Tag Archives: folk

poverty draft

Oh Al, I’m proud to know ya, and call you a friend- one of my favourite local performers, poets, and people.  Knock ’em dead, kid… he’s playing a free show as The Empty Bottle (not The Hideout! Doh…) next Sunday from 2-4 if you’re looking for something to do after brunch. I’ll unfortunately still be serving brunch across town, or I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Oh, and speaking of poverty… here’s one of the better articles I’ve read on the topic of “white privilege” written by someone who came from a less-than-priviledged position- Gina Crosley-Corcoran from Veruca Salt. It acknowledges the universal hardships of struggle, of class boundaries and barriers, of  shared obstacles and differences in opportunity to surmount the hurdles between failure and success in our society.
Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person

neighborly soup and gestures

This week has been filled with laughter and hospitality.  My gal B called me on Monday asking if I was home, and if I had any adult beverages.  But of course.  The fella owns the kegerator, so I’ve had to start getting creative with the bar lately.  I pulled out a cheat sheet and looked at my available ingredients- since we primarily drank beer, our bar is a mish-mash collection of liqueors and odds and ends… but I had orange juice in the fridge, and spotted a giant bottle of tequila a friend brought to a party last year, and an ancient bottle of grenadine… I told her the options were mystery wine from the cellar (probably homemade, possibly good, possibly terrible) or a shaker of tequila sunrises.  “Tequila! Sunrise!” she replies. She lost a lot of her stuff to a space heater fire a month or two ago, and is just starting to get moved back in after splitting her time between her folks’ place up north and her fellow’s apartment a few blocks away, and was feeling a little overwhelmed by the work to be done at home.  A not-at-all unfamiliar feeling, so I was happy to help provide a little liquid courage.

She’d bought some new houseplants to inject a little life and green into the space, done some rearranging and sprucing up, erasing and replacing charred memories, and we both agreed her place was looking pretty good!  I poured us both a couple of drinks which echoed the brilliant ruby tones in the upholstery on her new cushions, and we leaned back and had a lovely conversation.  She also fairly recently went through a painful break-up with a not-entirely-dissimilar man and it’s always encouraging to see someone else not too far from your situation, thriving.  We share tales that lend perspective… such as her mom asking her, of her former partner, “Do you remember how X would come over in the afternoon and have a jumbo cup of soda from 7-11 and he wouldn’t offer us any… because it was half vodka?”  And we’d both laugh knowingly… and she’d look at me and say, “Yeah… that’s not normal.  And we don’t have to deal with it anymore”.

This girl’s spunk and spirit always get me out of whatever funk I might be in… one of a million reasons I’m as torn up about leaving the house eventually, as it’s so close to her place, and I’d looked forward to years of similar spontaneous hang-outs.   I’d love to buy it but I’m certain he won’t sell it, especially now that one of his best friends just closed on the house next door… I’d asked the first time around if he would, when we split up back in April (when B had already bought the house across the street), and he said he loved this house from the first moment he walked in the door, had done way too much work to part with it, and how would I ever finish it on my own?  Though of course when it was convenient and we were arguing, he’d say he’d never have bought it if it wasn’t for me, I’d “tricked him” into a giant project that wasn’t what he’d have chosen and wasn’t helping him enough, blaming me for all of the hardship and difficulty… which, since he owns it, and I get to walk away from the work that I put in to the house and garden, I don’t buy for one minute.  His default response when we had disagreements was “if you don’t like it you can always move out…”.  There was no negotiation, no discussion, no give-and-take… just my-way-or-the-highway.  It’s all the more motivation to get my game together and figure out how to get my own place (before the damn speculating investors buy up everything from here to the expressway… urgh. Stop. It.).  But this girl is in control of her own destiny.  Look out!

