The Day I Did Not Get a
Free Pair of Binoculars

Stories About Home

© 2016 by Charlie Parr
Little Judges Publishing Co.
Duluth, Minnesota


So in my house my son Elijah and I have been exiled to the basement with our stuff (records, legos, bikes, clothes, bits of wire, cartoon drawings of dinosaurs, etc) so that we can just kind of spread out and wallow in our own little excesses (building crazy things out of legos and bits of wire, listening to Robert Pete Williams and Blind Lemon Jefferson records, etc). Anyway, our primary roommate down there is a large bin filled with worms. Emily's worms. She talks to them, brings them offerings of rotten food and dried leaves, won't hear a bad word against them. Apparently they wanted a bigger place, they've been busy I suppose making smaller worms since there's only eating and sitting in the dark that really happens in that bin. I was volunteered to help tip the big bin into the much bigger bin. I can't tell you about the smell, there aren't words dirty enough. Some kind of worm fluid spread over the floor and crept towards Elijah and my area. One more upgrade in worm accommodation and we'll be out in the shed.

Thanks all, coming out to these shows over the last week, it was great being at the fest with the Big Wu and seeing my friends around St. Paul and Winona and all. Also want to thank KFAI and Jackson Buck for having Mom and me on the air, we had a nice time.

I'm heading to St. Paul and the Electric Fetus at 7pm and the Turf Club after. Thanks to the House of Mercy for re-releasing 1922 and being great friends and re-inspiring my confidence. See ya later, apologies in advance for the smell - I can't get it out of my clothes.



Our basement looks like we're storing stuff for hoarders. Ijust spent some time piling it all up so that you can walk from one end of the basement to the other. None of it's mine; my stuff takes up very little room. It's weird stuff, like puzzles with some pieces missing, one water wing, pieces of rope and broken Christmas decorations, books with their covers torn off, shoes that don't fit the kids anymore, coloring books with every page scribbled on, half a bag of potato chips (I threw those away), millions of legos that I tossed back onto Elijah's table. Anyway, I stacked it all back up. In six months I'll stack it up again.

Whispering Beard Folk Fest and Porcupine Mountain Fest were fantastic, thanks all who attended and played and did the work, I had a great weekend in spite of a 13 hour drive. I got introduced to Al Scorch and am a new fan. The new record's done. Finally. Maybe I'm turning the corner. Looking forward to Mear's Park, the Red Sky in Mankato, Stage North in Washburn (sorry I missed ya last time), and of course Weber's Deck on Sunday in beautiful downtown French Lake. I'm grateful to be doing this - playing guitar and getting to see some good friends, it's worth stacking all the crap into the corners for. And happy birthday to my amazing son Elijah ... these years are going by too fast for me, probably not fast enough for him.



I don't even know where to start. This week I had a film crew from France hanging out with me (see them at their facebook page "meeting Charlie Parr" ... really ...) and we had a great time together even though I'm the most boring film subject that ever lived ("look ... I'm walking the dog! oh, here, she's pooping! did you get that?"). So my list got put aside for the week and while we were off filming me eating burritos and looking pensively at the lake, my brother Dave put up the storm windows for me! Thanks, Dave!

Also my apologies to everyone about this computer generated shows listing, that Two Harbors show was cancelled awhile ago but the computer keeps on spitting it out. It'll quit soon, I think, since I won't be telling it about my shows anymore.

Looking forward to seeing Pert 'Near Sandstone in Faribault on Friday, and the Brewhouse this Wednesday. I've also agreed to do some music with Christian McShane (If Thousands) at the Teatro this Saturday for a screening of the silent film "City Girl" which will be new for me. And hopefully I can get some of this list knocked down and have a bike ride in there somewhere. Turned off the news. Listening to the new Hasil Adkins record.



Well I took a shower with some fancy soap, and put on clean pants and shirt. I even combed my hair, which I don't like doing since I figure it's falling out anyway why help it along with a comb? Tonight Emily and I are 19 years old as a married couple. I didn't forget at all this year. I woke up with it on my mind, as a matter of fact, I went to bed thinking about it last night. How many years have I taken our marriage for granted? Never thought twice about it, how lucky I am, how broken I'd be without it, all the privilege it automatically gives me whether I do anything to deserve it or not. My Mom called this morning, she didn't say 'happy anniversary' though, what she actually said was 'don't forget how lucky you are'. She's right. I'm humbled by Emily, I want to do better for her.

After dinner, it's gonna be Wednesday and Dave and Lane and I are at the Brewhouse - Thursday's Jason's birthday at the Waterfront in Menomonie, Friday I'm having dinner with Tami and Franklin before the Root Note in La Crosse, Saturday I'm playing at the Triple Rock for the MN United folks right before Carnage plays, and Sunday I'm gonna play at Ed's in Winona and hopefully walk with Dr. Joe on the levee. Big week.

