Monday, December 15, 2014

Love for Other Things

by Tom Hennen

It’s easy to love a deer
But try to care about bugs and scrawny trees
Love the puddle of lukewarm water
From last week’s rain.
Leave the mountains alone for now.
Also the clear lakes surrounded by pines.
People are lined up to admire them.
Get close to the things that slide away in the dark.
Be grateful even for the boredom
That sometimes seems to involve the whole world.
Think of the frost
That will crack our bones eventually.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


After getting off to our usual late start last Friday, the drive to Cedar Rapids went by quickly even with an unscheduled stop to buy a jacket for Erin as she'd left hers at home, and we arrived just before 5pm.   We quickly checked into our hotel and then went over to the con hotel across the street to pick up our badges and put Erin's art in the art show.  After that, we had time before opening ceremonies to go to the dealer's room and Erin of course found another spiffy jacket she liked from a collection of clothing that Gregg Parmentier had brought down which had belonged to Myrna, his wife who sadly passed away earlier this year and who is very much missed.

Opening ceremonies went well and the TICC skit was pretty silly as usual, and Brian Anderson did a fine job taking it all seriously up there on stage.  I heard later from his wife Ange that he'd only had a few weeks to prepare and there wasn't even a rehearsal until the day of the performance.  That's cutting it pretty fine, even for TICC.  (BTW, "TICC" stands for the Trans-Iowa Canal Company, first coined by former newspaper columnist and RAGBRAI rider Don Kaul.)  Then it was off to the con suite and a few parties, some Scotch sampling (including one 28-year old bottle Gregg brought that was truly the best Scotch whiskey I've ever had) and lots of great conversations before Erin and I turned in a little after 1am.  (Sadly, I missed the Poe and Lovecraft story telling panel, which it being Halloween night would have been fun.)

In the morning after having a quick breakfast at our hotel with two other fans who were staying there, we headed back over and I went to a panel that was a progress report from a University of Iowa's special collections team on the Hevelin Collection.  For us SF fans, it was wonderful to hear that they were going to go through Rusty's entire collection of SF fanzines, transcribe them, and put all the text online in a searchable format.  They can't simply scan them and put them online due to copyright issues (which are pretty complicated) but the plan is to give people access to search them and then let them request scans of just the pages they want, which does qualify as fair use under copyright law.  They will need people to help transcribe them, because given the nature of the fanzines and how they were printed, optical character recognition (OCR) doesn't work.  Needless to say, I got their contact info and will be in touch to offer what help I can, especially because I have Erin as a resource about the artwork.  Here's a link to more about what's happening with the fanzines:

Science fiction fanzines to be digitized as part of major UI initiative

During the panel, one amazing story was how when one of the researchers was going through a box of fanzines, he found the program book from the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in New York City back in 1939.  He opened it and found that it contained a complete set of photographs that had been carefully scotch taped in the book under each caption, and it's the only one that's ever been found that does have them all and in good condition.  Talk about having a Holy Grail of Fandom moment.  Wow.

After that, I had a couple of hours free before there was another panel I was really interested in.  I first popped in on a panel Erin was on about asking artists how they did stuff, but only briefly.  (Artist GoH Lar de Souza was having a fun time from what I could tell.)  Then I went to make a blinkie at the 2DKits blinkie workshop room up on the third floor.  I also had one I needed to resolder a battery connection on, and after looking over my choices I paid Kurt (who thankfully brought everything over all by himself) and set myself to work on the following kit:

5 RGB Blinkie Kit

It's one of the beginner kits, but not being the world's greatest soldering iron user it took me an hour and a half to assemble, and it took me fifteen minutes to figure out how to solder on the pinback.  (Later, I learned I wasn't the only one who had problems with that.)  So including fixing my other blinkie, I spent about two hours having fun making blinkie.  So with a new and old blinkie now to show off, I checked out the Body Painting panel where Erin and John Garner were having fun doing a fairly large painting on a model's back with acrylic paints that they'd brought.  It was very nice and it got a lot of notice later.

Then I headed off to another panel with Elizabeth Anne Hull talking and answering questions for an hour, which was even more fascinating than I thought it would be.  The past several years there have not only been great Guests of Honor, but a wonderful supporting cast of other SF&F professionals.  For the $30 I paid at the end of last year's ICON, it's vastly more than worth the cost of membership.  Then I went to a reading by Jim C. Hines that was packed with listeners and he read a updated tale based on Snow White that was engrossing and fun.

After that, I went to the Art Show to watch Erin and several other artists, including anyone who wanted to just drop in and have fun, do an "Art in About an Hour" panel that resulted in several collaborative pieces that were later auctioned off to raise funds to support the Hevelin collection.  Erin was having a good time, which was fortunate given she'd been kept busy for over six hours on Saturday being on panels at the convention.  There certainly was no lack of things to do at ICON this year.

