Community Supported Agriculture

 

I spoke today with my thirty-year friend Bonnie Mandoe, author of the celebrated cookbook Vegetarian Nights: Fresh From Hawaii. She’s been renovating old adobe homes in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is excited about embarking on a half acre farming venture on her land. So, excited, in fact, that she is about to have a gallery show of her oil paintings of the irrigation of pecan orchards. Bonnie’s brimming with plans to start a CSA farm.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a system inwhich consumers subscribe in advance to a local organically certified farm, giving the farmer capital for operations and feedback from consumers, and giving the consumer a weekly or twice-weekly box of whatever the farmer is harvesting.

It’s the next best thing to growing it all yourself, or growing some of it and bartering with your neighbors for the rest. It’s better than buying organic at a farmers’ market in terms of knowing exactly what is going into your food. Still a farmers’ market beats a health food store for prices and often for quality and variety, and you can get to know the vendors you buy from regularly.

Health food (umm, natural food) stores beat supermarkets for quality of food and certainly for the quality of literature preceeding the cashier. Supermarkets are not particularly concerned about genetically modified organisms in the food, about the use of insecticides, herbicides, and various chemicals used in food processing, nor the use of artificial colors, sweeteners, hormones and preservatives in the products they carry, nor about cruelty to animals. Yet, thankfully, due to customer demand, most now carry some produce labeled organically grown. Unfortunately, that label is no longer representative of once-stringent inspections that disallow the use of chemicals in agriculture, due to pressure from industrial agriculture and chemical company lobbyists.

We will be following with interest Bonnie Mandoe’s progress with her new project!

Nels Cline's Fiftieth Birthday Party

January 6, 2006, I attended one of the best concerts ever, a jam in celebration of the 50th birthday of avant-garde guitarist Nels Cline and his twin brother drummer/percussionist Alex Cline at Club Tropical in Culver City. They chose only songs with “peace” in the title, mostly jazz and avant-garde pieces. A host of local luminaries played, including saxophonist Vinny Golia and violinist Jeff Gauthier. Nels conducted all twenty-odd guest stars in a send-up of “Give Peace A Chance,” with each player soloing on a verse (in avant-garde style) and everyone playing the familiar chorus in unison.

At the back of the stage, throughout the show, artist Norton Wisdom painted, smeared, and repainted on a backlit plastic sheet. Often collaborating with Nels, Norton currently has a show of his work up at Chouinard Art Institute. And what a night! The club had to turn people away because the room was full, and the audience went wild after every solo and every piece.

I first met Nels Cline in 2000, when his band (with harpist Zeena Parkin) played at the Knitting Factory in New York City as part of the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, right before my pal Joe GallivanÂ’s Rain Forest Initiative took the stage. Last December 22, 2005, Nels recorded mind-bending lead guitar parts on four of my songs for my upcoming CD What LivingÂ’s All About.

work in progress

I’m currently working on my third self-produced CD of original songs, and my first truly ensemble recording.

My first recording, Music From Living on the Earth, was solo vocal and guitar, all original songs, all of the folk persuasion, though some had bluesy/jazzy aspects, and one was an Indian raga. I recorded it just before doing a national tour in 2000 to promote the 30th anniversary edition of my book Living on the Earth. The songs express the same world view as the writing and illustrations in the book; they were composed around the same time I wrote it. Having learned open-tuned guitar in my teens directly from John Fahey, who was a family member, I finger-picked in a variety of tunings on the recording. I made all the artwork, liner notes and graphic design myself—printed brown on tan with soy inks on recycled paper. The CD was released in Japan in September 2005 by EM Records.

My second CD, Living in Hawaii Style, (2001) expanded my musical scope with contributions from two master Hawaiian musicians, chanter/spiritualist Lei’ohu Ryder, and jazz guitarist/vocalist Sam Ahia. I wrote half of the songs and either licensed or selected public domain songs for the rest. I sang and I played Hawaiian style open-tuned guitar (pidgeon term: slack key), ukulele, and standard-tuned guitar, and covered turn-of-the-century guitar solos, Hawaiian swing tunes from the 30’s, and Hawaiian environmental laments from more recent times. Again, I created the art, liner notes and graphic design, this time in bright island colors. This CD was also released in Japan in September 2005 by EM Records.

This third CD, What Living’s All About, contains ten original blues and jazz songs plus two jazz standards. For this recording I hired a jazz quartet (Rick Olson, piano, Chris Conner, upright bass, Kendall Kay, drums, Doug Webb, saxophones and clarinet) for four songs; gospel pianist Rev. Harold Pittman and gospel singers Jessie Williams, Irene Cathaway and Vetia Richardson, plus Kevin O’Neal on electric bass and David Anderson on drums for three songs; avant-garde jazz guitarist Nels Cline to play lead to my rhythm guitar, with upright bassist John B. Williams and drummer Enzo Tedesco on four songs; John B. and Enzo (on percussion only) improvise with me on one song, plus actor Jody Ashworth reads on two of the songs. I sing, read and play rhythm guitar. Scott Fraser is doing most of the recording, mixing and mastering; Ron Grant is co-producing, and Rick Asher Keefer, who recorded and co-produced my first two CDs, recorded the basic sketches of the songs with me. I am working on the art, design and liner notes right now, and they will be in dark cool colors with a wet, shimmering nighttime look. 

