Category Archives: home
My brother gave me a 55 gallon drum last summer. He made an excellent compost bin with one, it hangs sideways between two posts and spins so you don’t have to stir, then dumps right into a wheel barrel. I’m making a rain barrel out of mine. To do that, it took me a year to break down and install gutters. That’s what I did this past weekend. Today I’m building an outdoor kitchen sink to run from the back side of the barrel. It’s similar to what some friends have in Mexico.
So far this spring, my house projects have mostly involved twisting the monkey off my back: the utility company. We’ve put up a laundry line, built window screens, hung screen doors, and now we’ve got this waterworks system. The utility meter reader guy came by Friday while I was on the ladder. I said, “Suck it, man.”
No, of course I didn’t.
We’ve spent $551 since June of last year on utilities. It’s depressing how many CDs one has to sell to come up with that number (I don’t think I ever have). Cutting wastewater will help the cost. It’s really the ugliest one, tucked in there on top of the water bill. They charge you to bring it, charge you to take it. No matter if you drank some or poured it on a flower.
Last winter we were very cold, and in the summer we lit the house with lightning bugs. We’re working on improvements. On Grace Acres Farm in Virginia, transitioning from Harlem, every morning we opened the chicken coup, fed the goats, watered the cows, and tended the large garden. My in-laws were on a motorcycle trip cross-country and knew Ashley and I could use a farmhouse in our life. After the inner city lollypop adventure.
I found Rebekah’s copy of Thoreau’s Walden and came to his illustration of the Indian basket maker. It resonated. Thoreau says, and I paraphrase:
“the Indian basket maker, who believed that crafting beautiful baskets was his greatest life ambition, decided that if he could not sell enough baskets to make a living, he would busy himself by creating a different style of living that did not require he sell as many of them.”
In the basement of the house at Grace Acres I recorded “New York City Spanks Levon Walker.” It was very fresh on my mind. Maybe I’ve sold 100. It was on iTunes for a year and actually lost money. I was very disappointed with that.
There is always the problem of sustenance when you busy yourself with making something, and less with the selling. Songwriting is my craft, and I get a little sad when I have a new one and think forward to the people in a bar who I’m going to scream it into their collars.
If it made any sense, I’d live on this little piece of land and work the ground. In the evenings, I’d sing to it. In the mornings I’d write my blogs, or maybe a novel. Ashley could paint what she wants. Our kid could run around the yard and I’d have a camera nearby for when he/she did something astonishing.
To complete this utopia, I’d likely go away to work as a longshoreman in the South or on journalistic assignment to the U.S. border of Mexico. Then we’d have the cash on hand to pay for government deficit spending, student debt, insurance, and other pretty little baskets like Netflix.
I was finished there for the day, but now I’m not. My trouble with sales needs working out.
Trade can be a genuine exchange like buying tomatoes and eggs at the farmers market. Or it is like buying a product in its devised cycle from a manufacturer who has already planned a replacement, and buying it with a credit card to get the bonus points, and maybe tacking on a few more large ticket items to jump into a higher rebate category. I get the sweats about discussing my AT&T contract. The bank wants to start a “relationship.” They used to call consumption the “con” and it would kill you.
At one time I listened to Zig Ziglar incessantly. I was in financial services sales then and I needed a motivational talk for every appointment. Ziglar says, in so many words, that the salesman is the catalyst for the american way. He said this a long time ago, way before credit crisis was the american way, and he also talked as much about integrity as he did sales. I’m a Zig Ziglar fan, but somewhere I became extremely bitter towards selling. Probably all the stood up appointments, cancelled contracts, and pressure during the banking crisis to sell our way out of ruin (due to previous overselling). I starved in my suit and tie, it didn’t seem so scary to hang it up. I have tomatoes now, too.
I sold less than 100 CDs in a year because I feel so dumb asking for money for them. People have to insist, and insist at least twice. Am I fast talking someone’s inheritance into my IRA plan? No. Those CDs carry lifeblood. To say that they go for 5 bucks feels a little ridiculous, it’s more than a money issue. I’ve given away well over 1000. They are the manifestation of my gift, and a gift is not for sale. Well maybe it has to be, but I’m very bashful about it. It’s my paradox, and I’m going to start writing pop songs. Those can be for sale, but not very good at sales and that’s why I grow tomatoes.
That was my explanation behind the 2010 EP “Not sure how I’ll eat but I’m not picking peaches.” My new one is underway, “Hope for the things seen and unseen.” It has my best songs ever written and I’ll slip you one soon.
Tags: 55 gallon drum, american way, banking crisis, compost bin, con, consumption, credit crisis, hope for the seen and unseen, indian basket maker, installing rain gutters, kub, longshoreman, netflix, new york city spanks levon walker, not sure how Ill eat but im not picking peaches, rain barrel, thoreau, us border of mexico, utility meter reader, zig ziglar
They just left my house after doing a home appraisal. We got up early and scrubbed for hours. It was one year ago tomorrow that we moved back home.
I just sat here a very long time. It feels like I should recap or talk a lot. Nope, the insight is a short one: Explore deliberately and stick. Stick just as deliberately.
It’s a gritty place, on a 93 degree day last day of May, and my sweaty jeans lay heavy over the arm of a chair. New screens keep the bugs out.
Ashley is cleaning brushes and eating string cheese, about to go to sleep. There are onesies laying on my studio chair and a book, “Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See?”
This is the most reckless, life out of the trunk, yellow stripe smash the dashboard adventure I need at the moment.
Don’t just stick deliberately, have the same expectancy to be amazed.
Tags: airstream, baby bear baby bear what do you see?, deliberation, dixie kitchen distributers, downtown north knoxville, expectancy, explore, holy smokin, home appraisal, knox tenn rentals, la dolce vita, old north knoxville, onesies, stick
Ashley is in front of a canvas this morning and that is no simple accomplishment. Nausea, once it comes once, seems to associate with the same situation. Our house makes her nauseous. I make her nauseous. She told me the other day that the only way she could consider working was if I built her a new studio out in the yard, in the garden and away from the house. I told her that the first trimester would be over in two weeks and she’d feel better. I couldn’t pour a footer faster than that.
Emotions will be high in today’s work.
A month ago I was preaching about taxes and organization. (Our Qualified Joint Venture blog) Ashley and I have a very complicated tax situation, nobody wants me to drag it out and explain it, but I emphasize that it’s very complicated. Thats why I bought the army file cabinet and promised not to fill it with shoe boxes, but use folders rather, and intermittently affix staples and paper clips.
That’s not all it took. The local bank has been easy enough to let Ashley and I conduct our regular business through our alter-identities: those being the fake names Levon Walker and Ashley Addair. Truth is, there are no such legal persons. Maybe you know my real name, which indicates our relationship predates 2008 when I adopted the name Levon from the 1971 Elton John hit song “Levon” from the Madman Across the Water album.
(note: “Levon” like “Levi’s.” Say it: LEEEEEEE, not leVon. end of note).
As for Ashley, well, she took “Walker” back in the summer of 2004. Addair is maiden. Dawn is the given middle. We go to the local bank I where I used to work, nobody bothers us about it. I’m getting to my point, after this one.
An artist is a small business like any other self employed entity in the great city of Knoxville, the county of Knox, the state of Tennessee, and the U.S. of America where the artist may be regulated and taxed at each level by its respective authority. That being the case, and in the spirit of owning a large, green file cabinet, we finally decided to organize.
We opened a small business entitled “Ashley Dawn Addair and Levon Walker,” obtained the city and county business licenses, applied for the state sales tax I.D. number and finally opened a commercial bank account. Our fake names exist now as a legal entity, although the owners remain the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. R Walker.
All of this babble has not been coffee shop conversation. I thought it worth sharing in part because having just gone through it, I’d be glad to assist the steps of another fellow who needs to get it done.
Also, for the story begun in this blog, it’s important to note the full circle. I’m back to the days of walking away from the desk (actually several of them) and classifying it all as “that stuff.” ”That stuff” doesn’t go away just because you want to be a songwriter. True, if one stays broke they aren’t forced to look at much of it. Unfortunately, ignorance is prohibiting.
