The Storm Door,
My Nemesis

Home Maintenance and Repair

© 2015 by Charlie Parr
Little Judges Publishing Co.
Duluth, Minnesota


I think my lawnmower has the power to repair itself. I got about halfway done with the lawn and it quit. I tried everything short of taking it apart and then it was back, no problem. This mower and I have been together for a long time, through many repairs (all inspired by my Dad, who believed that cotter pins and electric tape were always good substitutes for parts) and now I know that our hearts truly are one.

Also, I evidently have a twitter account, which was brought to my attention by Michael who said that I had a message. So Emily checked it out and I actually have 43 messages, which I'm very sorry about to those of you who may have left me a message. I'm trying to get better with all this, and I'm not overly optimistic that I'll be able to much better than I am now. We'll see.

Thanks to everyone who came by the wonderful Steyer Opera house in Decorah, I had a really nice time. Also thanks to everyone at the Northland Folk Festival, it was amazing as always and the best one yet! I hope I can play there again ...

Looking forward to this weekend, kind of a little driving I've got ahead of me, but that's alright. I'll try and get to this again before next week but Lula and I are set on winning the 2-wheeler war this week, and I have to make a run to the dump, plus practice for the new record and help Elijah finish his Super Nova project for science class and I need to visit my Mom and Aunt Mid down in Austin ... it's nice outside, too. Take care, everybody, I'm going outside.



So Frank told me the other day about a friend who had a big task that needed doing, but instead he kept focusing on little things and never got around to the really big job. He could finish these little chores, see, and was scared about failing at the bigger important one. Then later the next day I was replacing the wax seal on our toilet and it hit me: Frank was talking about me. Maybe he wasn't really, he's a wise man and probably a lot of folks ask his advice, but he was describing me right now. I have 13 new songs written, and I've made and cancelled recording dates 3 times. In the meantime I've done almost every little job around this house and made up a few to do, and then moved on to doing a bunch of stuff around my Mom's house too. All this stuff needs to get done, granted, and I'm the one who likes to do it, but I'm putting this other thing off. Frank was right.

Anyway, one thing I haven't been doing is this computer stuff. But I want to say thanks to everyone coming out to these shows lately, it was great being back at the Paramount after 40 years (saw a Disney film there when I was 5) and really, really enjoyed playing shows with O'Death, they're fantastic. Emily and I are headed out to Amazing Grace tonight to play some old songs with 4 Mile Portage and then we'll all be playing an opening set for Trampled By Turtles at Big Top on Friday. Saturday it's the Barn Fire Benefit at KAXE in Grand Rapids at 4:00 and next week Mikkel and I are playing the Cedar Cultural Center's patio on Thursday and then I'm heading for La Crosse and the Root Note. Hope you all are well, stop by a show if you can. Meantime I gotta fix the sink.



I talked to my Mom today. I told her about the sink which still needs to be done, and told her about painting the stairs (every other one today, every other other one tomorrow) while the dog is blocked in the kitchen with the box spring that Elijah uses as a backdrop for his archery practice so she doesn't go running on the steps that are still wet. I told her about the strawberry we harvested and cut into 4 pieces (it was the only ripe one). She told me that she's got a stump she wants to axe out and did I have an axe she can use? I'm going to go down there tomorrow.

Also I have a show with Paul at the Fine Line to kick off his bike tour tomorrow night, I'm playing a set early on and wishing him a great ride. Then it's the Cedar Patio show on Thursday, which is always a great time and even better since it's outside and Friday I'm at the Root Note in La Crosse where they sell this amazing granola that evidently has the power to keep me alert all the way from La Crosse to Duluth in the middle of the night.

There's more coming up, but I'll try to update this again next week. I'll let you know how Mom's place is, if it ever stops raining up here I'll have to mow, and don't let me forget to tell you about the woman who came to the door last week with a purse full of religious tracts ... from all kinds of different religions ... she flipped through them and finally gave me one from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I kind of wanted the comic-book looking one that told about the greedy businessman who woke up in hell, but she kept that one.



Everything leaks around here. I fixed the faucet in the tub, but then the main valve went, so I fixed that. Then the kitchen faucet started in, so I fixed that. Now I'm sitting in the dining room with a beach towel and a pipe wrench just waiting ... and listening for drips.

Thanks to all for coming out to the shows recently, I'm feeling much better and thanks for putting up with some lazy shows and disjointed comments and plenty of space-staring. The next month and a half are real busy, I'm looking forward to Boats and Bluegrass at the end of this month though. My family's all coming along, and maybe we'll pack along that canoe. Michael and I are gonna talk about releasing the new record, I'll let you know about that soon, and then I'm taking a break in November and re-glazing the storm windows. Thank God for Marshall Hardware.