At the end of Erin's panel, a dinner party of ten that included Erin and myself went to a Mongolian restaurant that was a short drive away and we had a big tasty meal and I had a nice time talking with Mike Miller and his wife Laura Runkle and others.  We finished and got back just in time for a panel featuring Joe Haldeman at 7pm, and wouldn't you know it - he was late coming back from dinner.  But he made it after only a few minutes more and while his wife Gay was getting his latest novel in progress from their room we had a lively Q&A about how retired life was treating him now that he's no longer teaching writing at M.I.T. in the fall after thirty years of doing it.  Then Gay came in and Joe read from a novel Joe's calling "Phobos Is Fear" that's according to Joe is part mystery and part SF, being set naturally enough on Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars.  At the beginning, Joe mentioned how the feel of the book was colored in part by the Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic (and mentioned an anecdote where he met Arkady Strugatsky, who had also studied astronomy like Joe and when asked about working as an astronomer told Joe "Why should I work when I can write science fiction!", which Joe told with great relish for some reason or other...   ;^)  I enjoyed what Joe read of it and hope to read the finished novel in a year or so.

After that, I spend ten minutes or so in a panel asking whether so-called 'hard' science fiction was still alive (even asking the question is an answer of sorts) before heading out to socialize and have fun.  I went in briefly to hear a concert by Wyld Nept, which was well attended and LOUD, and decided I wanted something quieter, and after going to a couple of room parties I ended up in John Garner's karaoke room for the next three hours (with breaks) having fun singing.  I even managed to pick one song I thought I knew based on the title and the group, but I'd never heard it before!  So I just faked it and everyone else had a good time faking it along with me.  (Robert Uy had the hit of the night singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" though, and he said he'd never done it before either.)  I even got to sing a lot thanks to so many people being at the Wyld Nept concert, and when that ended and the crowd arrived to karaoke, I ducked out and ended up spending an hour or so talking with Ange Anderson and other fans on the second floor.  When the clock struck 2am and we did the time warp by turning the clock back an hour to standard time, I walked back over to our hotel and crashed with Erin and we slept pretty soundly.

After getting up in the morning and packing up my things before doing check out, I went back over at 9am to the blinkie room to make another blinkie that I'd picked up the day before that had six big, bright pink LEDs.  Thanks to having just done one the day before, this one took only about an hour to finish.  I then headed to a 10am panel on alternate economics, which ended up being less than fascinating so I left and checked out of the hotel with Erin.  She then went to the blinkie room herself and picked out the X-mas Tree one to build, and I went to the consuite where I met Eleanor Ray and had a nice time talking with her (also, every time I was between things I often stopped to talk with other fans) before going to the "Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia" which was about SF finding new things to tell stories about that were comforting, rather than challenging for the reader.  It was an interesting enough premise and since it had the two writer Guests of Honor on it (Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch), it was also very entertaining.

Then the last panel I made was at noon and was sort of a followup, with Scott Lynch and Jim Hines discussing getting beyond SF 101, which ended up being rather meta discussing how writers and artists in general get beyond the initial plateau of creativity that seems to hit those who create works of art.  I liked Jim Hines' comments about deciding to make a commitment to his writing after getting his feet wet, and that it really was a serious commitment of time and effort that when he initially made it wasn't easy, given that there was no guarantee of greater success.  They also had a lot of fun bantering with each other and the audience had some good questions too that even got good answers.  So worth going to, even though I'm just having fun playing guitar and singing myself.  (Speaking of, I did bring my guitar but filking never did ensue.  Oh well.)

I went back up to the blinkie room then to find Erin still at work on her tree (it had nineteen LEDs, so there was a lot of soldering to be done), so I headed down to the art show to pack Erin's things up and take them out to the minivan.  I came back up and found Erin was having difficulties, but after getting help from Mike Miller, then Doug Hamer, and then finally Kurt with his handy solder-sucking gun, she was able to get her blinkie to work, with the exception of one light that probably has excess solder under it shorting it out.  Erin does have a soldering iron of her own though, so she took an extra couple of LEDs and can fix that later.  It will look very nice as an ornament on our tree at home this Christmas, I'm sure.

The two of us then had lunch with Dave Ingraham and Marnie over at the food court at a nearby mall (I had two tasty Maid Rites myself) before we headed back one more time to the con hotel to pick up a nice bottle of Iowa-distilled whiskey that Laura kindly picked up for us and say our last good-byes before heading back home.  As always, the dogs and cats welcomed us back home and the pet sitter said they all did just fine while we were gone.  All in all, it was another wonderful ICON this year, and of course I pre-registered for ICON 40 next year.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

by Jack Ridl

Our cat lies across the stove's front burners,
right leg hanging over the oven door. He
is looking into the pantry where his bowl
sits full on the counter. His smaller dish,
the one for his splash of cream, sits empty.
Say yes to wanting to be this cat. Say
yes to wanting to lie across the leftover
warmth, letting it rise into your soft belly,
spreading into every twitch of whisker, twist
of fur and cell, through the Mobius strip
of your bloodstream. You won't know
you will die. You won't know the mice
do not exist for you. If a lap is empty and
warm, you will land on it, feel an unsteady
hand along your back, fingers scratching
behind your ear. You will purr.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rummage Sale

by Jennifer Maier

Forgive me, Aunt Phyllis, for rejecting the cut
glass dishes—the odd set you gathered piece
by piece from thirteen boxes of Lux laundry soap.

