One Meatball–Mark And Noah Ari

June 23rd, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

Mark and Noah Ari_still



One of a couple tunes we played that evening, this marks Noah’s first performance as well as the first time we’ve performed together. The tune, “One Meatball” is an old tune I picked up from listening to Dave Van Ronk.




The Time I Almost Met Dave Van Ronk

A ways back, a kid in high school, just about as soon as I picked up a guitar and learned a couple chords, I started writing songs and wanting to sing them where folks would hear them. I’d scoot out to Gerdes Folk City in Greenwich Village, W. 3rd street near MacDougal. They had “Hoot Nights” when anyone could play and that suited me fine. I’d show up and pick up my card—it was a playing card with a number written on it that designated my spot in the lineup. If I had a high number, I’d go away to sing on a street corner or find some other amusement for myself. Then I’d go back and take the stage for my allotted time. Usually did about three tunes. Got one of my first gigs that way, because they’d sometimes hire from one of those hoot night performances.

One day, I wander in, and Van Ronk is sitting there. He looks to me as much like a bear as a man, all hunched over a tumbler. Even sitting down, he’s plenty bigger than the beardless kid I was. But I know him, because I’d been wearing out some of his records at the time, and he looks just like he looked on the album jackets—just greyer and heftier and smelling like whiskey.

I am what you call “gobsmacked.” Can’t believe my luck. I want to talk to him. Shake his hand. But I’m tense as hell. Takes me some minutes just to screw up the nerve. Then I hold my breath to keep my heart from drilling inside my ear, tilt myself in the right direction, push off on one foot, and stumble right into him. Maybe he spills his drink a little. I squawk out something real intelligent like, “You’re Dave Van Ronk, aren’t you?” like maybe he doesn’t know who he is and he needs me to set the flag. But there you have it. It’s all I can squeeze out of my mouth and it about takes all the breath I have to do it.

Van Ronk doesn’t turn around. But this guy who’s sitting with him does, and I don’t even see that guy there until he puts his face up in front of mine. It takes me back a bit when he does that. He’s dressed kind of strange. A suit. I mean the whole matching jacket and pants thing. And his hair is all glued into place. And he smells like a shave, only stronger. And this guy stabs a glance at me and, all angry-like, says, “Why can’t you leave him alone. Why can’t you all just do that. He’s just a human being!” He says it pretty loud, and whole heaps of folks turn around to see what’s going on. And I’m all shivery and shrunken and embarrassed, and the only thing a kid can do when he’s in that sort of circumstance, the kind that threatens the way he looks to others and the way he feels about himself, is run or bite back. So I raise myself up to my full puniness and stick my finger almost into that guy’s nose and shout “I didn’t say he wasn’t a guy. I know he’s a guy. I just like his music and was gonna tell him thanks.” At this point Van Ronk wheels around. He almost gets up, but falls back into his chair. So he raises his arm, and I think he’s going to punch me.

Now, I may be rash and emotional and prone to trouble, but I’m not stupid. So I back myself up three or four paces, turn, and throw myself and my guitar through the doorway to the street.

And that’s all there is to it. It has been quite a while since then, and I’ve gotten to know and work with all kinds of folks. I’ve been fortunate in that. Still there must something there for me in those moments when I almost met Dave Van Ronk, because I remember it so well, and the clearness of the dark hours afterward, and how cool the night air was on my cheeks.

Out of the Blue

November 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I like not knowing what I’m going to play before I play it. Seems like for a moment here I forgot my own words. Happens. I teetered. I love that. Teetering is an underrated condition. In fact, last summer, when I was given a yoga lesson in the south of France, every position contained that element for me, every one was a “teeter.” Nice.


October 26th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Imagining Istria

October 26th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Langtree and T.C.

August 6th, 2013 § 8 comments § permalink

Langtree and T.C.

Langtree and T.C.

Recently, an old friend connected with me. This is the guy I made music with back when I first started to play guitar and tried to sing.  He has recordings of it.  It’s a strange and wonderful thing to discover these tunes.  There I am, a teenager doing some of the things I do now but for the first times. There are no earlier recordings I know of.

For a long while, I’ve felt we are the things we do.  This sensibility is a legacy of the time I slipped out of high school.  I did that for a number of reasons, but one of them was to read without the distracting ache that school made.  And read I did.  A lot.  And though all the pages of all the books from then flow together a bit somehow, there are things rooted in me.  One of them is that notion that we define ourselves through our actions.  I think it came from Sartre, but whether it did or didn’t, I still feel that way.  Deep as bone.  We are what we do.  We become creatures of the contexts in which we place ourselves.  No matter how hip we think we are, how resistant we believe ourselves to be, we are water taking the shape of the jar, tending toward ice until only a desperate shock of tragedy or the heart’s leap at beauty or love can shatter the shape we’re in.

Still,  when I listen to the recordings and know myself in them, I wonder at the enthalpy.  I don’t calculate it—how could I? But I do wonder. There’s this sense that I am there.  I’m here, in the present, but I’m there, too.  Maybe it’s just a trick of the mind.  I don’t know.  I only know how devotedly I loved to do those things I loved to do, and still do.  The days between the child and the man are bound each to each by that peculiar piety.


This recording is “Everybody’s had the Blues,” by Merle Haggard.  The sweetly quivering lead vocal belongs to Phil Sivilli. I’m the other guy. Phil tells me the recording is  labeled “Langtree and T.C.” Neither of us remembers that.  Plainly, it’s what we called ourselves for a moment.  You know?  Teens.  I suspect he’s Langtree, but he’s pretty sure that was me.  Leaves us both to wonder what T. C. stood for.


This one is a song originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell, but Phil and I were entranced by The Band’s version of it.  I believe the “delay” effect was an accident.  Funny.  And there I am trying to squeak along on a harmonica, too.  I’m surprised at how tentative my vocal is.  I understand why I’m tentative, but I’m surprised that I am.  I don’t remember that..  Still and all, the harmonies on the chorus are  just, really and truly, awesome.



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