A New Adventure

California or Bust

Claire and DJB head out on August 1, 2014, on our “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” cross-country tour

One year ago today – on August 1, 2014 – Claire and I left home to begin our Not All Who Wander Are Lost cross-country tour.

Besides all the memories of 20 days on the road together between father and daughter, what a year it has been for all the Browns, including:

And so much more.

So, a year later Candice and I took an early morning drive to BWI airport with Claire as she heads to her first job in Los Angeles…exactly one year to the day after we left to drive west for her senior year in college.  This time, after hugs and kisses, Claire navigated the incredibly long line to check bags through Southwest, missed her original flight, caught a stand-by flight that actually got her into LAX 15 minutes earlier than originally planned, and met up with her friend Susan for a couple of days of visits before orientation begins.  Me? After our regular visit to the Silver Spring Farmers Market, I took a very long nap.  Quite a different August 1st from last year.

Sunday Brunch

A family celebration at Le Chat Noir’s Sunday Brunch before Claire heads to LA

We celebrated Claire last Sunday over brunch at Le Chat Noir in Tenleytown as she begins her year with the Episcopal Urban Intern Program in Los Angeles.  (The Episcopal Urban Intern Program is a year-long service learning project of the Jubilee Consortium – a group of inner city Episcopal parishes in LA working together to affect meaningful social change within their communities).  We are all so excited to see what’s next.

Hmmm…I think I feel a west coast trip coming up!

More to come.


Ancestral Places

DJB in Cedar Mesa

Hiking in Southeast Utah

Last week I spent three days working in Southeast Utah and the Four Corners region with colleagues from the National Trust and partner organizations on our Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah campaign.  Here’s the campaign overview from the Trust’s Saving Places website:

Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah include archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and trails that tell stories of diverse people over the course of 12,000 years of human history. The area — mostly federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management — lacks adequate legal protection and funding to protect its archaeological treasures. In collaboration with tribes and other local, state, and national partners, the National Trust is engaging in research, outreach, and advocacy to protect these iconic cultural sites and landscapes for future generations to appreciate.

In two full days of hiking, I was able to see a handful of the thousands of sites in this beautiful landscape.  With Josh Ewing and Vaughan Hadenfeldt – the leadership of the Friends of Cedar Mesa – we visited cliff dwellings, saw petroglyphs, stood amazed at the views from Comb Ridge, and hiked to hidden springs.  And always we discussed the challenges of protecting these special places.

Here are a few photos from the hundreds I took along the way.

SE Utah Cliff Dwellings

Cliff Dwellings in the Bears Ears area of Southeast Utah

Comb Ridge

Panoramic View from the top of Comb Ridge

Petroglyphs 07 23 15

Petroglyphs in Cedar Mesa

San Juan River

San Juan River Valley with Monument Valley in the distance

On Friday we hiked in Montezuma Canyon with BLM Archaeologist Don Simonis, seeing a variety of fascinating ancestral sites.


Don Simonis explains elements of a restored kiva in Montezuma Canyon

My photographs don’t do justice to this unique landscape, but suffice it to say that this is a place worth fighting for.  Thanks to Josh, Vaughan, Don and their teams – along with Amy and Tom from our staff – for allowing me the chance to glimpse a small piece of the wonderfulness of this country and its peoples.

Details from cliff dwellings

Details from cliff dwellings

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat

More to come…


Welcome to One of the Most Remarkable Landscapes on Earth

So, you have two guys of approximately the same age (and regular readers will know what that means) in a car driving the six hours from Salt Lake City down to the Southeast Utah town of Bluff (population 150+) through the awesome landscape of red rocks, wide open vistas, mountains, mesas, and deserts.

Navaho Twins

Navajo Twins in Bluff, Utah

What’s on the musical playlist when you have all day and long stretches of lonesome highway?

Why the Stones (Sticky Fingers, double album with Eric Clapton playing on Brown Sugar).  Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. Merle Haggard and Big City. And most appropriately, Leon Russell and the Shelter People singing Stranger in a Strange Land.

What better song to remind you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Tom and I certainly tested the speakers in our little rental car. So crank it up!

More to come…


Summer Views

Celebrating Tom's 90th

Claire, Candice, Tom, DJB, and Andrew celebrating Tom’s 90th birthday

From deep in the American West (yes, I’m traveling again), here are some photos and very brief observations from the last two-three weeks that I’ve wanted to post…but haven’t found the time.  And I’ll begin with a few pictures from Tom Brown’s Excellent 90th Birthday Adventure.  (Or the Tom-Tom Palooza, as coined by my niece Rachel.)

Brown Family Singers

The von Brown Family Singers prepare for their big turn in the spotlight at First Baptist Church

Tom Brown's 90th

Candice and DJB with Tom Brown to celebrate his 90th birthday

A vivid memory from family gatherings from my youth were my uncles Joe, Jimmy, and Paul – along with my Dad – sitting together and watching the children play. Here’s the next generation, although the vice has turned from cigars and pipes (everyone but my father smoked) to beer.  Here two of my nieces, their husbands, my brother-in-law Mark, and Candice join me in relaxing by the pool.


The next generation

The DC and Chicago cousins

Claire and Andrew with their Chicago cousins Zoe and Kelsey

TB and his children

Tom Brown with his children (clockwise from upper left) Joe, Steve, Debbie, David, and Carol on July 5, 2015 – his 90th birthday

Tom Brown and Family

Tom Brown (yes, the one with the suspenders) with all his family members to celebrate his 90th birthday

And now for something completely different.

We celebrated the start of the new (fiscal) year at work with that great Southern tradition – seersucker.  Unfortunately, not too many folks at the National Trust own any seersucker (at least not any that they would be caught dead in out in public), so the brave few posed in front of Common Reader by the artist David Salle (from the collection of The Glass House).  And yes, Katherine does look like she has a crocodile dancing on her head!

Seersucker Day

Seersucker Day, with Brent, DJB, Diana, Katherine, Brendan, and Tom

My favorite seersucker story comes from a former board member at the National Trust and one of my all-time favorite people, the late Bradley Hale from Atlanta, Georgia.  Bradley and another partner from the prestigious Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding were in Las Vegas for a convention, and being good Southern gentlemen they went into the bar – wearing their seersucker suits – to get a drink.  After a few minutes, when several waitresses passed them by, they stopped one and asked if they could order.  Her response?  “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were with the band!”  Classic.

And finally.

Our Vice President for Historic Sites knows of our family’s love for Claremont, California – home to Pomona College. Katherine’s husband attended graduate school at Claremont, and she headed there for a conference just a few short weeks after Claire’s graduation.  She texted me and said, “I’m bringing you home something you’ll enjoy from Claremont,” and the next week the following bumper sticker showed up on my desk.

I'm a Crustie

A wonderful reminder of Some Crust Bakery in Claremont, California. One of our all-time favorite bakeries.

I could almost taste that breakfast slider…or a Valentine’s day cupcake…or the cranurkey sandwich…or their wonderful lattes.

Off to more travels.  Look for some updates soon from Cedar Mesa in Southeast Utah.

More to come…


Red Wing III: A Quick Look Back

Watkins, Jarosz, and O'Donovan

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing Roots Music Festival on July 11, 2015

After 12 hours of music on Saturday at a sold-out Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Natural Chimneys Park, I’m going to let the photos speak for Day Two of the festival, with only a few quick observations thrown in along the way.

Scott Miller at Red Wing

Scott Miller

  • Scott Miller is a terrific songwriter and a good performer with a great sense of humor.  Is There Room on the Cross for Me? was only one of a number of smartly written songs in his set.  Fiddler Rayna Gellert was also a find.  Check them out.
  • I liked Missy Raines and the New Hip better when they were all acoustic.  The electric guitarist was good, but her music lost some of its subtlety and just became more noise.  That said, she’s still a terrific bass player out flexing her chops and trying new things…and that’s all good.
  • I’m not sure who booked Nikki Lane for a prime 6 p.m. slot on the main stage, but to my ear a little of her honky tonking trash from Nashville went a long way.  She should have been given the 11 p.m. slot and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen should have taken her slot on the main stage.
Jarosz and O'Donovan

Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing 2015

Sara Watkins

Sara Watkins at Red Wing Roots Festival 2015

Aoife O'Donovan at Red Wing

Aoife O’Donovan

Watkins, Jarosz and O'Donovan

Watkins, Jarosz and O’Donovan at Red Wing 2015

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan – the acoustic super-trio I’m With Herwas the best show of the festival for me (and I suspect for many others as well).  As highly accomplished singers and players, the music was all of a high quality.  They obviously enjoyed playing off each other and blending their beautiful voices into harmonies that could be sweet – or growling – but never dull.  As my friend Oakley said, “Worth the price of the festival.”  Agreed!

Steel Wheels 2015

The Steel Wheels – hosts for the Red Wing Roots Music Festival III

Christ Thile

Chris Thile of The Punch Brothers at Red Wing 2015

Frank Solivan

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen at Red Wing III

The hosts for the weekend – The Steel Wheels – were part of Saturday evening’s headliners, and they didn’t disappoint.  The Steel Wheels put on their typical high energy show, which had the crowd singing along when they weren’t cheering with delight. The Punch Brothers were the true headliners, and Chris Thile and the boys played their usual masterful…and sometimes musically dense…set.  Thile was Thile…all over the place, excited to be there, and musically engaging (when you weren’t scratching your head).  Finally, at 11 p.m., Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen took the last shift of the night, with a tight 50 minute show for those hard core fans who remained.

At Red Wing III

Margaret, Candice, DJB, and Oakley at Red Wing III

These four satisfied-yet-tired festival goers enjoyed two days in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  What could be finer than sitting beneath the grandeur of the Natural Chimneys, listening to three beautiful young ladies play amazing acoustic music.  So on that note, we’ll go out with two tunes by Watkins, Jarosz and O’Donovan – the first being the John Hiatt tune Crossing Muddy Waters followed by their a capella version of Be My Husband.


More to come…






Red Wing III: This is Becoming a Habit

Robert Earl Keen, July 10, 2015

Robert Earl Keen performs at Red Wing III

The inaugural Red Wing Roots Music Festival in beautiful Natural Chimneys Park held out a great deal of promise as The Steel Wheels pulled together friends and musical heroes for a wonderful three days of music in 2013.  So I returned last year for Red Wing II, and found that the festival had grown and built on that promise. Naturally, Candice and I returned this weekend for the third annual Red Wing festival with our friends Margaret and Oakley Pearson from Staunton.  This is becoming a habit. The signs of the festival’s growth and increasing popularity are everywhere, beginning with the size of the crowd. Then the line-up gets stronger, as bands and musicians learn about this wonderful, small (compared to Merlefest and Telluride), and welcoming festival with knowledgeable fans.  (Folks in the Shenandoah Valley know their music.)

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival (photo credit: Elephant Revival website)

Candice and I were late arriving (don’t ask…part of it had to do with sitting still on I-66 for 20+ minutes), so we missed the first band I was hoping to hear – Mandolin Orange.  I enjoyed their music at an earlier festival, and Oakley said they were equally captivating in 2015.  We did arrive in time to hear the Colorado-based Elephant Revival, and they were a revelation.  Bonnie Paine on washboard, musical saw (thankfully, only one tune), and lead vocals was amazing – leading the band through its blend of Celtic, folk, roots indie music.

Chatham County Line 07 10 15

Chatham County Line at Red Wing III

The bluegrass band Chatham County Line was up next.  I’ve heard their music over the past couple of decades, but had not had the opportunity to see them live.  They began with the beautiful Sound of the Whippoorwill, and continued through an engaging hour-long set.  For an encore, they brought out members of Mandolin Orange – one of those nice moments that festivals can produce. A change in the line-up brought the band Matuto to the main stage.  Their music is described as an Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound.  Well, I didn’t hear much of the Appalachia piece, but guitarist Clay Ross and accordionist Rob Curto exchanged some mean licks in extended jams, all underpinned by a steady bass.  This would be a great band in a New York club (where they are based).

