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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

by Dustin Addair

(by Levon who is listening to Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind”)

For all of the encouraging, listening and supporting over the first year of No Room for Hipsters, we sincerely thank you.  This time last year I was writing Facebook notes to notify everyone I knew about our plans to make a go in New York City.  I decided to make it a blog soon after, hoping it would serve to keep us in touch and be a place to organize my thoughts.  Not very long afterwards I pulled Ashley on board, and the writing has gotten a great deal better.   We finished out 2009 with a shared tale of veritable adventure.

Riverqueen, coal mine in Muhlenberg County Kentucky

Six boxes of CDs arrived by UPS yesterday and they’re sitting over there in the hallway.  I walk by them every few minutes and stare at them like they may start talking or something.  The tangible product representing the story, work, investment, and presentation of my life: just sitting in the hallway.  I listened to them both, turned them over in my hands, read every word on the covers.  I was quietly very happy.  One of those deep happinesses in which you look confused to those trying to read if you are as happy as you should be in a certain moment.  Ashley saved my uncanny dumbfoundedness.  She threw me a party.

My recording artist party

CD and covers by Dustin Addair

With our blog being one year old, and it being a time of new beginnings for this new year and new decade (which I was the first to call “2K10”), I’ve been wanting to give a 2009 No Room for Hipsters, Flight of the Walkers year- end review.  This will be part summary, part critique, and part conveying of critical advice in order to give value to my most costly mistakes.

a painting on Knoxville's "Wall of Freedom"

2009 year end review

In January we were busy in preparation.  We were stopping our educational and career tracks, searching for jobs in NYC, fixing up the house, looking for renters, and trying to sell a 1976 Datsun stationwagon.  Ashley was painting for several shows to hang in the spring and I was finishing “No Room for Hipsters” at Nightsong Studios in Knoxville.  We were not running from anything; we had firmly established to ourselves in four years of marriage that the current existence would not be acceptible moving forward.

1241 Armstrong for rent, car for sale. The girl is coming with me.

February we found our renters, the hinging point for the whole plan.  We finally put specifics on the calendar.  Then disenchantingly, the renter situation went sour in unimaginable, dramatic circumstances beginning a bitter saga never mentioned here (and I will not get into the extent of it which lasted for months), but nevertheless left us unemployed in our packed up house on the last day of the month.  We cancelled the moving truck and vowed not to unpack anything as we put the rent sign back in the yard.  We wore the same clothes and washed the same bowl because we were resolved to go.  Our piddly NY stash began to dwindle through our fingers.  Just for interests’ sake I broke my hand climbing a tree.  We made copies of the studio masters from “No Room for Hipsters” on my computer to sell in New York.  We were resolved, yes even hell-bent, not to turn back.  You’d have to know the first four years to understand.

hostel environment

In March we found new renters and immediately dashed to Brooklyn, lived in a hostel while on a feverish hunt for work and an apartment.  When we found a friend needing a roommate in Manhattan we returned to get everything, hoping we could find work easier by being there.  We committed to all we would need for a year, tied it to a borrowed Isuzu Rodeo and had another yard sale.

April, May, and  June we were alive in New York.  I found an unsustaining job to use as a place holder at Starbucks while I picked up gigs on craigslist.  Once, Ashley got hired and fired in a day but otherwise had no luck.  We worked as street artists and hit the open mic circuit.  Living up on 137th St was great for familiarizing oneself with the public transit system.  It was clear very quickly that we never really had a chance, but had taken one anyway.  Ashley hopped a Greyhound back to Virginia to help her grandmother for a couple of weeks and I finished all the songs for “New York City spanks Levon Walker” while I walked around in wonderment at the fact that we had to go.  Soon after she got back we packed the pickup truck, certainly stronger having the answer to our question.  It wasn’t the answer we’d predicted, but we weren’t asking the same questions anymore either.

Union Square

at Rockwood Music Hall

the day we moved out

It was in July that we retreated to Grace Acres Farm, Virginia.  Our family needed someone to keep the place while they took a motorcycle trip cross country.  Some will tell you that it’s hard to get used to the quiet after you leave a city like New York.  I dreamed in city lights and woke up to chickens and cows, there is truth to that statement.   In the basement of the farmhouse I recorded “NYC spanks Levon Walker” on my laptop.  I played and sang everything into the built-in microphone.  Ashley painted outside on the front porch.  Morning chores, then off to do our artistic processing of the very turbulent episode we had asked for.  The album came out slightly country from all the breaks I took to play in the black dirt.

grace acres

In August we moved again to Virginia Beach.  Ashley’s brother, Dustin and  his wife, Cortney live by the ocean and the four of us filled the little beach house to the brim.  We worked multiple jobs to get back on top and Ashley found free studio space.  I mixed the album the best I could.  We enjoyed long walks on the beach.  When the cold came, we moved into a hotel and later to the larger home of some artists that we had met.

The Alamar Resort Hotel

By November I had the album mastered by a good friend in VA Beach, Sam Morrisett.  I never gave my first CD of 2009  “No Room for Hipsters” a proper chance and was finally ready to independently release them both.  Dustin did all my graphic work, and one day I found myself walking to the oceanfront post office with a packet containing the master discs that are now in Kentucky, sitting in the six boxes over there in the hallway.

We stretched the holidays out this year.  We visited family from coastal North Carolina, Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., the mountains of west Virginia, Tennessee, and Western Kentucky.  When we got to Kentucky we turned around and went back to Louisville and D.C. for New Years.  Looking into 2010, I found a cousin I’ve never met in Brownsville, TX and we’re going to see him.  He sells silver jewelry that he makes and finds in Mexico to tourists in South Texas.  From there we’re going to Mexico and Central America on a bus trip.

Ashley is commissioned to do a painting in Tuxtla Gutierrez and I’m finishing my third album which I plan on recording there.  Of course, you’ll have to continue reading the second year of No Room for Hipsters to see how all of this turns out.

Levón Walker spanks Mexico City

Human life is narrative and meant to be told.  When no one is listening it is still uttered, but it matters greatly to know that you are heard.  With ease we may speak of last year’s bold freedom and lofty adventure.  More honestly and as often, we could describe growling insecurity and hopelessness, deep stagnancy and vast insignificance.  Unfenced options can become loose ends so far apart that they seem only outstretched by efforts to put a foot forward.  It is a robust appreciation we have for those who come and encourage us, hear us out, and tell us that we can make it.  You give us the place to explain ourselves without having to explain ourselves.  It is our hope that we are calling on others to live the story that they would want told of themselves.  It is our bigger hope that we can be better listeners.  Thank you again.

~Levon

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