Tag Archives: travel

Our Mt. St. Helens Trip Was Not a Total Bust

Several months ago we got a discount voucher from Living Social for a B&B near Mt. St. Helens. It was ready to expire, so we planned a getaway during Merrilyn’s Spring Break. We had never checked out the famous volcano before, and it turns out that this is still the case. We didn’t know that the road to the summit area was still closed for the winter. We also didn’t expect it to rain nonstop. So, where normally one could catch a lovely view from the inn, this was all we saw:

It wasn’t really conducive for relaxing on the veranda sipping wine. On Friday’s post, I shared our dinner experience (“Does This Look Like Cole Slaw To You?“). All in all the trip would have been a total bust, if it hadn’t been for the fact that we had accidentally stapled another coupon to our lodging voucher. It was a voucher for admission to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. It was the little accident that redeemed our trip.

If you live in the Puget Sound region, you simply must go to the MOG. It was awesome!! One exhibit we enjoyed was the work of Paul Stankard who was an industrial glass artisan turned artist. You can check out his stuff here. Photographs are verboten in the museum, but here are some of the outside, including shots of the Chahuly Bridge that joins the lower museum district with the upper district across the freeway.

Up the hill from the museums is the Tacoma campus of University of Washington. And up the hill from that is a wonderful bar and grill called The Swiss Bar where we had a great lunch and I discovered my new favorite IPA by Maritime Brewery.

“Beer is proof that God loves us.” – Benjamin Franklin


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Does This Look Like Cole Slaw To You?

We took a recent trip to the Mt. St. Helens area of Washington, and except for a coupon for Tacoma Museum of Glass that was accidentally stapled to the voucher we had for the hotel we were staying at, the trip would have been a total bust, primarily because we never saw Mt. St. Helens due to weather.

While in Castle Rock, we ate dinner at one of the few restaurants in  town. I ordered a “fish basket” and this is what they gave me for cole slaw. I just had to share.

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Piano Instrumental

Inspired by our recent vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico, I recorded an impromptu piano piece to the sound of the ocean. I thought it would be fun to put a slideshow together of some of the sunset photos we took and use the recording as a soundtrack. It inspired me to consider modifying my current “15-second pitch” to include the phrase “Like a soundtrack for sunsets.” which I think captures the essence of my music quite well. So, in that spirit, please enjoy the following video.


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In the Moment

In Mexico last week, we had the pleasure to hang out with some old/new friends: Merrilyn’s high school choir teacher, John “Jock” Budelman and his partner, Anita. Jock, now 81, is a jazzer, has played and recorded with various famous big bands back in the day, and currently plays a solo gig at a restaurant in the Mazatlan Marina called “Seafarer”. He has been a semi-retired snowbird woodwind-blowing expat in Mazatlan for the past 22 years. But I will write more extensively about “Mr. B”, as my wife has referred to him over the years, in a subsequent blog post.

Anita said something that stuck with me. Referring to the culture, she observed that Mexicans live more “in the moment” that us northerner Americans do. Living in the moment can seem so irresponsible to us purpose-driven empire builders with our goals and agendas, to-do lists and Pomodoro sheets.

Living for the moment? I laid on the massage table yesterday while my therapist worked on my right arm–the one that’s been giving me so much heck these past few years–thinking “she could just do this for hours”, at which point I realized I was living in the moment. Sat down this morning, fired up the electric piano setting I recently created in my Abelton software and just played with no agenda. Enjoyed living in the moment.

I get so twisted up with my overwhelming list of to-dos that I get incapacitated sometimes. So much social media to conquer, music skills to enlarge, content to create, the monster of marketing to tame. Paralyzed by the sheer weight of my agenda. There’s got to be a different way to live. Us hyper-affluent (by the world’s standards) have something to learn from those who subsist on a fraction of our resources.

Speaking of in the moment, check out this coconut shrimp served on a glass brick at the aforementioned Searfarer restaurant. I think it was about 230 pesos, or about $21 US. Scrumptuous!


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A Few Sunsets

Wow, hard to believe it’s been a week already since we were halfway through our time down in Mazatlan. As I gaze out my office window at the relentless drizzle, it’s time to break out a few fabulous sunset photos. If you happen to have one of those nature CDs with the sound of the surf, put it on and enjoy. Hey, maybe I’ll record some improvisational piano to some surf–not like that’s ever been done before. :-)

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You know how when you haven’t had a whole lot of sleep and you’re in a break from your routine and things sometimes seem weird and spacey? Like getting up at 5 AM to get to the airport and standing in line at security and looking up and, like, wow. Trippy.

