Follow Your Passions

On the Friday following Thanksgiving, we decided to spend the day in Los Angeles.  We were on the west coast to holiday with our daughter Claire. Candice, Andrew, and I had flown cross country so we could be together.

The Los Angeles portion of the trip was one of those decisions made after discussing options that would appeal to the entire family.  In the end, we toured a place that had something for everyone…but the family was kind enough to also allow me to indulge in a bit of roots music fantasy along the way.

The Getty Center was the place on everyone’s list. I was the only one of the four who had previously visited Richard Meier’s masterpiece of modern architecture set in the hills above LA, but we had enthusiasm on all fronts.  Claire wanted to see the buildings and gardens, and instantly found the photographic exhibit on display as well. Andrew and Candice wanted to wander the campus and soak in Meier’s vision. I was eager to savor the passions everyone brought to the trip.

As soon as we walked onto the campus, Andrew began pointing out features of the building and the architect’s plan that built upon his modern architecture study in Spain last summer. We couldn’t turn a corner without Andrew or Candice commenting on the architecture – either the juxtaposition of the classic Meier white exterior with the rough-hewn travertine stone that helped set the campus in context, the wonderful view lines, or how the stone was generally set in squares and rectangles while the curves were executed in the aluminum cladding.  Candice became a Meier fan when he designed the High Museum of Art (1983) while she was studying architecture in Atlanta. Andrew saw Meier’s Contemporary Museum of Art (1995) in Barcelona this summer and was eager to immerse himself in more of the architect’s work. Candice and I – who have both studied our share of architectural history – loved having a passionate guide in the family.

When we entered the photography exhibition, Claire’s passions took over.  We all marveled at the Ray Metzker photographs of the city (usually Philadelphia or Chicago) and were glad to see the newest acquisitions of Robert Mapplethorpe’s works to the Getty collection. Claire’s photography training came to the fore as we discussed textures, lighting, and subject matter. I was reminded once again of what a special eye she has for lighting and composition as she called out features of both artists’ work that I simply didn’t see on first glance.

Claire took a few photographs on her iPhone, and I’ve included three here.  But if you want to see some lovely images of this special place, visit The Epicures, the blog of Gemma and Andrew Ingalls of Ingalls Photography.  They are simply stunning.

It is a wonderful thing to see your children (and wife) excited about their passions. And since we were on a day trip devoted to fulfilling our passions, I suggested we stop at a special place in Santa Monica to allow me to scratch a certain itch of mine.

I’ve written before about my desire to visit McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. It is one of those legendary music venues and stores in the roots music world. My fascination goes back to Norman Blake’s Live at McCabe’s album of the late 1970s. This album – recorded in the music hall at the rear of the shop – is a gem.

What has made Live at McCabe’s legendary among Blake’s fans is that it is the best showcasing ever of his flatpicking guitar skills. So much of Blake’s attention over the years has gone into other aspects of his music that it is possible to wonder why he is mentioned in the same breath as Doc Watson, Clarence White, and Dan Crary as one of the finest flatpickers ever. The reasons can all be heard on this great record.

So we pulled into a foggy Santa Monica, skipped the restored pier (because we couldn’t see it – or the ocean) and headed straight for McCabe’s. For the next 30 minutes, I roamed from room to room playing Martins, Collings, and Taylor guitars. In the last two years, I’ve bought a parlor guitar and a 000-sized instrument. I was amazed to find more than a dozen of these small guitars hanging on the walls, just waiting for me to pull them down and play a tune or two.  Thirty minutes later (not wanting to push my luck with my patient family), I left satisfied that my two guitars were the ones for me. Thank goodness there was no buyers remorse after checking out a number of other options (after the fact).

One of these days I’ll get around to setting up a bucket list.  And when I do, I’ll be able to check off “visit McCabe’s Guitar Shop.”

Friday was a great day to remind me of the joyous parts of following your passions.  I was fortunate enough to indulge in three:  great architecture, my family, and roots music. What a lucky man!

To leave this post, enjoy a bit of Norman picking Randall Collins and Done Gone with the Rising Fawn String Ensemble.

More to come…


Our Year in Photos – 2012

On Thanksgiving Eve, I’m continuing my recent tradition of posting pictures of the past year on More to Come… 2012 has been a year of healing, growth, and – yes – thanksgiving.  We’ve worked through health issues, visited with an amazing group of friends from all around the world, spent time with our extended families, and savored the blessings we’ve received.

Claire and Andrew finished up their freshman years in college and have settled in to busy lives as sophomores on their respective coasts. Candice and I have adjusted to the empty nest, and are finding new richness in our relationship after celebrating 30 years of marriage. The photos below give a brief glimpse of all we’ve encountered during 2012.

Take your cursor  and hover over the picture to pick up the caption.  We hope you enjoy the photos, beginning with the one at the top of the post of the four of us on Christmas Eve 2011.  As we enter this new holiday season, Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours.

