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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

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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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NYC Spanks Liner Notes and Lyrics

smaller file: NYC Spanks Liner Notes and Lyrics

Maybe you’ve heard this old album, but I wanted to share the lyrics.

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[ from a. addair who is listening to Levon Walker (New York City Spanks Levon Walker) ]

I gave up store-bought toothpaste but failed in making a cavity-fighting homemade version and now I have cavities.  Stupid hipster.  This would be funny if I had spare teeth.  Or dental insurance.

A few weeks ago, I decided to inquire within a charitable dental clinic for the uninsured.  I approached the front desk and found that the anxiety in my body had collected in my throat, and that my only choices we’re to remain silent or sob.

 Walking home, sniffling into my tissue, I realized that the anxiety stemmed from an uncertainty about my validity as an artist.

exploring the "why" behind painting. acrylic and pencil on canvas.

I didn’t feel good about asking for financial help because I believed that what I really should do was go get a job that would pay me enough to visit with a dentist on my own dime. 

This implies that the work I am doing now is not worthwhile.  I was equating financial provision with hard work and worth (thank you Benjamin  effing Franklin), which actually I don’t believe. 

With some counsel and thought I am working to shed this myth of our culture.  My work and objective is to create good art; this requires sacrifice  (and at least for today, the help of a dental clinic and Colgate) but it is my responsibility to order my life so.

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photo by Dustin Addair

The most recent mix of another one:

wrongastheright.721

photo by Dustin Addair

Undoubtedly the track needs further mixing, some vocal touchups, and drums.  I’m sharing this one anyway today because the challenge for myself is to share the process of making recordings and writing songs.  This is the 3rd of 14 (previously unreleased) that these two weeks will feature.

This song began in Virginia Beach early one morning as I was having coffee and staring blankly at the coffee table which still carried the remnants of the night’s festivities before.  Like the strewn table, my mind was bewildered as to what I was supposed to do now that New York City had sent me on my way.

photo by Dustin Addair

I was far too busy in the final recording and mixing phase of “New York City Spanks Levon Walker” to finish any new songs at that moment.  With the late summer I became a landscaper, and by the end of the fall I had almost enough cash to send the CDs off for duplication.  By then we were living in a cheap motel, paying cash under the table by the week, and taking most of our meals at a nearby soup kitchen.  In a further state of bewilderment, I sat down and finished this song one day on my balcony of the motel overlooking the closed up pool.

photo by Dustin Addair

The song was later recorded on an old Conrad acoustic guitar that I discovered in a pawn shop on State St in Brisol, TN.  The Conrad is rickety and robust, with a neck that is true.  I traded a piano tuner for it from an old side career I never got running.  The song also has about 9 organ tracks with different drawbar settings and vibratos.  The bass is an overdriven wurlitzer.  A good friend Scott Lashinsky, of Vagrant Moon drove up from Richmond to meet me at Grace Acres and lay down the resonator guitar parts on the choruses and the end.

photo by Dustin Addair

“with the times on my side, didn’t know me at the time, on my way to my way then, needing somewhere that i’ve been…I’m not passin by or wasting time or always right, or afraid to try.”

Check back tomorrow for #4 of 14.

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[ from a. addair who is listening to Levon Walker (New York City Spanks Levon Walker) ]

”]Last week I dropped off some of my work to the Blowfish Emporium in downtown Bristol, TN/VA.  If you’re in the area I recommend stopping in; in their own words it is “an eclectic collaboration of local and regional art”.  The space is beautiful with a funky mountain hippy flair.  The owner, Bethany Wilson, is a fresh and innovative spirit for her community.

The paintings that I dropped off were painted this spring.  My time and space is so disorganized lately that I let paintings be a pure outlet.  Most mornings when I got to my Dad’s shop/my improvised studio, my mind was too cluttered for anything but playing in colorful mud.  I tried to lower my editing-filter and just let images and marks march straight from wherever it is they come from to the plywood.

now hanging at the blowfish emporium. go see it.

It helped me to keep my balance and I hope the excercise will allow me to be freeer, even during my more structured periods (if that time ever comes).

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[ from addair who is listening to Levon Walker (New York City Spanks Levon Walker) ]

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I just found out that both CDs are now available on Amazon.com and iTunes.  They’re on Rhapsody as well, if you’re a subscriber.  All you do is search Levon Walker in the iTunes store, or go to the Amazon link below:

http://www.amazon.com/York-City-Spanks-Levon-Walker/dp/B0035QMVL2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1265831847&sr=8-1

I’m working on distribution for the actual CDs, but if you’d like to have one instead of downloading you can email me for now at levonwalker@live.com and we can mail it.

San Cristobal de las Casas

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