Six Songs Before Breakfast

My Norwegian drummer Skjit-Lars only half-jokingly exclaimed once that I write six songs before breakfast. I religiously send him all the material I am working on, so if any chap was attuned to my working habits it would be him.

The arc of my prolific creative side bears some scrutiny as I have, through inventive and ruthless prioritizing, let my creative life take over my actual life.

Systems I've set up over the years to ease my process of being productive have taken on their own life. I started home-taping in 1983 and periodically I either like one way of doing things and improve on that or am frustrated and rethink how I can fix or eliminate what troubles me.

I think it was in the 1990's when I finally said "oh my god why is my studio giving me a backache? Must it be so uncomfortably situated?" From this developed one of my earliest fixes to my creative environment. Earlier that decade I had tackled as best I could roadblocks to putting out as many releases as I was inspired to.

My label had grown so big and so quickly the administrative burden of putting out tapes throttled my creativity in the early 1990's. Setting up systems, processes and standards for the label was a non-creative task that greatly benefited my mindset about making lots of tapes.

Begun as a solo spin-off of my duo Grandbrother from the late 1980's my project Bodycocktail was one of many active projects rolling at the time. I'd spent ten years doing experimental works and felt the need for a musical project at last.

I'm a classically trained violinist having spent years playing second violin in orchestras since grade school. Since I entered college I had been running away from all I knew about that to explore and experiment with new sonic worlds opened up by emerging technologies. Getting back to music had two advantages. One I could have musical tapes to trade with people who had limited interest in experimental work. And secondly I could bounce experimental notions around the field of music.

Back and forth I allowed my musical and non-musical discoveries cross-pollinate. It wasn't any time at all that I started using poetry of others, namely Wallace Stevens, whose book of collected poems Minóy, a home-taping comrade of mine, had given me with an inscription to the effect of "behold the most exquisite words woven in the English language" and Charlie Newman.

Newman and I go way back to mid-80's home taping trades and he became, after moving to Louisville the #1 Grandbrother fan. A biographical highlight of Newman will touch on growing up in the 1950's in Newark, New Jersey, his social-worker job in NYC in the 1970's, his Nashville punk band Dead Seals from the end of that decade, and his electronic project of the next decade Minimalogic and finally his job since then doing advertising copywriting. Can't describe the humor, terror and passion of Newman's poetry, his language assassination, the cat and mouse games without knowing his muse rolls from Beatnick to Beat, from punk to industrial – the music, the life, the human condition all conspire to poetry of the widest ranging nature.

The early years I could take a poem of his or Wallace Stevens and quickly use them as lyrics. Soon I decided that it was best to use poems of someone I knew who both gave me permission and feedback. No sooner had I made this decision when his poetry started going off-the-rails.

Frankly it was great material and a masterful skill for him to turn a corner with such intensity metaphorical seat belts were necessary to keep the brain in check. But no longer could his poems be made instantly to lyrics after his book Millennial Rags (one poem a day in the year 2000) came out. I set each poem of that book to a song, but his subsequent work was dense, black cubes of full justified text blotting out the white of a page.

My first few years of Bodycocktail I played live shows but this stopped for perhaps ten years until 2007 when I played a few live shows in Spain. I was using my Zanstones city-specific sonic gathering project for live shows in Europe thinking this is what people wanted from me. The next year I played in Galicia for the first time and Bodycocktail was such a hit I slammed the breaks on Zanstones and mashed the accelerator on Bodycocktail.

The feedback loop in Galicia was near-perfect and the better my work was the more vivacious the audiences became. It was in this era two creative systems came into being. Seeing that Charlie Newman poems had everything I need for lyrics but had become to chaotic to use intact I was led to the conclusion that I was now responsible for order out of chaos.

Better knowing what songs need after 15 years or so of doing songs and with the Galicia feedback loop I got serious. There's a fault-line been fun and serious that's audible to listeners and too much of either is where most listeners give up and become distracted. What I felt held things together for me in a live song was a convincing vocal part.

I was with a fellow vocalist friend in Louisville as a chatty girl asked us how we write lyrics. I like the person much more than his vocals and was charmed to hear him say something so beautifully obvious it has never occurred to me until that point. "You've got to write things that you're not embarrassed to sing." he pointed out deftly.

There's something so awkward about writing my own lyrics that I rarely do it. Inevitably I will pen substandard material so it fits easier into a song. And I write so many instrumentals this could be hazardous over time. So I take a whole years worth of Charlie Newman poems and for around a year they will be my lyrical dictionary.

Before I describe my technique it's best to talk of my second innovation and how I can record six songs before breakfast. Having done recordings for decades, and at last made a comfortable creative environment, I asked myself "What do I need to do so that I will have the patience to stay in the studio doing work as long as possible once I'm inspired to be there?"

I realized that part of the tedium of making new songs is spending time exclusively working on a song until you were happy with it. Inevitably half way to your goal the song will start to get on your nerves with repeated playbacks. It's all-too-likely to kill a good song by overthinking it and working it to death in a single session. And after two or three new songs you've wiped out from the process.

