Friday, September 27, 2013

If You Like It Then You'd Better Put A Ringtone On It

I don't quite know how to start today's column, because no matter what I say or how I say it, you're gonna either think I'm crazy, that I need to get on some ADD medication, or that I've got supernatural powers. Either way, as of October 9th, I'm either going to have to get a new ring tone.
OK, you're already scratching your head, right? I should probably explain. And you should definitely read all the way to the end, because I'm giving away tickets to a show I've been waiting years for.

The Backstory
You all probably know this, but many years ago the organization I work for, Jefferson Public Radio, purchased the Cascade Theatre and led the crusade to restore the glorious performance hall I like to call The Crown Jewel of Downtown Redding. It's now in its 10th year of operations. In those years, the Cascade stage has hosted hundreds upon hundreds of live music entertainment. Big stars, like Bill Cosby, The Fray, and Bonnie Raitt. We've had some good times there, haven't we?

My Incredible Supernatural Powers
The other part of the backstory is that my husband Eddie swears I have supernatural powers. Every time we have an argument that's totally his fault but he's too stubborn to admit it, it rains and he misses a day of work. Or he gets a flat tire. Or a sore throat. The man is convinced that when I've been wronged, I have the ability to wiggle my nose and work some kind of magical payback. I've always thought of it as karma, but I don't mind that he thinks I've been casting spells. Keeps him in line (not really).

What Does A Ring Tone Have To Do With Anything?
About 5 years ago, I got a new cell phone. One that allowed different ring tones for different callers, and not just the generic ones that came on the phone. I could purchase and download a snippet of a song off the internet and use it as a tone as well.  My favorite song at the time was Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am." I  bought that and used that for my new boyfriend's special ringtone. Whenever Eddie called, that was the song I'd hear. The following year, I was telling Ingrid that story in person when she came to perform at the Cascade Theatre.
Funny thing though. A few days before the show, I upgraded to a new phone, and was horrified to discover that my special Ingrid Michaelson ring tone was no longer available. I had to find a new one to serve as Eddie's special ring tone. I made a joke about it at the time, that I had to choose wisely, because whichever artist became the boyfriend's ringtone, would end up playing at the Cascade.
So I went big.
I chose a song from the musician who has ranked in my personal Top 10 list for many years, but had never played at the Cascade. The musician that we had tried and tried and tried to book, but had always slipped through our fingers. I chose the one artist I thought we'd never be able to land...just to see if maybe I had some supernatural powers after all.
I chose Michael Franti.

So guess who's playing at the Cascade Theatre October 9th.
Michael Franti.

It took years for this spell, if that's what we're gonna call it, to work. That's just how hard it was to lure Michael Franti to Redding. So just take my word for it. Even if you've never heard of him, or have no idea what he's all about, just go. Go to this show. Plan to dance. Plan to not be able to see unless you are standing up and shaking your booty. It is a booty shaking show. It is such a high energy, fun, booty shaking time that the Cascade Theatre even put up a disclaimer on the website. In red.  With three stars in front and behind it. If you're not already holding tickets to see this show, I hope by the time I'm done with you that when I show up for work in the morning, that I find you camping on the sidewalk in front of the Cascade Theatre Box Office (although you can just buy tickets right here.) After all, I put some long, hard thought into making this happen when I chose my ring tone.

By the way....feel free to help me figure out what my next ring tone should be. Don't be afraid to go big, but be realistic. Justin Timberlake just isn't going to play a venue the size of the Cascade Theatre right now. That kind of magic will take about 15 years to work. Or more.

The Top Ten Reasons You Should Go To This Show
I saw Michael Franti and his group Spearhead perform last week on David Letterman, and it inspired me to put together my own Top 10 list of reasons to go see Franti when he comes to town next week, along with my Top 10 (okay, Top 20) Favorite Franti Songs.