Pardon me, eggbeater, for preferring the whisk;
and you, small ship in a bottle, for the diminutive
size of your ocean. Please don't tell my mother,

hideous lamp, that the light you provided
was never enough. Domestic deities, do not be angry
that my counters are not white with flour;

no one is sorrier than I, iron skillet, for the heavy
longing for lightness directing my mortal hand.
And my apologies, to you, above all,

forsaken dresses, that sway from a rod between
ladders behind me, clicking your plastic tongues
at the girl you once made beautiful,

and the woman, with a hard heart and
softening body, who stands in the driveway
making change.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Commuter Buddhist

by Jeffrey Harrison

I'm learning to be a Buddhist in my car,
listening to a book on tape. One problem
is that, before I've gotten very far,

my mind gradually becomes aware
that it has stopped listening, straying from
the task of becoming a Buddhist in my car.

I'm also worried that listening will impair
my driving, as the package label cautions,
but I haven't noticed that, at least so far.

In fact, I may be driving with more care.
There's a sensation of attentive calm
that's part of becoming a Buddhist in your car.

A soothing voice drones on until the car
is transformed into a capsule of wisdom
traveling at high speed, and you feel far

from anywhere but where you really are ...
which is nowhere, really. The biggest problem
is getting the Buddhism out of your car
and into your life. I've failed at that so far.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Word

by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


by George Bilgere

Just when you'd begun to feel
You could rely on the summer,
That each morning would deliver
The same mourning dove singing
From his station on the phone pole,
The same smell of bacon frying
Somewhere in the neighborhood,
The same sun burning off
The coastal fog by noon,
When you could reward yourself
For a good morning's work
With lunch at the same little seaside cafe
With its shaded deck and iced tea,
The day's routine finally down
Like an old song with minor variations,
There comes that morning when the light
Tilts ever so slightly on its track,
A cool gust out of nowhere
Whirlwinds a litter of dead grass
Across the sidewalk, the swimsuits
Are piled on the sale table,
And the back of your hand,
Which you thought you knew,
Has begun to look like an old leaf.
Or the back of someone else's hand.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Quiet World

by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look
into each others' eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How other music festival campsites roll

I'm quite happy that the Winnipeg Folk Festival's camping area is free range.  This is an aerial photo of the Pemberton Music Festival's camping grounds in Pemberton, B.C.  While I admire the efficiency, I prefer the wide open spaces of Bird's Hill Park.


For a comparison, here's a 2010 aerial view of the festival camping grounds at the Winnipeg Folk Festival:

I'm a little prairie flower / growing wilder by the hour / nobody cares to cultivate me / so I'm as wild as wild can be!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Trail Is Not a Trail

by Gary Snyder

I drove down the Freeway
And turned off at an exit
And went along a highway
Til it came to a sideroad
Drove up the sideroad
Til it turned to a dirt road
Full of bumps, and stopped.
Walked up a trail
But the trail got rough
And it faded away
Out in the open,
Everywhere to go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our computer timeline

Just for the record, here's a rundown of the personal computers Erin and I have owned over the past twenty years or so:

Our very first PC was one Erin found for sale in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin back in late 1996.  It was a used 486 Windows 3.10 box that I vaguely remember paying around $350 for.  When we brought it home and hooked it up to a monitor we'd also bought separately, we found it had belonged to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design until 1994, as the hard disk drive had not been wiped.  It also had Adobe Photoshop 3.0 still installed on it, which gave Erin her first chance to play with the program, free!  It was a pretty reliable machine for three years or so, as I recall.

Eventually I had to get my own PC, and I bought mine new for around $400 at a store in Minneapolis (Dinkytown) in 1997, and it was a Pentium I box running Win95, I think.

Then in early 1999 we got an eMachine that had an AMD K5 processor and ran Win98, which I used at Minicon 34 to run the art show with and then kept for five more years, two power supplies (eMachine's weakness) and an processor upgrade.  It was a pretty solid box for the $400 I paid for it.

In the meantime, Erin's need for a more powerful machine to start printing her art necessitated getting a Cyberpower machine with an AMD Athlon processor and WinXP in 2003, which ran well but died suddenly after three years.  I think I paid about $700 for it, including shipping, as it was the first computer I'd bought online.

Then in 2006 because I had a work-related discount with Dell, I ordered a Dimension E521 for $700 with an AMD dual-core CPU and WinXP, and it ran faithfully until it was replaced in 2010 and then died for some reason before I could repurpose it.  Oh well.