To eliminate this crisis I came up with what I like to call an "improvised pop" song-cycle. Rhythm always comes first otherwise things drift and become wonky. So on a multitrack recorder I make drum parts for four to eight pieces. Next comes the part whose simple harmonic structure the piece is built on. I call it the bass part regardless the instrumental used. One by one I make baselines for all the drum parts.

Here's the best part of this system: when I return to the first piece its fresh in my ears. I've distracted myself with three or more other songs and I'm excited to return to this new song again. I will add two or three more layers to each piece in a similar cycle. I push myself to do whatever seems the first good idea to come to my head for each part and I will rarely redo a new part. Round and round I will go until I know the right amount of complexity is achieved.

I determined that complexity through layers instead of through the virtuosity of any given part was best. Once again, your mileage may vary, but this is how the results I liked in the end were achieved. I could wake up excited to head into the studio and emerge with four to eight pieces before my hunger for breakfast compelled me to take a break.

I like to have a lot of instrumentals ready before I set myself into the entirely different spirit of doing vocals. Almost never are vocals in my mind when writing songs. It's as if I just turn off my need to have them so I can fixate on making a new song realized. When it's time for vocals I break out a stack of Charlie Newman poems and go to work.

At this point I may or may not come up with notes or patter as broad brush strokes in how I think a song could best go. One of the key qualities of Newman poems is the patter, the ticking of time with words, the rattle and rhythm of syllable play is genius for folding into music. This is my serious time. Time for discipline. And to that end a rule established itself almost organically: one poem per song. Only words in the poem are admissible.

In this way each poem is my lyric dictionary. I flip through poems as I listen back to an instrumental and wait for something to click. Once it clicks the work begins. Knowing his poetry so well I find myself doing Newman tricks to his own poems. He has games he will play, like breaking words into parts that make them other words, and I apply these to poems he's not doing them in.

Here's a rare look at this in process. This one has been nicely transcribed from a page bulging with parts still in process. Lately I'm obsessed with hooks and writing as many songs that I can perform live as possible.

Until 2012 when I stopped my 27 year label/audio mission each song would end up on a 30 minute release and I would choose at the end if I felt the song could be performed live. Working with Mike Foster helped me clarify a few notions about the song process. A delightful realization was studio and live versions of a song could differ especially by simplification for sake of impact in live songs.

Mike would also ask me about the emotional needs of the song I was working on. All these were things that didn't merit consideration when I wasn't so serious about being awesome. The better my work became the more excited I was about how to do my best work. And it was from here I made the crucial decision that awesome was the real metric I was reaching to achieve as much as possible.

Perfection is boring and easy to disagree about, but it's clear when people think things are terrific. So the final touch that my best songs receive is ownership. That car you love so much is sad when it's dirty and unkempt. When it's shiny and clean even people who don't share your taste see that your pride of ownership shows. So I take my own songs to heart and ask myself what little things I can do to invest them with passion only I can feel for my dear creation.

And so when I talk about being serious, I'm taking about being in love, in time and in tune with my art. And hitting that point puts me on better footing with the world and my life. It's a pride of making something work out in a world where things have no predilection one way or another to make us happy.

Composed in my penthouse apartment in the sky.
Cabo de Cruz
Concello Boiro
Provincia A Coruña


What don’t people do?

A well calculated risk is paying off nicely. In the spring I watched the earth and humans who utilize it with great curiosity here in Cabo de Cruz. The mix between formal and informally owned land for cultivation is obscure at best here. My gut feeling is that Galegos improvise to secure farming land not contiguous with their houses.

Least likely to be formally owned is land in the hills and hacked out of forests. This years epiphany is that when a property goes vacant there is some land out away from the home that is going fallow which used to be tended by that properties owner. So I watched carefully as people started up their vineyards.

I walked the hills and scoured the forest to gauge the activity of the more obscure plantings. In the process I found a few vineyards that had completely gone to the wilds. The first one I chose to take over had a small forest growing in it. Cleared of debris I largely left it on its own.

While I was away in Lithuania for a week the grapes all turned purple! This week I harvested my first vineyard. The obvious question of what to do with the grapes had to be eliminated as well as other obvious options. This is my experimental life and the question needs to be asked is "what is the least obvious thing to do with something that has no cost besides sweat equity?"

So not knowing what I was getting myself into I simply cooked them and they turned into grape syrup.

While my grapes were getting perfectly ripe I was ripening in Lithuania. My friend Oscar whose Berlin gallery I played many years ago had invited me to play a festival this summer there. Like my grape adventure I had no idea what I was getting into but I was looking forward to it quite intensely.

This new generation of European Union membership Lithuanians is awesome! There's a great reserve and sweetness that I didn't see coming. It seems that they are not bum-rushing their way to get to a future that they're desperate to be in. They are thoughtful and engaged in this modern world. And I promptly relayed my good feelings about them to everyone at the festival.

When my tickets were being arranged I made great pains to ensure I had some extra days to check out Lithuania after the festival was over. A great example this was of me taking care to treat my future self well. I made extraordinary use of four days in the capital Vilinius.

