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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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The last two weeks I’ve been editing and remixing some of my home recorded EPs.  I decided to rework a lot of my last EP and all three are available now at:

http://levonwalker.bandcamp.com/

This is replacing iTunes for me, it’s far more friendly to the small guy.  “Not Sure how I’ll Eat but I’m not Picking Peaches” is the last, I repeat last, time I will do a home recording this rough in nature.  It is preposterous to spend weeks trying to fix projects that were recorded in Garageband (don’t smirk).  It’s the best I could do with what I have (useful for forcing inventiveness amidst limited resources, teaching not to wait until everything is perfect, exercising initiative).

With such a wonderful disclaimer of blundering recording quality, I move on to the subject of promotion.  Follow me.  Self promotion: the marketing wheel of social networking obtrusiveness. Until now, that is,  for an idea was born yesterday.

I call it “Promotional Acts of Kindness.”  When walking home yesterday, along the sidewalk beside a locksmith company, the hedges were being invaded by a vine.  There was trash in the beds.  I said to myself that if I were still a landscaper, I would knock on the door and tell them that for $20 I would clean up the mess.  Or I could just do it, randomly… or, promotionally.  “Promotional Acts of Kindness” was being born.  I could leave a sign in the lawn:

This Act of Kindness brought to you by Levon Walker, who invites you to visit http://levonwalker.bandcamp.com/  and see why this behavior has occurred.

I thought maybe I’d make a T shirt and get myself caught in public, “tagging” things with a broom and loppers.  Written on my back:

This Act of Kindness brought to you by Levon Walker, who invites you to visit http://levonwalker.bandcamp.com/  and see why this behavior has occurred.

It would target a new demographic, I would hand out pamphlets explaining how an impractical, indulgent artist decided to get out and make themselves useful in attempt to redeem a vain existence of indy basement recordings.  If art is for the good of all, then invest in its promotion by civic do-gooding.  Make it a splash.

The more that I turn the idea over in my head, the more I am convinced I am going to do it.  I have a difficult time promoting myself, worsened by years of being bad at sales when I was in them.  “We are all in sales in some way or another, or we work for someone else who is,” said my friend Knox.

I don’t like sales because I feel grasping, self interested, angled, and one sided.  I realize that this is personal problem, for I’ve worked with plenty of people who are good salesman and demonstrate the positive attributes of the trade.  But plenty of people feel like me, and I think all salesmen go through it.  Someone who wants to be a massage therapist finds themselves learning to hustle.  The same with a personal trainer or a hair stylist. Competition favors the competitive nature, some of us only wanted to be yoga instructors.

Sorry, I need to bring it all back home.  My original purpose in writing was to tell you about

http://levonwalker.bandcamp.com/

to plug it here, plug it firmly, and then mention:

Promotional Acts of Kindness, brought to you by Levon Walker, who invites you to visit http://levonwalker.bandcamp.com/  and see why this behavior has occurred.

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