The replacement was a Dell XPS 9000, a very capable machine that still runs and served Erin's increasing need for power to do her digital artwork with an Intel quad-core i7 CPU and 6GB of RAM, running Windows 7.  It was pricey at about $900, but worth it.  (There's a timeline of Photoshop updates that parallels the computer updates, naturally.)  But of course the need for speed never stops and earlier this year it was replaced too.

Our latest computer that we bought earlier this year is a Dell XPS 8700, which despite a lower number has 12 GB of RAM and a faster Intel i7 CPU, still running Windows 7.  It also cost less, at $730, thankfully.  Erin likes it.

In the meantime we've also had an Acer laptop running WinXP from 2005 to 2010 before it died and was replaced by a used Dell WinXP laptop that ran until early this year and was replaced by another freebie Dell laptop running an Ubuntu variant of Linux, Peppermint 3.  It's not used much as I've gotten used to using my Nook HD tablet.  And now we have smartphones too, finally.

That's a lot of computers, and monitors too, as we went through four CRT monitors of various sizes and then a couple of Dell LED monitors.  And a dot-matrix printer, then in 1998 an HP inkjet that Erin used for several years to print bookmarks and magnets with, then in 2001 an Epson 2000P printer that she used to print her artwork with and then in 2009 an Epson 4880 printer that's still running well.  Oh, and there have been two other HP Photosmart printers Erin used to print cards and brochures with.  Oh, and a Zip drive, two external hard drives and etc. etc. etc.  That's a lot of equipment.  And money!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2014

Well, it started out with gloriously mild and sunny weather on Wednesday and ended with wind and rain on Saturday and Sunday.  Oh, and cold too thanks to a summertime polar vortex bringing 40 to 45mph winds.  But other than that and some minor damage to our tent and some major damage to our old 10'x20' car port that's been used for shade the past eight years, it was a fun time overall.  Our trip up and back across the border was finally uneventful after the hassles of the past few years and the old minivan ran just fine too.  What didn't work was my new smartphone for getting text messages, which would have been handy.

In recent years we've struggled to get the camp set up by show time (7pm) on Wednesday thanks to having to wait for hours to get in, but this year we only had to wait a couple of hours so we were on the festival campground by mid-morning, where I found a decent spot for Baggiecon to be.  That was a good thing as there were only four of us (Dave, Elizabeth, Erin, and me) doing the setup, and I was the youngest at 58 years of age.  We did a lot but we were very happy to see Wolfgang and Lillian come in later along with Lana to help when we really needed it.  So we were done with setup in time to hear music, thankfully.

The Wednesday night main stage acts that impressed me most were the tweeners (the acts between the featured performers), Guy Forsyth from Texas and Sara Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, with Texas bluesy singing by Forsyth and sweet harmonies from Guthrie and Irion.  I wanted to like closing act Bonnie Raitt more than I actually did, but most of the audience definitely loved her.  Maybe if we had been up closer instead of being way back from the main stage I would have connected with her better.  We then went back to camp and enjoyed a fire for a while before I went off to bed for a deep sleep after a long day.

Thursday always is a lazy day since there isn't any music in the afternoons until Friday, so we finished setting up camp by putting up the kitchen tent and made coffee.  Mmm, coffee.  Erin and a few others went over to play at the nearby Big Games site, and were playing Giant Scrabble games (one of which was won by Lana in a spectacular come-from-behind fashion), while Dave and I, and then Wolfgang spent an hour or so playing some songs on our guitars under the shade canopy.  We then all went down to pitch our tarp in our usual back-Baggie spot at 6pm for the night's show.  My favorites were The Wood Brothers, a trio from New York that played rootsy songs with great harmonies and pretty fancy pickin', and Danny Barnes, a bluegrassy performer who was wonderful on the banjo.  By the time the last act rolled around most of our group was ready to leave, but I stuck around to enjoy some true blues music from closers Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite.  I even ended up dancing after being told it would help keep me warm, and it did!  Then I headed back for camp enjoyed playing a little music around the fire before turning in.

Friday morning I was up early enough to make coffee and take a shower before heading down to take part in the tarp shuffle after Polly gave me a #1 tarp ticket.  I succeeded in placing the front Baggie right between the two so-called "golden" tarps that last year's raffle winners get (I called our placement the "golden mean") and then I meandered over to a water tap near the Green Ash stage to drink my fill when I heard these three folks rehersing behind the tent:

They sounded great and I decided right then and there to find a spot to listen.  It was called "You Better Knock On This Workshop" because all three bands had "wood" in their names: The Wood Brothers, The Wooden Sky, and The Deep Dark Woods.  It turned out to be a great workshop as the impromptu theme was luck, so they all sang songs of luck, both good and bad.  I was again wowed by The Wood Brothers (who did a spiffy Michael Jackson cover tune) and The Wooden Sky (from Toronto) were also terrific.  A fine way to start the day for sure.  Then it was over to the Little Stage in the Woods where I caught the last half of a concert by Joe Nolan, who was a young guy playing the blues and playing them pretty darn well.  Then when he'd ended I went up front to sit near Josh to hear a ukulele player, James Hill, who I was curious about.  I took this photo of him and his wife (who plays cello) during the sound check:

