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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

Category Archives: Uncertainty

[ from a. addair who is listening to Empire of the Sun (Walking on a Dream) ]

The following is an excerpt from an entry I wrote about 6 weeks ago but never got around to posting:

“That’s the big news.  We’re tickled pink or blue.  I’m feeling so excited, happy, awestruck, grateful, full of love and totally unprepared with panicky moments sliding into every 100 breaths.  It feels similar to the way we fumbled through our engagement: really joyful but slightly disturbed because I knew we we’re walking into a dramatic reworking of life in utter idiocy and delight.

the apple of my eye (twas a good thing to get married even if it didn't make sense)

There are a zillion things to be afraid about and excited for.  My mind jumps straight to my future engorged body, then to wondering how I will paint, then to a pair of sweet little baby boots this embryo has already acquired;  then I  wonder how close the baby will be born to Christmas and  fret over folic acid intake.  In short, I can’t focus on anything.”

We are now at 11 weeks and our little embryo has graduated to a fetus.  The part where I can’t focus on anything remains though now it isn’t so much giddy fun for me.  Between the bouts of nausea and fatigue I’m pretty well missing my old energy.

Turns out being pregnant has taken me deeper into my let-it-go training.  I think I was making good progress before, but when your body tells you to stop, you really have to listen; it’s such a basic reminder that life is much bigger than my agenda.   I’ve had to slow way way down and be much more flexible and gentle with myself than I had ever imagined I could be.

the sort of things I've been working on (since painting makes me nauseous)

I recently started reading The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, in it he says that members of the creative class, “work at times when we are supposed to be off and play when we are supposed to be working.  This is because creativity cannot be switched on and off at predetermined times, and is itself an odd mixture of work and play.  Writing a book, producing a work of art or developing new software requires long periods of intense concentration, punctuated by the need to relax, incubate ideas and recharge.”  I love to read someone else’s articulate expression which has only been a misty idea-vapor in my own brain.  Seeing it there on a crisp, published page gives clarity and a sense of validation to the thought process I’ve been swimming in.  Florida’s statement gave me peace about departing from an imposed daily work structure.

baby banner for someone else's tiny human addition (detail)

I know that the life I’ve chosen doesn’t have tidy, defined compartments.  And I’m already beginning to understand that having a tiny human addition will make the lines between work, leisure, family and craft even blurrier.

tiny human addition

 

I don’t have a conclusion.  I’m still splashing around in murky waters but I can report growth:  both in girth and in spirit.  I don’t think its accurate to say that I’m swimming in this metaphorical ocean but I am learning to float on my back which is mostly about trust.

 

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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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[ from a. addair who is listening to Sondre Lerche (Faces Down) ]

Things I was thinking about as I made this painting:

celebration flag banners

“this is the beginning of a parade”

surrendering to the story

miracles and magic

flowers

whimsy

unpredictability

simple delights and surprises

fun!

interlaced plum trees

roots

foundation

hope and community

life and color

Many of the words on this list came from the wedding inspiration list which I thought was beautiful and delightfully imaginative.  It was so fun get creative with you.   Thank you for the opportunity.

I loved your vision for the ceremony, it allowed me to engage in thinking about marriage in some fresh ways.  Through the painting, I wanted to honor the unique particulars of your union and offer a perspective from our own married adventure as a hopefully useful and encouraging gift.  I think Alain de Botton communicates this best when he says, “We should not feel embarrassed by our difficulties, only by our failures to grow anything beautiful from them”.  Levon and I are incredibly grateful for our happy marriage,  but whenever I attend a wedding I can’t help but to remember the troublesome parts that arrived so quickly after the vows and shape so much of who we are.

The imagery is mostly taken from the setting of your ceremony: the backyard garden, Park Ridge, flags and lights draped from tents and trees and you both promising your love under interlaced plum branches decorated with fabric and family photographs.

These are the impressions I want to communicate through the painting, but I’ve kept the imagery loose and abstract because a mere depiction of the setting couldn’t capture the mysterious joy-sadness, family melding, and vastness in the atmosphere of sacred vows.

