Slow Down And Join [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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We were in Madison at the campus. It was Friday afternoon and the party was already raging. Music thumping, horns honking, people pouring out of class, racing to feel the freedom of week’s end. The rush hour was revving. Cars swerving, cutting in and out, vying for ‘the advantage’. People all around hurrying to be some-other-place.

We went to Madison to flee the noise and mess of our life. We needed a mini-getaway. A breather from walking into our current life-headwind. We thought we’d walk a bit. Grab some dinner. I’d never actually been to Madison. We forgot it was Friday. We chose a destination without really thinking it through. In our search for peace we stepped into chaos.

So, we fled Madison. A day of double fleeing. Or, one long extended flee.

Leaving Madison we knew without doubt where to find refuge. When you walk through the doors of Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson you step back in time. It is a place dedicated to the simple art of slowing down. It is a place where people come to be together, to chat and laugh and linger. To join. There is a backroom with a stage no larger than the average kitchen table. Musicians passing through know that it is a good place to stop and play. People listen. And then they talk to you about making music and relevance.

We sat at the end of the bar and watched people trickle in, join their friends, enter the storytelling. A woman stepped through the door and asked if anyone knew about the poetry reading at the library.

“That was last night. I heard it was good.”

“You mean I missed it?” the woman rolled her eyes. The cafe crowd erupted in laughter. “Yep.” The woman took off her coat and sat down. People introduced themselves to her. She joined.

Screwed to the bar where we sat were two small brass plaques. Just Bob. Just Leslie. Kerri asked the bartender about the plaques. “Oh, Bob and Leslie come in every Friday night.  They have for years. They put those plaques on the bar to mark their spot. Should be here any minute.” she said.

“Let us know when they come and we’ll move,” Kerri offered.

“Oh, they won’t make you move. They wouldn’t want that. But they might want to join you and have a drink.” she smiled.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CAFE CARPE

 

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Love What You Do

a detail from my painting, May You Be

a detail from my painting, May You Be

It is cold and the lake is very still. It’s one of the things I love about living next to the lake: one day it is glassy stillness, the next it is an angry torrent. It is alive and has many, many faces.

Quinn used to say, “There are 5 billion people on this planet and you’re the only one who gives a damn about what you are doing or how you are doing it.” That was some time ago. There are now 7 billion people on the planet but I’m certain the equation remains the same. If you stop your forward motion because of what others might think, you are indulging in a delusion. The other 7 billion people are primarily concerned with themselves, not you. The deep water lesson: do what you love because you love to do it. There aren’t nearly as many limits as you pretend.

I thought of Quinn the other night because I have a new hero. His name is Dan Navarro. He’s a troubadour, a singer songwriter, and was performing at Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson, about an hour and a half drive from home. Kerri has long been a fan and introduced me to the music of Lowen & Navarro. For many decades, Dan Navarro wrote and performed with his friend and creative partner, Eric Lowen. They were brilliant together. A rare fit, a true creative team, Eric Lowen died of ALS in 2012. He and Dan wrote and performed as long as humanly possible after Eric’s diagnosis. They loved to write. They loved to perform.

A few months ago Kerri and I were listening to a Lowen & Navarro album and wondered what had become of Dan Navarro so we googled him. To our great surprise we discovered the impending Fort Atkinson stop on his latest mini tour.

Cafe Carpe is a smallish place and Dan Navarro is an accessible guy so I wasn’t surprised when, before the concert, he came over for a chat. He and Kerri talked about the pain of disappearing royalties and the radical changes technology has brought to music making and music selling. I wondered how many times he’s been asked about the loss of Eric and how it must be the white elephant in every performance as well as every conversation; the people coming to see Dan Navarro are fans of Lowen & Navarro. When it came up in our conversation he was gracious and spoke openly of missing his friend everyday.

He is putting the final touches on a solo album due out in March. “Who knows how it will be received.” he said. “And who cares. You do what you love to do and put it out into the world. That’s the best you can do.”

He took the stage, a troubadour in his power and his prime with the ease that can only come from doing with his life what he was meant to do. “People ask me about retiring…,” he spoke into the mic, “…and I will never retire. I don’t know what that means. I love what I do and will always do it.” he said, sliding into a song that left us no alternative but to follow.