Monday, February 18, 2013

Europe Tour Booking Poem

The tour's coming along pretty well
But I wish I could have a gig in Hell
And then it would warm my little heart
If I could also play in downtown Stuttgart
I would feel so very slick
If I had a decent one in Reykjavik

It would lift my weary soul
To play again for the punks in Hull
I'd be the happiest boy in all the west
If I had a show in Budapest
I'll be in Ireland so it seems a pity
If I don't have one in Dublin City

I will kiss my little pinky
If I finally make it to Helsinki
It will be a good and happy day
When I land a gig in old Marseilles
In a fit of joy I'll polish my shoes
Should I also get to play Toulouse

I know I'd really love the scene
If I could make it back to Aberdeen
My face would fill up with a grin
If I had another concert in East Berlin
I'd be thrilled enough to sing and chirp
If I could play a folk club in Antwerp

I'd smoke a spliff upon the tram
If I had a paying gig in Amsterdam
I'd write home and call my dad
If I were invited to play Kaliningrad
There are few places I would rather be
Than in Aberystwyth or Swansea

Though I would no doubt flip my lid
To play in Barcelona or Madrid
And it would be awfully cool
To play for the longshoremen in Liverpool
Where I must really someday do a show
Is in the northern town of Orebro

Have Guitar, Will Travel: Protest Travel Writing

EBOOK!  My ebook of stories from the road is available on Amazon, Kobo and other ebook platforms. At $2.99 each, I'm hoping I'm pricing it to sell...!

Please be encouraged to a) buy the ebook, b) write a review, and c) tell all your friends to do the same.

A crowd-sourced bestseller is the aim!

Here's what some other folks have said about the book:

“Spin the globe and follow Rovics and his guitar from the Americas to Europe to the Middle East, illuminating under-covered facts, challenging conventional thinking and celebrating peace and justice. David Rovics’ subversive songs have energized street movements around the world for years. What make this new work Have Guitar, Will Travel so engaging are the pages and pages of detailed observations. His ideas provoke as his words reverberate. Truth has a voice and its name is Rovics. He writes that the spell of so-called democracies can be broken, but only if we don't give up. These reports back from big cities and faraway forests inspire us to go on. David Rovics is our troubadour of dissent.”
David Barsamian
Host, Alternative Radio

“There are a small number of progressive voices out there who back up the strength of their convictions with an understanding of historical and geographical truths in a way that's smart, honest, clear, angry and loving all at the same time. And precious few who effectively carry on the traditions forged by the great political singers of the post New Deal era (Seeger, Guthrie, Robeson, etc.). Musician/journalist David Rovics is just such an artist, and whether these essays inspire action or hope or anger, you will surely learn something about the world you live in that transcends the junk food disinformation spoon fed us by the conventional news media. Think Democracy Now! with a guitar. His voice is essential. His songs are essential. And these essays are essential, too.”
Mark D. Moss
Editor, Sing Out! Magazine

“The great troubadour David Rovics put down his guitar long enough to compose this gripping and vivid book, filled with illuminating stories about the courageous people he met over the last few years who are fighting for justice in the United States and around the world. Impassioned yet conversational, he brings loving portraits -- and damning indictments. Rovics's humanity shines through, as does his unquenchable thirst for a better, fairer world.”
Matt Rothschild
Editor, Progressive Magazine

“You won't often see them in your newspaper, but if you follow protests on the internet you will find them breaking out almost daily from Mexico to Ireland and from Palestine to Columbus, Georgia. What would it be like if instead of a news account you could actually be there, hang out, talk with participants, and discover the experiences and feelings that underlie the protests? That's what protest singer David Rovics has done over the past decade and more, performing his songs in dozens of countries and hanging out with activists, local folks, and on occasion cultural leaders and even members of the national elite. Now in Have Guitar, Will Travel he gives a vivid, insightful, and often wry account of the politics and people behind the protests worldwide.”
Jeremy Brecher
Author of Strike! and many other books

“Tirelessly crisscrossing the planet, guitar in hand and song in his heart, David Rovics generously takes us along. With prose as simple and crystal clear as water, he introduces us to people fighting for justice and for a little thing called democracy in the streets of Japan, Palestine, Denmark, Nevada, Texas, and dozens of points in between. If you're ever tempted to believe that 'nothing's happening,' consider these beautifully told stories to be the perfect antidote: read it to give yourself courage.”
Mark Rudd
Author of Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen

“One of the greatest gifts of wisdom is to educate people by telling them stories. That is what David Rovics does in his songs, and this is what he does, at much greater length, in his book of travel writing. In the songs, he often speaks in the voices of others; in the travel writing, he speaks directly in his own voice. But the insight, the humor, and the radical vision are a constant. When you read this book, you'll become acquainted both with the repressive forces (cultural as well as paramilitary) and with the communities of resistance in a wide range of countries, spanning the Americas, Australasia, and both northern and southern Europe. And you'll do it all quite effortlessly; it's like listening to an extended version of what David tells his audiences in between songs at one of his gigs.”
Victor Walls
Professor, Berklee College of Music

“Rovics's 'protest travel writing' is both entertaining to read and a valuable account of our contemporary activist history. He takes us into some of the most important conflict zones of the last decade, and his first-person stories bring alive the events and memories. Activist history too often disappears -- thank you David for documenting these struggles!”
Author of The Spiral Dance and many other books

“Not only has David Rovics typically been there, done that, and composed a song about it to boot, but he's written eloquent and impassioned essays as to why he was there, what was actually going on, and that there's more to life, and understanding it, than the soundbite -- however catchy -- of a song. Fortunately, his gifts as an essayist and commentator are at least equal to those of singer and songwriter. To call this a 'best-of' would be to denigrate the fantastic body of work that David Rovics has been penning since he got down to it. Let's just say this is a a generous, and eminently engaging sample of some of the finest, and timeless 'travel' writing you're likely to encounter.”
Ramsey Kanaan, PM Press

A Week In Mountain Time

I landed in Denver, rented a car that smelled like a sickening combination of artificial strawberry-scented cleaning solution and stale cigarettes, and headed towards Boulder. I had six gigs in nine days, over the course of which I would drive more than 1,500 miles. The only part of a 1,500-mile drive zigzagging around Colorado, Utah and northern Arizona that isn't staggeringly beautiful is when you're inside a tunnel. Even driving through a blighted, abandoned neighborhood in parts of Denver, or entering the sprawling parking lot of a giant mall, you constantly have a magical vista of towering, jagged, snow-covered mountains to look at in every direction.