Oh, and I busted a tooth clean in half yesterday ... I'm only 45 for cryin' out loud and the teeth are coming right out of my head? I'm fine with losing all my hair, I don't eat with it so I won't miss it. But teeth, those I would like to keep for a bit longer. Dr. Bill's on the ball, though, got me in right away and slapped me full of bondo like a '66 Fairlane. I better stop, see ya later.



I fixed the screen door. When we were gone, the wind broke the piece that keeps the door from slamming against the house and the door bashed the mailbox right off the side of the house. It's not a pretty fix, it's a green piece of cable looped at either end, but it was cheap and the door's not worth much. A lot of stuff I try to fix isn't this easy, and sometimes I end up making the problem much worse and needing to take it to someone who's qualified to fix it right. Usually they'll want to know why it's so much worse than it should've been, what's this piece of wire, who glued this down, what did you think you were doing (I hate that one most of all) and such as that. Sometimes, when I wake up still groggy with some idea for a modification to my guitar in my head, I make changes that I should not have made and then I can't either make it work or put it back. So far folks have been patient with me (Marty at the Podium, the guys at National ...) and just fixed it without making fun of me. On my walk today I decided that I'm going to try and fix more stuff with wire, and take more stuff apart and change it around, whether it's broken or not. I won't ignore my groggy ideas any more, and when I need help I'll keep my head steady and just say yeah, I put that wire there. I'm gonna be more like Lu, and stomp when I walk.

The new website's up: if you have time take a look. Big thanks to Ryan for taking time to put it all together and also to Christian for building it in the first place and maintaining it in spite of my inconsistent attempts at self-promotion. Christian's raising pigs and chickens now, bless him. Oh, and Barnswallow's for sale on the site and at shows and I hope you all like it (it was like passing a stone, that one, to get done). Last thing - Brewhouse tonight with my Brother Dave and washboard Lane, Friday's the Waterfront, my yearly show at Oak Center on Saturday and Ed's in Winona on Sunday ... thanks everybody for taking such good care of us during these times, we're looking ahead and keeping one another close.



These children that live in my house approach screen doors like they’re pushing shopping carts: arms outstretched and leaning slightly forward with a lot of traction to their step. Their elbows are locked when they hit the door and it bangs open, and what’s left behind is the screen part kind of billowing around the door hole. So now I’m older again, and I go to the lumber yard to share some of my crabbiness about the problem when Mike puts it all into prospective with his “electric screen door” idea (just a couple times’ll learn ‘em). So I come to understand it, it’s just a flimsy door, and when it’s nice outside you really need to get out there quick. We’re learning, I think, this spring when the weather is liable to take any bizarre turn that it wants to take at any time it wants to take it that you’d better be ready with a shovel in one hand and your rake in the other. Lu came outside on the day it edged towards 50 wearing a swimsuit and slathered in a greasy mixture of sunblock and bug repellent. She had a big floppy hat on and had just walked right through the screen door in her flip-flops with the dog at her heels. This morning she wore 2 shirts, a sweatshirt, a raincoat, puddle boots and mittens. Well I fixed the doors, it took all day when it should’ve taken an hour but you know I can only go so fast (slow) and only do so much (one thing) which always seems to surprise Emily even though she’s known me for more than 20 years you’d think she’d be onto the fact that I’m slow and easily distracted (John Bhengu is playing on this record excuse me while I stare at the speaker for about 3 minutes). My system is flexible now, though, and I just do the next thing

Anyway, I love Duluth, love Homegrown, am fine with either shoveling or raking, boots or PF Flyers or barefeet, bring it all on, I heard an old man say last week “I woke up on the right side of the ground this morning and I’m ready for anything”. I’m heading for Ashland to play the folk festival tomorrow and then I’m gonna pick Mikkel up and we’re gonna drive south and find Ames, Tulsa and Woody Guthrie, maybe Wichita to ride my nephew’s Apple Crate and then Texarkana, Fort Worth, Denton, Blind Lemon’s gravesite and finally Austin before we ride all night to get home, take a good long bike ride with Elijah and pack up to head for Europe. I have a system, but it’s pliable and I’m learning that there will times when the doors won’t give way before my stiff-arms do. I’m doing my best to walk just ahead of my children to show them this.