Time to meet the bus - Lula and I are gonna light the candle in her pumpkin when she comes home and Elijah's carved one that looks demented. When halloween comes we'll be ready, I'm starting a fire in the front yard and wearing a stovepipe hat, if I can find one.



Emily found a 'to-do' list she'd made for me last year sometime, maybe it's even older I don't know. Stuff like 'paint the bookshelves', and 'clean the stairwell' are on there. It's all still needing to be done, so she just flattened out the creases and put it on the counter for me. It's kind of deflating me. I ate far too much cereal this morning trying to win the battle of milk vs. cereal, and now I don't feel like doing anything, so I just kind of crumpled it back up and stuffed it to the back of the junk drawer.

But I need to tell you, on Sunday I'm sharing a bill with Spider John Koerner at Palmer's in Minneapolis and he's the top of my musical heroes list. I'll leave it there, before I get mushy. Also taking my brother Dave to the House of Mercy at 5 to play some gospel that day.

Tomorrow Chaperone re-releases King Earl on vinyl at Clyde Iron Works here in Duluth, which I'm grateful for and excited to have something I've always been pretty happy with out on vinyl, so Mikkel's coming up and Christian's gonna leave the pigs and chickens to their own devices to come over and I'm bringing Dave along to play.

Michael wanted me to tell you something but I can't remember what it was ... there's a lot on my mind today. Oh yeah that Lee's show Nov. 16th has to be moved to the springtime, and instead I'm playing at Bayport BBQ on Nov. 16th which I'm looking forward to. I'll try and do a new update sooner than later, but in the meantime you can check the shows listing here:

Thanks everyone, don't forget to vote, gotta call Mom.



My glasses broke last night at the show. The right lens popped out and flew away and for a brief moment I thought I was high. Dave found it and I played the rest of the show mostly blind (thanks to everyone who came out to Clyde and to Chaperone for re-releasing King Earl, by the way, the record looks and sounds better than ever!). And Emily had to drive me home, but Duluth sure looked pretty and fuzzy, I should look at things this way more often. This morning I fixed my glasses with copper wire and electric tape and Emily told me I look like a cyborg. Just another dent in the fender ...

The other thing is, and why I'm bothering with this right now, is that Mikkel told me that Willie Murphy is playing tonight at Palmer's right after our set, which is right after Spider John's set ... that's an intimidating slot we have. But seeing both Willie and John in one night sounds pretty fantastic to me, and plenty of time in between their sets to grab a smoke or take a walk ... but we'll try and do a good job just in case you want to stick.

I better go, Lu and I are sewing dogs and putting new strings on the National and then I gotta pick up Dave and head south, we have the House of Mercy at 5 and my soul's in the same sorry shape as my specs.



There's been a lot of times I've spent $14 and regretted it. You can do quite a few pretty good things with $14 that will make you regret spending it on something stupid. But I finally spent $14 in the best way that I could have, I bought a pair of military surplus insulated overalls ... from Finland ... at Fleet Farm. I didn't even know they had military surplus there. Anyway, Reuben and I have been all over the neighborhood and they're the best things I've ever owned. They're too short, but my pajama pants cover the distance between the cuff and my socks, so that's ok. The snow covered up all the stuff we normally poke through so now we just march down the middle of the alleyways, getting a lot of appreciative looks for my amazing padded overalls which go really well with my rubber boots by the way. Even the guys at Marshall's said I look nice.

I probably won't wear them to the Brewhouse tonight, it's gets kind of hot in there. But Dave's coming down and Lane and maybe even Alan, so we'll have a nice time even without my new overalls.I may wear them this weekend though, since I hear it's supposed to snow in Minneapolis and I'm proud to be down there playing for the Art of Ending Homelessness show at Patrick's Cabaret on Saturday. Thanks to Mikkel for working this all out, there are a lot of very committed folks working on issues around homelessness and Mikkel has been one of the best for a long time. He's also a damn good washboard player.



My little girl is turning 6 today. On the way to the bus I told her how she was born in a large pool of warm water in our dining room, and how she was covered with fur when she was born and how we kept her placenta in the mixing bowl and froze it until we could bury it beneath a new tree for her. I don't think she believed it about the fur at first but I told her it was fine and blond and eventually we washed it all away and she kind of nodded like oh yes now I remember. She didn't cry when she was born. She stared at me while I cried. Lately I've been made out of healing skin, everything seems to hurt.

I've got a few things coming up, Brewhouse on Wedenesday with Dave and Lane, the Ice Bar north of Two Harbors early on Friday and Lake Ave in Duluth late on Friday, a benefit for Elijah's school on the 29th at Sacred Heart and an early set at Tycoon's on new year's eve, but mostly I'm gonna take some time for the holiday and so I'm gonna sign off of this thing and I want to say thanks to everyone for a great year and hanging in there with me and I hope you all have a good holiday and we can all get together again in January.



Last night my eyelids were made out of glass. I don’t think I slept at all or either I did sleep all night and dreamed that I was awake and staring through my glass eyelids at my daughter’s pink room. She was sleeping in the big bed with momma and I thought I’d sleep better if she wasn’t kicking me all night. Dolls are creepy in the night. So are stuffed animals and butterflies. They’re fine in the daylight, when you can get a read on them, but they change while you’re staring at them at 2:44 in the morning when it’s too early to just get up and make some coffee. They get mean, or maybe they just get looking like they’re gonna get mean pretty soon. What could be scarier than being viciously attacked in the night by a care-bear? Or that furby thing? I know that thing hates me anyway and would love any excuse to cave on me. When I finally did sleep, the sun was coming up and I dreamed that I was awake in the middle of the night when I heard everybody up downstairs and it was nearly 9am.

I gotta get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to record new versions of “Badger” and “Barnswallow” using the banjo and a different tuning than they were written in. I want to be awake for it. I felt half alive all day, but I listened to Scrapper Blackwell and John Fahey and that put a kind of surreal spin on everything until Lu and I went skating. She’s doing really well at it. Today I skated like a drunken bear tied to a unicycle on a tilt-a-whirl. Better days ahead.



When they were little, both of my kids shoveled snow by throwing the shovel-full of snow directly over their heads and behind them so that the place where they stood was really the only clear place on the sidewalk. The snow would fly up and land right behind them, filling in the place where they were just standing. I must have taught them that, but I don’t shovel that way. And I didn’t really help matters by quietly going along behind them shoveling the part they just filled in and then when we were all done telling them what a great job they’d done. They got better at shoveling more or less on their own and never really seemed to catch on to my deception. Yesterday Elijah cleared off the porch and steps and all, and I never went near it. Instead I was in the back, trying to dig my poor old 2-wheel drive pickup out of the snowbank that I must have parked it in the night before. I got it all done, rocked it back and forth and got the thing rolling again, and parked it back in its newly shoveled spot. I was so proud. Then the plow went by. Now the snow is packed into bricks, chunks of broken concrete, boulders bound to the earth with iron bands. Rammed underneath the running board, pushed into the wheel-wells and the wheels themselves are just discs of solid snow. One side’s fine, the side I can see from the house, and I fooled myself for awhile thinking that it can’t be that bad. I shoveled for 20 minutes and I was was still just standing in a little space surrounded by snow.

I gotta get back out there and finish digging it out. I have to pick Elijah up today. Thank you to everyone who came by the Cedar last weekend, it was overwhelming and I really appreciate you all being there. Also had a great weekend in NoDak and missed most of the snowstorm on the way home, picking it up around Bemidji and riding it all the way home. This weekend I’m going to St. Cloud and then up to Washburn, then next week I’m packing up for a trip to Canada and the east, and I’ll be sure and pack my shovel and those orange tire grip things that are liable to become deadly projectiles if you step on it too much.



I thought I was pretty good at time management, things seem to tick along pretty nicely and each day kind of follows a pattern of sorts. Then Emily left for a trip with her school leaving me and the kids here alone and I’m realizing that I’m not actually good at time management at all, but rather my time was being managed for me. Lu says “it’s time for lunch” so I head for the kitchen to start assembling the weird bits of mismatched foods that she likes to eat. And I glance at the clock that says 10:15 am which is not actually time for lunch at all. And I tell her that and she says “my mouth says it’s time for lunch so it’s time for lunch” which sounds a lot like her version of bedtime which says “my eyes will close when they close and that’s when it’s bedtime”. And the more I think about this, my reasoning kind of slightly impaired due to no Emily in the house, the more I think she’s right. So I make the lunch, wondering when the county’s going to send someone by who might have heard that we’re on our own and eschewing the standard regiment for one apparently motivated by the anarchy of a six year old’s whims. Then I give Reuben a treat without even asking her to sit, and I can start to see the danger that’s coming. And I see the truth now, that I’ve been institutionalized in a way, and now the head nurse is gone and the door’s hanging wide open, waiting for us inmates to just walk out into a world of eating whenever we want, sleeping whenever we’re tired, wearing whatever crazy mismatched clothes strike our fancy, combing our hair all forward and putting a hundred little butterfly hair clips in it, leaving the radio on all the time as a ‘theft deterrent’. And then my son comes upstairs and says “it’s not lunchtime, Dad” and I hear the door clang shut and lock and I put the half-made lunch in the fridge to wait for another hour.

I’m leaving for tour tomorrow. I’m trying to pack, but feeling pretty overwhelmed and even though I’m looking forward to the tour (I’ll get to see Toronto for the first time, then onto Buffalo and New Haven, Winooski, Somerville and NYC, Annapolis, Lynchburg, Knoxville, Asheville and Nashville and home by way of Dubuque and IA City and Mankato) I’m really going to miss home since I haven’t been out on the road for awhile. Mom says (while she was kicking my sorry ass all over Austin in cribbage) that I gotta go, and I know she’s right, and I’m happy to be back at it. And in the truck I eat when I’m hungry … pull over and sleep when I’m tired … I am six, kind of, except I have my license.



