At the San Diego Public Library

A gallery on the ninth floor.

An old gum ball machine that dispenses books for a buck.

A present for those with wanderlust.


Thank You Note to Our Dear Cousins

Hello and thank you!
It was so nice of you to invite us to stay at your fine house!
(I didn't even see any mice!  Haha!)
It was a true delight to share a slice of your L.A. life,
and the true spice of your lives:
Zacko Wacko Mimbo Zimbo Slimbo Limbo Zachary Zoo!
Come and visit anytime,
(Ice with your slice of lemon?
Maybe we can have rice, twice!)
But remember,
no matter how you splice it, 
we remain imprecisely,
The Danes
(I hope that will suffice.)


Improvisational Duets Class. April 17, 2015. Renaissance High School for the Arts, Appleton, Wisconsin.


1:  Find a spot outside to sit in a circle. 

2:  Designate a Facilitator.

3:  When everyone is settled, the Facilitator reads:

Sit tall.

Close your eyes.

Listen to the sounds all around.

4:  Sit for 5 minutes.

5:  Notice your breathing. 

6:  Add vocal sounds to the breathing cycle.  Be free.  Try playing with the sounds that you hear by mimicking sounds, creating sound patterns, veering off into new patterns, being silent and listening.  Always listening.  Try to see how deep you can go into the sounds, as if you are diving to the bottom of a pool.

7:  Discuss:  What did you hear?  What came to mind?  How involved did you become in your thoughts?  What happens to our listening when our minds become involved in thought?   Is there a state of being that is devoid of thought? 

8:  Create a Duet Circle:  Place a rock before two people on opposite sides of the circle.  Listen to the breath.  The two people with rocks, add vocals sounds to the breath.  Respond to sounds from all around.  At any point a person can decide to pass the rock counter clock-wise (since this exercise attempts to dissolve a sense of time by becoming completely present.)  Try to avoid passing rocks at the same time.  Try to create meaningful sound conversations by listening and responding without being critical or defensive.  Go around as many times as feels right.  After once around, anyone can raise a hand to indicate that the next full time around the circle will be the last.  (Three times around minimum.) The last circle around leads to the ending.  Always end at the beginning so everyone gets the same amount of turns.  Always end with an ending.

9: Discuss:  What did you hear?  How does your listening experience change when you are involved in making sounds?  What connections did you make with others in the circle?  How much of your listening was compromised by emotions brought on by insecure thoughts?  How deeply were you able to listen?

Listen to the first Improv Duet Circle created spontaneously at FREEA in Appleton:


Imagine City Park Vision - Gypsy


"Interviews with Interesting People"
"Imagine City Park: A Neighborhood Study in Creative Collaboration"

After the Imagine City Park meeting on Sunday, I was feeling frazzled 
because I had thought everything was going to come under control,
not grow more chaotic.

I was sitting in the sun with OSangjin and Christoph asking 
what should we do about the very tiny house competition*, 
when Gypsy walked by and said how great he thought the meeting had went.  

So I invited him in to record what he'd said 
so I could go back and listen to it again.

*Turn it into an invitational.  Thank you Christoph!


Imagine City Park Vision - Elyse

Elyse under a tree, drawing in her hand bound journal the happenings of the day.  

What will be in your Imagine City Park journal?  

Make a journal and bring it to City Park to discover!

Saturday, May 30th

Sunrise to Sunset


Writing Class on the First Day of Spring

He walks in circles tapping on his laptop.

The class goes outside.

The teacher writes instructions.

She raises her hand to ask if she may leave early.

His pencil lead breaks.

The wind blows the leaves, distracting her.

He lies on the grass even though it is wet.

She wonders what he is writing.

He wonders what she is writing.

There are 15 students in the class.

One does a cartwheel and wipes her hands on her pants.

A crow sits on the wire and caws.

He is walking in circles tapping on his laptop.

She is listening to her favorite band.

She is worrying that she isn't doing the assignment correctly.

The assignment is to write from another character's perspective.

