Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Republican Presidential Candidates - III

Might as well do this before tonight's candidate's debate, so here goes:

Tier 1 - Trump
rationale:  the feisty front-runner for now who isn't going away anytime soon

Tier 2 - Rubio
rationale:  hasn't looked hopeless, at least not yet

Tier 3 - Cruz, Jeb!, Christie, Kasich
rationale:  the only other candidates with even a slim chance of winning the GOP nomination

Tier 4 - the grifters, who I won't even bother to name
rationale:  in it for the money

Dark Horse - Paul Ryan
rationale:  may be the only possible GOP candidate who has a chance of winning in the general election

Monday, November 9, 2015

Last Day on Earth

by Lawrence Raab

If it’s the title of a movie you expect
everything to become important—a kiss,
a shrug, a glass of wine, a walk with the dog.

But if the day is real, life is only
as significant as yesterday—the kiss
hurried, the shrug forgotten, and now,

on the path by the river, you don’t notice
the sky darkening beyond the pines because
you’re imagining what you’ll say at dinner,

swirling the wine in your glass.
You don’t notice the birds growing silent
or the cold towers of clouds moving in,

because you’re explaining how lovely
and cool it was in the woods. And the dog
had stopped limping!—she seemed

her old self again, sniffing the air and alert,
the way dogs are to whatever we can’t see.
And I was happy, you hear yourself saying,

because it felt as if I’d been allowed
to choose my last day on earth,
and this was the one I chose.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Future

by Billy Collins

When I finally arrive there—
And it will take many days and nights—
I would like to believe others will be waiting
and might even want to know how it was.

So I will reminisce about a particular sky
or a woman in a white bathrobe
or the time I visited a narrow strait
where a famous naval battle had taken place.

Then I will spread out on a table
a large map of my world
and explain to the people of the future
in their pale garments what it was like—

how mountains rose between the valleys
and this was called geography,
how boats loaded with cargo plied the rivers
and this was known as commerce,

how the people from this pink area
crossed over into this light-green area
and set fires and killed whoever they found
and this was called history—

and they will listen, mild-eyed and silent,
as more of them arrive to join the circle,
like ripples moving toward,
not away from, a stone tossed into a pond.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Republican Presidential Candidates - II

Since my initial post on this subject, two have dropped out (Perry, Walker) and a couple are lookin' pretty shaky (Paul, Graham), but the reality show goes on.  Let's get on with it then:

Tier 1:  Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina

For now, they're on top because they get attention, and how.  Trump is going to keep running and running and running given his ego and Fiorina is the only other candidate who can stand up to Trump's braggadocio.  You have to give Fiorina points for the sheer chutzpah of making a lying video after lying about a video in the last debate.  Not that the lies cancel each other out, of course.  I'm afraid it does say some pretty unflattering things about the GOP's base that no one dares call her out for being a liar.  I remember Barry Goldwater's quip about extremism in defense of liberty being no vice, but I do think he'd have drawn the line at baldfaced lying.

Tier 2:  Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich

Jeb falls back after his inept debate performance and lackluster campaign in general, while Rubio moves up as a consequence of Jeb's weak showing so far, as Rubio sort of fills the same political niche as Jeb does - a kinder, gentler face of the Republican Party.  Cruz is certainly not that face, but he is now definitely the Tea Party's darling after Scott Walker's implosion.  Kasich isn't really at the level the others in this tier are at, but as he's still got some real advantages as a candidate geographically coming from a key swing state, so I rate him a bit higher given his potential, even though he's not polling well.  It's still a long way to Iowa though, and we'll see.

Tier 3:  The rest. 

Seriously, if anyone thinks Ben Carson has a chance, please, bet me a dollar and I'll pay you a thousand if I'm wrong.  Sure, he'll stick around while he can I'm sure, possibly longer than most of the other also-rans.  Mike Huckabee is a capable enough politician but has little actual support so he's just grifting, while Rand Paul may have some libertarian Republican followers he's still not exciting them enough to really matter, and I think Paul will drop out in the next month and just be happy to be in the U.S. Senate.  As for the kid's table candidates, I'm wondering why they're even bothering having a warm-up debate myself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Democratic Presidential Candidates - I

As it's the eve of the second Republican Presidential debate tonight, I figure I ought to say something about the Democratic Presidential Candidates too.  Here goes:

First tier:  Clinton, Sanders

Rationale:  The only two currently in the race who are drawing serious polling numbers.  'Nuff said.

