Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Chance of Tomorrow

 

As I watched the moon


in slow ascension


pull the blanket of night


up over the sun,


I reviewed with appreciation

 

the memories made today,


and promised myself to be ready


 if rewarded with the chance 


of tomorrow.




Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press

June 2002

Friday, May 20, 2022

Press Release: Van Niddy Press, May 2022


2021: The Year of Collaboration


These last few years have been challenging for all of us, but when I look back on what I attempted to accomplish from the confines of my home office during a global pandemic, I’m pleased not only with the results, but also with the diversity of the projects on which I was asked to collaborate. Here they are for your review.



Departure: a book of black and white photographs by Dianne Woods with accompanying haiku poetry by Ken Owen.


I met Dianne while playing with The Craig and MacGregor Quartet at The Marsh in Berkeley on their Wednesday night residence gig. Dianne had become the resident house photographer and the band’s webmaster. One morning she posted one of her always brilliant photographs that inspired me to write a Japanese style haiku: 






A project was born that day, and we worked on it most of 2021 and had a wonderful book signing party with live music by (who else?!) The Craig and MacGregor Band in November. You can still order your copy here:  


 Departure: by Dianne Woods and Ken Owen





Viva La Exotica: Hunka Hunka Hula Review Debut CD!

While being sequestered for 18 months as the rest of the country argued about vaccines and masks, it became clear to us that we no longer required two cars here at the offices of Van Niddy Press. The irony of using the proceeds from the sale of the car that used to take me to onsite gigs to purchase an electronic drum set for my home studio projects was not lost on me. 


The kit came with hundreds of world drum and percussion samples, and I was having big fun trying them all out. So when my good pal Todd Jenkins asked me to play percussion on some of his new tracks, I jumped at the chance to use my new rig to add some groovy exotica-surf-percussion to his ukulele and steel guitar party songs. The songs came out great and should be in your collection for this summer’s back yard Mai Tai parties! You can check it out here:   

Hunka Hunka Hula Review




Morning Walk: Dave Berry and Friends

My pal Dave Berry, local bluegrass player and genre aficionado, asked if I could add some snare drum and brushes to one of the original tunes he was recording. After listening to the track, I realized it sounded fine and rhythmically didn’t need any percussion, BUT I happened to mention a few things I thought might make it sound a bit better. ( Any musicians reading this will instantly recognize this as the moment when the drummer says, “Yeah…but…”)


However, if you are consistent in your pestering (going on 50 years now for me and my unfortunate band mates) someone is bound to listen to your ideas. Dave took the plunge and enlisted me as his second set of critical ears for his project. Yes Virginia, the drummer…as an ‘Associate Producer’…on a bluegrass album…where he played no drums. Strange days, indeed.


I enjoyed the challenge immensely. Dave and I are very proud of how the project came out; these are his original bluegrass/Celtic tunes with strong melodies you’ll be singing by the end of the track, with top notch performances by all the musicians. Available for sampling and download here: 


Morning Walk: Dave Berry and Friends



Well friends, just when we thought it was safe to head back into the clubs to bring everyone some live entertainment, it looks like we still might be playing in roped-off parking lots for a while. Thank you for supporting our local musicians; live when we can, streaming from an empty club or at home working on our projects when we must.



In appreciation of your continued support,




Ken Owen

CEO, Van Niddy Press

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sorry About The Meatloaf

 

The leftover meatloaf was bland.


I ate the whole portion I was given

but did not ask for seconds,

and tried to make my adding salt 

as clandestine an effort as possible.


I never complained, never said a word,

because the meatloaf,

which is usually very tasty

and one of my favorites,


would most likely have been 

up to its usual excellence

had I remembered to call

and say I would be late

when she cooked it 

yesterday.


So instead

when I finally remembered and called

to announce my tardiness that had

become obvious to her hours earlier,


I could tell by the tone of her voice

that my dinner was now 

being basted with large portions

of Chef’s Contempt.


I guess it makes sense how 

some meals taste better the next day

but most won’t when they are left to marinate

in a vat of Selfish Bastard

overnight.



