Thursday, September 27, 2007


I hate to make this post, but, I need to shutter Wayward Episcopalian for awhile. I am by no means giving up on this blog, on Katrina recovery, or on social justice, but I am currently dealing with some personal issues, and am also about to start a very time-intensive job. Unfortunately, that leaves no room for consistent blogging.

If Wayward is on your blogroll, I certainly hope you'll leave it there. I hope to bring it back, at the absolute latest, in January, and perhaps as early as October sometime. To the few loyal readers I do have, keep it in whatever blog-reader you use and I will be back! THANK YOU! :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Inland Northwest vs. New England

(Yet another non-Katrina post. I'm making more and more of those. This blog is gradually shifting to a broader focus (politics, religion, other social justice issues, personal musings, etc.), but Katrina recovery is still an important topic I will keep an advocate's eye on. (Yes, Mom, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Love ya!))

I just got back to New Hampshire from my brief “summer break” home in North Idaho. I must say, over the past few months I’ve come to realize just how much I prefer the Inland Northwest to New England. Don’t get me wrong, New Hampshire’s great and I don’t regret spending these few years here for an instant, but I find myself identifying much more with the Eastern Washington/North Idaho/Western Montana region. I may be a native Texan to the core, but Idaho's great, and I wish I'd realized that sooner.

Reasons why I prefer the Inland Northwest to NH/VT’s Upper Valley:
  • Geography/topography: Personally, I find the lakes, mountains, and forests of Idaho prettier than the lakes, hills, and forests of New England. There’s also more wilderness in general.
  • Yankee culture just isn’t for me. The people here are more guarded, more suspicious. The Mountain West is no New Orleans in terms of hospitality and welcomeness, but it does beat New England. The Inland Northwest may lack diversity and it may be a bastion of religious right conservatism, but I do find I prefer its lifestyle.
  • The Western US has a more exciting history than New England. Yes, the original colonies and the Revolutionary War and all that are wonderful, but I prefer stories of miners, loggers, railroads, the Nez Perce, gold rushes, and things of that sort.
  • I think you could make the argument that the Inland Northwest is both more rural and more urban at the same time. Spokane has more urban offerings than Manchester, but the rest of the area is more rural (there’s no Boston just over the ridge – once you get past Spokane, that’s it.)
  • Little things: Spokane has better radio stations (102.3 FM and public radio both), the Spokesman Review is a great newspaper, what few Democrats there are are Western Democrats, and I love Coeur d’Alene’s plethora of coffee shops (much better offerings than the Upper Valley).
  • Above all, I think, there’s just a certain je ne sais quoi about North Idaho. (Many thanks to my splendiforous friend Rachel for telling me how to spell that!) It’s one of those things you just can’t quite put a finger on. I like it more, and do I really have to know why? Taste is taste!

    There’s a lot to like about New Hampshire. Here I am at Dartmouth, and a great university is something the Inland Northwest lacks. Yeah, Gonzaga’s good, but it just doesn’t compete in terms of guest lectures, cultural performances, and library resources. The NH presidential primary is very exciting, my barber shop is great (shoutout to Walt and Ernie’s!), New Hampshire Public Radio has a great Sunday lineup, and hey, the region’s willing to elect Democrats when Idaho isn’t, ha. But all in all, the Inland Northwest’s je ne sais quoi wins out.

    (On a related note, Southwest is a great airline, but the Las Vegas airport, where I had my layover, needs work. The wireless is free, the view of the mountains wonderful, and the bathroom stalls large and clean, but there were slot machines everywhere (almost like the airport was its own casino), the BK Whoopers were EIGHT FREAKIN' DOLLARS, the halls were constantly crowded, and the d├ęcor was cheesy. But hey, free wireless, right?)
  • A bit more on Vitter

    Thought this take on the Vitter scandal from Larry Sabato is worth reposting.

