Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

The Power of Commitment So last month I had this business trip to Salt Lake City. Before I left one of my friends told me under no circumstance should I sign anything if I visited the Visitor Center for the Mormon Church. I have been to Salt Lake a few times and all I can say is holy smokes talk about sprawl. The entire valley is developed from north to south and east to west. I couldn’t believe how much it has grown since my first visit. And all the suburban houses have lovely blue grass lawns. Remarkable, especially since the whole place is sitting on a sage prairie or it used to be a sage prairie. They have a nifty program there where all the homeowners in the new communities get unlimited water for irrigating their lawns for five bucks a month. Where is that water coming from???? Well it is easy to understand that the far fetched notions about piping water from the great lakes isn’t so far fetch when you see what is going on there. I did get up to Park City a couple times and even got up to Sundance and drove the alpine loop. Quite spectacular. Easy to understand why Robert Redford loves the place. Anyway the big Mormon complex was right across the street from my hotel so Saturday night, we took a stroll around the grounds and the place is spotless. Simply lovely if you happen to go for the manicured lawn and grounds look. In the visitor center they have all these computer terminal set up and you are invited to punch in your name and check out your geneology. They are noted for all the geneolgy records that they keep there. Well I sat down and started to type in my name etc when an alarm went off in my head…. I had been warned not to sign anything and I thought, Wow this is pretty sneaky. So I stopped myself and got up and continued to look around. There is a pretty good connection back to Kirtland for the Mormons. Kirtland is where good old Joseph Smith got a lot of insight about how to structure the church and all that sort of thing before being driving out of town when the Mormon bank had some financial difficulties When I left the VC I stepped inside the Tabernacle where the choir does their gigs. I must admit the place had pretty sweet acoustics and it was all I could do to stop myself from belting out a few notes just to hear the reverberation. On my way out the door, this sweet little 70 plus year old lady approached me. She asked if I would be at the concert the following morning. I told her no I would be on a plane back to Cleveland. She asked if I would like a CD of the choir and I told her I had one already. She asked which one and I said that it was a collection of Christmas Songs. It seems like we do somewhere, so I didn’t think I was lying. She said she had several of their River of Promise CD’s and she wanted to give me one. I really couldn’t say no so I expected her to dig one out of her purse…. Oh no, that wasn’t the program, she pulled out her check book and asked if I could writer my address down and she would send it to me. As I was writing Steve, she leaned over my shoulder and said make sure your address is legible so I can read it. At that point the alarm went off once again and I knew I had been had. You see if they can get your address, you become a target for all their young missionaries to come visit you in the future. In a panic, I put my work address down. Three days later in the mail a CD arrived along with a DVD about the Mormon faith. Being the spiritual kinda guy that I am, I placed them both on the desk of a co-worker with a note saying that I had brought them back for his spiritual enlightenment. I have been told by those in the know that I can expect random visits from young men in ties and white shirts for at least two years.
I had a great time last night performing at Brukner Nature Center. Wonderful to see several old friends, get some good hugs and contribute to an enjoyable fall equinox program. I had never considered a career in the conservation field prior to working at Brukner in the summer of 1976. I was hired basically to babysit the children of hispanic migrant workers who were passing through picking tomatoes. I was impressed with the layout and the design of the facility and trails but more importantly I realized that I could do something about things I cared for. I was motivated to change my major when I went back to Miami to environmental studies. Brought back many memories!

August Gets a Bad Wrap

I used to fall into the trap that I think many Midwesterners fall into, and that is thinking that August is hot and miserable.

Well actually on average July is generally the hottest month of the year in Ohio.

As we enter into the last week of the month there is a little coolness in the air this morning providing just a hint of anticipation for the chilling nights of September.

It is a neat time of year, everything that makes seeds have made them, insects are buzzing, the mornings are cool.  It's sweet with the decadent ripeness of the summer. 

I think August gets a bad wrap because we are ready for a change. 

I suppose I am looking forward to the fall.

As a matter of fact Robin and Linda Williams’ tune October Light off of their Deeper Waters CD just cycled up on itunes.

