‘Tis the Season: Too Tired To Shop

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 9.03.00 PMI’m SO behind schedule this year. On everything. What happened? Chanukah’s almost over, and Christmas is practically here. The presents! The cards! The rampant commercialism! The out of control consumerism! Here’s a thought: shop at your computer by making donations to organizations your gift recipients would appreciate. Here’s my annual list of some favorite non-profits that would be delighted to receive your (tax deductible*) donations of anything from $5 to $5,000,000,000,000,0000.

Airline Ambassadors International
Airline Ambassadors “began as a network of airline employees using their pass privileges to help others” [and would expand into] “a network of students, medical professionals, families and retirees who volunteer . . . [to] escort children in need, hand-deliver humanitarian aid to orphanages, clinics, and remote communities, raise public awareness and involve youth in humanitarian efforts around the world.” As if that’s not enough, AAI has created an industry-wide global plan to involve airlines in fighting human trafficking.

BEADS for Education
“To educate a girl is to educate a village and ultimately a nation.” There are several ways to help, including sponsoring a Kenyan girl’s education.

The Jazz Foundation
You might be surprised to know that a lot of gigs pay no more today than they paid fifty years ago (I’m talking about actual, not inflation-adjusted, dollars). I find myself wondering how the musicians who were around then, who could make a good living with that kind of money, are managing now, when they’re older and have to deal with health issues, inflation, and other challenges. JFA Emergency Fund helps jazz professionals–especially older musicians, who may have no health insurance, pensions, or retirement funds–get through hard times.

Planting Peace
Planting Peace has “a variety of projects ranging from large-scale international efforts to grassroots initiatives.” A donation of $5–yes, just FIVE DOLLARS–allows them to deworm 333 children; they’ve already reached 7.9 million children in Haiti alone. Deworming may sound like a small thing, but it can have an enormous impact on a child’s education, health, and quality of life.

Polaris Project
Polaris Project’s vision is simple: a world without slavery. It’s one of the largest organizations of its kind, with numerous programs for combating human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Potters for Peace
Potters for Peace and Planting Peace (above) is a beautiful example of how people can find low-tech, relatively small, very achievable solutions to enormous problems. To me, that’s the definition of miracle. “Since 1998 Potters for Peace has traveled the world teaching the fabrication of a low-cost ceramic water filter that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most.” (And HERE is the link to their store.)

Project Vote Smart
I’m such a believer in this invaluable resource for U.S. voters. Project Vote Smart provides comprehensive, unbiased, non-partisan information about the political process, elected officials, candidates, etc. In 2012 I spent a week in Montana volunteering at the Great Divide Ranch, PVS’s main headquarters, and had a brief visit again in 2014. You can read about my 2012adventures (and learn a bit more about PVS) here.

*Okay, this one’s not a non-profit, so no tax deduction. But your purchase generates a donation by the company, whose tag line is “One here, one there.” (Not only that, but a friend of mine is the co-founder!)  Buy a really cute school bag for a little one on your shopping list, and another schoolbag, this one filled with school supplies, will be donated to a child in need.


Time to Hit the Skyway. . .

If you haven’t read the previous entries, I suggest you start here and work your way up.

Truth is, I’ve traveled a fair amount and seen beautiful places. But, damn, Montana is something special! Even with smoke from wildfires obscuring some of the views, it’s just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. (Pictures below.)

Sunday morning, my hosts in Manhattan (west of Bozeman), Ann and Nick, took me to breakfast at a place that seemed so Montana, so untouched by time, that even I could tell when some “you’re not from around these parts, are you?” types walked in. After breakfast, we went to see the headwaters of the Missouri River, where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers converge. The pictures in the slide show include the handiwork (or should I say teethiwork?) of some beavers who got discouraged when the water level dropped.

In the evening, we performed — Ann Tappan (pianist), Kelly Roberti (bass), and I at the beautiful home of Frank and Jirina Cikan in Bozeman. We had an enthusiastic audience and a lot of fun. After the concert, Ann, Nick and I went to the Pita Pit, the only place we could find that was still serving food after 10 pm; I mention this only because it was exactly the sort of place we’d end up eating after gigs during the years I was touring in Germany (well, there it’s the doner kebab joints), so it felt familiar, and right.

Back in New York, I’m reflecting on a memorable 10 days: volunteering at Project Vote Smart (PLEASE consider supporting the work of PVS with a donation), and then meeting up with Ann and Kelly in person (previously we’d only known one another online) and making music with them. I’m feeling very luck to have had this experience.

And now, more pictures: Vintage cars parked outside the 3 4Ks restaurant. People: Ann, Kelly, Nick, Jirina and Frank. Scenery at the headwaters of the Missouri. A few of the stunning sky taken from inside Ann’s car on the way to the gig.

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