shoveling, 4-tracking, and eating in Ishpeming

'Twas a wonderful Spring Break. I just got home last night, and spent today catching up on email and showbiz work. The kiddos and I spent a week in my homeland of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Drove to Escanaba first for a few days with my in-laws. A very fun visit, but the weather got pretty serious on us. When the time came for me to venture onward, North to Ishpeming, I was driving a few hours behind a massive snowstorm. They got 25 inches in 19 hours and it buried whatever signs of Spring that had been developing. I took out the camera and tried some right-hand shots of the lovely U.P. winter as I drove...forgive the risky driving behavior.

Once I crossed from Delta County into Marquette County, all the plows had turned around. The drive from Perkins to Ishpeming was like driving on the surface of Hoth. No trace of a road, lane lines, anything. Just a smooth, slippery white field. The trick was to aim the steering wheel near the center of the open space, hope to stay on the pavement, put both hands on the wheel and drive by faith. In that 30 mile stretch before Gwinn we only saw about 5 other cars, and two of 'em were in the ditch.

Paavo and Svea did a great job in the car during the many many hours we spent on the highway. Here's the boy behind me as we got close to the K.I. Sawyer turnoff. As we drove I was listening to a bunch of Robbie Fulks' albums shuffling on the iPod. A note to parents: if you're gonna listen to Robbie Fulks with the kids in the car, be ready to censor the songs using the volume knob. Robbie could drop the F-bomb at any time, so you must pay attention. Paavo can hear a song one time and have most of the lyrics memorized. The last thing I need is Paavo going back to pre-school and having him serenade his teachers and classmates with his renditions of "Dirty Mouth Flo," "Cigarette State," or "She Took a Lot of Pills and Died."

After crawling the entire 80 miles at about 35 miles per hour, and fish-tailing through the outskirts of Negaunee, we finally made it to Ishpeming. The streets in town were a disaster, and the city had sent out front-end loaders to clear the huge piles of snow. Massive accumulation over sheets of ice. I slid through a couple of stop signs (stupid traction control on my Saturn Vue), but made it safely to my parents house where I proceeded to get myself stuck in a giant snow bank right in front of their driveway.

Check out this shot of my Dad with his snow blower, coming to blast through the pile in front of me, giving me somewhere to escape. My Dad is 6'1"...check out the snowbank to his left. Thankfully he cleared some space in front of me, I dug out the huge pile beneath my vehicle, and I was able to revv my way out of there and get to the sanctuary of the cleared driveway. I've seen a lot of deep snow in my life, but this was one of the most intense short-term winter pileups I've ever witnessed.

Paavo and Svea enjoyed playing with their Grandparents, and I got to hang out and work on music with my uber-talented brother Tim. Last Wednesday afternoon I experienced one of those very rare songwriting events where a new tune just falls out of the sky. That afternoon I had a spark of a lyric idea, so I sat down with my lyric book and wrote the whole thing, music and all, in about 20 minutes. Then I called my brother over to play drums, I grabbed his pawn-shop acoustic guitar, we fired up the Tascam cassette 4-track and in less than an hour completely finished a brand new song. Tim played drums, penny whistle, and harmonica, and I sang, played acoustic guitar, and keyboard. We had no bass guitar, so I found a good low droney sound on the trusty Casio, we miked up the external keyboard speaker (no adapter to line in directly to the 4-track), and got a perfect sound. Then when the tracks were down, we dumped the whole mix into the computer and burned a disc. About 3 hours after I had the first idea for the song we were sitting out in my car listening to a final version of the song, ready for inclusion on my new album. It was a thrill. I haven't written a song this way for a long long time. If only they were all so effortless.

Tim and I celebrated our musical creation by walking downtown for a late dinner. We hoofed it through the snow, straight down Main Street with not a car in sight. Ishpeming was pretty much deserted. We ate at Mama Mia's Italian restaurant, and had my all-time favorite pizza and garlic bread. I had to take a picture of my food. Looks good, eh?

The drive back to Minneapolis on Sunday was much less treacherous, and I had my Mom in the car with me to help wrangle the children. She's staying with us this week so I can get some more studio work done, and then drive back into Wisconsin on Thursday for a long weekend of gigs in the Milwaukee and Chicagoland areas.

I love Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and I love the Twin Cities. It's nice to have both places to enjoy. I like to have my cake and eat it too. Or, have my Pasty and eat it too. Or Mama Mia's pizza, to be specific.


Anne said…
I suppose you had to monitor the music with your mom in the car, lest she start singing "She took a lot of pills and died" in front of the kids this week and forget to edit out the f-bombs.
Anonymous said…
Mama Mia's garlic bread! mmmmmmm... I'm so jealous

Kelly formerly Laitinen (who can't remember her blogger username and password)

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