Category Archives: mexico
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
I was just making fresh pesto for tonight’s Food For All. Pesto for twenty and it can’t be eaten yet, basil is precious right now.
Then I was staring at two extra garlic cloves, peeled and sitting in a bowl. My friend Edwin in Mexico taught me a trick. It’s too early to call a habit.
Bite the garlic and chase it with hot, black coffee.
It burned a lot less today than I remembered. I grabbed some fiery mustard and a jar of banana peppers (the fridge is rather well stocked with condiments right now). I ate a couple peppers and swigged coffee, reminiscing. Ashley can’t or won’t talk to me the rest of the day when I do this.
For the second clove, I buried it in mustard and threw it back like a grape. I reached for the coffee and chased. Slamming the fiesta ware on the formica, I exhaled fire. It stung my eyes. Then came tightness of the chest and the back of my neck began to sweat. Gosh I miss Edwin.
Then in a few seconds it passed. I am getting stronger.
I had a song come to me in a dream once, nearly in its entirety. Countless times I wake up with a lyric or a piece of an idea to scratch out, but I’m not talking about that . On New Years Day of 2010 I woke up in my brother’s bed, near Louisville, Kentucky. The new years party from the night before had been family friendly and my head was clear.
The house was asleep; Ryan and his wife (Ashley), my Ashley, plus a few dozen children bundled up with small animals. I reached for my ipod and typed out a note that was as if I’d already sung it before. The feeling was surreal and impossible not to describe as hopeful.
A little bit about songwriting: songs are seeds. A finished song is a small bit of matter that only the author has witnessed. It only exists in the time between start and finish, and only on the days when the author plays it. It has no significance and must be enacted or it will be forgotten.
Until it is heard. When a song is familiar to someone else, it begins an existence other than itself.
With my homemade recordings and videos, I try to make songs tangible. When people spend their time to sit with and consider my music, I am grateful. However you may find it, I’m glad you listen.
We who were born yesterday we haven’t cut it out
Haven’t fallen down enough I fear
I’d say that many times we pulled a favor in
Had a better chance to win by sex or skin
We who were born yesterday we’ll have it in our hands
Be busy with the plans we made from here
And I hope it’s better in our 1984
Than token social gospels we’ve seen before
We who were born yesterday we can’t take all the blame
Like a river can’t be tamed by those downstream
It’s a shame that a no good dog, he doesn’t know his name
Only knows he came like all the yesterdays
And I hope it’s better, there’s parts I would repeat
I’ll keep my mouth wide open and I’ll move my feet
Clocks will strike and hammers fall, the iron oligarch
Sovereign patriarchs upon the wall
If you wake in a marble cave, don’t try to conversate
Better get away under another name
Don’t be caught on the borderline of brotherhood and hate
Throw me in an open grave, put me in a better place
And I hope it’s better, time is borrowed
They’ll look back for answers in a day or so
We who were born yesterday we’ll get a chance to play,
We will have a say, we will point the way
We who were born yesterday we’ll have it in our hands
Just a little sand and a broken wave
And I hope its better and I hope to find
That hope is worth the effort and faith was right
It’s good to be home. It’s good to be 60 degrees and be home, I should say. Fondly I remember those last couple of days, burning the last of our wood, purging the cabinets, and trying to dry laundry with a space heater and a woodstove. I baked enough bread and prepared enough quinoa to fuel the three days down to the U.S. border and almost had enough to get us right back. We spent five days in and out of the Johnson City medical center before driving off at midnight to Charlotte to make a 6:00 am international flight. Three flights later we were in Chiapas, with perfect timing for respective bachelor/bachelorette parties that lasted until the wee hours of the next morning. Plum tar’d out.
The two following weeks in Mexico we won’t recap, but I did eat grasshoppers and should report that they had the consistency of soggy popcorn and the flavor of socks. In the face of opportunity, I just had to make myself. In the event of necessity I won’t hesitate. Don’t believe anything you hear about Mexico unless it comes from noroomforhipsters.com.