Today Lu is home from school. We are on our own, and so far we've had a stuffed animal party where Reuben was the only stuffed animal who did not want to participate; we've fed the birds who're wondering about this so- called "spring"; we decorated Emily's birthday present that Lu was dying to tell her about last night and this morning both; we moved the record player upstairs so we could listen to the Como Mama's sing gospel and now are digging our new Joe Kille record, which is great; we made our own cookie cutters since out of the thousands of cookie cutters we couldn't find the one we needed so we headed for Marshall's where Lu got a tootsie roll and Reuben got a treat and I got sheet metal; we've done a load of laundry; we made plans to clean the dining room; we delivered Elijah's forgotten homework to him at school; and now we're going to have lunch and talk about the daunting task of baking that we have before us so that we can celebrate Emily's birthday in style. We are home-bound anarchists. We are moment-livers, time- tickers, dining-room dancers, eternal free-wheelers. We are 6 years old, all 3 of us, and when Emily comes home from work we will celebrate her sixth birthday, too.

I don't know. I've got shows this weekend, Bayport BBQ (looking forward to some beans, Chris!) and StageNorth in the bar, and I gotta pack for the west and call Mikkel and Dave since we're gonna do L.A. together, but that all seems pretty far away right now. I gotta get back to it, Reuben and I have a dog party with Lu and the stuffed animals to attend.



Mikkel’s friend Eric in Denver plays the trombone while walking the dog. That’s so good I can hardly stand it, and when it gets warmer I’m going to encourage Elijah to take up the habit. I wish I could get him lessons with Eric, I could see them walking along the path in Denver together, playing their horns. Maybe he’d be part of a class, all walking along playing scales and bumping their slides together in the sunshine. Elijah’s been trying to teach me the trombone for awhile now, which is turning into a lesson for him on how hard it is to teach. I’m a horrible student and always have been. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, either, I’ve found my way to learning the guitar and the banjo (in my own way) and I’ve learned a little about philosophy and history but mostly on my own, and I‘ve learned about things like car repair and household upkeep through necessity and sometimes dangerous trial and error experimenting. So anyway I bought a second hand trombone … well, it’s nearly shot, so maybe there have been more hands on this thing than 2 … but we sit in our spot in the basement, he and I, surrounded by legos and records and boxes of stuff and Lu’s warehouse of bits and pieces and the almost mystical presence of nearly a million hungry worms and we practice our scales. He sounds good, his tone is getting pretty mighty. I am always surprised that I haven’t attracted a crowd of bull moose whenever I try to play. It worries me, since moose are pretty aggressive, that they might gather near the basement door and when their love-jones becomes intolerable they’d bust the door down and it’d be me, sitting there on a upturned bucket bleating out my scales and not standing a chance.

I’ve had such a good week, it’s not even right. What can you say when someone places something in yr hands that makes you so happy that words don’t come? “Thank you” sounds silly, but it’s a good start I suppose. So here it is: Thanks for the Cat Iron record, I will treasure it. Thanks for hosting a show at Hymie’s, it was really fun for Mikkel and I to be there. Thanks for the Grateful Grahams crazy good coffee bean granola bar things you were right, they’re already gone! Thanks for letting me play in the sanctuary of a beautiful old church in Newport KY, I’m looking forward to the Whispering Beard Festival this year and seeing you all again. Thanks for singing along with us at 1st Ave, Dave, Mikkel and I were thrilled to be there and I’m better for yr friendship of the last 10 years and I wish you many many more years of success! Thanks for having me onboard in Winona at the Mid-West Music Fest it was incredible and I hope I get to be there again next year. Thanks to Palmer’s for still being there; Mikkel and I are headed there tonight. Too, too many more, I can see now how it would be if I kept on going here, how I would find myself after pages and pages and millions of pages back at my birth wondering how will I ever repay my Mom for all she’s done for me?



The only problem with being an inherently lazy uni-tasker is that when the other people in my life have busy schedules, they notice me and the fact that I’m not doing much. It feels like I’m pretty busy most of the time even though compared to nearly any other breathing person I’m just sitting still. So suddenly I find myself going from doing nothing at all (my natural state) to doing stuff (an unfamiliar and sometimes very frightening situation for me). Emily’s play opens this week, so she’s gone far beyond busy to the point where she’s moving so fast I have to think whether she was actually just standing there at all or was that just my imagination? (Yeah but her coffee cup’s empty and still hot as a pistol.) Needless to say, Reuben and I have some errands associated with her to do today. And Elijah’s building a volcano, which I’m 100% supportive of, and very willing to help with, so I need to get some more rabbit wire since I used all I had up on failed manifold-stove experiments. By the way, I’m switching to a sheet-metal design that I promised Mikkel would be ready for cooking by the time we leave for Texas next week – think under the hood dutch oven and a recipe for red beans and rice with some of that Seitan stuff in there.