Some neighbors to the south invited me over on Tuesday for a soup supper- goulash (in honor of their recent trip to Belarus).  Spent the evening around their kitchen table chatting with some old friends and making new ones, and lots of laughs… and as always, I am blown away by what dynamic, compassionate, eloquent and interesting people who live in a three to five block radius of me.  We shared stories, of breakup disasters and squirrel-i-cide, of world travels and butterfly gardens, rain barrel maintenance and litterer-confrontation catastrophes, and lots of deep-belly laughs.

Last night, around another table, with the VK’s, another neighbor who stopped by with a freshly-repaired guitar (“no charge… but I’m going to drink some of your beers”), and one of their fellow homeschooling moms whose unrented and vacant condo had just suffered catastrophic pipe freeze-thaw-flood damage.  She’d discovered the disaster yesterday, and of course after calling her husband, her first call was Mrs. VK… because the woman knows how to get things done.   She got the water shut off, and came up with a triage plan.  Today was the aftermath, waiting for workers to come deal with the larger problems… in the meantime, this woman needed comfort.  “Insurance isn’t paying for anything.  I’m at Home Depot buying an industrial shop vac.  Then I’m coming over.  Your mission is to get me drunk and to have Sweet Home Alabama playing when I show up, and then meet me in the barn”  (she’s from Kansas, don’t judge… and meet me in the barn is code for “I’m going to have a cigarette”- a very occasional vice for her).

Papa VK was making gumbo, with amish chicken and his homemade andouille sausages, and the kitchen filled with layers of spice and delicious smells as he seared the various ingredients, and as the stock slowly simmered on the back burner, bright punctuation notes from the sweet and hot peppers rose above the deeper savory aromas of browning meats and caramelizing vegetables to permeate our conversations with bubbling sizzle.  A bowl of pasta with lemon-cream sauce, red onion brunoise, and capers showed up in front of me, and a couple bottles of beer and then a glass of cava.  More heartfelt laughter and stories… and then a ride home, with a stop on the way at the fella’s place so I could grab my poor banjo that I left out in the backyard while taking a carload of stuff back to the house (thanks for the help, Tree!), and a stop to drop off guitar-repairing neighbor, who loaned his dehumidifier for the Operation Condo-rescue cause.

I’ve made more progress in two days than in the previous two weeks in rearranging the house into a place that I’m delighted rather than dismayed to come home to.  I’m getting the last of my things out of the studio… and mostly down to books and pantry items from the apartment (a chef’s pantry and a bookworm’s library are not a small undertaking to move… but it will get done a bit at a time).  I’ve got long term and short term plans to look forward to, and a few exciting surprises (good things always happen when you’re not looking for them).  I’m nervous, but in the good-butterflies way, not the anxious dread of weeks ago.  I’m going to Barbara and Barbara this afternoon and getting my hair done- it’s been almost exactly a year since my last cut… way too long.  I’m sick of everyday boring braids, about all I can do with it at this length… and i could use some of that confidence boost I remember from the last time- feeling frumpy going in and coming out fabulous.  I’m singing at the top of my lungs in my chilly house… only I and my sleeping dog can hear.  I’m writing, and finding my voice, and remembering all the things I used to love… It feels good.  As Cici said the other day, “Go gettem tiger!”.  You bet.  Grrrrawow!!!



feast of friendship

Last night my friends lifted me up, held me, sang and helped me dance my way back from a lost and half-broken thing into a whole being.  I arrived feeling scattered and morose, but relieved to be here in this dim low-ceilinged beer and whiskey bar, with an honest-to-goodness “Feast of Friendship” laid out for us all.  I kid you not.  It said so right there on the wall.