Second tier:  Biden

Rationale:  I don't think Biden will run but he is polling better than the rest in response to current doubts about Clinton, IMO.  Essentially, Biden's supporters are likely Clinton backers who are nervous.  I think the upcoming Democratic debates will be beneficial for Hillary Clinton in terms of getting her beyond the faux email B.S. that's been the preoccupation of the press.

Third tier:  O'Malley

Rationale:  The only other candidate who could possibly, if not bloody well likely, be the nominee.

Fourth tier:  Chaffe, Webb, Lessig

Rationale:  Running because they have nothing better to do and heck, look at all the Repubilcans running!

Basically, it's Clinton's race to lose and she won't.  She barely lost out to Obama back in 2008 and Sanders is not Obama - Sanders is from the far left of the political spectrum who is running to the left in hopes of shifting the Democrats leftward, and he's already succeeded in doing that while firing up the white liberal base.  But the cold fact is that Democrats won't win unless they get a big minority turnout, and when the dust has settled on the caucuses and primaries I expect Obama to do everything he can to get out the vote for Clinton, and Obama has considerable popularity where it counts.

The real danger for Democrats is that Sanders may well fire up his base so much that he alienates them from Clinton in the general election and that's when Ralph Nader decides to run again.  Do.  Not.  Want.   I'm sure President Trump's first act as President will be to gild the White House in gold leaf, and lots of it.  Americans deserve a classy President and a classy White House, don't they?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Republican Presidential Candidates - I

Some years ago I did rankings of Presidential candidates on my old LiveJournal (now deceased), and given this cycle's bountiful bounty it would be a shame not to do it again.  Since the Republicans have already conveniently provided an initial ranking of those who get to sit at the adult debate table and those who have to sit at the kids table, let's start emptying out the clown car:

Tier 1:  Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker

Rationale: Trump may not have a chance at the nomination, but for now he's in the running as the candidate who is truly giving the people what they want: spectacle.  Jeb Bush is the old money candidate of the GOP, with an obvious pedigree, while Scott Walker is the darling of the Tea Party.  Of the three, Jeb is the only one who really could get the nomination and win in the general election, as Trump simply isn't credible and Walker is too cozy with the crazy for the comfort of most voters.

Tier 2:  Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Marco Rubio

Rationale:  The "moderate" longshots who are hoping to last long enough to either be there if Jeb falters.  Christie is obnoxious, which helps his moderation go over better with Tea Party types, but I don't think Christie has enough appeal with the crayzee GOP base to last long in 2016.  Fiorina is fashionably conservative and a business executive like Trump and has done better in the debates than expected, which is why she's at the adult's table now.  Kasich is Jeb without all the Bush baggage and in my opinion could win in the general election, but it's hard to see how he gets there given the crowded field and the fact that he's not a Tea Party type.  Rubio, while he looks fine on paper and is from a state the GOP absolutely needs to win in 2016, hasn't caught on despite having some success at fund-rasing.  Well, there's still time for Rubio's fortunes to rise I suppose, and he's definitely VP material since he's both from a key electoral state and Hispanic too.

Tier 3:  Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul

Rationale:  Carson is inexplicably popular but is still just a flash-in-the-pan, so I hope he enjoys the ride while it lasts.  Ted Cruz is explicably popular given his over-the-top performance doing things like going to Kentucky to support gay-marriage hatin' county clerks, along with Huckabee of course, but they're also just part of the sideshow and have absolutely no chance to win.  Rand Paul seems to be the Fred Thompson of 2016 and fallen far short of initial expectations, but he's still got his father's legacy and lingers on for now.

Tier 4: Rick Perry, Rich Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham

Rationale:  The kid's table tier, full of either also-rans like Perry and Santorum, and never-will-be's like the rest.  But they still could have fun taking potshots at the adults as Jindal is now doing with Trump and have some impact on the race.

More after the next GOP debate...

Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Minnesota State Fair

Erin and I went on opening day to the Minnesota State Fair this year, which is always on a Thursday.  The weather was pleasant and the crowds were bigger than I expected, with the official count at 110,000 for the day.  So sometimes there were long lines for things like food and rides, but it wasn't too bad.  I took my new Nikon Coolpix S7000 camera along and this year remembered to make sure my camera was fully charged, so I took a lot of pictures and a few movies too.  I'll just start at the beginning and go on to the end of our day photo to photo and let the narrative take care of itself.

We started our day at the Park 'n Ride at Calvary Baptist Church in Roseville, and this is what the line for the shuttle buses to the fair looked like about ten minutes after we got in it.  Glad I made it there just in time, and we only had about a 20 minute wait for the next bus.

We did first stop in the Merchandise Mart near the front entrance, where Erin found and bought a nice little cart with a removable (and washable) bag that was perfect for her to put the backpack in and walk around with. Very lightweight and small enough to handle in a crowd easily.  We were glad we got it later.

Our next stop after coming in the main gate was the Creative Arts Building, where this 17' ketch was on display at the front entrance.  A beautiful boat!

Some prize-winning entries for knitting and quilt-making on display.  There were a lot of those!

Some fun beadwork that can't help but catch the eye.

We then went into where there were vendors selling various craft-related products and came across one where you could make your own dyed silk scarf.  It looked like fun and I encouraged Erin to try it, so she did.  Here she is getting started, as she drops pigment on the surface of a water and starch mix.

 Still adding more paint and creating a pattern.

Then it's time to make swirls in the pigment, which I took a video of to get a better idea of what's going on.

Then the silk scarf was lowered into the water to absorb the paint.

Then after about 15 seconds, it was time to take it out!  Then it was bagged wet to later take it home to dry and then set with an iron on a low-heat setting.  Erin was glad I encouraged her to do it.

Next door to the Creative Arts building is the Education building, which we only stopped in to look at the public school art on exhibit there.  This 'cave art' piece from a Kindergartner made us smile.

Then we went to the Fine Arts building to view the art exhibit there.  We both liked the "Old School Selfie" a lot.

If a tree falls in love in a forest...

By then we were hungry, so we went over to the Hamline Church Dining Hall to have lunch.  I had a cheeseburger while Erin had the chicken dinner, with real mashed potatoes even, and all the coffee you want to drink.   It's the oldest concessionaire at the state fair at 118 years and counting.

Then, it was time to go to the Agricultural Building to see the crop art.  There was a bountiful harvest of seeds to be seen this year to be sure.  We also enjoyed learning about apple trees from the University of Minnesota Extension Service (we need to plant a new one this year) and Erin bought a couple of gardening book from another vendor there as well.  But here's the crop art:

Erin liked this one and thought her Mom would like it too, so I took a picture of it.

Celebrating a St. Paul landmark in seeds, which is certainly appropriate given the subject.

Strange and interesting, this one.

Yes Virginia, there are politics at the State Fair too.  Thankfully, it's more low key.

A nice composition, this one!

And more 'cave art' too.  Be sure to zoom in and read the story of it too, it's cute.

Saving our favorite for last, we laughed a lot when seeing this!  Of course, we are dog people, ya know.

Over in an adjacent hall from the crop art display were some scarecrows too, and here are a couple of them:

A scarecrow scarecrow.  Nicely done!

And here's 'Scary Garcia'.  LOL!

We then went over to the International Bazaar area and strolled by the vendor booths there while I had a beer and some spring rolls, but neither of us found anything there to acquire this year.  Then we started making our way down Judson past Nelson and stopped for a while at the Minnesota Public Radio booth there.

Here's Charlie Parr doing a soundcheck before his live segment on the Current at 4pm.  We both enjoyed it.

After that we decided to make our way over to the new (as of last year) West End of the fair, and on our way we did stop at a few places of interest.

At the alpaca booth, where the signs said "DON'T PET THE ANIMALS".  Like that had any effect.  They did have hand sanitizing liquid available though.

The new West End was very nice, now much more open than before, if a bit more confusing to move around in.  But the new stage was very nice for both performers and audience.

I stopped to hear an old-time country band play for a while and to drink a beer too, of course.

Then Erin and I stopped at the new glass studio booth, which now features a glass-blowing demo area too.

A great setup for glass-blowing and the guy doing the announcing was quite good and funny also.

