Archive for November, 2008

Thanksgiving and Dave Ray

November 29, 2008

Had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving here.  A long walk in the woods, some good beer, a heap of good food (a chanterelle and wild rice stuffing as the centerpiece) and a really nice Cline zinfandel we had left over from our california trip (a wine you can only get at the winery; I was skeptical when they said it has hints of eucalyptus, but you can really taste it and it actually works.  At the time I thought eucalyptus in a wine? but I was happily proven ignorant on that one).  But really the best of the day was late in the evening, splitting a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout with some pumpkin pie by the fire.  That beer is pretty stunning, bursting with bourbon and vanilla and butter–quite the taste treat with dessert.

But I didn’t really start this post to talk thanksgiving.  I’ve been reminiscing about the guitar legend Dave “Snaker” Ray as today, Nov. 28, marks the 6th anniversary of his death.  Dave has been an essential part of my musical world view for many, many years and I always get nostalgic this time of year.  He died on Thanksgiving day in 2002, and I remember hearing the news over the internet via my favorite radio station KFAI.  Ray was a quintessential part of the Minneapolis music landscape. At the time, I was feeling very out of place in Florida and it made me really miss Minnesota, so this time of year always resonates with memories of Dave.

Ray was born August 17, 1943 in Saint Paul.  He was most famous for his early 60s recordings with the Minneapolis trio Koerner, Ray, and Glover, a group whose influence on musicians was profound, including a strong affect on the likes of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and Beck among many others.  His 12-string guitar playing was seemingly simple but ultimately inimitable.  In the early 70’s he developed Sweet Jane recording studios in Cushing, Minnesota recording the likes of Junior Wells and Willie Murphy, and most known for the early revolutionary recordings of Bonnie Raitt that really changed the way live studio recording was approached.  In the 80s and 90s he earned a living by running an insurance company, but he continued to play and record until the day he died.  I fondly remember seeing him in the basement of Jitters in northeast Minneapolis, just a few blocks from my house, where he would play and tell stories with Tony Glover no matter the size of the crowd.  I remember a few cold nights being able to sit with just a dozen or so people and listen to this unparalleled guitar virtuoso.

For a listening tribute, of course it’s worth listening to Koerner, Ray, and Glover’s 1963 landmark album  Blues, Rags, and Hollers. It’s an album that’s always worth listening to.  But for my money, I think both his playing and his voice got better as he got older.  His 1993 album with Tony Glover The Picture Has Faded is one of my favorites as is his 1998 solo Snake Eyes. Whatever the case, Dave was one of the best and it’s worth searching out any of his music.


Dave, we still miss you!


And Another Health Update

November 20, 2008

Well, the neck, shoulder, arm, etc. continue to heal.  MB drove me up to Minneapolis for MMLA last weekend since I can’t quite drive long distances and I’m not comfortable in traffic (still tough to turn my neck quickly which poses problems in traffic).  It was a great trip.  I read a few poems on a creative writing panel, then we saw lots of friends, drank plenty of good beer, and had some great food. Just what the doctor ordered.

Got my staples out on Monday and Doc says things look good. I now find myself fairly close to normal in many ways (or as normal as I ever am I guess).  I can get around pretty easily, can do most things (although I’m still at about the 10 pound limit for lifting, but that can gradually increase now, and I can’t reach too far or there’s a sudden knife in my shoulder blade).  Sunday or Monday things started to improve rapidly and surgical pain seems pretty much gone. I can start in on my neck exercises now to try to get its muscle and range of motion back. He said I could also go back on my recumbent bike to try and get my heart really pumping again. My one real pain at this point is a mid-back muscle that feels like it’s pulled with any stretch or turn.  I’m going to see a massage therapist and probably a physical therapist to work it out.

So the one real issue at this point is use of my hand.  Doc is fairly non-committal about if/when it will fully return, but he’s generally optimistic.  Since I’m feeling relatively pain-free and am off meds at this point, I’ve started to take stock of where it stands so that I can better monitor progress.  The left side of the hand (pinkie side) remains numb and very weak.  Other fingers have feeling but they are limited in odd ways.  For instance, I can grip something pretty well with the hand, but then smaller motions I can’t do.  I can’t push toothpaste from the tube for instance.  I’ve been squeezing an exercise ball with both hands in every possible combination of fingers and thumb and I’m putting my hand generally at 25 to 50% of my healthy hand.  Some motions are closer to normal, but others are barely at a quarter strength.  As I’ve said before, this pretty much freaks me out, but I have a good baseline now and I’ll continue to monitor and to keep pushing it.  Not much else I can do I guess, so I’ll just keep the faith that it’s just a matter of time.

Slowly Back in Business

November 8, 2008

Just thought I’d give a little post-surgery update.  The surgery went fine, although it hurts like the dickens.  Spent one night in the hospital and then they get you up and moving.  Since I’ve been home I’m trying to walk as much as I can (although it’s not a whole lot) and then enjoying some vicodin-induced naps in the afternoon.  I’ve been able to work over the computer, but fortunately Jen Rouse, a fine poet who works in our library, was able to take over classes for me last week.  I’m going to attempt to go back to campus on monday, although I reserve the right to say it’s too soon at the last minute.  I go back to get staples removed a week from monday.  So now I’ve got about six weeks of no lifting (no house cleaning, darn it all!) and limited mobility, but I should be able to get around pretty normally.  The initial result seemed pretty good.  The nerve pain in shoulder and arm was gone, but the use of my left hand was still severely limited.  Doc gave it about an 80% shot that it would slowly return to normal (from a week to 18 months was the range he gave me).  The 20% there certainly still scares me, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when it becomes a reality.  Till then I’m going on the assumption that use of my hand will all come back.  On the other hand (no pun intended), the last two nights I’ve had muscle spasms in shoulder and upper arm that are reminiscent of the original pain.  Hard to tell if it’s the return of the nerve problem or just a result of the surgery and starting to use those muscles again.  I’m opting for the latter and trust it will clear up as I’m able to regain mobility and muscle strength (incredible how fast muscles start to atrophy!).  So, that’s the news from here.   It ain’t no fun, but I know it could be a whole lot worse, too.  And best of all, my wife helped me bottle my stout and winter warmer before surgery so I can sit and watch it age to perfection.  I’ll let you know how it tastes in a month or so.


November 2, 2008

Well, my technological ineptitude shines through again.  I have recently added quite a few videos to the blog, that amazing sam & dave footage for instance, and then I check the blog on Firefox which I generally use for internet.  Everything has always seemed to be fine.  Recently, I was looking for something on the blog but I was on a computer using explorer and realized that on explorer none of the videos were there.  Hmmmm….  I realize I need to double check how I’m doing things to make sure the materials I think I’ve put on the blog are actually available to whomever reads the blog.  If you’ve ever read this and haven’t had the videos available, feel free to let me know.  Or if you have any input on this issue, drop me a line.  Thanks!