She races across the wet grass.  She has a big smile.
She stubs her toe on a rock.

She puts her arm around her friend.

He can't stop thinking about the shoes.

She can't stop picking at her fingernails.

He is day dreaming about skipping school.

One of the students refuses to go outside.

Students inside the building open the windows.

As soon as the sounds of cars going by almost fades away,
more cars come from the other direction.

Many students with cameras come outside.

She is annoyed because one of the students with a camera
is standing very close to her while she is trying to write.

He is happy because a girl he likes to look at
is in the class with the cameras and
she is yelping and jumping across the wet grass.

The old teacher wearing a red shirt and black pants
eats popcorn and shares it with a student,
letting him put his hand inside the bag.

Now they are locked out.

Now the teacher says she is lazy.

Now she is on a roll.

Now he is distracted by a game.

Now the teacher checks the time.

The flag makes dancing shadows across the school.

The bell rings.

He is both relieved and disappointed.

No one is quite satisfied with what they wrote.

Everyone goes back inside,
except for one student who does not.


Dear Peter Turchi,

When we got to Pasadena, I was tired of the pop music and the trivia and the traffic and declared I was going out walking and wound up at the public library at 5:25, closing at 6, I browsed the new nonfiction and from all those spines lining the antique shelves, your name emerged, and I pulled your book and had a seat and read all I could, relieved to find this delightful reprieve from the thicket of the family vacation, attempts to be loving and kind foiled by old habits even in these new places that are no longer ever truly new, the landscape abloom with Macys and Chevrons and Targets and Godivas and Nissans and Disneys and Goodyears and 7Elevens, (etcetera).

Sheltered at the library, 6pm came too soon, and I reluctantly returned your book to the fine and thin librarian and asked where was the closest bookstore, and she directed me to Vroman's on Colorado Street, and I walked there, happy, but arrived a bit dizzy and dry and hungry with the lingering remnant of last week's flu, a headache (or a new illness?).  I looked for your book but the store was huge, so I asked and the man searched on his spiffy computer and led me through the crowded store to the writing section, and there it was, I apologize, on the bottom shelf.  I grabbed it and wandered upstairs where there was a room full of chairs and greeting cards and one book perched at eye level, a bird on the cover, waiting for me, poems and drawings by Leonard Cohen written, some, while staying at a Zen monastery.  I've heard a few songs, know his name, and had no intention of buying another book, but how strangely books present themselves, like magic!  It was obvious that I must buy it.

[I knew your name, by the way (and so recognized it on the library shelf) because some years back someone on the radio was talking, you? I can't remember now, about Maps of the Imagination, so I ordered it and read enough of it to love it thoroughly before getting distracted by some other. Recently, I came back to it, plucked from my shelf of books "most significant", I thank you.]

And another strange thing:  On the way to the bookstore I passed a movie theatre and studying the offerings was astonished to see a documentary about the Sagrada Familia!, astonished because just that day, on our drive from San Diego, caught in traffic, we heard a radio program about Gaudi and his magnificent church.  The movie started at 7:40 and I knew I had to have dinner first, deciding on that light cafe full of salad a block back.  It was getting close to 7.  But while making my way to the register I paused in the world religions section and there (again on the bottom shelf) were several copies of the Tao Teh Ching which I have been wanting to read.  So I bought that too.

Now, tonight, back home in my own bed, a bit sleepless with jet lag, three new books stacked beside me, my head still aching, this mystery emerging, why these three books?, why that movie?  Perhaps it is silly to make something out of mere coincidence(?), but it feels wildly more significant, if only because everything is connected, the attraction of primes and opposites and flocks of similar kinds.  Have you ever considered the puzzle that is you and Leonard Cohen, Gaudi and Lao Tzu?


Dear Weird Thing,

I've been a bad friend, I'm afraid, and neglected to send a letter.  
I think about you often and wonder about when you are going to be home.  
I've fallen ill.  Regardless, we off to California!  

