Monday, December 22, 2014

More Better

Yesterday, returning home from the fourth performance in as many days, I stopped for fast food.  (Don't judge.  When you're as sick of driving as I sometimes get to be, stopping for a sit-down meal is not an option.)

Waiting in line at KFC, I studied my options and made my choice, but when I actually gave my order, the fellow at the register encouraged me to order differently: If you get this heah othah one, he said, pointing to a placard on the counter, it's 'bout the same thing, but mo' cheapah.  He said "No problem" to the substitution I'd have to make in order to eat while driving.  (Again, no judging please.)  And he also pointed out that I'd get a cookie!

Once upon a time, I would've been a little put off by the bad grammar.  Once upon a time, I would've wondered why in the world KFC would have a counter representative -- essentially the front man for their establishment -- who wasn't passably well-spoken.  But unfortunately, in recent years I find myself more and more surprised when I get good customer service.  These days, I'll even take indifferent service over hostile and argumentative service.  This man, grammatically inept though he may have been, was cheerful and caring as he steered me towards that mo' cheapah menu option.

I hope I see him again.  (The food was pretty delicious, especially that cookie, so it's not unlikely that I'll go back.)  

His customer service rating?  An enthusiastic, 5-star, MO' BETTAH!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tribute to Hughie

Just learned of the death, last Sunday, of friend and fellow musician Hughie Purcell. Hughie, a member of Boston-based band Celtic Clan, was an incredibly talented musician and one of the funniest people I know. Even when I knew what was coming, he was such a clown; he'd have me practically rolling in the aisles with his on-stage antics. And he was SO supportive of me, when I first started playing out. A friendly, genuine individual, who'll surely be missed. Tír na nÓg's House Band is going to sound just a bit sweeter, and the breaks are going to be just a bit more comical ... RIP, Hughie.

Hughie at the 5th Annual Peace River Celtic Festival in 2005. He could play banjo. He could play bass. He could play fiddle and guitar and I don't know what else and he could sing. He could do it all musically, I believe, and he enjoyed it, and by golly he invited you to enjoy it too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Day Charley Came to Visit

Ten years ago today. Woo! Do I remember this! 

Greg and I were up in Northern Ohio as we tracked the progress of Hurricane Charley. Friends at home (Charlotte Harbor) had told us there was little to worry about, as the weathermen were predicting the storm would make landfall on Tampa Bay. Other weather gurus were forecasting Fort Myers as Charley's target. "There's a whole lotta real estate in between Tampa and Fort Myers," I fumed. "And guess who's right smack in the middle? I can't believe no one's figured this out!"

The morning of August 13, I touched base with "Uncle Jerry," the man who lived with Greg and me and took care of our house during our long road trips. "Nothin' to worry about, Honey;" he said, "the weathermen are still saying it's headed north of us and they've started evacuations in Tampa. Everybody's headed inland." Thinking to change the subject, he told me about that morning's breakfast, which he always took on the lanai. "It's the darndest thing. None of 'my' birds came into the yard and sang to me this morning. Wonder where they went?"

A cold fear gripped my heart. Because I knew where those birds had gone. They'd evacuated. Charley was headed for Charlotte Harbor.

(If you don't understand what I knew, let me briefly explain: Animals are much more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure than humans are (or perhaps allow themselves to be?). Native Floridians -- and by this, I mean the tribes of Native Americans who originally inhabited the state -- learned to forecast the weather by observing nature. To be honest, I trust their old methods more than I trust modern Doppler radar! I still recall a "legend" passed down to me about a family member who'd learned how to observe atmospheric changes and animal behavior from his Native American neighbors living on Sanibel Island. Their wisdom saved his life from one of those devastating storms that ravaged Florida in the early part of the twentieth century.)

I finally managed to persuade Jerry to leave our house, as it was too late to try to evacuate to a safer locale. But I figured misery loves company, and so I convinced him to go ride the storm out with our friend Vicki, who had storm panels on her windows. At least Jerry would not be home alone!

Greg and I had no TV in our campground (actually located in Western Pennsylvania's Old Order Amish Country). We headed out to a local sports bar near the interstate to see if they'd let us watch the Weather Channel on one of their TVs. And we sat right there, to watch Charley barrel into Charlotte Harbor. The birds knew. Thanks to the birds, I knew.

Jerry told me that it was the most frightening time of his entire life -- and he'd done service in the Air Force during the Korean War era!

Greg and I finished the show then made a beeline back home -- one of us would drive while the other one slept -- to find a mess. But compared to others, our house was relatively unscathed, even with the big gaping holes in living room and bedroom #2 ceilings. "Frances" created even more of a mess, since contractors hadn't been able to patch us up yet, beyond some tarps on the roof.

Funny story from Frances -- we'd hired three college students visiting from Estonia to do some tree removal/yard cleanup. They'd had experience in the forestry service back home, and absolutely insisted on continuing their work through Frances's Category 1 rain, saying, "This is a plain day back home in Estonia. No worries." Wow.

