Rindy and Marv Ross of Quarterflash rock Newport

You know how some bands from the past are so wiped out it’s embarrassing when they do their reunion concerts at the fairgrounds or perform on those late-night cable shows? You get only one or two of the original people and they can’t really sing any more.  Well, that is not the case for Marv and Rindy Ross of Quarterflash and Oregon Trail Band fame. They’re better than ever, polished like a fine gem.

When my predecessor as president of Writers on the Edge scheduled them for our Nye Beach Writers Series, I didn’t know who they were. Apparently, if I had been born in Oregon, I’d know. Or maybe if I hadn’t spent the ’80s listening to country music instead of rock.

Marv and Rindy got together in high school, forming a band called Seafood Mama, and they have been playing together ever since. As Quarterflash, they had a huge hit with “Harden My Heart.” They toured with Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and “other big-haired 80s acts.” They were on MTV. They were a big deal.To their fans, Marv and Rindy, now performing as a duo, are still a big deal. Saturday’s gig, which we hosted at the Newport Senior Center to have more room, drew fans from all over Oregon and beyond, and they weren’t disappointed.

From the first note, I was enthralled. Their sound is huge, even with just two people. Marv has written most of their songs and is still writing. Rindy gives them voice. Her voice has the purest sound, dark and light, high and low. She plays saxophone and harmonica. There’s nothing decrepit about these two. They offer power, master, and perfection. They’re also nice people. I was the only one who signed up for the open mic after their performance. I was going to bag it, but Rindy said, “No, I’d like to hear your songs.” So I sang my songs. A couple other people read some poetry. And it was good.

I handled the CDs, and people were throwing 20-dollar bills at me so fast I almost couldn’t keep up. Everyone wanted to take the music home with them.

On Sunday, ten of us gathered at the senior center with Marv for a songwriting workshop. From the get-go, he sprinkled us with songwriting magic, explaining song forms, showing us how his songs and other famous songs are put together, then guiding us through the beginnings of our own songs. We couldn’t wait to start writing.

Marv will be teaching a two-day workshop June 12 and 13 at the Sitka Center in Lincoln City. Check the website for details. He will also be teaching at the Fishtrap writing workshop in Eastern Oregon in July. Marv and Rindy will perform an acoustic concert with Eddie Parente at the historic Elsinore Theatre in Salem on June 6 at 7:30 p.m. Visit their website, www.quarterflash.net, for details.

Behind the scenes, we had a little drama Saturday night. The Rosses were rocking along when I noticed a commotion in the hallway. Several men had come in the open door and were settling into the lounge. Uh-oh. We were just the renting the senior center for the night, and I was responsible if anything happened to the place. If these guys were not going to pay their $10 and join us, I needed to chase them out. I tip-toed out to confront them. I began with, “The senior center is not open. This is a private–” A tall man stopped with a gentle arm on my shoulder. “We’re here for an AA meeting. We meet here every week.” I blushed. “Oh. I’m sorry. Have a good meeting.”

Neither group knew the other was coming. I hope the music provided a helpful backdrop for the AA folks.

The Nye Beach Writers Series returns to its usual location June 21 with Joe Wilkins, whose poetry and creative nonfiction are as good as the Rosses’ music. 7 p.m., Newport Visual Arts Center, admission $6. Joe will teach a free workshop the following day at the Newport Library. Details at http://www.writersontheedge.org.

Blindfold experience teaches important lessons

I walk through my world quickly, always thinking about the next task, my attention darting everywhere. But a writing exercise yesterday changed my perspective. As the first part of a workshop with nature writer Ceiridwyn (CARE-i-dwyn) Terrill, she blindfolded us and had us walk through a woodsy course behind the library with only a string to follow.

I was first in line. Ceiridwyn led me over a protruding root to the flat part of the trail, then let go. It seemed easy at first, like walking down the hallway at night, but then I ran into this tree. A smooth-barked alder, it seemed to mark the end of the course. “Is this the end?” I hollered. “No,” came the reply. “Figure it out.” I could hear the other writers chattering and laughing up above the trail, but my world had shrunk to one thing: find the path. Straight ahead I felt tree and shrubs, probably honeysuckle or salal. To the left, under the string, seemed to be nothing but open air. I couldn’t move unless I went under the string, but would I fall? I had no choice. Dorothy, the next writer in line, was coming, waiting for me to find the way for both of us. I went under the string and found more path.

Without being able to see the sky and the trail, it was hard to keep my balance. I walked with tiny steps, unlike my usual strides, until I ran into another tree, broad enough to hug, its bark rough against my hands and arms as I felt around it and determined that the string ended there. Or did it? Dorothy insisted she felt more string; we had to go on. No, I argued, this was the end. Blindfolded, neither one of us could be sure. Our world had shrunk to this tiny place on the path, to this tree and this string. Nothing else mattered.

When we were allowed to remove our blindfolds, we discovered that this was indeed the end of the course and Dorothy had felt a loop of string that went nowhere.We hadn’t actually walked very far.

Blindfolded, we depended on each other and on that little bit of string. We could not let our minds fly all over the place; we had to concentrate on moving forward and not falling down.

I don’t want to be blindfolded again. I hate that helpless feeling. I hate having to ask for help. I hate having to consult with other people before pushing ahead on my own. But I think there are many lessons to be learned here. Sometimes you have to ask for help, to trust other people, and sometimes you have to do just one thing, take one tiny step at a time.

(I’d offer photos, but I couldn’t see!)

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