This CD is a quantum leap from the first two projects, and I could never have started it if I had not done the first two.

You can hear Music From Living On The Earth and Living In Hawaii Style at CDBaby.

brave new world

When I was born in 1949, the enormous clunky black and white television set had just replaced the radio as the hearth and storyteller of our society. My generation is the first to have sets of identical memories—Howdy Doody, Mighty Mouse, Kookla, Fran and Ollie. Maybe that’s why we, all at once, upon puberty, rolled out of Pleasantville and began living in color. My book Living on the Earth was a case in point.

I bought my first personal computer in 1984, and it, too, was an enormous clunky box with a monochrome screen. Yet, to move blocks of text without retyping or witeout is, for a writer, heaven. I used it to start a wedding business on Maui in 1988, and the business thrived because of my first web site and email account.

I sold the wedding business in 1999 and toured North America throughout 2000 as a storyteller, singer, songwriter and seller of my books, music and art, writing my first blog on a site designed specifically for the tour. Six years later, it’s time to make a new site, with a more constant and inclusive blog, to integrate the colorful, peaceful, sustainable, creative, and politically aware world inwhich I float. The old site still flies, and I am slowly moving its prodigious content here.

I’m also learning from Richard Schave and Kim Cooper how to connect on the ‘net to other bloggers who are living the colorful life, that I might enhance the global network for peace, justice, sustainbility, creativity and diversity. I plan to develop this website as an aggregator (collector of relevant blog posts) that will invite more participation as time goes on. I also will cast my own posts and podcasts upon the wide waters of wonder and see what comes back. Maybe a message from you!

Recording Engineers

April 20th, 2000

A random quick visit to my childhood and current close friend, Susan Heldfond yielded a book sale to her cousin Lane Heldfond, who owns an antiquarian bookstore in Marin County, California. Lane received Living On The Earth as a birthday gift from her brother when she was sixteen and is still using it!

Happily ensconced now at a visit to Steve Gursky, the technical wizard who put all the moving, morphing fun stuff on my web site (at least for those of you whose browsers support Java Script). He has enjoyed a considerable career as a recording engineer to various legends of the Woodstock era, but, since computers have depleted the market for live studio recording, Steve has made computer consulting and web design his next line of work. I am ecstatic with what he has done on my web site, and pleased to be learning a new skill in updating the site myself.

Steve Gursky in television worship

Personally, I am thrilled with the results I got from working on my CD with an experienced and well-equipped recording engineer, Steve’s old buddy Rick Asher Keefer, who engineered Heart’s hit albums. The complete art piece that we got is as much a result of his creativity as it is of mine.

Rick Asher Keefer at Sea West Studio in Pahoa, Hawaii

Big Jewish Fun

My lively second cousins Brenda and Diane have been putting on these major family affairs for nearly thirty years, but, having founded my own one-person religion (see my and Ramon Sender’s book on creative religion, Being Of The Sun, Harper & Row, 1973), and having lived in Hawaii since 1974, I have not gathered with my blood relatives for Passover since my teens. I had no idea it would be so wonderful. Diane’s Spanish style cottage burgeoned with all things lovely—antiques, cut flowers, floral printed linens, platters of delicacies and desserts, and, most especially, a dozen beautiful and intelligent children, whose art and laughter graced the table. Diane and Brenda read aloud colorful introductions about each guest, including a family mazel tov for my book tour, and sang a Broadway tune with lyrics rewritten for the occasion, an act for which they are famous in our family. I met psychotherapist Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, author of The Confident Worman, who referred me to her PR lady. I’ve got relatives in the record business, the movie business, TV, just what you would expect of a big Jewish family in LA. I received oodles of advice.

Brenda and Diane make dinner for 43.

Angelica and her dad sing a hit from the sixties.

Mercury Goes Direct

April 18th, 2000

I awoke with a chuckle, and Chris noticed this from the breakfast table. The whole energy of the universe changed direction this morning. The rain stopped. The stock market rose dramatically after a Microsoft-induced plunge. Time to boogie. I bid my new family a fond farewell.

I took advantage of the opening in the force field and made my way north to Huntington Beach, where I have a standing invitation at the home of my childhood friend Geri Woolls. I unpacked my suitcases and reorganized them in her living room. Her brilliant teenage son Joseph builds computers but doesn’t like school. I’ve heard he is a terror, but he is always friendly to me. This time he has a new girlfriend, Sarah, and she played the guitar for me. I am honored. The kids are vegetarians.

Long term friendship adds a philosophical perspective. This, too, shall pass. We loved each other long before the current predicaments arrived in our lives, and we will love one another long after they fade from memory.

Geri laughing.