10. He's From Around Here  Michael Franti was raised in Davis, California, where his dad was a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He went to Davis High, went on to the University of San Francisco.
 9.  He's super tall. He's a tall drink of pure spring water. Topping out at 6 foot 6, he's taller than Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Sting and even Michael Jordan.
 8.  He's barefoot. The story goes that back in 2000 he decided to go barefoot for 3 days. Which turned into 13 years. Occasionally he'll wear flip flops when he comes across one of those No Shirt No Shoes No Service situations.
 7.  He's kid friendly. I'm not saying that he doesn't sing about heavy things once in awhile, things that we wish our kids didn't have to be exposed to in their lifetime. Things like war and genocide and drugs and political abuse. He does. But he also takes time to include kids in a lot of his shows, has done special family shows at Britt. He's even written a couple of children's books. And that's cool.
 6.  He's a serious activist. The list of the issues he is trying to further include peace, hunger, environmentalism and justice. He is truly someone with a big, strong heart, a man who works hard to make a positive change in the world through his music.
 5.  He's a filmmaker. He's been writing about the human cost of war for years, but about a decade ago, he decided to put his money where his words are, and visited war torn countries around the world, and made a documentary, "I Know I'm Not Alone."
 4.  He's a poet. While in college, Franti met a priest who inspired him to write poetry. Pretty soon he turned that into music, and that music in turn was inspired by the reggae & punk he was hearing on the college radio station. And you know me. I'm a sucker for a college radio station. I've practically lived in one for 30 years. He lived above the one at KUSF.
 3.  He's agreed to appear live on JPR the day of the show. I can't believe that not only did we land him for the show, He'll also be on the Rhythm & News Service of JPR at 1pm that same day! More info, and stream JPR live right here.
 2.  His music is fun, danceable, sexy, soulful, funky and meaningful (see today's playlist. I can't even begin to explain how wildly different his music can be from one moment to the next. You just have to listen to it yourself.

And finally.....the #1 reason you should go see Franti on October 9th at the Cascade Theatre...

 1.  We're giving away a pair of tickets to the show! Here's the part you were waiting for! Because now you realize you really need to be at this show, dontcha? If you want to win a pair, let us know in the comments below, and we'll draw a winner in a week and announce it here. Don't don't have to publicly announce your email address. Just leave a comment. We'll hunt you down like the NSA.

Click on the arrow below to listen to my Double Top 10 Favorite Franti Songs Of All Time So Far Playlist, or get it directly from the source at Grooveshark.
Double Top Ten Franti by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Say Hey (I Love You) - This one was my ringtone for several years, in hopes that I could eventually work my magic powers on finalizing the Franti connection. Not that I'm really taking all the credit in getting him booked. Maria Kelly, take a bow. 
  2. The Sound of Sunshine - Perhaps his most commercial success and well known song
  3. Shake It - Honestly, the positive body image message in this song has made it my favorite Franti ever.
  4. Hello Bonjour
  5. Hey World (Remote Control Version) - His ability to do the same song about six different ways, each one entirely unique and wonderful in its own way has always amazed me.
  6. Hey World (Don't Give Up Version) - Totally different song. 
  7. Love Me Unique - And now you get to hear Franti's sexy side.
  8. Oh My God - One of his most meaningful tunes. How can he sing about all the horrible problems in the world and sound sexy while doing it?
  9. Love Invincible - This man has the funk in him! 
  10. Keepin' It Natural
  11. A Little Bit of Riddim 
  12. I'm Alive - He's touring to support his new album, "All People." This gem is the first single.
  13. Life Is Better With You - Another tune from the new album.
  14. Stay Human
  15. Yes I will
  16. Firefly
  17. Love'll Set Me Free - Another of my all time Franti Favorties.
  18. I Got Love For You
  19. The Future
  20. 11:59 - Another song from the new album that I'm pretty sure you'll hear if you show up at the Cascade on the 10th.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Girl On Fire

I am terrified of fire. A lot more terrified than I let on most of the time. But I don't think my fear of fire is unwarranted, nor do I think it's unhealthy. I have what I am going to call a pretty healthy respect for fire, and it comes from experience. One particular experience, mainly. I don't talk about it much, which is pretty odd for me. But I'm going to tell you about it right now.

It was 1985, I was 18 years old. I was out for a walk with my boyfriend on a crisp Saturday night in November. It was about midnight, because we'd started to watch Saturday Night Live before I suddenly got very antsy and told my boyfriend that we needed to get out of the apartment and do something. Anything. So we decided to go for a walk in the railroad district of Ashland near my apartment on 4th & B (today it's the Illahe Gallery, but back then it was low rent for a college girl).
As we turned onto A Street, we could see a glow several blocks away. As we got closer, we realized that it wasn't a hobo's fire near the railroad tracks. It was a building. On fire.

I mean ON FIRE!!!!!! It was on FREAKING FIRE!!!!!!! I mean it was totally engulfed in flames on one end!

We started running towards the flames, sure that there would be fire engines and police showing up within moments, that people would be running around, freaking out, like we were, because a building was on freaking fire! OK, let's be honest. It was on FUCKING FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But no. When we got there, it was just a building with flames shooting out of it in the middle of the night, and not a soul to be seen. Nobody running around, no lights on in the row of houses across the  street, no distant fire siren. The only sound was crackling flames and the two of us, out of breath after running for 3 blocks. It was as if the only living things were me, Larry and the fire.

