Happy Columbus Day!

(I know, I know – it’s technically Valentine’s Day, but I figure it’s a touchy issue for some people, so…  Then again, even Columbus Day is a touchy issue, too.  I guess there’s just no winning…!)

In any case, Happy Monday!  For starters, in case you still haven’t gotten a Valentine’s Day card, here’s one I drew for you:


And if that doesn’t cheer you up, then you’ll be happy to know that I have a show tomorrow at the fabulous Busby’s East in Los Angeles and you should definitely come!  Here’s the info:

Tuesday 2/15/11 @8pm

Busby’s East

5364 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036

$10 w/ presale ticket – $15 at the door


Granted, that probably only cheers you up if you’re in the LA area.  So!  Since I’ve been spending all my free time at my friend, Van’s, studio to chip away at the next batch of songs, I’ve had a chance to work on this year’s Singing Telegram which can now be enjoyed throughout the entire continental US and the world.  I’m calling it “Strangers” and would like to dedicate to all of the good friends I’ve disappointed and let down over the years but who still manage to want me around.  Lemme tell you – those two people are the best friends I’ll ever have…  😉

In any case, from my piano to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day!




My Best Guest List

I have a really hard time getting people to show up at my concerts.  I’m pretty sure it’s nothing personal.  Life is just busy and things come up and people lie through their teeth and say they’ll come when they know full well that they’re staying in to watch The Office in their pajamas.  It’s cool.  I get it. I’ve done the same thing.

But this past Monday, just before performing at Hollywood’s historic Viper Room, my coolest guest ever showed up (the guy in the robe – not the guy in the car):



So, y’know, it’s all good.  When fans don’t show up at my gigs, sometimes Jesus does instead (hope to see all of you at some point, though…)





ps – Wouldn’t ya’ know – he’s got a Facebook fanpage?  You can join here:  http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=182044177494


Grandfather Knows Best

Ever since I can remember, conversations with my Grandpa Ripka – as few and far between as they were – always ended with, “At least you have your health.”  This was his way of being optimistic, I suppose, while I always found it sort of bleak.  That is, of course, until I became sick.

I’ve been sick so rarely in my life.  Aside from the 30 consecutive days of class I missed in high school due to an endless march of migraines, I’ve been relatively well most of my life.  Well – there were those two months in middle school when I needed so much medical attention that my doctor began ending our consultations with a cheerful, “See you next week!”

But I was never really sick, then (unless you count Over-Emotional 12 Year Old Girl Syndrome an illness).  In fact, I’ve never felt “really” sick.

Until this past November.

It started as a cold.  I’d just gotten back from four weeks traveling through the northeast – singing and stressing out about my life like any other normal musician.  I noticed a sore throat the day after I got back to Detroit – just before singing at a birthday party for my friend’s husband.  I did my usual onslaught of zinc, vitamin C, and salt water mouth washes figuring it would do the trick.

The cold lingered on my road trip west – coming to a head in Nashville where my host at the time graciously put two Alka-Seltzer colds towards the cause of my recovery.  I slept for 12 full hours and woke up feeling like a million bucks. Mission accomplished.

I rolled into LA a week later – just before Thanksgiving – and felt the tiniest bit of the fatigue and sore throat making a comeback.  I went back on my warpath of zinc, orange juice, lemons, tea – my whole arsenal back in action.  It finally settled down and I was in the clear again.

Then again, I never really felt like I was in the clear-clear  The sore throat was always around – I just didn’t notice it as much because it had been around for long enough to feel normal by then. 

“Is my throat still sore?” I’d ask myself.

Nah – it’s always been this way, some scratchy-throated Virus would mutter back, hoping it hadn’t blown its cover.

I celebrated Christmas relatively free of tissues and coughing – a nice gift, in hindsight, because I was back to the drawing board by New Years Eve.  No passing Go and definitely no collecting $200.

Two weeks had gone by with little to no progress when I heard about a friend’s recent bout with Bronchitis.  After listening to a short list of his symptoms, I began wondering if maybe I had Bronchitis, too.

“Or,” another friend offered matter-of-factly, “It could be Pneumonia.”

