[The Night Shifters is] a fascinating ride. The voice feels a lot like Neil Gaiman. This is a huge compliment in my mind, and one not to be taken lightly.” - Melinda VanLone Reviews

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Sack of Troy (The Musical!)


Michael Levy has an “epic” new single out! Follow the links below . . .

The Sack of Troy: Paean for Ancient Greek Kithara

I am pleased to announce the general release on all the major digital music stores and streaming sites of my new single for solo ancient Greek kithara, "The Sack of Troy: Paean for Ancient Greek Kithara"!

In ancient Greek Classical literature, there was a lost ancient Greek epic by the title of "The Sack of Troy" - which was one of the Epic Cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse. In creating this new composition for replica ancient Greek kithara, in authentically pure just intonation featuring the intense ancient Greek Dorian Mode, it was therefore my intention to evoke the sort of ancient Greek 'Paean' style melody (an ancient Greek hymn of thanksgiving in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode, to which that lost epic of ancient Greece could have been recited).

This single explores the rhythmic potential of the recreated ancient Greek kithara, by occasionally using the heavier mass of the replica ancient Greek carved bone plectrum as a baton to beat rhythm on the soundboard of the instrument. I also use this piece as a demonstration of the recreated 2500 year old vibrato mechanism of the ancient Greek kithara - handmade in modern Greece by Luthieros.

Here is my brand new webpage about this release, with all the main purchase links and link to the free PDF of the detailed single notes:

The ancient magic of the music of Apollo has once again, been reborn!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Confessions of an Online, Real-Estate Lookie-Loo


The first time I went house hunting, online real estate sites were fairly primitive. This was only fifteen years ago, so it seems funny to talk about the magnitude of change in computer processing power, internet speed, and usability of websites as if I were talking about the difference between WWII fighter planes and the most current stealth fighter jets, but that analogy may be the best. The rate of change and improvement in internet services is dazzling.

But even back then, I was impressed. You could see pictures of homes in your price range and sort the data based on square footage, number of baths and bedrooms, whether there was a fireplace or swimming pool, and other features. The best site was run by a local news station. I quickly became addicted to it.

The only problem was the site always froze up my computer when I was on it for more than half an hour. This was frustrating, because I found it more entertaining than TV. I would have been on that site until my eyeballs melted, comparing details of homes for sale.

When we were ready to buy, I hired a realtor. We visited many of the homes I had viewed online, and they often turned out to be not as nice in person (to put it kindly). And the house we eventually bought was not one of the homes I had seen online, mostly because the listing was only a couple of days old. 
We've been happy in our place, and we expect to be here until my retirement, around 2027. A long time in the future, right? So you would think it would be pointless to look at real estate websites right now.

But I find the siren call of these sites irresistible. The listed homes have an undeniable mystique. Your home is the place that belongs to you – your domain, your castle, the place where (ideally) you're safe and comfortable, where you can express your creativity.

Owning a home for fifteen years has taught me that home can also be your money pit, your responsibility, your albatross – sometimes your nightmare. This is apparent when you look at the photos people have posted online of the homes they're trying to sell.

Which brings me to the other attraction of looking at homes online: the side-show aspect. The parade of neglect, bad judgment, wretched DIY projects, and even more wretched professional upgrades can have you clutching your face in horror one moment and laughing until you cry the next. It's better than anything reality TV has to offer (including the shows about looking for homes).

I always look at properties that are close to the range I hope to be able to afford. You would think I would want to see how the other half lives, but the high-priced homes seldom live up to their hype. The affordable homes reflect the realities of the way people really live. That's why scoping out the real estate for sale in a town can be even more informative than checking median incomes, crime rates, and weather averages. Who can afford to live there? Are they able to maintain their home? Do they need heavy security bars or shutters? What kind of flood/fire damage can be seen? (Is the new carpeting hiding blood spatter?)

All of that is important, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Though my curiosity drives me to check out the choices, I've become hooked on the general weirdness. Here are some of the observations I've made in my obsessive search for a home I'm not even going to buy yet, in no particular order of importance.

1. It turns out that a little town named Bisbee, AZ has the best selection of houses in my price range. This seems like fate (probably because I haven't seen any of these homes in person).