I was then treated to a wonderfully entertaining show by them, with bright, snappy ukulele playing and soulful cello bowing.  They also had a nice stage presence and they had the audience in the palms of their hands, especially after doing a Michael Jackson cover of "Billie Jean" that was hilarious and virtuosic at the same time.  (Maybe there should be a Michael Jackson workshop sometime...   ;^)

I then wandered off towards the Bur Oak stage to catch a little bit of a workshop that had both Guy Forsyth and Danny Barnes in it, but the area was pretty packed so I only stood for about ten minutes there before deciding to walk over to the Folk School tent to hear John Hammond.  Hammond was interviewed by Brian Richardson and they spent as much time talking about the life and times of John Hammond as Hammond did playing some tunes, and it was a fascinating listen.  I'd forgotten that Hammond had done the music for one of my favorite movies, Little Big Man, an awesome film by the way.  It was like being in a living time capsule for an hour, which is one of the things I like about the folk fest.  Here's a not-so-great shot of Hammond and Richardson:

Then I headed back to the Little Stage in the Woods because Josh had told me that Cara Luft was well worth hearing in concert, and she definitely was.  After that, I made it back to camp to eat a bit, have a beer, and just make sure things were o.k.  Then it was belatedly back to hear the main stage acts for the night.  I did catch the last portion of Buffy Sainte-Marie's set, which thankfully included her most famous song, Universal Soldier.  But I wasn't at all impressed by the other stuff she did, which was too loud and just too damn much bass.  Oh well.  The next ones up were Corb Lund and his band, and I liked them a lot, even though I'm not all that much into country-style music.  Unless it's fun, like Lund's was.  The closers for the night were a trio of sisters from Sweden, Baskery, and they did a high-energy set of more rocking material, but I wished I had heard more of their harmonies, which were quite good.  (Erin thought their stage moves were kind of silly, and I had to agree.)

Saturday morning, I got up even earlier and made a pot of coffee and did a bit of tidying up.  Then a shower and it was off to again lay a #1 tarp for the night on main stage, again right up front.  Then it was off to here the Bluestem Special at the Big Bluestem stage, which was o.k. but it didn't really grab me, which is not *their* fault of course.  I did have a wonderful conversation with a couple of very nice volunteers though who were wondering what to do later and I told them I was heading over to the ukulele workshop at 1pm and that I was sure they'd enjoy it, so they said they might go there too.  I hope so, because the Uke Nation workshop at the Spruce Hollow stage was a highlight of the folk fest.  Featured were the amazing Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill on ukulele and James' parter Ann on the electric cello.  I'd gotten down close to the front and then saw Karen and Juan making their way down but there wasn't enough room for them next to me so they sat a few places to the left and still had a nice view of the stage.  Then after introductions Jake spoke up and said that in his experience at ukulele festivals (Wow, they have them?  Cool.) a workshop wasn't a performance but was for performers to demonstrate their technique and explain their approach to the instrument, and then jam a bit with other players.  (I think Karen plotzed right then and there, but I didn't look her way at the time.)  Needless to say, as someone who plays a little ukulele, I was enormously pleased, along with at least thirty other ukulele players in the audience.  Both Jake and James did talk about their respective styles of playing and then each played a couple of numbers before doing duets together with Ann accompaining them.  It was fun, beautiful and just a perfect set.

Then it was off to the Snowberry stage for something different, a concert by Texan singer-songwriter James McMurtry.  He'd brought a drummer and bassist along with him and James said there was about 75 years of playing on stage and they were very tight and had the material down to a tee.  Erin and I had listened to a CD of his on the way up that I had, and Erin thought he was good but that the songs sounded kind of samey-samey to her.  I could hear that too, but live with a little stage patter did a lot to break it up, and I really liked him live more than I thought I would.  When I found a spot in the shade along the tree line to sit it was sunny, but at some point it got darker and I looked behind me to the west to see it turning black and said "oh shit" and hoped it might blow over.  Well, it didn't so as a gust of wind hit I got out my poncho and put it on and then it started to pour.  Meanwhile, McMurtry and band were still playing with drive and the weather suited the song, so I just moved up front and sat the rain out as the set ended along with a few other huddled folkies.  Definitely a memorable end to a good set.

