Happy Campsgiving!

Well, my friends – today commemorates two whole weeks back in Los Angeles.   What better way to celebrate than to get out of town?  I spent the holiday camping in the foothills of Ojai, CA with road-trip roadie, Jourdan, where I found myself very thankful for the following:

1. Friends who donate their blankets, sleeping bags, and tents to the cause of keeping other friends like me warm (or more accurately, Jourdan’s, friends who donate to friends like Jourdan who then share it with friends like me…)

2. Biodegradable hand warmers (seriously.  the best thing to happen to me since waterproof matches.  And in case you’re curious and don’t want to spend a whole night like I did theorizing as to how they work, here’s a tutorial: http://www.trails.com/about_6125_chemical-hand-warmers-work.html)

3.  Camp Hosts who bring plates of piping hot food from their Thanksgiving table to our tiny campfire along with some extra bundles of wood.  If you ever find yourself camping in the woods of Ojai, definitely swing by Wheeler Gorge Campsite (and tell Tom and his wife that I can’t thank them enough for their generosity…)

4. Time away from all things electrical (cell phones, computers, Facebook, and all the rest of the culprits…).  Being back in LA has been more exhausting for me than I anticipated – mostly because it really does seem like the Ever-Busy-&-Beautiful city that I remember it to be – like an endless steam train always marching past me.  I’m even more aware of it now as a performer; but have yet to develop an appreciation for it.

Which brings me to #5 – and that’s you, the Reader, Listener and Supporter of what I do.  I am so thankful for a year that has brought me work that I am proud of and a loving, supportive group of people who insist that I keep at it.  Without the likes of you, I’d still just be singing in my car.

Here’s to hoping that you’re surrounded with love, support, and warmth wherever you are this season!

xoxo,

jess

 

ps – Almost forgot!  In case you missed the boat on my Christmas EP “Manger Songs” from last year, it’s finally that time of year again where I can actually talk about it without getting funny looks (most of the time…).  Features four original arrangements of some familiar favorites that still play well all year long.  Sample the opening track of “Joy to the World” by watching a tiny video I made last year here.  Better yet, pick up a copy for only $5 here on CDBaby (or iTunes or Amazon.com) and know that all profits from that sale go towards AIDS relief and clean water efforts in Africa through Blood:Water Mission

 

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The Wild, Wild West

Less than a week ago, I did a quick Detroit drive-by to see friends, remind myself of how much I absolutely love them, and – yet again – hit the road.  Wanna know the highlights thus far?  I thought so….

Stop #1: Cincinatti, OH.

My roadie, Jourdan, and I packed my Honda to the gills and drove to southern Ohio to stay with my mom’s cousin, Tom, and his wife Flo (I totally had the jingle from Progressive in my head all night long…).  My 2nd cousin and somewhat-look-alike, Keally, (see below)

like twins - almost....

joined us for dinner along with her brother in-law; but sadly neither of her brothers could join us.  Thankfully, one of my second cousins, David, (who happens to be a crazy talented musician) has some videos on the interwebs.  Curious to see how the music gene is germinating through our DNA?  I thought so….

 

 

 

Stop #2: Nashville, TN.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that Nashville would be ‘my city’, I’d have enough money to put a down payment on a house out there.  Thankfully, I haven’t bought property out there because I don’t think that Nashville actually is the kind of place I’d like to call home.  While I shouldn’t jump to such hasty conclusions after only one night on the town, it WAS quite the night out.  I was too late to sign up at the Open Stage I’d hoped to hit and the other two venues I tried were packed to the gills with country guitarists singing away in cowboy hats.  We were fortunate enough to befriend the ever talented and hospitable, Tom Lenartz, who must have written the book on How to Be a Perfect Gentleman and treated us to dinner at The Nashville Palace (by ‘dinner’, I mean – warmed beans from a can served in a styrofoam bowl with a pancake.  A bit strange at first, but perfect when you’re crazy hungry, and Tom is seriously one of the nicest guys I’ve met all year.).  Later he introduced us to Gary Hannan – co-writer for the sassy song “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” – who proceeded to drape his arm around my shoulder, confess how drunk he was, and invite me to sing with his band the following evening along with one of the former lead singers from Motley Crue.  Tough opportunity to pass up, but we were on a tight schedule to get back to LA and, again, I had no cowboy hat of my own.  Alas – I had to decline.  Nice guy, that Gary Hannan, though.  If you’ve never heard his song, check it out here (Warning: while it’s totally safe for viewing, some may be offended by the amount of drinking, scant swimsuits, and even the occasional lack of swimsuits.  Just sayin’…)

 

 

 

Stop #3: Little Rock, AR.

