Geoff's Notes

Mon, 28 Feb 2005

Saturday afternoon in Montreal was pretty relaxed. One treat was finding John Kirk, now from Saratoga Springs but formerly from down in the Catskills when I was there in the early '80's, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire and wonderful guy. He'd played for a clogging group I was part of back then, and we did an hour and a half of catching up.

In the evening I caught some of the formal showcases, including ...... from Australia, now in the D. C. area, who's written some powerful songs out of his experiences as a peacekeeper in Indonesia. One entitled "When She Cries" is in the voice of a rebel soldier about his wife who has been raped by government troops before the rebel movement actually succeeded - a potent condemnation of the ethnic cleansing (what a bizarrely innocuous and deflective term for the brutal reality) that has been part of male perpetrated warfare through the centuries. I have no doubt that many of the ills plaguing this world from ancient times to now, particularly the readiness to resort to violence, lie at the feet of my sex. I see this enough in myself to know that with enough provocation I could become violent, but I wonder how much of that is genetic and how much cultural. And the culture any of us live in is key - without excusing them in any way, the soldiers involved in prisoner abuse in Abu-Graib (I need to ask if any of you really think George W. Bush didn'nt know how to pronouce that) were living in a situation that only succeeds by breeding contempt. The attitude that this administration exudes can only create greater conflict in this world, which by the way is the greatest profit generating engine in existence, so, my friends, follow the money.

Ah, deep breath, and back to my travels. In one of the early late night showcases (10:30) I went to hear Peggy Seeger, who has not lost her edge (now she would make a President!). At the end of her set I said hello and reminded her we'd met at a performance of hers in New London. She was very gracious, and we parted, only to meet again twenty minutes later at the bar. She was ready to wind down from her performance, and we had a chance to talk a bit. The main topic was a song she'd recently written based on interviewing Jimmy Massey, a Marine from Waynesville, NC who'd been a model soldier, but after four months in Iraq had insisted on getting out. His unblemished twelve year record allowed him an honorable discharge, but upon his return he has been compelled to study how we got into this war, and has been travelling around to lecture on the topic. Go to to find out more, including how to get a CD of Peggy's song, proceeds of which go directly to Jimmy Massey to help him weather the financial and psychological storm resulting from his decision.

After the conversation with Peggy, I headed back down to a showcase by Peter Seigel, one of my favorite acquaintances from the Sloop Singers some years ago. He is a masterful performer on a variety of instruments, and one of the most clever writers I know. Half an hour was not nearly enough, but I was glad to be able to catch him. After that I headed for the room, knowing I was getting up early to head for Burlington. Those best laid plans were sabotaged by all the stimulation of hearing so many well made and potent songs, along with my talk with Peggy Seeger. My mind was overflowing, and some thoughts had to spill out on the page before I could sleep. It occurred to me that the concept of home has a strong resonance for many people in the world, and is played upon here and abroad as a powerful element of generating the attitudes that lead to the interminable conflicts that seem to be humankind's legacy. The appropriation of the word "patriotic" by the Bush administration is a particularly disturbing example. Thoughts along these lines kept me cooking for a while - we'll see where they lead.

Sunday morning I drove from Montreal to Burlington in time for the 11:00 service at the 1st UU Church where I also started a conversation about coming back to do a concert. This was home base for Rachel Bissex, a wonderful and much loved singer who died of cancer just a week ago. Her memorial service last Wednesday filled this 500 seat sanctuary. It is a beautiful space visually and acoustically, so I hope something works out. The rest of the day was taken up with visits with family and friends ending up on Grande Isle to spend the night with a high school classmate.

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