Then there was the time we were headed up to Massachusetts, heard about "Ivan" bearing down on us, rented a storage unit in Columbia, SC so that we could empty the van, then headed back down to Florida to salvage CDs and sound equipment ... because if another major hurricane had hit the house in its unrepaired state, it would've just taken the whole thing down. You find out what's really important to you when you've only got the space in a cargo van to save stuff!

Ivan missed us, though, spreading his brand of joy amongst our friends up in the Panhandle. Ugh. By the time "Jeanne" came around, roofing contractors had been hard at work ... and Jeanne spread our shingles all over the neighborhood.

A wearying summer for sure. Hope there's never another one like it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

WNC Wrap

Had a great time at this past weekend's WNC Highlands Celtic Festival! 

Our final set was especially fun, with Connor Civatte and Scooter Muse sitting in with Don, Matt, Ann & Cal, Kate and myself, but the show-stealer was our new dog, Henry Ford, who stayed underneath my dulcimer for the entire set. I'll admit, I was a little nervous during our opening numbers, both of which feature dancing. I actually stood on his leash for part of the time ... lest he decide to "catch" those dancers! But he did very well, and actually seemed right at home, as you can see by this photo:

Here's a video of a "Fiddle Duel" between Matt and Connor, taken by my friend Sam Moffitt:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Introducing Henry

As many of my friends know, Greg and I lost our beloved little canine companion Maggie Muggins, just one month shy of her 16th birthday.  I cried practically non-stop for a couple of days, but pretty soon the "busy-ness" of concert and festival production helped me not to focus on how much I missed our sweet -- and sassy -- pet.  Sometime toward the end of March, St. Patrick's Day madness having come to a conclusion, we began to look in earnest for a dog who'd be a good fit for our crazy but happy lifestyle ...

Enter Henry

Henry is a dog who needed "re-homing."  If you're not familiar with the term (I wasn't), it means that the dog currently has a home but for one reason or another needs to find a new home.  Rather than simply surrendering the dog to a local shelter and hoping for the best, the current loving owners decide to supervise the adoption -- the re-homing -- themselves.

Here's Henry's story: About five years ago, he was found as a stray in North Carolina's Watauga County, up in the "High Country."  He was immediately reported lost at the local shelter, but his owners never came to look for him.  So his finders decided to keep the healthy and happy year-old pup, naming him Henry.  All was wonderful: Henry learned a bunch of useful things like sit/stay, roll over, dance, and everything was fine until his loyal and loving new owners welcomed a baby into the family.  As the baby grew into a toddler, it became apparent that Henry wasn't fond of the squealing and running around of a happy and healthy little boy.  And although Henry has grown to accept his "little brother," the concern is that he might not be so accepting of play companions, etc.  So the conclusion, probably arrived at with a bit of reluctance, is that what's best for Henry is that he find a home that doesn't have children.

Enter Marcille and Greg

We met Henry and took a short walkie last Monday at Black Mountain's Lake Tomahawk.  We all seemed to like each other well enough, so we arranged for a little sleepover last Thursday night.  Henry fit right in!  He loved exploring the Asheville East KOA, where we're currently living, and was immediately comfortable for his overnight in our Airstream trailer.  Slept right at the foot of our bed, he did, and welcomed us with great swishing tail wags the next morning.  We already knew that he traveled well in the car -- in fact, here's a funny little side-note: Henry usually rides in the back of his owners' SUV, so when he positioned himself between the seats in our van, he faced the back of the van!  :-)  He loves people and loves others dogs and is a pretty amiable fella all-around.  In other words, Henry's just the dog we were looking for -- just the dog we were meant to have, and at the right time!

Henry's coming to us this Wednesday.  Please welcome the new CEO of Celtic Heritage Productions, Inc.:

Friday, April 11, 2014

From Cedar Key

So now we're enjoying some down time on Florida's west coast -- in Cedar Key, a place neither of us has visited before. Today we explored the tiny old town and had lunch at Tony's Seafood Restaurant, which has the world's best clam chowder. No, really! They even won the championship in Rhode Island -- yes, Florida clam chowder took New England's top prize -- for three years straight, before retiring into the hall of fame. Afterward, more exploration, then shopping for provisions in the local market, then I bought boiled peanuts from an old fella sittin' under an umbrella singin' country music and playin' guitar. Just about a perfect day, I'd say!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tartan Day

From today's Tartan Day in The Villages:

Here's Mary, of the Richens/Timm Academy of Irish Dance in Indianapolis. She asked us if we could play a jig for her, so that she could dance. Such a little natural! I'd say the future of Irish dance is safe in Mary's hands -- and feet.

Another photo -- this one captures Bob, of Glasgow, as he guests with us in singing "Caledonia." (And of course, Greg, Tam and Ann in the foreground.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm Gonna Miss Jeter. No, Really! I Am!

Anybody who knows me well knows I'm no Yankees fan. But Derek Jeter, albeit a Yankee, is my favorite player in the game today, and ranks 'way up there as one of my favorite baseball players of all time. In addition to being highly skilled, he's the perfect mix of team player and hard-driving individual; supremely confident without being arrogant, he's the guy I'd want coming to bat in a clutch situation. Tough as nails, and no drama. I'm gonna miss him being in the game.

(PS: Derek Jeter, may you finish your career with 3,418 hits.)