Hello Stranger from Issue #62
I never imagined, when I spent a brief stretch fifteen years ago doing some volunteer work at PopLlama Records shortly after I’d moved to Seattle (the first time), that one day I’d be doing some volunteer work taking care of actual llamas (shortly after moving to Seattle the second time).
In truth, it’s actually two llamas and an alpaca, and we’re not in Seattle proper; don’t think I’ve ever seen a llama in the city limits, but they’re not an altogether uncommon site here on the outskirts of Poulsbo (about an hour from downtown Seattle by ferry).
Our neighbor down the hill apparently used to have a whole herd of them, but by the time we moved in a year and a half ago, he’d let go of all but three — Serge, his son Cooper, and their alpaca friend Hayden. Over the holidays, we heard at the neighborhood Christmas party that these last ones were about to go to a nearby sanctuary.
We couldn’t quite imagine the thought of not being able to traipse down the hill and visit them, so we offered our assistance if it would enable keeping them around for at least a little while longer. Our neighbor kindly agreed, so since then we’ve been spending a couple hours every few days cleaning out their fields and bringing down hay from the barn.
It was Serge who caught our eye immediately when we first moved here; a remarkably friendly animal, he’ll eat a bag of baby carrots right from your hand faster than you can say “Conrad Uno.” There was, in fact, a rumor at one point that Serge might grace the cover of the new Tres Chicas album, so enamored with him singer Lynn Blakey had become during a brief introduction last winter.
Ultimately the Chicas opted not to confuse their fans with a picture of a large camelid on the cover. More salient, really, is that there is a new Tres Chicas record; it seemed likely to be a one-off project when Blakey teamed with Caitlin Cary and Tonya Lamm several years ago, but it seems clear now that they enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie too much to let it fade.
The new Chicas record provided enough motivation to carve out some space in my schedule for an increasingly infrequent feature-writing excercise (such are the demands of editing and publishing a decade-grown bimonthly magazine) — although, had I unlimited time at my disposal, I’d also very much have liked to write about Bruce Robison in this issue.
Fortunately, John T. Davis handled that assignment admirably, and even managed to make my day by working the Texas Longhorns’ national championship into the story’s intro. My wife has no doubt gotten sick of me rambling on about it these past few weeks, but when you grow up in Austin, it’s hard not to become a die-hard Texas fan.
UT fans my age who could just barely remember our 1969 title had anticipated this for a long time, enduring tough near-misses in 1977 and 1983, and a stretch of mediocrity in the late ’80s/early ’90s. That down time might actually have had something to do with my turn toward music journalism; initially I’d planned to be a sportswriter, but in Austin twenty years ago, it was a lot easier to get excited about the local music scene than Longhorn football.
Even so, those burnt orange embers still glowed deep down somewhere. Thus it was magical to be able to watch the Rose Bowl with my parents in Austin that night — and to drive down the street when it was over and gaze upon the UT Tower bathed in brilliant orange light on the Austin skyline.
If you’d like to take in a sweeping view of that skyline, join us for our South By Southwest showcase on Friday, March 17, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. the 18th Floor At Capitol Place (formerly Crowne Plaza), just off Sixth Street at Fifth and I-35. We’ll feature Bruce Robison and his sister Robyn Ludwick (also profiled in this issue), as well as Hem, Sarah Borges, Nicolai Dunger and erstwhile Jayhawk Tim O’Reagan.
Till then, hook ’em horns…and llamas.