I took all of the great lessons I've been teaching myself over the years, from touring to being a welcome stranger in a foreign land, from experiences I've had with live shows and festivals, and on top of that added my ferocious networking skills. I took the initial splash I created and kept amplifying it through more good deeds and connecting with my new peeps.

I told everyone who friended me on Facebook that I was going to be in the city for a few days and let's get together. And I took the enthusiasm of a couple friends and turned it into landing a show two days later.

At one point during the show someone handed me some flowers and it was not long before I was slapping people on the side of their heads to go along with a song I was saying about being everywhere in their mind-mind-mind-mind-mind-mind! I found working the crowd was not so different than with Galegos.

I gave every man a high-five and Spanish kisses to all the women as they came in. I had the most hilarious colorful outfit that I had bought that day with my new girlfriend-of-the-day at secondhand stores for just pennies over 4 euros. And afterword my mouth was agape when I wasn't chatting with my friends as home taping music was being spun by my friend Matias who is DJing.

One guy came up to me and said "I have no idea who you are but I've seen you all over the Internet! That's all I have to say" and then he walked away. A great deal of people from the festival came with friends and as I jokingly requested someone actually brought their mother.

One of my favorite girls from the festival who reminded me of my favorite roommate in Louisville, Katy, said after my second show "I've spent more than two years making all these friends and you've made them in three days."

The Lithuanians swept me off my feet and I vowed a swift return. Many of them. My heart was full of these feelings of longing as buses and planes took me away from Lithuania and back to Galicia. Not sure how I was going to feel when I returned – tears swelled up in my eyes as the plane hit the tarmac in Santiago de Compostela.

I suppose I can have two paradises in my heart at the same time.

Written under the influence of waves lapping the shore kissed by a perfect lukewarm breeze reclining in a bed of long brown pine needles under a pine cone encrusted tree sheltering me from the mild August sun just around the corner from Praia Retorta
Cabo de Cruz
Provincia A Coruña

Big City – Bright Lights

Big city’s bright lights don’t illuminate the countryside.  Chained to the corporate caldron the city dwellers lose touch with the rural experience.  Galegos are assiduous about visiting family on the weekend.  Sometimes this takes them out of the city but even then the destination is well known and often the larger understanding of what’s happening outside the citysphere is relegated to the bias of media reporting and lightly fact-checked internet information.  

We are all liable to cherry-pick information to suit our personal biases. Mostly harmless we are in this methodology.  Largely ignorant of the web and weave of the Galician experience I’ve not lived around makes me pull information from lots of human interaction.   

A Galego is likely to answer a question with another question but sincere requests for deeper explanations of the unknown are taken seriously.  The most unlikely facts and stories emerge because this is Spain and accepting the weird way things are here is the conditioning every deep-thinking Spanish person learns.  

For instance who knew the grandfather of King Juan Carlos Borbon retired to France and funded the production of a great deal of porno films?

As quickly as I pick up lore and facts I am willing to change or stop repeating things when I find I’m in error.  In turn, if I can independently debunk accepted beliefs in Galicia I am interested in doing so.  Even at the risk of being wrong it I will discuss these things because it shows I’m engaging in the environment because I care.  

Embarking on exploring all I did not know about Galicia last year I have overturned, at least in my estimation, three points commonly made about rural Galicia.  Because I am out studying the humble hórreo family corn barn my eye roves to details that at first are invisible.  But after compiling a mental database of random things numbering in the thousands of sundry such as stone fences, forestry, signage, etc. conclusions emerge organically. 

Franco is held responsible for introducing the eucalyptus tree from Australia to Galicia as a quick-route to making a forestry industry.  The trees themselves are considered by many as invasive and chocking out native forestry and their thirstyness is thought to be a problem. This was one of the original gripes I have heard most repeated since I’ve arrived.  

But Franco has been dead for over forty years and isn’t planting saplings from the grave.  This remains one boon the land can offer to the Galegos who cannot support themselves by taking advantage of the bounty of the ocean.  My field research tells me that forestry is managed well or poorly in a concello by concello basis with each county tending to its own system.  

There are plenty of old growth forests left in zones the complaining city dwellers of the west never visit in the east.  Additionally forests combing pine and eucalyptus thrive without denying pine trees enough water.  Frankly much of Galicia is still so mountainous and wild Galegos have yet to tame its natural growth.  

More recently I was alerted to a crisis with the hórreos being taxed.  Any news of hórreos eventually reaches me because my friends here are all well aware of my obsession.  Concellos strapped for funds now tax all buildings with a roof.  A friend told me the other day that someone’s dog house even was taxed.  

This has led to, I am told, hórreos owners purposefully smashing roofs to avoid taxes on inactive hórreos.  Naturally I was alarmed and I dedicated myself to seeing if this was so.  Thousands of miles and hórreos later I report this as an urban myth.  In deep and mountainous Provincia Pontevedra  the Concello A Laxe and A Lame have antique stone hórreos in the worst state of underutilization I’ve seen across Galicia.  But the broken roofs have become this way long before taxes came into effect.  