This is especially true of Boulder, a college town nestled in the Rocky Mountains, where people just walk to the edge of town, put on their cross-country skis, and they're off into the wilderness, which expands as far as you care to go, if you're heading in any direction other than Denver. My last visit to Colorado was during the Occupy Autumn, which included a memorable visit to Occupy Boulder. The Occupy camp is gone but some of the folks I met the day I visited the camp showed up at the concert, which was an event that included me, a locally renowned singer/songwriter and community radio programmer named Elena Klaver, and others. It was the second annual memorial for Gary Ball, long-time Boulder resident, a fairly accomplished musician himself, as well as a fixture of the activist scene, who died well before reaching old age.

It was my first visit to Colorado since last November, when the voters of the state passed a referendum legalizing marijuana for recreational use, along with the state of Washington – leaving the rest of the US, not to mention bastions of tolerance and enlightenment such as the Netherlands, looking a bit feudalistic in comparison. As a middle-aged white man with a full set of teeth who dresses and otherwise looks somewhere within the bounds of respectability, I am used to being completely invisible to the police, even if I'm walking down the sidewalk smoking a joint, as I often do, just to test my theory of middle-aged respectable white male invisibility. But even though I haven't been noticed, let alone bothered, by police for anything like that since I cut my hair off twenty years ago, I felt significantly more relaxed from the time I rolled my first joint in the new, slightly more sensible state of Colorado.

During the fall, when the referendum was being debated, I was listening to a radio show where one of the promoters of legalization was being interviewed. His command of the facts was impressive, and one fact stood out especially. When, under popular pressure, the powers-that-be were trying to negotiate an easing of the law with regard to marijuana, one thing they tried was leaving it up to the cops on the street whether to arrest someone for possession or just to ticket them. What happened once this new system was in place was the overwhelming majority of white people charged with possession got tickets, while the overwhelming majority of nonwhite people got arrested. Give an average cop options and he'll consistently make the wrong decision, apparently. So legalization was clearly the sensible, and far less racist, alternative – in the real world at least.

It was too soon, apparently, to see a big impact yet, since it seems they're still trying to work out the details in terms of just how the whole thing will work with public access to recreational smoke. Pot was already legal for medicinal use in Colorado, so the clinics were easily visible in many towns and cities, with their green signs and welcoming appearance. But one change that was easily perceptible was the attitude of so many people who used to be more cautious about these things. Every day someone I knew would say to me, “you know I'm a grower.” Actually, if they had been growers before, they never told me that, but now they're happily public about this fact, showing off their latest buds for all their friends to see.

In Denver I was participating in another memorial for a local activist who recently died before his time, Fellow Worker Richard Myers, who was responsible years ago for organizing one of the best gigs in Denver I ever had. Richard was also a graphic artist who designed a tour poster for me a while back, and he played that role for many others in Denver and beyond, the guy to go to if you needed a good-looking poster or flier. Richard was active with many causes in various forms, and was a loving father, and the variety of people his life had touched was pretty well-represented at his memorial, with people of all ages and walks of life there to remember their friend and comrade.

When some folks from the more progressive Colorado cities like Denver and Boulder hear I'm doing an event in Colorado Springs, they're likely to say something along the lines of, “I'm sorry.” It is indubitably a military town, the main hub for Norad among other institutions, and the local university is not known for its outspoken progressives. But in Colorado Springs as in anywhere else, although it was far from an overwhelming crowd, several dozen folks showed up to hear me sing, and to hear Kathy Kelly deliver one of the most riveting anti-imperialist speeches I have ever heard. She was fresh back from her umpteenth trip to Afghanistan, and she was on fire.

The focus of Kathy's talk was a story about her first trip to Ireland. Although very clearly of Irish descent, Kathy had never been to the island of her ancestors until around ten years ago, when she was in Baghdad, awaiting the arrival of the infidels along with the locals, and she got a call from a nun in Ireland. The nun explained that some folks had taken sledgehammers to a US warplane at Shannon Airport, and they wanted Kathy to testify in court as to why people would do such a thing, since friends of hers from the Plowshares movement in the US and elsewhere had been doing things like that for a long time.

Kathy talked about her experiences at the trial of the Pitstop Plowshares, as those with the sledgehammers at Shannon called themselves. When the judge barred any testimony relating to the religious convictions of the activists Kathy's heart sank, and she thought things were not going well. But in the final hours of the trial, when the brilliant solicitor representing these Catholic Workers was giving his final arguments, he quoted from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, and called Jesus the greatest pacifist of them all. He then switched gears, describing a scene he had witnessed the other day, children playing in a playground, laughing. Once he had the jury all thinking about laughing children, he surprised everyone by launching into a verbal attack on anyone in Ireland who would not go and take a sledgehammer to an American warplane. How, he asked, could people allow these planes to use Irish soil to fuel up before they went off to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill innocent children? The jury then deliberated, and acquitted the Pitstop Plowshares on all counts – just as a jury in England had done almost exactly ten years before, just as a jury in Aotearoa would do only a few years later.

Kathy gave me a shawl made by women she was working with in Afghanistan, and I gave her my latest CD, Meanwhile In Afghanistan, with a picture on the front of an Afghan boy looking at the camera, a backdrop of complete devastation filling the scene behind him. It turned out Kathy and I had something else in common, in the form of the photographer who provided me with the cover of the CD, Guy Smallman from London. Kathy's face lit up at the mention of our mutual friend. Like Guy, Kathy's main purpose initially in going to places like Afghanistan was to bear witness to what was happening there and to tell her fellow American citizens about what the forces of our government were doing in our name. But bearing witness to the grinding poverty of the Afghan people was too much for both Kathy and Guy, and both of them were driven to not only bear witness but to play some role in helping to alleviate the suffering, if just only a little. Kathy helped set up a little cottage industry, providing Afghan women with the materials they needed to make duvets to give away to families who might have frozen to death without them, as so many Afghans do every winter. For his part, Guy added something to his routine when he made his frequent pilgrimages to Kabul – he'd raise money before leaving home, and then when he got to Kabul, he'd rent a truck, hire a driver, go to the market and buy all the useful items he could (most of which were labeled “USAID” and were supposed to have been distributed to the Afghans for free), and he'd go deliver the contents of the truck to a local tent-filled encampment of war refugees. Guy has never proclaimed anything like this, but by Kathy's estimate he is probably single-handedly responsible for preventing as many as 100 refugees from freezing to death last winter. The first shipment of goods Guy organized was, according to the elders among the refugees serving as their community leaders, the biggest single delivery of anything they had ever received. I was staying with Guy soon after he returned from that particular trip to Afghanistan, and I remember exactly how much money he had raised for that delivery – 400 pounds (about $600).