Putting a decanter in the 'glory-hole' to soften it so it can be worked into the proper shape.

A close-up of the 'glory-hole'.  Given how far away I was from it, I'm impressed with the zoom on my new camera!

We then wandered the West End some more, and Erin got an antler from a taxidermist for Tucker to chew on, we looked at some t-shirts but didn't buy any, and then decided it was time to head for the Pet Barn on the far north end of the fairgrounds (at 320 acres, it's a BIG fair) instead of stopping at the Grandstand, as there was a show at the Pet Barn we wanted to see at 5:45pm.

We were going to take the sky chairs over, but the line there was very long and the chairs weren't moving much, so we decided to walk there instead.  I did get some pop at the R.C. stand on the way to quench my thirst and it didn't take us all that long to get there, so we had time before the 5:45 show to share a big tenderloin sandwich between us.  Then we stopped by a few vendors in the Pet Barn and got a scarf for Missy, a t-shirt for Erin from the Minnesota Humane Society and a few puppy treats to take home too.  Then it was time for the show, featuring Smith the German Shepherd.

Smith and his handler, who was very good at telling how she trained Smith as well as answering many questions from the crowd.

Demonstrating how you can get your dog to allow you to trim their nails.  As we well know ourselves, this is a very useful thing to train your dog to do.

Smith being very calm and collected while working the crowd.  The handler trusted him so much he just walked around on his own too while collecting pets from people.  A very good show, and highly recommended.  It starts at 5:45pm every day of the fair, before the St. Paul Police K-9 demonstration at 7pm, at the Pet Center.

We then walked back south, stopping to look at some cabins and sheds, then we went through the Eco Center, and then wandered over to the Home Improvement shed where Erin and I were both pleased to fine some interesting products and took home a few brochures of.

Then we shared an order of Veggie Fries and sat down in the Farmers Union to enjoy a iced frappe together while listening to a nice duo on the stage there perform.  (There's a lot of small stages spread throughout the state fair, in addition to the larger ones and the Grandstand.)  By then it was getting dark and it was time to go home, but not before catching this:

They don't call it "Minnesota's Great Get-Together" for nothing, you know.

Then we headed back on the shuttle bus to the car and drove home to some soon-to-be relieved puppies.  And fell over ourselves.

From a Country Overlooked

by Tom Hennen

There are no creatures you cannot love.
A frog calling at God
From the moon-filled ditch
As you stand on the country road in the June night.
The sound is enough to make the stars weep
With happiness.
In the morning the landscape green
Is lifted off the ground by the scent of grass.
The day is carried across its hours
Without any effort by the shining insects
That are living their secret lives.
The space between the prairie horizons
Makes us ache with its beauty.
Cottonwood leaves click in an ancient tongue
To the farthest cold dark in the universe.
The cottonwood also talks to you
Of breeze and speckled sunlight.
You are at home in these
great empty places
along with red-wing blackbirds and sloughs.
You are comfortable in this spot
so full of grace and being
that it sparkles like jewels
spilled on water.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moon in the Window

by Dorianne Laux

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn toward it and wonder.
I never wondered. I read. Dark signs
that crawled toward the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue. All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

the con job

by Charles Bukowski

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here.
the U.S. ground troops were
made up of
Blacks, Mexicans and poor
most of whom had joined
the military
because it was the only job
they could find.

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here
and the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
as on tv
and on the radio
the fat white rich newscasters
first told us all about
and then the fat rich white
told us
and again
and again
on almost every
tv and radio station
almost every minute
day and night
the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
at dawn
in a desert land
far enough away from

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rebound Banjo

by Paul Hostovsky

She left him for her ex
who played the 5-string banjo
in a bluegrass band and whom
she’d left for him—and not
three months before—for a short

sweet-smelling spring,
wound him like a string around
the tuning peg of her index,
touched him and he stiffened,
and he sang. And he broke

down and wept when she went back
to her banjo-playing ex
like a second thought about
a second fiddle, a repeating
chorus or refrain. So he went out west

to forget her. But he couldn’t forget—
he saw her everywhere, saw her hands
in the hands of strangers, saw her hair
on the heads of strangers, saw her breasts
in the shapes of the Grand Tetons

high against the big Wyoming sky
at twilight. And on a side street
in Jackson, he saw it in the window
of the pawn shop, its slender neck adorned
with mother-of-pearl inlay,

its fifth tuning peg indented like
a new paragraph, a new chapter,
its pale full-moon face a blank
slate. And he bought it for fifty bucks
which included the case, capo, strap, three

fingerpicks and a Mel Bay’s Learn to Play
the Five-String Banjo book. He was
motivated. To win her back, of course.
And of course he didn’t win her back.
But he did learn to play in a frailing way

“Cripple Creek” and “Old Joe Clark”
and “Sail Away Ladies Sail Away.”