My third discovery is of a more exotic sort whose specifics are too obscure to arouse passions of someone not from here.  Simply put there are two types of hórreo massing – the more traditional long “Greek Temple” form and the square “Asturias” style named for these that dominate the neighboring region of Asturias.  

“Greek Temple” form created in local stone, often using uneven cast-off stones from quarry efforts, dominate the western provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña as well as Provincia Ourense.  In the east they are commonly made of wood and take on different names such as piorno and canastro.   

In what would historically be considered Greater Galicia, including northern Portugal and the Spanish district of Asturias, is the hórreo zone. When I discovered the square type populate the deepest mountains of eastern Provincia Lugo it occurred to me that Galicia is the originator of the “Asturias” style.  

Galegos are born and bred farmers and the hórreo is a symbol of farming prosperity along with its functional use. And I’m of the opinion that the Portuguese did not import their granite hórreos into Galicia any more than the Austurians foisted their square style on the Galegos of eastern Lugo. That I’m opinionated about this obscure detail speaks volumes of the Galego I have become.  

I wandered unknown paths through the lowest hills of the tree canvased rural Boiro until I found a mossy rock to sit upon as I composed this work in Provincia A Coruña, Galicia. 

One of these days, someone who knew will be in black and white

Could not walk enough of Old Town Compostela this time.  Always I hope for a blind alley I don’t know and my rewards this time were hard won. Bouncing from countryside to the city ramps up the dual assault of the plastic arts and the boisterous human components. 

Where it’s normal and polite to say hola to most people one passes walking in the small towns ~ a place over 50,000 souls considers random greetings intrusions.  One can almost read the internal script as you bust into their city-focused heads with a friendly greeting:

I’m going somewhere.  I’m busy and almost late.  And joder what awaits me at my destination is a hassle.  Who are you saying hello to me?  I don’t know you  – why did you bother me?

All the Berlitz and DuaLingo courses prepare you nada for the conversational chaos you will encounter at night.  A quick rundown of getting a handle on basics that threw me off for some time for example…

  1. HIJK.  H is not pronounced at all.  I sounds like capital E. Its the J which gets H’s pronunciation.  And K is almost never used unless it’s a word imported.  
  2. The nuance of knowing how cursing works is important in both listening and speaking. The word puta can be combined with many other words to punk the meaning.  Hostia (pronounced oh-stee-ah) conveys something excellent.  But da puta hostia is taking about the dope shit.  Joder is an oh no for something that really isn’t good. The illogical use of madre (mother) leads to painful literal translations like “I shit in your mother” and a nearly incomprehensible de puta madre is exclaimed to say hell yeah! 
  3. The written Galego words become more comprehensible when you learn to sound out and listen with an ear that wants words softer sounding than Spanish (Castilian). Key to groking this is speaking the X as a “sh”.  The people from Madrid that have turned Sanxexo into their beach retreat cannot wrap their lips around the pronunciation Sanshenshow.  

Precisely that Compostela is the only city in Galicia with a constant influx of tourists makes teasing out its nature harder than A Coruña and Vigo.  

How much of the precociousness of Compostela is tourist fodder and what percent is real?  There is an actual tender side of the city which becomes apparent when taking to Galegos about it.  I feel it and Lugo the last cities in Galicia of this size that it’s sweet aspects have not been crushed on the route to proving that it’s a big city.  Ferrol, Ourense, A Coruña and Vigo let modernity swallow the remaining old towns until it takes dedicated effort to locate them.  

There’s enough prevailing good taste in Compostela that modern intrusions into the old town are tasteful or at least modest.  

Went to see the debut of a Galego-language release by my amazing friend Alfonso whose new band is simply his last name Espiño.  Every part of the evening was what Compostela does best ~ the venue Riquella a tasteful modern interior rich with light wood, well-mannered and enthusiastic crowd,  and Espiño set was catchy, varied and would remind anyone who loves 1960’s psyche of why they love it.  

Written sittting in a bed of pine needles, in a pine grove atop a hill in rural Concello Boiro, my back to a stone wall assembled in a day when horsepower only could mean one thing ~ the power of a horse, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.  

God Isn’t In the Details ~ God IS the Details

Walking farther than I have ever done Saturday the fabric of the Galician experience was satisfying. Parked in the mountainous green northwest of Spain Galicia has 1/3 the area of Kentucky.  Locals claim it has more coastline than the rest of Spain due to grand estauaries known as Rias.  

 The Spanish region of Galicia is divided into the four admistrative areas: Provincia A Coruña (nw) Provincia Lugo (ne bordering Asturias Region) Provincia Ourense (se on the Portuguese border) and Provincia Pontevedra (sw divided from Portugal by the Rio Miño).  304 concellos are the counties that make up Galicia which are historically divided by paroquia, the areas administered by the Catholic Church.  Concellos and Provincias  are named after key cities. 

Small towns are pueblos and the smallest are aldeas.  So my walk to downtown Boiro passes through the many pueblos that form the peninsula of Boiro in the Concello Boiro, Provincia A Coruña on the north Arousa Rias.  