2. Price doesn't necessarily determine the quality of a house (especially in Bisbee). You may think that higher-priced houses would also be higher quality, but this often means that you're paying for the location, or that expensive (and often appalling) remodeling has been done. Which leads to this observation:

3. Most (if not all) kitchen remodels are way overdone. Yes, it is possible to have too much granite and tile, usually in bold colors that only the original owners would like. True, the real estate agent will often suggest this sort of upgrade, but many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing colors/patterns/textures, and you can end up with what my boss likes to call "Tuscan Everything."

4. Bathroom remodels usually aren't as scary as kitchens, but plumbing can be kind of odd, with toilets, sinks, and tubs crammed together so tight you have to wonder how anyone got in and out of there – or placed in really weird spots, as if the bathroom were designed by someone who knew absolutely nothing about plumbing (a very high likelihood, considering the current DIY craze).

5. The worst color in the world to paint an ENTIRE ROOM is dark red. But many people apparently love bold colors that no one else could stand, including truly awful shades of orange, yellow, purple, green, and in one memorable case a patriotic red-white-and-blue theme. (Oddly, some of the folks in Bisbee make those colors work.)

6. All laminate wood flooring is not created equal.

7. People who have remodeled their homes to make them more attractive for prospective buyers are really fond of tile flooring. Miles of it. Everywhere. Some of it the color of intestines.

8. An amazing number of people will buy a beautiful, vintage house, and then "update" all of the charm and beauty right out of it. Damn their eyes.

9. The vast majority of murals painted on the walls of children's rooms are both poorly done AND scary.

10. Your taxidermy projects are not a selling point. With the rare exception of stuffed jackalopes. (If you have one of those, try to stage the photo as if the jackalope broke into your house and took a selfie.)

11. People will sometimes decide to take out a wall in order to open a room up, but fail to consult an architect, and then discover that the wall was a load-bearing wall, but they've already destroyed most of the wall anyway, so they take it out and put in a supporting post that just stands there in the middle of the new room looking awkward and totally ruining the effect they were going for in the first place.

12. A lot of people think they're really good at landscaping, and they're just so wrong.

13. Having a fireplace is not necessarily a good thing, especially if the bricks over the top of the fireplace are badly charred from the time that you built the fire too high in there. This tells prospective buyers that: a.) you're a danger to yourself and others, and b.) your heating system is crappy.

14. Original wood floors are nice, as are wood ceilings, but it's possible to go overboard with wood in other parts of the house. Like bamboo that's been glued to every possible surface.

15. That trend where you stencil words on the walls, like in the dining room or in people's bedrooms? Stop it. Stop it NOW.

16. Yes, I know that you're still living in the house because you can't move until you sell it. But for pity's sake, rent a storage unit and dump 75% of your stuff in there. Don't leave it piled all over the place so it's visible in all of the photos you're hoping will sell your house. This is particularly true of your DUCK DYNASTY posters.

17. If you're anything like me, even after you've put 75% of your stuff in storage, your house is still going to look too crowded. Because:

18. Deep down, we're all just a bunch of bears with furniture.

I hope some day I'll be able to turn my lookie-loo web surfing into an earnest search for a house where we can retire. I know once that happens, most of the fun will go out of the process, but those real estate sites will still give me a good idea what's out there. There is one thing, however, they will never be able to tell me. If I move into one of those homes, will I be able to see the stars at night? Being able to see the Milky Way is more important to me than having a fireplace. 
For me, that's a deal breaker.

The photo at the top of this page is what our side fence looked like before it was torn down and replaced with a block fence.  Just so you don't think I feel all superior and stuff . . .

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Sam the Bad Cat Taught Me About Hunger

One day as I was carrying a load of laundry into the garage, I was arrested by the sound of avid munching. There is no other way to describe it. Not the placid chewing of the herbivore, or even the fierce gobbling of the carnivore, this feverish crunch-crunch is made by a particular creature – the nyom-nivore. In this case, Sam the Bad Cat. He had discovered our store of dry cat food and had broken into it.