    Larry Craig Versus David Vitter
    Some observers have suggested that the GOP has shown its anti-gay colors in trying to force Craig out but not David Vitter, the Louisiana U.S. senator caught with his pants down in the heterosexual prostitute scandal [STORY LINK]. We disagree. This is simple politics. Idaho has a Republican Governor who would appoint another Republican to Craig's seat. The Bayou State currently has a Democratic Governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who would put a Democrat into Vitter's seat should he resign. Neither party is going to willingly toss a Senate seat to the other side. But we are prepared to revise our tentative judgment if there isn't pressure on Vitter to resign, or at least not run again in 2010, if (as expected) Congressman Bobby Jindal (R) is elected the Governor of Louisiana this November. Jindal would keep Vitter's seat Republican, and so the GOP has no real excuse for not showing Vitter the door. His performance on the hypocrisy scale has actually been much worse than Craig. Vitter has long presented himself as Mr. Family Values on the campaign trail and the U.S. Senate. The fact that his wife tolerates his behavior and "forgives" him is no more an excuse for him than it should be for Bill Clinton.

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Herbert: Legal prostitution doesn't empower, it demeans and harms

    Please, PLEASE read this whole op-ed column from the New York Times' Bob Herbert. It is very powerful, and very important.

    Fantasies, Well Meant
    Published: September 11, 2007

    I must have hit a nerve. While in Las Vegas last week, I interviewed the mayor, Oscar Goodman, who enthusiastically explained how legalizing prostitution and creating a series of “magnificent brothels” could be a boon to his city’s development.

    Vegas is already a paradise for pimps, johns and perverts, and I accused the mayor in a column of setting the tone “for the systematic, institutionalized degradation” of women.

    Mr. Goodman was not pleased. He snarled to the local press that he had no use for me, and added, “I’ll take a baseball bat and break his head if he ever comes here.”

    The mayor, who made a name for himself as a defense lawyer for mobsters, loves to slip into a clownish, tough-guy persona. (He never lets anyone forget that he had a walk-on as himself in the movie “Casino.”) But behind his bluster is a serious issue that should be addressed.

    A lot of people more thoughtful than Oscar Goodman believe that prostitution should be legalized as a way of protecting and empowering the women who go into the sex trade. I’ve lost patience with those arguments, however well meaning. Real-world prostitution, in whatever guise, bears no resemblance at all to the empowerment fantasies of prostitution proponents. I have never seen such vulnerable, powerless women as those in the sex trade, legal or illegal.

    At Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas, the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to a bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. It could be 4 a.m., and the woman might be sleeping. Or she might not be feeling well. Too bad.

    When that electronic bell rings, she has five minutes to get to the assembly area, a large room where she will line up with the other women, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who happens to drop by.

    “It’s not fun,” one of the women whispered to me during a tour of the brothel.

    The first thing to understand about prostitution, including legal prostitution, is that the element of coercion is almost always present. Despite the fiction that they are “independent contractors,” most so-called legal prostitutes have pimps — the state-sanctioned pimps who run the brothels and, in many cases, a second pimp who controls all other aspects of their lives (and takes the bulk of their legal earnings).

    They are hardly empowered. Years of studies have shown that most prostitutes are pushed into the trade in their early teens by grown men. A large percentage are victims of incest or other forms of childhood sexual abuse. Most are dirt poor. Many are drug-addicted. And most are plagued by devastatingly low levels of self esteem.

    And then there are the armies of women and girls who are trafficked into the sex trade by organized criminals, both inside and outside of the U.S.

    That a city, a state or any other governmental entity in the U.S. could legally sanction the sexual degradation of women and girls under any circumstances, much less those who are so extremely vulnerable, is an atrocity. And if you don’t think legalized prostitution is about degradation, consider the “date room” at Sheri’s. That’s a small room where a quiet dinner for two can be served. Beneath the tiny table is a couple of towels and a cushion for the woman to kneel on.