The penensula is flat by the rias and rises to small hills covered in pine and eucalyptus trees. Areas without houses or wine vines next are divided into long strips irregularly farmed to feed farm animals more than humans.  A hearty large leaf version of kale growns year round and corn,  dried in tiny hórreo corn barns built next to the family house are typical sights of the fields.  

Bamboo is grown to help provide cross beams for vineyards.  Berry bushes in a thicket of thorns, the exqually prickly yellow flowered toxa plant are ubiquitous.  A tree which rarely grows to maturity is harvested in spring for its saffron-colored straight branches that are used to tie off wine branches after winter pruning.  Laurel trees are rife and before Cabo de Cruz got its modern name its suggested the orginal name was a linguistic varient of the trees name.  

So a simple walk to the free agua potable (water safe to drink)  source has a landscape full of color, life and utility.  In 1954 the agua potable of Cariño was installed and two pipes have flowed with fresh mountain water ever since. It was placed in the shadow of  a cruciero stone cross of Christ.  This one has a stalk, a box for votives and offerings and then the cross atop.  The water source was built with two accompanying “baths” which are noted on more than one sign touting the camiño of crosses in the area.  

Alas the construction of the bath system was poor and it’s usually one empty bath and another with a slimy film of green which in my book rather discourages bathing.  A few minutes past Cariño, across from the entrance to Rebordelo is the beach entrance allowing you to walk all the way downtown experiencing  the ocean, beach of Baraña and the imposing Barbanza Mountains.  

Leaving the beach for downtown is a three block walk with the first having a row of fancy choice contemporary beach houses.  Behind them is the road used for the weekend fairs.  This used to be a feature across Galicia to buy food, crafts and artisan products but over time has degraded to what looks like a China Store exploded into booths selling bulk items. 

The second block is a field of flowers across from a field of thorn bushes. Had the crisis of 2008 not interrupted people’s irrational dreams this would have been developed into five-story apartment buildings with commercial tenants on the bottom floor like the rest of modern downtown Boiro.  The last block has a concrete recreation area for basketball and skating facing a school and the civic sports complex.  

Just behind this is a park and the library I go to when I want to recharge my iPhone while browsing books in a Galego and Spanish.  I started on books to fill in the gaps for my travels ~ the trees, rivers and mountains of Galicia.  Next was the twelve volume guide to the Concellos of Galicia where I gleaned population demographics and compiled a list of ones that concidered hórreos part of their patrimony alongside churches, crosses, castros, and other man-made items of historic interest. 

So this day I returned to the yearbook encyclopedia annuals that start in 1966.  I resumed where I left off in 1975, the year Franco died (meriting 13 pages of entry) and finishing at 1976 with the nine-page entry for the death of Chairman Mao.  

My iPhone tracks my steps and maps where I visit each day and this day was the last of a week where I’ve been waking extensively.  At mid-day I realize I’m close to 100,000 steps for the week and 30,000 steps away from breaking my all-time hiking record since I’ve been active arriving last fall.  

My phone charged and ready to track and photo my walk I depart the civic building with their library, grab an pre-made egg, onion and potato tortilla, chocolate truffles and cereal and depart for to explore the Barbanza Mountains. I tied my bag to my belt at my side and lightly support it with one hand so I have both hands free when needed for hiking.  

First I take the winding road that leads to the famous port city of Ribera which passes Pobra da Carminal. I pass the agua portable taps at the west end of town, a funny cruciero that has Jesus being mooned by cheubs on one side and Mary, menaced by the devil at her feet being crowned by the aforementioned cherubs.  Before I reach the first town of Escarbote I take the first exit to the hill pueblos of Teaño and Runs.  The later is the first village on the north of the Autopista Barbanza which is the quick way from Padrón at the east and Ribera at the terminus. 

The tunnel underneath is where the young graffiti artists are practicing including a cartoon of Bugs Bunny on one side and Dafy Duck on the other.  Just south of the tunnel is another cruciero like the one in Cariño with a box in the center for votives and sundry.  Exiting the tunnel is the first steep road to the left which leads to the footpaths of the Barbanza Mountains. 

It begins as a trail fit for a tractor but that ends soon enough and a trail overgrown and sometimes difficult to pick out begins. I’m in Galicia proper at last.  The forest is managed for logging and has pines mixed with eucalyptus in a bed of ferns.  Soon the sound of the mountain stream I’m hunting down trickles into the audioscape.  

It’s fifteen minutes from downtown Boiro and I’ve reached my bathing and luncheon spot.  Seems like it would be wise to take a towel but within minutes I’m air-dried.  The spot I’ve found has a lovely pool and is framed by oak trees, pines and eucalyptus under which lay two types of ferns, one with bigger lobes than the other. 

Exiting the sublime experience I ford the stream and the path becomes extremely chaotic.  At one point a serious moss-covered wall of ambiguous antiquity rises up strongly twenty feet above the far side of the stream.  A group of huge trees lay across the valley between the wall and the side I’m on which rises steeply just as my path dies into brambles of ferns and thorny stalks.  