As you can see, Sam the Bad Cat was well named. Even when he spotted me, he didn't pause in his pursuit of satisfaction. As I watched him relentlessly reduce our stock of feline nutrition, I realized he reminded me of someone – myself. Not that I'm into cat food. But I'm also capable of diving into a meal with irrational exuberance. Yet Sam was a cat with diabetes. I've been overweight many times in my life, but I've never been diabetic. What was it we really had in common?

You might say, Well duh! How about hunger? You know, like – itself?

But I've had far too much experience with hunger to dismiss it that quickly. Hunger can be much more complicated than it seems. In fact, after years of over-eating, fasting, dieting, and struggling with hunger itself, I've identified four different types of hunger, each with its own special challenges. The first and most common type is the least complicated.

Empty Hunger
This really is the most straight-forward (and dangerous) hunger, provoked by an empty stomach and the need for calories to stoke the furnace. I have known people who only feel this sort of hunger a few times a day, and who satisfy it easily with small, simple meals. When they aren't feeling it, they don't even think about food, and they honestly can't understand why anyone else would. They think it's all just a matter of common sense. How hard can it be?

Yeah – those people are really annoying. And they never seem to feel the second kind of hunger, the one that demands comfort.

Comfort-Me Hunger
This is the hunger that tends to erode my self-control. It's triggered by stress, exhaustion, frustration, and a serious passion for cake. Empty Hunger may be a factor in triggering Comfort-Me Hunger. But while Empty Hunger can be satisfied by eating nutritious food, if I don't find just the right thing to satisfy Comfort-Me Hunger, it's just going to get madder and madder, like a peevish zombie who's been offered a plate of toenails instead of the yummy cranial stuff. That madness can lead to the third kind of hunger I've felt.

Junkie Hunger
This really is the food version of a heroin habit. It shares enough symptoms with drug and alcohol addictions that I can often recognize myself in testimonials I've heard from people in recovery, like hiding my food purchases from family members, lying about what I'm eating and how much, and lost weekends where gallons of ice cream mysteriously evaporate. But the most disturbing thing about Junkie Hunger is that it can't be satisfied. It's the rush from eating that I crave, and often the only thing that will stop it is feeling uncomfortably full. Comfort-Me Hunger can pack the pounds on gradually, but too many episodes of Junkie Hunger have sometimes caused my weight to balloon in a fraction of the time it takes to lose the same number of pounds.

So when I saw poor old Sammy munching away at the kitty crunchies, I thought I was seeing something akin to Junkie Hunger. But I was wrong. His appetite was caused by something just as voracious, but essentially different.

Overfed Hunger
When you have diabetes, your body has trouble absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. That triggers Empty Hunger, because your body really craves those nutrients. It was awful to see poor Sammy eating bowl after bowl of cat food, yet slowly starving to death. Regular insulin shots and a high-protein diet helped him with that imbalance.

But I don't have diabetes; my blood sugar has always been within the normal range. Yet I've experienced Overfed Hunger too, a craving for nourishment that over-eating can't satisfy. That's how it differs from Junkie Hunger, which is more like a craving for sensation. It feels as if my body is so overwhelmed by the extra calories, it becomes less efficient at processing them. Sure, I put on some fat, but not as much as you would expect – and the Empty Hunger is still nagging at me, claiming that it never got fed. The more I eat, the louder it complains, and that's what made me realize the only way to curb both Overfed Hunger and Junkie Hunger – is to starve them.

Yowza! Did I Just Use the S-Word?
Starve is never a word that should be used lightly. It evokes thoughts of malnutrition, anorexia, hypoglycemia, and of countless weight-loss diets sabotaged by the stress of too much Empty Hunger. So I'd like to make it clear that I'm not talking about actual starvation. What I mean is that I control Junkie Hunger and Overfed Hunger by satisfying Empty Hunger and even indulging Comfort-Me Hunger from time to time. But I count my calories, don't exceed sensible limits (usually), and keep sugar and fat consumption levels within reasonable boundaries. My body seems to have an easier time absorbing nutrition when it's not struggling to process too many calories. I've lost weight, but don't feel like I'm starving.

I'm no saint. But I've been more successful at controlling my eating habits than I used to be. Bouts of Junkie Hunger are fairly rare these days, and I haven't felt Overfed Hunger in two years. And I'm pretty sure that recognizing these different types of hunger is what got me on the right path. For that, I thank Sam the Bad Cat and his munch-mania. If I hadn't witnessed what was going on with him, I might not have seen the bigger picture.