Then I knew I had to go back to camp because it was a big gust of wind, and when I got there I saw a downed shade structure and torn tents, ours included.  Thankfully Anya and Veronica had been in camp with Dave at the time the wind and rain hit, and partially took down the shade structure, which likely saved it from blowing away.  Still, there were two very bent poles and I wasn't sure it could be put up again, but I gave it a try and with the help of Wolfgang's four pound maul and duct tape (plus a prayer to Red Green) I managed to get it in good enough shape to put up again, with help from Wolfgang and others.  Then I was able to fix the minor tears in our tent's rainfly well enough, but Lana's tent and Anya and Veronica's tent were pretty much goners, but at least they could drive home for the night.  Unfortunately some of our bedding and Dave's bedding got wet, but once the storm passed it did stop raining and cleared up, so I decided with the strong wind still blowing that the bedding could be hung out to dry on the stade structure's supports.  Karen helpfully suggested also stringing up some rope too and we then had plenty of hanging space for sheets, blankets and mattress pads.  Of course by then I'd missed the opening act at 6pm down on the Main Stage (and had missed one at Shady Grove I'd really wanted to go to at 4:15pm, oh well) but I headed down and got there just in time to go up front and hear Ani DiFranco, who was great, feisty and a very good singer and guitarist.  I could see why she was so popular for years in the 1990s at the folk fest.

Then it was time for Jake Shimabukuro's set on the Main Stage, and here was this quiet, rather unprepossessing guy, coming up on stage and saying hello and how great it was to be at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, before starting to play some of the sweetest music I've heard on main stage there.  Of course Jake also played some of his show stoppers, including Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and, of course, George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  One guy, one ukulele, no singing.  The crowd was amazed and at times it was so quiet I could hear the crews backstage working.  It was *that* good.  Then, at one point when Jake wasn't so quiet, the speakers blew for some reason (probably the sound guys turned the speakers waay up during Jake's softer passages, which set them up to blow when it got louder) and Jake, after playing a moment and then realizing the main stage speakers were out, said "Did I just blow the speakers?  With a ukulele?"  And the crowd all laughed merrily.  Of course Jake did an encore and left us all wanting more.  I'd have stayed for more, but I knew I had to head back to camp to take in the bedding before it got wet with dew as the sun set, so I did so we would be warm on what was becoming a very cold night.  Thank you polar vortex!

Saturday is the day that first-time Baggieconners are officially welcomed by being mugged by Dave, and this year we had one new member, Joy.  I managed to catch the mugging by Dave on my camera, my apologies for not being a better photographer, but hey, I did have a camera handy at least:

Hope we'll see Joy next year too when it's not quite so cold!  I also did take a couple of other pictures around the campfire, and this is one of Lillian, Dave, and Wolfgang enjoying the warmth of the fire:

Sunday morning I got up to a cold (48F) and blustery day and while Juan was making coffee on the campstove he pointed this out to me:

Yes, it's because as the propane gas decompresses it cools the outside of the cylinder, but still.  Brr.  Thankfully the coffee was nice and warm.

Then after a bit of breakfast and a very cold shower I was off again to lay the front baggie, this time with a #2 tarp ticket because Polly decided to take Marnie's offer of a warm hotel room up the night before, so she wasn't as far up in line as she usually is.  So while I was in the #2 holding pen I noticed that most of the #1 tarp shufflers were heading off to the left, so I made a quick decision to go to the right side and was rewarded with a spot that was one row back from the front.  I was pleased.  Then I decided to head for the Shady Grove stage because the trees there offered shelter from the wind.  Just as I set my chair up under a tree it started to rain, but I was nice and dry.  The first workshop was one of four duo acts, titled Two's Company, hosted by a duo from Newfoundland calling themselves The Fortunate Ones.  Sara Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion were also there and were very good again, but the duo I liked the best were Grace & Tony from Tennessee, who did what I could only call "gothgrass" to sum it up in a word.  Their songs reminded me a bit of the Flash Girls.  But the best moment of the workshop came when Guthrie and Irion invited up three teens from Newfoundland who were there to perform as part of the Young Performers workshop that takes place on Friday to come up on stage and play for us.  They were great, and something to look forward to in the future perhaps.

I stayed at Shady Grove for the next performer, J.P. Hoe, a Winnipeg musician who had a good band (and even a string section) and performed well, but I didn't connect with his songs much, with a couple of exceptions.  I then did a quick run back to camp to again check on things and have a bite to eat, and a cold beer, and then trucked back to the festival grounds to catch the last half of a ukulele workshop held by James Hill, and he was a pretty darn good instructor, encouraging, pushing a bit, and connecting well with about twenty folks with ukuleles.  He even had one ukulele student come up to play with him, which was fun.

Then it was off to hear the Pete Seeger Tribute workshop at the Big Bluestem stage, and it was packed.  I found a spot in the trees where I could listen and hunkered down as it was still cold and windy.    There were six acts featured, including a much-anticipated Joan Baez, along with Ani DiFranco, Jake Shimabukuro, Elephant Revival and more.  Baez of course had some things to remember about Pete, and DiFranco had stories to share too, and they all sang and played Pete's songs beautifully.  The ending number of Baez singing We Shall Overcome had the entire crowd up, singing and swaying together, and Erin said she could hear us across the festival grounds.  I'm sure Pete would have loved it.