We arrived back in Charlotte too late and too beat to drive. You couldn’t have injected espresso into my neck to make me do it. We opted for the accommodations of nearby American Value Travel Inn. There was an Exon nearby and all their junk food was American, too.
Charlotte is home of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art as well as the Mint Museum, both of which are on the same membership reciprocal as our very own Knoxville Museum of Art, meaning we got to go for free. The exhibits of these museums were so inspiring that Ashley said, and I quote, “You couldn’t have put a price on that motel room to make it worth today, because you can’t quantify the value of viewing art.” That’s the same thing I said when we were watching HBO in the room.
We left Charlotte and headed ten miles south to South Carolina, just to get coffee and for me to pick up a rock. If I may indulge for a moment, I can’t be sure I’ve ever been to S.C. despite having lived in nearby East Tennessee for some time. Every other contiguous U.S. state I’ve visited on one road trip or another and I simply had to know if I knew my country or not. Then at last we headed to Bristol, to see Ashley’s dad now nearly three weeks out of open heart surgery.
Highways 321 and 421 cross some of the most beautiful country of Appalachia. Across the Blueridge Parkway, through Boone, N.C., then the Cherokee National Forest before the hills of Tennessee. You want your arrival home to meet you with its own confidence, no matter where you’ve been or how long you’ve been gone.
Sunday afternoon, assured that Glen would soon be doing bench presses, we headed for Knoxville. And like a month earlier, received another phone call. Glen’s oldest brother was in the hospital in Bluefield, WV. We turned around to get Glen and headed up to where the Addair family was filling the hallways in a small hospital high upon a shaved mountain top. Ashley was born in that very facility.
You may have heard me tell of how the Addair’s induct a boyfriend into the family. Here’s a shot of me and my foe, much more amicable today than those early visits of mine to Grandmother’s hill in Tazewell, Virginia. This is Brian, which has one syllable like “Brine,” and to most he is also endearingly called Fathead. We went two rounds in red gloves on the side of a mountain one day. I won. Sympathy, that is.
If you want to read, I told it before: “If you’re going to be stupid you’ve got to be tough” http://noroomforhipsters.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/if-youre-going-to-be-stupid-youve-got-to-be-tough/
We’re back in Knoxville, nearly two days now. I’m trying to keep calm and be efficient. We’re putting our heads down and getting to work, which means Ashley hasn’t unpacked but she’s spent fifteen hours in front of a canvas. I put new strings on my guitars and am rehearsing for a show tomorrow night. We don’t like to go this long without our brushes and instruments, even though we packed them. Once we left the house a month ago, we just kept ourselves flexible and in between the ditches, as my Pappaw would say.
Tags: american junk food, american travel inn, appalachia, bachelor party, bachelorette party, bechtler museum of modern art, bluefield west virginia medical center, boone north carolina, cherokee national forest, chiapas, eating grasshoppers, exon, grandmother's hill, hbo in the room, hw 321, hw 421, indulge, international flight arrival, johnson city medical center, keep it between the ditches, knoxville museum of art, mint museum, oaks motel, old paperville tennessee, one way sign, pappaw, road trip quinoa, rocks, southeastern reciprocal, tazewell virginia, virginia trailer park
[ from a. addair who is listening to Jay-Z (The Blueprint 3) ]
[ from a. addair who is listening to Tom Waits (Closing Time) ]
when i think
i’m okay or that i’d like a distraction
but it scrapes in my stomach
and drags at my face
and i try
to smile at the camera but
it is ugly
when i sit here unsure of how to proceed
Here’s a video Ashley made with some footage so far. The song is off my last EP, I wrote in our VA beach motel during Hurricane Ida.
With the times on my side
I didn’t know me at the time
On my way to my way then
Needing somewhere that I’ve been
I’m not passing by or wasting time, or afraid to try
Tags: chiapas, homemade videos, hurricane ida, La Cantina de los Remodios, mariachi, mexican wedding, mexico, not sure how i'll eat but i'm not picking your peaches, puerta arista, san cristobal, tuxtla gutierrez, wrong as the right