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Albuquerque: Productive, Despite Packers Loss

I’ve been in Albuquerque for the last ten days. I spent the first 3 visiting with wonderful college friends (picture at right), one of whom has created two of my favorite children on the planet. The baby’s in Meg’s little carrier, and her older son Boris is below wearing my knit Packer hat like it’s a beret.

And then I spent the last seven days with my dear friend Sonya, a fellow writer whom I’ve known since high school. She and I have been on a self-imposed, self-led, self-policed writing retreat in a little rental house in the northwest quarter of the city, complete with early morning rooster calls down the (relatively urban) road and a view of the Sandia Mountains out the window. I was pretty sure this trip would be a fun way to see my friends, less sure whether my “writing retreat” idea was just a roundabout way to write off my plane ticket–sometimes I’m good at buckling down and writing, sometimes I’m not. A whole week seemed like a gamble. But I’m going into the studio to record another album in less than a month and there weren’t nearly enough songs to justify said studio time, so I decided to give it a shot.

It’s been wonderful. I haven’t worked so long and intently at a single creative task since college, and it’s amazing the difference it makes just to spend so much uninterrupted time with words. You’d think you use words all the time, that they’d therefore be easy to pick out of the vast vocabularic pond. But really, songwriting often feels to me like panning for gold in a deep swamp; if the waters aren’t regularly stirred up the gold seems to settle below the mud at the bottom. So I’m pleased with the five songs that I’ve finished this week–feels like some of the most satisfying writing I’ve done in a long time.

Plus, having someone else in the house really keeps you on track–we realized upon our arrival that there was no door between the bedroom (Sonya’s work space) and the kitchen/living room (my work space), and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Pretty hard to check our email and pretend it never happened when someone else is diligently working in the other room and totally saw your laptop open.

Plus, this little house is perfect. I wish I lived here all the time. Here’s a picture. And the website ishttp://www.lacasitabb.com/main/

A quick recap of the songs I finished–two reclaiming-a-once-floundering-relationship songs, called “Enough” and “Ghosts of Sheboygan Town,” a reclaiming-a-still-floundering-nation song called “Leaky Boats and Paper Birds,” a lost love ballad called “Pier 33,” and “Kathleen,” a song based on a poem written by my friend and collaborator Emilie Coulson.

There was, of course, the minor creative setback of the Packers losing their playoff game to the Giants. I swore a lot at the dozens of screens in the sports bar and whichever muses had decided that this was a good week for us to hang out probably ran away. Whoever heard of a folksinging football fan, anyway? Luckily for me, they (unlike the Packers) decided to come back.

Here’s a little video of our tiny writing house, which is delightful, affordable, and highly recommended if you’re visiting Albuquerque.