This is a great song and really captures that reflective yet anxious feel associated with the change of the season.

It might just be me but it seems there is a great deal of anxiety in the air.  Unemplyment, heathcare, teh economy, political unrest......

And for me I am still juggling the respocibilities of two postions at work, and that is wearing.

So much uncertainty makes it easy to flirt with a major emotional funk.

George Orwell’s horse in Animal Farm just worked harder.

I try not to do that because most of the time I work pretty hard anyway.  I tend to go the opposite direction and get sedentary.

Of course I still do what I have to do, I.E. work and those sort of essential things but I stop doing the elective things that keep me balanced and engaged.

They just become one more thing to do, and just one more thing to do means yet more on the agenda and yada yada. 

So while I fixing my coffee yesterday in the morning I had some avian visitors who were coming to check on me.

Many native cultures believe that we as individuals have certain animals associated with us and we may or may not recognize this association.

Well for whatever reason I have had over the years a number of encounters with robins that have if nothing else been engaging.

Yesterday was one of those moments.

As August starts winding down many birds start flocking up in preparation for their southern journey, and as you would suspect the majority of these birds are first year young.

While I was making my coffee, a group of three juvenile robins decided that they wanted to check out the grumpy old man on the other side of the window and gradually moved closer and closer until they formed semi circle around the window all watching me watch them.

If nothing more it was a pleasant way to start the day but for some reason this simple little encounter somehow motivated me to get up get going.

Sometime it is the simplest things that can change a perspective.

these little things are always there it is just a question of looking for and seeing them.

Or in my situations with the robins, recognizing that they were seeing me.


Burning River Fest. Last week I was down in Tennessee hanging with my brothers and Mom and Dad.

We had a great time staying at a nice house we least through Center Hill Chalets Center Hill is a large Corp of Engineers lake just outside of Cookeville, which is where my oldest brother and several cousins live.

There were only two houses on the dead end road where we were staying so needless to say it was quiet and a perfect place to strum some tunes on the front porch.

I drove back home on Friday just in time to hook up with a gang of folks I went to college with who were in town for the Burning River Fest.

After 12 hours in the car, I was a little brain dead and tongue tied but still enjoyed myself knocking around in the Foundation room at The House of Blues, recalling a few old times and calling people by the wrong name.

Saturday, I had scored a gig at the Burning River Festival for Caroline and I on the acoustic stage. We were the last set of performer and we were set up on the north side of the old Coast Guard station.


What ever was lacking was certainly made up for in the setting. The sun was setting directly behind and it was very picturesque, not to mention the kick of playing for a number of people who used to equality listen to Caroline and I play in the college days in many musical incarnations.

Of course there were several other surprises too like Gary and Cindy coming up from Akron and Jon coming in from Ithaca. (Which by the way I think I was supposed to give Jon a ride somewhere!) After singing away, without monitors, and over the drone of motorboats and sound bleed from the rock stage, we ventured over to the Velvet Tango Room for a few snacks and a nightcap.



Steve Earle & Joe Purdy Rusted Root and the Lake House

Friday night Mj and I went to Kent Stage to check out Steve Earle and we were treated to a great show.

I do love Steve Earle’s tunes and Joe Purdy was a nice surprise.

I didn’t know anything at all about Joe but He has a nice delivery and has about 10 CD’s.

Both were doing a solo thing and it was sorta motivational for me to take it all in, especially coming off the heels of the Nashville experience.

Reckon I should turn on the machine on and get on with recording.

The following day, as in Saturday, I was off to do a wedding.  The bride wanted me to do something different for here recessional, and she likes Rusted Root; So last week I spent a considerable amount of time working up a pretty good version, although I don’t think anyone has an idea what the lyrics really are to that song.

Then off to the Lake house where I was on autopilot for my first and about the same for the third set, but the second set, now that one felt great.


It was a beautiful night on the lake, and the place was simply slammed.

I was absolutely whipped by the time I was loaded out.

Woke up this morning and for the first time in months, wrote a tune.

I think a recovery day is in order.



Nashville Cats

So 40 or so years ago I took my first trip to Nashville.

