Tiny Song # 2136: Down By The River

It is a strange phenomenon that when you sit down to write something about yourself, everyone assumes it to be true, and maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.  It's true that there was a red car down by the river, but whether or not it was a Cadillac, I don't really know because I'm not exactly sure what a Cadillac actually looks like even though I've seen many before, I've never bothered to memorize the difference between a Cadillac and say, a Buick, but the ring of the name creates an aura that a Buick does not.  It's true that I found a rabbit's head, but it wasn't by the side of the road, it was on the sidewalk.  At first, I thought it was a little hat someone had dropped, but then I saw that it wasn't a hat, but a head.  I walked by it, slowing just long enough to be disgusted before hurrying on.  But halfway down the block, I slowed again, reconsidering.  It seemed so heartless to leave it, and I've never wanted to be a heartless kind of person.  So I went back and had a closer look.  The head appeared to still have some life left in it, the eye glistening.  And when the breeze came up, the fur vibrated and gave me a shiver.  But then a fly landed right on the eyeball, and what was left of the rabbit didn't even blink.

Why are we so moved by stories "that really happened" and why are we so blind to the fictions of our memories?  I've heard it said that autobiographies were once shelved as fiction.  But nonfiction sells better, and memoirs, like "reality" television are hot commodities.  If I say it was a Cadillac when I'm not sure what kind of car it was, is it now a work of fiction?  What if enough years go by remembering that it was a Cadillac, that I don't even remember that I may have made it up?  Now that I am sure it was a Cadillac, is it a work of nonfiction?  And what about the rabbit's head?  Even though I buried it, it keeps coming back up, a fictional nonfiction, perhaps?  What do these obsessions show us about ourselves?  Why are we so concerned with the truth of a memory when it appears that there is no such thing?  What if I tell you that I didn't actually mistake the rabbit's head for a hat, but just a lump of fuzz, which sounds so clumsy?  Will you accuse me of being a liar?  Who said that what is posted here is the truth, anyway?  If memory serves me correct, I can truthfully say, not me.


Influences Distilled: A Thank You to Seventeen Influential Women

When I was a girl, summer mornings, I babysat Mary Shindell's four boys, while she went to the basement to draw.  The paper was large and high quality, even I could tell that.  Mary could work on a single drawing for weeks, densely detailed abstractions of natural objects.  I now realize, I've modeled my motherhood after Mary's.  When unoccupied with the kids, I make art.  So a lot doesn't get done, and I know it makes my husband anxious that I have virtually nothing saved for retirement.  He told me so yesterday.

My mom insisted I practice my flute everyday which annoyed me as a kid.  But as a 25 year old returning Peace Corp Volunteer announcing my intentions to be a writer, I recognized it as sage advice.

Marlo Thomas taught me to be free to be you and me.  Mildred D. Taylor showed how it's possible to fall in love with characters born on book pages.  Toni Morrison taught me the finery of stitching words together.  Jean Auel allowed me to imagine the world when humans began to evolve.  Annie Dillard made me see the magic in what it right before my eyes.  Joan Didion showed how the writer is always a character.  Janet Malcolm illustrated how no one is objective.  Lydia Davis taught me how to enlarge my idea of story.  From Laurie Anderson I learned about juxtaposition, and from Pauline Oliveros, how to listen. Meredith Monk showed me how to sing forgotten languages. Lynda Barry illuminated a new approach to combining words and pictures.  From Flannery O'Connor, I learned how strange stories can evolve.  And from Gillian Welch, how to sing a story.

I thank you all for not giving up even when you thought you should.  And thank you for giving me the courage to discover that practice is the powerful force behind every endeavor.

Portrait of the artist at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Probably taken in 1992 or 3 by C.L.  I love the way it looks like I am standing in a studio with a painted backdrop ten feet off.  It was so beautiful, I cried.  I was considering a life in environment education, though what I dreamed about was becoming the next Anais-Nin.


Tiny Song # 2183: Ruth May Moore Dane

tad neuhaus, guitar
joanna dane, vocals

In the year 1900,
Ruth May Moore Dane
Graduated from high school
In Skowhegan, Maine.

How can we know
Her hopes and her woes,
She’s as far away as
You are from me,
Lying here next to me.


Caught: Talking To Myself

My daughter asks me why I talk to myself.  I didn't know that I do.  She imitates me reading the recipe on the back of the Malt-O-Meal box.  But only when I'm cooking, I say.  With you.  No, she insists I do it even when I'm alone.  How can she know?  But it's true.  I find myself talking about one of my students to my image in the bathroom mirror.  I'm doing it right now, as a matter of fact, talking when no one is here, though reading aloud must fall into a separate category.  Yet, it's not strange to sing to yourself when alone.  Why?  Where's the difference?

What do you do when you find yourself invited to lunch where you know you don't fit in?  I order light and decide to think of it as a study for a future art project, a film perhaps, and this, the opening scene: A Hollywood handsome Midwestern man, crisp suit, a history in the trades, gelled, and square-jawed describes the karma of marketing.  You give a referral, you get a referral.  He's not used to telling stories, being more of a one-liner type of guy.  So, it isn't until he begins to tell the story, that he realizes he should have thought about what he was going to say.  Just because you got it down in your head, doesn't mean you can spontaneously transform it into the spoken word.  Practice is always needed.


It was snowing.  But now it's stopped.  I migrate between my desk upstairs and the living room pellet stove turned up to 4.  No one is yet home and most likely I'm talking to myself, trying to figure out something or another about what I don't even know I don't know.