Sam the Bad Cat passed away a few years ago, at the age of 16 – old for a cat, and very old for a cat with diabetes. His illness had enough in common with human Type II diabetes to be a real object lesson. And it's not lost on me that many people in this world really are starving. I would never compare my problem to their suffering. Yet the hunger I've felt has sometimes been very stressful and challenging. And trying to understand the underlying cause of that hunger has helped me to get a handle on it.

I stole the illustrations for this post from my husband, artist/writer Ernest Hogan, but that's not the worst thing I've ever done to him. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michael Levy in the Daily Mail!

Michael Levy has been interviewed on The Daily Mail!  Follow the link below . . .

My arrangement for lyre of the oldest written melody so far discovered - featured in the Daily Mail!

In my daily struggle in my status as an independent musician in the soulless 21st century CE (when I am frustratingly in possession of musical skills which certainly would have made me a legendary living as the 'Bruno Mars of the Bronze Age' in the 21st century BCE!), after another morning spent doing yet another tedious, tiring and totally unrewarding part-time job to make ends meet, I was delighted to be contacted by a journalist from the Daily Mail Online, who wanted to feature one of the viral YouTube renditions of my arrangement for solo lyre of Hurrian Hymn Text H6 in a news story on the world's oldest song!

At approximately 3,400 years old, the Hurrian Hymn Text H6, is literally the oldest surviving substantial fragment of an actual written melody so far discovered, which can actually be interpreted and performed, some 3,400 years later:

Who knows, maybe one day, some ever elusive, enlightened record company out there might now take my musical mission seriously...may almighty Apollo's will be done!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I just lost Fifty Pounds! (For the Seventh Time . . .)


There are times in your life when you really have to be grateful for thrift stores – like when you have to replace an entire wardrobe. When you gain weight, you grudgingly buy the larger sizes, worrying that having them will give you permission to put on more weight. And when you've lost weight several times, you wonder if you should keep your larger sizes in storage, in case you need them again. 
But it's always fun to buy the skinny clothes. I know this, because I've done it seven times.

On previous occasions, everything from dysmorphia to vanity spurred me to lose weight. But my reasons were a lot more straight-forward this time. This time it was pain. My knees and hips ached so much, I couldn't sleep through the night. I took lots of pain killers, hoping the discomfort would pass. But it just got worse. 
I'm a hiker, so I remembered what had caused me to feel that kind of pain in the past. Walking with just a couple of bottles of water and a few fig newtons is a lot easier than carrying an overnight pack. I had gotten to the point with my weight where I was carrying around the equivalent of a 50-pound load. Of course my knees hurt. If I wanted to feel better, I was going to have to put that pack down.

Good intentions are great, but hopelessness has stalled me many times. I have to change my habits if I want to succeed, and that's annoying. Plus there's cake, which will probably be the death of me some day, even if I stay relatively skinny. But pain is an excellent motivator, even better than vanity. So I lost fifty pounds in about 11 months. 
Yeah – I've read the news reports. All those people on The Biggest Loser gained all their weight back. And I know how they feel, because every previous time I have gained back the weight I lost.

Yet I still hope that this time around I'll be able to figure out how to keep from putting those extra pounds back on. Am I kidding myself? Maybe. 
But failing so many times can teach you something. Even other people's failures can be instructive.

Take my buddy (who shall remain nameless so he'll still be my buddy). Recently his doctor told him that his blood-sugar levels had reached official diabetic status, and it was time to talk about insulin medication. He rebelled against the idea, saying that he believed he could get his blood-sugar levels back down to the proper levels by changing his diet.

“Give me a month!” he begged.

“I'll give you three months,” she said, and handed him some testing strips he could use to check his blood-sugar levels every day. 
My buddy is a lot younger than me, so this whole diet thing is new to him. If a doctor had told me that I was technically diabetic, I would have bought a cookbook from the American Diabetes Association and started following it. Instead, my buddy decided he would eat nothing but raw vegetables, all day every day, world without end. That first week, he was starved, crazed, and in a really bad mood.

Pretty quickly, he began to cheat, big time. One day he gobbled down three Indian tacos in one sitting (beans, mutton, and chilies on fried bread – those suckers are huge). A couple of days later it was three hotdogs, two bags of potato chips, and a big can of the sugary soda he swore he would never touch again.

They say that the diet you design for yourself is the best diet. Unfortunately, for most of us that turns out to be the Delusional Idiot Diet until we finally learn from our mistakes. I've tried exactly the same thing my buddy did, throwing myself into a strict eating program with all the fervor of a religious zealot. But Alas! Starvation can turn the best of us into sinners. So big-time failure resulted. Would he listen to me when I tried to tell him that? Nope. Plus now he thinks I'm a know-it-all jerk.

He's at least half right about that; I do know some things. I know you can think you've got a handle on your weight-loss plan, and then something comes along and throws you for a loop. That protein shake you rely on to keep away the stress-hunger won't be available anymore, or they'll double the price. Your situation at work or home will blow up and leave you struggling just to get through the day without tearing out your hair. You'll throw yourself into an exercise regime that you really like, then hurt yourself and end up flat on your back. All of these things have happened to me. 
But when you go through that stuff, and you watch other people struggling too, a bigger picture can emerge. You begin to see what works and what doesn't. And it gets harder to kid yourself about the consequences of doing nothing. Every day I see people laboring just to get out of their cars and up to the front door of grocery stores, because they're so heavy they can barely move. They're in pain – it's etched into their faces. But when they exit the store, it's with a cartload of all the stuff that's making them miserable.
That's what I have to look forward to if I give up.

So I count calories, because if I don't, I'll end up eating too much (I have the same problem with money). I measure my waist and step on a scale once a week, so I know my real status. I sketch out what I'm going to eat the day before, so I don't end up improvising (I'm not good at that). I exercise to keep toned and fit, but don't rely on it for weight loss, in case I end up injuring myself. Protein is an important part of my diet, and I try to keep the fat and sugar at sane levels. My calorie intake is lower than it used to be, but not so low that I can't sustain it. 
A cynic might ask if it's worth it to go through so much pain and suffering if I just end up right back where I started. But actually – the suffering is no big surprise. I've been through it all before – I don't have any illusions about it. So far I've managed to keep the weight off for a year. It feels good to be rid of the knee pain, to enjoy food again instead of feeling uncomfortably full, to eat without getting indigestion. And it really feels good to walk into those thrift stores and try on anything I want. In fact, it feels so good, that may be the thing that helps me keep the weight off this time. 
And if not? Well, you know what they say. Eighth time's a charm . . .

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In an Ancient Roman Garden (But Without the Cactus . . . )


Michael Levy has a new single to buy! Follow the link to get your copy . . .

In an Ancient Roman Garden

I am pleased to announce the release of my new ancient Roman-themed single, "In an Ancient Roman Garden"!

In this project, it was my aim to attempt to recreate an evocation of the lost serenity of Classical antiquity...

This single features a completely spontaneous improvisations for chelys (tortoise shell form) lyre, recorded, live in my own garden at the height of Summer, with nothing but the soothing, timeless background sounds of flowing water and birdsong.

The single is available now, from all major digital music stores and streaming sites, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, CD Baby & Bandcamp:

As usual, as an independent artist, without the benefit of a record company to promote me, each and every new album review or blog post about my musical mission to reintroduce the beautiful lyres of antiquity back into the bland modern world, is to me, literally a 'libation to Apollo' - many thanks, everyone, for your continued support!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Roll Over, Mendelssohn!

Michael Levy's music is popping up in some wonderful places. Click the link to discover how one wedding party turned their ceremony into a truly beautiful musical memory.

Roll over, Mendelssohn!
 My music will soon be as popular as his iconic 'Wedding March' - I quite literally just stumbled across a video of a Roman-themed wedding somewhere in the USA, featuring my very own Roman-themed music...this could also quite possibly fire a canon into Pachelbel's Canon!

The video featuring track 1 from my album "Ode to Ancient Rome" being played as the bride and groom move towards the site of the suitably sacred ceremony:
This is certainly a step in the right direction to reintroducing the ancient spirit of Apollo into our soulless, sterile, modern 'musical' world! Let us keep the magical musical spirit of the ancient world burning into our dull 21st century, and way beyond...

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Perfect Gift For Fans of the Ancient Harp!

Michael Levy has a new album out, just in time for Christmas (or Hunukkah, if you download the Deluxe)! Click on the link below and get your gift-giving into gear . . .

Pre-order my new album in time for Christmas!

I am pleased to announce that from 17th December, it will be possible to pre-order from iTunes, my brand new meditative compilation album, "Ancient Lyre Music for Meditation", ahead of it's official release on iTunes and the rest of the major digital music stores (including Amazon, Google Play & Spotify etc) on 24th December!

Anyone who pre-orders the album will be able to download one of the tracks during the pre-order period and the entire album will automatically be added in their iTunes Library on the official release date...

This album features the most lyres I have ever managed to squeeze into one release! Besides showcasing the Luthieros replica Kithara of the Golden Age (with its wonderfully reconstructed vibrato mechanism) and the exotic, ancient timbre of their replica Barbitos (the bass-register tortoise shell lyre favoured by the ancient Greek poet, Sappho), the compilation also features their tenor register Chelys (tortoise shell form lyre), their treble tortoise shell lyre, as well as the wonderful harp like tone of my evocation of a Davidic lyre made by Marini Made Harps & the evocation of the Biblical 10-string Kinnor made by Mid East Ethnic Instruments - the first lyre I taught myself to play, back in 2006.

For anyone who can't wait until the 17th December, as a special Christmas present to all you lovely lyre music fans, both this new release and my entire lyre album repertoire can now be downloaded from my Bandcamp Store for just $38.70:

Seasons Greetings, everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Crappy Self-Promotion (and a Change of Font)

Way back in August, when I certainly should have been on top of the situation, my writing again appeared in CLARKESWORLD magazine – and I failed to tell anyone about it. Despite that, my story (technically a novelette) “The Servant” has managed to get some recommendations for the Hugo award. Since “The Servant” started out as an idea for a novel, I've placed it on the front burner and am now ambitiously expanding and developing it into what will eventually be a 125,000-word book. Shazzam. (Shazzam is not the title of the book; it's just a mild, happy expletive with old comic book roots.)

In the same issue of CLARKESWORLD, I also have a nonfiction piece, “Hipsters of Zombieland.” You lovers of all things zombie, please visit and counter the one comment on the page that was penned by a zombie-hater. Unless you hate my article. In which case, never mind . . .

And yes, this is a new font: Chalkboard. Apparently quite a few people hate Comic Sans. (Just about everyone but me, it seems.) Granted, you may have a tough time telling the difference between the old font and the new one, but to me it seems less wiggly. In fact, this is the way I wish I could write with the raw paw (mechanically). Of course, that's how I felt about Comic Sans, too. So my judgement is still questionable.

Fall is coming to Phoenix, which means that the temperature has dropped into the 80s (Fahrenheit) instead of the 100s. Work here at Casa Devenport/Hogan proceeds apace. A lot of failure is mitigated by a few successes, so we are encouraged to continue. I hope you are too.

Monday, October 26, 2015

"Nero's Lyre" Gets a Ballet of Its Very Own . . .

If you can get to the London Place Theater for this performance, buy your tickets now! Michael Levy's music is featured in a new ballet. Click on the links below for more information, and to buy the music for your lyre collection . . .

"Nero's Lyre" To Feature in Riccardo Buscarini's New Ballet Production!

Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky? They can now retire - I bring forth into ballet, my awesome lyre! I am delighted to announce that my composition for solo lyre, "Nero's Lyre" is to be featured in a new ballet production "No Lander" by Riccardo Buscarini - to be performed live at the London Place Theatre on 28th October:

"Five sailors lost at sea are exposed to an unrelenting space, nothing to hang onto, no roots, no light and no land. Falling in and out of intricate duets as they grapple to hold on to something, their flesh emerges from the darkness in waving and sculptural torsions. Stark industrial lighting and live-captured sound collide and transform the stage into a deserted wreck. No Lander is a dance about longing and belonging"

More details at: 
A video of the section of the ballet which features my music can be viewed here.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Good and Affordable Stuff -- Updated for 2015!

