December 11, 2014
I hope the New Englanders among you have survived the nor’easter in style and comfort. Aside from a few leaks in the house we are warm and dry.
But right now there is a red squirrel sitting outside the kitchen window yelling at me. I spend my mornings sitting at the kitchen table, trying to write songs, taking care of this and that, because my office is too piled with stacks of very important documents to be a good work environment.
So I’m sitting here, lost in thought, trying to figure out what the Muse is trying to tell me, or whether I’m even talking to my Muse. Maybe it’s somebody else’s Muse, whispering to me through the ether. Maybe it’s a wrong number and she’s just trying to order a pizza or something — it’s always so hard to tell. Anyway, this squirrel rouses me from my reverie. He’s sitting on the window ledge, staring at me, looking annoyed and chattering away in a very imperious tone. Seeing that he’s got my attention, he stops his scolding and gives a rather pointed glance toward the birdfeeder. It’s empty. He’s ticked off because the birdfeeder’s empty. He’s accustomed to a better level of service.
I roar at him, giving him my very best “I’m a big hairy monster and I’m going to come out there and gobble you up,” kind of roar. He doesn’t even flinch. I try again, this time actually articulating, “I’m a big hairy monster,” and so forth. He looks at me with this “Give me a break,” kind of look and starts chattering again. “Get lost,” I explained. “You’re a Republican, aren’t you?” he demanded. It sounded like an accusation. Now he was making me mad. “Politics have nothing to do with it,” I said firmly, “this is a bird feeder, not a squirrel feeder. You are a squirrel, not a bird. Case closed.” “I am an American squirrel,” he said haughtily, “900th generation. These birdy friends of yours are mostly aliens. Canadians, for Pete’s sake. Migrants. They’re not even going to stay in the country.”
I was, I admit, somewhat taken aback. “But,” I protested, “they have a long journey. They need my help.” “Ha!” he retorted, “They’re richer than you are. They’re headed for their winter homes in the Caribbean. Do you have a winter home in the Caribbean?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I didn’t think so. So you’re willing to give handouts to these millionaires who are moving their assets overseas, but not to a hard-working American squirrel who’s down on his luck. Republican!”
“Now you’re making me mad, Red,” I said evenly. “If you don’t back off I’m going to go get the 12 gauge. “Ooooh, the 12 gauge,” he taunted. “A Republican for sure. Arms spending way out of line with your actual needs. A .22 single-shot would be plenty to bully around a poor little innocent squirrel like me, but no, you think you have to impress me with the mighty 12 gauge. Overkill, if you’ll pardon the expression. Deep-seated worries about inadequacy, I’d say.” “Now hold on just a darned minute,” I sputtered, “this is ridiculous. You’re a squirrel. Go get a job – do whatever it is that squirrels do to make a living. You don’t need handouts from me.”
Tom in the studio recording”Voices”
Photo ©2014, Neale Eckstein
He shook his head sadly. “Listen, Tom,” he said, “may I call you Tom? Listen, it was a bad year for pinecones, and the acorns … well, you could call it crop failure. The ecology’s the worst it’s been in generations. I’m not asking for a handout, but I think we should be thinking in terms of a safety net here. Think of it as the rich pitching in to support squirrels, American squirrels, who are less fortunate.”
I asked the Muse if I could get back to her in a few minutes. She said no, she had a bunch of really good ideas but if I was too busy she’d just go give them to Arlo. I shuffled off to get the sunflower seed, thinking that self-loathing in some circumstances is entirely warranted.
I’ve put up another new song on YouTube, just for you, entitled — appropriately enough in this context — “Voices.” I’m very much looking forward to doing this one at Symphony Hall on the 28th with some other voices. This is a secret page – just for folks on the email list.
This will, I hope, be a very romantic evening — candles on the tables, lots of love songs and good company. Bring your honey, bring your buddy. What better holiday gift could there be than an evening of music in one of the world’s premier concert halls? (And don’t forget the newvideo documentary – a perfect companion gift!) Am I being too subtle, I wonder?
Some upcoming radio appearances are listed below. Stay warm, stay dry, and thanks for reading!
All the best,
Quote of the month: “You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
Upcoming radio shows:
Sunday, Dec 14, 6 pm – New Hampshire Public Radio – Kate McNally’s Folk Show
Tuesday, Dec 16, 1:15 pm – WMBR (Boston) 88.1 fm – Lost and Found with Eli Polansky
Wednesday, Dec 17, 3:30 pm – WBUR (Boston) 90.9 fm