The Show Must Go On (Must it?)

on Sunday, December 14, 2008

I understand the concept behind "the show must go on," people have taken time out of their busy schedules to see you and paid good money at the door, it is your job as an entertainer to do everything you can to see that you're holding up your end of the bargain and put on the best show you can.

And then there's today.

The first winter storm of the season is rolling across Minnesota today. Two days ago the weather service said that the worst of it would be north and west of St. Cloud or the Twin Cities, yesterday it was updated to include St. Cloud. We're talking 6-10 inches of snow, wind chills of 20 to 30 below zero, and the National Weather Service suggesting that you travel only in the case of an emergency.

'Tis the season, and people want to hear their cheesy Xmas songs and so I have to endanger my life driving to Minneapolis today so that they can hear me sing "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus." Then I have to drive back because I can't skip work tomorrow, I'm behind enough as it is.

The idea of spinning out on the highway, winding up in a ditch or worse is not appealing in the least. I've done 360s on I-94 before and it is NOT fun. I don't like driving in heavy snow, drifts scare the hell out of me... and then there are the 4-wheel drive vehicle owners who think they are bulletproof and drive like fucking maniacs endangering everyone else on the road because they don't think they have to slow down for conditions.

I don't want to go to Minneapolis, I don't want to have to spend all day there watching the roads get worse and worse and I absolutely fucking dread the commute. So today I find myself thinking that "The Show Must Go On" is just one big pile of bullshit!

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The Arts

on Thursday, November 27, 2008

Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about the ways the arts can be found in our culture. Things like paintings hanging in a museum or a sculpture in a park are obvious, and they are the things that quickly get pointed to when someone who is anti-art wants to complain.

Shooting at a big target is easy, the anti-arties can point to Piss Christ, or the painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung, declare their outrage, demand that something must be done and conclude that all art is bad, and they will complain bitterly that their precious tax dollars were used to fund such an atrocity.

They don’t understand that part of art is how the viewer interprets it. For every person offended by Piss Christ, there were others who saw something more than a beloved religious icon, a Savior, submerged in urine. Sister Wendy Beckett, an art critic and Catholic nun, stated in a television interview with Bill Moyers that she regarded the work as not blasphemous but a statement on "what we have done to Christ" - that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents. [source]

One of the comments regarding the article about the Wallace Foundation grant said:

I don't like art, so quit making me pay for your crap. I like to drive my truck up north to my cabin and go deer hunting.

Let’s examine the art that lies hidden in that statement. The truck was designed by people who could draw and who had an understanding of what good design is. It was tested in a wind tunnel using a model made by people who could sculpt. The road was designed, again, by people who could draw, the road signs were designed to be clear and concise, even the paint on the road came from knowledge of pigments. His cabin was drawn before it was built, it is painted and there might even be curtains in the windows. He listens to his favorite country music star on the way, a person who may have learned their first notes in band and choir at school. The design on his deer rifle’s stock was drawn and carved by artists. The clothing he wears was designed by people who understand fabrics, color and fashion. If he decides to celebrate his kill with a trip to the local strip club, he’s watching someone who either took dance herself or copied the moves of someone who did. The label on his beer was drawn, even his haircut relies on balance and ascetics. There are movies and TV shows that he watches and maybe he even reads a book now and then.

One doesn’t need to be a Vincent Van Gogh or an Andres Serrano to be an artist. There are thousands, even millions of artists who never have their work displayed in a museum. Our deer hunting friend relies on people who draw, paint, sculpt, print, dance, write, act and carve, who understand ascetics, balance and design. He relies on these people everyday of his life without realizing it. Yet he complains.

The arts aren’t a waste of money, they are vital. To borrow a phrase: without art, life itself would be impossible.

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Here We Go Again

on Friday, November 14, 2008

As I mentioned in a previous post, I sometimes check out the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the vitriolic comments that follow each article. I hadn't been there in a while, I got tired of being labeled "clueless" and worse for stating facts and for stating the obvious.

The latest one to draw my ire is an article about the Wallace Foundation giving $7 million to the Minneapolis Saint Paul Arts Community. Money from this foundation will help MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, Northern Clay Center and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra amongst others.

Here is a sample of the bullshit that comes spewing from the minds of my fellow Minnesotans (complete with original mis-spellings and crap grammar):

Stop your philanthropy now. The citizens of MN are pooling 91 million dollars a year and a good chunk of that will go to the arts! For goodness sakes!

Sounds like free tickets and services to people who would not otherwise be interested. Obviously if ther eis a need to "build" the audience what they have to offer is not that intersting or valuable in the first place. It is self evident. Sounds like a waste of money. What a classic example of a fleecing. Take a situatiuon where there is no interest (or a lack of interst) and throw money at it to drum up an audience that isnt there. Sounds like a an expensive exercise in self preservation-ism.

what a waste of money

Wonder where the Wallace Foundation, a non-profit, gets their money to redistribute? I would venture a guess it's the same way the Clean Arts Bill gets funded.

We're getting f'd in the drive-thru forwards and backwards.

Well, seeing as how Minnesota has the 2nd largest population of gays in the country I am not surprised by this story at all.....way to p-i-s-s away money...

My response: If you don't like the arts you should turn off your TV and throw away all your books and magazines (writing, acting, directing, lighting, etc.), take all the pictures off your walls (painting, photography), and turn off your radio and throw out all your CDs (music). Then you can live an "arts-free" life.

Also, the Wallace Foundation is privately owned and receives no tax money, so quicher bitchin'!

GOD! I hate stupid people!

Bye Bye, Baby

on Monday, November 3, 2008

I finally got someone to haul away my old Aspire. I got her from George in lieu of a royalty check for Groovitis. She had over 100,000 miles on her and I put on another 90,000 myself.

My favorite trip was at the end of the summer a few years back. I drove her to Appleton, WI for a gig with George. If I remember correctly, he had to go elsewhere the next day and Jeff was gigging in Duluth or something, so I wound up driving myself. The next morning I picked up a copy of the NPR radio theater version of Star Wars on cassette tape, popped the first episode into my tape player and started driving to SOMS in Hibbing.

I stopped briefly in Cloquet to buy a mug and continued. The final episode finished just as I was driving into the front gate.

Eventually the poor old girl started dying. When it rained or was cold with high humidity her electrical system would fritz out and reset the radio and clock. The headlights stopped working due to an electrical meltdown. The blower for the heater never worked.

She spent most of the last year in the parking lot of the roastery waiting to be hauled away, and I promised Jeff I'd have her out of there before the snow flew this year, and seeing as that could be by this weekend, I finally went and made the call.

Her next stop is the crusher. Her next shape is rectangular. I got $25 for her.

Bye bye, baby, you were a good car.

Did You Ever See a Nervous Beer Drinker?

on Thursday, October 30, 2008

This is from an ad from the early 1900s that Erin has framed and hanging in her kitchen:

Nervousness comes from two causes.  One is half-fed nerves.

The malt in beer is a food to them; the hops a tonic.  The slight percentage of alcohol is an aid to digestion, and that means more food.

Another cause is the waste that clogs the nerve centers.  That waste results from drinking too little to properly flush the system.

The habit of beer drinking gives the body the needed fluid.

That is why beer is prescribed for nervousness.  That is why beer-drinking nations scarcely know what nervousness is.

But drink pure beer -- Schlitz beer.  Bad beer may be worse than the lack of it.

Half the cost of our brewing goes to making Schlitz pure.  Ask for the brewery bottling.

The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous

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Oh, the Irony!

on Monday, October 27, 2008

At the end of the week I didn't have much coffee sitting around the shop. I had the usual leftovers from the previous week's roasts, but less than I typically would. Saturday morning I got a call from Jule's Bistro begging for coffee to be delivered that day! I went to my shop and fortunately had just what they needed with nothing left in my shop but a bit of Ethiopian Yergacheffe and some decafs.