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ASCAP Trip Day 1

Here I am in beautiful Burbank, California. It’s funny, whenever someone refers to Burbank, it is usually prefaced by “beautiful”, conditioned we all are to a couple decades worth of Ed McMahon announcing the Tonight Show. I am not going to comment on the beauty or lack thereof with regard to any of the cities in the “valley”. I can say this: it’s warm and sunny today and I’ll take that over the dismal spring that has beset us in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

This was day one, in which our main character, specifically me, climbs on a plane and flies to beautiful Burbank, California. See, I did it again, I just can’t quit the qualifier. As usual for a trip, I was up later than I planned finishing up packing, and I didn’t sleep all that much anyway once I got to bed. I did manage a bit of sleep, but I am dragging today. After getting checked into my beautiful luxury motel, I took a power nap with the hopes that I will look somewhat presentable when I attend a networking event this evening.

My wonderful friend and life partner, Merrilyn, dropped me off at the airport at 6:25AM, bless her. Since last I flew, they have installed those high tech full body scanners. It takes about three times longer to get through security now. As required, I pulled my MacBook out of my bag and put it in one of those bins, and while I was snapping the bag closed, the passenger behind me managed to knock the bin containing my computer onto the floor. “Oh, crap”, said the little voice in my head. I also was nervous about letting the computer out of my sight while I went through the scanning machine. Fortunately, the computer was still there and later on had a chance to see if it was damaged from its inaugural swan dive. All is well.

The flight was uneventful, arriving in beautiful Burbank on time. AVIS didn’t have the car I wanted, a Ford Fusion, or anything in that class. They wanted to put me in Mercury Marquis, which is a full size car, and I was like, “not!”. They managed to coax me into an Infiniti GX something or other for an extra $13/day. Check this out: I go to get in the car and start it up, and guess what? It doesn’t have a key! It has a Stop/Start button. How the heck to you start this thing? I tried pushing the button a few times and saw the light cycle between “Acc”, “On” and “Off”. Somehow I got it to start. Later on, after stopping somewhere, probably Starbucks, I tried to start it but couldn’t figure out how to. I finally discovered that I had to have my foot on the brake pedal, and then all it takes is one push of the button. Whew! I was about to call AVIS and ask “wassup with that?”.

Today I had a lot of time to kill. My original lodging plans fell through and I already had my flight booked, so there wasn’t much to do until this evening. And I couldn’t check into my beautiful motel room until after 3. So I went for a drive. Didn’t really know where to go, so I decided to head west on the 101 toward Santa Barbara. Along the way, I stopped at a Starbucks so I could use the free WiFi and determine where I could find an In-n-Out burger and a post office. It looked like there would be a post office somewhat near the next In-n-Out. When I got there, the post office was across the parking lot. Convenient! Got my first batch of pre-release CDs shipped to the early bird purchasers. (Thank you, you know who you are.)

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' bout.

So, I made it as far as Oxnard and found a beach and sat in the sun, the beautiful warm sun, and then it was time to come back and check into my hotel… hrrhmm, I mean motel. Here I am at the plush Safari Motel on Olive St. I didn’t want to fork over a pile of dough on a hotel, so I went cheap–not flophouse cheap. The room is clean, the plumbing works, but it does reek of a stale tobacco odor despite all of the “Natura” products they use to cover up the smell. It is officially a non-smoking room, but I think it spent too many years with people smoking in it. Oh well.

It’s off to the Renaissance Hotel in the heart of Hollywood in a little while to pick up my registration materials and go to a networking event. I’m only committing to an hour of networking, as it is something I need to work up to. I figure if I take it an hour at a time, I might wind up networking through the whole evening. We’ll see. Baby steps. I’ll have more to say about ASCAP: what it is, why I am here, etc., but this post has gotten gigantourous and it’s time to split. Until next time…

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Happy Birthday

It’s my birthday today. Currently I’m sitting at the gate at LAX waiting to board a return flight home to Seattle. I have been staying with David Ruis and family up in Tajunga which is up in the foothills at the east end of San Fernando valley. It is north of Glendale but is technically part of LA which sprawls everywhere. Perhaps you can tell I am into geography. I always like to know where I am.

I spent three days attending the annual ASCAP Expo. This was my first time. All I can say is WOW! I am so glad I went. Spending three days learning about the ins and outs of the music business felt like I was drinking from a fire hose, but I learned so much. I have a lot to process.

For those of you who are just tuning in to my  saga, I am embarking on a full-time music career. I have been wanting to do this for a couple of years now. I was so emotionally done with my previous occupation. But I waited to make a change. Then I truly believe God forced my hand (pun intended) by giving me this nerve condition called Ulnar Neuritus. I simply could not continue to spend 9 to 10 hours a day on the computer. I had no choice to make a change.

And now I have.

It is interesting to think that God gave me this infliction, but I believe he did, and I thank him for it. It didn’t occur to me for a long time to thank him, but I do. I am not happy that I have this condition, but I can manage it. I just can’t spend a lot of time typing on the computer. Even while I type this, I need to take some pauses. I need to get off my rear end and get the Dragon Speak Naturally software so I can take advantage of speech recognition technology.