Wishing you a safe journey. . . . 

Here's a song for the road:


Are you Ready for the Improv 2020's? Guideline #10: Listen to IsabelleDuthoit and Franz Hautzinger

When I played this video for the students in the Improvisational Duets class at Renaissance High School for the Arts they were annoyed.

I, though, was fascinated and had the good fortune to see this duo perform the next week at the Paradigm Coffee and Music in Sheboygan.  After the show, I interviewed Isabelle and Franz, hoping they could shed some light on their music for the students.  Indeed, they did.

Listen here:

Thank you Isabelle and Franz and best of luck on the the rest of your tour!
Thank you Heimo and Jon and for your lovely accompaniment.
Thank you Tad and Ellen for the ride and your help with the recording.

Isabelle Duthoit and Franz Hautzinger at Paradigm

with special guests Heimo Wallner (above with a ceramic homemade horn) 
and Jon Mueller
(photo by Cameron Wittig)


Are You Ready for the Improv 2020's? Guideline #7: Cultivate a Practice


it takes a lot of practice to realize that it doesn't matter what you practice

(as long as the practice does not harm)

it is the act of practicing that is the essential art

(without practice there is nothing)

so why not practice that which brings the most joy

(practice requires frequency)

so that practice becomes the joy

(allowing the practice to evolve)

so that when we notice it becoming drudgery

(we can change our practice)

and practice what feels best to practice

(and never be ashamed)

 by giving others permission to practice whatever they want

(we receive permission)

by allowing delight

(when shown a new creation)

we are free


Seven Piano Exercises for Improvisations

place fingers of both hands on the same consecutive white keys
(different octaves)


practice playing one finger from each hand simultaneously*
in a random order
with a steady beat

alternate right, left

practice playing with a steady beat
in a random order
with left hand playing every other beat of right hand*

with right hand playing every other beat of left hand

practice playing #1 and #2 with varied rhythms 
(hold some notes longer, makes some notes shorter)

practice playing #1, #2, #3 with one black key (same for both hands)*


choose a different black key

practice playing two fingers from each hand* for #1, #2, #3, #4 

play one finger at a time with left and two fingers at a time with right,
vice versa,
play one or two fingers with each hand randomly

practice inventing new variations for each #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

practicing playing without using any fingers


Found in the Drafts File: The Search

1.  I have nothing to write about.

2.  My ear was clogged so I could not hear.

3.  It made concentrating difficult.

4.  That was last week.

5.  This morning a large sticky ball of wax emerged from my ear.

6.  It was strangely dark.

7.  It was so satisfying to have that ball of wax come out of my ear that I greedily went digging around for more.

8.  I didn't find anything.

9.  Trying to think of something to write, I discover I am full of all sorts of thoughts that are not the least bit interesting.

10.  This is nothing new.



A 602 Club Pick of the Week: Gamelan at Stansbury Hall

Saturday, March 7
Stansbury Hall
Lawrence University
Appleton, Wisconsin  

Listen to an interview with director I Dewa Ketut Alit Adnyana
and members of the community gamelan ensemble:

Soon after we moved to Appleton, I met a tall gaunt man buying sausage at Jacob’s Market who turned out to be the dean of the Lawrence University music conservatory.  Later, we recognized each other on the street outside Harmony CafĂ©.  He advised I buy tickets for that evening’s show at the Performing Arts Center: Kaleidoscope, a showcase of ensembles from the conservatory, playing in succession from different parts of the theatre, with no applause until the very end. 

The grand curtain opened and there rose the most magical sounds.  From where could this ringing music have come, the instruments red and gold, the musicians topped with ornamental head wraps, this mesmerizing complexity of wondrous sound?  I decided right then I had to find a way to join the group. 