Sorry about the meatloaf.



Ken Owen   May 2002

Van Niddy Press

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Texas Storm: Poems by Popi and Ruby


Raining in the Dark


Outside is muddy

where I hear thunder,

I see the lightning 

going flash, flash, flash!

So many commotions 

in one big big sleep,

it’s so loud

I can’t hear a peep.

Feeling content yet excited

boom, boom, boom,

one strike, two,

how about I say 

goodbye to you,

that way the sky 

can be back to blue.


by Ruby Leitner, age 8


***


The Texas Storm


Outside my window

the trees took a shower

and danced in the powerful wind.


Lightning strikes 

lit up the dark night

and all this commotion 

woke me from my sleepy sleep.


I saw the lightning 

with my eyes closed,

and I heard the thunder

boom, boom, boom

without even trying.


Then the storm 

left me behind

without saying goodbye 

as I fell back to sleep.


-by Popi, age 64



Poem Writing Collaboration, May 2022

Providence Village, Texas

Van Niddy Press

Friday, February 25, 2022

I Curse The Sacred Waters


Once a month the maintenance crew for our apartment building turns off our water to perform a mysterious ritual on the building’s water supply. Though I have never been witness to this secret ceremony, I like to imagine many men dressed in greasy hooded work clothes moving in a slow circle around the water system somewhere in the bowels of our building quietly reciting soft incantations and waving great metal tools of salvation while the anointed High Priest of the maintenance crew performs the sacred ritual of purifying the waters.


Though I am sure all the tenants of the apartment building are grateful for these efforts, when the maintenance crew brings the water supply back to life and re-pressurize the pipes so that the sanctified waters will flow once again reinvigorated on their long journey to our seventh floor apartment, when we turn on our faucets we are greeted with a very loud billowing gush of pressurized air.


It scares the living shit out of me every time.


I try to remind myself that this will happen so I wont be startled, and if I’m lucky I might remember when I go to use the kitchen sink or even the toilet that afternoon. But by the end of the day, the odds are very good that I will have forgotten about the day’s water purifying ritual, and when I draw a bath to help quiet the basket of thoughts that have become stuck in my head and are talking all at once, a loud boom of angry air will come shouting into the tub announcing the arrival of the newly sanctified hot water and produce the exact opposite of the calming affect I was seeking.


The last time this happened, I noticed that I curse a certain way depending on what has given me cause to be frightened. For example, if my partner suddenly appears from around the corner of our small apartment while I am day dreaming, I find that my usual response is…


JE-Susfuckingchristalmighty


(that is all one word, with strong emphasis on the JE!-Sus)


…however, when I am REALLY startled, like when the bath tub faucet screams at me, I seem to default to…


JE-Sus…Mary…and mother fuckin’ Joseph


…using a slowly retarding rhythm and a descending inflection in one long drawn out sentence of exasperation while clutching my heart with a free hand and my eyes closed.


***


Being on the 7th floor of our building means we have to waste many gallons of water waiting for the hot water to slowly make its way up to our apartment. California has been several years in a drought, and as good citizens of the state, we have learned how precious water is and what we can do to preserve it: we turn off the water when brushing our teeth, we capture buckets of water while waiting for the hot water to arrive for our shower and dish washing, and we use these buckets the next day to water our thirsty plants.


Dish washing in our apartment complex comes with its own unwritten time table. It seems that when most folks in the apartments below us are home from their day jobs and begin washing their dinner dishes after 7:00pm, we can successfully coax the hot water to continue its climb to our apartment. However, trying to convince the hot water to make a solitary trip to the 7th floor at 2:00pm or 11:00pm is pointless even while we patiently capture buckets of water during the wait. After filling two 3-gallon buckets with cold water, I find that, in exasperation, I give up on the task and swear with a mild cursing of “Son-of-a…” that trails off in a sentence that is not meant to finish. 