Except we both knew that there were people inside this building.

This was the building that housed the railroad workers I often served when I worked at my shitty part time job just across the street, waitressing the breakfast shift at the appropriately named Railroad Cafe.
When we ran around to the end of the building that was engulfed in flames, we realized that there were actually two buildings on fire. The dormitory, and the old historic railroad depot about 100 feet to the south. Then it struck me as odd that the metal frame and rubber tires of a lonely bicycle was completely in flames, but not the wooden post the bike was chained to. It was right about then that I realized this couldn't be an accidental fire.

So there we stood, Larry and I, wild eyed, knowing people were in the building, trying to figure out what we should do, how we should react. Larry's bravado took over. He kicked in the nearest door and the first thing I remember seeing inside was a tv set exploding. And then I pleaded, "Don't go in! If there's anyone in there, they're already dead!"
He yelled back, "Go call 911!"
And then he went in. He ducked into the door he'd just kicked in, and disappeared into a dark, smoky room. I thought that would be the last time I'd see him alive.

I stood there, for just a moment, as my boyfriend disappeared into a burning building, and the world pretty much just stopped. I'll never forget that moment. It's the moment that I became terrified of fire, and then found out how I react in that kind of situation. It wasn't good.

When he went in, I stood there for just a moment. I felt the heat on my cheeks, and on my arms through my wool winter coat. I could feel my hair starting to curl up and singe. I felt like I was going to burst into flames too. I felt like the whole building was going to go up in seconds, taking my boyfriend, me and that bike with it.

It was then that I freaked out. I turned and ran, hysterically wailing the whole way, across the street and started to bang on the door of the nearest house, screaming, "FIRE! FIRE! Open the door! Call 911! HELP!" But nobody answered. Nobody ever answered. I remember screaming, "What is wrong with you people?!" before I turned and ran towards my apartment, a block away, still wailing and hyperventilating, and screaming hysterically.

As I rounded the corner, I saw a light on in the kitchen of the Railroad Cafe, where Marc, a former high school classmate who was now the night janitor and dishwasher, was oblivious to the flames across the street. I ran up to the door, pounding on it. He let me in and I grabbed the phone on the wall, calling 911. I was babbling so incoherently to dispatch that she had to ask me to stop, take a breath, and start over. I thought I was being so calm, I couldn't understand how the dispatcher couldn't understand what I was saying. In my mind I was speaking so clearly, so concise. I don't ever want to hear that phone call played back for me. I know I panicked. I know I was hysterical. I just don't want it played out in front of me again. I slammed the phone down and ran back to the building, visions of my boyfriend burning alive running through my head.

I don't really remember what happened next. Only that when I got back, my boyfriend was singed, but he had not burned up.  He was alive, and he was okay. And he hadn't come across anyone in his reckless venture into what turned out to be the rec room for the dormitory. Our next job was to make sure everyone else got out alive as well. It was then that he and I started to run down the east and west breezeways of the building, pounding on all the doors, rousting railroad workers from their slumber, screaming at these men that the building was on fire, get out NOW!

Sometime during all this, a fire engine finally arrived. I remember standing across the street, crying, as they started to fight the flames.

In the end, they all got out alive. Nobody perished, nobody got burned. But the building was a total loss, and was later demolished. Coincidentally, when a new, two story building was built on the same spot years  later, the man who is now my ex-husband rented an apartment on the top floor. Meanwhile, the second fire in the historic depot turned out to be in the trash can, and the building was saved.

The next morning, detectives wanted to talk to us. I thought they just wanted to pick our brains about how we discovered the fire and saved about ten guys from a burning building. Turns out they wanted to talk to us separately. Down at the station. In fact they hooked us up to lie detectors. They asked if the thought of fires excited me. Hell yes, I said, but not the way they meant.

When I stood just a few feet away from a building that was burning in front of me, behind me and up above me, I never felt smaller. Never felt more insignificant. Never felt more perishable than that moment. And yeah, that made my heart race. Gave me all kinds of anxiety. Freaked me out and made me start wailing hysterically as I ran down the street positive that my boyfriend was a goner after he ran into a burning room with an exploding tv set. Excited? Um, yeah.