I use a strong dead branch to climb my way up and out of the mess I found myself in.  Reaching the top I jump over the last group of thorn vines and I’m miraculously at a paved road.  I head down the road shortly until I find another path exiting the road so I can go back into nature, alongside another stone wall, down another path to a wine grove carved out of the forest.  Crossing a final stream I climb a lovely stone path leading to wine grows of Runs.  A seven and a half kilometer walk takes me home along the same route.  

In downtown Boiro I take silly selfies with the rash of now-closed 1990’s discos with dorky English-language names like Hysteria, Welcome to Las Vegas, etc.  

At home I realize I’m at 99 kilometers for the week so I head out in the opposite direction to take in a whole other set of beaches.  The tide is extremely far out so I get to see entire beaches I’ve never seen the complexity of before.  My turnaround point is a large beach where they make platforms that are put out in the Rias to farm mussels.   At the end of the beach is an island which I’ve never seen it possible to walk to until today.  

For what ever reason the sand there is a mid dark gray and extremely fine.  The stones forming the edge of the island run in parallel lines with rugged edges.  An albino white seaweed dries inland forming exotic looking hides.  Tough and quirky looking succulents make up the ground cover along with exposed seaweed of at least half a dozen types.  Some have a gnarly polyp that screams “Don’t eat me!”

Along the route home as it turns toward 10 PM I see a very unique modern hórreo with a raised roof. 

It is still light at 10:15 at night in June because Generalissimo Franco decided to use the same time zone as his good friend Adolf Hitler and the Spanish state being the conservative piece of hilarity that it is has never gotten around to changing that.  On my return trek I find a perfect forest path that drops me into Fontes do Mouro, the village on the far side of Cesár which is minutes from my place.  There is a bath or water feature that gives the former it’s name and it’s another muddle of history if the Mouro in question refers to the Moors whose 800 year kingdom in southern Spain barely touched Galicia.  

There is a the curious remains of a defensive castle built by the Templars or some such military group defending the Catholic faith in Quiroga, deep in eastern Provincia Ourense who picked a nice spot that likely never saw a Moor.   These are the curiosities spanning time that are the fabric of my new life in Galicia.  

Composed in the comfort of my digs overlooking the Barbanza Mountains which call me like a siren every day.  Cabo De Cruz, Boiro, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.   

* I have written foreign terms here in italic and town names in bold to help with comprehension.  

All Your Dog Belong To Us

Leaving your abode and entering the public sphere puts you on display.  Our actions, attitude and all the vibes exiting our bodies form what others perceive us to be.  Take control of this data feed see what becomes of your life.  

I’ve taken to four things to ease my way into the local landscape.  

  1. I talk to dogs.  The barking dogs are talking with me ~ and I speak back. The most poly-lingual creature of the landscape enjoys a good conversation.  And humans recognize that someone showing kindness to a dog is a good human.  
  2. Greet strangers.  Hola! is a safe bet, but I listen for things I like to be greeted by and repeat them when possible.  The Galego boas dias is especially charming rolling off the tongue.  Frankly I get a kick out of some of the most unlikely voices greeting me back. 
  3. Thank people whose job it is cleaning up the environment.  It’s not a glorious job,  but it is one that makes the ambience lovelier & I salute that effort ~ buen trabajo!
  4. I like to look as if I have a purpose.  Most of the time I have nin puta idea what I’m doing but I dress and walk as if I’m a man on a mission.  

Every day I am happy and I have filled it with Galicia ~ mission accomplished

Composed in the most perfect cool breeze walking from Cabo de Cruz to the library in downtown Boiro along the Praia Barraña, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.  

Unravel the Light – Open Our Mouths

The paths I cross frequently on foot as I crisscross my zona ambient benefit from a bit of cleaning up I can’t help but doing.  In many aspects the old-fashioned manner of going about life here is charming but sometimes the overall vague areas of control are chaotic.  But, as a friend once pointed out

When your life is in crisis over extended times it’s asking someone to add another burden onto a full pile when you say ‘you should take care of this or that’.  

The crisis came like the Black Plague and spared nobody’s dreams in 2008 across Spain. Galicia’s hubris was far off the cliff of sustainability when the music stopped and all the banks closed every line of credit.  Wherever the cause may lie, the petty litter and roadside garbage in Galicia is rife and off the radar of the locals.  

But as the price I pay for crashing the Galego party I am pleased to come up with little things to do that make this a nicer country.  I look into the margins and every once in a while chose to do nobodys job.  

Yesterday the path to an abandoned wine grove I’m exploring was overgrown to the inconvience of those who pass at places.  So I trimmed it back.  Perhaps if someone told me that I had to do certain work I might balk, but it’s solid to improve things that are on a permanent path of ruin as they lie out of the pervue of all.  

