Monthly Archives: July 2008

Boston trip

I took a little vacation July 17-23 in Boston. I have some songwriter friends there that I met at the Lyons, Colorado Song School over the last few years. I had heard that Boston was a great city, with a great music scene, so I decided to go visit my friends there. Charlene DiCalogero was nice enough to offer me a place to stay, so I didn’t have to pay for lodging.

I played at The Lily Pad in Cambridge on Friday, July 18, along with Boston-area singer-writers Rob Mattson, Charlene DiCalogero and Tim Riordan. Charlene organized that show, and Tim and Rob helped with the publicity. It was a great little hall, and the crowd was small but appreciative. I used my handheld recorder, the Edirol R09, to record the show at the Lily Pad. I posted two of the songs on my myspace site,, “Like a Child”, a song I wrote last Spring, and “The Screwup Song”.

I also played two open mics. Monday July 21, I played The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, hosted by Tom Bianchi. What a great open mic! It’s a contest, with a $50 prize for the winner, selected by a judge appointed by Tom. You play two songs. Tom always has something positive to say about every performer, and jokes around between acts. Tom also insures that the sound is good. There were some very good songwriters there; the talent pool there is very large.

The next night I played the open mic at The Burren, a great Irish pub in Somerville. The front room is the bar, and the music room is in the rear. Here you got to play 4 songs, which is nice. (One reason I generally don’t like open mics is that I like to play for an hour. After two songs I’m just warming up!).

On Sunday night, July 20, I attended Charlene and Tim’s songwriter group, at the home of Chris and Esther (forgot their last names, dammit) in Reading. Great people. Earlier that day, we visited Charlene’s future home, a co-housing development on the outer edge of the metro area. And we went to Walden Pond. What a beautiful place; now I understand why Thoreau was so inspired.

Of course I walked around the old Boston and saw the Boston Common and the historical revolutionary war sites, and ate some good seafood. But it was mainly a music vacation. One afternoon Tim Riordan and I started writing a song. Tim came up with some cool chords and a lyrical theme, I wrote some lines, who knows if we’ll finish it. And I ran into Theresa Storch, another Boston songwriter whom I met at the Lyons Song School.

The only negative was that I came down with a cold the week before, and was suffering from that the whole trip. But all in all a good little vacation. I hope to get back there before too long.


My songwriting room

I get the impression that most songwriters just need a small room, a guitar, a pen and paper. I wish that was true for me. But I seem to get most of my ideas when I’m outside, and moving. I went hiking today in some mountains just outside of Denver. This photo is where I stopped for lunch. I bring my songwriting notebooks and handheld digital recorder with me. I’ll walk around and come up with lines, rhymes, melodies and such. I realized a few years ago that I’m an outdoors person; I’m happier when I’m outside, especially in the woods. I don’t know why.

A Billy Collins Poem

I’m going to write a Billy Collins poem
I’m gong to write about
the poem I’m writting about
right now
What I’m doing
Where I’m sitting
Very self-aware, you know
Like “Budapest”
or “Tuesday, June 4, 1991”
or the best, “Workshop”
You know, Billy Collins-style
very conversational.

How does he pull it off
without sounding cute or pretentious?

Maybe it’s because
in the midst of the conversational style
he throws in a great image
or a devastating metaphor
to remind you
that he’s the real deal.

(A pause while I take a swig
from my vodka tonic
The vodka tonic I made
in a beer pint glass
2 shots of vodka,
1/4 of a lemon squeezed
then 1/8 of a lime
and tonic water.
Now back to the poem)

How did you like that clever digression
with the drink recipe?
Just the sort of thing Billy Collins would do.

I’m sitting on my front porch
in Denver, Colorado
It’s June 26, 2008
A beautiful early evening
like all Denver early summer evenings
I should say it’s 7:30pm
(notice my concern for detail)
This is my favorite time of day
Perfect temperature
perfect light
I sit out here everyday that I can
at this time
and write
or read poems
I watch my neighbors walking their dogs
and I have a drink, of course
It tastes so good after running.

Oh I forgot to tell you
Usually after work
I go up to the local park
and run 2 miles
it keeps the fat off
and lowers the stress
then I shower
and sit on the porch.

I should say something about the flowers
I love flowers
So I’ve planted a bunch in my front yard
And I have planter boxes hanging off the deck
or mini-deck
that is my front porch
half of the ones I plant die
I’m not a good gardener
But I’m learning and getting better
I like the amazing colors
and amazing shapes
They make me happy.

So I’m sitting on the front porch
on a beautiful Denver evening
drinking a vodka tonic
and writing a Billy Collins poem.

No devastating metaphor
simile or image
but dude
this is like
only my third poem
or something.

-Rob Roper