My little Mountain Time tour was inevitably doing a fair bit of zigzagging, but more or less in a loop, starting in the Denver area, then moving on to different parts of Utah, then back into southern Colorado, ultimately ending me up again in Denver. So my next two stops were in Utah. Which meant, of course, a long drive to get to Utah to start with. I got up one morning after a light snowfall in Boulder, took a long walk around the frozen city. I was delighted to hear one of my songs in a music break on Democracy Now!, though my delight was tempered by the stream of multi-million-selling rock stars that made up the rest of their musical selections for the week, as usual. What a great radio show for the most part, but their motto for their music breaks could be summed up by a slight variation on the slogan of your average Clearchannel station: “(almost) nothing but the hits.”

The road from Boulder to Moab is virtually paved with gold. Driving around and sometimes through the majestic, snow-covered slopes and the chaotic peaks too steep for snow, presented frequently with picturesque vistas of lines of mountain ranges in the distance, before descending again into the next valley, if there were some pack animals around you might think you were in the Himalayas. But there are no pack animals, only rich white people in Sports Utility Vehicles laden with skis and snow boards, chugging lattes in the cookie-cutter western-style towns that have sprang up all over the region in recent decades. Often these ski towns are only five or ten miles apart from each other, each one with its own Starbucks. Among the towns I passed through was Vail, home of the ski resort which the Earth Liberation Front burned to the ground back in the 90's. (Bill Rodgers – Avalon -- rest in peace.)

My gig in Moab wasn't til the next day. I knew how vast the distances are between gigs in this part of the world, and had planned in several days just for driving, and this was one of them. Too tired to get all the way to Moab that day, I spent the night in Motel 6 in Grand Junction, which has got to be the spiffiest Motel 6 on the planet. The next morning I was glad I had spent the night in Grand Junction, because I wouldn't have wanted to miss the spectacular drive over yet another range of mountains, to the Utah desert town of Moab.

Anybody who has ever wondered why on Earth anybody would live in Utah has probably never been there. Yes, there are lots of Mormons, and many of them are very strange, but that is pretty much true of all non-Unitarian Christians, seems to me... But while there are good people to be found everywhere, the only place you can find the kind of mystical beauty that Utah's wild, red desert has to offer is in Utah. As soon as you cross the border into the Mormon state, it is abundantly obvious that this is where so many of those Westerns were filmed. But even the big screen cannot approach the transcendent, almost spiritual experience that being there can provide to even the most cynical atheist.

And long before I arrived in Utah on this trip, I had gotten the word that this paradise is under imminent threat by the oil industry, and the people who live in this paradise are mobilizing like they haven't done in a long time. If there is one person who is a unifying force for this growing movement in Utah it is Tim DeChristopher, currently serving a prison sentence for his impromptu participation in an auction of land intended for use by the oil industry. Members of his organization made the long drive from Salt Lake City to the benefit show in Moab, and they were joined by environmental activists representing a wide range of groups, from volunteer-driven, anarchist-oriented networks like Rising Tide to members of comparatively tame nonprofits that, until recently, had left the civil disobedience to other people.

The influence of local luminaries no longer with us such as David Brower and Edward Abbey was very apparent. Throughout my 24 hours in Moab I heard stories from people who had been friends with one or both of these two giants of the environmental movement, who had both held the Utah desert as close to their hearts as anyone could, evangelizing in prose and organizing people from many different backgrounds to join the environmental movement that was fighting to keep Utah's oil, gas and uranium safely in the ground where it belongs, to keep Utah's rivers free of dams and power plants. Hanging out with these folks, walking with them through a nearby canyon, it was easy to imagine how I might have joined the Monkeywrench Gang, had I lived in Utah in the 80's or the 90's or some other time before the feds started throwing in the “terrorism enhancement” charges and regularly handing out sentences in excess of twenty years.

Another long day's drive to St. George, a small city in southwestern Utah nestled between Monument Valley and the glittering city of Las Vegas. It's hard to imagine – or maybe not so hard, really – that so close to this little city that was, until recently, almost completely populated by socially conservative Mormons, was the most institutionally immoral city in all the Americas, a place that veritably represents the very principle of heathenism, where people go not just to visit brothels or to gamble, but to do both in the same morning!

Strangely for a state that was not part of the Confederacy and that was founded by a group – the Mormon Church – that opposed slavery, the institution of higher learning in St. George was called Dixie State College. I say “was” because the day I arrived, the state approved a request by the trustees of the college to upgrade its name from Dixie State College to Dixie State University. Until recently, Dixie State also featured a number of statues of Confederate soldiers, but they were removed a few years ago.

My gig at the college was not until noon the following day, but I got to town early enough to join the fine upstanding leftwing hippie professor Joel Lewis, his wife and several of their friends, at the local open mike. I hadn't been to an open mike in many years, and I did not go to this one with high expectations, but it turned out to be the sort of experience that could give just about anybody a sense of optimism with regards to our species.

Here were the youth of St. George – mostly youth, anyway, with a handful of folks over 30 thrown into the mix. The venue, Jazzy's, was clearly the place to be in St. George, and this open mike was the night to be there. Most people in the room were teenagers, and they were acting like teenagers – playful, loud, full of sexual tension, still very excited to be alive, despite everything. Most of the kids getting up on stage were singing very well-known pop songs (which I might not have recognized but for my seven-year-old daughter's efforts to introduce me to the radio stations in Portland that play this stuff these days). My hosts were excited for me to be participating in the open mike, but I wasn't. I mean, I was happy to be hanging out with them and happy to be there, but I know how it goes at open mikes. Just being good doesn't mean you're going to manage to attract anyone's attention, especially if you're doing unrecognizable, original music, especially when the music in question is blatantly political and completely out of the framework of most young Americans in 2013. Especially in southwestern Utah.