Then just a few minutes after the tribute concluded, it poured rain and the strong wind was blowing it right onto the main stage, so there was a delay.  I ran into Dave and Erin sitting on chairs by themselves in the way-back baggie spot, and I decided to go back to camp during the delay to again check on things given the blow we'd just had.  I got back and met Polly and Marnie there getting some things before heading back to the motel room and had a bite and then found our bedding was again wet thanks to it being next to the tent wall that the wind had blown in an extra foot or so.  So I spread it out and took the little battery-powered fan we had and set it up to blow on it, and then checked my phone and saw that Joan Baez's performance had been moved up an hour, and immediately told Polly and Marnie to head down, and I followed them shortly after they'd left.  We caught most of Baez's set on the front baggie and she was wonderful despite the cold (she said it was wet at Woodstock, but at least it was warm) and it was magical.

I then wandered back and looked for Dave and Erin, but they'd taken off evidently after Baez was finished, so I went over to the Big Bluestem stage to catch a little of the Big Blue at Night music, but found it was between sets so I just walked around a bit more and had a piece of toasty hot pizza from one of the food vendors before heading back to camp.  It was too cold and windy to have a fire so after talking for a bit I turned in and by then our sheets were dry enough that we were fairly warm under the covers.

Monday morning I got up at 7:15am to rain, and it was still very windy.  Thankfully it cleared up by 9am and we were able to let things dry out before taking tents down and packing gear and hauling it back to our cars.  The old shade structure was salvaged for parts and we scarfed a 10 by 10 foot EZ-up that someone had left but was only slightly damaged, so we took it home with us.  Since we hadn't had a chance to sing Ripple all together Sunday night, we sang it on our last load out, and then sang a sea shanty as a finale to this year's Baggiecon.  Difficult at times to be sure, but still great.

Then it was back to the Bhigg House to enjoy some delicious soup/stew that David Rivers had made for us, yum, and a shower.  Then I kind of collapsed and slept for four hours, and missed seeing some friends sadly, and Dave told me later he'd crashed out too.  I guess we're getting old, finally.  Tuesday morning we got up and had breakfast at a nice deli not too far away, and then said our goodbyes and left for home.  Needless to say, the dogs and cats were happy to see us and we were happy to be home again.

All told, my tenth Winnipeg Folk Festival (and Erin's 26th and Dave's 41st!) was a fun time and I'm happy we went.

See you next year!


by Robin Chapman

There is always enough.
       My old cat of long years, who
              stayed all the months of his dying,

though, made sick by food,
       he refused to eat, till, long-stroked,
              he turned again to accept

another piece of dry catfood
       or spoonful of meat, a little water,
              another day through which

he purred, small engine
       losing heat—I made him nests
              of pillow and blanket, a curve of body

where he curled against my legs,
       and when the time came, he slipped out
              a loose door into the cold world

whose abundance included
              the death of his choosing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poem on the Fridge

by Paul Hostovsky

The refrigerator is the highest honor
a poem can aspire to. The ultimate
publication. As close to food as words
can come. And this refrigerator poem
is honored to be here beneath its own
refrigerator magnet, which feels like a medal
pinned to its lapel. Stop here a moment
and listen to the poem humming to itself,
like a refrigerator itself, the song in its head
full of crisp, perishable notes that wither in air,
the words to the song lined up here like
a dispensary full of indispensable details:
a jar of corrugated green pickles, an array
of headless shrimp, fiery maraschino cherries,
a fruit salad, veggie platter, assortments of
cheeses and chilled French wines, a pink
bottle of amoxicillin: the poem is infectious.
It's having a party. The music, the revelry,
is seeping through this white door.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Marrying Late

by Katrina Vandenberg

When I think of what it means not to marry
the high school sweetheart, but to find each other
as we did at ages thirty and forty, I think
of John and I singing along to an old cassette
of Jackson Browne on car trips, and how, as we sing,
a part of me is hearing the song for the first time
in Detroit, on WRIF with my first boyfriend
in his truck as he took curves, shifting hard and fast.
And probably John is making love with a black-haired girl
in the carpeted back of his van in 1979, out west,
the cassette new and popular, draining the battery.
How unlikely that we ended up traveling together
singing a song we each learned with someone else.
Neither of us minds that, the way we might have then.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stay, Go and Fetch

 by Les Barker

I'd always wanted a dog
So one day I took in a stray.
He didn't want to leave me
And so I called him Stay.

I knew it was a mistake
The first time I told stay to go
"Go, Stay," and I pointed.
Did Stay go? No.

"Go, Stay," I said; and he started;
He was going...then he was not;
He looked at me, sad and confused,
And his two big eyes said "What?"

I threw him a stick; I said "Fetch, Stay."
He started and stopped all in one;
I never got round to "Come here, Stay."
Stay couldn't come; he'd not gone.

He wanted to please, but he couldn't;
I spoke, but he just didn't know;
So I got him a spaniel for company.
I shouldn't have called it Go.

