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January 15th

This is a tree on the golf course by my parents’ house. I come here to meditate and pray. It’s good, meditation and prayer is, for what ails you. A woman walking her dog came by and said hello; It was getting dark so I could barely see her. I said hello back. I prayed and meditated for 10 minutes, which is how long the session on the app (yes I use an app) is, then a different woman came by, and it was dark by this point, so I could see even less. I said “hello, again” before realizing it was a different woman. She didn’t say anything back. I suppose this might be “my spot.” My spot to come to pray and meditate. A friend told me she had read a book on Christian meditation in which the mantra you say is “Maranatha” or “Lord Come.” Sometimes that’s what I say when I meditate; other times I have a prayer I’ve adapted from AA, in which I ask God to remove various defects and replace them with virtues. It helps. It really helps. I went to an AA meeting today. It was good. Packed room. I sat next to a guy who tried to rob a liquor store and did 5 years in prison. I felt. Well, compassion, and also, only 5 years? It seemed light. And also that, as many bad choices as I might have made, that’s one I never did, and I wonder how desperate you’d have to be to make that choice. But I’m glad he is making better choices now, and I’m glad there is redemption for him, and I hope peace. it feels a little wrong to share his story, but since I haven’t given any identifying information about him, I think it’s ok. Thanks for reading, everything’s going to be ok I think. Love, JH

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January 13

Sundays are becoming my busiest day so I think I’ll place a moratorium on having to write much, if anything, on Sundays. I’ll post a photo instead. I took this the other day at Umstead State Park which lies to the west of Raleigh. I love walking in the woods.

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Across from me

I knew a woman who for awhile had a blog called “across from me” where every day she’d post a picture she took of people on the subway sitting across from her. I thought that’s a good idea, to have a theme — a hook — for a blog. But that’s all it was. I think she doesn’t update it anymore. I tried for awhile. I’ve taken a few pictures of people on the subway. But mostly I’m too self-conscious. once, in fact a guy told me to stop taking his picture. This wasn’t on the subway but on Coney Island. I was taking a panorama shot, and he was in the way. Big ol cranky guy. He said “not everyone likes having their picture taken.” Heh. Vain fella. He was just in the way of the sunset.

I did take a ton of pictures in New York City. Hundreds a week. Here in NC I’ve only taken a few. Maybe 40 since I’ve been here. Another thing I haven’t done much is get on social media. I’ve enjoyed the break. Sometimes maintaining a social media presence is a job all by itself. But I worry if I am losing people — losing my friends, losing my audience — in some ways losing myself. It’s weird to have our relationships curated by a big corporation. It’s unnatural. And then there’s a fear of non-response. I don’t like feeling this way but there’s the “what if I click ‘like'” and they don’t respond in anyway?” Feeling. I’ve been on both sides of that feeling. Ignoring on Facebook and being ignored. One fan from way back sent me a friend request and I wrote him back and apologized but told him I wouldn’t accept because I was trying to separate my personal page and my music page. I asked him to “like” my music page instead, but he didn’t. I was kind of irritated. I wanted the connection, but couldn’t rightly call him a friend. I guess people want that more personal connection. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. “Friending” people I don’t know that well. Once I wrote a fan email to Ann-Margaret, in the pre-facebook days. Her assistant wrote me back and said “believe me, it is appreciated.” Heh. That’s a different thing though. I have some people on my facebook feed I barely know, or do not know at all. Facebook had a thing where it would show you how many “likes” or reactions you had clicked or produced, and my number was astronomically, depressingly high. I didn’t like it. So I’m enjoying spending less time on facebook. I hope I can keep my audience though. And, of course, my friends.

So here’s a picture I took on the subway — a Manhattan-bound B train. The guy might have been taking his dog to the vet. He had a lot of nervous energy and kept nuzzling, petting, and canoodling with the dog. He seemed worried. The woman is interesting-looking too. I always like seeing people read on the subway. If I saw someone reading on the subway I’d try to go sit as close to them as possible, because their presence was invariably calming, as opposed to the majority of people hammering away at or yammering away on their phones. There’s something grounding and soothing about a person reading a book. A book makes one more present while smartphones seem to take us out of the present.