    The only one empowered in that situation is the john.

    Mayor Goodman’s concept of magnificence notwithstanding, Nevada’s legal brothels are not nice places. “The only place I’ve ever had a gun pulled on me was in a legal brothel,” said Melissa Farley, a psychologist and researcher who has studied the sex trade in Nevada for the past two and a half years.

    Ms. Farley, who is in her 60s and has the demeanor of a college professor, was threatened at gunpoint by a legal pimp who didn’t like her attitude. “I tried to change the look on my face in a hurry,” she said.

    Any honest investigation of the facts, as opposed to abstract theories, of prostitution — in any form — would reveal a horror show. That’s why the authorities in so many other countries that have given an official green light to prostitution, including Germany and the Netherlands, have been revisiting their policies.

    Legal prostitution tends to increase, not decrease, illegal prostitution, in part by creating a friendlier climate for demand. It tends to increase, not decrease, sex trafficking. And the recent explosion of prostitution in all its forms promotes the sexualization of girls at ever younger ages.

    Oscar Goodman should be viewed as a wake-up call. As a society, we should be offering help to the many thousands of women who would like to escape prostitution, and providing alternatives to those in danger of being pulled into it.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007


    Yesterday was the one year anniversary of The Wayward Episcopalian. My first post, made back when the blog was geared more towards updating family and friends than towards pushing Katrina recovery in general, described my week in DC and arriving in New Orleans for the start of my three-month volunteer stint. So, huzzah!

    Message from Senator Landrieu

    Louisiana's senior U.S. Senator, Mary Landrieu, is one of only two Senate Democrats facing a close re-election race next year. She sent the following e-mail today.
    Dear Friend,

    Throughout the month of August, I toured Louisiana to get a first-hand look at what's happening in communities across our state -- both the good things and the various problems we still face. In addition to seeing many of you along the way, what I saw and learned from my trip reinforced for me the major issues that I will continue to fight for in Washington.

    Clearly, different regions of our state have different needs: Some areas are still in recovery, while some are experiencing strong growth; some need investments in infrastructure based on sound master planning, while some would benefit most from increased economic development and revitalization.

    Two of the crucial areas where we need to focus our efforts are on federal investments in infrastructure and smart growth policies. Not only do investments in infrastructure help us prepare for disasters like the ones we saw here in Louisiana two years ago, they also help our economy grow by ensuring the safe and efficient transport of workers and goods throughout our state and beyond.

    Promoting smart growth creates unique challenges for each community. My travels underscored the importance of smart planning throughout the growth process in order to control sprawl and congestion, attract tourism and convention business, and bring new jobs to our communities. From generating growth to managing it effectively, ensuring planned, sustainable growth throughout Louisiana is critical to our state's future.

    But how do we address these issues of infrastructure and managed growth and implement an agenda that promotes opportunity? One of my primary goals in Washington always has been and always will be to fight for a government that works. The response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed us that many federal agencies have been ineffective and tied up in red tape. Clearly, we can't continue to ask taxpayers to pour billions of dollars into agencies and bureaucracies that don't work.

    My colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that serious reform is needed to get us an efficient, well managed government. As Chairman of the Disaster Recovery Subcommittee in the Senate I've taken the lead in investigating areas of abuse and developing responsible reforms, and I will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans alike to make sure our government works for us -- and not the other way around.

    We also need to ensure that every Louisianan has the opportunity in life to succeed, and the most important foundation for creating that opportunity is a school system that prepares our children to be competitive in a global economy.

    From our elementary and secondary schools that prepare our children to succeed in life to the colleges and universities that drive our economy forward, I am always on the lookout for ways to improve education in Louisiana. From charter school pilot programs to tuition credits and deductions that make it easier to afford college, I will continue to fight for increased educational opportunity and school reform.

    But to secure the reforms that our state needs, we need to put aside old divisions and differences and work together. Instead of putting party first, we need to stay focused on our goal of putting Louisiana first.

    In the end, Louisianans are far more united than divided on the major issues we are facing together. Government competency, investments in infrastructure, smart planning and growth management, and basic opportunity through education are neither partisan nor ideological -- they're just common sense.

    As your United States Senator, I will continue to fight on behalf of all Louisianans to produce real reforms that directly address these critically important issues.

    Thank you so much for your continued support.

    Mary Landrieu
    U.S. Senator

    Saturday, September 08, 2007

    Not Guilty, Apparently

    A six-member jury in St. Francisville, Louisiana decided yesterday that the owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish (pictured at left), who saw 35 senior citizens die on their watch during Hurricane Katrina, are not guilty of negligent homicide. Salvador and Mabel Mangano did not evacuate their nursing home before the storm, and many of its residents drowned. According to today's New York Times,

    Many of those who died were bedridden, trapped when the waters rose over coastal St. Bernard Parish after the hurricane passed through. The nursing home, St. Rita’s, was inundated, and many of those who survived floated to safety only because their mattresses were coated in plastic...

    The defense tried to put the blame on the state and federal governments, saying no one would have died if the levees had not failed, if the state had ordered an evacuation or if officials had employed a plan to take charge of nursing homes in an emergency...

    Defense lawyers portrayed the Manganos as compassionate and deeply concerned for their charges, hunkering down with residents and rescuing two dozen of them when water overtook the building. They did not evacuate out of concern that leaving would have been more traumatic for the frail residents, the lawyers said...

    Prosecutors depicted the Manganos as greedy and negligent. One witness suggested that Ms. Mangano was concerned about the cost of an evacuation. Three other nursing homes in the parish evacuated residents, the prosecutors said, but the Manganos ignored urgent warnings broadcast as the storm bore down.

    The Manganos, prosecutors said, barely had an evacuation plan — they had only a nine-passenger van that would have been inadequate. It was “reckless disregard,” Assistant Attorney General Paul Knight told the jury in his closing argument.

    Maybe the Manganos are not guilty, but that sounds like a pretty weak defense to me. While it is true that governmental incompetence led to the neglect of the levees and the widespread destruction that followed, that's no excuse for personal neglect, as well. Following one person's stupidity with another results in more unjustifiable deaths, not a few unujustifiable deaths with a few justifiable ones on the side. Even if they didn't use it, the Manganos should have had an evacuation plan at the ready. The fact that they didn't smacks of neglect.

    I don't mean to second guess the jury in this decision, but the Times does call this "the only trial to result from deaths in Hurricane Katrina". The verdict comes a little over a month after a Louisiana Grandy Jury declined to indict Dr. Anna Pou for committing mercy killings during the storm's aftermath at Memorial Medical Center. (I meant to blog about Pou, but never got around to it. Shame on me.) (On a side note, my doctor works in the Memorial office building, so I frequently saw the hospital during my three months in town, which started a year ago this week.) As with the Mangano verdict, I don't want to second guess Pou's Grandy Jury, because both juries saw far more evidence and heard far more arguments than I did. So perhaps these acquittals were indeed the right decision, but from the outside looking it, it looks like a lack of accountability. Unless you count political consequences, no one has been held accountable for the storm or its aftermath at the federal, state, or local levels, and now the private sector. We holler and scream that this was a man-made disaster--and it was--yet we punish no man. At least the Mangano trial put Governor Blanco on the stand, but alas, not as the defendant.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Episcopal Katrina News

    Over the last month or so, while I’ve been lazing about blogging, the Episcopal Church has been kicking into high gear. Here are a number of recent articles about Katrina recovery from Episcopal Life Online and the Episcopal News Service. I’ll give the link and the lede for each to help keep this post concise. Articles are in chronological order; the last one listed is from today. Most of the stories have compelling pictures if you visit their links. It’s somewhat fitting, but also very sad, that a national church newsletter is paying more attention to the crucial social justice issue of Katrina recovery than the mainstream press.

    Hallelujah Housing: In Mississippi, ERD joins affordable housing partnership
    July 26, 2007

    Expanding its partnership with the Diocese of Mississippi, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is supporting "Hallelujah Housing," a program building affordable homes along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi and ERD have entered a joint partnership with Enterprise Corporation of the Delta/Hope Community Credit Union and the Unity Homes Project to construct homes for Gulf Coast families who lost their property in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Along the Gulf Coast, 65,000 homes were destroyed by the storm. Presently, 30,000 families are still living in FEMA trailers. Affordable housing will be constructed in the coastal Mississippi counties of Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson.

    (A Hallelujah Housing success story appeared on August 30.

    Province IV Youth Event makes its mission in Katrina rebuilding
    July 30, 2007

    Twenty-three months since the wind and waters of Katrina ravaged the Mississippi and Louisiana coastlines, little has changed on the beachfront of Bay St. Louis. Christ Episcopal Church is one of the few structures on the beach to show signs of life. From July 17-22, it swelled with energy as the Provincial Youth Event (PYE) from
    Province IV moved in and literally dug into their mission.

    Each day, 15 work teams of about 10 youths and at least one adult endured 90-degree heat and 80-percent humidity as they traveled around Bay St. Louis to work on rebuilding projects coordinated by Mission on the Bay, the youth work camp on the grounds of Christ Church, sponsored by the Diocese of Mississippi, Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi and Episcopal Relief and Development.

    Video: Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative in New Orleans
    August 24, 2007

    The mission of Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative is to provide quality affordable housing in pre-existing neighborhoods throughout New Orleans while encouraging community and faith-based collaboration.

    Brad Powers, executive director of Jericho Road, speaks about the Episcopal
    Diocese of Louisiana's housing initiative that transforms under-used land, rebuilds neighborhoods and empowers communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

    Two years after Katrina, Mississippi struggles to rebuild
    August 27, 2007

    Driving along what is left of the beachfront boulevard in Bay St. Louis, one sees a lot of green. Nature has reinvented itself; flora and fauna are prolific along the Mississippi coastline. A few people dot the beaches in between ruined piers. Houses, however, are missing. Miles of vacant lots dotted with concrete pipe sections and new septic tanks bear silent witness to the ever-present loss.

    Heading west from New Orleans, across the water's edge to Mobile, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has coped with its own losses and has struggled to mitigate the spiritual, emotional and physical deficits of the coast area clergy and residents pummeled by Katrina.

    "Residents are still numb from the catastrophic forces which turned their world upside down on August 29, 2005," said the Rev. Canon David Johnson, Canon to the Ordinary in Mississippi. "The work to recover will be at least a decade in being accomplished. For many, the magnitude and long-term impact is just now setting in."

    Hands-on rebuilding projects set for House of Bishops' meeting in New Orleans
    August 29, 2007

    When the House of Bishops meets September 20-25 in New Orleans, members and spouses will have hands-on opportunities to help rebuilding efforts in hurricane-affected areas.

    While some will join weekend work projects of "mucking and gutting" damaged structures, others will join in prayer and pastoral visits with congregations and individuals.

    Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, visiting at the bishops' invitation, will participate in a September 20 evening interfaith gathering to rededicate the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

    ERD commemorates the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
    August 29, 2007

    On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a powerful Category 4 storm, slammed onto the Gulf Coast forever changing the lives of people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) recognizes the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2007.

    ERD and its partners have been active in the Gulf Coast through three-to-five-year long-term recovery programs that focus on rebuilding homes and small businesses, providing case management services, creating a framework for medical and volunteer services, and offering psychosocial counseling for people affected by Katrina. To learn more about ERD's programs in the Gulf Coast, visit the Katrina Recovery Center here.

    Ecumenical Work Week shows Churches faithful to Gulf Coast rebuilding
    August 31, 2007

    When the storm winds of Hurricane Katrina subsided two years ago, a national nightmare unfolded on television screens and other media outlets throughout the nation and around the world. More than 1,800 people lost their lives as a result of the storm and flooding and the city of New Orleans suffered multiple disasters, among them one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history.

    Two years later, the Rev. Patrick Keen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in New Orleans, said, "If it had not been for the Church, we would be in even worse shape than we are now." He was addressing 50 volunteers from 14 Christian churches taking part in Ecumenical Work Week August 19-25 sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC) USA's Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

    In addition to the work of volunteers who helped to repair and rebuild six houses, visiting clergy spent two days learning about the environmental impact of the post-Katrina flooding.

    LOUISIANA: Bishop blogs to Bush
    September 4, 2007
    On the day President George Bush visited New Orleans, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins told the president via a web blog entry that the people of the city "will not be satisfied by tokenism when our survival is at stake."

    Jenkins' August 30 entry on The Bishop's Blog said that people of faith "stand together in our fight to recognize and cherish the dignity and worth of every citizen of this city, and we believe how the citizens of this city are treated says who we really are as a nation."

    Bush visited New Orleans August 29 and 30 as part of the commemorations of the second anniversary of the days when Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath decimated parts of the Gulf Coast. Bush and his administration's handling of the hurricane response have drawn criticism from many quarters.

    Recovering from Katrina: Returning as a volunteer, former student experiences new 'pride of Mississippi'

    September 6, 2007

    Mississippi holds fond memories for me. It is where I ate my first crawfish and fell in love with the sweet, heady scent of magnolias in bloom. As a University of Southern Mississippi "Pride of Mississippi" band member, I learned that "band camp" is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. At my alma mater, I watched a young quarterback named Brett
    Favre throw the football harder and farther than seemed humanly possible. It was while I was at Southern Miss that I became an official "Parrot Head," one of the fans of another alum, Jimmy Buffett. In Mississippi, I formed friendships with warm, loyal people that would sustain and nurture me for decades.

    The Mississippi of my youth is vastly different now. The Gulf Coast where I spent weekends avoiding college term papers, piles of dirty laundry, bad dorm food and the Graduate Record Examinations was ripped apart by Hurricane Katrina.

    One is immediately struck by the absence of things -- the large empty spaces where buildings once stood and the concrete slabs with trailers parked on them. The beach roads, once cluttered with gas stations and fast-food restaurants, are devoid of the usual glaring advertisements for cheap eats, gas, motels and souvenirs. Even now, piles of debris remain.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Le Third

    I made my third post for Joe Biden on the highly trafficed's front page Thursday. You can read the full thing at MyDD; here's an excerpt.

    "Dartmouth's summer term has ended, so I'm back in North Idaho for a few weeks, lapping up the Larry Craig coverage. Another friend of mine was flying from New Hampshire to Idaho this week, and guess where she was when she saw news of the scandal? That's right... her layover at the Minneapolis airport. Too rich.

    The collapse of Craig's career isn't the only good news for our party his week, as the Biden for President campaign continues to roll forward. The campaign has beaten its online fundraising goals for August, raising them an additional 20%. Keeping that momentum in mind, I want to highlight three things with today's campaign blogger post: Biden's strength on unions, Iraq, and Katrina recovery."

    The post goes on to discuss Biden's day as a school janitor, part of the SEIU's "Walk a Day in My Shoes" campaign; his reputation as a straight-shooter, especially on Iraq; and the conversation I had with him several months ago about Katrina recovery.

    On another note... I do feel bad that three of my last seven posts here have been plugging my MyDD posts for Biden rather than highliting Katrina recovery, the stated purpose (for now) of this blog... what a sorry state my blogging has been in lately. :(

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    Live Music Rocks My World: Alison Krauss and Branford Marsalis

    A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Alison Krauss concert and a Branford Marsalis concert only a few days apart. New Orleans is known for its music and culture, so I figure a recap of the concerts (complete with YouTube videos!) is an appropriate topic for a Katrina blog, even if the concerts were in New Hampshire.

    Jazz saxophone player Branford Marsalis performed at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center Spaulding Auditorium. Marsalis is a New Orleans native, and has worked closely with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the Upper Ninth Ward and bring back the city’s musical culture. He is the son of Ellis Marsalis and the younger brother of Wynton Marsalis. Wynton, who I saw perform in fall of 2005, is probably the most famous jazz instrumentalist alive, but I personally prefer Branford. Wynton may well be a more talented musician, or at least a more creative artist, but Branford plays the saxophone and has a more amiable stage presence.

    The two brothers and their work on musical education were a big reason why I joined the school band in 6th grade. I desperately wanted to play saxophone like Branford, but my lips just weren’t cut out for woodwinds, so I got put on the French horn. Anyways, I don’t have much to say about the concert other than it was really good, if a little short. I enjoyed the interludes where Branford talked to the audience and horsed around with his band. The bassist, Eric Revis, was amazing. He looked like a lizard darting all over the place as he contorted his body to match the music during fast parts and solos. The drummer, Jeff Watts, was also quite talented. He looked so mopey when he first came out on stage, but once he got his first solo (quite long and quite good!), his face just opened up, and he spent the rest of the concert looking like the happiest musician I’d ever seen. The pianist, Joey Calderazzo, also shined. Here are the program notes from the concert, and here is the student newspaper’s review of the event. BTW, I was in the third row, and it only cost me $5—yay student prices. :) Here’s a video I found of the Quartet playing part 2 of Coltrane's masterpiece on YouTube. It’s pretty heavy on the Calderazzo, so I’ve also included a lower-quality video featuring the Quartet itself. The best video I found is this one, but unfortunately the embed is disabled.

    Earlier that week, I was lucky enough to see Alison Krauss and Union Station perform at the Meadowbrook Pavilion in Gilford, NH. Kraus has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, so small wonder that she’s one of the leading bluegrass and country singer-songwriters out there today. Her lead guitar player and backup singer, Dan Tyminski, was also there, and I’d almost be willing to pay the full $28 just to see him. You may know him as the singing voice of George Clooney in the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou.” (Krauss also sang on the film’s soundtrack.) A nice surprise was the dobro player, Jerry Douglas. I’ve since learned he’s highly accomplished and well-known on the bluegrass scene, but I hadn’t heard of him before this concert. He had some great solos when the rest of the band took a break in the middle of the concert. (For the record, the MS Word spellchecker does not recognize the word dobro, and that’s a sin.) Tyminski and Douglas are wonderful musicians in their own right, but they get much bigger crowds as part of Krauss’ band, and they do deserve big crowds.

    The concert was a lot of fun, and I hope to see her live again some time. I was shocked at her personality, however. Her music is generally slow and often sad, but her behavior was incredibly silly! I guess it makes sense—most musicians mix up the fast songs and the slow ones at their concerts, but since Alison Krauss has few upbeat tunes, she has to achieve that balance with stage antics. I would try to describe to you just how goofy she is, but text won’t do it justice, I need tone of voice, and unfortunately, I can’t find a voice of her talking on YouTube, just singing. Trust, me though—her personality came as quite a shock to me and to the other three folks I knew at the concert. Suffice it to say that at one point, the phrase "You got your wheat grass crammed all up in there?" was used, coated in a thick Southern accent. At first, it was obnoxious and the jokes stupid, but she really grows on you, to the point where it’s warm, homey, and welcome, and you hate to see it go when the evening ends. I can’t find a review of the concert online, but here are several videos: her most famous song (“You Say It Best”), my favorite song (“The Lucky One”), and Tyminski doing Clooney (“Man of Constant Sorrow”).