Friday, August 18, 2017


The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  "How do I make the world a better place?" I asked Eddie, seated at my dining room table.    

  I have this shed that I'm trying to sell on Craigslist.  Eddie called me, a random person up the road.  He showed up a few minutes later, and as he was inspecting the unit, we got to talking.  He's a 64 year old African-American gentleman, a lifelong resident of the county.  He mentioned going in the back door to eat when he was a little kid in "the hard days", as he called them.  "Seems like some people are trying to take us back there" he dropped in passing.  I picked it up, and we started to talk life.  I invited him in for tea, he opted for water, and the conversation begin.  I think we were both a little surprised at first that a Craigslist call for a storage shed could be the catalyst for such an authentic discussion, but fortunately, that didn't stop Eddie.  

  He told me a good bit of his life story, how he grew up in the county, enlisted in the Navy, did multiple tours on submarines, traveled to over 30 countries, has seen a lot, endured racism, raised a family and a stepfamily, and is concerned about the hate.  One of his grandsons was talking about guns a lot as a teenager, but Eddie helped guide him to a better future, where he's now a talented college athlete.  

  We would have talked for hours, but some of my students showed up, being as it was a guitar teaching day.  And that's when I asked him what I could do to make the world a better place, and he said "Talk to people!  Ask them what they think."

  There's been a lot of discussion about Freedom of Speech.  I read a line that I just loved - "don't make free speech partisan property of the Right."  As a left-leaning centrist, I'm going to remember this.  And here's something:  this precious constitutional right of ours, sanctified by blood of multitudes, is usually just something that we notice when we don't like it.  We wrestle with the ugly price of freedom, and the downside of liberty.  As painful as it is, I plan to keep paying that price, for the alternative is unthinkable.  Once we give up a freedom, we won't get it back.  

  But since we've paid for it, let's use it!  Let's make it a positive.  Instead of just a passive endurance, I plan on flexing this constitutional muscle by following Eddie's advice, and asking people what they think, and listening to people, and realizing that their thoughts aren't regulated by someone else's.  You can't do that everywhere in the world, you know.  And I promise you this - even if I don't like it... I won't try to outlaw it.  Let's follow Eddie's advice.  Let's ask.  Let's listen to what they have to say.  It's not only good human advice, but good American advice!  I like it!  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  Good morning!  Here's another New York story for you:
   I shouldered the guitar, and the backpack, and hoisted the broom guitar
up the grimy subway stairs, emerging into a cool Sunday afternoon, deliciously overcast in New York City.  Fishing a box of granola bars out of the pack, I settled on a Central Park bench and let the "the sounds of the city settle like dust" as Simon and Garfunkle would sing.  Not outputting my usual roar of blues on a broom guitar let me hear, watch, and observe.  The cyclists rolled by, horses trotted, pulling carriages of rich tourists, and the breeze personally congratulated everyone who had chosen to spend the afternoon outside.

  Ziggy sat down on the bench a little ways down.  His face matched his worker's hands, and he leaned forward with a slightly confused look when I said "Come here often?"  My rat-a-tat-tat English was just a bit too fast for him, so I slowed it down, learned his name, mentioned the David Bowie reference to his name (to no avail), and we begin to converse.  I thought he might have had enough, but then he told me he welcomed the opportunity to practice his English, so we kept talking, and he grew more animated and confident in his words.  He was born in Poland, and moved to Iran as a younger man to work for a chemical company.  He had a choice of learning Arabic or English, and he chose the latter.  Then the war came.  He eventually ended up in America, and he learned how to do auto body work.  He doesn't have any family here, black cars are harder to paint as the bondo has to be right, but white cars can be tricky with the color matching. He might get a new job in Jersey.  I offered him my last granola bar, thanked him for the chat, and wandered off, as the stories biked by on that Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  Good morning!  WOW it's a crazy day around here!  I was scurrying around my house just now, and I thought of the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean where Captain Jack Sparrow is in Davy Jones' Locker, and he's going crazier.  He imagines a ship crewed with himself, and he goes around, yelling at the other Jack Sparrows to make it work.  I so relate.  The ship is floating, and it's underway, and it's a madhouse!

  But, I also am aware that while SURE it's a little hectic, it's exactly what I would, and did, choose.  Which brings us to the thought of the day:  Why are you doing something?  Often, "for the money" or "because it's the right thing to do" is the answer to the question, and a darn good reason.  Sometimes "for the love of it" is the reply.  Excellent!  So much the better when those two areas overlap in our Venn diagram.  I run into trouble, though, when I fall completely outside of any of these areas.  Interestingly, the topic of what I'm doing isn't always related to how rewarding it is.  I've played in bands that don't make any money, and aren't any fun.  Talk about a lose-lose!  So, as I scurry around getting ready for the mini-tour on Friday...I'm keeping reasons in mind.  Seems most everything is a mindset.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  I poked around a bit, and then wrote a note on my board.  I looked around on Google, learning the differences and the threats and possible controls, then I stomped around under the tree, then I went back to Google, then I went back and got the weed wacker and cleared the ground cover, and then stomped around some more to flatten the soil to establish a clean testing slate, and worried and thought "oh no, I hope this isn't a problem" and....realized I was the real-life interpretation of making a mountain out of a molehill.  Literally.  Except in this case, I was leveling the grade.  Close enough. There are moles in the lawn!  As long as the voles don't show up.  Those are the problem.

  It's not everyday that we get to live a metaphor.  I had to chuckle at the reminder!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Signalman Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  Yo!  It's Monday, and time for an announcement!  There's gonna be a tour this year!  I didn't think it was gonna happen, but, things changed, and I'm stoked.  Some of you may know about the #JURT, or Josh Urban Rail Tour.  I've been running this since 2012, traveling by train and playing on street corners along the east coast.  It's been a blast, but decided to take a year off.  WELL, got booked to kick off a celebration at a LIBRARY of all things right outside of New York City, which turned into a weekend of busking in the big apple, and then there's the solar eclipse a few weeks later in the southeast...So, a tour is happening!   This one is going to be my first road tour, so there will be lots of driving and coffee and snacks along the way.

  I'm still working out the details, but as with the other ones, it will be interactive - your participation is encouraged!  This one, like the very first tour I did, will be a theme of stories - finding them, sharing them, cultivating them, and celebrating them.  I'm taking a break from the planning to do this podcast right now, so this is super fresh.  Will let you know as soon as I figure it out!  I'm excited, and have ordered a voice recorder to take with me.  I'll be collecting stories in the subway and in little towns and anywhere I can.  I'll be playing the  broom guitar, showing kids how to make stomp fiddles, and making a ruckus with an electric guitar in a library, playing a punk cover of Sinatra's "New York, New York", and recording much of it on a GoPro.  I even ordered a special clip for my wireless mic, so I can use it in the library, having a volunteer kid drop the beats, and me strutting around with the wireless yelling "I THREW IT ON THE GROUND!"  Stay tuned, 'cause I'd love to have you involved in some way or another, be it jamming at a tour stop, sharing a story, or following along!  This is gonna be a blast!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Weekend Challenge

The Morning Show is the blog companion to the podcast audio

  Happy Friday!  It's TIME for the weekend challenge!

  There's a spider in the shower.  Just a little web in the corner, and now a buddy has joined him on the wall.  They are very small, and I don't mind 'em.  Makes it feel like summer camp or something, which brings us to THE WEEKEND CHALLENGE....

  Bring a bug outside.  That's right.  I know you hate 'em.  I know you're jumpin' up on chairs and screaming, and your girlfriend is looking at you funny.  It's easy to say no to life, it's easy to squelch dreams, and it's easy to squish bugs.  So be a gent, or a lady, and try bringing an icky bug outside as a small act of kindness.  And if you'd prefer not to touch, say, a wasp or spider, use a paper cup, creep up on that sucker, and BLAM, catch him.  Then slide a piece of paper under the cup, and take the whole assembly out of doors.  Heeeere buggy buggy!  Have a fun weekend, and I'll "catch" up with you on Monday!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ask the Experts

The Morning Show is a blog companion to the podcast audio

  Good morning!  Welcome to the show.  It's a theme I talk about often, and there's a reason - this idea consistently makes my life better.  And, for some reason, I don't see more people using it.  It's the idea of asking the experts around us.  For help, advice, guidance, feedback...everything!  I'd like to shout out two people today.  The first is Curtis Blues, a musician, artist, and teacher.  I met Curtis on the docks of Alexandria, where he was performing his blues revival street show.    He was set up with a resonator guitar, a drum set strapped to his feet, and a harmonica, singing pre-war delta blues and introducing legions to the story of America's music.  He let me play his guitar, and later, when I approached him for advice about starting street music on my own, when others would have been guarded, he did everything he could to make sure I succeeded.  I remember many days of playing on the docks, too, hearing his booming voice drift over the water like a delta blues bullfrog (in a melodious way), and him stopping by to offer tips on the art and craft.  "Make it easy for people to pay you."  I just had a phone call with him yesterday, where he continued this tradition, helping me learn about bringing a show to schools and students.  His generous spirit is not only kind, but actually improves the artform that we both love.  Thanks to his encouragement, I've played street music for the past ten years, in many cities, for countless people, involving many of them in the experience, and others in the craft and the business.  From broom guitar workshops, stomp fiddles in the south, little kids getting to try cigar box guitars in Philly, guitar students learning how to busk, or the folks on the subway joining in the blues jam as the 7 train rumbled above Queens, Curtis' encouragement was a sizable investment as a patron of the arts.  I was lucky enough to ask for advice, and he was generous enough to give.

  The second person is a lady named Savannah.  She's a dance teacher, and a kind soul.  I go to a salsa club near DC often - you've heard me talk about it - and MAN it's confusing.  At first, it was terrifying.  I was even clumsier than I am now, but after much practice, trial, and mostly error, I'm slowly improving.  Savannah and her guy Will lead the regular Friday night class at the club before the floor opens for social dancing.  One evening she pointed at me across the floor, and invited me to a dance. I happened to be wearing my "Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local" shirt, a reference to the comedy "What about Bob."  Man, I felt like Bill Murray.  "I'm SAILING!  I'm SAILING!"  (In the movie, he's actually tied to the mast, as he's afraid of falling overboard.  But sail he does!)  I'll ask her questions after class, and she'll give me encouragement and feedback, guiding me to better technique.  "Stand up straight!  Stop sticking your butt out!  There you go!"  Like Curtis, her guidance is not only kind, but makes the community better for everyone.  Every girl I've danced with after her advice has benefited from her time invested.

  I know other people ask Curtis and Savannah for help.  But I don't know why there's not a longer line.  We live in such a brilliant world.  YES, of course we should check Google first, but let's make sure we ask these skilled teachers for their wisdom.  It would be a shame to waste it!