For some reason I thought I'd ease my way in by playing an old Irish love song, “The Lakes of Pontchartrane.” The sound system was unusually good for a cafe, and the guitar sounded crisp and had the kind of attack on the low E string that I crave but rarely get from most sound systems. But this one had nice big woofers on the ground, along with the elevated speakers on either side of the stage. Nonetheless, though I'd say I delivered the song very well, it was clearly a bad idea, and didn't succeed in getting anyone's attention aside from the table of folks I was sitting with. Each performer had three songs, though, so I had two more chances. The second song I did succeeded, and the third one even moreso, and both were very political selections (“I'm A Better Anarchist Than You” and “Occupy Wall Street” if you really wanna know). It was as if most of the young people in the room knew this was important. Yes, it was a frumpy, relatively ancient guy playing unrecognizable songs with an acoustic guitar, but even the hyper-fashionable, impossibly attractive blonde girls who had been giggling and shrieking their way through the evening up until then were suddenly paying attention, and when I unplugged my guitar and stepped off the stage they thanked me for coming, and they meant it.

In contrast to the open mike, the average age of the crowd at my noon gig on the campus the next day was probably about 55. This may seem strange on a college campus, but it's not. I rarely get gigs at colleges, and when I do, it's often the case that most of the people who come for the show are not students – unless the students are getting extra credit for attending, in which case they'll do so in droves. But this time no one was offering extra credit, and most of the crowd was older than me. When I sing songs about certain subjects, I'll often meet people who are somehow related to those subjects – sing a song about Palestine, for example, and if someone in the crowd is of Palestinian ancestry they'll often let me know afterwards, giving us a chance to get acquainted a little. (Giving me a chance to hear more stories, and to write more songs.) Recently I wrote a song about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and at the end of the show, after doing the song, I found that among the older men in the room were several who had been in the Navy during that time, who all attested to the apocalyptic tension that was in the air in October, 1962. (But thanks to Vice Admiral Vasili Arkhapov, we're all here to talk about it.)

Another day, another breathtaking drive across the beautiful high desert, this time the region known as the Four Corners, on the Utah/Arizona border. The unromantic truth of the matter is that I rarely pay attention to where I'm going anymore. I look at a big map on my wall when planning tours and I use Google Maps to estimate how long it's gonna take to get from one gig to the next, but when I'm actually on the road I just plug the coordinates into my GPS and do what the nice female English voice tells me to do. (If I have to choose what kind of voice should order me around I'd rather it be an English accent.) So it came as a pleasant surprise that, at least according to my GPS, the fastest way to get from St. George, Utah to Durango, Colorado was by driving all the way across the Navajo Nation from west to east across northern Arizona.

There are many different places in what we call the United States where there is so much space in between population centers that it makes no economic sense to run a commercial radio station of any kind, and there aren't any. At least on the FM dial on much of the drive through Indian Country, there in the Navajo Nation, as in the land of the Lakotas far to the north, there was only one station, 88.1, a community radio station run by people on the res. The woman hosting the show spoke slowly and clearly as she alternated between playing recordings of traditional Native American music and Country-Western songs.

I stopped for gas and for dinner along the way, and each time I stopped I marveled at the fact that it is still possible to be the only non-Navajo person in a hotel lobby, at a gas station, in a restaurant. A beaming teenage girl with braces thanked me for buying a tank of gas. I just wanted to thank her for existing, but I didn't.

Anytime I'm anywhere near the Navajo Reservation I think of the people I spent a couple weeks with back in 2000, the last time I know of when a significant number of folks from outside the res came there to try to do something useful. Herding sheep, protesting Peabody Coal, bringing supplies for those still resisting relocation to the radioactive wasteland on the other side of the res, singing songs, being white.

As I was driving that day, switching from the community radio station's eclectic musical programming to satellite radio, on BBC they were talking about a Native American tribal leader who had been speaking out in support of police in Indian Country having the ability to arrest and prosecute non-Indians when they assault or kill their Native wives or girlfriends. He said 90% of assaults on reservations are non-Indian men assaulting Indian women. The tribal police are powerless to do much about it, and the state police don't send anybody.

Being white can also be a useful thing to do on the res. For those supporting the resisters in the Black Mesa area of Navajo country, for those resisting relocation, having the white supporters around means being more or less temporarily immune to being harassed and persecuted by tribal authorities. The grandmothers might get their sheep impounded if they dare to break the rules and have more than twenty of them, but if you got a blond hippie herding your sheep for you they have to lay low and wait for him to leave.

The last gig on the tour was at Fort Lewis College, a place with a sordid past of kidnapping and brainwashing Native children, like so many of the boarding schools throughout North America, but in recent decades the influence of the school has been far more constructive. Because of the original land grant through which the institution came into existence in the first place, the college is contractually obligated to give free tuition to Native Americans, from anywhere in the US (including Native Alaskans and Hawaiians, of course). As a result, among the four thousand or so students enrolled, 125 tribes are represented.

The crowd at the show in Durango reflected the diversity of the school, as did the membership of Professor Becky Clausen's wonderful Sociology Club which sponsored my visit. Among the group that came over to my guest trailer after the show was one young man who had been spending some of his free time herding sheep for the grandmothers, among the Blackgoat family, for whom Roberta Blackgoat was most definitely the preeminent matriarch, before she died at a fairly advanced age, a couple years after I spent time there over a decade ago. Among Roberta's many talents was the fact that she was just about the only woman of her generation in Black Mesa who spoke English.

The next day, one more long journey through the glorious mountains, through the San Luis valley and the Spanish-speaking towns that have been there since long before Colorado was part of the US. A stop for lunch in Salida, the central Colorado town that was once the US/Mexico border, I hear, before the first invasion of our southern neighbor in 1846. And then one night in Denver, staying at the home of my new friend Remy, a radical French-Chilean-Mexican-Armenian biochemist living in Denver, raising his son, who is the same age as my daughter. Turns out, naturally enough, half the people I know in Colorado already know Remy, but for me he is a connection made posthumously by Richard Myers, for it was at his memorial that we became acquainted. Me and Remy and his son went out for breakfast somewhere really good, and I headed to the airport and started writing this little document, and now you know more or less what happened during my week in Mountain Time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Breakfast in America: A Two-Week Winter Tour

It was wet and frigid when I flew out of the hippest city in the USA -- Portland, Oregon -- on a direct flight to Houston, Texas. As measured by the number of facial tattoos per capita, Austin may be the second-hippest city in the country, but Houston doesn't even get on the charts of hipness, at least according to the standard measurement. I rented a car and headed towards the city, from the sprawling, bustling airport north of town that shall not be named. I tuned in KPFT, one of the five radio stations in the US owned by the Pacifica Foundation, which is undoubtedly the closest thing Houston's progressives have to a virtual living room. I was just in time to hear an interview with a local artist who was eloquently singing Houston's praises.