I was riding shot gun with my uncle Roosevelt who was delivering a load of fertilizer to some place in town. I was constantly thumping on my guitar so he drove the truck through the music district to show me all the places where the music was made.

Just so happened that the Lovin Spoonfuls’ Nashville Cats was popular at that time so uncle Rose and I were singing that as we drove down Broad Street.

The song says there are 1352 guitar pickers in Nashville, I am thinking that is significantly underestimated.

This past week I had the chance to hang for a few days in the guitar town.

Through nothing but blind luck I wound up staying and a Holiday Inn Express right next to Vanderbilt’s football stadium.

I had no idea that it is one of the cities hot spots for singer songwriters, and for the three nights I was there I probably heard 50 folks plying their trade.

Most were very good and some were damn good!

Debi Champion put this together with the help of Lorna Flowers.

Both of these ladies by the way are accomplished song writers and Lorna happened to be celebrating an anniversary of sorts one of the nights I was there.

You can check out the commodore at this link

It was pretty wild to sit there and listen to wave after wave of folks take the stage and do a song writer in the round for a couple tunes each then surrender their seats to the next batch.

Folks can audition for a spot at the end of certain nights and get invited back of they have good stuff.

There was a great range of material being presented and while I don’t do much in the way of country country, I appreciate the form.

I was really impressed with one fellow, Trent Jeffcoat who had several songs that were really strong for this form.  Probably one of the best car songs I have ever heard, and a couple really funny thrown in too.

His myspace link is

June 26th I did an early show down at the Barking Spider with the bass man Bruce Locke. We were followed by a very good singer song writer from Pittsburg, Tom Breiding. Tom has a number of recording projects under his belt including his most recent project about the West Virginia coal fields. He asked me if I would be interested in coming down to Pittsburg next March to perform at the AmeriSon Ballroom Folk Series at Cefalo's Carnegie, PA March 2nd - Tuesday 7pm-10pm I would be splitting the night with a singer song writer from the UK Sarah McQuaid Both Tom and Sarah are very good
A compassionate presence vs. an uncomfortable act! The first time I went to a dermatologist was after I got a little piece of my skin caught in a sweater. Some of us have these wonderful phenomena where we form lovely little things called skin tags. Bout the only redeeming thing I could research and find out about this sort of thing is that some indigenous cultures regard this manifestation as a sign of mystic powers. Whoooooo Cool. I got my mojo working! In my late 30’s I started growing these things and some how managed to get one caught in a sweater as I was pulling the sweater off. So this inspired me to go to this dermatologist who had me pull off my shirt and he looked me over. He turned away from me for a moment only to turn around with a needle in one hand and some scissors in the other. I was expecting him to look at me and then give me a prescription or something to melt my little troubles away. I wasn’t expecting a pair of eyes starring over a surgical mask intent on poking and snipping them away. I wouldn’t say I was severely traumatized but I would put it in the moderate category. It wasn’t all so painful; it was just sort of freaky. I have this strange mental thing I go through when ever I leave a piece of my body behind and I guess I just wasn’t mentally prepared for that. (Especially my mojo and would I loose my mystic powers?) I didn’t go back to a dermatologist for over ten years. When I did it was at the urging of a friend who happens to be a doctor who happens to be married to another doctor who happens to be a dermatologist. Doctor number one made a convincing case