The Man Who Invented Christmas

Imagine that you’re a young author. You’ve had a couple of successes, but lately you’ve had a series of flops. Your publishers are threatening to drop you. You have a big family and a lot of overhead. You’re in debt up to your ass, and Christmas is six weeks away. You’re desperately casting around for a book idea, something that you can write in time for the holiday. And oh yeah, you’ve got to self publish. Uh oh! You’re gonna have to borrow some more money. You’re cutting it exceedingly close here: it’s make or break time for real.

The really tough part is that you’re blocked creatively at the moment. Your past, present and future are haunting you (foreshadowing type hint, ahem) and there seems to be some kind of magical realism drama playing out around you: your friends and family, everyone you meet, really, start showing up in the guise of, well, spiritual beings in human form. Are they real? Are they specters, ghosts and phantasms? Never mind, they’re pretty interesting, and every one of them has a message for you. Write them into the book!

I won’t go any farther than that. Suffice it to say, this movie does not end like you might expect. It made me want to stand up and cheer, though, I will say that.

Ok, one little hint: it brings a new and much more profound meaning to the phrase “God bless us everyone!”

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Songs As Buildings

One of the endless and enduring fascinations of my life has to do with the structures of songs.

Songs are like little buildings: some of them are airtight and graceful with smooth lines and a floor plan that makes practical sense. Beatles, Motown.

Some songs follow a dramatic arc rather than a traditional song form because they’re in service to a story. LeMis and all its brothers and sisters. And you can call me crazy, but I think of Buffett and Springsteen as the bridge there. They create what are essentially miniature short stories using simple song forms.

Some songs are more on the hodge-podge plan, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, among others, have written some songs whose floor plans meandered about like a crazy gingerbread house or the country cabin in Wheeling that your uncle has been adding on to for years. They were great songs, of course. YES or Bela Fleck? Forget about it. Greater still, and you needed a map to get through them. As a matter of fact, it’s not a coincidence that musicians refer to the form of songs as the road map.

After all, if you’re a musician and you find yourself in a playing situation where someone puts a new chart (musician speak for sheet music) in front of you, what’s the first thing you do? Scan the road map.

You want to see where the various sections lie, which parts repeat, and whether there might be any unusual little signposts along the way, or maybe a musical snare or tricky turn to trip up the unwary.

It becomes second nature after a while, and for a working stiff musician like me who’s spent much of his life playing pop, rock, jazz and country music in a bunch of situations, a knowledge of the architecture of songs is an essential.

Did I just mix my metaphors? Never mind — architecture, road maps, it’s all good, and the rules of songwriting are more like the pirate’s code from those Johnny Depp movies. You know, more like a guideline, really. Shit, I did it again.

You’ve Got the Universe’s Back

I know what you’re thinking. It’s supposed to be the other way around, right?

Like this: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Either way, or both ways, I really like this idea. You may have noticed, though, that the whole ‘universe making it happen’ thing sometimes takes form in unexpected ways.

Like, oh, I don’t know, challenging you to learn something new in order to move forward. And leading you to the right teacher at the right time.

Or bringing up issues and emotions that you thought were already settled. And cracking open your heart to a greater understanding of those issues and emotions.

Or putting obstacles in your path when you were expecting an easy wind at your back. And putting the tools into your hands to move those obstacles.

Or pushing you to your breaking point. And reminding you that your breaking point is still a long way off.

Or plunging you into the dark part of the forest because that’s how the road winds on its way to the light. And shining that light just when you thought the darkness was too much for you.

Good one, Universe! Very funny!

Here’s one thing that always turns out to be true though: the stairs are better than the elevator. Make a decision, make your move, get stronger and get ready for the miracle that’s been inside you all along anyway.

Why? Because just as a drop of water is a part of the ocean, it is simultaneously the entire ocean. Always has been, always will be. A seed is part of the crop and it is simultaneously all the food and all the flowers in the world. Always has been, always will be.

And you …

God speed, fellow travelers. We’ve been home all along.

Two Streams


In 50 years of being a musician, the two main threads in my musical life have been American soul music (Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T. And the M.G.s, Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth Wind and Fire, all the Motown artists) and English progressive rock (YES, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, Jethro Tull, Moody Blues.)

