The moon is full, and there is not a cloud in the sky. No stars are visible because of the deep white glow of the moonlight on the snow, which triples the ambient light and makes it possible to drive without headlights on these back roads. . . .
Hunter S. Thomspon, Generation of Swine, "The Dim and Dirty Road," Summit Books, 1988
On New Year's Eve morning I played a funeral on my banjo - just one tune, Amazing Grace, with a bow on the first string with a repeat performance at the graveside. I lost two friends to cancer in the month of December. This funeral was for one of them in the south of France. That evening I performed with a mariachi singer at a Mexican restaurant in Marseille and, after midnight, I played with friends at a studio devoted to free improvisation. The mood in Marseille and in France in general seems subdued and cautious after the attacks of November 13. The folks at the restaurant crowded into the "cave" below to listen to us and seemed content to sit quietly, drink, and listen in what seemed to be a safe environment; sort of a living room environment.
All this in one day after several months of thinking I was perhaps through playing the banjo. It's good to be open to new ideas; even the idea of quitting something can be a new and not-totally-negative venture. But I found myself back in familiar territory on New Years Eve. And in the next month I have to prepare for two performances anyway in Kansas and New York, so I've started a daily routine of practice again.
Amazing Grace is a tune that I've played most of my life. When I first met fiddler/guitarist Kelly Werts years ago we played the tune at a graveside service - our first gig together. And we played it late one night in an improvisational manner on an after-midnight radio program. And once, again late one night, when we were both frustrated with the lack of creativity going on at a lakeside festival, we secluded ourselves and improvised on it under a full moon. Improvising is sometimes like driving without headlights on backroads on a moonlit night.