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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

Category Archives: Home Repair

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.


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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.

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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.

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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

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We sold the dryer a while back to raise capital, before the NYC spanking debacle.  And since then we only do laundry on sunny days.  The free standing rack we got at IKEA can’t always hold the weight when a sunny day coincides with the initiative to tackle the laundry heap.  Usually we have to peel it like an onion for three sunny days.  The answer: a laundry line.

Today’s blog will be a “how-to” on building your own laundry line.  Why would you want one? (According to Project Laundry List) 10. Save money, 9. Clothes last longer (where do you think lint comes from?), 8. Pleasant scent, 7. Saves Energy, Preserves Environment, Reduces pollution, 6. Healthy work, 5. Sunshine treatment (sunlight bleaches and disenfects), 4. Replace another appliance, 3. Avoid a fire, 2. It is fun! 1. It is truly patriotic (demonstrates that small steps make a difference, you don’t have to wait for government action)

So here we go.   Two 12′ 4×4″s will give you a 6′ high line if you cut 3′ for your cross piece and leave enough to sink.  In the tennessee red clay, I gave myself two feet and cut off the rest.

Screw the two pieces together and dig some holes.  Mix your concrete according to instructions.

This big iron noodle is for feeding coal into the old fashioned furnaces from around here.  I’ve never figured out to do with one now, but it busts up the limestone in the clay, very neatly.

Wait for the posts to set.  Maybe you have time to watch this music video, it’s about a girl who makes it rain every time she puts out her clothes to dry:

Then you hang your lines.  Use i-hooks for the best look.  To save a few bucks, drill holes and tie off (tape the rope to a screwdriver and pull it through).  There are pulleys too, if you want to pretend you’re hanging your drawers between buildings.

You can tell I’ve got some sag on the first time.  That denim is heavy.

I’m working on a song called “Laundry Line.”   It talks about when we should and shouldn’t bring up difficult matters in situations.  If you want to be transparent, there are places to hang a laundry line and others that you shouldn’t.  But on this particular corner, my shorts are blowing in the wind.

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It’s Saturday, and the to-do list is enough for a few Saturdays.

1. screen doors:  the first cucumber beetle of the year is trapped under a coffee mug at the end of the bed (guess who does that).

2. keep working on the garden beds

This will be the big bed, there’s two raised boxes off to the side and a lettuce bed under the dogwood.

3. my brother gave me a 60 gallon drum for a rain barrel last year but I don’t have gutters.  Gotta do that.

“subvert the dominant paradigm and harvest the rain”     -Dan Borba

4. get rid of the beetle.  They are not welcome this year.

In some societies, the first three rows of corn in a field alongside the road was fair game for beggars.  That was the welfare system; a little unfairly distributed no doubt.  You can take my tomatoes, but please respect a cantaloupe.

5. mow

6. build a permanent clothesline

7. plant a wildflower patch

8. take down christmas lights.  how embarrassing

9. hide the compost bed

Come out to Preservation Pub tonight at 6PM.  I’m playing for free.  Selling CDs on the cheap.  Ashley and Circle Modern Dance are dancing on the square around the same time.  It’s the Rossini Festival this weekend, an Italian Street Fair.

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I tried to call in sick.  Yesterday I was completely laid out with whatever’s going ’round in combination with whatever I ate at the Waffle House at 3:30 AM.  Hashbrowns all the way, which means they come smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped, topped.  When the server at a Waffle House says, “Now honey, you know what’s on that right?” you would be correct to assume that none of it is quinoa.

Knox and Emily

So I laid in bed and watched six documentaries on Netflix.  King of Kong, Who Killed the Electric Car, Countdown to Zero, Restrepo, The Art of the Steal, and Who is Harry Nilsson?  I’ve got the roller back in my hand and feel much more educated.






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