Sunday I met the Vorks for lunch and brought Ken 2 lbs. of the Ethiopian I had, leaving only a little over a pound. Jeff and Stacie apparently came in either late Sunday or early this morning and took the last of it.

So I got here this morning and didn't have any coffee to brew unless I wanted to drink decaf, which I didn't. I called Stacie and she brought me a cup from the Local Blend while she did other errands.

Yes, we have no coffee -- until I roast more.

Winter Blahs

on Friday, October 24, 2008

I think I might be setting myself up for a bad case of the winter blahs this year because it's already starting to set in. The weather lately has been cold, wet & rainy. It seems like 2 seconds after I get home in the afternoon the sun goes down. When it's like this it's hard to motivate myself to do anything: go for a walk, do the dishes, shave.

I find myself thinking of the long winter ahead and I dread it -- for the first time in my life. I like winter, for the most part, it's got it's own beauty: frozen lakes, snow-covered hills, and once in a while hoar frost that makes everything look like a frosted cake. But it also has bitter cold, biting wind and tons and tons of darkness. Those are the parts I like the least.

There is a beauty that can be found on winter nights, to be sure. The skies are never clearer, and if there are clouds they sometimes seem to glow.

So I know I can find the beauty of winter, it's there all the time if you just look. I hope we get a lot of snow for two reasons, it only snows when it's relatively warm and I like the days when we get snowed in,
"Oh, sorry, I can't work today because I can't get out of my driveway."
Plus the sight of the world blanketed in snow is a wonder to behold. And even if the car won't move, my snowshoes will carry me downtown to the White Horse.

Okay, I believe I've pep-talked myself into not hating winter this year. Besides, come March it will all be over.

Just Damn Angry

on Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I am very angry at my brother for his bullshit parroting of the radical right. I hear it all the time from others and it annoys me, but when it comes from my own family, and from someone who, up until now, I had always thought of as being thoughtful it really makes my blood boil. The whole thing started on Facebook, but I am ending it here. One thing I've learned is that you can't change the mind of a fucking sheep.

The block quotes are what he said, the others are my responses.

Did y'all know that slobamma accused our troops of bombing villages and murdering civilians? He did. He doesn't support the troops, he thinks we're war criminal.

Why not check your facts rather than parroting what the radical right tells you?

Because he actually SAID it. I don't care if it was "out of context", he SAID it.

What he said was this: "We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there."

And he had the numbers to back himself up: The Associated Press concluded: "As of Aug. 1 [2007], the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can't be attributed to one party." Even President Bush admitted that there were too many civilian casualties, saying: "The president [Afghan president Hamid Karzai] rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty. And I assured him that we share those concerns."

As far as the right wing is concerned; how am I a radical? I'm only telling the truth.

You are not telling the truth, you are merely parroting what the radical right says.

A vote for that muslim bastard is a vote for the end of this country. He is NOT the man for the job. He DOES hang out with terrorists, and has a minister that hates America. His ... Read Morewife [sic] said that she has only become "proud of her country" since Barry started running. I don't know about you, but that sounds like she doesn't like this country too much.

HE IS NOT A MUSLIM!!!!!!! If you learn nothing else, at least get that one fact through your thick skull. There is NO PROOF WHATSOEVER that he is, was or ever has been. And even if he were, so what? This "all Muslims are terrorists" crap belongs in the sewer because it is complete shit.

Regarding Rev. Wright, you need to look at all the white, conservative revs who've said EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

Regarding Michelle Obama, her comments were taken out of context, she used the term "really proud," not just "proud." And why shouldn't she be? For the first time in her life a black man has an excellent chance at being elected President.

And the criticisms I hear about Sarah Palin are the same ones I could make about slobamma. HE doesn't know enough to be a GD dog catcher. At least Palin has solid conservative values, you know; like smaller government, lower taxes, more friendly to businesses both big and small, an aversion to having the government pay for everything people don't want to pay for themselves.

Another bullshit argument. Obama is a sitting US Senator for the state of Illinois and a community activist and organizer. Obama's VP choice should have enough experience for you. As for conservative values, then vote on that line, not on bullshit argument after bullshit argument. GW was the governor of Texas, big fucking deal.

Allowing people to make choices about how to use their own property without interference from the EPA, or the GD Sierra Club, or f**king PETA.

PETA will never influence national policy. The EPA is a governmental organization, not a PAC. The Sierra Club is a lobbying organization, just like your beloved NRA.

If we have two plots of land next to each other I wouldn't want you launching poison into the air and into the ground water just because you can -- and that's what happens without regulation.

The flip side is to have influence from Big Oil, the pharmaceutical lobby and all those fat cats. When is the last time de-regulation brought about anything positive? *cough* $700 billion bailout *cough*

Allowing the free market to develop alternative energy without government hand outs (free markets ALWAYS to better than the government).

Where did you get that tidbit? Tax incentives are not handouts.

Ending welfare as a way of life instead of assistance for hard times... Read More.

I won't argue that more steps need to be taken, but Clinton made great strides towards that goal when he was POTUS. And NEVER FORGET that YOUR OWN MOTHER was on welfare as a child.

That the people have a say in how their children are educated without having the GD PC police breathing down their necks.

So children should be taught that God made the earth 6000 years ago? That there is such a thing as Intelligent Design? That being gay is a lifestyle choice?

Children in public schools should be taught facts, not religious dogma. People who want to have their children learn anything listed above need to send them to private schools that teach only what they want, without any pesky facts getting in the way.

You used to be a scientist, what happened?

The realization that the Constitution does not GRANT rights, it PROTECTS them from government interference, because the rights are God given (as per such nut bars as Tom Jefferson).

When you start legislating from your Bible you lose. Read the Constitution. Also, Tom Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian.

THOSE ARE CONSERVATIVE VALUES. Not mean spirited, nor "racist" nor "jingoistic" or any other "ism" you might care to attach to us. I came be these beliefs honestly, and with intence [sic] examination. And I find that these principals are far more logical than 90% of the liberal crap I've been hearing since the 60's.

I rest on what I've said.

Please give me SOME credit for being smart. And give me some credit for being dedicated to the succsess [sic] of the greatest country God ever granted us on earth.

How can I when you recite verbatim the crap you hear on so-called talk radio? And God had nothing to do with it.

Go ahead and vote for your boy McCain. But vote because of something you actually believe in and for reasons that are sound and true, not because of something you heard someone else say in a commercial or on Faux News.

Voting is the important part, not repeating slanderous bullshit.

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Update! No Longer Worried

on Monday, October 13, 2008

I just heard from Jewel.  Although everything is not 100% fine, there is no need for drilling or surgery.  She has a mild concussion and a little whiplash from when she passed out at work (must've hit the floor pretty hard), but there's no sign of an aneurysm or a tumor.

She should be able to treat this whole thing with drugs (which she probably won't take for long, she's stubborn, remember?).  Between her daughter, her mother, her friend Tracey and me we'll make sure she takes them if we have to go there and poke them down her throat.

What a relief!  Now I can look forward to having her outlive me.


on Friday, October 10, 2008

My dearest friend, Jewel, the friend I've known the longest, the friend who knows me best inside and out, is going in for an MRI today.  She has suffered from migraines for as long as I've known her and she stubbornly doesn't allow them to slow her down much.  Yesterday she was at work and she passed out and hit the floor, she "coded" for 32 seconds.  Her co-workers did CPR and brought her around and drove her to the Emergency Room at the St. Cloud Hospital.