I searched the university’s web site and was eventually put in touch with Sonja Downing, an ethnomusicologist, married to I Dewa Ketut Alit Adnyana, the Balinese director of the group.  She said that they were hoping to form a community gamelan ensemble and I said put me on the list.  The next summer, my friend Jenn sent me a link to a four day world music seminar the university was hosting and that she would watch my kids if I wanted to go.  It was so generous I couldn’t turn her down.  There I met Tad and Janet and Barbara.  We spent an afternoon learning about gamelan from Sonja and Dewa.  And then we all signed up for the community ensemble.

You never know where a chance meeting might lead.

Alvina, Dewa, Audrey, and Sonja at the kajar


Character Study: Biffy

When I asked Biffy to bring me an ice cream scoop, she brought a tablespoon.

I described the scoop and which drawer it was in and she brought back a ladle.

"No," I said.  "The ice cream scoop," louder this time, with emphasis, to be perfectly clear.

She came back with a measuring cup.

"What are you, some kind of fool?!" I barked.

Biffy laughed and laughed.


Are You Ready for the Improv 2020's? Guideline #6 - Give Permission

Dear friend who is considering buying a banjo,

Buy it, bring it home, take it out, and play around with it.

Don't go searching for how to properly play it, or even how to properly tune it.

Pluck it, strum it, thump it, make as many different sounds as you can.

Howl right along with it.

Do that for a while.

Don't put it away in its case, but keep it out, in a room you frequent.

When you see it, pick it up.

Play with the strings while turning the tuning pegs.

Hold it one way, and then hold it another.  Play with it lying down, standing up, as well as while you are sitting.

Set your goal to explore rather than achieve.

I know you know all this already and even taught me some of these things.

It's not as easy as it sounds, and yet it's the easiest thing there is.

I give you permission, just like my kids gave me, to take that banjo and play it however it makes you happy, wherever this path may lead.

And if that's not working for you, try something else until you find something that does.


*Works the same for accordions, violas, pianos, harps, trombones, shakers, castanets, harmonicas, violins, tubas, basses, flutes, drums, cellos, trumpets, sitars, glockenspiels, vibraphones, recorders, bagpipes, kazoos, symbols, clarinets, bassoons, french horns, organs, berimbaus, marimbas, saxophones, cajons, didgeridoos, guitars, ukuleles, zithers, ___________.


A 602 Club Pick of the Week

Frank Rippl accompanies Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush on the pipe organ


The History Museum, Drew and College, Appleton

Monday, February 23, 6:30pm


Listen to Frank talk about The Gold Rush, the Wurlitzer factory 
and why Vince Lombardi stopped going to Appleton's finest restaurant, Alex's Crown.


"You Had to Be the Oddball and Mess Things Up"

When I was thirteen I was annoyed at how tidy and predicable (i.e. dull) our home life was.  My parents called it "stability" and bragged that I could have my flights of fancy precisely because they offered such a stable home life.

When John F. took me to Dan S.'s house, I was awed by the chaos.  His mom was a potter and there were pots and fabrics and boxes and papers everywhere and all kinds of interesting people in and out of the house spouting all kinds of ludicrous ideas and plans and I thought, this is the kind of house I'm going to have when I grow up!

I have fulfilled that dream, but, as it so often turns out, my 13 year old has an altogether different dream.



What if Andy Goldsworthy?

If it had been that Andy Goldsworthy never became known for his ephemeral sculptures made from natural objects, would he still have spent long afternoons out by the tree working intuitively trying to build a web of sticks that wouldn't collapse while his wife was back at home cooking for their gaggle of kids?  

Would his wife have been charmed that he was out the whole day plucking iron rocks from the river bed and grinding them into powder just so he could turn a waterfall red for a few brief seconds?  

What would the towns' people have thought of Andy collecting dandelions and floating them in chains down the creek if no one had ever paid him a dime for these strange behaviors, if no one considered him a world renowned artist?


Best Vest

My poor husband

having to see me


wearing the vest

his own mothers bought,

a very nice vest,

he admits,

(made of sacrificed teddy bears)

a cozy vest,


but a vest

he reminds me,

that loses its freshness

when worn too often.

I accept.

But at 5 degrees

what is better than

the best vest?