I said "Stay, Go," and Go'd stay a second
Then both Stay and Go were away
And I had to shout "Come here, Stay and Go."
They were coming and going all day.

I said "Stay, Go and Stay." I tried "Go, Stay and Go."
Nothing seemed to get through;
It's not that they were both saying "No."
They were both saying "Does he mean you?"

It's all very well in the park,
But what if we're stood at the kerb?
Two lost souls in the dark;
Which bloody one is the verb?

I've got them a new friend now;
I found him, a poor starving wretch;
I hope they'll be happy together;
Go and Stay; come and meet Fetch.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Irish Weather

by Tess Gallagher

Rain squalls cast sideways,
the droplets visible
like wheat grains
sprayed from the combine.
As suddenly, sunshine.
If a person behaved
this way we'd call them
neurotic. Given weather, we gust
and plunder with only
small comment: it's
raining; sun's out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

cats and you and me

by Charles Bukowski

the Egyptians loved the cat
were often entombed with it
instead of with the child
and never with the dog.

and now
good people with
the souls of cats
are very few

yet here and now many
fine cats
with great style
lounge about
in the alleys of
the universe.

our argument tonight
whatever it was
no matter
how unhappy
it made us

remember that
there is a
adjusting to the
space of itself
with a calm
and delightful

in other words
magic persists with
or without us
no matter how
we may try to
destroy it

and I would
destroy the last chance for
that this might always

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mother’s List of Names

by Bill Knott

My mother’s list of names today I take it in my hand
And I read the places she underlined William and Ann
The others are my brothers and sisters I know
I’m going to see them when I’m fully grown

Yes they’re waiting for me to join em and I will
Just over the top of that great big hill
Lies a green valley where their shouts of joy are fellowing
Save all but one can be seen there next a kin

And a link is missing from their ringarosey dance
Think of the names she wrote down not just by chance
When she learned that a baby inside her was growing small
She placed that list inside the family Bible

Then I was born and she died soon after
And I grew up sinful of questions I could not ask her
I did not know that she had left me the answer
Pressed between the holy pages with the happy laughter
Of John, Rudolph, Frank, Arthur, Paul
Pauline, Martha, Ann, Doris, Susan, you all,

I did not even know you were alive
Till I read the Bible today for the first time in my life
And I found this list of names that might have been my own
You other me’s on the bright side of my moon

Mother and Daddy too have joined you in play
And I am coming to complete the circle of your day
I was a lonely child I never understood that you
Were waiting for me to find the truth and know

And I’ll make this one promise you want me to
I’m goin to continue my Bible study
Till I’m back inside the Body
With you

Monday, April 28, 2014

Prayer for a Field Mouse

by Pat Riviere-Seel

Bless the gray mouse
that found her way
into the recycle bin.
Bless her tiny body,
no bigger than my thumb,
huddled and numb
against the hard side.
Bless her bright eye,
a frightened gleaming
that opened to me
and the nest she made
from shredded paper,
all I could offer.
Bless her last hours
alone under the lamp
with food and water near.
Bless this brief life
I might have ended
had she stayed hidden
inside the insulation.
Bless her body returned
to earth, no more
or less than any creature.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Elegy for a Walnut Tree

by W. S. Merwin

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Train Ride

by Ruth Stone

All things come to an end;
small calves in Arkansas,
the bend of the muddy river.
Do all things come to an end?
No, they go on forever.
They go on forever, the swamp,
the vine-choked cypress, the oaks
rattling last year's leaves,
the thump of the rails, the kite,
the still white stilted heron.
All things come to an end.
The red clay bank, the spread hawk,
the bodies riding this train,
the stalled truck, pale sunlight, the talk;
the talk goes on forever,
the wide dry field of geese,
a man stopped near his porch
to watch. Release, release;
between cold death and a fever,
send what you will, I will listen.
All things come to an end.
No, they go on forever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bad Roads In Spring

by Greg Brown

Middle of March and it's snowing
Let me forget everything
You can't always get where you're going
Bad roads in spring

I wanted to be on top of it by evening
Catch the morning hours from behind
But a big blizzard hit up from Denver
You don't get too far drivin' blind

The trucks passed us by out of Springfield
Never a sign to our pleas
Oh it's fine to look out through the windshield
When it's rainin' and 32 degrees

Middle of April at sundown
Stuck in the country mud I have to sing
Wait for the morning to come around
Bad roads in spring.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Scheming in the Snow

by Jack Gilbert

There is a time after what comes after
being young, and a time after that, he thinks
happily as he walks through the winter woods,
hearing in the silence a woodpecker far off.
Remembering his Chinese friend
whose brother gave her a jade ring from
the Han Dynasty when she turned eighteen.
Two weeks later, when she was hurrying up
the steps of a Hong Kong bridge, she fell,
and the thousand-year-old ring shattered
on the concrete. - when she told him, stunned
and tears running down her face, he said,
"Don't cry. I'll get you something better."