The point of this, this being on Facebook for the 3rd time this week, is that Francois and I have been having an email conversation about how painful it is to do self-promotional stuff. You know I want to help out, Francois put a lot of work into his film, even though I tried to warn him that I’m not much of a personality. I’m very flattered about the film and all, and at the same time feel pretty uncomfortable about it (just being honest here, I’m not trying to say it’s not good or anything. I don’t know if this is a Minnesota thing or just part of a type of person that cringes whenever their own names are mentioned because that’s what I’m like, I can’t help wanting to make music but it’s hard getting over the other stuff around promoting it and I’m not wanting to give up music just because my stomach hurts). I’m just making it worse, now, so here, it’s called “Meeting Charlie Parr” and these fellows that made it, they’re from France and they’re really talented and it’s pretty cool in spite of my queasy stomach. Here is where you go if you want to know more or get a prize for helping them out : . I gotta get to work now, lot’s to do and Brother Dave’s coming for coffee and then we’re playing at the Brewhouse tonight with Lane if you all need something more to do …



We don’t say the “C” word up here much, we all know to say “chilly” or “brisk” instead. I saw a guy break, though, like a soldier on the battlefield who finally had had enough and threw his rifle down and put his arms in the air and said “it’s cold”. Then there’s a shocked silence in the hardware store as everyone turns to see who said it, who said the word we never say. The clerk comes around the counter and gives comfort to our broken comrade: “pick up your shovel, Ray, let’s go home”. I’m close, too much cabin fever and frozen plumbing will do that, but I found my salvation yesterday when I finished screwing the last little screw through the tire of my bike and put it all back together. It looks like an ice-age Armageddon machine, but I tore down the alley and across Marshall’s ice-covered parking lot with no problem. I was so happy, happier than I’d been in a long long time, that I rode to Brother Dave’s and made him come out in his long john’s to take a spin down the sidewalk. This was the medicine I needed, a simple bike ride, and another one today, and then the next day ... Don’t tell me I can’t go outside.

I’ll spare you my 2013 recap, it’s enough to say that it was a good year and I owe a lot of people for it. My highlight came in an Austin nursing home sitting with my Mom and Aunt, listening to them singing hymns to my oldest Aunt who is staying in there. I felt very honored to be there, to be a small part of their collective history, to hear their stories and feel their strength. My Aunt‘s rendition of “This World is Not My Home“ was beautiful and deliberate - words can‘t tell it. I realized that I was alive every day last year, but sometimes I wasn’t awake. Now I know I need to wake up, count my blessings and get back to work.

January shows are up on the website thanks to Ryan, please stop by if you can. Meantime I’m going for a ride in the cold.



Emily's starring in a play that opens this week here in Duluth. It's called “Good People” and I know a lot of the lines by heart since she now speaks mostly in lines from the play and with a very convincing Boston accent. I can hear her all over the house, muttering to herself, cursing occasionally, trying to come to grips with a life that she probably didn't really want but now has to make the best of. When you talk to her, sometimes you're not sure who'll answer you. It makes me think of Sybil. Anyway, she is an incredibly talented woman who devotes herself wholeheartedly to whatever she's doing and if you're around town the play opens tomorrow night at the Underground and I'm excited to be able to go and hear the other lines and all in order, too.

As if that weren't enough, on Sunday I'll be spending the day with Leo Welch, from Bruce Mississippi, who's coming up to lay some gospel-blues on us. Mikkel and Dave and I will be hanging out with Leo at Hell's Kitchen for brunch, at Hymie's after that, then on to the 331 for the Corpse Reviver set, and then a run down the river to Winona where we'll all be at Ed's with Mike Munson. I'm bringing a sack lunch.

Other than that, it's St. Cloud on Friday and Cambridge MN on Saturday and rolling down to Mom's for a couple days of cribbage soon, feeling pretty lucky to know all these good people and doing my best to learn my lessons and tread with care because the ice in front of my house is wearing my tail-bone out.



I broke my glasses, which kind of threw me a little because I’ve worn glasses since I was a kid and rarely go wandering off without them. So when they fell off my face into that fuzzy abyss of the floor I had forgotten, really, that I ever even wore glasses since I hadn’t thought about them much for years. Now I found myself mostly blind and wondering what the hell just happened. It could lead you to a lot of much larger questions about just how much we should count as part of our body (am I more myself when I’m wearing glasses and can see, or not?) and if I were walking along the levee with Joe I’d sure bring it up but under the circumstances I was alone and nearly blind. I crawled around until I found the part that goes around your ear, and then finally nearly crushed the rest. Lu gave me a bit of wire and I did my best with it, winding around the two pieces until the wire was gone. I’m really pretty pleased with the result, it works, and when I take off my glasses to admire my handiwork I can’t really see it much but Lu assured me that no one can even tell the difference between the broken side and the other. The things that I’m able to fix with wire are very few now, fixing anything makes me feel so good, even just understanding something makes me happy, and there’s not much of that anymore, either. Thanks to College, I'm pretty good at knowing how much I don't know. I should’ve stayed in high school, I might’ve at least learned to weld.

February’s looking busy, thanks to Ryan the website has all the shows and details listed for the tour out to the East and a short run with Chicago Farmer that I’m looking forward to. This weekend I’m heading to Dubuque and then back to Bayport BBQ, and maybe a stop by Mom’s for another lesson in ‘losing gracefully at cribbage’. I sure have appreciated all the nice comments about Hollandale, you must’ve known this one was tougher for me. I’m gonna spend some time each day with my glasses off, and see what I can see.



I dreamed about having coffee with Mayor Ness. He was explaining to me why we couldn’t tear up the streets of Duluth and replace them with gravel roads and walking paths covered in the cedar mulch that I like the smell of so much. Evidently it’s a pretty big undertaking, but the Mayor told me he admired my steadfast adherence to whatever cockamamie idea popped into my head and that someday I would make an excellent crotchety old man who wrote long rambling letters to the local paper. Just then my dentist showed up in a 1970 Super Bee with the 440 Six-Pack motor and those huge Mickey Thompson tires and demanded to know why I’d not bothered to show up for my annual cleaning and what kind of nut job wants to have gravel roads in town, and did I know how much he’d paid for the candy apple green paint on his Super Bee? Mayor Ness said I’d better go, that oral hygiene is very important, and I should feel free to let him know about any other crazy improvements to my town I might think of, and so I got into the car and my dentist slapped a twenty on the dashboard and said “if you can grab it you can have it” and popped the clutch and I woke up.

This week is the Brewhouse on Wednesday with Brother Dave and Lane, it’ll be the last one for a time. Thursday’s The Nicollet in Minneapolis, then I’ve got the Mountain Top Fest in Wakefield on Friday and the Stoughton Opera House in Wisconsin on Saturday with my friends Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Monday I need to pay my taxes and Tuesday March 18 I’m heading down to Minneapolis to play at the Varsity in Dinkytown. In the meantime Lu and I are gonna stomp some of these puddles and I’m gonna lay off the spicy food for a while.



So this fellow calls me on the phone earlier today and tells me that I’ve won a free pair of binoculars, which I think is pretty good since lately my eyesight’s gotten so bad that either my arms aren’t long enough or I can’t get the paper close enough to my eyes to see what it is I’m looking at. So maybe binoculars would be just the thing, I think, and he says well I’ll bring them right over and that seems pretty convenient so I get the place picked up and pretty soon Rueben starts barking and there he is at the door with this huge box. Those are really big binoculars, I say, and he says no this is a vacuum cleaner of some sort and I tell him that I really need those binoculars and I don’t like vacuuming at all so as a substitute I can’t say that I agree. He tells me that he’ll give me the free binoculars after I look at the vacuum cleaner. Cripes, I say, fine, let’s get on with it I’ve got a lot of stuff I need to be looking at through those free binoculars and we’re burning daylight here. Where’s your wife, he wants to know, she’s not home I tell him, Emily’s at work, some of us have jobs, you know, not me so much, or possibly yourself, but she’s drawn the short straw so she’s working today. Well I can’t show this machine without her here, he says, and I say what, that doesn’t make any sense at all, I’m the one who ends up having to vacuum around here, she never even spills anything. You should really show that thing to my son, but he never cleans up either. Well I have to come back when she’s home. Ok, I tell him, give over my free binoculars and you can come again another time. No, I can’t give you the free binoculars until you look at the vacuum. I can’t see the damn vacuum anyway, my eyes are too bad. Why don’t you hand me those free binoculars and I’ll take a look right now? No can do. He takes his box and duffel bag which I assume contain my free binoculars and away he goes.

Anyway, the details for those shows this coming weekend that I forgot to put up are the Rourke art museum in Moorhead on Thursday at 7pm, Duke’s in Crystal Lake IL on Friday, and Carbondale Rocks Revival on Saturday which can be found here:

This place is a pigsty, I wonder when that guy’s coming back?



Folks don't just stop by the house too often, which seems a shame, I can remember my Dad's friends dropping by out of the blue just because they were in the area and they'd all sit around the kitchen table with the coffee talking about nothing in particular. Sometimes Brother Dave stops over and we throw guitar bits back and forth with the coffee, but other than that it's usually just Rueben and me bumming around the house or picking up sticks and dog poop in the yard. Eddy Gilmore stopped over the other day, though, out of the blue, and I got so happy to see someone that I talked his ear off and nearly drove him away. Eddy's a pure soul, though, he wrote a book called “The Emancipation of a Buried Man” which he left me and I thought it was a great read so I returned the favor, dropping out of the grey sky along with the rain into his personal home to share tea and another round of nonstop chatter from me. Years ago it was work for anyone to scrape a sound out of me, or even a look, I was so shy, but nowadays I'll wear the dog out with endless monologues concerning idle and meaningless things, things that mean the world to me somehow. So it goes, I'm turning into a trapdoor spider, waiting in the house for some innocent soul to stop by so I can weave my web of dog walk incidents and daughter hair snarls and bent tuning machines and bicycle tires and pants that don't fit because I was too impatient to try them on at the store. Small wonder that no one drops in.