Found: A Letter Sent by a Man I Had No Idea Would Become My Husband, postmarked August 26, 1994

May 1996, chaos broke out in Bangui.  We knew tensions were running high.  The teachers hadn't been paid in months.  When I arrived in the Central African Republic in 1994, a several year long teacher strike had only recently ended.  Again, they were on and off strike.  Strange things happened everyday.  The Director would bound into the classroom without warning and scold a thirteen-year-old girl that her baby is crying, making fun of her leaky breasts and messy hair, getting the whole room of eighty students to laugh at her until she ran from the room in shame.  Often, people gossiped about what students the teachers were sleeping with.  The Director had two wives, sisters, who he kept in the same house that he built with supplies bought with school fees.

I woke in the middle of the night to my neighbor battling her husband in their mud hut, the light of the kerosene lamp throwing long shadows across the faces of their two alert boys.  The youngest had been close to death when I watched Big Mama make a concoction of spider's nest and leaves, a milky green liquid she squeezed into his eyes because he had seeing monkey disease.  Within an hour, the boy was cured.

The teacher who was closest to me in age, I gave money to host a party for all the teachers at his newest business venture, a bar on the river.  The party kept getting postponed because there was never the proper bush meat available.  Then, the capital was taken over by the army whose pay, along with the teachers', was long past due.  We gathered around the CB radio at the diamond dealer's house. We learned there was constant gun fire in the capital streets.  Everyone was scared and trying to act real cool.  We were going to be evacuated in two days.  The party never happened.  I couldn't bear saying goodbye.  I spent the last night at the Lebanese house in town with the two other volunteers. The next morning while waiting for the plane, my neighbor came to tell me that in the night, my house was robbed of all the things I was going to give to her.  She accused the neighbor across the way. And even though he was my friend, she probably was right.  I don't blame him.  Everything had already gone to Pauline.  He wanted a little payment too for watching out for me the last two years.

Even though we could bring up to twenty-five pounds, there was unspoken competition among the volunteers to see who could bring the least.  I left books I still regret not having and handwritten letters from my parents and many friends, a fact that still pains me.  Andrew's though I carried with me, even though I couldn't have known.  Funny how even back then he had career aspirations for me.


Snowblower Concerto

She knows it's not wise,
She knows it's not advised,
But that is the nature of the being.
To suit her own follies,
She is not ashamed,
But often does feel guilty.

She says she's through,
But turns back to you,
Learning to accept her foibles.
The bright things she churns,
Through mud creeks and clover
Stun her like the sun at noon.

Hey Ha.  Hey Ha.  Hey Ha.  

Hey Ha.  Hey Ha.

Hey Hey Ha.  Hey Hey Ha.  

Hey Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha .Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Hey Ha. Hey Ha.  

Hey Ha. 

Hey Ha.

Hey hey hey hey Ha.

Hey hey Ha.





Found: Self-Portrait of the Artist at 36, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

"If you get one person on the planet to say you are something, you got something to work with."  Sun Ra in the documentary Joyful Noise.

do with
what you have
what you
never thought
you'd do

risk it all
nothing to prove
you are
what is
most true

what you have
with what
you do
you'd thought
never to do


Tiny Song #215?, First Version

if you stop worrying about who you want to be,
and be who you already are,
you might find it true,
that there is a way,
that you never noticed before

Andrew Dane live at The Empire Room


novel in progress

there is a novel I need to write

though I don't know how it should end

the beginning I'm a little fuzzy on

and the middle I have no idea

but at some point in the story

a woman right around my age

sees a man run from a house

to a car on the corner that pulls away fast

while apple blossom petals

flutter off the roof and the hood

that much I know for sure


Discovering Sun Ra

I watched this documentary last night about Sun Ra.  My middle school son sat down with me and while watching the scene on the rooftop (at 1:40) said, "Oh my God, Mom!  This is exactly like your band.  Oh my God!  Is this what it was like in the eighties??"

"I am moving forward with my music, the universal language, expressing things of value.  And 
if there's some people that want to listen, they are welcome.  I'm just like the birds, they sing.  Those who like it can listen, and those who don't, don't have to."  Sun Ra in the documentary A Joyful Noise


A Note to Elyse About The Cat

This song, for example, I had to listen to a dozen times until I started to like it.  But that's the good thing about tiny songs.  To listen to even the longest one a dozen times takes only sixteen minutes and eight seconds.  Did you know that the man who invented (the security code box where you type in elongated letters and numbers that spy bots can't decipher) felt so guilty about all the time people waste on his invention (an average of something like 6.9 seconds a day) that he invented a way to mine the millions of lost seconds by using the typed responses to translate books.!?  Impossible it seems at first, as does drones, eyeglasses with internet connection, and 3D printers, but how readily it makes sense and no longer shocks me unless I stop to really think about it, which I don't.  I wrote a letter that started off by stating that it's been ages since I've written a letter, a thing I used to do quite often.  A dying art, that's true.  But there are so many others being born.  I always wanted to know what it was like to live in a revolutionary time.

The basket is full, the shoes are at the door. The boys don't mind staying if there's gonna be more.  The hat is lost again.  The book is in the mail.  Won't you stop on by soon, there's something I'd like to show you.  The cat is under the bed.  Dinner's on the table.  I'm packing for warm weather.  I might be gone for a while.

tad neuhaus, guitar
joanna dane, vocals


Crazy People Music™ Method Book: The Black Keys

a) Play every black key once, in any order.

b) Play every black key as many times as you wish, in any order.

c) Place each finger on a different black key. 
Move the fingers randomly to a set tempo. 
Slowly speed up. 
Slowly slow down. 
Keep playing while letting the fingers and the tempo go mushy. 
Transition to playing the black keys with the whole hand using a rolling motion.

Practice everyday.
Never feel obliged to follow the directives.
Be curious instead of critical.
There is no right or wrong, only experience and sensation.