When I think of Pneumonia, I tend to think of Little House on the Prairie or some other pioneer drama where everyone starts dropping like flies from Scarlet Fever, Typhus, or (your guessed it) Pneumonia.  It also makes me think of homemade house cleaners that burn your nose hair; but that doesn’t really relate at the moment.  Either way – it definitely seems more threatening than the common cold and probably wouldn’t feel the least bit phased by my onslaught of zinc and citrus. And when you find yourself muttering under your breath every few minutes, “I just want to be better!  I would give ANYthing to just feel BETTER!”, well, my friends – that’s when you realize that your sickness saga has gone on for far too long.

So this morning I dragged myself to the Urgent Care Center in Burbank where I waited with some screaming babies and a man bleeding profusely from his head.

“Eet ees steel dreeping..,” I heard him say with mild delirium as they (thankfully) ushered him out of the waiting room.

Two hours later I was prepping for some chest X-rays and an hour after that my doctor finally came in and delivered the news.

“Looks like you have a bad case of Bronchitis, my dear,” he said looking bleakly over my chart, “But it could also be Walking Pneumonia so I’ll have to treat you for both.”

I was busy envisioning myself dying by candlelight with Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert when he delivered the harder news.

“No singing at least for 3 more days…”

In case we don’t all remember, I CAME OUT HERE TO SING. That is what I came all the way out here to DO.  I have perhaps one of my biggest shows to date, in fact, this upcoming Thursday (which is, thankfully, FOUR days away and should hopefully keep me within the No Singing For Three Days parameters…).  And then three more days after THAT, I have a show at the amazing and historic Viper Room.  And these aren’t just any sort of run-of-the-mill show like I’ve done in the past.   They involve a drummer, a cellist, hair, makeup – the whole nine yards.

All this to say that I ran as fast as my little Honda would take me to the nearest Walgreen’s and filled all three of my prescriptions as soon as humanly possible.  I also picked up some Chinese medicine supplements to help speed things along – one of which is called “Lung Fire” (I’d tell you what’s in it, but I honestly can’t pronounce a single ingredient…).  And, of course, I’ll still be plugging away with zinc, tea, and all the citrus I can pick from my trees in the backyard.  Pneumonia – you have met your match.

While writing this essay, I read a friend’s email about the recent parking ticket they’d received.  I didn’t say it out loud like I wanted to, but Grandpa Ripka and I, I’m sure, were thinking the same thing:

At least you have your health.

And I hope you do, dear reader.  Now more than ever, I truly hope that you do….




Current Pharmaceutical Cocktail: Immunity Plus supplement, Lung Fire supplement, Inhaler, Amoxicillin, Cough Syrup with codeine, wine and fresh fruit (the Rice Crispies in the background are just there for show)

Tender Texas Christmas

I have less than an hour to post one last blog of the year and am just sitting here nursing my fourth (and hopefully last) cold of the season.  My tissues and cold medicine aren’t particularly good conversationalists so I’ll take the time to run down my final highlights of the last week of 2010:

1.  Doing one final show of the year at Citizen Smith Restaurant that finally felt like a success.  Great crowd, great atmosphere, and a great Manager who gave me and my table of friends two free bottles of wine just for guessing what movie was playing on the screen above the bar (it was “Tremors”.  Easy shot if you ask me.  There’s no mistaking Kevin Bacon’s hair or those crazy prosthetic worms.).

2.  Piling into Jourdan’s car and driving to Houston, TX to see her family – most notably including her Great Aunt Pearlie who will turn 99 in 2011.  She greeted us with the energy of someone at least 30 years younger and asked if we were up to all of the excitement.  “Because my family, you know,” she said while pulling me aside, “We like to party it up – if you know what I mean.”  I’m happy to say that I was out-partied by a 98 year old Swedish woman from Texas.

3.  Heading off to Marfa, TX where I’ve been anxious to see the mysterious lights I’ve heard so much about.  Here’s what we saw:

Marfa Lights! (or maybe just the Marfa light?)


Note: Apparently, February is the best time to view the lights as this guy’s photo shows.  Maybe better luck next time?…



4.  Staying at the historical Hotel Paisano in Marfa where I’m sure Jourdan and her vegetarian self most appreciated the following painting in our room:

Those Texans, man - they sure love their meat....


5.  Stopping in an Art Gallery where we could purchase the piece below for the discounted price of $18,000 (yes, that’s what I said.  Eighteen Thousand Dollars.  Who knew vellum paper and graphite pencils could be so expensive??):


6.  Poking around the El Cosmico trailer park resort that takes the cake for Cool Places to Stay in West Texas.  Seriously.  I totally wanted to take over one of those renovated trailers and call it my own.  Plus, there’s a tiki bar.  There’s really no reason to leave, if you ask me….