Business principles aren’t the first thing I think of when focusing creative energy. I think of Jack Donaghy. No seriously, when I’m squandering I don’t do good work, or at least I can’t get it to stick. It takes an organized effort.
Especially when taking the last, tender step away from part time jobs and trying to stay off them.
I’m going to be a dad soon, and at times I think about going back to what some would call security. What I’ve learned most clearly in the last couple rambling years is that security exists, but it has nothing to do with the external. You can be secure in yourself and that is all. Beyond that you need faith, and when you can’t find faith, look for hope.
When I worry about it, I remember what David Johnson told me recently, “If it’s good for you, it’s good for your kid.”
Ashley and I are going to do this. Life is going to change, oh yes. But it won’t change to anything that doesn’t align with where we are now. And, we have a file cabinet to tell us where that is.
People, I got in trouble for making this video. The inclination came to make it and I just did, but didn’t clean the house or anything. Man, you got a warn a lady before you just walk through the place with a camera, especially if she’s in the state that Ashley is (and by that I mean nothing, dear). When she came home she said,
“Well…. it’s a little long, entertaining, but I can’t believe you’re going to show that.”
That means she doesn’t like it. But I think when you videoblog you’re only allowed one take. This ain’t cable.
Shoulder of the Road Revisited
I chased you down the road for an interstate goodbye
standing there on the shoulder with your head on mind
said, “Honey it won’t be long, don’t you worry, don’t you cry,”
then waved you down the road for another try
How could we wait for love, knowing right where it went?
I watched you drive away and said I wouldn’t again
We got married in the flood, we were then so young
had an early start just to mess it up
Those early days we won’t forget, fighting for our lives
coming home to walls we didn’t recognize
I learned that fighting you was something I could stand to lose
drag enough cold inside, what you gonna do?
So I learned to make a few men of myself, brought em all home to you
said, “Honey here’s the new me, and what I’m gonna do”
she said, “If you see my husband tell him I could use a hand,
these men keep coming over eating off his land.”
You took me once on a promise to be true
I been making good on that to you
One thing I didn’t know was who I was those years ago
All I knew is I was holding on to you
and the shoulder of the road
music available at
Documenting some more. It was Thursday midday, Knoxville Tennessee. One of the first real scorchers. Men were setting up the stage for a Better Than Ezra concert tonight (woa oh). Ice cream and hot dogs were everywhere. Alexander was busking on his alto sax by Cafe Four. I stopped in Bliss Home to reshoot Ashley’s work.
I’ve been taking Ashley to work on my bike (she frowns at the word “haul”). In the cool morning she walks, but at 1:30 she hops on the rack of my ox cart. A pregnant lady shouldn’t be walking these East TN hills in the heat of the day. She should be on a bicycle rack, clasping her responsible partner. The car is sold now, and that has been interesting. One more week of school and no more bike rides for the three of us. She already exceeds 50 lbs and we expect it to continue. And let me tell you, the hills are a bitch.
I’m documenting. This is Ashley at 8 weeks pregnant. The wildflower patch is now 4 years old and getting very jungly, in a good way. You can see that the Mason Jar is now white on the inside. 95%, but you can’t see that. Well maybe.
My trusty Canon point and shoot finally died, and I convinced Ashley we needed a DSLR. Secretly, I’ve long pretended to be a pro with my little Powershot. We made every video in our history with it, reproduced every painting; it has served us well (Canon SD 780, I recommend).
Reproducing images of paintings is a technical endeavor. I’m working on redoing them all. You can always come by the studio, so email us for an appointment at email@example.com. Otherwise, paintings are viewable at our store:
. Prints are available in all sizes at
From what we’ve read, normal signs at this stage of pregnancy are nausea, sleepiness, bloating, food aversions and cravings, and emotional instability. That sounds about right. Ashley wants to sleep all the time, can never eat, can’t stop eating, wants to throw up, and feels like she swallowed a tire. Watching nine episodes of Glee in the last couple days, another symptom has arisen: feelings of joy, elation, misgivings and fear.
With tears in her eyes, she slurps red pepper soup for breakfast and pets the cat. When people ask me how she’s doing I say, “Pretty normal, I guess.”