Manhattan-Bound B Train

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NYC Photos April and May 2018: Trump’s in town, U Thant Island, Gantry Park, Long Island City Queens

I got some good photos walking around the other day in New York (Wednesday, May 23). I gathered in the morning with my pastor-friend Ben to do some work in the Flatiron district at 26th street and then later walked North and East to 38th street as far East as the East River, and then back West to 38th and 2nd where I had a small group meeting. That is, a meeting with a small group of Christians I gather with on a semi-regular basis to eat and study scripture.

I love taking photos. I use an Honor 8 phone, a midrange-priced cell phone (made by Huawei, a company which the US intelligence community says not to use ) that happens to have a really good camera (The phone is fragile though and the screen shatters easily. I have been through 2 screens already. I probably need to find a new go-to phone but I’m used to this one). I edit the photos I take with the Google Photo app’s built-in editor and then maybe put an instagram filter on there too. Sometimes people say nice things about my photos on instagram and I feel like saying I cheated, because the Google app can can and does make regular old photos look a lot more stunning. It’s a little creepy too, how Google will randomly choose photos from the cloud to gussy up and present to me.

You see all kinds of things in NY. Trump was in town on this day so there was an increased police presence, a generalized air of expectation, and then later on in the evening interminable traffic delays. I engaged one of the traffic cops in conversation (you can see him in the photo) and asked him if the President was in town. “Trump’s in town,” he affirmed. I asked him what for. “Oh you know, some political things, or maybe some business things, you know, with the tower.” It was pretty clear the guy had no idea but just wanted to talk, which was fine cause I did too.

By the river I saw a police boat engage with a jet-ski in the East river. It looked like maybe the jet-ski got too close to a little tiny island [*Edit. I did a little (very little. I typed “tiny island East River” in my search bar) research and found out more about this tiny island, which is called U Thant island. Please watch this video for some fascinating and entertaining history.]

If you watched the video then you know that no one is allowed on the island. (“U Thant” touch this). Accordingly, the police boat shooed the jetski away. I have to wonder if the police boat is a constant presence near U Thant Island, or whether it was part of the beefed-up Presidential visit security.

Behind U Thant Island is Gantry park, in Long Island City, Queens, which offers stunning views of the NYC skyline. You might ask why it’s called Long Island City if it’s not in Long Island. The answer is that technically Queens (and Brooklyn) are part of Long Island. They comprise the Western Part of Long Island. But when people use the term “Long Island” they usually mean the eastern part. That is, the suburbs. By the way, Long Island is the 11th largest island in the US and larger than Rhode Island, which technically has the longest State name of all 50 US States (State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations)!

I hope you like these photos of Manhattan, the East River, and Long Island City, Queens (The Queens photos are from April 24).

Pictured: Friendly Traffic Cop.

 

I turned the red filter way up.  Can you tell?

I’m not sure what was causing the sun to dapple that building on the right but I liked it.

NYPD Police boat shooing away jet-ski from U Thant Island.  If you didn’t watch the video about U Thant you really should.

Pepsi Cola Sign by Night. Gantry Park.

View of Manhattan Skyline from Gantry Park. (Panoramic view which got kinda bent). On this night, the Empire State building (over to the far left) was not lit, in honor of the victims of the terrorist van attack in Toronto the day before.

View of Manhattan skyline framed by one of the eponymous gantries.

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Europe, Part 2: Bangor, Northern Ireland (continued)

Greetings and welcome back to the series of posts about my trip to Europe in the Fall of 2016. When I left off, I was talking about playing in Fealty’s pub in Bangor, Northern Ireland in late September 2016. I forgot to say that the fellow who gave me his windbreaker (necessitated by my having left my jacket and coat at home in Brooklyn) in Fealty’s was originally from Arizona, and that it was a dad-windbreaker. The kind of windbreaker that my dad would wear, or your dad, or, if you are a dad, you. And apparently me, because I wore it all through EU, until I found a suitable replacement. (oh yeah. The day I replaced the dad-windbreaker. *that* was a banner day.  Stay tuned for that, you won’t wanna miss it.).