Long ago she had a skull fracture, I can't remember how it happened, if I had to guess I would say it was from fighting with one of her brothers, but I could be wrong.  Regardless, it has left her with bone spurs on the inside of her skull and they are apparently poking her in the brain.  That's the most likely cause of the migraines.  One of them is located near the base of the skull where all the nerve endings travel through.  They need to do an MRI to see if that is indeed the case, or if it is potentially something worse like a brain tumor.

She refused to be admitted to the hospital (I mentioned she was stubborn, right?) and spent her day gathering wood for the winter.  She worked slowly, admittedly, but still worked.  Then she made sure all her life insurance papers were up to date (they weren't, they hadn't been changed since before her daughter turned 18).  The doctors at the hospital prescribed a drug with the possible side effect of heart attack(!) and something to help her sleep.

Today she goes in for the MRI to see what's up.  After that they can discuss treatment options, but from what she told me they aren't that wonderful.  The drug option is something that would dissolve the bone spurs, but for a woman approaching 50 the idea of taking something that reduces bone mass isn't so wonderful (I told her I'd rather see her on crutches than in a coffin).  The more drastic option is to drill into her head to release the pressure.  The problem there is that she won't do that (I told her I'd put her head under a fucking drill-press and do it myself if it meant keeping her alive).

Jewel has DNR printed on her drivers license, that means Do Not Resuscitate.  If she is in a coma or if she's experiencing some sort of cardiac arrest she is supposed to be left alone.  Left to die.  That means no drilling.

I'm not a praying man.  I generally expect the worst, but hope for the best.  I hope she's okay.  I hope this is magagable.  I hope she doesn't die!  I love her dearly and this whole situation scares the hell out of me.

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Upstaged by a Damned Kid

on Friday, October 3, 2008

Ann Michels sent me this in an email. The later research is from here. Enjoy.

Uploaded by redhotjazz1


Born Frank Robinson, 1940, Detroit, Michigan

The history of 20th century entertainment is littered with child prodigies; from Shirley Temple in the 1930s, Toni Harper in the 1940s and Frankie Lymon in the 1950s. On the whole, although precociously talented, child entertainers were usually saddled with inferior, childish material that, while perhaps cute at the time, were usually novelty acts that grew tiresome pretty quickly. Some couldn't handle the swift drop in popularity and turned to drink or drugs, while others retired gracefully and concentrated their energies in other directions. One such was that tiny bundle of Detroit dynamite, "Sugar Chile" Robinson. Born Frankie Robinson, the youngest of six children, in Detroit in 1940, "Sugar Chile" began pounding on the family piano as a toddler - he reputedly banged out a recognisable version of Erskine Hawkins' Tuxedo Junction at the age of two - and by 1945 he had been "discovered" by pianist and bandleader Frankie Carle. Within a year he was asked to play at a Whitehouse party for President Harry Truman, had guested with Lionel Hampton's Orchestra and even appeared performing the title song in the 1946 MGM romantic comedy film "No Leave, No Love". It was not until July 1949, however, that he made his first records for the Capitol label, when, in the consummate company of jazz veterans Leonard Bibbs on bass and drummer Zutty Singleton, Robinson took his first two releases into the Billboard R&B chart in late 1949; Numbers Boogie made it to number four, while Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head So Hard) only reached number 14. His subsequent national tour broke box-office records eve rywhere and it is claimed that his appearance at Chicago's Regal Theatre remains the biggest one-week attraction of the theatre's entire history, easily beating the jazz royalty of the day like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Robinson toured with Basie in 1950 and made a celebrated musical short with the Basie Sextet and Billie Holiday in Hollywood in August to showcase his hits. The Christmas season of 1950 witnessed Sugar Chile's first European release and Christmas Boogie c/w Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold well enough to spark a European tour in 1951, including rave reviews for his spot at the London Palladium. He was a big hit on US radio and TV all through 1951 and then, while still in his pre-teens, Robinson's career was suddenly over; his last single release was issued in August 1952, shortly followed by a 10" compilation LP of boogie woogie that featured many of his 1952 recordings.

Apart from a few radio transcriptions and film soundtracks, "Sugar Chile" Robinson's complete recording career - a period of just under three years - has been reissued in its entirety on one 2003 CD compilation, "Chronological Classics 1949-52". If he really was only nine years old at the time, the performances from his first session such as Vooey, Vooey Vay, Caldonia and Numbers Boogie were quite astonishing. As with other child stars, like Toni Harper, Robinson was frequently burdened with immature material, but even nursery rhyme knock-offs such as Sticks And Stones, Christmas Boogie and (Rock-A-Bye) Baby Blues were transformed into entertaining performances with hip and clever touches. The youngster acquitted himself as a pianist exceptionally well on the few instrumentals, particularly Lazy Boy's Boogie, and for variety he occasionally switched to organ or celeste on later sessions.

Once the hits had dried up and he was released from his Capitol Records contract, there were one or two more reports in the trade papers of the day - he was reported in August 1954 as playing The Blue Note in Chicago with modern jazzer Gerry Mulligan (!) - and then nothing! What happened? Did his voice break? Did the novelty of an infant boogie virtuoso suddenly lose its appeal when he hit 12? Was he really found out to be an adolescent midget in disguise? Last year it was announced that a 62 year-old "Sugar Chile" Robinson had been rediscovered living in Detroit, where he has worked mainly outside music for almost 50 years (although he is rumoured to be the same Frank Robinson who co-owned the obscure Detroit-based soul label, Lando Records, in the 1960s) , and was brought out of retirement to pound the ivories once again at a music festival which celebrated pre-Motown music from the Motor City.

Robinson graduated from Olivet College in Michigan in 1960 with a degree in psychology, but went into his Uncle Frank's chiropractor business instead. He worked there with his uncle until the latter died in 1992. While still working at the family business, he also ran his own Lendo/Lando and Autocap labels in the 1960s, having minor hits with Rufus Wonder (Little Stevie's cousin) and The Superlatives, and between 1962 to 1996 worked part-time selling television commercials for local broadcaster WGPR-TV. Since his retirement, he plays piano and organ on Sundays and Festival Holidays at the Christ Temple, Church of Christ Holiness in Colgate Street, Inkster, Michigan, but has been tempted over to the dark side to play a couple of Detroit blues festivals in recent years. In November 2007 he performed at the Rhythm Riot in Camber, East Sussex, England.

CD: The Chronological Sugar Chile Robinson, 1949-1952 (Classics 5052, released in 2003). 24 tracks.

Nice Merchandise!

on Thursday, September 18, 2008

I found this at the Gopher Bargain Center in St. Cloud, MN today.

The price says it all, except maybe to add, "Good thing it's just flavored."

Bitter Truth

on Thursday, September 4, 2008

All my life I've supported my oldest brother. When I was a kid he was my best friend. When he joined the Marines I was proud of him. When he got married I cried tears of joy. When he got divorced I cried again. When he fell into the bottle, I was sad. When he admitted himself into the alcohol and chemical dependency unit of the Veterans Hospital I was thankful. Throughout his sobriety I have been as loving and supportive as I can be.

He is my brother. We share the same blood. And I love him.

Recent discoveries have brought me to a point of confusion and rocked my view of him. I will not go into them here, but they have brought things to the surface that have been long kept buried.

He joined the Marines when he was only 17 years old. He had to get special permission from our parents to do so. He went through basic training and came back strong, lean and tanned, as all Marines do. He had a confidence I'd never seen in him before.

He got his MOS (Military Occupational Specialty -- "job" to you and me) and was stationed in San Diego doing warehouse stuff. Seems like a pretty skate job to me, but he hated every second of it. He hated the place, he hated his job, he hated his superiors and he hated the Marine Corps. Every time he called home he cried to mom & dad to get him out. My dad finally contacted our senator, Dave Durenberger to see what he could do. The Honorable Mr. Durenberger was able to get my brother Honorably Discharged after only about 2 years of service out of a 4 year commitment.