I like to call this The Crochet Wagon.

Tiki Bar!

MORE Tiki Bar!


7.  Making our way to the Chinati Foundation where I accidentally mistook the art gallery for a construction site.

No, really - this IS the art.



This, however, is NOT part of the gallery (it's confusing, though, right??)



There's also an 8-hour guided tour offered inside of the gallery; but unfortunately it was closed the day we visited. I was really looking forward to a whole entire day of listening to someone talk on and on about steel and concrete cubicles that sit in the middle of the desert.



8.  And last but not least:  Collecting Jourdan’s cat Loci (pronounced “Low-Key”) from Austin, TX and bringing him to the west coast.  Lemme tell you – you haven’t traveled until you’ve gone 24 hours with a cat wailing in your backseat.  But honestly, he’s so happy here now that it’s all (mostly) a distant memory.

Happy as clams.


So, that’s that, my friends.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me – I’ve got another dose of cold meds to take.  Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!




Eat Your Breakfast

It seems odd that I lost sleep over my iron levels, but the truth is that I did. After a battery of calls from the American Red Cross, I finally caved and scheduled a blood donation appointment for this afternoon.

I need to mention here that I’ve been turned away the past few times I’ve tried – which is mildly humiliating and a complete waste of time. For anyone else out there who has waited patiently in line, Aced the 30 minutes of repetitious testing (“For the third time – no, I have definitely not been to Africa this year…”), and finally gotten the dreaded pin prick to check their iron levels only to still not go home with a “Be Nice to Me – I Donated Blood Today!” sticker – you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps they should make a low-iron equivalent – something that reads, “Be Nice to Me. My Iron is Low and Now I Have a Stupid Band-Aid On My Finger For Nothing.”

You can imagine my excitement when I soared past the selection stage with a whopping 13.7 iron level. That’s probably even better than my SAT scores. I wanted to give the nurse a high-five; but she was pretty reserved with all of those syringes lying around. I decided to celebrate silently – thanking my Trader Joe’s vitamins all the way to the donation station.

I was a bit chattier than normal – which my large and stoic faced nurse who I’ll call Matilda didn’t seem to appreciate.

“Is this your first time?” she finally asked with the same tone one might use to say something like, “Would you just shut up already??”

I really couldn’t help it. I’d finally made the cut! I was definitely going to get a sticker…

“Welcome to the Canteen,” a white-haired woman greeted me warmly at the snack table afterwards. She seemed friendly enough – like her name might be Mildred and she had a quiet Maltese puppy back at home named Rover.

I know, I wanted to say – completely thrilled, It’s great to be here!

Make sure you sit close to the table,” she cut me off with a sudden sternness that I began to wonder if Rover was more of a Pit-bull, “And keep your feet flat.”

My feet didn’t actually reach flat to the ground so I did the best I could and sucked down some water. I quietly sent out a text to Jourdan to let her know that I was in the clear and would have plenty of time to head back victoriously to the house to let in the Cable guy to install TV and Internet.

And then I fainted.

It’s true – I totally fainted like a girl straight out of an old Western film. I really hate to think of the group of unsuspecting strangers showing up for their appointments at the exact same moment when I sank to the floor. Talk about bad timing…

I will say, however, that the absolute best place to sink into what feels like a coma is a room full of American Red Cross workers. Few things are handier than 20 people rushing at you with cold towels and stethoscopes (along with a few others hauling some folding wall screens to keep the public from getting any ideas…).

After coming back to the land of the living and groggily asking a nurse how I ended up on the floor, I was sequestered to a cot only about 2’ away from a snack table full of onlookers munching through bags of Cheez-Its and avoiding eye contact. I tried to strike up some sort of funny and self-deprecating dialogue; but it’s surprisingly difficult to speak after you’ve fainted and have cold compresses covering over 50% of your face. A few of them asked if I was feeling better. I think what they really meant to say was, “Amateur…”

Turns out there’s more to life than iron levels. Sometimes you just need to eat more than bread and a banana for breakfast (hard to believe, I know…).

Sadly, I was laid up too long to make it back in time for the Cable guy. I didn’t, however, miss out on the new pair of Toms shoes waiting for me at the door (see attached!).