that, as much time as I have spent outside I should really give some thought to monitoring the condition of my skin. With my Pop having various skin cancers scrapped cut and snipped off this seemed like a pretty good idea. So he convinced me to go see his wife. I have to say there was no comparison to my first visit to a skin doctor. When I left I looked pretty much like I had been shot in the face with birdshot at about fifty yards. I was peppered with all manner of little red dots where I have been injected and snipped, frozen and zapped and even scalpeled a time or two. That being said however it is appropriate to mention the biggest difference of all. And that was in my attitude. You see my new found friend the dermatologist, approached things with such an overwhelming sense of compassion and reassuring confidence that I didn’t mind at all. There are few times in your life when you really can relax and surrender your self to someone’s care. I try to do that when I am on a guided hunting or fishing outing. I certainly remain aware and focused but I let the guide take me where they want me to be. It is a remarkable lightness to just be. It is really wonderful in today’s world to be able to do that especially in the area of medical care. I have never quite experienced this before where a doctor overcomes a completely uncomfortable situation with reassuring confidence and simple compassion. What is so wonderful about the whole experience is the realization of how deeply committed this exceptional person is to humanity. Today is the third year I have been back and each time I get a little “beat up” but I actually look forward to going, as it is such a pleasure just to be in her presence. Sorry fellows but when we get right down to it, I think she’s my favorite Doctor.
Beetox vs. Botox So last Tuesday when I went down to get the bees at Ken the Bee Mans I got stung twice under my left eye and once on the thumb. By the time I was one the road back home I knew that I was going to puff up a little bit. Getting stung used to not bother me at all but I think after Jim Brock and I moved a hive in the night and got zapped a dozen or more times each it seems that I have on occasion puffed up a little bit. The first time this happened was when Rachel was a little girl and was helping me tend a hive. I had taken things apart and there was a pretty good cloud of bees buzzing and she headed back to the truck. I finished up what I was doing, walked back to the truck and as I pulled off my veil off I realized that one of the more irate bees had followed me. I stared to jump in the blazer and realized that Rachel had locked the doors. While I was negotiating for Rachel to let me in, I got zapped right between the eyes. That was the first time I ever swelled up after a bee sting and the next day I sort of looked like a pig. Anyway, since then I have had the tendency to get a little puffy depending on where the sting was. Since Ken’s bees had drilled me under the eye I suspected that I would probably have a lump by the time I got home. Sure enough after getting home and dumping the girls out in their new hives I could feel a little tightness around my eye and cheek. When I asked MJ how it looked she said that all the wrinkles around my eye was gone and I looked like I had a beetox treatment and suggested that I go out and let them sting my other cheek. That way I wouldn’t look like one of those TV commercials where they treat only one side of the face to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product. Beetox what an idea! This really could be a pretty cool thing if you think about it. Age defying beetox, nature’s organic anti aging treatment. Just a simple injection or two with a tiny hypodermic administered by a completely dedicated professional. My new money making idea fell apart when I woke up the next morning and found I had a lovely purple triangle under my left eye and it looked more like someone socked me. I suppose I will try asking for a little less venom next time.