I was bewildered that they seemed to think maybe I had something to do with that fire. I did have that weird, eery anxiety at just about the moment the fire most likely started. I chalked that up to women's intuition, or you could call it a 6th sense that we all have but haven't developed to its full potential. I don't think the detectives saw it the same way.
But eventually, they asked a question that made everything fall into place. I don't even remember the question really. Maybe they asked if anything seemed odd or out of place that night when I was running around hysterically. But I remember the answer. I told them how something I saw that night did seem out of place. Besides the burning bicycle and the second fire in the old depot. It was the moment that I knocked frantically on one of the dormitory doors, and it opened up to a darkened room. In front of me stood a railroad worker with his pants and boots on. High, leather lace-up boots that take several minutes to put on. And they were tied. As if he always slept like that. Ready to go. Yeah, I thought that was weird. I heard later on through the grapevine that they pinned the fire on one of the workers, who was apparently disgruntled with the railroad over something. Might have been that guy.

I've been so lucky over the decades since that night, not to lose any dwelling I have lived in to fire.    But it doesn't stop me from pondering every day what I would save if fire was eminent, if I knew a fire was bearing down on my home. But again, I've been lucky never to be forced to put my fire evacuation plan into effect.

This week, thousands of residents right here in Shasta County weren't so lucky. An evacuation plan was forced into action suddenly in the middle of a Monday afternoon. Some tried valiantly to save their homes, refusing to evacuate. Some managed, some didn't. At today's count, almost 70 homes went up in 10 square miles of flames, and at least one person perished while trying to protect his  property. I can't even begin to imagine the horror that the residents of Happy Valley and Igo went through, and I hope I never again experience anything like the hysterical terror I went through on that November evening.

But you know what? I've got a go-bag. Ready. At all times. My house is insured. My stuff is just stuff. If it comes down to it, I'm grabbing my bag, my daughter and my dog, maybe my laptop, and I'm outta there. Not sticking around to watch my tv set explode.
Because I've got a terrifying fear of  healthy respect for fire.

My story is nothing compared to the stories you're going to be hearing in the next couple of weeks from people who were just going about their business on Monday afternoon, and were suddenly faced with a wall of flames that took out more than 12 square miles of neighborhoods. Flames that took almost 70 homes in a span of about 8 hours. In my story, I was just scared and ran for help. You are going to hear  and read stories about people who not only ran for their lives, afterwards they waited for 3 days to find out whether their pets, their neighbors, their belongings and their homes were gone forever. My story is simply a testament to the healthy respect one gains for fire after an experience with one. And I'm sure that's something I do share with every one of the people that made it out alive from the Clover Fire.

Today's accompanying playlist is from the Best Of files...from just around this time last year, when I was driving to Redding from Ashland, and couldn't get past Mt. Shasta due to a wildfire that closed down the freeway. Readers called my attention to several songs that I should've included but somehow didn't, so reviving this list from the ashes is just that much better this time around with some new additions. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section below.

On Fire by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Click the play arrow above to stream the playlist, or find it directly at Grooveshark.

  1. Fire - Etta James
  2. Fire - Ohio  Players
  3. Fire - Pointer Sisters
  4. Fire - Jimi Hendrix
  5. Fire - Arthur Brown
  6. Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon
  7. I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen
  8. Forest Fire - Josh Wilson
  9. Serpentine Fire - Earth Wind & Fire
  10. We Didn't Start The Fire - Billy Joel
  11. Burning Down The House - Talking Heads
  12. Skies On Fire - AC/DC
  13. Fire - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  14. Bob Marley - Burn One Down
  15. Forest Fire - The Dream Academy
  16. Water & Fire - Deep Forest
  17. Forest of Fire - Jon Anderson
  18. The First Fire - If These Trees Could Talk
  19. Fire Bomb - Rihanna
  20. This Fire - Franz Ferdinand
  21. World On Fire - Sarah McLachlan
  22. Man On Fire - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  23. Burn It Down - Los Lobos
  24. Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
  25. Setting The Woods On Fire - Hank Williams
  26. Light My Fire - The Doors
  27. Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
  28. Paper In Fire - John Mellencamp
  29. Fight Fire With Fire - Metallica
  30. Firebird Suite - Igor Stravinsky

Thursday, September 5, 2013


When the smartypants   Illuminati   really cool hipster braintrust of Shasta County gets together this weekend for Tedx Redding, there will be a soundtrack. There's gotta be a soundtrack.

How's about this for before and/after? A bunch of semi-energetic ambient space music with a dubstep twist.
Tedx by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
And just for fun, I put this little Mapping The Connections playlist together. It wasn't easy to find halfway decent songs about maps and connections if you cut out Elastica and Country & Western.
Mapping Connections by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark