Welcome: The Beginning

so.......i am at heart a maker of songs. along the way comes alot of things that inspire my life's work. with some positive push by the closest of friends i bring you this spot for sharing with you the world and my birdie-isms. this is a hope you are all well and wondrous...here we go....love, birdie busch

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Behind Every Gold Record is an Average White Band: reminiscing about a gift of yesteryear on my birthday.

When I finished my first official record my dear friends and helpers gave me a present for my birthday. It was my record, under glass in the official archival manner, shining with a plaque commemorating it. It looked much like the ones I'd seen in the studio we recorded at, where the house engineer, Shelly Yakus, had some of his gold records he'd done with Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks hanging on the wall. But don't think this was a very slick studio. This studio was a converted auto garage in the swamps of New Jersey behind Somer's Point. It was more like a musty outdated rancher-home coke-den of sorts. Mavis Staples had just recorded a record there the year before, and was playing to very under attended rooms before the Jeff Tweedy collaborations boosted her back into the public eye and people began appreciating again what she never stopped doing. The Dixie Hummingbirds had recorded one of their last albums their with Levon Helm on drums and Garth Hudson on organ. The place was an incubator of passionate people just as much as it was for mold.

And that gold record? I was informed by a belly laughing Devin, who produced my record, that my fancy LP under glass was actually an Average White Band record he spraypainted with metallic paint on the roof of his place.

This week my birthday came around and I sat down to collect some thoughts, I was extra aware this week, mostly because I really honed in and decided that for my birthday I was gonna appreciate, I was gonna try some new things, and I was going to make music, lots of music for people to take in and take along with them in spirit.

I reached out to Devin to check in and say hi, he's en route to Budapest to learn a mobile recording technique and work on a project of international musical collaboration. He mentioned the gold record. "Remember that thing?" Yeah, I did. Perhaps going to Budapest sounds very jet-set, but for Devin I'd say it's more a 1,000 ton wagon led by ants that got him to Turkey. He is one of the hardest working passionate people I know, and at his age, perhaps there are more expected milestones to be had, but in his own way he is carving out his own peculiar life.

Milestones. I think perhaps at some point I lined them up in a pyramid and kicked them all into the river.  I think that there are many ways to live and every one of them has beauty and balance. I hate sometimes that I have a hard time organizing for much more than playing music and ensuring I can continue to do so. Something that still makes my hands clam up is when I have to explain to relatives at a holiday party what I do, knowing I could never quite reveal to them truly how passionate and in love I am with my life, when all they may be seeing is that this 30 something year old women is working behind the counter of a tea shop. And I realize that this can be perhaps just as much self projection as relative inspection and I'm working on it.

Another birthday thing I did was list my current fears:

Fear One: That I will not be able to keep playing music.
Fear Two: That I will not live up to my potential.
Fear Three: That I will dissapoint my parents.

So I guess when one worries as such it is best to get into an old church van with no AC and head to play music for strangers? The somewhat assaulting breeze whipping about makes you feel like you are on the high seas and the sound of the engine is very much akin to a motorboat. All conversations become exaggerated over the noise. You still only end up hearing mostly reactions if you are a bench seat away, like whooping laughter or the sight of vibrating of shoulders. I sit in the back, lean into the window, and just let that soothe me. This is family. This feels the same to me as when I would be in the station wagon and my dad would play Willie Nelson cassettes. But see, I heard those cassettes in a certain way, a way that I couldn't shake.

And here I am. Here WE are, at 2pm on the Merritt Parkway with everyone else asleep but me and the driver, doing accounting in the notes section of my iPhone trying to justify how we can keep getting to these places to make this music. But then we get onto another stage, setup all our equipment (so much equipment!) and do something we feel so mysteriously compelled to do and I just can't imagine cutting this out of my life, I can't convince myself to extract what is perhaps to me my favorite thing. And I have alot of favorite things, like looking for shells on the beach, drinking tea alone, cooking soup. Songs are where I can gather all of them into the fold.

We played shows this week for many people. For a 15 year old girl who sat mesmerized by our feet and I knew the experience was perhaps effecting her whole path much in the way early experiences with music did for me. Other shows we had families out in the sunshine of a late summer afternoon, on blankets looking over their children dancing in front of us with peaceful eyes. Last night a woman who wrote poetry in tandem gave it to me at the end of the night on ripped out wire bound notepad paper and I tucked it into my jean jacket breast pocket. We were introduced with recitations of prose from Siddhartha and closed out shows with disintegrating melodies of songs that never existed before we made them ourselves.

But the record I was gifted about 8 years ago perhaps fortuitously let me know how hilarious and somewhat bastardized life was gonna get sometimes. It was gonna show me that yes, there are milestones, all kinds for all people, and while there is a grain of truth and honor to each one, there is also an average white band record underneath the veneer, metaphorically speaking of course. Or in my case, not. But the intention is real and it is loving. My friends made that for me as their way of saying, "Hey, we already believe in this, we are golden". We are musicians, we're a scrappy bunch. Resourceful.  Bound for strange times. Able to withstand long journeys both physically and spiritually with our ear always perked for the laughter amidst the roar of the wind. I think Mavis, Levon, Shelly, they all knew this. And I guess through my own living so have I and so I go....Love, bird

(the poem gifted to us at Mauchunk Opera House)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The House of Love: Where does violence fit in our lives?

yesterday i was working at the tearoom and beyond the foreground of happy friends and tea revelers i saw a young couple walking briskly down the street through the window yelling in each other's faces in a side-swiping manner akin to two sparring race cars. i followed them with my eyes and watched the man forceably throw her over a line of bushes. i ran out and started yelling at him in expletives that he in no way has the right to hit her, to which the girl thankfully and sheepishly agreed and walked quickly off one way as the man the other. he got into a car, sped off, and with my adrenaline pumping i went back into the calm of the shop.

an hour later i received a phone call on the store's landline. it was the man apologizing to me that it had happened. i was reticent to accept an apology, for it seemed perhaps an attempt to quell any calls to police, but also an attempt to dispel the occurrence through words not action. i tried to let him know that it was not an apology i wanted but for him to consider how the future should hold for him a non-violent possibility and he seemed annoyed he had even called. i was imagining the girl finding herself around the corner, literally and figuratively, and hoping that both of them in some way at some point could find it in themselves to reject this violence from their lives. that may be long off. but when it happened, whenever the first time was for them, the trust between them was changed forever.

violence is like a nuclear bomb dropped on trust and the comparison leads me right into thinking about something that i've wrestled with in my psyche as a human on this earth: that in my core i believe so truly that non-violence is the most holy of paths. it's not even something that i want to argue or debate over tables, Facebook comments, chat rooms, board rooms. i feel in my heart that trust in my life has only been able to develop to its most holy place through unabashed, some might say naive, over assuming our kindredness more than differences peaceful process. this feeling has made me feel quite strange here. i don't know where to place myself and this feeling. when i look at a photo of my grandfather in a leather bomber standing in front of a world war 2 fighter plane i look into the frozen moment's eyes and get lost, wondering what feelings swirled in their minds? am i an ungrateful brat or a child of god? or both?

violence. is it all of the same place? or can we justify fighting to get to a non-violent future? or is violence just always shape-shifting? and is it strange for me to assume what works in the microcosm of my life will work for a world at large? but if violence is involved, trust to me never feels fully realized or gained. this perhaps has come to be one of the most conflicted contemplations and spiritual journeys of my life.

and now getting back to that moment yesterday. i hope that the man who called, albeit perhaps more subconsciously, called because he saw the eyes of the community and he looked back into them. i hope he saw that more than punishment we want to see change. and not only change for her, but change for him. because life is a long dark endless night if you think violence has a place in the house of love.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

avenues of sadness and the alleyways in between.

This week was peculiar. A week in which a best friend went to the hospital to discover her immune system was that of a chemo patient with no concrete reasons as to why just clinical conjecture. Each blood test that came back was a cross off of relief. Meningitis-negative. HIV-negative. A week where I found two $100 bills in the street in a way that felt serendipitous, a universe token to give to an amazing artist  waitress friend to help alleviate some stress for missing shifts due to said sickness. A week where I got to open up for one of my favorite bands in a beautiful venue because I persevered to make it happen. So it seemed in keeping when I found the dresser. The 1930's Bakelite handled, inlaid wood beauty. I kicked my old dresser yesterday morning at its brokenness. I've been kind of balancing the drawers on nails inside it and when I open the t-shirt drawer the jewelry drawer falls down into the dresser and the scarab that rests in the top of a pewter box I have falls out. Sometimes I just wait a few months to place the scarab back into its indentation knowing it'll just happen again rather than gluing it.  I made the decision I'd try and get one at a thrift store that afternoon. But instead another lovely token.

Today I went to see Howard the guitar player from the Dixie Hummingbirds with Mr. Huff in a home in Germantown. He is the only original existing member. Huff was with me to revel in the joy of the dresser find, and remarked I'd probably be one of those guys with a pick up truck with stuff hanging out the sides if I could. And as we drove further west on Germantown Avenue he asked if we could visit Howard. Huff, while 89, has not had to succumb to such a place, but he doesn't have eyesight to drive, so he's been sorrow stricken that he can't visit Howard to keep him company. Howard, whose wife passed away in the two years he's had to be there, calls the place an avenue of sadness. It is somewhat crushing to visit a musical legend in such a place, whose mind is still so acute weaving elegant thoughts, with visitors few and far between, while being on the short leash of an oxygen tank. But it is also transformative when you breakthrough the confines, when you pull off the avenues and seek love any way you can. It leaves you with that kind of day that you go home and sew those buttons back on your shirt finally because your head is clear as a monks. Mr. Huff handed him a crumbled selection of bills that amounted to about $18 dollars and Howard took it like it was a golden pirate's coin, their eyes locking and holding back tears that seemed the perfect cocktail of both happiness and disgust for how things can end up.

It was a peculiar week. But one that I felt better to go through, an affirmation, a meditation. I am ever more aware that life is best when lived knowing that there is so much that is unpredictable but also so much that is not. We will build our lives through love and meet the hardships together, and through our intentions the mystery will rise to our occasions and acknowledge us with gifts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Levon Helm Tribute Opening Words

Levon Helm and I had never met, nor had I ever seen him play. But our lives Venn diagrammed in 2005 when I began working on my first recording at a studio in a converted auto garage in the backwater marshlands of south jersey. The project before us had been one of the last Dixie Hummingbird recordings, a gospel group from Philadelphia whose most pop culture claim to fame was singing Loves Me Like A Rock with Paul Simon. But if you went deeper, you’d find that the Dixie Hummingbirds were a serious staple of American music and anyone of the same mind, that is, with a deep sense of peace and place in that gospel tradition, wanted to be a part. Levon played drums on that last recording, so weeks before we set up for our sessions, he had been playing in the same live room and to me, all the musical history that preceded had leaked in. I was giddy to be breathing in that same musical air, putting sounds into the same microphones and sharing a sacred space. To be part of that tradition, more than autographs and handshakes, has always been my motivation.

Sometimes I imagine America as a grand piece of fabric and the musical history as a lovely rich dye and picture dipping the bottom of it into this liquid and seeing it seep up and out, into tributaries and cities, making its wild way.  Levon resided for a good deal of his impressionistic youth down south where this reaction had its first contact.  I do believe he, whether intentionally or by the default of his joyous pursuits, became a prime transmitter of this history but he also was so free in himself so as to play like no one else. He, and the band in general, has made me want to defy mediocrity and put something of myself into the world. The best always make you feel this way.

So even though I never got the chance in person, I am always greeting the spirit of Levon Helm with my music. In the joy of it. In my respect for its journey. In my ever seeking connection to listeners. In my continuing observance of this life around me.

All of us went to the tribute last night to celebrate and meditate on what he had such a huge part of bringing into this world. For, how could we not reflect back our respects like an ocean illuminated by the sun and moon? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Philadelphia Poem Trifecta.

Bottle Dust

 There’s that saying,
“If a tree falls in the forest...”
but here there are no trees.
So how will we know when
there has been a casualty?

At what secret hour
are all these bottles smashed?
What point does the potential become the kinetic
and cause all this glass to turn into stardust
covering the streets?

Catching in my bike tires
like thorns and booby traps.
A farthest removed cry
from someone
amongst me.  

Huff’s House

I visit Bob
every couple months.
He lives up where the stadium used to be.
They would watch the game from the rooftops until that
became unwanted
and a huge wall was put up to block the view.
But eventually
superstition and the bad karma
of exclusivity
caught up
and the wall was taken down.

Now he just spends his time in the house with the shades drawn.
An oversize aquarium tank with a small single fish
percolates endlessly.

Viv, his wife, watches T.V. in the bedroom
unless there’s a church event,
and then she dresses to the nines
in crinoline and flowers.
She likes to say, “strange things happen everyday”
and I never can quite place the
emotional tone.
Apathetic? Dismissive? No.
Perhaps more hopeful for a miracle.

Their adult son
divides time between here and Corpus Christi.
Right now he is splitting it between the opposite couch
and going across to the corner store
every twenty minutes
the veins in his neck twitching.

He talks to his girlfriend
on an old model cell phone
and winks at me from across the room.
He says he knows about two things real well,
“police and women”
and that he likes the rain "cuz it keeps niggaz inside”
but he himself seems undeterred.

His 90 year old parents shake their heads.
Done with it all but
loving enough to let him have the key.
The screen door slaps behind his son and Bob,
sitting in silence
staring at the linoleum floor without looking away
“You ever know what it’s like to have a cow that ain’t got no milk?”


She would knock on
the door so much
that it became
part of the city’s rhythm
like car beeps or
sirens wailing

And often
it would be
just to see you
to observe you
the desire to laugh

A band of brothers
and a mother
wheelchair bound
living in the
public housing
on the corner

You’d give her presents
paintbrushes and paper
and she’d place her pictures
in her bedroom window
to catch the light

When you moved
she whined and put on
her best sad face
and that was that

Her knowledge of people
being there or not there
but her life
the distance of
the stoop to the sidewalk
and all the joy
she could find
in between

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bird Dog Grand Mini Tour: thoughts from the center of the rambling wagon wheel.

What do you do when you realize that which makes you happy is both the easiest thing and also the most difficult to sustain? I come from a line of accountants and reality adhesionists. You go with what makes sense. Perhaps this has been one of the grandest struggles for me, the long journey away from this truth. It’s not a universal truth, but it is a truth to many. So maybe it’s just a regional truth, and the region of my brain that holds my path is just due west or south of it.

When the kindergarten teacher told my mother over her desk during a conference that she had never really encountered a child who had such disregard for adults and what she was supposed to do, that was a primer for what was to come, right? Which is this. What is this?

I do know that when I am amongst the others of this tribe, I feel a support, an affirmation that it is ok. Not just ok, but supported and celebrated.  Is it songs? Am I the defender of the importance of songs in the history of the human race? I’m trying to imagine telling someone this when they ask what I do. Does anyone really give a fuck that I have taken on this job that isn’t considered a job? Sometimes it feels like a sad secret, knowing this necessity that everyone can tend to treat as expendable. Other times it feels like I am holding the keys to a glorious kingdom and my time here is just a flash, so I need to act accordingly.


So I go out onto the stage, and I look as many people as I can in the audience in the eye and sing my heart out, even if my heart sings a little out of key and croaky as the bullfrog pond from a childhood memory of mine. I did love that bullfrog pond so I’ve taken it with me. I am the sole representative of all my memories; they DO depend on me to spread the word.  I love this. And when in love you feel elevated and a tad invincible and no matter which way you turn it’s a battle of foolishness, foolishness to pursue such an elusive thing but foolishness to leave something behind you can feel is the core of your happiness. And happiness has truly been pushed aside way to many times by too many. We are a complex nexus of time and events but happiness? Happiness dwells in its own region.

For the tribe, this region is the center of the wheel on a rambling wagon that makes no promises and guarantees no futures. We are reality abstractionists, sound distortionists, and imaginary constructionists. And we do all we can to get to you, from town to town, compromising endlessly reality adhesionist truths, so that we may transmit a spark of the eternal. It is our grand nod to that which can't be harnessed but felt totally, humanly, and fully. 

love, bird. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Antonio 1922-2012.

People are always leaving. Everyone exits in different ways. When someone has been around for so long and their body lets go slowly, this is what we’ve come to see as the most natural way. These people seem to go as quietly amidst the expectedness as the closing of a flower.

My neighbor Antonio had been going for quite sometime now.  He left us a week ago. He was 89.  He had been in his bed for the last couple months, while his cat Cha-cha walked back and forth on top of him.  I would call him a lot when it got to the point that  he wasn’t able to come down and open the door and he’d say “no one is here right now Em-o-lee” in his thick Portuguese accent. It was like he was my Rapunzel. When I came home from working late or playing a show, I’d park and look up and see his popcorn ceiling sparkles twinkling through the cracks in his curtains and wonder how he was doing in the solitude that is inevitable towards the end.  He said he had been counting the sparkles and noticed that there were only so many blue ones amidst the gold. I squinted to locate those precious few.

His story is long. It involves being shanghaied onto a cruise ship as a peasant child selling fruit on the docks of Cape Verde and ends on 46th street in Southwest Philadelphia taking trolleys back and forth two blocks in each direction to exercise his last freedoms of movement.

I went to his funeral mass and received the xeroxed life story that mentioned workplaces, children and grandchildren. But what about how he kept a brown bag full of percussion instruments fashioned from wooden bedposts by his recliner to clank along to the radio with? Or how about his memories of the women in fields as a child, where he stood under their skirts and watched the sunlight shine through? Obituaries are not my story of choice. It seems like such a cruel succinct way to sum up our rides, why should we take comfort in such a strict form? 

My getting to know Antonio was a gift. It was and is part of my life that as a thirty year old woman I would meet this adventurer in the twilight of his life. I try to not sulk in the knowledge of how I couldn’t have been there with him when he was coasting on his bicycle as a young man. When he asked me to dance on his porch, awkwardly shuffling in the acutest of shifts, he did it with such bravado and thoughtlessness towards time that I fell right into rhythm. We would toast with some port wine tasting of grape juice and share what we could in the brightest of ways. While I’m usually quite modest when it comes to expletives, you know like, “geez louis!” , I’d like to say we  gave a big f*** you to circumstance. See look, even just then I had to star it out. Things are because that’s how they be. Get on with your life in the most celebratory fashion.