This, in itself, is notable. Much has been said, by me and many others, about Houston's down sides, of which there are many. For about six months out of the year it's impossibly hot and humid. There are hardly any sidewalks, and the wide streets and expansive highways take up most of the land area of the city. They're filled with SUV's and huge pickup trucks for the most part. With four million people, almost nonexistent mass transit, terrifying conditions for anybody thinking about riding a bicycle, and lots of oil refineries nearby, it is the most polluted city in the nation. It is home to many of the scariest multinational corporations on Earth. All the ones bent on extracting every last nonrenewable resource available, they're mostly based in Houston, along with most of the military contractors running the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan into the ground.

But it is largely all this ugliness, all this lack of hipness, that makes Houston such a special place, as the artist on the radio was pointing out. During the three years I more or less found myself living in Houston, I conducted an ongoing social experiment. When I'd meet someone new, whether they were a dishwasher or a musician or a businessman, I'd ask them why they lived in Houston. Around 99% of the people I talked to answered with one of three possibilities: a) “This is where I'm from.” b) “This is where my partner is from.” c) “I moved here for work.” The last one was far and away the most common response.

Just from this much information, if you use your powers of deduction, perhaps you can see where I'm going with this. There is a lot of work in Houston, of all kinds. There are millions of gainfully-employed people in Houston, and millions more somewhat less gainfully-employed people working in the service industries, taking care of all those oil men, bankers, secretaries, accountants, computer programmers, etc. Not only do all these people need to eat and keep their SUVs running, but they need to be entertained. Nobody moves to Houston because they love the city, so there is a relative shortage of hipsters – so if you happen to be one of them, your chances at making a living doing art, music, theater, dance, etc., in either English or Spanish is increased dramatically. The city is full of well-used museums, theaters, cinemas, galleries, and live music clubs. But unlike Portland, where a stellar band might be playing for tips in a cafe and making $20 per musician for the night if they're lucky, in Houston they're generally getting paid for their labor. To paraphrase the artist on the radio, in LA you can have a showing in a gallery and a few of your friends will show up. Do the same thing in Houston and your friends will show up, as will one or two journalists and some guy with a lot of money who actually wants to buy a painting.

I was on KPFT soon after the artist, on Wally James' long-standing weekly show, the Progressive Forum. I arrived at the station just in time. After seeing some wonderfully familiar faces there at the station, I headed north towards Dallas. When touring in the US and many other countries, the most economical way to go is usually to rent a car from the same airport where you'll be returning it. So I flew into Houston because my last gig in Texas was going to be there. But my first gig was in Dallas, the following evening.

Originally I had been hoping my first gig would be an informal affair, singing for folks camped out at one of the blockades in eastern Texas, where people from all over North America were going, in an effort to stop the building of the latest huge extension of the pipelines slurrying Alberta's oil shale from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. But I got word the night I arrived that the pipeline blockaders were moving camp that night and the next day, so it wasn't a good day for me to go distract them. So I continued on north from Houston, and the radio was abuzz with news of another mass shooting, this time on the University of Houston campus. I spent the night in a Motel 6 somewhere in between Houston and Dallas, and continued on to Dallas the next day.

Lucky for me, although I didn't get a chance to hang out with pipeline blockaders in their natural habitat (sweating in a tent in a partially-bulldozed forest with no running water, waiting to get arrested, I imagine), some of them came to me... My show was a benefit for the Tar Sands Blockade, taking place in a dance studio, though luckily no one was attempting to dance to my erratic rhythms. There at my first show on this visit to Texas were an array of people, ranging in age from around 18 to 88.

When I tune in to the things people are talking about and the way they approach different subjects, it's often easy to tell exactly when they became involved with activism. Some people had clearly been on the left since the 1960's. Some had been shaped by the anti-capitalist movement circa 1999. A bunch of them first cut their activist teeth when Cindy Sheehan started her protest camp outside Bush's ranch nearby in 2005. Others were clearly products of Occupy Wall Street, doing an Occupy Dallas livestream of the event. And then there were those who had only discovered activism, and the tradition of civil disobedience, in only the past few months, getting involved with the Tar Sands Blockade. Those in the latter camp included people of all ages, from local landowners to grandmothers concerned about their family's drinking water, from sharply-dressed college students to idealistic young hippies from the west coast, clothed in dumpster-dived, home-made rags. The newest activists are the easiest to identify, because they are always the ones struggling to come to terms with the petty differences among their colleagues that seem to dominate so much of their time and energy.

I got up early the next morning to go visit a friend who is decidedly not from the camp of the newly-activated. Marie Mason, convicted “ecoterrorist,” two years in to a twenty-two-and-a-half-year sentence for doing four million dollars worth of damage to corporate property in Michigan many years before. No prior criminal record aside from trespassing, a vegan who never hurt a fly, let alone a human, she's being held in a supermax, the only supermax for women that is also a Communications Management Unit, where those within it have severely restricted lives and ability to interact with the outside world, much more so than in “normal” super-maximum-security prisons.

This was my second visit to FMC Carswell, so I knew the drill. The hardest part last time was finding the entrance, but this time I had it saved in my GPS. The penitentiary is a massive complex adjacent to an even more sprawling military base on the outskirts of the vast city of Ft. Worth. It was January in Texas, the morning air was crisp but not cold, just the sort of winter weather that could convince me to spend some time there one day. Visitors of inmates were lined up along the badly-maintained road beside the prison complex. Most of the vehicles in the line were the older, more worn cars and minivans of the working class, and about half of them were from Oklahoma, just to the north. As Leonard Peltier and others have pointed out, the US prison system is the country's biggest Indian reservation, and evidence of that was there in the line of cars with me.

Directly across from the strangely unmarked entrance to the prison is a woodsy little piece of property that has an obviously hand-made sign advertising that people can camp there, and there was a little farm stand of some kind. I never checked it out, but I'm curious what reality is like in that little homestead.

The entrance to the prison consists of a ramshackle little guard house with a small, middle-aged Latino man its sole occupant. During visiting hours – which are designed to be confusing, it seems; you have to show up either at 8:30 am or at 11:30 am, something like that, but in between those times he stops processing people for a long while – he's standing just outside the shack, in front of a little portable lectern which is uncomfortably perched on the gravel-covered road. He's got a little tattered notepad, and he's already got information on each of the people coming in to visit their imprisoned friends and relatives. He clearly doesn't think winter in Texas is anything too exciting, since he's standing there with an electric heater, much like a big hair dryer, and just as loud, that's sitting on the ground by his lectern and warming his feet.

From the time I enter to the time I leave I get the feeling that the whole place functions with very few actual staff. I drive through the deserted streets within the prison complex, and the little wooden homes that presumably house prison employees of some kind. Then the lower-security prisoner housing, where some of the women often seem to be outside, carrying around laundry and stuff. Then the parking lot, which you can find easily by following the over-sized American flag blowing in the wind in front of the building through which visitors enter.

Altogether it's a two-hour-long process from entering the prison to seeing Marie. In the visitor entrance building an impatient, apparently overworked employee repeatedly tells me and other visitors to back away from his section of the room. There are dozens of us, and we're all supposed to squeeze into one part of the room, which isn't big enough for us all to fit in. The man behind the counter tells people to wait outside if they don't fit in the little section of the room we're supposed to wait in. One young male visitor tests positive for cocaine and has to leave. An elderly woman sets off the metal detector because of a hip replacement, and he tells her she has to have a note from a doctor explaining that she has a hip replacement or she can't come in. He doesn't like my Oregon driver's license because some information on it has faded out. I go to the car and get my passport, and that works for him.

Last time I visited, the two guards who brought me through the myriad of impossibly thick steel doors within the maze of windowless corridors were two white guys, of Italian and Norwegian descent, judging from their appearances and last names. I don't remember their names, but the Norwegian-looking guy seemed very nice, and I nicknamed him Thor. Anyone else would have, too – he had blond hair hanging down most of the way to his shoulders, arms about the size of my legs, completely muscle-bound, with a neck almost as thick as a Cardassian (if you watch Star Trek and know what one is). This time my guides through the prison were both women of Latin American descent. Word was that Thor was out with an injury, which he actually got from throwing hammers in some kind of Viking competition.

As with my last visit, I was brought into the visiting room before Marie got there. It was a barren room, but unlike the corridors we were walking through, it had windows, plate glass, bulletproof I'm sure, through which you could see a field, other buildings, and lots of barbed wire. The room was slightly less barren than the last time. I guess you could call it an improvement, though such a minor one that it's barely worth mentioning: in addition to the large, ratty poster of the Statue of Liberty, there was now a plant. A fairly sizable bush of some kind, it sat beside the plastic card table and two plastic chairs in the middle of the room. I was instructed to sit at the table and wait for Marie. I had set up the chairs so they were too close to each other, and one of the guards moved them so they were on either end of the table. She informed me that the chairs had to stay that way, and that after briefly greeting Marie I was not allowed to touch her.

Indeed, when Marie was brought out from a different hallway than the one I came in, the guards seemed to be timing our hug. Two seconds or so, too short to make them get antsy yet. Last time I visited, Thor and the Italian guy made a point of sitting as far away from Marie and I as possible, to give us as much privacy as they could under the bizarre circumstances. This time the guards sat about three feet from us, easily able to hear every word if they were paying attention.

In some prisons, even in some US ones, they have private monthly visits for married couples, visiting performers coming through now and then, and all sorts of other opportunities to avoid total insanity setting in too quickly. Not here. Marie's efforts to allow us to have access to one of the two guitars that were sitting, rarely used, in a dark room nearby under lock and key, were fruitless. We sang unaccompanied a bit. But even though I'm a professional musician, and Marie's a darn good singer herself, I don't think either of us ever felt comfortable in that room without instruments, trying to sing a cappella with those guards so nearby, despite the fact that there was a nice, bathroom-y reverb in the empty room.

Mostly we talked. I have friends in various parts of the world who I only see once or twice a year at most, like Marie. But most of the rest of them aren't in prison, and although we might spend four hours straight talking with each other and catching up, we'll be doing that in the midst of other activities – walking, going to a cafe, interacting with other people we run into, etc. I once again forgot to bring a bit of money with me – I had left everything in the car, once again forgetting I was allowed to bring a little money to buy food from the vending machines in the prison. I was hungry. By now it was mid-day and I had barely eaten that morning. But the time slipped by despite the circumstances. They let us have an extra half hour for some reason. Marie was concerned if I stayed the extra half hour I might be late getting to my next gig, several hours away in Austin. She's always saying things like that, trying to make sure nobody's inconvenienced, which of course is impossible given her situation, but such a kind gesture, so out of step with her very unkind reality.

We spent four hours talking about politics, mutual friends, political strategies, other political prisoners, art, music... In the course of the two years Marie has been incarcerated she has been moved from a prison in the upper midwest where she had much more musical and educational opportunities, to this hellhole in Texas, where she and the rest of the women on her block spend much of their time on lockdown. The only slightly bright spot since she was transferred to Carswell was the MP3 players Marie and most other federal prisoners were eventually given the opportunity to purchase through the prison store, whatever it's called. Although most of the artists she'd like to find among the one million or so songs they make available for purchase are not in the collection, she's found other songs she likes well enough, and can successfully escape into the music for a bit, most days.

They wouldn't let us have a guitar, but they did allow Marie to spend a little of her money to have a member of the prison staff come and take photographs of Marie and I posing beside the plant. I asked if we were allowed to have the photos taken with the windows behind us, and the barbed wire, but the man said that wasn't allowed – it could compromise security somehow. The photos were taken with a cheap disposable camera. A little more physical contact was allowed while the photos were being taken. I thought the photographer might have been taking his time, perhaps knowing Marie and I wanted to be able to have our arms around each other, as we did for the photo shoot. Then it was time to go. Marie's eyes were filled with tears, and one of the jail guards seemed to feel defensive. She said, “I gave you warning that the visit was ending soon,” as if the fact that she did this should have made Marie feel more in control of her life, and less apt to cry, under such outrageous circumstances.

I was escorted through the maze once again in the other direction, found my way to the car, and slowly drove through the grounds of FMC Carswell, and back past the little man in the guard house. Listening to BBC World Service on the satellite radio while driving through the vast, empty, scruffy expanses of east Texas landscape, the world felt like an especially small place. Dominating the news was the scene then unfolding at the gas plant on the Algeria/Libya border. Among the negotiating terms the hostage-takers were attempting to put forward included trading Americans for the blind Egyptian sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman and Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui – Ms. Siddiqui being one of Marie's neighbors there in the gulag. Naturally, if folks are launching an attack against a British-owned gas plant as a result of a French invasion of a neighboring country (that being Mali), there must still be an American role in the whole thing. And if a female “terrorist” kidnapped by the CIA is one of the people in question, then FMC Carswell is where she would likely be found.

