We have had a delightful time driving through the Southeast this past week…we found red and orange leaves when we hit the Carolinas, thank goodness….Fall hadn’t hit Texas yet. The whole trip has also revealed that the stereotype of Southern Hospitality is alive and well.

Waffle House

We stopped at Waffle House in Baton Rouge. One of our rules is never to eat at Waffle House two days in a row, and if you can swing it, not twice in a week. Sometimes it’s the only thing open if you’re eating late, but trust me…ouch. But their biscuits! Oh, their biscuits.

Sundilla Concerts - Auburn, AL

Our first gig stop was at Sundilla Concerts in Auburn, Alabama. The series is hosted in an old Baptist Church (now Unitarian) that was built by freed slaves in the late 1800’s. Our hostess for the evening, Rachel, fed us salmon, quinoa, and Brussels sprouts. She could probably sense the Waffle House on us.

Our next stop was a house concert with the wonderful Stidham family in Winnsboro, South Carolina. The folks here are warm and inviting and…they also have the best Southern accents we have ever encountered. Texas has a Southern accent but it is clipped and short sometimes. South Carolinians seem to draw out their words and add syllables to make anything sound magical. We could listen to our hosts talk all day. They also sent us down the road with some biscuits and cheese. Awesome.

Albemarle Sound

Then it was up to Elizabeth City, NC to the beautiful Museum of the Albemarle. Susan shared the show with Bobby Plough, who is not only a fine musician but hosted us at his fabulous restaurant. Grits and blackened shrimp were consumed.

Atlantic Ocean - Oak Island, NC

Oak Island, NC was where we dipped our toes in the Atlantic and I avoided stepping on anything that would make me scream like jellyfish or the detached bloody hand of a pirate. Biscuits were consumed. There is a carb theme here.

Liberty Arts Center

The Liberty Arts Center nestled in the mountains in Liberty, TN was another one of those amazingly cool venues run by Taylor Pie, an amazing musician. The hospitality was flowing and check out the wood stove at Pie’s place.

Wood Stove

The “In Search of Fall Tour” was a big hit…I think the Southeast in October will have to be a repeating tradition. We are on our way back now and a cold front is meeting us in Fort Worth. Better bundle up close with a biscuit or something.

Liberty, Tennessee

Time for another Ask Jana! I’ve been meaning to do this for a week, but traveling around with a cold makes me not typeable for whatever reason. No worries, I’m back. Proceed. (If I didn’t get to your question, I still love you).

John: Jana, why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

John, have you ever seen The Birds by Hitchcock starring Tippi Hedren? You would think I might be about to compare myself to the glamorous Ms. Hedren, but no. I am akin to the playground by the school in the movie…the one where it’s all awesome and perfect outside in the lovely Bodega Bay one minute and then you turn around and BOOM! Birds everywhere. It happens to all of us, this bird collection problem. Right?

My Hitchcock profile at Bodega Bay

This is me in Bodega Bay, doing my best Hitch profile.

Richard: What is the most important thing you learned in college?

I took a lot of great classes and had great professors at The University of New Mexico…I was a History major, Political Science minor, and an intern at KNME (PBS). I am not currently a history teacher, political scientist, or television producer, but all of those classes and experiences taught me how to research anything and everything…and to keep good tabs on my information. This comes in super handy in my booking agent work as well as my social media studies. I do rely on Wikipedia a lot, which was a big no no in Professor Spidle’s Historiography class but…oh well.

Kathleen: I missed the end of twin peaks. Who did it?

J.R. did it in a dream sequence, I’m pretty sure.

Ryan: Do you like documentary films and if so what is your favorite?

Yes I do indeed. I mostly only watch documentaries and shows starring Gordon Ramsay. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I have enjoyed The Fog of War, Fahrenheit 9/11, and perhaps the one that got me most was The Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is horrifying in that can’t-look-away style. I will watch anything about the following topics: aliens, 9/11 alternative theories, Moth Man, Amish kids running away from home, how candy is made, decaying cities, hauntings, or Mennonite kids pretending to be candy-making Amish kids running away from home.

James: If you could pick another instrument to learn (uke doesn’t count), what would it be and why?

I would love to learn the square neck dobro…but I would like Lloyd Maines to teach me and he’s a little busy. I also don’t have a dobro yet but I will one day. Piano is also on my list after years of refusing to learn it because my mom was suggesting I should do it. I’m sorry, Mom.

