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Tails from Altea Spain

13 Apr

Check out my different colored eyes

So I finally get to offer my observations on this move to and life in Altea, Spain. I might add that I was promised I could put my two-cents in some time ago, but it has been several years before this has come to fruition.

It was confusing with all of the moves I have had to endure, first my original owner, Robbie (son of my current owner) abandoned me to pursue a career as a chef. Besides the lengthy hours he worked, he also apparently felt compelled to spend considerable time doing cross-fit and training for competition weight lifting. I am still not thrilled about this abandonment, but apparently it paid off for him as he received many favorable reviews in such publications as the LA Times, LA Magazine, Zagat, with Belcampo being one of ten top best new restaurants in 2014 by Bon Appetit Magazine as part of Downtown Central Market in Los Angeles. I got to go to his restaurant twice. Even though they don’t allow dogs, I pretended I was a service dog. I was so excited to see him! Then I was whisked off again by my new owner/mama for more changes.

This is me in mama's car before we moved to Spain

This is me in mama’s car before we moved to Spain

We ended up living in a place very different than where we lived on the Central Coast of California. The people here speak a different language, but I have learned about ten words in Spanish, such as ven (come,) muevete (move,) siéntate (sit,) and Pimienta (the translation of my name Pepper.) Many people greet me by name here; I am way more popular than my mama. People are intrigued by my two different color eyes: azul (blue) and marron (brown), and my dapple color. They also are amused when I sit up on my hind legs; they think I look like a Meer cat.

She takes me almost everywhere except when she puts on those black clothes and tells me she is going to Zumba and will be back soon. It feels like forever, especially after the uncertainty all of the changes have given me. When she goes out for a meal, I patiently (usually) sit under the table waiting for my reward from what she ate. Yum!


Daniel and me at his 40th birthday party at Altearte

Like her, I am becoming more social. I now excitedly great her friends, sometimes surprising her and them with my new enthusiastic attempts at kissing them, as opposed to my prior indifference. I enjoy our longs walks every day, usually at least one down to the beach, and the other to the top of the hill where the iconic church is (but we are not attending church.) However, we have fun with our friends in the evening. One of our good friends, Daniel (a native of Norway) celebrated his 40th birthday at one of our local favorite bars, Altearte.

Yesterday, we met up with my new dog friend, Pogo, and his parents, Karen and Barry who recently moved here from Costa Rica (although they are originally from Canada.) We had an outdoor lunch with them and mama’s friend originally from nearby Valencia, Nina. Then we went to the neighboring town, Albir, which has the second highest population of Norwegians, after Norway, so Nina could deliver a birthday gift to a girlfriend. En route, she saw a friend, a former talented sculptor of wood, who sadly suffered a stroke and can’t do his art or speak anymore, but my owner thought the sparkle in his eyes over a drink revealed a glimpse of his former charisma and talent. The owner of the Los Angeles café, also a friend of Nina, presented them with a colorful plate of tapas. After they were done, “claro,” (“of course,” in Spanish), I got my just desserts or should I say tapas. (And, yes, my mama knows the phrase was originally just deserts.)IMG_0840


Rafa at Club Cuba in Albir for Sunday evening salsa

It was already after the start of Sunday Cuba salsa dancing in Albir, and mama wanted to show the place to Nina. So that is where she goes when she leaves me on Sunday evening. When Rafa was initially playing some low key music, Nina loudly requested Cuban music, and he obliged. The only trouble was that they kept leaving me under the table alone so they could go dance. I guess it was better than being home alone. Then Nina drove us home where we went directly to bed after a fun- and wine-filled day. I burrow per my dachshund heritage, although I find it a little more challenging to sleep here due to traffic and people who talk way louder than I am used to.

It is quiet now during the three to four hour siesta, so I am going to take advantage of this time for a nap, before going for my evening routine of incessant ball chasing; I am ready for her to repeatedly tell me, “Dáme la pelota” (Give me the ball.) All in all, I like it pretty well here, which is good since my original owner, Robbie, is now going to be very busy at his new job at Saison, one of only four three star Michelin star restaurants in San Francisco. I just hope he and his brother Michael visit soon; here they are enjoying themselves in Belize with their brother Spencer and mama while I was left at Canterbury Tails doggie hotel. At least, Spencer will be visiting me next month.20150116_134409

Jazzwax Link to my StarrTreks Blog

25 Jan
Charlie working with Barry Harris on movie "Bird"

Charlie working with Barry Harris on movie “Bird”

Marc Myers, journalist and regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal in music and arts, and recipient of the 2012 jazz blog of the year for his blog, provided a link on his blog to my article on vibraphonist, Charlie Shoemake, as well as my former monthly music column. My article on Charlie Shoemake was originally published in the SLO Journal Plus magazine in June 2013, and on my blog on July 26, 2013. To see Marc’s reference to my writings, scroll about a third of the way down his blog for “2013 week 46.”

This blog,, also features many other interviews with talented and interesting musicians, in addition to other cultural and travel experienes


27 Oct
Judy Philbin

Judy Philbin

Judy Philbin smilingly sings a sublime samba to the delight of the audience. Whether performing to a concert audience or restaurants and wineries, Judy relishes the opportunity to be energized and inspired by her listeners. She is excited about her newly released CD, Keeping It Simple, in which she collaborated with local talented guitarist and composer, Adam Levine (see my March 2013 column archives.) The CD includes jazz standards, pop tunes, and four originals with two written by her, and two more to which she wrote lyrics to Adam’s compositions. As the title reflects, they kept the music simple, and straightforward, with Judy on vocals, and Adam laying down from one to four guitar tracks for each song.