Looking for a queen bee!

The Gals Are Back! You might recall that last year I got a colony of bees from my friend Ken at Mid Ohio Honey. We met when he and Lori had stopped in at the Old Fire House and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my play. One thing lead to another and the next thing you know Ken and Lori are dropping off a box full of bees at my house last June. Anyway, the girls seemed to be thriving all summer and fall but last winter was just too much for them and that exceptionally cold spell we had in Febuarary after the exceptionally cold spell we had in January brought about their demise. After pestering Ken for about two months we finally confirmed a date and Last week I drove down to his place near Mansfield to pick up a couple packages of bees. If this sounds a little strange it really isn’t once you get past the notion that you are dealing with several pounds of insects that are capable of stinging you. Bee keeping has a long history and it is yet one of many really remarkable stories of how the relationship between people and animals has evolved. Beekeepers do all kinds of interesting things and I was about to participate in one I hadn’t seen before. My history as a beekeeper has had varied ups and downs but having once tasted the sweet taste of success (yuk yuk) I have found myself from time to time wanting to get back into the hobby. So here I am going off to a bee yard with Ken the real bee man. A bee yard by the way is a place where there are several hives of bees, Kens’ bee yard happens to be surrounded by blue berries. We get to the bee yard aka. Apiary and Ken pulls this giant metal funnel out of his truck. I had asked him if I should take a veil, that is one of those funny net hats that you see bee people wearing in all the photos. Matter of fact in most of the photos you see bee people wearing all sorts of special clothing. They sort of look like HAZMAT crews with white coveralls, gloves and the funny hats. And there is good reason for this. A colony may have 100,000 bees. The first time I moved a hive I had a bunch of impromptu protective clothing and I got stung more than a dozen times but that is another story. But since then I would like to think that I have learn a few chops (that is a guitarist phrase which means I think I have learned a thing of two) about handling bees. For one thing, I have developed this approach of moving very slow and deliberately whenever I am working with them, this seems to make a big difference. Zen, Me and Bee make three. So when Ken said he wasn’t going to use a veil I thought “Cool, I won’t either. Ken Hands me this giant metal funnel and pulls a couple little bee packages out of his truck. They actually use these packages to ship bees. If you have ever seen a coop they ship chickens in these packages are like this only in miniature. (But the chances that you have seen a chicken coop are remote so I don’t know why the heck I even mentioned it. I used to work on chicken farms when I was a kid and occasionally forget no one else I know has.) Anyway back to the little bee coops. They are about the size of a shoebox with screened sides and a wooden top and bottom. The top has a round hole in it that is covered with a screen once the bees are in the box. We were going to “shake down” the bees into the package. I had no idea what that was about but hey this is how you learn. We fired up the smoker, which is this little metal thing about the size of a coffee can with a bellows on the side and a funnel on the top. You put a bunch of paper and grass in it and light it. Close the funnel top and use the bellows to puff smoke in to the beehive. This causes the bees to think that there is a forest fire coming so they all set about doing their version of an elementary school fire drill. In other words they get a little pre occupied and in theory don’t mind the plundering that is about to happen. So I follow Ken to the first hive, where he puffs a bit of smoke at them, tears off the cover of the hive and to my surprise pitches it on the ground. Remember what I said about slow and deliberate? Well Ken you see has been a commercial beekeeper, and at one time had something like 2500 hives. With that big an operation time is money. I haven’t ever been around a commercial operator before. He proceeds to pull a frame (a part of the hive that holds honey comb) out of the hive that is simply covered with bees maybe five hundred to a thousand or so, looks it over to make sure that the queen isn’t walking around on it then slams it down into the funnel I am holding. The majority of the bees is flung off the frame into the funnel and down into the bee package. The operative word is majority. Maybe ten of fifteen percent buzz off into the air. We proceed to do this to over and over again and each time a few more bees buzz off into the air. So in no time we are surrounded by quite a cloud of fairly pissed off bees. Ken has a grey tee shirt on, a ball cap and jeans. I have a white long sleeve shirt and jeans. Almost immediately one flies down my shirt. And I have to stop walk away and shake her out. One near miss. Then one makes a “bee line” toward a black wrist support I have on, realizes that the wrist support isn’t skin and promptly walks over to my thumb and drills me. Which is no big deal and I knock her off before she can really give me a good dose. However that little episode is followed by a direct hit to my left cheek right below my eye. I scrape that one off only to be hit immediately in the same place again. Thankfully our first package is full and we walk away back to the truck. Off course we are escorted by a few of the guard bees who have a sworn oath of office to protect the hive several of whom fly directly into my chest to make sure that I know they mean business. While Ken closes up the first package, I dig a veil out of his truck because; I don’t want to take any more shots to the face. And the next round of shake down goes off without a hitch. So know we have maybe thirty thousand bees in two little shoeboxes all ready to go to my house and be introduced into the two empty hives I have waiting with one exception. They need a couple queens. Not to worry. Mr. Bee man, Ken has one hive set up that is something like the bee version of the Tower of London. There is a collection of royalty each in their own little cell. Yep a queen bee trapped in a little plastic cell. Who is ready to be freed by diligent attendants who only have to bust her out by eating a hole in the sugar plug blocking the opening. Ken took two of these little prisons and put one into each of the packages of bees and we were done at the bee yard and were on the road back to Ken’s place. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Lori had made a run to the local store for cold beer and pulled in shortly after we arrived. And while we were walking around trying to figure out what a kind of new tree was growing in the corner of his yard was. (Clammy Locust BTW) I saw that Ken got stung one time on the cheek too. We had a beer on the porch and I played a couple tunes for Ken and the girls, Lori, Jess and Lynn before hitting the road back to the valley. Next up Beetox!

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