McSqueeb: What are your 5 favorite restaurants in Austin and top 5 in Albuquerque?

Man…so many good ones in both cities.

Austin: Madam Mam’s (Thai), Torchy’s Tacos, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Elizabeth Street Cafe (Vietnamese), and Home Slice Pizza.

Albuquerque: Los Cuates, Papa Felipe’s, Thai Tip, Flying Star, and The Frontier. These choices are mostly based on nostalgia, but I do love them. Oh, and Saggio’s because I used to work there.

Heather: What do you want for your birthday?

Warm fuzzies and a Vespa that runs on starlight and dreams.

Jeffrey: What is the one thing you really shouldn’t be doing while driving?

Probably anything but driving. I’m bad about finding something to listen to while driving…radio and iPod. That stuff is distracting. I have really tried to curb texting while driving because face it…I am not that important and COME ON PEOPLE STOP IT.

Chad: Why did I wake up with the urge to listen to Asia? And how do I make it stop?

It’s probably the same gene that makes me wake up with “Call Me Maybe” stuck in my head sometimes. The only way to eradicate it is to listen to Karma Chameleon. You’re welcome.

Kelly: What’s the one question no one has asked yet that you are dying to answer?

This is deep and made my brain hurt. If I told you, you all would just give up then, wouldn’t you?

Kristina: First movie you saw in a theater?

My sister took me to see Disney’s Cinderella (it was a re-release) when I was 3 or 4 maybe…it would have been in South Dakota. I was high on life that day.

Jay: Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?

“That joke is as old and stale as the air in Grant’s tomb.” – Susan

Heydon: If you could choose one mental illness to have for a day what would it be and why?

This is a brilliant question and I am afraid I will offend someone by my answer…though I’ve always wondered what the feeling of agoraphobia feels like. Some days I don’t want to leave my house, but most days I don’t feel right if I don’t go do SOMETHING….see some friends, go to the bank, anything. Sitting inside for years blows my mind…but I bet I could do it with Amazon.com and pizza delivery.

Jimmie Bell: How does one overcome being intimidated by the ordering process at fast food restaurants? The information is presented in a way to maximize profits, not provide clear choices. The photos are misleading airbrushed food porn. And the ‘person’ on the speaker has a nasty bark. Sigh.

I also hate to add to the fear but nowadays they’ve got cameras pointed right in your window when you pull up. Just sayin’. Anyway…I am a fan of having a clear idea in mind and not deviating from it when I order. If I roll up knowing I want to get a salad, I need to get a salad. This rules out the Baconators, Sons of Baconators, Double Whopper Juniors, Triple Asiago Mutton Chop Burgers, Quadruple Niece of Baconator Sundaes, and other things I might be tempted to get. ALWAYS REFUSE THE UPGRADE. You don’t need it larger, it’s already full of calories because it’s a fast food restaurant. Order with confidence because you are on the outside and they are on the inside of the fast food enterprise. You can get away and they can’t unless they crawl out that tiny window, so there is no reason to be intimidated.

Amy: How long before an uncut watermelon goes *bad* and how would you tell? What if it had been on someone’s kitchen counter for over a month, and they never got around to cutting it but because someone gave it to them, they felt guilty getting rid of it? Just hypothetically, of course.

I think at this point you might have fermented watermelon, and in this case I would suggest sticking it in the freezer for two hours, ramming a sturdy straw into it, inviting 6-8 of your closest island-themed friends over, have them sign a waiver, and have at it.

Victor: Why does all intellectual thought lead to chaos? All economists, philosophers, futurists seem to believe that civilization will descend into anarchy and starvation, but the human condition has improved dramatically for most of human history and certainly for all of the modern age. Can you explain this seeming contradiction between intellects’ thinking and reality?

I think maybe they forget all of the natural checks and balances we have in place like disease outbreaks, constant wars, and the weird fact that progress is in some ways killing us off. Our food supply is so messed up with all of our scientific meddlings that we’re all full of corn syrup. Our sedentary lifestyles are killing our communities and our bodies. Then some of us will inevitably make it through, realize what we messed up, and keep plodding along better than before. We are resilient if not psychic.

John: How far is “the long run?” Does one need to take a change of clothes before embarking?

It is as far as you make it. I have found that in the long run, people will offer you enough free t-shirts along the way (if you’re working it right) that you won’t need shirts. Pants, however…no one gives away pants. Take extra pants for the long run.

This gorilla needs long run pants.

Roxanne: How many dots are in the Domino’s Pizza logo?

I have never thought to check and sadly, we had Thai food for dinner tonight in Nashville. I bet I could find a box in the hotel trash, though…but I’m too scared to go digging. Anyone?

All right, y’all. I’m blogging about this because I NEVER remember my dreams. For all I know I’m a freak of nature who doesn’t dream…though I know we all do, I just hardly ever remember them except for maybe twice a year when they’re super traumatic and I’m being chased by an axe wielding Teddy Ruxpin or something weird like that.

Anyway, I woke up with such a vivid picture in my head of what I dreamed last night and it was so positively cool that I figured it was time to pull my blog-about-a-dream card.

Imagine if you will: I am wandering around a store with lots of cool knick-knacky things, wondering where I am…when I realize I’m actually in a book store in the one area where they don’t have books, which admit it…is sometimes the most fun part. As I venture past the corner I notice a long line of people and then, oh…Hillary Rodham Clinton. My powers of deduction tell me she’s doing a signing, and my need to meet famous people tells me I need to buy a book.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Sadly this bookstore is apparently way under-prepared for someone like Hillary because they’re out of books. I take this as a sign to just wander up to the front of the line (apparently I have no societal rule-following tendencies in my dream), step around the podium and say hello.

As would obviously happen in real life, Hillary is happy to immediately stop signing books for the masses and step aside to talk to me. She also starts shaking my hand and never lets go. The whole time we’re talking (which was probably in dream land…10 minutes), she does not let go of my hand. The awkward thing is that we were walking around, but we were not holding hands…we were in “hand shaking” mode the whole time, which now that I think of it, probably looked like some weird Mennonite folk dance but THIS IS A DREAM, PEOPLE.

So we’re standing there, Hillary is talking to me and shaking my hand, and we look up and there is a poster for MGM Studios in Hollywood. At this point I realize we had been talking about me making movies (because when I meet one of the most powerful people in the world, I’m going to talk about ME), and Hillary says still forcefully shaking my hand, “You MUST go to Hollywood and work at MGM.”

I don’t even know if MGM still exists or what I’d do there, but at this point in my dream I realize my hand is sweaty from all that shaking and I’m more aghast that I may have made the Secretary of State’s own hand sweaty by association, so I try to gently withdraw. She is not having it and keeps a tight grip.

I figure now is a good time to…ask about foreign policy? No. Tell her about my EP of course (it’s called For & Against and you can buy it right here). I don’t have any because I am a horrible promoter (unless I’m talking to Hillary, apparently) and I promise to mail her one.

Then my alarm went off. I assume she went back to signing books for the plebeians in line after letting go of my hand.  I awoke refreshed and ready to go to Hollywood.

“WHAT LESSONS CAN YOU GET FROM THIS, JANA?” you ask? Good question because there has to be a point.

• Defy the norms to get ahead.

Imagine what a lame dream it would have been if I either decided no books left equals no autograph, or to just wait in line like everyone else. I probably would have woken up out of boredom from standing in line.  Take a risk.

• Tell people what you do and don’t be shy about it.

For real, I KNOW what Hillary does. She didn’t know what I was all about so I told her. I am much more assertive in dreamland than the real world, but I need to try this out more and tell people what projects I have in the works. Since Hillary learned I was into making films and a musician, I’m pretty sure my next dream will entail me being her personal documentarian and playing the Christmas show at the Clinton Presidential Library or something.

• Ask mentors and more experienced people for advice.

Asking smart, powerful people for advice is two-fold in benefits because most likely they will give you good advice, but it’s also a roundabout way of networking. You ask Hillary for advice about working for MGM one day, next thing you know she’s hooking you up with her friend at the State Department who needs to go camera shopping and BOOM!, you’re a consultant (note: I do not know what they do at the State Department when they need new gear but I assume they don’t need me to help them shop for it).

• Have a firm handshake.

She had a really firm handshake. Maybe not for 10 minutes, but don’t be weak about it.

So thanks, Hillary. I got your book a while ago and it’s been on my list but now it has moved to the top of the stack. I look forward to it.  If you ever need a folk singer or a documentarian, call me!


I had my last group ukulele class this week with Kevin Carroll and I have to say, I’m a convert.

See, what happened was…about a year ago I got a ukulele because EVERY. ONE. IN FOLK MUSIC. HAS ONE. It’s a little cliché but they’re fun, right? Except that it sat there because I had some conflicting information on it (note: uke is not just like playing guitar upside down…someone told me that and my brain got confused) and then just didn’t pick it up that much except to plunk.

Kevin, my friend and Austin’s premier edUKEcator, was offering a 6 week group class and I figured a little group peer pressure would get me on the road to learning it a little better.

What I found out, thanks to Kevin’s devotion to the instrument, is that it’s NOT just a tiny guitar or a toy or the thing they play when they need Hawaiian music in a movie scene (although it is very Hawaiian, which is cool). It’s a really unique, adaptable instrument that is above all really fun to play.

We covered pop tunes, folk tunes, we learned a blues shuffle (uke blues yay!), and started getting into 20’s and 30’s tunes…those songs that Flapper Girls would dance to back then.

I have to miss the last class because I’ll be traveling, but Kevin sent me away with the assignment to play the uke on stage soon and record it. I will do it. Who wants to be a Flapper Girl?

When I was young…maybe 10 or 11, my cousins and I went to see a pretty famous children’s book author read and sign. Actually, I was so young and so excited about an autograph, I don’t remember if she read. I imagine she did. I am not going to name her because it’s not important.

Anyway, this was probably the first author I had ever met, certainly the first booksigning I ever went to, and I was pretty excited. I fancied myself a “writer” even though blogs didn’t exist back then, and I didn’t know how to play guitar or write songs yet. My cousins and I listened to the reading (let’s pretend there was a reading) and waited in line for quite some time as there were a lot of people there and she was, like I said, fairly well known. (Note: this was way before Harry Potter so no, it was not JK Rowling, who I’ve heard is delightful).

She was mean. I probably didn’t have the proper words for it then but I remember the feeling of the whole experience and she was not nice. When your crowd is kids and your genre is imaginative fiction, you’d think there would be a bit of…whimsy. Who knows why there wasn’t, but I remember her handlers (or the book store employees or both) being pretty stressed.

“She will ONLY sign ONE BOOK.”
“Do NOT ask for photos!”

Yikes. Pretty sure she didn’t look up at all as she was signing. Maybe she barked a hello, who knows. I got my book signed and then got out of the cattle call. My cousins and I kind of laughed in wonderment at how cranky she was all the way home.

She wasn’t a “hero” of mine even though I had read her books, but now she would never have the chance. I tucked that book way back on my shelf, and every time I pulled it out I would cringe.

Shawn Colvin at Waterloo Records

Yesterday Shawn Colvin played and read from her new book Diamond in the Rough at Waterloo Records. Of course I went. Thanks to Waterloo Records, one of the last best music brick and mortar stores in the country, and their live performances, I’ve gotten to see and meet folks like Patty Griffin, Justin Townes Earle, and Mindy Smith. Super fun.

Shawn is so cool and has been such a heroine of mine that I didn’t actually believe that she would be doing a signing there, but sure enough it was to benefit HAAM Day (the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians).

Everyone take a deep breath from my first story and relax. Shawn was excellent, of course. She did 4 songs and read passages from her book about moving to Austin. I had read her book earlier this year on my eReader, but I figured it would be weird for her to sign that, so I had to get a hard copy. I stood in line and she signed my book and she was super nice, and while I could have said something like “I’ve been studying your guitar playing since high school,” or something…those kinds of things tend to peter out really fast and have a tendency to make all parties feel old, no matter how true that are. Sunny Came Home came out in 1995, after all.

In situations like that it would be great to be able to really impress on a person how awesome you think they are without coming off as a crazed fan that is off her meds, but instead I decided to err on the side of brevity and just say Thank You. I really did learn to play guitar based on Shawn and Mary Chapin. Not many other girls were publicly mainstream-ingly killing it on guitar at that time. Those two continue to do so and lit the way for a lot of us.

Anyway…when you meet someone you admire and they’re cool, the world feels a little warmer. I’m glad this was the outcome this time. We could all aspire to this…who knows who wants to meet us but can’t really tell us why. Good behavior, people…be on it.

Shawn Colvin