So, boys and girls – Moral of the Story? Eat your breakfast, take your vitamins, and buy a pair of Toms shoes (and don’t miss the Cable guy if you can help it. Bad news…).

Thanks, Tom!

Thanks, Tom!

Looks like they're all getting along nicely (except for maybe the boots - but they'll come around...)

Looks like they're all getting along nicely (except for maybe the boots - but they'll come around...)

The Best Part About Best Buy

I’m not sure where I was feeling worse – the cosmetics aisle of Target or the TV section of Best Buy.  Either way, I was in a complete slump and felt like I was trying to hold myself together with sales receipt tape.

The few pleasures of being an artist such as myself is that your moods can wildly fluctuate depending on how well things are actually going with your art.  Unfortunately for me, things were not going particularly well in my opinion this past Monday night when a bright-eyed sales rep named John asked if he could help me.  “Probably not,” I responded with the enthusiasm of a dying tortoise.  When he realized that I was referring to more than TV sales, he graciously tried to cheer me up right there in the store.

“So you’re a musician?” he said, finally scratching the surface of what was nagging me, “And you have a show tomorrow, huh?  Can I come too?”

Please come!” I pleaded with an emphatic burst,”No one ever comes!!”

That’s when you know you have a problem.  When you find yourself begging – literally BEGGING – sales reps at Best Buy to come to your shows simply because attendance has been so low that you fear you will never sing again in this town. When this happens, I assure you that the happy Sales Rep will want little to do with you or you show (and, no, they will not want to bring friends).

So.  That happened.

When I finally calmed down enough to sleep that night, I dreamed that I adopted a small boy from Africa who needed more love than I could fit into a thousand shoe boxes and all I could do was hold him and whisper songs in his ear.  I woke up with a renewed sense of balance – as though my fixation on my frustration paled so greatly not only to the tremendous support and love I have from a firm collection of friends but also the gaping needs around the globe for people who have far less.  So what if things aren’t going as well as I hoped?  So what if I never sell out for a show or get booked in some classy venue?  There are worse things in life, no?

So I swallowed a few pieces of humble pie and trotted off to my day – closing my eyes tight every now and again just to get a glimpse of that little African boy’s ready smile from my dream.

Only a few hours later I had an email from my friend, Ryan, who I met at the Listener show from last week (See “Fun With the Interwebs“).  He had asked me earlier if I’d be willing to let him use my version of “Joy to the World” for a promo video at his company, Tom’s Shoes.  I love absolutely everything about Tom’s Shoes and what they stand for so I instantly said yes.  And here was his email with the final product – less than 24 hours after my bleak Best Buy episode.  Not gonna lie – my heart completely stopped in its tracks when I saw the faces in that video.  So much joy, so much happiness – all from such a small act of compassion and generosity.  Makes me wonder why I was so upset to begin with…

And, I swear to you – while I’m not totally into signs, omens, or foretelling dreams – that little boy from my dream is in there – throwing his smile around like a sunbeam.

No joke.  This all really happened.

So, here’s the video to see for yourself.  I hope it reminds the both of us what to really be happy and sad about this season (and trust me, it has little to do with these wishy washy emotions of mine…)

much love to you all,


Fun With the Interwebs

This just happened:

– I woke up at 11:23am (I’m unemployed and I’ve been battling a cold.  I’m allowed.).

– I checked my email at 11:31am and had a link from my friend, Stephen, who sent me a video link for a band called Listeners on my Facebook page (see below):

-I was thoroughly blown away by the video and was googling the band by 11:35am.

– By 11:40am I’d found the band’s myspace page on the fancy interwebs machine.  The tour schedule listed their next live show right here in Los Angeles later that night (coincidence, no??) at the Synchronicity Salon – an intentional community living space in the historic West Adams district.

– I got an email back from two of Synchronicity’s residents at 1:35pm insisting that I come out for the show and bring some food for a potluck before the show.

– I pulled up to the house at 7:54pm – a batch of homemade cornbread in hand that quickly landed on the plate of Dan Smith, the lead singer, himself (I warned him that it was a bit bland but he said he didn’t mind).

– And by 11:31pm – only a mere 12 hours since I’d even heard of these guys – I was joining the standing ovation and buying up merch (or ‘souvenirs/memorabilia’, as they like to call it).  I was also snapping off the pictures below with the tremendously talented band members themselves:

Dan Smith (left) and Christin Nelson (right)

we all happened to be wearing hoodies...

Yup.  This all just happened.

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