At Fealty’s, I met Rodney and Jennifer Cordner, a wonderful couple from Portadown who took me under their wings for a few days.  I was introduced to them via Facebook through my friend Gary Moorehead of  Massachusetts (It’s worth pointing out, that as much as I think social media contributes to the downfall of society, here’s a decidedly positive thing about it. I was able to easily make 2 lifelong friends because of a mutual friend on Facebook). Rod and Jenny are fun, warm, bubbly, funny, nurturing, creative, and plain old fun. Rod will talk your ear off, and did mine. He loves an audience and has the Irish gift of gab. His dad was from Texas (met Rod’s mum in Ireland, and then, I think left and went back to the US) and Rod never misses an opportunity to remind you that he is part Texan (and part Cherokee as he claims). Rodney is a singer-songwriter as well, and endlessly entertaining. Jennifer is sweet, kind, generous, and possessed of an deep, strong, unconditional love.  She treats Rodney’s hurricane-like conversation style with a bemused forbearance. Jenny has heard his stories before, many times, and has got a few stories of their own, as it happens. Neither Rod nor Jenny ever met a stranger. They drove me around, fed me, housed me, and took me sightseeing. Rodney lent me his guitar (“a teckaminny”) for that first gig. Oh and they taught me some of the lingo, which I drank in in wonder, as I drank in everything in wonder.

Here’s some Irish lingo I learned:

They Irish say “wee” a whole lot. Every sentence, like (That’s another Irish-ism, putting “like” at the end of a sentence like that): A wee spot of tea. a wee bit of juice. a wee walk, a wee gig.
“How’s about ya?” means “How are you?”
“What’s the craic?” means what’s going on or where may a good time be found.
“a brave drop of soup” is a big, hearty, bowl of soup.
someone who is incredibly drunk is “bleuthered.”
Someone who has “popped his clogs” has died.

First on the sightseeing agenda was the Mountains of Mourne, or Mourne Mountains, in County Down. It’s a granite mountain range in the Southeast part of NI, full of misty Celtic myths, Game of Thrones filming locations, endless stone walls, and sheep.

 

 

Rod and Jenny

 

 

Rod and Jenny’s front garden in Portadown.

 

This was a resort town where we stopped for tea on the way to the Mts.. can’t remember the name of it.

 

Jenny.

 

It gets windy.

 

The stone walls, the green, the sheep, the sea.

 

Jenny and Me. Do not, I repeat, do not be jealous of my sweet dad-windbreaker, I implore you.

 

A map.  Mourne Mts are at the bottom, Portadown is kind of in the Middle-West, under Lough Neagh.  Belfast and Bangor, Northeast.

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Back

I’m back in New York after 3 weeks or so of touring (in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio) followed by a week of visiting my parents in NC. It was great being on the road again, and an experiment of sorts because it was my first extended stretch of shows since transitioning out of ministry work. I hit the road with a lot of questions. Will I enjoy playing? Will I be good? Will people come? And will I make enough to make rent? The answer to all of these questions is, for the most part, yes. I had good shows, and enjoyed connecting with friends I don’t get to see that often.

Being back in NY feels — well, it feels ok. There’s a certain loss of momentum that comes with not having any performances coming up soon. I’m always happier if I have shows lined up. I’m working on booking the next batch of shows, and thinking about what the next batch of songs might be like. It’s been on my mind to record a collection of hymns. Either an all-original collection, or a mixture of some original and some traditional, or, perhaps something more conceptual like a double album of half doubt-songs and half faith-songs. This latter idea has received some good feedback, but I worry it might be too gimmicky or too forced. Part of what I already do (I think) is explore the edges and overlaps where faith intersects doubt. Really, they go hand-in-hand, and I’m not sure I’d want to hear any songs of faith that were entirely devoid of doubt, or vice-versa. So maybe my next album will just be plain old Jason Harrod songs without any special thematic emphasis. But at least, the gears in my mind are turning.