Lilting acoustic performance, two warbling ladies and a mustachioed man with a guitar prompted the room to whistle up a birdsong and laid on the harmonies.  I peeled off layer after layer of cold weather garb, wait for the fog to clear from my glasses, and slide my cumbersome bike bag up towards the bar to order up a tall pint of strong ale.  I stand and watch, taking in the room, and start seeing friends scattered amongst the strangers… Tree and his elvish daughter are seated at a table against the wall, and I edge through the crowd to take a seat.  He scoops up the kid and I take her chair… and nod to another friend on the other end of the table.  Deep breaths.  You’re home now, in a singing crowd.  MC comes in, glowing- it’s her birthday.  She tucks the two sunflowers in a cellophane sleeve she’s holding into the strap of her bag and gives you a hug and the flower wrappers crackle.  A girl with big horn rim glasses and a bigger smile sings a solo song, “I like you just the way you are”, and means it.  As the night goes on the bar fills with folks you know, and plenty of others all here for the show.
Later your pals are on stage and all are caught up in the crush and cacophony of of the crowd, all sing-shouting along and dancing to the songs you all know in your marrow.  Your city, your country, your friends and family and struggles… all in there.  Someone passes a bag of homemade pastries through the crowd.  It’s a giving game, this feast, and you all give it your all… Al is electric, wild-eyed, holding onto the ceiling and preaching to a choir of true believers… arms locked around each others shoulders, boots stomping and beers rattling, floors sticky and walls resounding.  Nothing else matters, but the present, but being present and uplifted and held up by all around you, all in love with these love songs, the fiddle sweet, big bass so deep, pared down drums and banjo.  When you sing along in harmony to Lonesome Low, you know that low and how low it can go, but you’re still a soprano.   Pick yourself up and take the high road, girl… too much to do yet to lie broken and wait.  We’re not here to judge, we’re along for the ride, wherever it takes us, which after a few encores is the sweaty funk of a southern soul dj spinning for a dirty country punk dance afterparty.

You take off a few more layers of flannel and wool and reservations and shake and twist it all out, laughing and cheering each other on.  Someone asks if you can step, and you shrug and take his hand (it’s been years) and follow, figure it out as you go.  You don’t really know this dance but trust and let go and try to remember, but mainly try to listen as you move. Find your frame, remember that old feeling and connection- shoulders strong but flexible, solid in your core and hips oh so free, light on your feet and ready to change directions.  Years of your youth spent or misspent on miles of dance floor across the country, feet flying, with now-far-flung friends left an imprint on your nerves and muscles and heart that while faded, is still there.  Lord, teach all the men in the world to dance- not drunken flailing solo flopping, but how to really dance with someone.  It’s a language all its own.  You dance three last songs and call it a night.  Chug some waters, find your friends, hug some, gather towards the door, spill out into the crisp air to your bikes and ride west towards home with a few folks going your way.  Hungry folks.  You all stop and split a mushroom pie, and you realize how ravenous you are as you eat slice after chewy slice, giardinara and cheese on top.  You get home and your best bud is waiting for you, waggy nub tail wild and thrilled to see you as always.  You hug him and let him out to romp in the snow and then settle in for the night. The sadness is there and will be, but girl, it’s gonna be alright.  You’re home, here in this city you’ve grown up in, into who you are and will be.  You’re still growing, much older now, and still so much to learn.  It’s gonna be a wild ride, friends.

sweet dreams

If wishes were horses…

I just finished taking an online class with Sharon Astyk called “Adapting in Place”. I’d highly recommend it, or any of her classes! Lots of hard questions from Sharon and informative discussions with the other folks in the class. One of the wrap-up prompts was, “What is your dream? What would you want if there were no constraints?” At about the same time, Jenna from Cold Antler Farm posted again imploring readers to write down their dreams and carry them around with them, and not to be afraid to ask for the moon and take small steps to get there. So here we go…

City mouse, country mouse dreams- city mouse: First, finish our little cabin- with lots of insulation, LED lighting and energy efficient appliances, and reused materials wherever we can find or employ them so we can stay warmer in winter, cooler in summer while using as few resources as possible. The first floor is open and you enter into a broad space with the fellow’s wood barrister bookcases and the rolling library ladders surrounding the wood stove lined with all our favorite books, the big barn wood dining room table in the center and the kitchen in the back all open to each other… a small bathroom added and a big pantry where the old bathroom was so we can feed all our friends. Good music, good food, and a trickling stream of good company fill our days as our friends stop in to say hello. The front bay window is a captain’s bed nook where our friends who’d like to stay longer or who came from afar can crash out…