He never talked proudly of his time in the service, but he still called himself a Marine. I guess they all do, you could talk to a WWII vet and he'd still say, "I am a Marine," and not, "I was a Marine." They do a good job of brain washing that into their inductees and volunteers. "Gung ho!" is what it's all about. But my perception is that he tended to ignore his service and tried to put as much distance between himself and it as he possibly could. Until he admitted himself to the hospital. Until he needed them again.

Since then he has re-embraced his Marine-inity with the gusto of a born again Christian. (In fact, he became a Christian while going through AA, replacing his brilliant skeptecism with a dependence on the Holy Trinity.) He proudly joins Marine related online forums, wears clothes with the Marine Corps emblem emblazoned on them, and he has the seriously disturbing practice of traveling with his medals, which amount to a service ribbon (you get one for joining), his shooting badge from basic training (rifle marksman), and the unofficial Cold War Victory ribbon.

And all I can think of whenever I see any of this is, "Dude, you fucking quit. And that's the bitter truth."

I got an email from him this week saying, in essence...

I am no longer going to be online, I am not longer going to answer phone calls, I am no longer going to answer letters. I am tired of checking my inbox and seeing it empty day after day.

He forgets that people have lives outside of his personal space. I am so pissed at him because it is so typical of him. Shit, he even forgets that tenet of military life, "You gotta write 'em to get 'em."

Fine, pal, take your ball and go home. I'm tired of playing. I'm tired of being supportive. I'm tired of crying. I'm tired of trying.

But you can still have one of my kidneys if you need it.

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Oops! Wrong Venue!

on Sunday, August 17, 2008

We had one of those huge-ass long gigs yesterday. We were scheduled to start with a couple of sets of jazz outdoors at 5 pm and finish with three sets of variety/rock ending at midnight. The gig was, as far as we knew, scheduled to take place at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake.

We got there with plenty of time to set up and get things ready. I went in and talked to a young woman at the front desk, I asked her if there was a wedding or some sort of event scheduled and she directed me to the North Beach.

The beach? Where the heck are you supposed to set up and rock band on a beach? Sand and musical equipment are not a good combination as we've found out in the past, the infamous End of Summer gig at the Pioneer Place didn't do anything good for any of our stuff. But ours is not to question why, so off we went to the beach.

An employee suggested that we set up right by the beach on a patch of lawn. The wedding party was going to end with a bonfire and that would be the best place for us to be. We pulled the van up and unloaded a few items: some of the smaller drums, three monitor speakers, the bass amp, the lights, the sound board and power amp, a couple of guitars. A man in a tuxedo walked up to us.

"I didn't hire a band," he said.

"And you look like the guy who'd be signing the check if you had," Jeff responded.

He smiled, we apologized and reloaded the van. We called our contact and found that we weren't even supposed to be at the main building at Cragun's, but at their world-class golf course called The Legacy.

We got there with just enough time to set up. We weren't playing for a wedding after all, but for a car dealership. They treated us very well! They fed us, they bought us drinks, they let us quit a half-hour early and tipped us $100! And they loved us and want to hire us for an event they have in February.

All in all, the day was long but great!

Lead Guitarist

on Friday, August 1, 2008

I've been asked to sit in on lead guitar for Bobby Vee tomorrow at a private party at his son's house. It's a low-key gig but I'm pretty nervous.

Stick me next to Tommy and I should be fine. That and a mantra of, "don't fuck up" ought to do it.

Later in the night it's Collective Unconscious jamming. That's always fun.

Don't fuck up… Don't fuck up… Don't fuck up… Don't fuck up…

Music Gone to the Dogs

on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Sunday night the George Maurer Trio had another gig at Crossings Gallery & Gift Shop in Zumbrota, MN. We love it there, it's part concert space, part classroom, part art space, part cool stuff store, all housed inside one of the (former) libraries that Andrew Carnegie built between 1883 and 1929. The Zumbrota Carnegie Library was built in 1906 and has the distinction of being the smallest of them all.

Each time we play there we see a lot of the same faces, and some new ones, too. The audiences are enthusiastic and surprisingly not jaded, when you look at some of the other acts who have performed there: Prudence Johnson, John Gorka, Dean Magraw, Michael Johnson and others.

Marie, the owner, used to have a part Chow Chow named Biscuit who would roam the audience during performances, and maybe even make her way to the stage now and again. Biscuit died not too long ago and has been replaced by Odie, an old yellow lab mix that she got from an animal rescue group. Odie is as friendly as Biscuit ever was, and like his predecessor, roams the audience looking for a scratch or a pet. And Odie likes to bark.

Each time the audience applauded, Odie would bark. The louder and more boisterous the applause, the louder and more boisterous the bark. It became a joke from stage as we would bark back at the dog.

When we do trio gigs, we generally close with the old standard Caldonia, which features the lyric:

Caldonia, Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?

Which I changed to:

Odie, Odie, bark bark bark bark bark bark bark!

During the scat solo, I just started barking, trying to match Odie's pitch and rhythm. Odie obligingly barked back. I started "trading fours" with him, I'd bark, he'd bark back, it was almost like we had rehearsed it somehow. The audience went crazy, laughing, smiling, clapping... it was an amazing moment!

After the concert I gave him a good scratching.

A lot of different people asked if I had planned that, which I hadn't, it just came to me on the spur of the moment. Oh, how I wish I had said that the dog and I had talked it over beforehand!

Car Repair: the Next Generation

on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My car broke down today. I was sitting at a red light and she just up and quit on me. I remained calm. Hurridly calm. I tried restarting her a bunch of times to no avail, she'd turn and turn but never catch. Finally I tried an old trick I learned driving my mom's Chevy Impala, I floored it as I turned the key and what do you know, she started right up.

I quickly turned into the nearest parking lot at a new bank and went inside to borrow their phone book so I could look up the number for R&L Repair. I went outside and thought, "what the hell, I'll try it -- maybe it was vapor lock." The engine started immediately, but I didn't think I was out of the woods so I decided to drive home using back roads. I made it about a half mile and she died again. I was able to coast into the parking lot of a sports bar and into a space by the road. I walked home.

Birkenstock sandals are not meant to carry a person two miles in 90° heat on hot asphalt and I now have a couple of pretty little blisters forming on the balls of my feet. Son of a fucking bitch.

I got a hold of a friend with a truck and another friend with a towing strap and after a few phone calls I got Hazzy to help me get the car to R&L. Yeah, Hazzy!

If I'm really, really lucky it was vapor lock. It was hot and I had made a short stop before it happened, those are sure-fire ways to make vapor lock happen.

If I'm merely lucky it will be the fuel filter, a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive repair.

If I'm less than lucky (and what I think is most likely) it's the fuel pump, not a difficult repair, but much more expensive than a filter.

And, of course, if I have a cloud of dismal darkness over my head it will be something fatal to the car and I will have to find a new one.

Not bad though, in 28 years of driving that's the first time I've completely broken down.*

*I am not counting the numerous times I've been with someone else when their car broke down, nor am I counting when I ran out of fuel or when my car overheated (god! I miss my Rabbit despite its foibles and quirks!), and it most certainly does not include the infamous van fire.)


on Friday, July 11, 2008

I don't usually get starstruck. I don't care what you've done, where you've been or who you are, we have the same bodily functions and that makes us equals. But in this case I'm letting it happen.

Tonight we play at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and our special guest will be Doc Severinsen!! We're talking a musical legend here! Before the tonight show he played with Charlie Barnet, the Dorseys and others. While musical director for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show he backed up probably every musical artist I admire: Stevie Wonder, Carole King, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald... the list goes on and on. And on!