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin’ McCourys

The Travelin’ McCourys – along with special guest Andy Falco of The Infamous Stringdusters – hit the stage hard and kept the pace up with their blend of traditional bluegrass and more progressive sounds.  These sons of legend Del McCoury know their traditional music, but they shined while playing some Dawg music, progressive bluegrass, and other tunes outside the boundaries of their dad’s bluegrass.  It was especially nice to hear the Tony Rice version of Old Train as played by the band.

Jason Carter 07 10 15

Jason Carter of The Travelin’ McCourys at Red Wing III

I’ve heard Jason Carter play his wonderful bluegrass fiddle before, but he has a great lead voice when singing that’s seldom heard (at least in my experience) when he’s playing with the Del McCoury Band.  All-in-all a very satisfying show by Ronnie, Rob, Jason, Andy, and bassist Alan Bartram. Which then led to the night’s headliner…the inimitable Robert Earl Keen.

REK at Red Wing

Robert Earl Keen and band at Red Wing III

We were flagging after a very long day, but Keen’s music and breezy, boozy style (he couldn’t remember the name of his “bluegrass drummer” until about three songs into the set) soon won us over.  Keen clearly has a huge following, and the quality of the songwriting shows why.  When he explained that he had to search to find a “bluegrass drinking song” for his new Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions album (because “all my songs are drinking songs”), he then tore into Hot Corn, Cold Corn.  His band was all acoustic for this set, and the addition of Kym Warner of The Greencards ensured some hot mandolin picking.  We packed it in before the end of the set (Saturday’s music promises to run over into Sunday morning, so we have to pace ourselves)…but it was a good start to a weekend of satisfying music. More to come… DJB

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Special #91 for Tom Brown’s 90th Birthday

Tom Brown at the Franklin Theatre

Tom Brown

Wednesday’s post about my father’s upcoming 90th birthday brought nearly 500 views (huge in my world) and elicited all sorts of comments from family and friends.  I heard from the head of the Heritage Foundation in Franklin who said she was “feeling proud that the Heritage Foundation not only saved his beloved Franklin Theatre but the Bearden House too!”  (They rescued the house after the city had let it fall into serious disrepair.)  A long-time musician friend said he had seen my father earlier in the week and, “He was truly excited about his upcoming birthday celebration.”

Of course, major birthdays are not without their traumas in our family, and Dad’s 90th is no different.  On the day I posted my celebration of all things Tom Brown, he slipped on his patio and dislocated his shoulder.  My sisters and brother again came to the rescue, seeing him through an ER visit where they popped it back in place.  He’s now in a sling and moving a bit slower, but still ready to celebrate.  We’ve spent the past two days with him, and are looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

Of the many comments made about my blog post, one touched me as especially thoughtful and in a way that captured Daddy’s generous spirit.  It came from a Facebook post by my nephew Kelsey, as he shared my post with his friends.  With his permission I’m sharing it with readers of More to Come in its entirety.

My Uncle David wrote this wonderful post about my Granddaddy. I’d really recommend everyone who knows me to take the time to read it.

Today the loudest voices of bigotry, in particular regarding race and LGBT issues, are associated with Christians and people from “the South.” My Granddaddy embodies all the best parts of both those groups. He is kind, liberal, and a good man, not in spite of his Christianity or southern-ness, but because of them. I hope that one day, everyone who identifies themselves in such a way is more like my Granddaddy than the people spewing hate on the news.

In honor of my Granddaddy’s 90th birthday, I’d like to add a #91 to David’s list:

91. When I came out as transgender to him via email, I got a simple message back “This is an area in which I am not familiar, so I will have to read up on it. Just rest assured that I love you.” When I went to visit him a few months later, he told me that he appreciated my email, and while it was outside his realm of experience, he still loved me. We went out to dinner later that day, and the waitress commented on him being out with his son and grandson, and Granddaddy smiled at her and told her we were visiting for the weekend.

I can only hope to grow into the kind of man my Granddaddy is. The world could use more men like him.

I couldn’t have said it any better.  I am so proud of my father, and I am so proud of Kelsey.

More to come…



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