Thank you, by the way, for all the understanding and kind words I've been receiving lately. We're all hanging in there around here, and I'm grateful that I'm home to help out. Rueben's doing well and seems to be a lot happier without that kidney stone so that's good, we walked our little route yesterday, poking our noses into everything from shrubs to the hardware store. I talked the whole time, telling her about my plan to get off my butt and start some tomatoes in that nice 5 gallon bucket we found last week. Listen, I'm gonna shut up now and see what Rueben has to say.



I picked up a couple records the other day, even though my records and record player are all in storage and I knew I wouldn't be able to listen to them for awhile. JD Short, Son House and Furry Lewis all recorded by Sam Charters in the late '50's, and I couldn't pass them up. So I took them to the storage place and while I was in there, I figured I could just pull up a seat from the giant pile of stuff and listen to these records right then and there. So I found an extension cord and started hunting for an outlet but I couldn't find one anywhere, not in the unit itself, not even in the hallway, not by the elevator, not down the stairs, and nowhere at all until I got to the office and asked the woman who runs the place if I could plug my cord in and she looked at me for a real long time and said "what for?" and I said "I want to plug my record player in and maybe a lamp" and she said after another long pause and stare "you know you can't live here, right?" and I said "sure, no I'm not living here at all, I just want to listen to this Furry Lewis record is all, and the light's real dim in my unit so I thought I'd plug in a lamp but no after that and maybe a couple others I'm outta here" and she stared for another uncomfortable long time and said "no" so I offered for her to come up and listen too and the staring was even longer and less comfortable so I didn't wait for her answer and I rolled up my extension cord and went back to my unit.

Back at home, in the basement where the records used to live, is a large plastic bin filled with red worms who's only real occupation seems to be eating and, well, this is a family orientated page so I'll let you imagine the sordid lives led by these worms in the darkness of my basement. But moving day has come for them and since that woman won't let me stuff them in the storage unit I need to find them a home. If you want them, countless numbers of red worms in their own plastic bin, to live with you and eat your leftovers, send me an email and we'll set you up. Probably best if you live in Duluth to take advantage of this fabulous one-time offer though.

Other than that, I'm packing up to head east and get back to playing some folk songs and trying to avoid trouble and all the shows are listed on the website thanks to Ryan. Stop by if you can.



The other morning my teenage son came downstairs in his usual hail of hair and granola crumbs and he asked me even before he didn't say 'goodmorning' if I would prefer to be buried with or without my trousers on, if I would like to eternalize my perpetual struggle with finding a pair of pants that I like with a statement such as being interred without my jeans on. I guess I didn't really think the time was so close that I should be planning for that kind of thing, I've been feeling pretty healthy lately, actually. But he shrugged the way young folks do when they drop some massive existential bomb on you and then they go looking for breakfast because everything is as important everything else when the eternal NOW kicks in. He's right, though, I've been having a hard time finding jeans I like. I usually wait until I get to Fort Collins, CO and go to that thrift store downtown. Somewhere in Fort Collins there's a fellow who's my size and he buys these really nice carpenter jeans and breaks them in and donates them and I've bought them three times now over the last few years and this last pair is wearing thin and I'm starting to wonder if there will even be a choice of pants or no pants if I don't find some quick.

Anyway, it's been pretty busy lately, not a lot of time to shop for jeans. This week I'm playing the Chester Creek series tonight, early and outside, and tomorrow the Devil's Flying Machine is at the Red Herring, this Thursday I've got the pleasure of sharing Bayport BBQ with the great Frank Fairfield as he wheels around the country one last time before laying his fiddle down, Friday I'll be at Shell Lake's Potter's Shed with the kids and the dog and all and then this weekend I'm heading for the Mile of Music in Appleton and down to Chicago on Sunday night to play one more time with Frank at Schuba's. Whew. I wonder what St. Peter will say when he sees me ...



Rueben and Emily and the kids and I live in a different house now, in a neighborhood that's only about 2 miles from our old neighborhood but a lot busier and seems to be in a hurry most of the time. We're happy though, with a little yard of our own to put up those little table and chair squirrel feeders that my Dad made and a little room in the attic to plug the record player in and listen to music. We even met some guy who was standing around in the back yard taking pictures of the house with his phone. He said he was from the insurance company and so we stood around chewing the rag together for awhile, since I'm always happy to host the drop-ins, but he seemed concerned that I didn't have a job, and apparently up to nothing more than hanging out in the yard at 11:00 in the day without any shoes on. After a while he left and Rueben and I started the long process of getting to know our new surroundings, which will take some time since the streets are very busy and folks tend to glare at you if you don't cross fast enough, plus there are a lot of crooked streets and dead end alleys to be wandered through. I saw a familar face along the way and I told him about the guy in my yard, and about not having a job, and getting glared at by a mad looking young man waiting to make a right turn and the 'walk' light that only stayed lit for a couple seconds, and he said "maybe you shouldn't sleep in your clothes so much".