I want to have my picture taken with him and I want to place a copy on my mother's grave. She would be so proud!

I'm thrilled and I can't wait!


on Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I have recently started reading the news on the St. Paul Pioneer Press web site. I don't know why I picked them over the Minneapolis Tribune, but I did. I also registered so that I could leave my comments about stories. Now I'm not saying that everybody who posts there is an idiot and a racist, but I am shocked at the number of idiot-racists who do post there on a daily basis. Frankly, I didn't know such people lived in Minnesota.

It started with the story of a Somali man who was shot to death outside a hotel in Brooklyn Park at 4:30 in the morning. I've left for jobs at 4:30 AM with George if we had to get to the far side of Wisconsin or we had to drive deep into Iowa, and a couple of those times we've met at a place of business, a cafe or gas station, so my first reaction is to give the guy a benefit of a doubt. The racists, on the other hand follow a twisted path of logic that ends with this guy being a gang-banger who was shot by another and good riddance to him.
  • He was black, therefore a gang-banger
  • It was 4 am and he obviously had no legitimate reason to be there (because he was black and a Somali)
  • It was in Brooklyn Park, which everyone knows is full of ne'er-do-well black people
My sister lives in Brooklyn Park in a curvy-roaded suburban area full of happy, smiling white people. I know the whole city isn't like that and my blood freezes every time I hear of another murder there (three homicides in 2007... three too many), but I simply will not assume the worst. If it comes out that the guy was a gangster and all that, I'll be very happy to say I was wrong.

The worst was a comment about a story of a man in Madison, WI who had been tortured by some drug dealers for money:
...that's what white people get for mixing with africoons...
I fucking couldn't believe my eyes!

Any story that has to do with a Muslim or a person with a Muslim-sounding name is riddled with, "he/she should go back to where they came from," or the one I always get a kick out of, "in 30 years we'll be under Sharia law and you'll be beheaded for being a liberal."

Democrats and liberals of all stripes are "demoncrats" and are mentally unstable. Anyone who protests the war or the war machine is an unwashed, unemployed hippie (woe be to the war protester with a Muslim-sounding name!). A woman who died in a car wreck, leaving three children behind, is labeled as a welfare cheat because her children all have different last names! A black man who holds three full time jobs to support his family is shot outside an after-hours club in St. Paul, well, he never should have been there in the first place (and he was probably affiliated with a gang).

Recently a guy in Lakeville was rousted out of his bed by two cops in his bedroom shining flashlights in his eyes because he left his garage door open and his front door ajar. The cops say that the neighborhood had had a bunch of break-ins recently and they were just checking. The guy is upset and has gone to the city council to ask them to change the policy on how police should behave in such a situation. The commentors blame him for being a liberal, filing a frivolous lawsuit and wasting taxpayer money. Nowhere in the article did it mention anything about a lawsuit, and when I pointed that out I was labeled "clueless."

The icing on the cake were some of the comments about the convicted felon (prostitution) in Little Falls who was shot to death while holding the County Commissioners hostage at gunpoint. He was just a small businessman trying to make it vs. the liberal, nanny government. (Anyone who has ever been to Morrison County would never call it liberal.) Unbelievable.

Oh, and Barrack Obama will bring the nation to it's knees, whether that's the topic of the story or not.

Like putting your tongue on a sore tooth or looking under a bloody band-aid I keep checking back. I guess I want to see just how bad bad can get. Certainly not everyone who posts there is a narrow-minded fool, but there are a lot of them. Some people are actually very thoughtful, informative and caring. I want to be one of them.

But it makes me sad to think that some of my fellow Minnesotans can be so cruel, so intolerant, so shallow. I thought maybe we'd grown beyond that kind of thought, this is the 21st century after all, but I guess I was very, very wrong.

Road Rage 2

on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today I was making coffee deliveries and was the victim of road rage.

The closing of the Division Street (Hwy 23) bridge in St. Cloud has left only two bridges open, one is the University street bridge, the other is the Saint Germain street bridge. Traffic piles up along both those routes, so I try to avoid them when possible or to travel there at less busy times. Sometimes I have no choice.

I was in the right-hand lane of Saint Germain, waiting to turn right onto Lincoln Avenue, which is how the detour is routed, traffic was piled up in both lanes for about 2 blocks behind me. When the light finally turned green a young black woman in a white car started to try to change lanes in front of me.

"Oh, no you don't." I said.

Because our windows were all open she heard me.

"Fuck you, bitch!" she yelled, "I'm gonna fuckin' turn...blah, blah, blah..."

I didn't listen to the rest. I wasn't doing anything wrong except not letting my "Minnesota Nice" shine through. Fuck that, if she knew she was going to have to turn right she should have gotten into the right lane farther than a half-block back.

She cut off the guy behind me and I could hear her cursing a blue streak at me. I ignored her. But that's not to say that my blood didn't start pumping a little faster.

I made my right turn, she made hers. She immediately got into the left lane and hit the accelerator. I turned on my blinker to make a legal lane change. She hit the horn and forced me back into the right lane, as she passed me she flipped me the bird and continued her verbal assault. She flew into the lane in front of me and hit her brakes. I changed to the left lane, she changed to the left lane, continuing to drive aggressively.

When we got to Hwy 23 we hit a red light. She was going straight, but I needed to turn left. Fortunately there were two cars in front of me in the turn lane while she was first in line in the left lane. I knew what was coming, or at least I thought I did, so I rolled my passenger side window up and waited for the light to turn green. When it finally did she didn't go, she had one more thing for me. As I passed her, still ignoring her, she flipped her bottle of water at me. It splashed harmlessly on my windshield.

After it was over I called her every nasty thing I could think of: bitch, cunt, slut, asshole, motherfucker... I even dropped the "N" word and I don't like saying that. I cursed and cursed, but none of the words made me feel any better.

Anyway, I hope she got to fucking Shopko or whatever on time. And I hope she eventually realizes what a stupid bitch she'd been.

And next time I play Minnesota Nice and let the girl go first.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

on Friday, June 13, 2008

I usually keep a journal on my vacations, here's what I wrote about my most recent:

• June 10, 2008

A new vacation! This time with Kate. We're on our way -- we actually got on the road before noon, 11:53 am, to be precise. We still have to make a beer stop, but we'll do that in Sauk Centre, then it's off to Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck, MN (I wonder if there's a Starbucks in Starbuck?).

• Later

The campground is deserted save the two of us. When we got here they were just finishing up mowing all the grass, that, coupled with the towering oaks that surround us, makes for one of the prettiest campgrounds I've ever been to. It looks more like a well-groomed city park than a state campground.

We did a couple of miles today after we set up camp. The park is mostly prairie, which isn't really what I wanted, I prefer hiking in the woods, it's cooler there. Prairie hiking has its charms though, hot as it can get. We hiked to the highest point in the park (1352 ft) and the view was stunning! We could see for miles and the terrain rolls in smooth, graceful yet dramatic arcs.

• Even later

We just got a visit from the park ranger, he said that all the employees will be "in training" tomorrow and no one will be here. That rocks! Unfortunately, he also said that it is probably going to rain all day. Crap!

We were hoping to do around six miles on hiking tomorrow. I guess we'll see.

• June 11, 2008

We haven't even gotten out of the tent today because it's storming and raining like mad. That made me think: this is the first time I can remember in all the times I've gone camping that I've been stormed and rained on.

When we got here yesterday we realized that I'd forgotten the propane for the camp stove (fucking idiot) and it's raining too damn hard to try to build a fire. I'm thinking about running into Starbuck to try to find some. Then at least we could make some coffee.

As it turns out it stormed really hard, our camp site turned into a mini river that fortunately turned just before it hit the tent. That didn't stop water from starting to pool up on the vestibule of the tent. I ran into Starbuck and got some propane, came back and made coffee. The weather report I managed to hear said it was going to rain all day, all night and probably for the next two days as well.

We stood there under our measly little "Casbah," a 5'x7' tarp tied to trees on one side and staked to the ground on the other. Why we thought a little tarp like that would keep is dry is totally beyond me, I'd chock it up to being excited to get out of town, and it was one of our last purchases before we did. We decided then and there that we didn't want to spend the next three days holed up in the tent, so we broke camp and changed our plans.

The lady at the store in Starbuck said that if we changed our minds about staying at the park that we should come back and have omelets. That seemed like a good idea while we figured out what we were going to do next. We sat there as she made a crap load of hamburgers for the local treatment center's lunch. We sat and sat. While we sat we looked at a map and tried to figure out what we were going to do next. And we sat. After about 40 minutes, with no sign of omelets in our near future, we decided to continue on our way.

We took a county road that turned to dirt after about two miles. There's nothing like driving on saturated dirt to scare the hell out of you, but we made it to the next highway and drove to Brooten to fill with gas and have lunch.

As I was leaving the Veranda after that week's Monday Night Jazz, I had mentioned jokingly to Ken and Gretchen Vork that if it was raining, we'd probably visit them for beer, so that's what we did. Ken met us there briefly, but had to go back to school to teach lessons, so we took a little nap on the couch until he got home. We had a beer with him and then went back to my house.

Ah, vacationing at home. Not my first choice, but we had limited options. We wound up watching the first DVD from the Firefly box set (damn good show!) and went to bed before midnight.

Thursday we woke up to beautiful weather: a sunny, blue sky with big, puffy white clouds, it was clear and clean smelling. We started regretting our decision to leave Glacial Lakes. To make the best of it we went to nearby Lake Maria State Park and spent about four hours hiking through its wonderful woods. We saw a couple deer, some swans, a bald eagle and dipped our feet in three lakes and a stream. It was wonderful! We came home and had a fire in the portable fire pit in the backyard and watched a storm brewing and pass through in about 15 minutes.

Kate checked the radar on the TV and we saw a huge, dark, concentrated cell of storms centered right on Pope County, where we would have been had we stayed at our camp site. We were suddenly very happy that we had split when we did.

Today our vacation ended. Kate had to get back to Minneapolis to start her new job, I have a gig tomorrow. The whole week was nothing like we'd planned, everything got tossed out the window with the rain, but we wound up having a wonderful time.

Next time, though, we don't stay home, we find someplace else. Apart from the time off from work, this didn't really feel like a vacation to me. Next time will be more fun!

Hiding From the Past

on Sunday, June 8, 2008

I haven't dug my fingers into the earth yet this year and was itching to do so. My friend, Naomi, brought me a catnip plant to replace the one I had that didn't come back this year (can you imagine that? A fricking catnip plant!) and after planting it I wanted more! I also have an area of the yard right on the front corner that is a pain in the ass to mow and have been thinking about converting into a small flower garden. So the other day I went to Home Depot to see what they had for plants. I picked out a Blanket Flower, a Coreopsis and a Speedwell and went to stand in line to pay for them. This is when the hiding started, I saw my ex-ex-boss, the guy who taught me how to roast coffee, the guy who fired me for being "too efficient."

I haven't spoken to him since the day he fired me and this in only the second time I've seen him in 13 years. The first time was a the funeral of Marge Hams, who, with her husband Al, ran Al's Music in St. Cloud since the mid-70s. I was talking to the guys from Slip Twister, who had just played a rockin' version of Spirit in the Sky, per Marge's request before she died, and I saw him come around the corner in the line of people going to the basement of the church for cookies and coffee. I made a hasty exit from the church before he could see me.

I worked for him for 2-1/2 years. I roasted beans for two of those years. I watched him take this lovely little coffee house with pineapples on the carpet and the flag outside (an international symbol of welcome) and crystal containers of sugar cubes at every table and turn it into a piece of shit. I swear, he must have lived by the motto, "Treat the Customer as the Enemy," because he drove people away in droves.

Tracto mos ut hostes hostium

The stories of his martinet-style of employee management are numerous, from penciling small "X's" on the floor of the kitchen area to make sure the employees were mopping, to telling an employee who was making drinks for customers to stop what he was doing and hang some shelves instead.

For a long time we got along great, I thought I understood his brand of crazy. I didn't agree with him on everything, but we got along just fine. The day he fired me came so far out of left field I would never have expected it.

It was a Friday, by this time he had closed the coffee shop because he didn't like people coming and going all day, but we were still roasting beans. He was out making deliveries, I was working at the roastery. I had finished all my work for the day, the shelves were full of bags of coffee, all alphabetized and organized, and I had everything prepped for Monday. It was 2:30 pm. I usually worked until 4:30, but there was nothing left to do. I sat there for a while doing nothing and decided to go home, better that than make him pay me for two hours of sitting around. Keep in mind that I pretty much set my own hours, we had no time clock and I had left early before with no problems.

Apparently he had forgotten some product and needed to get back to the roastery for more. Even though, as I mentioned before, the shelves were full and everything was well organized, he wanted me to be standing there handing him what he had forgotten. Instead he had to get out of his van and do it himself.

That Monday I had been working for a few hours by the time he came in. Normally we would banter a bit and then go off and do our own thing, but this time he paced the back hallway and the back room for about 20 minutes. I knew something was up, but what happened next took me totally by surprise.

He finally walked up to me, full of purpose and said, "Things just aren't being done to my satisfaction. I'll pay you to the end of the week, but you're fired." And he walked away.

I sat there stunned for several minutes.

Then I gathered my personal belongings into a small box and walked out the back door. He was doing something in the back of his van and as I walked by he said, "I love ya, man."

"You picked a really fucking strange way of showing it," I said.

I walked out of his door, around the corner and into the door of the new Meeting Grounds coffee shop. I asked them for a job and, because they knew who I was, was hired on the spot. I spent all of 30 seconds unemployed. I stayed with them for the next ten years until they went out of business and I started up Muggsy's Beans.

So I just stood there in line at the Home Depot as he and his wife shopped for gardening supplies while I alternately hid behind my plants or stood facing away from them. I didn't want them to see me. I would have nothing good to say to him, except maybe, "thanks for the great career, fucker."

I took my plants home and got them into the ground just before it started to rain.

Eh? What's that?

on Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last Friday, after our gig at the Whitehorse, my left ear started to feel plugged. Saturday was annoying and Sunday was pretty bad. It stayed on all week, so I went to the doctor today. Turns out it's related to allergies.

I spent every day hoping it would suddenly clear. I spent every night with visions of every urban legend I've ever heard about some insect or spider crawling into someone's ear only to become trapped and die (or in the really bad stories, hundreds of baby spiders come crawling out eventually!), or thinking about an infection that could potentially diminish or destroy my hearing.

Losing my hearing is something I've thought about before. I've noticed in recent years that I can't make out higher-pitched sounds, like a woman's voice, in a crowded room. That makes it hard to talk to people. Lord knows I've spent enough time around cymbals and loud guitars to have some effect, add that to the fact that I am a 40+ year old male and it just stands to reason that I'd experience some hearing problems.

Beethoven could hear the notes in his head, he knew what he wanted before he even put pen to paper, and as a result was able to continue to compose even after his hearing was completely gone. But Beethoven I ain't. If I lost my hearing a major part of my life, and one of my greatest loves, would be cut off forever. It's a scary thought.

