highlight for me was when we bantered a bit and the venue owner, a local, forcefully yelled out, “Jackson!” Without missing a beat we launched into the Johnny and June standard. He was beaming. I presumed he was a plant because I knew Sara Gay had heard us do it but we found out later he was genuinely asking for a song his mother loved. Johnny and June were timeless and knew now boundaries. They speak across cultures and generations.
The Gypsy Carpenters are dusting off love gone good and love gone bad songs for your listening pleasure. If you happen to be in Baja California Sur you can come on out and hear us play on Valentine’s Day at Las Fuentes, in Todos Santos from 6 to 7:30. That’s next Tuesday.
Today we sat down and worked on our set list and swept away some cobwebs. If you have any requests send them in now. All ideas considered.
Thanks, Harlow Pinson for the great promo shots. Too bad we never look good at the same time.