Circles are the basis for many of the elements in the painting.  The symbolism inherent in circles communicates the wholeness and cyclical nature of what a marriage can mean.   Many of the circular elements were made by painting on a plastic sheet.  Once dry, the paint circles were peeled off and either cut in half to form the flags on the banners or folded and clustered together to form flowers.  I think this process is appropriate for the ways that we function as elements made in one context and given meaning in another.  We are both parts and completed wholes as we live out our vows to not only our spouses but to our families and communities.

I find the symbolism in wedding traditions powerful because of the threads (think flag banners even) they weave over time and through generations and so I used some of those practices in the making of the painting.  For instance, I painted the white, tree cluster-cloud element as if it were icing on a wedding cake.  And I pinned the flowers onto the ground as a boutonniere to a jacket lapel.

 

 

 

“A real work, like a real love, takes not only passion but a certain daily, obsessive, tenacious, illogical form of insanity to keep it alive”      -David Whyte

This is my wish to you, Amelia and Josh.  Your wedding day was beautiful and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it and now may you insanely follow the love you declared under that 5.21 sunshine.

Blessings and thank you,

ashley

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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.

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The Fellini Kroger in Knoxville is commonly considered to be an exhibit of surrealism, hence its nickname after a famous filmmaker.  I like that a particular grocery can have a well known reputation, even if the grocer is Kroger, and even if that reputation is ambiguous.

Fellini’s is a 24 hour shopping-center-supermarket in it’s original 1974 condition.  The shopping carts fill the nearby creeks and are parked on sidewalks leading to the epicenter.  Its gumball machines are yellowed glass.  The entrance is a canopy of charcoal grills and seasonal ferns.  A Manager Special will likely be tofu or pickling salts. After 10pm there are no lanes open except for the computers, and the lights are turned down low over the produce section.  The living sleeps, the artificial endures, and you have come here for your sustenance.

I have dreamed of these late night Fellini runs, the stale fluorescence and drone of refrigerator isles.  The fronts of my shins freeze and the wet, spongy slam of a glass door entraps climbing fog upon frozen broccoli.  It makes me shudder.  I can see the glow of the parking lot from my house on a black, summer night.  More than the building, it’s the patrons of Fellini that make it Fellini.

Naturally, I began scouting out how to document the surreality of this locale, in order that you might believe me should you not live nearby.  No doubt you have experienced a similar Fellini grocery scene yourself.  My investigation began yesterday, and I think that it may be over already (I am afraid).

It was a Monday afternoon and Ashley was with me.  She went to the thrift store next door and I entered Fellini to get her regular pregnancy cravings, which consist of wheat saltines, plain cheerios, and carbonated water.  Yes, I had more exotic expectations of these days.  Even at midday Monday, and shooting from the hip, I was able to get a sense of what I wanted to do later.  A lot later, like when they turn down the lights and the people arise from the bed of 3rd Creek. The phantasmagoricality is low in these shots, but remember it was midday Monday.

Then I took this one.  Harmless, but it must have stirred attention behind me.

So then I shot this one.  You’d think I would have known better than that.

A Fellini guard accosted me.  I was escorted to the door, which was at that moment where I wanted to go.

“You can’t take pictures around here like that.”

“Thank you sir, and it won’t happen again.”

“It had better not.”

I escaped into the ferns.

I think I’m going to stick with what I told him.  Not to say I won’t post up in the parking lot some night, behind the Taco Bell drive through, with a telephoto lens.  But when Fellini confronts you like this it is an unsettling warning.  Like an imbalance you witness in nature.  Things are not right with me now.  I have this soda water and some saltines which helps, but I feel like I really wanted pickles and chocolate.

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We were walking yesterday to our neighborhood Food For All when I decided to document the pregnant lady, 8 weeks to the day.  She got totally emotional about it, but then it passed.

People ask me how she’s doing.  I lie to them.  “Fine,” I say.  But by “fine” I mean normal for the first trimester, which implies covered with blankets and asking for food then pushing it away, running over to the wastebasket to throw up and never getting to, and being upset about what I consider the least of our concerns.  That’s what I mean by fine.

We’re going to Food For All at the Fergusons’.  Lentil soup and cheese bread they said, and I’m grateful because it got her moving.  Tonight FFA is at our house and we’re making pizzas.  20 people will come pick it up, we each cook once a week in pairs of couples.

I said, “Ashley come with me.  The cheese bread will be cold by the time I get home.”

She came forth.

I don’t know how this shot got in here.

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