I'm glad my problem is easy to fix. It would probably have cleared up in a few days, but these types of things can last as long as 3 months!! I got a prescription for Nasonex, and that should help.

Happy spring!

Retrying Hated Things

on Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When I was in second grade the art teacher would put us to work on a project, like wrapping paste laden string around balloons or working with tempera paints, and while we were busy working she would turn on the record player. In my memory we only had two records, one was Little Willie Won't Go Home by Sweet, the other was Killing Me Softly (with His Song) by Roberta Flack. Every day we had art class we listened to those two records over and over again. I learned to despise those two songs and for years afterward would turn the radio to a different station upon hearing the first few notes.

Every once in a while I like to force myself to retry something I don't like, every couple of years or so I try a bite of raw tomato on the off chance that maybe my tastes have changed. I still don't like them. I do the same with music. If a song comes on the radio that I previously didn't like, I will force myself to listen to it to see if I was right about it the first time.

I remember driving back from somewhere up in Northern Minnesota and Little Willie Won't Go Home came on the radio. I resisted the urge to change the station and listened to it. I can see why it became popular, it has a great "hook," but it's still a stupid song. So I was right about that one, for me at least.

I was playing my guitar the other day, strumming songs out of the Real Book, when I came across the song I Feel Like Makin' Love as sung by Roberta Flack. I played it, sang it a little and had some fun putting my own spin on the melody. That got me thinking about Killing Me Softly, so I looked it up online. I was way off on that one, it's not a shitty song at all, I just got tired of it through sheer repetition. I bought it off iTunes.

That has lead me into the world of Roberta Flack, who I had never really listened to at all, for obvious reasons. Turns out that Killing Me Softly won her a whole curio cabinet full of Grammys for song of the year (1971), album of the year, female performer of the year, etc. (Hmmm, kind of like Amy Winehouse at this year's ceremony.) I looked her up online, half expecting to find either an obituary or a "where are they now?" article, but she looks young, healthy and beautiful and she's still performing and recording.

So retrying hated things has paid off this time. But I don't think I'll be trying tomatoes any time soon.

RIP Chris Mitchell

on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I received news tonight that Chris Mitchell died on Friday the 11th of April. He was one of the people who first interviewed me for my job at KVSC, waaaay back in 1983. In recent years he had formed his own marketing business and employed a friend of my roommate's. He left behind four children and one grand daughter.

Back in the mid-80's, there was a power struggle at KVSC between the folks that wanted it to become a Top 40 station and those of us who wanted it to be an alternative source of music and news. Chris was in the middle. Ultimately, he sided with the alternative camp and was therefore indirectly responsible for what KV is today.

Chris was 44 years old. I just turned 44 a couple of weeks ago. Man, if that doesn't put the frailty and temporary nature of life into sharp focus... it is really a sobering thought and it makes me think of the people I would leave behind if it had been me in that accident instead of him.

George, Richard, Scott and Ann who have been at the very heart of my musical adventures for the past umpteen years, and who share my love of creativity. Jeff, who is my counterpart, business partner, friend and confidant. Nathan and Cari, who take care of me and love me. Ken, Gretchen, Erin & Lauren, my newest family, who consistently amaze me with their immense talent, creativity and warmth. My nephews, Robb, Mike and Tyler who are such a source of comfort and wonder. My brothers Mark & Brian, and my sister Kathy who are such a wonderful source of encouragement, support and love. Jewel, my dearest friend for almost 25 years...

And Kate, my dearest, who I love more than anything.

The bond I feel for each of them is very special and very important to me.

I am deeply saddened at the death of Chris. Even though I hadn't spoken to him in years, I respected who he had become and his obvious love of what he did and, more importantly, the people in his life.

RIP, Chris. You will be missed.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part V: the End

on Saturday, April 5, 2008

Well, it's over … for 2008, at least. We closed the show in Zumbrota last night in front of a sold out house in a 90 year old theater. We had a really good show, the audience was very responsive and everything sounded really good.

Last week's mini-run of Pet Sounds took a lot out of Jeff and me. Nature seemed just fine, but we were both tired and over-extended, vocally speaking. That morning was the first time in a week that I actually felt good, up until then I'd had a very strained set of vocal cords. Those of us who know him realized that Jeff was really holding on for dear life whilst singing the title track. He said he concentrated on every vocal lesson he'd ever had so that he could remain in control. He did and it was great -- not his best, but great nonetheless.

It was so nice to come back to such a comfortable show. Pet Sounds is like playing some kind of orchestral piece, everything has to be note for note and perfect. BOTW, on the other hand, has a lot more rock-n-roll to it, despite the fact that it is a folk album, and rock is a lot more forgiving of small errors. The title track, So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Boxer and Song for the Asking all require great concentration, glossing over any part of them would make the performance suffer. But on the rest of the album you can relax and have fun!

The run at the Pioneer Place was wonderful, of course, but the State Theatre in Zumbrota has a charm about it. In both places, seventeen musicians and a multitude of instruments take of a lot of stage space and we are jammed in pretty tight, but I could hear things in Zumbrota that I couldn't hear in St. Cloud. The strings players singing backups on The Only Living Boy in New York were just wonderful, I had seen them, but couldn't hear them in St. Cloud. Although I heard it every night of the run, Richard's backstage "So long, already!" during So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright was particularly clear at the State.

I am amazed, once again, by the level of musicianship of the people I know. None of the albums we've done have been walks in the park and each one presents its own challenges. It is our job to rise to that challenge and I am astounded by the lengths we will go to in order to achieve our goal. Gretchen played the trumpet and Erin played the trombone (shit, Erin learned the trombone just for the show!), I learned the charango, Al Asmus dug up a bass saxophone, everybody wore multiple hats, from multi-instrumentalist to background singer ... and at the end of the night everybody stuck around and helped the sound guys wrap cords and load out. They commented to us that nobody does that. It just seems to be the right thing to do, I think.

It will feel good to have a few days to decompress, we've all been concentrating pretty hard for the last month or two and a little down time is very welcome. The next challenge is to re-learn Abbey Road and to try to make it even better -- we've learned so much since we first did that album! But I hope we revisit BOTW, that album is such an old friend to me! I'm sure this isn't the end, but only time will tell.

Road Rage

on Wednesday, March 19, 2008

1. To the guy on the bicycle: you have to obey the rules of the road, too. I saw you on the corner of MN Highway 23 and 10th Ave. S. in Waite Park, MN[map]. You were heading west on 23, but you were at a stop light. Cars from the left turn lane of 23 east were legally turning onto 10th because they had the green arrow. You, on the other hand, were at a red light, which means you were legally bound to stop and wait until the light turned green, just as if you were another vehicle on the road -- which you are! You didn't have to stand there swearing at every car that passed in front of you. Yes, I know it was cold, but you should have thought of the before you left and bundled up accordingly, and if you were late for something, that's not anyone else's fault but yours. Next time calm the fuck down, and maybe acquaint yourself with the rules of the road for bicycles. (Rule 1 might interest you!)

2. To the guy in the black Jetta: Ha ha, fucker! You tried speeding down a frontage road to pass me and six other cars because you thought you could outrun us all and be able to zip in front of us at the next intersection. Too bad you had to slow down so drastically at the end or you might have been successful! I think that every one of us deliberately drove just under the posted speed limit just to piss you off. Here's the deal, dipshit: you're not more important than anyone else regardless of the car you drive.

3. To everybody: use your fucking blinkers! I can't read your mind, you know.

There. I feel better now.

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part IV: Opening Night

on Thursday, March 13, 2008

It went very well tonight! It wasn't perfect, there are some chords in Only Living Boy in New York that I have to go to school on, but on the whole it was a GREAT concert!!