When I arrived here for the first time in 2008 it was in the start of a full-blown crisis but I had no point of reference so everything was normal to me. But the sign over the years was the blue smock every working woman who was pushing a wheelbarrow through Galicia was wearing year, after year, after year, after year. From 2008 through 2015 everywhere you went the color was amazingly uniform.  The uniform was saying to every other person 

“we are in this crisis together and I’m not going to run out and buy a brand-new smock”

In 2016 when the color changed to purple across every possible corner of Galicia I could declare the crisis over.  Granny’s got a new purple smock and we can all start to dream our dreams again.  

Composed under this sky:

Cabo de Cruz, Boiro, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.  

*Title from Bodycocktail #288 – Or Everything Else…

Quit Holding Back

Nobody asked me at this point in my life to strive for awesomeness. 

But I am surrounded by wonder and my gut reaction is to reach for the divine unknown. Ironically in a country known for the worlds top chefs there is a strong grip of conservatism in cooking whose motto is ‘minimal intervention with top quality ingredients’.  Traditions suggest limited use for the bounty of the land and sea and some of the great options are grown only to feed pigs.  

I’m constantly asking my friends about inventive ideas to use the glory of what is possible only to be told it’s only been done one way before and nobody sees the point of questioning what normal to do.  Yet this is not me complaining but taking new-fangled American enthusiasm for having a brand new field to plow.  

As an artist and musican it’s a definitively modern and Western crisis to be doing original work with ones own voice.  For me I am often inspired by what artists start to explore but leave with many options unexplored.  

Every creative field I work in from noise to cooking to art pulls from my personal power-source.  Every sense that can be brought to bear, all my creative reflexes, are cross-training.  I’m constantly asking questions of my tools, my ingredients, my desires, for solutions unique to the situations I am in from one second to the next.  

Successes become building blocks for the first level of experience I am ready to share with the world.  The masterpiece does not exist with an audience I was once told helpfully. Yet experience has taught me the incomfortable lesson that ideas shared prematurly can crush ones vision mercilessly.  

Artists with experience and vision know how something they start will become a glorious end-product after appropriate work is done. We too easily forget most people can’t make that leap with us.  A joyous reminder was relayed to me years ago as an art director showed me the cover of a Christmas promotion with an illustration of Santa flying over a house in an idyllic scene from above.  The clients had all signed-off on the design but after it was printed one called up in great dismay seeing the printed result was not a photo.  He’d become accustomed to seeing illustrations as examples for things that were eventually photographed that he was convinced this was always the case.  

My latest adventure is albino seaweed kimchee.  Only by mentioning I was trying this out did I unlock the beautiful obscure fact that Galicia is Asia’s top seaweed producer famous for its great range of options.  Since Galegos are known sailors to distant places one type attached itself to the bottom of boats leaving Japan and propigiated itself in Galicia.  

So far my works bridge the distance between scepticism and wonder once people suspend disbelief and join me on this side of awesome.  And the kimchee was a popular success in Vigo this weekend. 

Written roaming a eucalyptus hilltop crunching leaves, the ‘sultana’ bark and seeds underfoot past moss-covered knee-high stone walls of unknown antiquity overlooking Cariño, Cabo de Cruz, Boiro, Provinvia A Coruña, Galicia. 

*Title of Zanstones 86 became a Self-fullfilling mantra over the ages.  

Streets of Amnesia Are Never Isometric: A Users Guide to Galicia

The Wild West of Spain is not labeled for tourist consumption. 

Signs appear in the Galego language and if they are multi-lingual Galego comes first.  Without a bit of digging it’s all-too-easy to miss things that make Galicia special.   

Galegos have a very quiet pride and love for Galicia that’s best expressed in how it’s gems are hidden in the same way the Andalusian scrablmed the streets of Seville to confuse the invaders.  The unpaved roads leading to choice beaches and nature spots are purposefully rough at the entrance and smooth out to normal once those easily turned back have retreated.  

Here’s a users guide for the initiated starting with colorful houses on the coast.  

A brightly colored costal house often originally matched the color of the owners boat.  Cobalt-blue boat guy used the same paint for his house while he was at it.  Furthermore the corregated metal ends of houses originally used this material that was left over from ship-building.  

I like to call the big billboards at the edge of construction and renovation projects Galego Thank-You Cards.   These large and elaborate signs crowd the entrance to any project that received outside funding.   Littered with logos for all the organizations who had a finger in the pie there’s a huge effort to make sure everyone’s ego has been stroked.  But unlike the thank-you notes you send your grandmother, at least she knows there is one day it can be taken off the refrigerator and thrown away.  

The old man’s hobby miniatures are in the corners of bars, occupy quaint shop windows for businesses totally unrelated and crowd shelves with saints, models of the Roman Tower of Hercules and witches.  I have a weakness for frames nautical knots, but the variety revels in details that are definately Galego and not Spanish.  

You’ll never see Galicia on the Autopista. 

A Belgian author once worried what someone traveling through their country would think if they only saw it from the train because the ass-end of everyone’s property always backs up to the train.  Similarly, as much beauty as Galicia can’t help but present to the national highway system, 0.001% of Galicia’s treasures merit an exit sign on the Autopista.  Signs indicating Galego loot are white type on a light green, fusha, violet or brown background.  