Austin was a veritable hotbed of seditious activity the whole 14 hours or so I was there... A long-time local activist named Juniper and other folks had organized a series of workshops all afternoon around the theme of defending the Commons. After my show was over later in the evening, an unknown number of Tar Sands Blockaders were due to arrive in town, where the following day Austin-based organizer extraordinaire Lisa Fithian would be facilitating meetings aimed at moving the campaign forward. Seeing Lisa always naturally reminds me of the last time I saw Lisa, and it's usually somewhere interesting. If memory serves, September 17th, 2011, right near the big statue of the bull near Wall Street was the last time I saw her. Seeing Lisa involved with a campaign also always gives me optimistic feelings for the future possibilities of the campaign in question. It's usually a very good sign.

Before I left Austin the morning after the show, I visited Lisa and Juniper's place, and ten or twelve blockaders who were waking up after spending the night sleeping on various surfaces. Before they got started with their day's activities, Lisa showed me her newly-reorganized filing cabinets full of materials related to the book she was working on writing, on effective strategies for kicking corporate booty.

After a show sponsored by the active local chapter of the Communist Party, USA at one of Houston's most venerable venues for independent music, Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, I flew next to Tampa, Florida, for a four-day visit to what was once the land of the Seminole Nation.

The last time I had been in Tampa it was August – incredibly hot, and even more humid, with the sun baking everything most of the time, and then occasionally a torrential downpour. And everywhere you went you were surrounded by thousands of riot cops, with at least one police helicopter never far from view. The Republican National Convention was in town, and even as far away as St. Petersburg, it was martial law.

But now the weather was beautiful, the riot cops and ten-foot-tall black steel barricades were gone, and Tampa and most of the rest of Florida was back to being tourism central. With all those tourists there are a lot of bars and restaurants, and quite a lot of musicians to go along with the live music venues among those establishments. One of them is a wiry young woman with long dreadlocks whose rhythmic guitar playing inevitably invites Ani DiFranco comparisons, Jun Bustamante. Jun and I and other musicians she knows in the area are working on a recording together, remotely, sending tracks to each other across the country. (It's going brilliantly, and she's livestreaming these recording sessions in case you wanna watch the process in action, so to speak...!)

Jun and I took a little road trip to St. Augustine, where we did a show for the local IWW chapter in this old college town, first settled by the Spanish back in the 16th century. We got to town early enough to take in some gorgeous, very European-looking old neighborhoods, and to eat some very expensive food – the only kind of food that seems to be available in St. Augustine if you're eating out. We visited the old slave market, where some of Jun's African ancestors may have found themselves along the way.

Another of those musicians who migrated to the balmy beaches of the peninsula a long time ago is Jim Glover, who I first met soon after I started out as a traveling musician. In his adopted home town of Sarasota I did a feature spot at the weekly jam session that Jim participates in actively, which rotates from home to home, between four houses in the area.

Sometime around 1960 Jim was a college friend of Phil Ochs, and turned him on to folk music. My next stop, Springfield, Massachusetts, was to attend the winter gathering of the People's Music Network (PMN), a group that Phil's sister Sonny helped get off the ground back in the 1970's, along with Charlie King, Pete Seeger, and other luminaries of the folk scare and beyond.

Twenty-three years or so after my first PMN gathering, the feelings I had at the first one are all still there. A profound sense of humility, being in the presence of a number of the best songwriters you'll find anywhere. And frequent waves of childhood memories, since basically anytime I meet an elderly Jewish woman with a Brooklyn accent I think of my grandmother, and a significant percentage of regular PMN gathering participants fit the description. (Some of the best songwriters also fit that description, but my grandmother wasn't one of them.)

In Boston, another shooting. This one typical of the killings that represent the bulk of the tens of thousands of young people killed in the USA every year – a young person of color, this time a woman, shot on the streets of Jamaica Plain, a historically working class neighborhood of Boston where I lived for many years, along with my sister, Bonnie. The woman killed was a close friend of the stellar hiphop duo, the Foundation Movement and together with Evan Greer we did a show together in JP, at the historic community center called Spontaneous Celebrations.  (Radio programmer and audio engineer Chuck Rosina recorded my set.)  The Foundation Movement was originally going to go last, but they wanted to go first so they could get back to the hospital, where their friend was in a coma, with a very uncertain future.

The rappers calling themselves Foundation Movement are brilliant young men, masters of the form, as comfortable with musical backup as they are with rapping unaccompanied, just bouncing off each other's voices. At least one of them is of Puerto Rican descent, and their analysis of US imperialism is spot-on. Another theme addressed frequently was gentrification.

A majority of the audience at the gig my sister organized were white, as is usually the case at my shows, and probably most of them could broadly be described as middle-class, or in other words, of the gentrifying class. Most were not from JP. I know because the hiphop duo asked folks where they lived, and only a handful said they lived in JP. Most had driven from another part of town or taken the T to JP for the show. I don't know if the duo usually performed for mostly white audiences, but I got the impression that when they did, they felt compelled to bring up the question of what to do about gentrification.

The answer to this question is an important one, one so many people are facing one way or another. It's confusing, because naturally there are serious divisions within neighborhoods like JP – after all, some of the white people moving in are out of touch with what reality is like for so many others, they're self-interested sometimes – maybe more than sometimes. Sometimes their own definition of “their community” doesn't include brown people, and they're basically scared of brown people. When they have a problem with their neighbors they call the police, and the divide intensifies and festers, as the property rates continue to rise.

But the overriding problem is not these white people moving in. The overriding problem is so much bigger than that. Many people reading this know, of course, exactly where I'm going with this, but for some, perhaps even for some young politically-conscious rappers from urban America, the elephant in the living room is just too big to see clearly. Well, the name of that elephant is capitalism. The “free market.”

The story of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts illustrates this point well. Going back to the 1960's JP was a predominantly white working class neighborhood of Boston. For the most part, well-off people didn't want to live there. The MBTA (Boston's subway system) didn't go to JP, so it wasn't convenient to get into the center of town from there. But it wasn't far enough out of town to be good for the suburban life that many upwardly-mobile white people wanted, if they could afford it. So JP was a white working class neighborhood.

Then, state and federal authorities descended upon JP, and much of the rest of the country, with plans to destroy the neighborhood by turning it into a 12-lane highway, an extension of Interstate 95. Throughout the late 60's and 70's people in JP and throughout Boston and much of the rest of the country mobilized against these highway-building plans. They were defending their communities, the communities of others, and the environment, or all of these things, depending on who you asked. As this fight went on, the future of JP was very uncertain. Property values plummeted. Many who could afford to move to a neighborhood with a less catastrophic future did so. People who couldn't afford to think this way, but just needed a decent house to live in regardless of whether it was going to be demolished a few years later, moved in. This is when JP became a largely Latino neighborhood, populated largely by folks from the Dominican Republic, moving to the US to escape the mess created in their country by the US Marines, among other nefarious forces.