They may seem like opposites, but to me they’re exactly the same. Beautiful melodies, smart arrangements, hot playing and most importantly, a transcendent spirituality. Put it this way: the notes are cool, but the space between the notes is where God lives. And come to think of it, those two streams certainly have their headwaters in the church, don’t they? American gospel and English high church! What a celebration.

Side note: I also really love those rootsy sounds from the old timey country world. Dobros and Martins. They have such a resonance, both sonically and culturally. Paddle faster if you hear banjos, though.

Side note #2: Oh, yeah, the Beatles!

A List of Links You’re Likely to Like


Just for fun!

” If you’re not drowning, you’re a lifeguard.”

The intersection of spirituality and fitness, with a heaping helping of awesome.

A positive path for spiritual living.

Demographics and more.

Frugality, smart investing and a bias for bicycles can lead to an entirely different way of living and thinking about life. Is it possible to retire at 30? This couple did. What does it mean for the world when lots of people make these kinds of choices?

News and commentary. Smartly written, reasonably objective. The magazine version is 160 years old!

The name says it all.

For those of us who like to write music using notation software.

For those of us who like to produce music with our Macs.

My favorite keyboards by far.

My favorite guitars by far.

‘Cause it’s fun to look at houses, you know it is.

Ha! Did you click it?

The Bicycle People ™

Three years ago today …

When I was running this morning I passed one of the Bicycle People(tm). He was on his hands and knees, barfing like it was an Olympic event. His friends were looking on sympathetically through their iPhones.

I felt bad for him, so I offered some uplifting words of encouragement: “Hey! Too much breakfast, numb nuts!” And do you know, I think it did him some good, because he was able to gather his strength enough to raise one hand and offer me a salute as I went on my way.

. . . well, ok, I admit it, that second part didn’t actually happen, but it sure does make the story better.

Now you might be thinking, “ok Mike, yes, that is a little rude and maybe even marginally funny. What’s it got to do with our theme of raising it up?”

Just this: runners, hikers and bikers are really, really good encouragers. Really, really friendly and helpful. Really, really good at offering athletic support …

>”Stop right there! We see what you’re up to.”<

Ok, sorry, but it is true that if you’re lagging or struggling out there on the trail or in a race, especially in a race, people will cheer you on and help you over the line if need be. And you’ll just naturally want to do that for other people too. Upward spiral activated, hearts in motion, game on.

See you out there! Or should I say up there?

David Bowie’s Furniture

It seems that David Bowie was a sophisticated collector of art. No surprise, really. I was surprised, though, to learn that he had, among other things, an extensive collection of museum quality furniture. Would you like to see it? Well, you can if you’re in Central Florida right about now!

The Modernism Museum in Mt.Dora FL is the place.

The members only preview is October 26th at 6 pm. Music by yours truly!

You can learn more or become a member (well worth it, by the way) by visiting:

Starting on Friday the 27th, it’s open to the pubic. It promises to be, what’s the word? Well, what would be a good word to describe Bowie?


Opening October 27th!
Become a member today by visiting and enjoy the upcoming Member only preview event on October 26th. For more information call 352.385.0034
David Bowie, mourned by the world on his passing in 2016, was one of the most radical figures in recent popular culture. Memphis, founded under the leadership of Ettore Sottsass in Milan in 1981, was the most radical of all design groups. This exhibition brings them together. Bowie built up an extensive body of Memphis work over the years – iconic works by Sottsass and his colleagues, including Michele DeLucchi, Nathalie DuPasquier, Shiro Kuramata, and Martine Bedin. This exhibition, the largest gathering of Memphis objects ever presented in an American museum, includes over 75 examples, many from Bowie’s private collection. It is a fabulous opportunity to see Memphis as it should be seen – in profusion – and to experience the private world of a great pop visionary.


Hiking or Sauntering?

A quote from John Muir –

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains, not hike! Do you know the origin of the word ‘saunter?’ Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, A la sainte terre,’ To the Holy Land.’

And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

Paula and I just came back from a few days in the mountains. And there was much sauntering!