But back to the Expo. I have a lot to process and will write about the high points and low points in an upcoming post. But here are a few choice nuggets of wisdom I have gained from listening to the likes of John Mayer, Quincy Jones, Ludacris, Bill Withers, Justin Timberlake, Linda Perry and others. These are all in my own words, but I heard the same sorts of ideas over and over.

  • Don’t waste a single second seeking validation from external sources
  • Be true to yourself
  • Write out of your own heart and experiences
  • Your creativity comes from above; you are simply a conduit
  • Write, write, write, and keep on writing.
  • Great songs are those that people can connect to at a heart level
  • Creating music is for the service of others
  • Think of your fans as friends, not customers
  • There is no substitute for hard work
  • Do what you love and love doing it

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ASCAP Expo Day 1

Well I just got back from my first day at the ASCAP Music Expo which takes place at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood. I haven’t been to Hollywood in such a long time (I think decades) so it doesn’t resemble anything I remember. It has become quite touristy. Maybe it always has been that way on Hollywood Ave.

Driving on California freeways, what a treat! I grew up in the Bay Area and later on lived in the Southland for about three years. I really appreciate the freeways down here. Not only are they in great shape, but people who drive on them actually know what they’re doing. Here we all are just getting on down the road in an orderly fashion, going 80. The official speed limit on most freeways down here is 65. There are signs posted that inform us motorists that speed limits are enforced by radar. Yeah, right!

But I digress… I like to do that. I arrive at the ASCAP Expo, pick up my badge and my “goodie bag”, a small shoulder bag. The general session opens with Paul Williams, who is the current president of ASCAP. Paul Williams wrote a bunch of hits back in the 70’s: “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “Evergreen”, etc. He is also one very funny guy. He was in a few of the sessions today and would rip off these one-liners.

I went to a panel session about marketing in the digital age, and then a presentation about Music Online America which has created something called the digital album, then another panel with songwriters sharing about their songwriting process, then another panel of songwriters touting the benefits of TuneCore. The late afternoon session featured an interview of John Mayer by the editor of ASCAP’s music magazine, Playback.

John Mayer is very intriguing. He is very articulate. He is a strange mixture of cocky and humble. Not sure how he pulls that off but he does. It was interesting to hear him complain about having 2 million followers on Twitter. He says that once you get that large of a following, there will be plenty of people who hate what you have to say. He has decided he is through with seeking validation from external sources (like followers on Twitter).

I am not being very articulate about John Mayer’s articulation or on anything else at this point. It’s 11pm and I’m exhausted. I am really glad I’m here. I’m learning bunches. And exchanging business cards with people. You see, that was not even a real sentence. It’s time for bed.

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Ecuador – Part 1

Ah, finally getting to writing about Ecuador. I am one of those people who needs time to process, especially when it comes to writing and having serious conversations with people. Occasionally serious discussions are necessary, and it takes me a while to process in order to prepare for them adequately. If you know me personally, you know that it takes very little thought or processing to have non-serious conversations. I find inane chatter to be quite relaxing and entertaining–from the the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between.

I never really understood the word “sublime”. I just looked it up. I definitely hang out at the ridiculous end of the spectrum. Like, for sure. Word.

But enough about me. (Who am I kidding? This blog is all about me.)

Ecuador was fun, fulfilling, educational, enlightening…all the things I like about a ministry or missions trip. I am not sure whether to call this trip a “ministry” or a “missions” trip. Perhaps a little of both. When I think of a missions trip, I think of doing things to help people that don’t make use of my gifting, like when we helped kids renovate their school in Acuña, Mexico. I am not very gifted at “handy” work, and I was very thankful that we had someone to show us how to do things.

On the other hand, when I think of a ministry trip, then I am employing my gifts, which are primarily musical and worship music oriented.

However, I am starting to realize that helping people is helping people is helping people, so it’s time to dispense with the terms “ministry” and “mission” and just say that I went to Ecuador to do my thing and help people in whatever way I could, using the gifts that I got. When I help people, I am at my happiest. At one point toward the end of our trip, I asked someone how to say “I’m happy.” To say that in Spanish, you say “estoy feliz”. This makes sense. We are used to hearing Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad” (or “Happy Christmas”) during the holidays.

I haven’t really told you much about my trip, other than to say that I was happy to do it and I was happy while doing it. I just love doing these sorts of things. Our stay was made particularly enjoyable and comfortable by our hosts, Bennie and Patty Gonzales, along with their cute kids, Ashley (14) and Trinity (8). Bennie Gonzales is the pastor of the young Vineyard church in Quito that he helped start. We stayed in their spacious apartment and I had a room with a view, as in the picture below:

View of Quito from our flat

Much more to write about, but that’s it for now.

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