This might not seem like a big deal, but if I get too comfortable on the couch after dinner and forget about the allotted time window for doing dinner dishes with hot water, the next thing I know, our nightly movie watching is over, it’s 11:00pm, there’s a sink full of dinner dishes and cocktail glasses, and no hot water. This ends my day with what could be described as an ‘OCD Trigger’; knowing that I am destined to start tomorrow by making coffee in a kitchen full of dirty dishes. As much as this thought causes me grief, I have noticed that, irked with no hot water to finish the last chore of the day, all I can usually muster for a good curse is “Ah-god-damn-it….” as I give up and shuffle off to bed.


***


One day I was awakened from my afternoon nap by what sounded like marbles rolling around inside the pipes of the bedroom toilet. Even though my mind was still returning from a dream state, I knew exactly what had happened (comfortable with the bold theory that no one had actually put marbles in the toilet pipes); the maintenance crew had convened an emergency session of The Sacred Waters Kabal and turned off the water while I slept, and were now re-pressurizing the water pipes at the completion of their ceremony. Sure enough, when I turned on the shower, the pipes screamed in agony with a gush of new air and then produced cold water containing samples of dirt and bits of metal flake that had escaped capture by the maintenance crew (imagining  the water quality of our showers prior to the cleansing ritual does not produce curses, only squinty-eyed crinkled nose winces of disgust). Since I had mentally prepared myself for the possibility of shouting water pipes, I offered no curse when turning on the shower, only a boastful sneer and a nod of pride knowing that this time I had not been fooled.


Our role as tenants in The Cleansing of The Waters ritual comes with only two tasks of responsibility:  1) try to remember about screaming pipes when you turn the water back on, and 2) let the water run for a few minutes after you summon it to the 7th floor. A lapse in either of these duties could summon either a chill of disgust or a spectacular curse even Je-Suschrist would appreciate.




Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press

February 2022

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Walking A Small Child



The vigilant dog
Keeping the neighborhood safe,
Walking a small child.


The blistering sun
Shows the way to a shade tree,
Walking a small child.


The colorful kite
On a blustery blue day,
Walking a small child.


The billowing wind
Sends all quickly on their way,
Walking a small child.


The guardian moon
Makes safe the room for sleeping,
Walking a small child.


The brilliant stars
Guiding the way for dreaming,
Walking a small child.




Ken Owen   January 2022
Van Niddy Press
 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

When Thought Takes Wing


Before he could return to the room 

with pen and paper to capture 

the newborn thought 

that appeared in a spark of brilliance 

boasting of its potential 

and demanding it be documented 

immediately for posterity 


the thought 

grew impatient

        jumped up

        sprouted wings 

and learning to fly 

took a few test flights 

around the room 


then it hung in the air for a brief moment 

tilting its head slightly while 

looking down in amusement 

and flew quickly towards him


giving the impression it might land

right on the tip of his tongue 

and lovingly peck at his forehead 

so to loosen things up 

as if shaking the branch 

of the tree from where it was born 

might deliver him the golden thought 


but the thought never landed

and stayed enticingly just out of reach

as if to gift him the lesson

of lost potential


but before it left

it winked at him as if to say

“Faster next time” 


and flew away


leaving him to wonder

if all his escaped thoughts

were landing in the same stark field

somewhere in the night

many miles away.



He quickly wrote that down.



Ken Owen     Van Niddy Press

January 2022

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Banquet

Each day begins a great battle 

to establish a hierarchy of power 

determining rank and privileges 

for places at the banquet 


as all combatants strive to capture 

the highest position with fewest above them 

while those at the summit decide 

who may attend and for how long.


As the strong wage attacks

in great flurries of action 

and shows of strength to 

fiercely guard their position 


the weak sit below patiently waiting 

for an opening at the banquet 

while scavenging discarded bits tossed aside 

from those with no regard for wasting.


This conflict might easily be avoided 

if those bestowed with the smallest measure 

of consciousness could make time for a 

quiet moment of reflection 


that they may realize our bountiful harvest 

could sustain everyone regardless of position 

and the battle against nature’s instinct 

stamped internal across all species 

need not rage on.



-inspired while watching the garden bird feeder



Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press

January 2022