More to come…


A Refuge

Since I was young, I have been drawn to the 19th century utopian communities that seemed to spring up like wildfire across America.  Rugby, Tennessee, was a place that sparked the preservation interest which would lead to my career. The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, has been a community I’ve visited numerous times and have always found fascinating.

So when the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Village of Zoar, Ohio, on its 2012 listing of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places and named it one of our National Treasures, I couldn’t wait to make a site visit.

Yesterday I joined colleagues and partners in this small Ohio village founded in 1817 by a group of German religious dissenters.  The Zoar Separatists were persecuted in their native country for refusing to join the state-sanctioned Lutheran Church, and they immigrated to America with the help of English Quakers. Using funds borrowed from the Quakers, they purchased 5,500 acres on the Tuscarawas River (the mayor says you have to visit the town at least 3 times before you get the pronunciation right), and established the Village of Zoar. The village’s name comes from Lot’s biblical refuge (see Genesis 19) following his wife’s unfortunate demise into a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom. The residents of Zoar lived in their communal setting from 1817 until the 1898 dissolution of the Society of Separatists.

The current inhabitants of Zoar treasure what remains of the self-described “most successful Utopian community in America.” More than 40 historic buildings in the midst of a beautiful rural setting, the garden that is the centerpiece of the community, and the traditional street layout all come together to transport the visitor to the refuge of the Zoar Separatists. The 200 residents (down from a high of 500 in the 19th century) have worked to restore most of the historic buildings and support the events and tours of the dozen or so museum buildings that are owned by the State of Ohio.

So why, you may asked, is this place endangered?

The problem – as problems always are in utopias – is man-made.  In the 1930s, a large levee was constructed along two sides of the village as part of a regional flood control project. The levee probably protected Zoar from sprawl as well as from the water that was occasionally impounded in the river when floods occurred in the region. Zoar was spared the fate of other nearby communities, which were bought and relocated, because even then it was known as a special place of high historical significance.  For more than 60 years, all worked well.

But a 2005 flood that kept water impounded for more than four weeks resulted in water seepage through the levee, and a subsequent flood had the same result.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a study to determine how best to deal with the issue. Among the alternatives that were to be studied – move or demolish Zoar.

So a man-made problem that was created because our government had the foresight in the 1930s to recognize the special nature of Zoar now threatened this unique place. Preservationists joined with the townspeople to spring into action, and the National Trust – where I work – elevated the issue beyond Ohio. Our team has been working closely with the Corps staff, state preservationists, the mayor and townspeople, and many others over the past months.  I visited Zoar yesterday to see the work first hand, meet our partners and the key Corps staff, and to continue to raise the issue nationally.

I was encouraged.  Everyone involved knows what the engineers and politicians knew in the 1930s – Zoar is truly a unique National Treasure. The groups around the table are working hard to find the right solution. Everyone wants to do right by Zoar and the vision it represents.  Not only the vision of the Zoar Separatists, but the larger vision of living in a country that welcomes dissenters and allows them to thrive instead of living under the government-imposed sanctions of a king. It was why America attracted immigrants in the 19th century, and why we must continue to welcome immigrants in the 21st if we’re to live up to our ideals. A place like Zoar helps us remember those American values.

More to come.


What Would Be in Your Users Guide?

My very talented assistant – before her last day on Friday – put together a transition memo for her successor that I have taken to calling, “A Users Guide to DJB.”  The ten-page paper goes through recurring meetings (I have a lot), travel preferences (aisle seats, please), electronic filing (I do most of it from my iPad)…all the things that one needs to know about in the modern-day office.  I was impressed.

But then Section #15 – the final one – is titled “Miscellaneous DJB Facts and Preferences.”  Oh my…what would I find here?!

Well, the following are some of my favorites (while the other half have been deleted to protect the innocent):

Miscellaneous DJB Facts and Preferences

  1. David’s wife’s name is Candice.  Everyone spells it Candace, which is not her name.
  2. David likes to drink unsweetened iced tea at lunch, and red wine at happy hour.
  3. David does not like beets or olives.  ( I underlined that one myself.  She could have added that when he gets lunch, David tends to find one thing at a restaurant that he likes and he almost always orders that item when he visits that particular restaurant.  It is easier than thinking!)
  4. David likes honesty.  If you have an issue, go to him with it.  If someone else is having an issue that you can discreetly get fixed, go to him with it.
  5. David dislikes rumors and confidentiality breaches.  You are going to hear a lot of confidential information.  Keep it all to yourself, and you’ll be the most valuable assistant around.
  6. David is on a quest to visit every major league baseball stadium in America.  Get him to give you a list of those he has left, and make suggestions of ones he could visit while on work travel – he’ll love you for it!

Pretty amazing to see yourself as others see you.

More to come…