I have to say, I was amazed at the response that my song, Sky, got. Several people marked it as their favorite original song of the night and that just blows my mind, especially next to Nature's new one and Jeffy's Dark Days of Rain -- both of which totally fucking rock! I guess simplicity has its place. (It one of what I call my "Taoist" folk songs.)

I wish this could be my 40-hour-a-week job -- well, this mixed with the Shake a Hamster Band. The projects we do are by far the most rewarding experiences I've ever had, from Abbey Road to Pet Sounds to BOTW. Each one is a unique experience and a lesson in songwriting.

I am looking forward to the rest of the run very much, and I will be sad to see it end.

King Asshole

on Sunday, March 9, 2008

I was driving to St. Cloud from Minneapolis this afternoon and was unlucky enough to have had my trip affected by a rather nasty accident which occurred just a few minutes earlier on I-94. A state trooper, who had stopped to help with an accident got hit by some idiot doing 60 mph. He claims he must have dozed off, having come off a 16-hour shift at work.

Many of us were stopped just short of the Dowling Avenue overpass because the accident had happened just a little to the north. A state trooper came along the left shoulder and announced through his bullhorn that we should all back up and exit onto Dowling because cleanup was going to take too long for us to wait. So we backed up on the interstate. I had to back up about a quarter of a mile and then everything cleared just enough for me to make a U-turn and get myself situated to join the throngs trying to get onto Dowling.

Some bald-headed cocksucker in a champagne colored Toyota Highlander, who had not been one of us who had to back-up, but was traveling on I-94, got himself situated mere inches from the car ahead of him -- he wasn't going to let anyone in front of him. I got in right behind him in the left hand lane of the exit. He somehow managed to cut off someone in the right lane, passed about three cars and then cut someone else off to get back into the left lane. People were honking at him because he was being a dick. He continued on, window rolled down, arm and middle finger extended.

I officially name that guy King Asshole! We were all in that mess together but he obviously thought that he's more important than anyone else and that he didn't have to fucking wait in line like the rest of us did. I wish there was some pox or curse I could place upon that dickweed motherfucker that would cause him to lose the ability to drive.

Fucking jerk!

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part III

on Monday, March 3, 2008

We had our first rehearsal with pretty much the whole band last night, we were only missing our lead trumpet player… more about him later… I must say, I was a little nervous about this whole thing until last night. I wondered if we were really going to be able to do this wonderful album justice.

There is so much going on for as simple as everything sounds, and there are some studio tricks that would be hard to reproduce live, but I don't miss them. There's something about the immediate visceral response that your body has to live strings, brass and reeds that makes up for the loss of a "special effect" or two. Although I still don't know quite how we're going to reproduce the HUGE snare sound in Bridge Over Troubled Water and the Boxer. That will be the sound man's job, and we've got Dean Boras, one of the best in the business.

Last night was the first opportunity we had to hear Jeff sing Bridge Over Troubled Water and he sang the shit out of it!! Ken Vork told me that when he first heard the album way back when that the entrance of the electric bass at the beginning of the last verse was like a bell going off in his mind and that it opened a whole new world to him. When that point came in the song, even though there was no electric bass at rehearsal (my job -- I'll get to it!!), tears welled in his eyes and started falling down his cheeks. That did it, I started tearing up, too. Jeff and I agree that that song is the center of the whole show. It is the song that means the most to people and carries an incredible emotional wallop. If we nail it every night, we will probably see a lot of tears.

I know now that we will have an incredible show and I can't wait to get started! My only worry left is our lead trumpet player. He blew us off for the George Maurer Holiday Show in December without an explanation and I'm afraid that he might do the same thing for BOTW, despite the fact that he said he was excited to play it with us. If he blows us off he's used up all his chits in my book and I won't hire him again. If he doesn't want to do the show, or if he feels we are under-utilizing his talents he should let us know now so that we can find a replacement. I want him on the show, he a great, funny guy and an incredible player, but I can't abide people who are unreliable. Hopefully he will make it to the next rehearsal and I can rest easy, there aren't that many more with everyone.

But right now I am looking forward to opening this show like I never have before. It's going to be great!


on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I've been on Facebook for a while now and I have come to the conclusion that it is just a gigantic marketing tool. In fact, the Pirate and Zombie and Werewolf applications were invented by marketers to see how the Facebook community works and how they could exploit it. It must've worked because Mark Zuckerberg, the inventor of Facebook, recently sold a small percentage of it to Microsoft for $246 million. Still, it is a handy way to keep in touch with friends and I'm not going to delete my account anytime soon.

One of the applications (or apps) that I use for movie review and sharing is Flixster. I am consistently amazed at the stupidity of some of the users. I understand that taste is subjective and that one person's trash is another person's treasure, and that's not what I find so odd. No, it is people who give a 4-star rating to movies they don't like, or the people who rate a movie based on the attractiveness of the leads, like this one, an actual "review" of the movie Stardust,
"i freakin love this movie itz like the best the dude is freakin hawt and robert de niro is freakin funny he is like soooooo".

I understand, only slightly, the attractiveness of the leads angle. I myself posted a blog back when I was on Myspace "reviewing" the movie Underworld, which was simply, "I'd let Kate Beckinsale bite me on the neck." But that was on my blog, not on a movie review site. But the practice of giving a 4-star rating to a movie you don't even like confuses the hell out of me.

Have these people never seen a really good movie? Possibly. 90% of what comes out of Hollywood is crap, crap, crap. I will never understand how movies like Meet the Spartans can be the "#1 movie in America" or why they feel like they can recycle stupid ideas like Underdog and expect people to buy it. But buy it they do, even really crappy movies can make millions, and ultimately that's what Hollywood is all about.

So here's a comparison between Flixster, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and my own ratings on the movies I have just mentioned as well as a few of my favorites: (Sorry about the gigantic white space, if you see one)




Rotten Tomatoes







Meet the Spartans















Citizen Kane





Plan 9 From Outer Space





The Princess Bride





Das Boot





Saving Pvt. Ryan










Home of the Brave





The lesson learned here is that I should get my movie info from Rotten Tomatoes, they seem to be closest to my own tastes.

*I don't want to see these, I will not see these.

Devil Cat

on Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Yes, yes, I know I asked for it when I got a kitten. Kittens very quickly become "tweens," which is roughly equivalent to teen-age years in humans. When your cute, playful little kitten becomes a "tween" he becomes the Devil.

Frank has decided that toilet paper is the enemy and must be destroyed. My roomie bought one of those bajillion packs of TP, Frank broke into the cabinet and attacked the outside of the package. After we opened it he somehow attacked all the middle rolls. They are almost completely shredded and are pretty much useless. In the process a paperback book that must have gotten a little too close got a some collateral damage as well. I put an 8 lb. weight in front of the cabinet door. He won't be shredding any more packs of TP anytime soon.

Last night I heard a noise coming from the bathroom (he seems somewhat fixated on the bathroom) and I went to see what the hell he'd gotten himself into this time. He had managed to get himself up on top of the bathroom door. "You got yourself into this," I said, "get yourself out." A little time later, poor Rusty must have gone in there to see what was up and got ambushed from on high. He doesn't yowl much usually, but he sure did then, poor bastard.

This morning really got me, though. I heard a crash come from my room. He had crawled up on the topmost point of my computer desk and then made a leap for the bookshelves that are above it. In the process he knocked down my three-tiered "in-out" box which had all my printer paper and about 150 plastic page sheaths as well as a bunch of miscellaneous mail. I pretty much wanted to skin him on the spot.

I can't wait until he outgrows this phase, it's stressful to me because I never know what he's going to break or destroy. I almost feel like locking him in a kennel when I leave, but that would be cruel. I keep telling him that if he keeps this up I'll wind up killing him.

But he's just too cute to kill.