Thursday, November 14, 2013


Working backward while looking forward from the Beamers' sunset deck at the giant orb setting behind the mountains as its rays pour out through the clouds and across the channel.  Maui, you are a beauty.  

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, which was the home of the shows for the next two nights.  The last time I had been in a musical instrument museum was in Dushanbe with the Dellas (see left).

After our day off on Monday, we were going to have a private tour of the museum. Unfortunately, Moana received news that her father had passed away, so we skipped the tour as she and Keola needed to deal with things back at home.  The day was spent quietly prior to our sound check at the museum.

The MIM, as it's called, had a wonderful stage and concert hall.  Wonderful acoustics and people to take care of the excellent theater.

The show was excellent.  I noticed as I was in and out of the Green Room that RC's picture was on the wall. Robert Carlos Nakai.  R. Carlos is part of the tour, offering his Native American flutes to to the mix of the show.  RC, as he is known, is a Navajo/Ute and an interesting fellow.  There is another fellow on the tour, named Geoffrey Keezer, who is terrific piano player.

The next day I took a little time to tour around downtown Phoenix while everyone else had breakfast. I drove downtown alongside the light rail train, and wandered in-and-out of the southwest city's downtown before I headed over to the Arizona State Capitol building.  As this is Arizona, as I was walking in, two Border Reconnaissance supporters came bounding in, fully armed cameras following.  I think it was some sort of protest or demonstration.  I am definitely not on  the East Coast, I couldn't believe these armed men could just walk right in to the state capitol.  Anyway, I toured through some exhibits on Arizona's quest for statehood.  The Union didn't want to let Arizona in as a state because it was "too unlawful, too foreign."  Arizona was finally let in as a state in 1912, and just celebrated its centennial last year.  When I passed what I thought to be Gov. Jan Brewer's office, I gave the finger.

I returned and picked up the musicians to visit the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery.  The school is run by a renowned guitar-harpist named William Eaton.  We toured the facilities where the guitar-makers shaped and sanded the stringed instrument, then Keola gave a nice talk to the luthier students about aloha and guitars.  For these guitar aficionados, they sat up and paid close attention to Keola's guitar, which has two holes higher up the bridge rather than a hole near the center-- it gives more space for vibration.  The students also paid close attention to Keola discuss the style of Hawaiian slack key guitar, in which there are 40 or so different tunings based on the slackened strings.  It is always fun watching epistemic communities interact, and guitar lovers are no different.  The students had all sorts of questions on tuning and style, especially because the Hawaiian slack key style is so different.  I loved watching the gears turn.

We had our second show that night, which also went well.  After the show, we went out to dinner with Robert Doyle, the president of Canyon Records.

So stop me if you've heard this one: a Jew, a Hawaiian and a Native American walk into a bar...

Or at least sit down at a restaurant to talk about identity, tradition and modernity.  We had a fascinating conversation among RC, Keola and me discussing how much of the bitterness of our bitter histories we can hold onto; how our identities delicately balance tradition and modernity, and the general driven leafness of our respective peoples.  I will discuss more later about Malama Koh Aloha, or Keep your Aloha/love, the fight between Hawaiians over those who wanted to maintain the traditional system, with those who wanted to modernize.

Anyway, we had an early next day out to Albuquerque.  The band went to check in, and I checked out the performing arts center, which happened to be at a performing arts high school.  After a little down time (and a stop for lunch at Taco Cabana, which is seriously the best semi-Tex/Mex food ever), and on to the last show.  The show went well, and was a bit emotional for the ensemble as it was their last show together after a long tour (the tour began weeks before I joined).  Moana made a comment after it was done that I didn't fully grasp until the next morning (words I woke up to, playing in my ear) that perhaps her father, who was deaf, finally got to hear the performance.  The show ended and we sipped red wine in the dressing room, until the concert promoter freaked out a bit since we were not supposed to be drinking in the high school.  We offered to put the bottles in someone's locker....

We flew out early the next day to Hawaii by way of LA.  While I was at LAX, I made arrangements to get rid of the flight voucher that was burning a hole in my pocket, and got a ticket to Mexico City.  Since the government shutdown killed my winter project, I needed a cheap place to regroup and write proposals.  It would be far cheaper for me in Mexico City than anywhere in the U.S., especially if I wasn't paying for the flight (not too much at least, as the voucher covered the majority).  So I called American Airlines, made the reservation to D.F., and then went to the counter to drop off the voucher.  Mexico City, here I come.  I already have a cheap place to stay, and some friends there.  One friend Cesar from USC, who I introduced to his wife Kenya.  He works at USAID in Mexico City.  The other friend is Minseon.  For those who have been following this blog for a while, you may remember Minseon from my first adventures in India.  I met the 19-year old Korean at the airport, and we traveled together through India on different locations, including the Taj Mahal for Valentine's Day.  That was many moons ago, but I do think I had an effect on the dear girl.  She went on to study abroad in Kazakhstan (I helped convince her that was much more interesting than Sweden) and now she lives and works in Mexico City.  I haven't seen her in 6 years.  More on D.F. to come.  As Juan Marron likes to quote, "Como Mexico, no hay dos."

Anywho, the tour ended and it was nice to be on the road again.  Now I am soaking in Aloha in Maui.

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