In the back corner of my sister's garage there was an old electric grinding wheel, a big old electric motor and a twin wheel connected by a fan belt and bolted to a chunk of 2X6. It's mine now, nailed securely to the old kitchen cabinet in my ramshackle garage, and it's the king of all my acquisitions with the possible exception of Poor Norman, a taxidermy screech owl that Mom gave to me after having had it around her house all of my life and now he sits in my window and stares at me while I sleep. The grinding wheel, though, seeks to help me solve the problem of an uncertain future in the folksinging business, it represents a fallback, a sideline, a ready source of mad money, something familiar in times of complete confusion. I know exactly what it is, what it's used for, how it works, where to get parts for it (Marshall's), how to fix it, and why I should have it in these days of things that aren't immediately recognizable. Little boxes that light up and make noise, phones that are a million other things too and require a user's manual so large that it doesn't even come with one, I heard a song in a store that sounded like "Werewolves of London" and then wasn't "Werewolves of London" at all but some other song altogether, a person starts to feel a little ungrounded, the learning curve for what used to be the simplest thing is suddenly very high. The grinding wheel is just a grinding wheel though, it's very dependably a grinding wheel, even when it's not plugged in, even if it were (god forbid) broken it would still be a grinding wheel and it's only other real use might be a door stop or an anchor but you'd know your door stop or your anchor was actually a grinding wheel, whereas I'm nearly always a little surprised to learn about the non-phonelike things that my phone always seems to be getting up to. My phone, though, can't sharpen my skates. I'm practicing with my grinding wheel and when winter gets here I'll be ready, all you have to do is stop by with four dollars and I'll fix you right up. If there's time I'll even join you on the ice. In the meantime I'm still very happily playing the guitar (the other thing that I'm pretty sure I know more or less what it is) and Ryan has graciously and expertly updated all the dates on my website. His skate sharpening will be free.



The best part of the holidays for me is at the part where they end, but I’m not trying to be a humbug I just really like going to the treecycling yard. I tie the tree to top of my little car, and when I get there I make sure there’s no one else around and untie the tree then get back in the car and speed towards the pile of Christmas trees then slam on the brakes and what I hope will happen is that my tree will launch itself off the top of the car and fly through the air, land on the very top of the pile and I’ll whip a couple donuts in the name of victory and hit the freeway in a cloud of pine needles. What actually happens is that I slam on the brakes and the tree slides down the windshield onto the hood and I heave it off onto the foothills of the tree mountain and I drive slowly away, picking needles out of my lap. But it’s over and it’s January and we’ve got some ice to skate on and snowy paths to walk so all’s well. I’ll be at the Red Herring each Wednesday in January and at the Turf Club every Sunday so you know I’m happy. I’m finding my way; I’ve been looking for it as hard as it’s surely been looking for me.



The thing about finding a pair of pants that you like is eventually they’ll wear out and you’ll need to get another pair. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except that I haven’t managed to keep much more than an extra change of clothes around me lately for whatever reason, plus I get real weird about clothes, I just want some that feel like they aren’t there. Like a real good bass player, you don’t notice it until it’s either gone or wrong. So anyway I found a pair of pants I thought would work, but I was in a hurry and they were cheap so I bought them and went on my way. Later on when I went to wear my new pants it turned out they weren’t any kind of pants I’d ever had, they were made of some kind of water repellent material and had a great deal more of that material than I really needed. There were strings and cords attached to them and the pockets led directly to my underwear, which I almost never want to touch during the course of a normal day. A friend politely informed me that what I’d purchased was actually some kind of parachute and not a pair of pants at all. So today I took them back to the thrift store and re-donated them, but I suggested that they be put more in the camping section than in the pants section. The very kind woman working there gave me a discount on a different pair of pants, these pants have gigantic pockets attached to the knees, but at least they fit, and they were cheap. So I’m going to wear them to Steven’s Point for my show with Horseshoes and Handgrenades on Friday, and if that works out I’ll just keep em on for the Virginia Avenue Folk Festival in Indianapolis on Saturday.

In my dreams recently I went to the dentist, but he was a Yeti and his fur tasted terrible when he put his fingers in my mouth. I thought he hadn’t washed his paws before the exam, but I was too scared of him to say so. He wasn’t wearing any pants at all, but he did have a white lab coat on with a little sticker on the lapel that said “Hi, my name is Philip” on it. Remember, if you can’t say something nice, keep it to yourself.


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