I really enjoy talking to Mary. She makes me smile every time we talk. She speaks fast and does the most of the talking. Many of the stuff she tells me about are trivial, silly, sometimes sad and even depressing. Yet she has a way of connecting and making me feel really good in the end. I think it’s probably because of her child-like enthusiasm, passion and positive attitude toward her life. She recently told me about her sudden career setback and a little incident with her cat while we are on the phone discussing the article she was writing for the letter. The story she shared with me was rather horrific, but she left me feeling good and positive by the time I hang up with her. She is honest and not afraid to express her feeling or opinions. I think you can see that in the article below. The content of her article is unusual for our newsletter, but I believe many of you will make a strong connection with her. Hope you enjoy her article. – Kaz Isogai
P.S. Mary is an intelligent woman who has strong background in art, literature and history. If you are a kind of person who loves reading “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, you would enjoy talking to her very much. She also teaches at colleges.
“Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.” – Dorothy Parker
It is winter in Seattle. I recently had a birthday, and did I mention that it is winter in Seattle? I don’t know about the rest of you, but nothing gets me down more than the sun setting at 4:23 p.m., except maybe the sun setting at 4:23 p.m. on a cold and rainy birthday. It is on days such as these that I really get in touch with my melancholy side by quoting Dorothy Parker and romanticizing the haunts of my younger days back in New York. I could choose the path of self-indulgence and throw a few chocolates and vodka on that stove I am sitting upon, but I have a remedy that, in the spirit of the holidays, I am willing to share. If you knew me at all, I might add, you would be astounded right now by my grace and generosity.
It is said that music can soothe the savage beast and I would have to add that it can soothe the gloomy one as well, at least, if one can find the right atmosphere and the right music. If you are anything like me and have, somewhere in your past, a cozy little pub or bar that seems as if it must have always been there, filled with pleasant waiters and slightly eccentric locals, than you will be cheered to know that you can regain a bit of that charm on Alki Beach in a place called The Celtic Swell. I need to qualify this statement by adding that it is best if your wistful mood strikes on a Friday night when Justin Kausal-Hayes is the musician on duty.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the Celtic Swell has a lot going for it all on its own with a beach view, warm lighting, super-friendly staff, not to mention, some killer soda bread. But, what makes a pub, a PUB, is its music. If Justin’s name weren’t long enough already, I would be tempted to add Versatility as his middle name. This guitarist can play anything from the Rolling Stones to Modest Mouse and from Neil Diamond to Johnny Cash, and does so with what appears to be effortless finesse. I remember the first time I heard him play, I was in the middle of a conversation when I recognized the opening chords for “Paint it Black” and I thought, “I wonder how he is going to pull this off?” and well, I wouldn’t be writing this if he hadn’t done it and splendidly! I should add that he has a great singing voice and plays a mean ukulele as well. I know, a ukulele, but I promise, you’ll like it. I should probably mention that I really hate Neil Diamond songs, but once everyone in the pub starts joining in with what can only be described as “gusto”, even I am left humming the tune to “Sweet Caroline” and enjoying it, much to my own dismay. My only defense is that it is hard to remain a sour-puss when everyone in the bar, and I mean everyone, fromthe group of kids in the corner who barely look old enough to be out at night, the blue-collar guys, the older hippy couples, the cougars, the players, the hipsters, and the ones you just can’t figure out, is really belting it out and we all know that a little drunken-joy can be contagious. I became curious to learn more about this “Pied Piper” of Alki Beach and set out to ask him a few questions which he was gracious enough to answer.
Photo by Joe Mabel
I wanted to know first of all, what were the most requested songs at the Celtic Swell. After all, the crowd was pretty diverse. According to Justin, the most requested songs are “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and “Free Bird,” but he hastened to add that he won’t play anything by Journey and don’t get him started on “Freebird”, but I had the feeling that if the tip were big enough, maybe in the triple digits, he could be persuaded. When asked what was the most unusual request he ever received, he responded with, “A Disney song from The Little Mermaid and yeah, with the help of an iPhone, I kind of pulled it off.”
He told me that he has, on more than one occasion, been asked to play the Beatles “In my Life” when someone wanted to dedicate it to their sweetie. I was curious to know if he ever played any of his own, original material there and he stated, “Yes, all the time! Some people will request it, and other times I’ll just throw an original in here and there, something that I’ve been working on to sort of try it out in front of an audience, but mostly they want to hear something familiar.”
Justin plays at a lot of different venues; both solo and with other bands, and I asked him how important location was in influencing his style. His response was, “Well, I try to always be the same ‘me,’ but different places require a different ‘me’ sometimes…and the crowd too, I feed off the energy and the vibe of the crowd, so I try to cater to that and make a good show, and the crowd definitely changes from place to place, even set to set at the same place!”
Following that last statement, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty knowing the energy I entered with was on the mournful and nostalgic side, but I guess on this night he picked up on the more cheerful of this motley group of patrons and together they had me leaving with a case of the “warm and fuzzies,” either that, or it was the whiskey sours. Whichever the case may be, I guarantee that if you walk in to the Celtic Swell on a cold Friday night singing, “Nobody knows…the troubles I’ve seen”, you’ll leave with the optimistic words of Modest Mouse…
“And we’ll all float on OK
Already, we’ll all float on
Now don’t you worry, we’ll all float on
Alright, already, we’ll all float on
Alright, don’t worry, we’ll all float on”
– Mary Halecki