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January 2005

Photo: Michael Troy at the SFFF

Michael Troy picks me up on his way south, we are both playing the South Florida Folk Festival, he as a finalist in the songwriting competition, so we share the ride and continue a conversation begun in Texas last year, the theme of What The Other Guy Needs To Be Doing Better. It is the practice of using another performer as a mirror, to see what you're doing wrong by seeing what bothers or impresses you about someone else.

The idea of using others as a mirror for what's missing is pretty much the theme of this past year's work. It is so easy for that mirror to turn into a projector, for the goal to degrade from What Can I Learn Here into What The Other Guy Needs To Do That I Might Be Made Happier, the seed thought of most misery, and I catch myself in this trap repeatedly.

I notice fairly quickly that I have never ridden with a worse driver, and wonder if this is also a projection of that mirror, but no, he seems to be checking our velocity by reading the speedometer on the dashboard of the car ahead of us. I wave to wide-eyed, terror-stricken children in their back seats, and give up any idea of a nap. I want to be awake when I die.

Photo: Anne Feeney in Gainesville, FL

We swerve our way through the states, guardian angels putting in overtime, and open a new venue that night, The Village Cafe in Miami Shores. Great food, the owner Curtis a new and willing host for folk music. I take the road back north to open for Anne Feeney in Gainesville the next evening. The Matheson Center is sold out for a Labor Party fundraiser, a great crowd and my first chance to see Anne Feeney solo, to see very clearly the things I need to be doing better. Pleasant late-night conversation with Anne and our hosts Joe & Jenny, waking the next morning to the quiet of a lakeside woods, then back down for the South Florida Folk Festival.

There is something indescribably fine about the communal spirit of Music Festivals. From the first moment you are in a better world, one where differences melt away, acceptance the new coin of the realm. All the bickering and smallness stops, briefly, for a day or two, and for those days you think that there is a chance for us after all. That if we can live this way for two days, maybe we can do so longer.

Elizabeth and I have been given a great slot, early Sunday evening on the main stage, and we bring up old friends and new to share the experience. Closing the festival is Don White, and I laugh myself to tears.

Drove back to DC as the snowstorm hit, following the sand trucks up 95, four more scheduled gigs to finish out the month. Elizabeth finished and posted our new website just as the new LIVE CD was given a showcase spot on Radioio. Photo: Chris Chandler at Riverdale Bookshop

We invite Chris Chandler to share the stage at Riverdale Book Store, a warm place on a snowy night, one of those venues you look forward to playing again before the show is half over. After the gig I wind up almost surrealistically in the karaoke bar across the street with Chris and the bookstore owners.

In that too smoky bar, lyrics scrolling across the TV screen, the background music way too loud, the Yuengling cold and smooth, I saw music pull together a room of strangers the same way it did at the festival. I make my karaoke debut arm in arm with a Pakistani man, reading the lyrics of The Gambler off the monitor, matching him sharp and flat and think again, maybe there's a chance for us after all.