Magic in Idyllwild

September 19, 2010

It’s 11:13, Thursday night, I’m sitting in Idyllwild.

Star is making a fire in the wood stove. I hear the sound of wood being broken to small pieces, the air being pulled in the chimney. Outside the crickets do their thing. Yeah, here too, like just about everywhere else around this immense country, something is cricketing in the night.

I had an incredible day. I mean, yesterday too… and the day before… How to say this? My life has taken hold of the steering, it’s not me anymore deciding, I’m in for the ride. I get daily surprises, they are gifts. I still wonder what have I done to deserve this all.

I had decided to come to Idyllwild for a couple of days before flying to Nashville in order to focus on the music, songs, fingerings that need polishing before recording, to work on my voice, do all that reasonable stuff. I headed out of Altadena around 4:30 PM. Pretty much zoomed unhindered in the HOV lane or splitting lanes all the way to the 234 up the mountain. There was not a single car in front of me, the bike just decisively growling its way up the hill all the way into Idyllwild to the house. I stopped the engine.

“…. “

Ah. Quiet.

Ah. This air, this thinner mountain air that manages to still hug you somehow.

Ah. The colors, the trees… But I got here and Star had made some plans for me :

“ Did you get my emails?”


“you’re playing the Rustic tomorrow at 5:30 PM”

“hmm, hmmm”

Well that wasn’t exactly what I had planned but when is it that what I plan is the best thing to do anyways? I don’t have the bets imagination to organize things, so again, letting life organize itself for me has worked really well lately. Plus just give me a guitar and I become a willing puppy : I’ll play.

We went for dinner, I had only had some breakfast and coffee so I was ready for food. We went up to the Aroma Cafe. If you go to Idyllwild, you have to go there, for a drink, a meal, breakfast, espresso, whatever it is, it will be good and you will very likely have “real” music, with “real” musicians to serenade you as you eat.

Star drives his Toyota pick up up and down the mountain roads with a lot of zip. He knows these roads like the back of his hand. I’m hanging on the door handle. We park. I get out of the truck. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by emotion. This place… I’ve already got memories here, from last week and there is also something else, as if the place takes a hold of you… Oh my God. It’s big, it’s deeply moving, I’m not sure I understand.

I take a short moment, gather myself again and we walk up the few steps to the restaurant.

There I met Hubert, the owner. Hubert is from Belgium, the French part of Belgium so we got to speak French. He carries an Ipad around everywhere. He consults it constantly, he is interested in everything. He is fascinating. He is a mathematician, a restaurateur, a computer programmer, a rock climber, a university professor…. We talk about Quebec, music, sculpture, programming, the town and its people. Hubert deemed me an “interesting person”. Which I took as a gigantic compliment.

Hubert perusing and pondering in the light of the Ipad

As we talk a trio of musicians : two double bassists and a guitarist plays jazz, they are brilliant and the whole vibe is just perfect. As the night falls and the air cools one of the staff brings me a Mexican blanket. The stars shine above as we are on a semi-covered patio.

The hours flew and it was now time for goodbyes. On our way out Star introduced me to one of the bassists. Marshall. Marshall is originally from New York. He has played with the big names in jazz up there. He now lives here, he started a music program here that is now a first rate music program. I knew when I saw him play that he was the “real deal”. We chit chatted a bit, then he suddenly said to me : “ You are an older person, are you?”


“an older person…. An old soul”

“hmm… well, yeah…”

Our hands met into a clasp. On contact it felt like some sort of energetic time travel, I could almost see light around us. It was like a recognition, a greeting from eons past. We smiled. What a moment.

Shortly after we walked out.

“Wow.” I said. Under the stars shinning above, the moon seated in this pristine sky of dark night. It’s so quiet. It’s so perfect. It’s so unreal and yet so very real. I take a deep breath. “This is my life” I thought.

We got home, said good nite and I slipped into my sleeping bag and went straight to sleep.

I woke up around 9 and totally indulged into the double whammy of bath & shower, no less. Then, yoga. Then I headed out to the Higher Grounds Cafe for, well, coffee and of course wi-fi.

I met with Star at 1:30 for lunch and a bit of sightseeing. We went up the mountain. He showed me some of his work on the way, stone walls, water features, wood work, beautiful stuff, very integrated in the environment. We had lunch then he went back to work.

