Showing posts from 2008

The Show Must Go On (Must it?)

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…

The Arts

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…

Here We Go Again

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!


Bye Bye, Baby

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.

View Larger Map

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…

Did You Ever See a Nervous Beer Drinker?

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!

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 Bistrobegging 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

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 ho…

Just Damn Angry

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 k…

Update! No Longer Worried

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.


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 pote…

Upstaged by a Damned Kid

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

Uploaded by redhotjazz1

SUGAR CHILE ROBINSON (By Dave Penny)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…

Nice Merchandise!

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

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 Sp…

Oops! Wrong Venue!

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 …

Lead Guitarist

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 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 f…

Car Repair: the Next Generation

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 …


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!


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 …

Road Rage 2

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 "Minneso…

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

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 th…

Hiding From the Past

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 t…

Eh? What's that?

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 j…

Retrying Hated Things

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 …

RIP Chris Mitchell

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 …

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part V: the End

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 lo…

Road Rage

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 do…

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part IV: Opening Night

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

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 …

Bridge Over Troubled Water, part III

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!! …


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…

Devil Cat

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 …