We somehow buy up a bunch of the vacant homes in our neighborhood (there are a LOT of them), do energy-efficient retrofits and rehabs on them, and rent them inexpensively to other urban homesteaders willing to commit to growing at least some of their own food, reducing their car usage, and interested in learning real life skills and building a resilient and vibrant local community of all colors, ages, and avocations. Actually start teaching the classes that I’ve been dreaming and debating about for years- cooking from scratch, canning, food storage, backyard farming, brewing, soap making, etc. etc… Organize a goat-herd co-op, where member-neighbors take turns tending a small flock of Nigerian Dwarf goats and grazing them on vacant lots with portable fencing. Start a store that sells actual food in our neighborhood- bulk staples and fresh produce, canning jars and tools, not bags of chips and ho-hos, white owls and mad dog. Reach out to the neighbors we already have, who we’re starting to get to know better, and bring them along on the crazy ride.

Country mouse? At least ten acres, mix of wooded and tillable land, preferably with a clean canoeable river either bordering it or within walking distance (or rather, portaging distance), and/or a large lake nearby. The fellow has had his canoe stored in his parents’ garage for years, and I’ve never been out on a small craft, though I grew up a short bike ride from a lake where we spent most of our summer nights. Nothing is more freeing or refreshing on a hot night than floating and splashing, working up a shark-like appetite, and then cooking a simple dinner on an open fire on the bank. Somewhere with more stars than you can count on two hands. Same goats, chickens, bees, gardens, and classes… plus I can have a large pony or a small horse and learn to ride, oh, bliss! We’d have room to grow veggies and staples- potatoes, onions, even a pancake patch (we’ve been joking down at the Plant about planting a pasta tree… but everyone knows that bread comes from grass. I think Whitman told us that… bread is life, and all flesh is grass).

We park a shipping container or two for storage if the property doesn’t come with outbuildings, and put up a yurt while we build a strawbale or earth-sheltered house if there isn’t already an old farmhouse to restore… or if it’s near the Catskills, our cousin can build us an Earthship… if we have an invisible zoning/building inspector forcefield, that is. Hey, we’re dreaming here, we make the rules! For that matter, we could have 100 acres, divide it up, and recreate the family farm where I grew up (now mostly sold except for my dad’s parcel), hopefully somewhere with a better climate and bring everyone I love together. Reaaal hot down in the southern Ozarks now… and I’d get to see my family more than once or twice a year, work with them, and watch my baby nieces and nephew grow up in real life and not just in facebook photos, to really be a part of their lives and not someone they see at holidays.

This land would be within ten miles of a liberally-minded small to medium sized town with a good coffee shop, a cafe or three, and two small grocery stores. A theater would be nice, and a small college with a big library. It snows enough for snowshoes (and sleds! and sleigh rides!) but not all the time. The spinach and kale are sweet and fine in the shelter of the hoophouse, and it gets hot enough in the summer to grow good tomatoes and a tan. There are other farmers nearby using “real” horsepower who will teach us to farm with drafts… my grandpa (“Poppy”) had a mule but it was long before my time. My dad remembers it, but he was barely old enough to walk behind the plow and search for arrowheads, and it was retired for a tractor while he was a small boy- I have a few of these hand-hewn sharp points of flint and lime, and I treasure them- a link to the past even older than the hundred or more years my family farmed that land… a reminder that others once lived off of and loved it too.

Ok, someone pinch me. What’s your dream? Your perfect place? What would you do if there were no one to tell you no, no budget woes, nothing between you and your ideal life? And what can you do to start making it real?