I like this US flag

I went to the Aroma Cafe for espresso. I walked in there and a man came to me and said : “you are Danielle?”

“huh?” How did this guy know my name?

“…Saw you on the internet, saw the YouTube video”

“Oh! The show tonight!”

Hmm.. that is kind of wild… Been here only a few hours and people have found me on YouTube….

I got a double espresso and checked my email again then left to get ready for the concert.

Getting ready, well it’s pretty simple. Clean shirt, wash your face, brush your teeth and there you go. No make-up, dresses, jewels or anything like that. It’s just me. Me and someone’s guitar. I was talking about that recently. The simplicity of it. No trying to be something, someone. No games. No pretense. Which also means no insecurity about having to live up to something you know you’re not. It’s the music that takes precedence, not the ego or the fears.

The guitar? Tonight it will be Star’s guitar. A very honest classical guitar that has been outfitted with steel strings. I love classical guitars. That is what I started on. I can always play them no matter what.

Star with two guitars

I walked in the venue, it’s an old style movie theater with a stage. Kind of a romantic space. Warm, old velvet seats. There will be no microphones, no amplifiers, no PA. Just me, the guitar and some people to listen. You got to remember this is a very impromptu, last minute event that Star organized a day ago.

There is I believe 10 people present. All seated in the first two rows. But they are all there.

Nothing beats that.

You could have one person who is all there and that is all I need. You can have 200 bodies present but if they are not with you, you’re in hell.

It was freeing to not be tied to a microphone. A patch cord. A set of guitar pedals. I could walk around, lean in any direction, close my eyes and not worry about getting off mic. I thought that I need to practice being free… On a stage like this. It would change the sounds, rhythms…

One of the ladies in the room is an accomplished musician, she is from Argentina. She has written scores for movies, is a renown pianist and arranger. She has amazing energy. I am totally feeding on that. Hubert is there too. Everyone there is intrigued and curious and generous.

I play for an hour. It is perfect. The circle happens. The magic comes alive.

Then it’s over.

But it’s not. Cynthia a massage therapist comes and gives me a massage, numbers are exchanged, everyone is elated. One guy says : “ it’s been a long, long time since music has been so incredibly satisfying”. Hubert invites us to the Aroma Cafe, dinner’s on the house, the energy spirals, rolls, moves.

We drive up about ¼ mile up the road to the Cafe. Alex, a local bass player, luthier, plays with Joe, they invite me on the stage, I sing Summertime, then Give me one reason which I manage to completely forget the lyrics to… then I sang one of my songs… a big roar of applause rises when I’m done, then again when I come off the stage. Huh? Well thank you!

at the Aroma Cafe with Alex and Joe

An exquisite dinner waits for me on the table. Hubert sits with us at the table, we are like the guests a the King’s castle. The art work, the woodwork, the food, the company, the music, the stars above… I wish I could really convey how magical this all is to me.

Motorcycle girl lands into a dream where everyone loves her… Where there are guitars to play everywhere and where she can sing her songs… and where people like her music… Huh?

Maybe that is what it feels like when you are in the right place at the right time. When I was days from leaving for my trip I had thoughts of landing in towns, meeting cool people, playing, sharing… I could have never quite imagined this as it is now.

We head back home.

Star fell asleep with the guitar on his lap in front of the fire. I’m getting pretty sleepy. I go quietly to my own room and slide into my sleeping bag.

In the morning I have to pack up and head down towards Los Angeles. Then over another set of mountains to Lancaster which will be the home for the Suzuki for the next two weeks while I go to Nashville.

But for right now I’m here and it’s unbelievably perfect.


2 Responses to “Magic in Idyllwild”

  1. Alan Says:

    This is rich !

    “Motorcycle girl lands into a dream where everyone loves her… Where there are guitars to play everywhere and where she can sing her songs… and where people like her music… Huh? “

  2. Duane Thorin Says:

    Oh darn. Alan beats me to the draw!!! “Motorcyle girl lands in a dream where everyone loves her..and there are guitars to play….” That is great. And you write so vividly and personally we all get to experience things as you, without having to ride for hours on the Suzuki, (which I’m sure is great, but not for me most likely), and we can still work on our own dreams. Thank you Danielle, for sharing so many meaningful things with us. You are not only an old soul, but a very generous one.

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