Judy always loved to sing, and retrospectively noted that she was privileged to start singing at age six in one of the stellar children’s choirs they had at the time at San Luis Obispo First Presbyterian Church. At six, she also began playing piano. Over the years, she learned a variety of instruments including percussion, stand-up bass, trumpet, and guitar. In the eighth grade, she noticed all the boys played brass and all the girls played woodwinds, so she decided to play trumpet, which she continued through high school. She also was active in choir. In high school, as was typical of the era, she played guitar and sang the typical “teen-age angst-filled songs,” and began singing in coffee houses.

After completing her college degree, which was not in music, she returned to her love of singing by becoming one of the founding members of the acclaimed San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble. Motherhood led her to take a temporary hiatus from the time demands of performing, but when her children started school, she began collaborating with a friend to do sing-along concerts for kids. Her husband and two children were also involved, and they even performed on the Children’s Stage at the Live Oak Music Festival.

As a child, Judy felt enriched by living with her family in Guatemala for two years, from ages four to six years of age, while her father worked there. She was drawn to the simple, traditional music there, particularly marimbas and flutes, and has since enjoyed music from Central and South America. She and her professor husband decided to give their children a similar experience living abroad by taking his taking a teaching position in Denmark, where they became involved with the international mix of people involved with the school.  During her two year stay in Denmark, she was impressed by and drawn to the quality jazz music. Upon return to San Luis Obispo, she was inspired to start developing her jazz and standards repertoire. To that end, she attended a workshop with Phil Mattson, a conductor, arranger, and father of the vocal jazz movement. He encouraged Judy to explore solo vocal work, which she has been doing seriously for the last five years. In 2007, she released her first album, Candle in the Window, which is a compilation of songs to provide comfort for those who have lost loved one. As a result she has performed numerous times nationally at conventions for The Compassionate Friends, which provides grief support after the loss of a child. She and her husband, who also sings, have been involved with the annual Central Coast Follies Parkinson’s fundraiser at the Clark Center for seven years, and she noted that the benefit has contributed over $250,000 toward Parkinson’s research.

Judy presently performs locally at restaurants, wineries, public concerts, and private parties. Nearly every Thursday evening, she, Adam Levine, and bass player, Mike Swan perform at La Bellasera Hotel in the lounge/restaurant starting around 6:30 p.m.; there is no cover charge. For information on Judy and her performance schedule, go to  Judy encouraged locals to purchase the new release, Keeping it Simple, at local businesses which include Boo Boo Records (San Luis Obispo), Volume of Pleasure (Los Osos), and Matt’s Music (Paso Robles.) It can also be purchased from her website, Itunes and


27 Sep
Ted Waterhouse

Ted Waterhouse

Under the hot August sun in the expansive outdoor beer garden at the Barrel House Brewing Company, Ted Waterhouse was setting up for the weekly Thursday evening Real Blues Jam. The Barrel House Brewing Company is at the very south end of Paso Robles, California. He has gathered a group of talented local musicians who start the event by “jamming,” with Ted leading on guitar and vocals. Then musicians in the audience have an opportunity to sit in and play on the stage which is on the bed of an old, rusted truck.

Ted has become a regular fixture in the California’s Central Coast music scene since arriving here in 1980, after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. He didn’t initially intend to support himself as a musician. When he realized that to use his anthropology degree he would have to be an academician, he changed course.

At age 10, Ted said he started playing the guitar after his mother, a school teacher, took it up. Ted’s early formative influences were folk singers, other “American roots music” and Delta and Chicago blues. Living in the Los Angeles area, he was able to see some of the living contemporaries of Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson including Lightnin’ Hopkins, Rev. Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt.

In the 1970’s, unenamored with arena rock and disco, Ted expanded his music portfolio with “old jazz,” and swing jazz. Later he added honky tonk, country, varying styles of bluegrass and Western swing.  In 1973, Ted got his prized 1963 Stratocaster electric guitar on which he likes to play bottleneck slide. When he first got it, not knowing any better, he said he refinished it. Lately Ted had been playing his Telecaster, a sort of cousin to the Stratocaster. He also enjoys playing his resonator guitar, which is an acoustic guitar whose sound is produced by a spun metal cone instead of a wooden sound board.

Ted’s eclectic musical tastes are evident in the songs he writes and the different bands he puts together.  In The Blue Souls feature Ted and Debra Windsong on harmonica and vocals playing rockabilly, blues, and original songs. The Swingin’ Doors plays honky tonk and Western swing. Other groups Ted has had include the Hot and Cool Orchestra, Catalina Eddy and the Breeze, Viper Six who perform danceable swing jazz tunes primarily from the 1930’s and‘40s. Ted said he was excited about his new group Terraplane, the band’s name a take on the old Robert Johnson blues song Terraplane Blues. Chris Anderson will be playing keyboards. Ted related that this will be the first time he has had a regular keyboard player in one of his bands.  The incredible Jim Stromberg will be on percussion and vocals. He emphasized that songwriting is an important part of what he does.

In addition to the Barrel House Brewing Company, Ted enjoys playing in other venues including the Otter Rock Café in Morro Bay, Avila Bay Club, Atascadero Folk Festival, Live Oak Music Festival, Shell Café in Pismo Beach and wineries. To get on Ted’s mailing address for upcoming events, email him: