Sunday, January 29, 2023

Visiting the bar of the Huey Lewis and the News album “Sports”

After meeting the man himself, and some of his band, would it thrill to go to the bar featured in the photo on the cover of Sports, the breakthrough album for Huey Lewis and the News?

Indeed it would, and did.

On 1/27/23, I first stepped foot into a scene I’ve known since 1983—the 2 A.M. Club in Mill Valley, CA [near San Francisco]. Consistent with its devil-may-care dive bar ethos, the punctuation varies; on its home page, it’s also referred to as 2am Club and 2 AM Club. 

I was with my dad and two cousins, both of whom have lived in the area for decades and were familiar with the place. In fact, some years ago, one was in the joint when someone tried to steal his bike outside, and he and his friends chased away the would-be thief.

We arrived soon after opening, around 12:30 pm. Only a couple of guys at the bar. No bartender in sight. As I was clumsily trying to recreate the album cover pose, a voice behind me said “Just leave it here when you’re done.” I turned to see a copy of the album—signed by Huey—and the bartender already heading to the back again. It was heartening how trusting he was with something so meaningful. I guess Huey fans tend to be as clean-cut as Huey’s mid-‘80s image.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting world-famous, centuries-old masterpieces including the moai of Easter Island and the Taj Mahal. For a lifelong, hardcore HLATN fan, a certain corner of the 2 A.M. Club just about equals them.

with my dad

Sunday, January 22, 2023

“Songbook” launch party at the Kennedy Center

At 7 pm on Saturday, January 21, 2023, in my small pocket of airspace, two things of note happened:

  • season 1 of Songbook, a web series that I created, wrote, and directed, posted; it’s the culmination of nearly three years of development
  • we kicked off the world premiere screening/launch party at the place where the show was produced: the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC

It was so fun watching a show intended for home viewing on a big screen with a live audience!

Thank you yet again to Kwame Alexander, who introduced me to the Kennedy Center folks and executive produced; Mary Rand Hess, who co-executive produced; David Kilpatrick, Director of Education Programs and Productions; Jennifer Bowman (miss you!); the crew and multimedia team; and, of course, the cast: host Vaughn Ryan Midder, musician Randy Preston, authors Sue Fliess, Mary Amato, and NoNieqa Ramos, and 
three young poets turned lyrical legends:

the poets/lyricists: Isabel, Alexandra, Samaya

the authors: Mary Amato, NoNieqa Ramos, Sue Fliess

David Kilpatrick kicking off the evening

me thanking the room

the room

me, Mary Rand Hess, Kwame Alexander

the kids, authors, host, musician, executive producers, and me

the kids and their corresponding authors

me, David Kilpatrick, Vaughn Ryan Midder

Samaya with her writing and music teachers; the sweetest!

Samaya asking Kwame for an autograph

me with Samaya holding her Songbook swag bag

giving Kwame a thank-you gift

the gift

the cookies (shaped, of course, like musical notes and pencils)

Only bummer of the evening: we caught a chyron typo. In episode 1, “ukelele” should be “ukulele.”

Though hardly enough to put even the slightest dent in a golden night.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

“Songbook” has taken the stage

After more than two years of development *, Season 1 of Songbook, a scripted/reality hybrid show I created, wrote, and directed for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is now out in the world. 

As you will see, in each episode, a different middle schooler who wrote a poem based on a book comes to the Kennedy Center to set that poem to music with a professional musician. 

The books:

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
Beatrice Blys Rules for Spies: The Missing Hamster by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Beth Mills

Then a surprise. (I won’t spell it out but the following three images are clues.)

Then a performance.

I’m so honored to have had the chance to bring to life a project like this, and so thrilled with every last person I got to work with on it. 

* The idea was born in 2020, after friend/fellow scribe Kwame Alexander graciously offered me the opportunity to brainstorm pandemic-driven online programming and pitch the Kennedy Center with him. Finessing and postponing (due to Omicron) took place throughout 2021. Casting, filming, and editing took place throughout 2022.

Guitar Notes mentions the Kennedy Center!

Taking bows...

The cast of episode 1, the leads mom, Director of Education Programs and Productions David Kilpatrick, 
and me in the toothpaste green shirt.

episode 2

episode 3

Saturday, January 7, 2023

"The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra" StoryWalk in Florida

In 2021, I was tickled to discover that a Michigan library had chosen The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra for their StoryWalk

At the same time I was tickled to discover the StoryWalk concept itselfan installation in which a picture book is presented page by page in a series of displays along an outdoor path so visitors can read as they walk. 

Thanks to Instagram, I've now learned that my little chupacabra is featured in another library StoryWalk, this one in Tampa Bay. Incidentally, Florida is closer than Michigan to the cryptid's natural habitat.

Photos courtesy of the library's Instagram.

Thank you, Safety Harbor Public Library, for sharing the adventure of goats Jayna, Pep, and Bumsie with your community! I recommend that those who take the stroll regularly check behind them...who knows if a chupacabra StoryWalk will attract the real deal?