But then, the people won. In JP and many other places around the country, the Anti-Highway Movement won. It won, and the community center we were performing in, Spontaneous Celebrations, and the two annual festivals run by people involved with the place, were direct outgrowths of this people's victory.  Not only did the authorities give up on their plans to build a highway, but due to popular pressure they used the route of the highway extension and put an extension of the T there instead, with a miles-long, block-wide park directly above it. They finished the Orange Line extension in 1987, and since then, property values have been rising. This process is often so similar you could change a few words and tell the same story anywhere else in the western world. At first the white people moving in were decidedly alternative types, people who embraced the idea of living in a Latino neighborhood. Others didn't care one way or another as long as the rent was cheap, because they couldn't afford to live wherever they were living before. Then more white people came, attracted by the multicultural neighborhood and the houses they could afford to buy – these were people who mostly couldn't afford to buy a house in a central neighborhood like Back Bay or a fancy suburb to the west of Boston like Newtown but they could buy one here in JP.

Seems to me when you look into it, none of these elements of society are to blame for all the people who get screwed in this process. If the housing market were heavily regulated and controlled by a democratically-run government, in the interest of the people, rather than the banks, this would pretty much take care of the whole problem. Neighborhoods would still change over time, but not so chaotically and painfully. Tall order, getting rid of capitalism, but I don't see any way around it.

On my way driving the rental car from Boston to New York City, I stopped for lunch with my father, Howard, and his wife, Christina. Driving on I-84 towards the Connecticut/New York border and the welcoming little Middle Eastern restaurant there, I drove past Exit 10, Newtown, an exit I know well. That's where I have often stopped for the best eggplant sub in the state, at that pizza place right there off the exit, run by real Europeans. If you're coming from the east, it's also the exit to take if you're trying to get to Bethel, a few miles away, where Howard and Christina live, along with six of their grandchildren.

Then I passed exit 9 – Newtown/Sandy Hook, it says on the green sign. On the day of the massacre they locked down the schools for my little nieces and nephews in Bethel, too. At the Middle Eastern restaurant Christina tells me it turns out she's related to one of the kids through one of her brother's extended family, the girl named Olivia, and she had just recently sang at the girl's funeral, as she has done at so many other funerals in the area over the years, professional singer that she is. But usually the deceased are much older than Olivia.

I got to Brooklyn and found parking directly in front of my destination. For the past several visits to New York this has been happening. A house concert at the now-historic home of a local firebrand red diaper baby (my favorite kind), and then a benefit for Bushwick City Farm. I was the youngest person in the room one night, and the oldest the next. In a neighborhood of Brooklyn where some fear to tread (I know because they told me so by email, when explaining why they weren't coming to the show), these folks have taken over a blighted little plot of land and turned it into a thriving community garden with lots of local youth participation.

My friend Brad Will is no longer around, since he was killed in October, 2006, but here in Brooklyn are some of his many other friends, still working on guerrilla gardening, as Brad was before he died, among his many other pursuits. In most of the faces in the room, as I mention Brad, I see a lack of recognition. 2006 was a long time ago. If you're 23 now, you were 17 then, still living in the suburbs with your parents, and maybe you never heard of Oaxaca yet. And when folks like Brad formed Indymedia you were ten, and had not yet heard of the World Trade Organization either...

Upstate New York, the Pine Hill Community Center, there is talk of canceling because of warnings of heavy rain, high winds, and flooding, but the show goes on. It's a nice crowd, especially considering the flood warnings, in this community recently devastated by flooding. Soon after Hurricane Irene destroyed so many homes in the area, I was doing a few gigs in the region, traveling with my daughter, Leila. We were staying in a motel and Leila got hungry at 1 am. Since we weren't at home and I wasn't planning things very well apparently, we had no food in the room or in the car. So we got dressed and went out to Denny's a few miles away, the only place open. An elderly couple sitting nearby us apparently thought Leila and I were victims of the flood – why else would a man and his 5-year-old daughter be eating dinner at Denny's at 1 am? They bought our dinner, we found out from the waitress after they left the restaurant, while we were still eating.

Along with flooding, hydraulic fracturing was heavy on the minds of many there in upstate New York. Some of the folks there in Pine Hill had recently taken a road trip to Albany to say fracking should stay out of New York, while Governor Cuomo was giving his speech. (Not surprisingly, long-time environmental activist Pete Seeger was there at the protest, too, banjo in hand!) I learned there that the nearby town of Woodstock had recently not only banned fracking in their town, but made it a felony offense punishable by up to ten years in prison! Local democracy, the only kind we got...

On the way towards Bradley International airport north of Hartford, I spent the night at my mom's place. The drive there through upstate New York and the northwestern corner of Connecticut was very foggy, and at times the rain came down in buckets. Temperatures were all over the place – only days before it was well below freezing, and suddenly it was in the 60's and raining. At 5 am I awoke, because of an alarming new sound coming from outside the window. The wind was no longer whipping or whistling, it was humming. A low, vibrating hum, like a train approaching. Thinking of the train reminded me of what so many people have said about what it sounds like when a tornado is approaching. But presumably a tornado never formed in Connecticut that night, or I would have heard about it. One did come down that night in Georgia, though.

I got up early to go catch my flight, not enough sleep. The winds had knocked over a dead tree, directly up hill from the rental car. It fell sideways, rather than down the hill, thus sparing my car, and knocking over part of a wood pile instead.

At the airport the TV screens perpetually droning CNN propaganda were all about the man in Alabama who shot a bus driver and took a 5-year-old boy hostage. I switched flights in Chicago, and all the local papers were blaring headlines about the girl who had just been shot down in the street blocks from where Obama used to live. A notable event for national news only because this teenage girl had just recently been a performer at an inaugural event with the president.

Back home in Portland, driving past the homeless families living under every bridge, I got a call from Bob at the community radio station in Moab, Utah where I'll be heading in a week. Much of the word from him and others out in Utah are also about gas and oil drilling, and Tim DeChristopher, serving a two-year sentence for participating in a land auction to try to stop this insanity, is an iconic figure there, deservedly so. Looking forward to meeting his friends and supporters there next week. But for now, time to make breakfast.