  1. Praia – The signs for best beaches are at the smallest road. 
  2. Fervanza – Here’s where a sign and the waterfall it mentions may not link-up.  Expect a fork in the road where you have to guess which way to go. 
  3. Castro – The Bronze Age stone cities where all the structures have rounded edges and no corners until the Romans arrive are in every conceiveable prime beauty spots.  Bronze Age Galego Realators invented the top three keys to housing: Location! Location! Location! Fidel’s grandparents are Galego and that’s where the last name comes from.  
  4. Igrexa, Capela, Hermida, Monesterio, Cruciero, et al.  -There are more villages whose names start in San, Santa, etc. in Galicia than anywhere in Europe.  Check your religious beliefs at the door and grok that the passion of ages of Galegos had a single powerful outlet that you’re a fool to pass over.  If you had a chisel and could carve in 12th Century  Galicia there was no end for work for you.  
  5. Dolmen / Mamoa – Neolithic Galicia shows up on top of mountains and the rocks scream at you when you hear their language.  The later is a burial mound and neither are well indicated.  Along with fervanza and castro you are often going to be missing crucial signs after the first one taking you to the final spot. 
  6. Petroglifo – Unevenly indicated, these are marked by a coiled snake logo next to a name.  This Bronze Age feature is knocked out of the park by a dedicated museum next to a crazy hillside of them outside Pontevedra.  
  7. Muinos – Tucked up a thousand streams and creeks and working their way uphill in bunches are stone-masonry water mills.  The deep South near the Portuguese border has a famous set of dozens of them, but they show up, marked and unmarked, in use and in decay all across Galicia.  
  8. Termal – The logo for this on a big brown sign is a poor indicator that thermal waters are present.  But once you notice what it is – wow is Galicia full of them!
  9. Praia Fluvial– Saving my favorite for last Galicia knocks this out of the park.  Since most of Galicia is not costal but had plenty of rivers ~ you put a beach next to a river and then you have the best way to spend a hot day.  

Composed along the coiling concrete retainer wall the creates the harbor of Cabo de Cruz, Boiro, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.  

*Title comes from a Bodycocktail song whose lyrics are devised from the careful deconstruction & recombobulation of poems by my compadre Charlie Newman.  

    Don’t Let It Go To the Dogs (when I could spend my whole life with you)

    Just north of Ferrol on the way to Valdoviño is one of the most quaint and picturesque concellos.  Narón is chocked-full of well maintained houses painted glorious colors.  The Galician way of standing out is to choose a bold color for the body of a house and a second accent color for trim.  

    Sometimes this is achieved in the Portuguese-style using contrasting bathroom tiles.  The mad-genius behind this technique is perpetually bold color that never needs repainting.  The cumulative effect of hundreds of happy colored houses lifts the soul. Yet this was not achieved by zoning-laws or diktat but from the pride of rising to the standards of the community.  

    Galicia Never Ends

    Extensive and sometimes frightening field research driving the most remote mountainous roads has taught me that very rarely do roads end.  They become treacherous and hardly fit for the passage of motorized vehicles, but they usually continue to another village.  In the cities and on roads with lines there will often be a sign, a T with a red top bar, indicating a dead-end.  

    The loosely inhabited eastern regions of Lugo and Ourense don’t have the funding like the coastal regions and will be free of luxuries such as dead-end signs, guardrails and even, sadly, the sign telling you that you’ve exited a village.  The largest depopulated concello in the 10,000 meter-tall mountains of the Lugo province, A Fonsegrada, has rare dead-ends. 

    Here, where strangers rarely see, villages become tragic sights for the eye.  Nearby villages where the road passes through are well maintained but the opposite of the Narón effect is at work.  When everyone agrees to let things go without repair it’s a permission-slip for others to let things go to the dogs.  

    How did dogs get such a bad rap? Dogs are some of the best humans in Galicia. This weekend I’m playing a benefit in Vigo for a dog shelter.  My love of the working dogs of Galicia is legendary here ~ the dog of the hórreo corn barn is the subject of one of my most popular songs.  

    A friend tells an a classic tale of building a doghouse for his can de hórreo.  

    We built a perfect doghouse for our dog that had always lived by the hórreo.  It was perfect in every aspect and dimension yet the dog refused to use it.  

    The country dogs of Galicia are at work.  Watching them tend to a flock of sheep is inspiring.  There’s a large dog who will set off the most frightening alarm when anything is in a specific zone.  He’s accompanied by a smaller dog in training.  Humans could not be counted on to do this job so well.  

    As my song intones, the can de hórreo protects the corn day and night.  In sunshine and rain. My friends dog was not going into a doghouse retirement home no matter how nice.  

    Composed collecting albino seaweed for a Galego/Korean kimchee recipe I’m planning and under a gabezo to escape rain eating pasta, bread and pork from a family also seeking shelter from Galician liquid sunshine on Praia de Barraña, Boiro, Provincia A Coruña, Galicia.  

    *Headline from an R. Stevie Moore song.