If it’s true that everyone needs a nemesis, then mine must be storm doors. I stumbled on the steps at my Mom’s house and banged into the storm door, and then I couldn’t get it to open. Mom came to the door when I knocked and thumbed the catch without a word and walked back into the house. So I fixed the storm door, which wasn’t broken until I arrived anyway, and I said to Mom “I fixed the storm door” and she said “it wasn’t broken” and so I said “I broke your storm door”
“I fixed your storm door”
And Elijah and I managed a 2 of 3 sweep of the evening cribbage games against Mom and Julie so I suppose it was a successful day. But I can’t help feeling like something is slipping away from me though. Did you ever have that feeling? It’s vague, I feel like I can’t quite get a grip on it or make a clear sentence about it, but it’s making me so sad today.

Mississippi Gabe Carter and Al Scorch are a couple of my very favorite players and they’re both playing at Lee’s tonight starting at 9:00 if you all are out and about and can stop by. If not, look them up when you have time, you won’t be disappointed. This weekend is also Harriet Brewing’s Roots Rock and Deep Blues Festival, and the NE Folk Festival at Grumpy’s where you’ll find my friend Baby Grant Johnson, still one of the best guitar players walkin’.

I ain’t goin’ no higher, I ain’t goin’ no lower down …



Brother Dave came by yesterday to help me get the storms up. Every year we have the same conversation about how rough the windows are, I need to reglaze the storms, rescreen the screens, rebuild the frames. They fit loose at the top and tight at the bottom, or need to be hammered in or shimmed, the bent nails that hold them in place are rusty and this year I fixed one pane of glass with crazy glue and packing tape. But the house is crooked and the window frames are crooked, too, so I'm worried that if I did take the time to repair all the storms then they wouldn't fit at all anymore. A straight line seems really out of place in this house where a marble will roll around the floor for hours and never repeat the same path. I feel a little like this house today, crooked and creaky and trying real hard for just good enough. But my neighbor says perfect people piss him off, so I'm safe there.

Today is finishing day, the day before I leave for a month and try to get the rest of my to-do list done. I may try and save some money by giving the dog a haircut myself, and I need to find the ice-scraper and pick up some groceries and take one more bike ride. Flying is not my favorite way to go, and it's probably best to concentrate on something else. I'm looking forward to seeing Australia and all my friends there again, and had a great weekend send-off at Harriet Brewing and Ecker's Apples and I'll finish this pie they gave me before I leave or die trying. If I miss my connection to Australia you'll find me walking in a crooked Northeasterly path from L.A. to Duluth.



I just spent about 25 minutes meticulously chipping the dog rope out from under the ice on the porch, then another 25 busting the ice away from the screen door with an axe that I then planted solidly in the door frame. I couldn't even cry, my tears would've frozen before leaving my eyes and I'd never be able to blink again. The dog doesn't even want to go outside. We reminisced about walks we'd taken last summer while I followed the children around picking up bits of scissored-apart leotard and broken christmas tree ornaments. Now they're outside, destroying what's left of the screen door in the midst of an epic ice-chunk war, and I need to pack my bag and go where it's warm: Crystal Lake IL, Danville IL, Zionsville IN, Maumee OH, Abingdon VA, Raleigh NC, Cincinnati OH, and Knoxville TN … pick one, it's gonna be warmer. But I'm happy to see the snow, happy to see my cousin Karen's yearly christmas card in the mail, happy that spring is a long time away and I won't have to fix either one of these screen doors til then, past nailing blankets to them to keep the chill out. My friend Jimi (rest in peace brother) told me in Fargo one winter that if you wanna stay warm, you gotta bend yr knees, uncoil yr body, don't tense up. And Joe Price said “It's 25 below zero, and my car will not start.” Tell it, Joe, I'm heading out right now to see what my pickup has to say. I won't tell you to keep warm, it won't help, but I will say remember the folks who have no choice but to stay outside, who have nowhere else to go, because we're all neighbors up here.



I think the neighbors were taking bets on whether my porch roof or the shed would collapse under the weight of all the snow. Maybe there was a special bonus if they both went. I got the word though, and Reuben and I went out there and cleared it all off, wading through the yard way up past my boots remembering doing that when I was young and I kept losing a boot and thinking “why have these boots? They’re all snowy and wet inside now, and I’m just as cold as I would be in sneakers”. We busted up an ice dam and a good chunk of the eaves with it, knocked a fresh hole in the screen door and tore up a portion of the back door jamb, broke the railing around the porch and wrecked a bird feeder, spraying bird seed everywhere. Reuben was having a ball, she likes the snow and rolls around and makes snow-angel-dogs then shakes off the powder coat. I joined in for a little bit to get a break from destroying my own house, and she was happy to see that I can be a normal dog when I drop the big human act. This house is just barely surviving the winter this year, and I'm not helping much, most of the doors won’t close without a lot of coaxing (“finessing”, my Dad would say), the paint’s mostly gone, the trees are a mess, and when spring finally comes I’m sure the basement will be soaked. I’m moving my records into the kitchen, the cabinets are the right size after I get rid of these pesky dishes and the food. And that’s not the half of it, the pickup’s full of new dents and rust spots, and the doors scream whenever you touch them. But we’re ok, all of us Minnesotans all over this country now, smiling at the sun finally and sighing to each other about how we’re nearly there, we made it again, and this time it was something to see. That lake will be frozen for awhile, so when you’re too hot this summer you’ll know what to do. Anyway, better luck next time, gamblers, I beat ya to it this year, in spite of myself.

Heading down to Mankato to the Midtown tomorrow night to help Kind Country celebrate a new cd, then onto the Waterfront in Menomonie WI to see everyone and play a show with blues guitarist Nick Foytik and finally Ed’s on Sunday for the Winona Evening Service with Mike Munson. Thanks to everyone on the east coast for being so kind to me out there, I hope I can come back again sometime. Maybe when it’s warm and dry.



I’m rebuilding the porch one board at a time. 10 foot 2X6’s won’t fit in my efficient little car so I pick out the worst board, measure it, walk down to Lakeside Lumber and buy the board, carry it home (being careful not to bust anyone’s car windows out or knock anybody off their bike), and get to work. It’s pretty good this way, I feel like I accomplished something, but I didn’t have to do too much to feel that way. I told Reuben during our morning walk that maybe this is the way forward for a lot of other tasks in my life like dog-poop collection, door repair, string-changing, mowing, and dish washing. Last week, before I caught onto this life-changing scheme, I rebuilt both screen doors in one day with just one trip to both the hardware and the lumber yard. If I’d known I could’ve lazed this chore out into a couple weeks’ worth of idle strolls around the neighborhood punctuated by brief moments of drilling holes in the door frames. I’ve been looking for a way to lay back without getting yelled at for being shiftless …

This week I’m practicing my new work ethic at Mom’s while clearing out her basement and making trips to the thrift store and the dump, and I also have a few shows I’m looking forward to: a brief stop at Hymie’s Tuesday at 7 to celebrate the release of the single I recorded with Ben Weaver then on to Harriet Brewing at 8pm that same night, Thursday I’m going to be at Patrick’s Cabaret at 7 for a short set, Friday I get to help open the Red Herring and then tear on down to Mahtowa to play at Rob’s for the first time in far too long, Saturday I get to return to the great Park Theatre in Hayward with Ben Weaver and Sunday I’m proud to be part of PeteFest at Beaner’s in Duluth.

…one song at a time.



The people who live in my house have a habit of throwing the things they don’t want to see anymore into the basement. Today I told Reuben that our walk would have to wait until I sorted the mess out and made some kind of path at least to my records. She was pretty deflated and sat by the door for awhile and then came and sat on the steps and watched me while I sorted through the pile of things that came from all three corners of my house, shoes and busted hangers and boxes, broken toys and puzzles missing pieces, moldy blankets and discarded or dirty camping gear, single socks, bicycles and broken furniture. It’s not all my family‘s fault, I tend to be a little like my Dad in not throwing much away until I either fix it or admit I can’t fix it or find some way to use it for something else, sometimes all three happening in a kind of leap-frog action of failed fixes and try again laters and then finally surrender and here I am, facing the pile that stands in the way between me and some Captain Beefheart. Behind the cache I uncovered empty shelves and the clouds parted and the sun illuminated my mind to the possibility of simply ramming everything into these shelves and thereby saving myself a trip to the dump and ensuring plenty of things to fix over the long winter. Reuben saw the light, too, and she ran to the door, ready to go. We walked the alleys today, sheepishly noticing all the tidy backyards and garages lined with neat rows of plastic tubs containing carefully labeled camping gear, barbecue tools and toys destined for heirloom status.

Tonight and tomorrow night I’m sharing shows with Wild Hands, a great band from Minot, ND, if you haven’t heard them I definitely recommend looking them up. And then on Saturday it’s back to Russell’s, the best venue in Annandale MN, to share a show with Possessed by Paul James, who I’ve been a huge fan of for many years and if you’re in the area please come and see him while he’s in our area. Tonight’s show with Wild Hands at the Red Herring will be a Devil’s Flying Machine show for me, which is kind of proto-psychedelic-trance-blues at it’s best and an audio photograph of a bad car wreck at any other time. “I’ve grown so ugly that I don’t even know myself anymore” - Robert Pete Williams (by way of Captain Beefheart.)


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