For us, starting small- we’re holding open studios, a space for exchange of goods, ideas, and good will, starting this Sunday, Sept. 2nd from 11-4. The next will be on the 16th. And we’ll continue every first and third Sunday assuming all goes well. Possible BBQ afterward at the farmhouse… let me know if you don’t know where we are and want to stop by!

Tired Ghostly Town

Album art by Damara Kaminecki



Shameless plug for a friend- go listen to this now. Try it, you like it, you buy it. Yes, you will… if you have a soul, and a hankering for “country bluegrass folk punk” as this has been described (and who here doesn’t?). There are previews of a few full songs (Working Dream is my favorite) on his site: http://www.alscorch.com/

Unfortunately looks like it’s not yet available online (word is, sit on your hands till March or get thee to a show), but we have a handful of copies of cds to distribute, locally or perhaps paypal payment and shipping could be arranged- email me if you need one, $10 (plus shipping if necessary), all of which goes back to the band! If you come over to pick it up, it comes with a free beer or three. Such a deal! Al’s on tour in Ireland and England currently, but will be back home in mid- February… come home soon, son, and come on over! Bring Chris! I’ll make biscuits! We’ll all drink beer! It’ll be grand!

You can buy a 7″ vinyl earlier release that comes with a free live album-length download of some of these, and other songs, hhere… haven’t listened to this yet, but it’s on my wish list. 🙂

Backyard bonfire banjo-drum jam at Brew not Bombs IV, vocals by Al, Chris, Daniel, and Everybody. Photo credit to whomever took this amazing picture.

Cabin Fever Celebration

Yes, that's a Plant shirt on that scarecrow. Happy fall!

Hello Friends: Save the Date!
Sat. Sept. 24th, 5:30 onwards

Soo… some of you probably know that we have {had} a dual cause for said celebration. I’m turning (ack!) thirty, and we bought a house (or to quote a recent Reader blurb, we bought “a yard with a house attached”) just down the street from our studio and “The Factory Farm” garden!!! We call it the cabin, because in it’s present state, especially with nighttime temps almost cool enough to fire up the woodstove, it is a very raw blank brick slate that could transport you to the Maine woods; until the illusion is broken, freight trains rumbling across the street and sirens in the distance remind you that you’re still solidly on the West Side. Before we commence extensive renovations on our little home in the ‘hood, we’re having a folky fiesta, and you are all invited!

Al Scorch and company will entertain with old-timey banjo punk on the back porch, and we will supply a big backyard, (some) beer and other beverages, side salads, pretzel buns aplenty and a hot grill. Bring yourself, a smile, something to share food/drink-wise, musical instruments, children or other kinfolk, hound and other dogs, pig parts, portabellos, and other potluck items, picnic chairs, or anything else you deem appropriate for a real west-side hoedown hootenanny!

If you can RezVip that would be helpful for planning purposes… hope to see {that we saw} you there… Cheers!

Backyard before the bees, gardens, chickens, etc...

spoooky cottonwood tree

Hello again!

hop to it!

Alright, here we go with take two!  Bear with me while I figure this thing out… and stay tuned for lots of updates on the progress we make with Alewyfe Farm, our little urban cabin and freehold, about gardening, cooking, soaping, crafting, biking, brewing, thoughtful stewing, sweetness and salt in the wounds, and all the other trials that accompany an earnest handmade life.  I’ve brought this back, with a new name.  I was never really happy with “The Urban Pioneers” as a concept… while plenty of folks have said that we’re pioneers for doing the things that we do and mostly for living where we’re living, that both ignores all the folks who have done much with little before, and marginalizes all the neighbors who have lived in our community for far longer than we.  We’re just trying to coexist in our little corner of the world, learn and teach as we go, to cultivate tolerance in ourselves and others as we cultivate our gardens, and hope that we can all thrive in the intersection of cultures we inhabit.  Thanks for listening!  Here we go…