Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Farewell

Trauma in China 
(but nothing to do with Hong Kong or tariff wars)

Review by Ken Burke

                            The Farewell (Lulu Wang)   rated PG
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): A young woman born in China but raised in NYC learns the heartbreaking news from her parents (also NYC natives now) her grandmother back in the old country has terminal cancer, prompting members of the family living abroad to return home under the excuse of attending a relative’s wedding so they can all see Nai Nai (Grandma) again, but with the burden of keeping the tragic news to themselves so as not to turn the old woman’s remaining days into a cascade of fearful sorrow.  The financially-struggling granddaughter somehow comes up with the cash to make this trip halfway around the world to join the others, even though her parents discouraged her attendance because she’ll have such a difficult time controlling her emotions (it’s not easy for the rest of them either, especially a son who breaks down during the wedding banquet speech).  Built on such a premise, the rest of this soul-satisfying film simply focuses on various interactions within the family, the ethical-wrestling over not being honest with Nai Nai even though most of them never expect to see her again.  What amounts to the actual spoiler in this story comes literally at the film's end so I’ll avoid it here while encouraging you to seek out The Farewell which hopefully continues expanding its limited theatrical availability.  However, you’d already know what happens if you’ve heard the foundation for this narrative from screenwriter-director Wang (pictured above) on NPR radio’s This American Life (or can find it on a podcast), revealing the finale anyway, as this is all based on her own family's experience, a masterful demonstration of “write what you know.” You certainly don’t have to be of Asian descent to appreciate the heartfelt situations in Wang’s film, a contender for one of my best of the year, plus a solid consideration toward various acting awards for Awkwafina as the conflicted granddaughter.

*Nobel laureate Toni Morrison gave just the opposite advice to her college-level-writing-students (to paraphrase: “Create something new to you, broaden the range of your awareness”), although she consciously-confined herself to writing penetrating explorations of African-American heritage/family complexities/life situations.  Due to her recent death you won’t hear any more directives or insights from her, but there’s still a lot to be fascinated/educated by through her biographical-documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; review in our July 11, 2019  posting).

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

Note the plot-based-implications of Nai Nai not being here or in the next family group shot.
What Happens: Billi (Awkwafina) was born in Changchun, China but raised by her parents in NYC where they all still live; she's a young adult in her hard-to-afford-apartment, somewhat currently at wit’s end because her application for a Guggenheim Fellowship’s been denied.  However, much worse news arrives when her father, Haiyan (Tzi Ma), and mother, Jian (Diana Lin), reveal her still-in-China-grandmother, affectionately known as Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), will soon die from lung cancer.  Under the guise of attending the wedding of Billi’s cousin, Hao Hao (Chen Han), to his Japanese girlfriend Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara)—Haiyan’s brother, Haibin (Jiang Yongbo), and his wife (sorry, didn’t catch her name; logistics in the theater prevented me from doing much tiny-flashlight-aided-notetaking), have also lived for quite awhile away from Changchun so Hao Hao was raised in Japan—other family members plan to return home for the true reason of seeing Nai Nai again (who shares much of her life with her younger sister, called Little Nai Nai [Lu Hong]).  What greatly complicates this seemingly-joyous-time of the family reunion/wedding celebration is the grim fact no one’s told Nai Nai of her terminal situation (her doctor goes along with the deception too, allowing her sister to explain the previous findings of spots on her lungs as inconsequential shadows, her recent coughing attacks as left over from a previous bout of pneumonia) because it’s more appropriate in China to keep such bad news from the patient (even one actively up and around, like Nai Nai) so they can live their final days free from worry rather than dying from fear as Haibin later explains to Billi.  Billi’s mortified by this shared-deception, sorrowful at the imminent-demise of her beloved grandmother (whom she’s seen little of since moving to America), but also easily prone to emotional outbursts so her parents don’t plan for her to attend the reunion so as to not accidently spill the truth to Nai Nai.  However, she somehow arranged to travel there anyway, surprising all of them when she arrives but immediately finds herself saddened when she first sees Nai Nai, a silence explained away as jet lag.  As the week goes on, she gathers herself better; has joyful interactions with her grandmother; participates in the family ceremony at a cemetery where Nai Nai’s husband’s buried, asking for his blessing on the wedding (although Hao Hao’s overcome with emotion, also explained away as nerves over his upcoming nuptials); joins in with the huge gathering at the wedding banquet where this time it’s Haiban’s turn to break down, with the excuse of overwhelming joy for his son and new daughter-in-law.  (Warning: If you’re able to see this film, either eat well beforehand or be prepared for a big dinner afterward; that banquet is a food feast, even though the prime dish turns out to be crab rather than the lobster Nai Nai insists she paid for, although no one gorging on these sumptuous offerings seems to mind the substitution in the least).

 While Hao Hao tries his best to muster some joy for his very quiet bride (she speaks little Mandarin so her husband has to translate for her; Billi’s Mandarin’s not all that great either, but no one seems to take her to task for it nor have any problems understanding her) he mainly downs glass after glass of Champaign to the point of almost passing out to hide his sorrow while Billi learns Nai Nai has sent a neighbor to the hospital to get the results of her latest x-rays (she went in to get new medicine for her cough; however, the doctor insisted on more scans under the premise of insuring no problems with her lungs), Billi races across town on foot to catch the printout before it goes any farther, somehow convincing the medical staff to type up a phony version assuring Nai Nai she’s healthy.  ⇒With that lie in place, the reunion’s soon over, everyone says their goodbyes to the grandmother, then heads off to their present homes far from China, Billi and Mom finally sharing tears on the taxi ride to the airport.  What would seem to end on a melancholy note, though, quickly takes on a completely different aspect of relief as a quick photo of the real Nai Nai comes on screen just before the credits with graphics telling us she’s still alive after 6 years, so Wang’s able to successfully recreate the anguish these silenced-family-members had to endure during the wedding festivities (as did her own relatives, presumably), then provide us an uplifting coda encouraging us to believe in hope which may happily catch us off guard, providing unexpected joy—as well as confirming the “actual lie” opening graphics tell us this story’s based on, in that we’re shown the family’s organized deceptions (traced back to Nai Nai herself who offered the same lies to her own dying husband) plus the lie we assumed, of this matriarch passing away soon after the wedding.⇐

Given the emphasis on presentational diversity discussed in this review, I wish I could offer you better
visual diversity in these accompanying images but there were limited options available to me.
(There’s still a moral discussion to be explored by us if not by the film's characters about whether it’s appropriate to keep news of terminal illness from the person most impacted by the situation, whether you wish to comply with cultural norms or not; older-son Haibin says in China you don't exist just as a singular individual but as part of a larger family structure ,so decisions must be made for the overall good of the group, including willingness to take on the sorrow of the dying relative, then put things in order afterward when he/she’s gone, while my wife, Nina [who had to suffer through somewhat-brief-but-brutal-lingering-illnesses that took both of her parents some years ago while my Dad’s death surprised everyone, then my mother put herself in a starvation-hospice-program in lieu of her intense physical pain so she was so knocked out on morphine I had no chance to talk to her about it during her final days], says dying persons know their fate, so probably in this case Nai Nai chose to keep quiet about it herself so she could enjoy the rare opportunity of reunion with her long-distance-family-members, none of them speaking directly about the lingering sadness just below the surface throughout the visit.  I’ve got to admit, it would be horribly hard for me to know my time was [likely] up [medical diagnoses aren’t always exact; Nina’s Dad lived for a few years beyond the 6 months he was told he had left], but while I don’t really have any “bucket list” of last wishes to finalize, I do think it best to be aware of my own impending demise, with hopes I’ve got awhile to go before such decisions become relevant.  Whenever such a time comes, I just hope I’m able to maintain a sense of the humor Wang's infused throughout this delightful film.)

So What? Little argument can be made that the percentage of minorities in the overall U.S. population continues to increase.  (They’ll even become the majority in just a few decades despite the frantic attempts by some in our government to build walls or restrict entrance visas.)  Yet, our wide-ranging commercial cinema/TV media still don’t reflect the actual presence of these various ethnic communities (even as strategies regarding the 2020 census attempt to undercount some of them in order to reduce their representation in many arenas of American life and politics).  You can read a summary here from the Feb. 21, 2019 Los Angeles Times about the annual UCLA diversity report on our mainstream entertainment media (if you really want details, here’s the actual report) showing (admittedly, from the slightly-out-of-date 2017 movie release schedule, the 2016-’17 TV season, but I know of no studies of more current activities that would provide more enthusiastic results) despite minorities making up almost 40% our population they get leads in only 19.8% of our cinematic output (women as a whole do somewhat better in front of/behind the camera but continue to occupy under 50% in all categories explored in this study)—with Asian/Asian-American actors getting only 3.1% of those roles (32 men, 10 women) in 1,352 films surveyed (as well, there were only 12.6% minority directors spanning 2011-’16 [I didn’t note a breakdown by ethnicity]), so when a lot of attention is generated about the financial success of an almost-all-Asian-cast-story (although set in China, rather than the U.S.) we saw last year with Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, 2018; review in our August 30, 2018), hope springs once again among this filmic-community in Hollywood (along with such audiences throughout our country) one substantial success will lead to others of its kind; however, the reality is usually taken from the title of another Asian-American-themed/cast film of a few years ago: Better Luck Tomorrow (Justin Lin, 2002; grosses for that one were not substantial, although the promise was finally fulfilled with Crazy … plus Lin had much greater success with the Fast & Furious franchise).  So, possibly with some momentum of enlarging Awkwafina’s well-received-Crazy … -supporting role into the lead here, there’s a chance The Farewell might finally give some long-needed-recognition to a notable segment of society who’ve evolved on screen from language-challenged-domestics to inscrutable-computer-nerds in their secondary roles but still need notably-active-screen-presence as romantic/dramatic/comedic leads.

 Of course, given the huge swath of our planet occupied by Asia it’s a difficult to also answer the cinematic needs of Arabs and Indians (except maybe with some aspects of the newest version of Aladdin [Guy Ritchie; review in our May 29, 2019 posting], as small an overall-offering as that may be) with stories set in East Asia, so even if The Farewell does make an impact it can’t even speak for all the Pacific coast countries of that continent, let alone all those much farther west, but the good notices it’s getting certainly help in bringing better recognition to some of the people, traditions, and intercultural challenges many of us in the West could benefit from learning much more about (here’s testimony from an Asian-American writer who more eloquently [and knowingly] than me clarifies what I’m saying).  In acknowledgement of such betterment, there’s certainly no doubt the CCAL (Critical Community at Large—my term for them this week) is supportive of The Farewell, with Rotten Tomatoes offering an almost-perfect 99% stockpile of positive reviews (of 201 tallied so, mathematically, that means only 2 sourpusses weren’t impressed by it although in the detailed RT tally [info in my Related Links section farther below] the only dissenter I could find is Martha K. Baker of KDHX, St. Louis, so you might want to reconsider if you want her on your Chinese New Year greeting card list next January)* while Metacritic comes in with a 90% average score (from 43 reviews), 1 of only 5 MC scores of 90 or higher of anything both they and I reviewed in 2019.  (Even as I continue to question how they compute many of those scores.  For example, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle [more on him in just a minute] uses a 5-step “Little Man” system spanning best [little guy’s jumping up, wildly clapping] through 4 ratings down to worst [chair’s empty], yet I’ve seen MC assume he’s only on a 4-step-system [presumably the empty chair doesn’t count at all in their computations, forcing the 4th step down—the guy asleep in the chair—to count for 25, while the empty chair doesn’t factor in for a zero; I’ve also seen them assume his 3rd-step-midrange-rating—the guy simply sitting there, staring at the screen to amount to 2.5 of 4 rather than 2 of 4 which should be 50 in their system rather than 62.5]; this is a relatively minor point to quibble over, but it does continually make me curious how the folks at MC come up with their numbers, especially from reviews of just text with no rating offered by the critic.)

Director Wang (on right) with her 2 primary actors.
*While it’s usually easier for a film/movie (art vs. entertainment for me in these terms) to get a higher number at RT than MC, because at the former all you need is a determination from their staff a review takes a positive stance (another procedural question from me to them, given I’ll read one of their cited reviews bringing up all sorts of negative points yet it's counted as “fresh” [positive] rather than “splat” [negative], but, hey, they chose not to include Two Guys in the Dark among their official Tomatometer critics [yes, I applied] so who am I to question their wisdom?), it’s still extremely difficult to get into that rarified 99-100% positive range with them.  You can look at RT's own tallies of their 100 top ratings (again, not fully clear on what method they chose to construct the rankings on this list because the 100%ers aren’t clustered at the top [somehow, Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane—still my #1 of all-time—with 100% positive reviews, comes in at #4]) to see only 24 of that lofty group of 100 films (all with at least 40 reviews) have achieved the cherished 100% mark of distinction, most of them established classics from decades past.  Similarly, in Major League Baseball it’s taken until 2019 for sportswriters to induct someone into the MLB Hall of Fame by unanimous vote—the NY Yankees’ legendary closer-pitcher, Mariano Rivera; facts aren’t as clear about the secret votes for Hall of Famers for the National Football League or the National Basketball Association, but there’s been no hype I’m aware of about anyone getting such a unique 100% induction. (However, my local Golden State Warrior, Stephen Curry, became the first NBA star chosen unanimously as Most Valuable Player, back in 2016 [this has happened 18 times in MLB, but they have a winner for both the American and National Leagues each year; the situation is different in the NFL where various organizations choose an MVP, but to my knowledge only New England Patriots' Tom Brady has been so honored unanimously, in 2010 by the Associated Press].)

Nai Nai finally gets to join the family for a group portrait.
 Nevertheless, even with the well-earned-accolades coming rapidly to The Farewell, SF Bay Area film critic-guru Mick LaSalle (noted just above in different context) recently wrote a column bemoaning the lack of great films released so far this year, in which he notes at this point in early August, 2019, there’s been only one “flat-out great film” so far this year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino; review in our August 1, 2019 posting) but he does admit “Lulu Wang’s ‘The Farewell,’ which is not quite in that class, but could make the bottom half of a top 10 list in an OK year” (although, in his actual review he gives it the same top rating he assigned to ... Hollywood, then says "['The Farewell'] will go down as one of the standout movies of 2019 [...] it's a triumph" [?]).  As for LaSalle’s own 2018 Top 10 list, he says that before August 4 of that year (his online column cited just above came out on July 29, 2019 but the print version didn’t appear until August 4 [p. 18, if you—care to—have access to the old-school-version in the newspaper]) he had 4 films already in mind for final consideration—Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio, 2018; review in our June 13, 2018 posting), First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018; review in our June 21, 2018 posting), Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada, 2018; review in our August 9, 2018 posting), Mission Impossible—Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie; review in our August 2, 2018 posting); thus, he’s complaining that 2019 hasn’t produced much of enough note yet (dismissing higher merits for Us [Jordan Peele; review in our March 27, 2019 posting], Booksmart [Olivia Wilde; review in our May 29, 2019 posting], Toy Story 4 [Josh Cooley; review in our June 26, 2019 posting], Rocketman [Dexter Fletcher; review in our June 6, 2019 posting], Avengers: Endgame [Anthony and Joe Russo; review in our May 1, 2019 posting]) while there were 16 more he chose for 2018 consideration, all released after early August.  (Why he’s complaining there were only 4 he deemed worthy of later consideration by early August last year while he’s already identified 2 which might make his 2019 list I’m not sure, but I guess he needed a premise for his featured column that week, just as he "needed" [I guess] to backtrack on his previous praise for The Farewell for some unstated reason.)

 Some of you regular Two Guys readers (numbers I cite at the very end of every posting proclaim there are such seemingly-unicorns out there somewhere around the globe) may also wonder why I frequently find fault with LaSalle’s opinions, but it’s just because he’s such an easy target for me to criticize at times (although I often agree with him otherwise), given I know: (A) he’ll never see a word I write (I met him once briefly, asked if I could send some links for feedback on what I’m doing here, never even got an acknowledgement of receipt or a brief “Too busy to reply” response), (B) for all the grandiosity he often conjures up about himself in his weekly SF Chronicle Datebook remarks (which sounds like a joke much of the time—but not always; I know that there have been occasions when critics’ screenings have been held up until he arrived), he’s just one voice among hundreds in this field (see here for the extensive RT list, for example, not including a great many more bloggers—like me—who sometimes find an audience, sometimes don’t) to whom I owe no allegiance, it’s just that his views are ones I often find most convenient to read, therefore are the easiest to take issue with when we disagree (as well as wondering about those occasional inconsistencies, such as what I cited above regarding The Farewell, despite his stellar local [and syndicated] reputation).   As for me, early August, and Top 10 lists, I consider anything I give 4 stars to as a contender for my later best-of-the-year-decisions; therefore, in 2018 I already had 12 on my possibilities list (of 39 I’d reviewed by that point, so 31% of what I’d seen in almost 2/3 of the year were worthy in my opinion—of that initial 12, 4 of them made it onto my final list: Eighth Grade [Bo Burnham, 2018; review in our August 2, 2018 posting], First Reformed, Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You [Boots Riley, 2018; review in our July 12, 2018 posting], with my other 6 coming after early August, including a rare 4½-stars-masterpiece, Vice [Adam McKay, 2018; review in our January 10, 2019 posting]); for 2019, of 50 films I’ve reviewed by this time 19 of them (38%) are at the 4 stars-level already, so it’s clear I’m enjoying myself more at the movie theaters than is Mr. LaSalle, although I must agree that with Hollywood-release-practices intended to make major impacts at the end of the year, just prior to awards-nomination-season, we can probably assume much of the best is yet to come.  However, I just hope The Farewell doesn’t get lost in the process (as mid-summer release often do) because it’s certainly worthy of year-end-accolades, possibly also Best Actress nominations for Awkwafina.

Bottom Line Final Comments: What helps to stir nominators as much as anything, though—especially for the Oscarsis box-office-success (usually, however, for more independent, non-genre-movies, so to [appropriately] quote Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,* “It doesn’t matter” that Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw [David Leitch], starring Johnson and Jason Statham, pulled in a commanding $193.4 million worldwide since its debut weekend because there’s nothing of awards-consideration happening here except a wealth of exuberance along with sheer audacity), which The Farewell has yet to fully deliver on, having been out now for a month yet climbing its way slowly to only 409 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, taking in a relatively negligible $6.8 million in receipts so far (an article in Forbes argues the per-screen-total is noteworthy, though, indicating big bucks can still be made through proper placement/marketing of this film).  One can only hope that a cinematic-narrative of this subtle-but-impactful-emotional-quality can generate more traction as the next few weeks flow on, but even Crazy Rich Asians, with its $238.5 million global income (against a modest $30 million production budget), along with critical encouragement of 91% positive at RT, a 74% average score at MC (a more usual supportive number for them)—a noteworthy-presence in the mainstream marketplace—gathered a cluster of awards nominations but not from Oscar’s Academy nor even a win at the Golden Globes (although a few other wins from other competitions gave it some prestige, with the most respected one likely being Best Acting by an Ensemble from the National Board of Review).  Whether The Farewell can top any of that or not remains to be seen, so stay tuned.  What remains for me is to find more of substance to say about this lovely film beyond the simple fact I liked it, it feels extremely genuine, it moved me.  Yet, it’s also simple in its own way, taking the director’s own experience of a hidden, fatal diagnosis for her own grandmother, then making it into a story with more specific resonance for her family (and those like them living in China or maintaining its traditions in many other locations around the world), then constructing a straightforward plot hinging on just one situation: Can all of these relatives manage to keep this dreadful news only to themselves without mistakenly blurting it out to Nai Nai, while maintaining a surface joy about the wedding so as to not undermine the very purpose of this gathering, not only to see Grandma again but also to share communal happiness at the nuptials of Hao Hao and Aiko.

*Which brings me to another tangential comment about Asian/Asian-American representation in U.S. movies.  It’s very clear the screen-presence in recent years of former-WWE-wrestler Johnson in many action or comedy roles while Jason Momoa has likewise become an international star as Aquaman, yet when discussions of lack of Asian actors on American screens occur I’ve noted very little (if anything) regarding them, even with Johnson’s Samoan heritage, Momoa’s Hawaiian roots, so is that just the result of the peoples of Pacific Oceana being too removed from their continental Asian history for these hugely-successful (as well as physically-huge) guys to be counted within these conversations, or, once again, is the concept of “Asia” itself just too broad to sensibly be addressed in a complete manner in these concerns about on-screen-representation.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean to denigrate the need for more stories like what we find in The Farewell, but I just want to clarify how these frequent Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese assumptions about “Asian” presence on our movie screens only begins to address the enormous diversity of cultural heritage needed to fully increase extensive Asian presence in our popular media.  (Another minor example: If you scroll way down to the end of this posting you’ll see a screen shot of Two Guys' audience over the last month [We’ve had much higher numbers at times in the recent/distant past, but we’re proud anybody finds us, thank all who do so, hope more will wander in when summer retreats from the Northern Hemisphere—yeah, I know, so where’s Australia now you ask?  Diligently occupied, I’m sure.] from which we’re very happy to have gotten even a little traffic from Egypt and Israel for a change, but I can’t claim either as fully representative of the vast continents they occupy just a small part of, simply illustrating the difficulty of striving for diversity in ethnic representation when there are so many options now waiting to be addressed in needed mass-media-showcasing.)

 Everyone in the cast of The Farewell succeeds in conveying this complicated (confusing at times to Nai Nai) mix of anguish and celebration, with Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen especially effective in their roles, adding to the fascination for Western (and Eastern, I hope) audiences with the locations in Changchun, the activities and rituals of the family especially usefully-informative for those of us with little direct knowledge or understanding of what’s presented here.  So, about all else I can say about The Farewell is it’s one of the best of the year thus far, it’s well worth your time (and trouble?) to find or put on a video queue, and the sense of unelaborated-but-deeply-felt love all these folks feel for Nai Nai is well expressed in my concluding Musical Metaphor (taken with ease by me from the soundtrack under the credits), “Without You” (written by Pete Ham, Tom Evans of Badfinger, originally on their 1970 No Dice album, but a huge hit for Harry Nilsson, on his 1971 Nilsson Schmilsson album) at, sort of an oddly-engaging, disjointed video where it seems the audio’s from his recording but the imagery of Nilsson singing’s not necessarily in sync with the visuals; nevertheless, it matches the mood of the film where there’s a disconnect between the enforced-happiness of this long-awaited-family-reunion and the sorrow all but Nai Nai feel, assuming they’ll never see her again.  But I do hope to see you again, with whatever Two Guys in the Dark can rustle up to share with you next week.  (Assuming I’m not consumed with jury duty; we’ll see how that works out next Monday morning—although having just watched 12 Angry Men [Sidney Lumet, 1957] again [via Netflix] I’m somewhat energized to give a stirring speech to my fellow jurors, even if it’s just about another traffic case, like when I last spent a week at the Hayward [CA] Hall of Justice some years ago; back then, after endless presentations from experts on both sides we all found both parties at fault, thereby frustrating everyone involved.)
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Here’s more information about The Farewell: (30:34 interview with director Lulu Wang) and (9:14 interview with actor Awkwafina)

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If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
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