I posted the original version of this report a couple of years ago, but I thought I'd better update it.  A few things have changed, and some things remain the same.  One of the things that stayed the same was price range (for the most part).  All but one of the shops that I visited had the same, ultra-low prices, ranging from 25 cents per item to $15.  One shop had prices that doubled, but I suspect that shop will bring its prices back into line with the market.

Our favorite used book store in Santa Fe disappeared, but Ernie was able to find books at all of the thrift stores we visited this year, and actually came back with a bigger haul than in previous years.  He was quite happy with his spoils.

In the last quarter of the 20th Century, a gal used to be able to find wonderful little shops in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. These shops carried handmade jewelry, unique clothing and shoes, art and folk art, perfume and lotions, books and nick-nacks, pots, plates, wind chimes, fossils – you name it. The cost of the items started at $2 and went up to a few hundred dollars, but you could get quite a lot in the $15 to $45 range. My mother and sister and I looked forward to visiting these shops every time we visited New Mexico.

But many years have passed since those days, and recently a woman came into the Heard Museum Book Store during my regular shift and asked me if there was a shopping district like that in Phoenix. She told me that visiting those quirky little shops used to be one of the highlights of her trips in the Southwest. Lots of cities had them; locally we had the Mill Avenue shops in Tempe, and Tucson had its own shopping district near 4th Avenue. Flagstaff still has something resembling a cheap-and-fabulous shopping district, but not to the extent you would have found back in the 1970s and '80s. “What happened?” the traveling lady asked me. “Was it the economy?”

I suspect it was the opposite. Those shops were enormously popular. I think the landlords who owned that property decided they should raise the rents. They raised them so high, the owners of those little shops couldn't pay. In New Mexico, expensive jewelry, rug, furniture, clothing stores, and art galleries moved into those spaces. The top 5% of the population can afford to shop there now. The rest of us seem to be out of luck.

It's sad to see our paradise lost, but there are some alternatives for those who are willing to hunt a little harder. My search always starts with thrift stores. Prices there usually run from $1 to $15 for clothing, and quite reasonable for a gamut of other stuff. Places that advertise themselves as consignment stores or vintage clothing shops often charge more, but their items still cost considerably less than what you'll find in the expensive stores in the shopping districts. Second hand shops also run the gamut, price-wise, but are always worth investigating. And some of them carry new work by local artists and artisans.

Antique stores are also a mixed bag. We have a lot of them in Arizona, and almost all of them are low-priced. I walked into an antique shop in Taos on my recent trip to New Mexico, and I had to conclude that the place was too close to the pricey downtown district. The item I looked at (a gorgeous buddha) was $550. But you don't know until you look – that's part of the adventure. What sort of treasure you find depends on how much you're willing to dig, and whether or not you're bothered by dust. My tolerance for weirdness and unexpected adventure is high, and I've waded through worse things than dust to find the fabulous – on a recent journey in the Cave Creek foothills for garden rocks I fended off swarms of thirsty yellow jackets. Fortunately, bug swarms are rare on the thrift store circuit, and most shoppers can find a few places they like.

Here are some of the places my mom and I have discovered in New Mexico:

BOOMERANG THRIFT BOUTIQUE in Española carries a wonderful variety of hip clothing, including smaller and larger sizes. While we were there, they were running a sale, so we got our items for even less. The price range was $1.50 to $9.50. They carry an eclectic selection of other second-hand items as well. They're on the southbound side of HWY 84-285, near the southern end of town.

ENCHANTING BARGAINS THRIFT STORE in Española is also on the southbound side of HWY 84-285, a bit farther north than BOOMERANGS. Just drive until you see DANDY'S BURGERS and then pull into that little plaza. Their price range is $1 to $10. On this last trip I found 2 pairs of pants and 3 blouses I liked, and my mom found 5 fabulous blouses. Our tastes are quite different, yet we both found things we liked. (My husband bought 4 books.)  NOTE: THIS STORE CHANGED OWNERS RECENTLY, SO THE NAME MAY HAVE CHANGED.  BUT THE LOCATION AND PRICES ARE THE SAME.

THE WATER STORE in Española is under new management and has re-opened as of this publication.  They have a thrift section stuffed full of clothing priced from $1 to $4. If you're in the area, it's worth checking to see what's going on with them – they're on the northbound side of HWY 84-285 that leads through the town to Taos.

Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store in Española has a dressing room that's kind of uncomfortable.  It's in an overstuffed closet behind the register.  But that shop has one of the best selection of Ladies' pants/slacks I've ever seen.  I bought five pairs from them on my last trip, at $1 apiece.   

In Taos we always check out the COMMUNITY AGAINST VIOLENCE store on 1046 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur. From the road, you simply see a sign that says CAV. This year they only had half as much clothing as they did last year, but my mother and I both found a few things we liked, and they're worth checking out. On the other side of the street at 1024 is a consignment store called PIECES that has a trendier selection than most of the other thrift stores.  Their prices are very reasonable, from $5 to $45.  I found several fabulous blouses there this year (2015), and my mom found a gorgeous skirt.

TREASURES, located much farther North on Paseo Del Pueblo, is always worth a visit, though we have only bought a few items of clothing there. They also carry antiques and folk art from local artists, and they have a lovely little garden out front. Just up the road from them (going north) are a couple of affordable import stores, like the CAMINO REAL IMPORTS AND GIFT SHOP. They must have sold out of all their Jesuses by the time we got there (see photo), but I got a lovely urn-style garden pot and my husband Ernie bought a faux-alligator-skin wallet and a nifty t-shirt. (That was the only time I saw him get excited about an article of clothing on the whole trip.)

As you're headed out of town toward the High Road To Taos Scenic Highway, you'll see THUNDER LIZARD DIRECT CORAL IMPORTERS. They specialize in beads, so if you're a bead junky in recovery, don't go in there.

In Santa Fe, there are a lot of thrift stores on the southern end of town on Cerrillos Road, and you don't have to drive near the complicated tangle of the main plaza to visit them. These shops include GOODWILL, one of my favorite thrift store chains. I love the way they organize their stuff by color. GOODWILL discount days vary from place to place, so expect blouses to cost about $4.99 to $5.99 when they're not on sale.

The HOSPICE CENTER THIFT STORE AT 1303 Cerrillos Road offers clothing and antique/collectible items, and their clothing is always 2nd-hand fancy stuff. They were having a 50% off sale the day we visited, so we got several gorgeous items for a steal. Call them at 505-473-0972.

If you want a break from clothing shopping try A BIT OF EVERYTHING at 1836 Cerrillos Road. They don't have anything you can wear, but they're a 2nd hand/antique /collectible emporium that offers – you guessed it, a little bit of everything. You can call them at 505-983-0665.

So yes, the halcyon days of cheap and fabulous, quirky and hip shopping districts are gone. But it's possible to roll with the punches. And though people who have to shop for smaller and larger sizes sometimes don't have as much luck when shopping for second hand clothing, thrift shops usually offer more than just apparel. These are the places you might find pretty dishes, garden décor, books, etc. Second-hand book shops are always worth investigating, and they could use your patronage. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tortoise Shell Lyre, Revived!

I'm late with this announcement, but if you haven't heard this music from Michael Levy, it's still new to you. Follow the links below . . .

The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre - Revived!

I am delighted to announce the release of my most authentic sounding album to date! My new album, "The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre" was inspired as a tribute to the great philosophers of ancient Greece, performed on an inspirationally authentic replica tortoise shell lyre, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instrumentswith an actual tortoise shell for the resonator, an authentic replica 2500 year old carved bone plectrum, gut strings and actual goat horns for the arms of this magnificent musical instrument of the ancient Greek gods!The free PDF of detailed album notes can be downloaded here

Here are the main purchase links for the album:

Buy This Album on iTunes!
Buy This Album on Amazon!
Buy This Album on Google Play!
Buy This Album on CD Baby!Buy This Album on Bandcamp! 
Hear & Share This Album on Spotify!

Remember, each new album review on the major digital music stores is literally a 'libation to Apollo' in my efforts to honestly promote the reintroduction of the lyres & ancient musical modes of antiquity back into our bland, 'Bieber music' soaked, modern manufactured 'musical' world - thanks, everyone for your support in my ongoing musical mission!