Heading west on the 40 freeway?  Sleepy and need a place to stay?  It’s your lucky day ‘cuz there’s a slew of cheap motels to choose from.  Good luck avoiding the ones with rooms that smell like sweaty carpet and come stocked with (wait for it….) poo-stained towels.  That’s right folks – POO!  On your BATH towels!!  All for an affordable $36.99 per night (taxes, additional fees, and vomiting may also apply).  poo towel

 

 

Stop #4: Austin, TX

Plenty of things come to mind when I think of Austin, TX; but music jumps directly to the top of the list.  Jourdan is convinced that it could become my new most favorite place.  Our first night was spent in an empty bar brimming with the overwelming talent of Adam Rodgers.  While he definitely writes and records his own pieces, he’s a brilliant cover artist as well who brings some fresh perspective on everything from motown artists to Muse to John Mayer.  Super fabulous.  Of course, what’s not fabulous is to see SO much talent playing for no more than 5 people.  That’s Austin…,” he said, lighting up another bitter cigarette.  Maybe Austin isn’t my town….

Then again, I sang last night at a popular Open Mic at Flipnotics where I was asked no fewer than 10 times if I was from around town and would want to collaborate or share a show.  One guy went as far as to say that I made his whole entire year better.  I may have to start quoting him to get more gigs, actually:

“Jessica Ripka totally made my whole year better!” – J. the stoned hippie from Austin with lots of tattoos.

I could include it with the quote from an autistic audience member who said blandly,

“She does not perform my kind of music; but I am fairly certain that Jessica Ripka has some talent.” L. the Electrical Engineering Major at UT

So…maybe there’s plenty of potential here after all….

Amidst all of this, the highlights of Austin for me will always be our hosts, Richard and Amy, whose house (read: estate) more than made up for our sad excuse of a motel in Arkansas.  Where else do you get enough pillows on your bed to literally stack nearly up to your head?

the pillow situation seems manageable enough....

 

...but stack 'em all up and you've got yourself a bunk bed!

 

 

And did I mention the SECRET PASSAGEWAY???  No joke.  The house has a totally legit secret passageway behind a couple of bookcases – offically making me want to throw a Clue Party here next fall (it’s Colonel Mustard!  In the Library!  With the Candlestick!!).  Don’t believe me?  Photos prove all:

 

 

Just your ordinary average bookcase....

 

 

 

THAT TURNS INTO A STAIRWELL!!!!!!!!! O!!!! M!!!!! G!!!!!

 

 

Obviously, with two more days to go before hitting LA – who knows what sort of adventures could be had??  I, for one, cannot wait…

Til then,

XOXO,

-jess

 

(I still think it’s Colonel Mustard in the Library, man…)

Oh, Pittsburgh

Hey Friends –

Somehow it completely slipped my mind to blog this whole past month while on the road doing shows.  Oops.  I’ve spent the last few days in Pittsburgh, though, so I can at least give you a few highlights from this past week:

1.

The temperature dropped by more than 30 degrees once I got to Pittsburgh and my host for the week felt compelled to loan me a pair of super warm hiking socks (image attached).  “Where’d you get these awesome woolly socks??” I asked, wiggling my toes.  There was an awkward pause.  “Um….REI.  Like it says right there on the toe…”  Further proof that I am oblivious to the most obvious….



2.  I managed to get lost at least 35 times while navigating the city roads of Pittsburgh and even accidentally stumbled on the crime scene of a shooting that had happened only a few hours prior to my arrival.  I began to wonder if I’d need to install “Duck and Cover” stickers on my dashboard – just in case….

 

what? isn't this where everyone keeps their piano??

3.  I’ve gone so many blisteringly painful days without access to a piano.  I finally struck out in McKees Rocks (aka – the ghetto) to find one somewhere, anywhere.  I stumbled on an open church door (always a good sign) where they were prepping for their monthly community dinner.   A gruff man by the name of Jerry reluctantly showed me to the piano in the hallway (another image attached) near the men’s room and told me on no uncertain terms that I couldn’t play long.  An hour later he was sitting there listening and insisting I stay for dinner. Nice guy, that Jerry….

 

Pillsbury DoughBody

4.  I spotted Pillsbury Body Lotion in a Big Lots store.  Since when did Pillsbury start manufacturing beauty products???

 

 

 

 

5.  And lastly, if you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, you absolutely positively MUST MUST MUST stop by Club Cafe down on 12st St. in Southside.  Talk about MAGIC!  I’ve never wanted so badly to be a Talent Scout passing out record deals.  The people in the ‘burgh know how to slam some serious tunes….

 

So – that’s the skinny on that.  Only six more days to the serious road trip out west (I’ll blog about that for sure!  Scout’s honor!)

xoxo,

jess