Here’s a picture of a construction site I took on a walk tonight through Midwood, the neighborhood just South of where I live:

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Europe, Part 1: Bangor, Northern Ireland

I haven’t posted much about Europe. I was there from Mid September through The end of November 2016. It was amazing. I flew from New York to London, and then to Belfast. The airline lost my guitar at JFK. Not a very auspicious start (I later got it back). My first gig was in Bangor, Northern Ireland. I basically tumbled off the plane and into this gig in a lovely pub called Fealty’s. It’s a series run by a beautiful songwriter named Stephen Macartney. Well, just imagine — my first time in Northern Ireland. I was really jet-lagged but thrilled to be there. It went well, and it was there that I met Rodney and Jennifer Cordner, a wonderful couple who took me under their wings for a few days. They were just lovely. More on them later. The people in the pub were really warm and welcoming. For instance, I left my coat at home in New York. A nice man in the pub, when he found out I didn’t have a coat, went home and got a windbreaker which he then gave me.

After the gig, Stephen and his girlfriend Trish had me over for chili and Guinness but since I don’t drink anymore, I just had chili. And at that point hadn’t had a drink in over two years. And I don’t usually miss it. But that night, there amongst all those wonderful people drinking Guinness and Irish whiskey, I did feel a little bit of that yearning to have some. And that’s the problem right there: wanting a drink always took on the quality of a yearning. Anyway, it was a beautiful night and I got a little bit of an education about the area and about “The Troubles” between Protestants and Catholics. That’s an old story and I didn’t quite get all the nuances. For instance, earlier, during the show, when I brought forth some of the spirituality in my own songs, some of the people in the pub had gotten a bit uncomfortable. Stephen said later that some people get uncomfortable when religion comes up, because it has been so divisive.

The next day Stephen, Trish and I took a walk around Bangor and looked for a coat for me to replace the windbreaker, which was a bit thin. I eventually found one, but not in Bangor.

Didn’t take many pictures in Bangor for some reason.

Here’s Stephen, Trish, and me (in gifted windbreaker).

Me playing in Fealty’s

In Northern Ireland, Top Cat hawks Mortgages. I thought that was noteworthy. I’m guessing most of my readers won’t know who Top Cat is.

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Water Tower in the Flatiron District/Tesla

6th Ave and 27th Street.

This is a picture I took of a water tower on 26th Street, viewed from 27th (Here’s a good article on the ubiquitous NYC water towers, which look like relics of the past but are still very much in use). The church I used to work for had its office on 26th. Directly behind me is the “Radio Wave building,” So named because Nikola Tesla lived and experimented there. There’s a great park nearby, Madison Square Park. Once Kanye West held a free concert there and it was a *mess*. Harried police shut down several blocks and there were tons of people. Apparently Kanye came on super late. Kanye and Jay-Z own a club nearby, called the 40/40 club. I stuck my head in there once, but didn’t sit down.

Speaking of Tesla: There are two Tesla Plaques in NYC (that I know of). One on the aforementioned Radio Wave Building (which used to be called Hotel Gerlach), and one on the Hotel New Yorker Hotel at 34th and 8th, where Tesla died, destitute. This leads me to a question: how come a long time ago living in hotels used to be a thing?

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AAA Avacodos

In Chinatown, on Grand Street, there is a store called AAA Avacados that sells only avacados, at one dollar apiece. It sounds like the brainchild of a Seinfeld character (Jerry: “Really? nothing else? only the avacados?” George: “That’s right! Only avacados baby!”), or the punchline of a Mitch Hedberg Joke. A few doors down there’s a rather stinky store (Durian New York) that sells only Durian. I didn’t get a photo of that one though.

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This is 817 Broadway (at E. 12th) in Manhattan. It used to be known as the Sprague building and was designed by George Post. It sits catty-corner from the splendid Strand bookstore (“18 miles of books”). This site has more photos and some history about the building. (I’d like to learn more about that “Fuller Detective Agency” shown in the 1905 photo).

817 Broadway “The Sprague Building”