Monday, August 24, 2015


by Dan Albergotti
In the lake, the cottonmouth. In the sea, the shark.
In the soil, the growing seed. In the tree, the lark.

In the dark, the insects’ call. In the light, the trust.
In the child, the weight of years. In the steel, the rust.

In the dust, the memory. In the air, your soul.
In my head, the unsaid words. In the diamond, coal.

In the hole, your polished box. In the earth, the quake.
In my blood, your vessel ran. In these lines, its wake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Splitting an Order

by Ted Kooser

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places,
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

The Business of Crows

by Joseph Green

One of them has a discarded
half-pint milk carton
by its pinched top

and is banging it on the sidewalk.
Hopping with it, dragging it along,
he hefts it with his beak

and swings it against the concrete.
Then he pauses to inspect his work,
to adjust his grip before

picking up the carton
and smacking it down again.
Every time he hits the sidewalk

with the empty box
it makes a flat, satisfying plop.
Perhaps that’s all the crow wants,

the hollow report
he gets for his labor
confirming its emptiness.

As for me, I have stopped
on the way back to my office
to watch a crow’s involvement

with a milk carton. Sunlight,
filtering through bare trees,
stains the bird a dark blue

that slips to black
like secret ink and makes sense
only as his feathers move.

What could possibly be
more important than this?
I have no further excuses.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

2015 Winnipeg Folk Festival

     It was my 11th folk fest in ten calendar years, so it was a milestone of sorts.  Once when waiting to cross Festival Drive a young first time folk fest volunteer asked me whether I was a folk fest "lifer" and I thought about it, and said I was because I figure I'll keep on going as long as I can.  Of course I'll never catch up with Erin, who went to her 27th folk fest in 27 calendar years (only missing it back in 2000), and she's told me she'll keep on going as long as she can too. 

     We were in a bit of a rush this year to get ready for the trip because we visited Chicago the weekend before the folk fest to see a play (Soon I Will Be Invincible) and see friends there, but we at least started getting organized before that and thanks to me taking an extra day off work on Monday we were able to get everything together, except for not finding our Coleman coffee pot.  Thankfully we didn't need it, and everything (including two guitars) fit nicely into our 2004 Hyundai Elantra, which we were taking instead of the minivan because the tires on the minivan aren't long-trip worthy.  We'd arranged to have a pet-sitter in town come by two to three times a day to take care of the dogs and cat while we were gone, which worked out nicely for all concerned.

     So on Tuesday afternoon (July 7th), we left around 1:45pm for Winnipeg and managed to drive three whole blocks before remembering we'd forgotten something, which is definitely better than driving three hours instead.  (Been there, done that.)  I even remembered my favorite pillow too.  The drive through Minnesota was pleasant and uneventful, and the only real construction traffic we encountered was in Fargo, but it only held us up for about fifteen minutes.  The rest of the trip up to the border was a breeze and we got through customs without hassle, and made it to the Bhigg House in Winnipeg just after sunset.  So we had time to get settled and chat for a bit with Dave and Elizabeth Clement before going to bed around midnight.

     Wednesday morning after we'd showered and had coffee, we were off by 7am and when we made it to Bird's Hill Park we got in line and finally made it to the parking lot by 8:30am.  As it turned out, we could have left an hour later and not had to wait all that much longer to get in as there were only maybe 100 vehicles behind us.  We might as well have, since we had an advance party this year that had camped in the park overnight to get in line sooner and claim a good campsite.  I'll remember that for next year, which is why I'm mentioning it here. 
     We stopped the car where told by a volunteer and while we were waiting Dave and Elizabeth arrived and Elizabeth came up to chat with us while Dave napped, and only a half-hour after we'd gotten in line we were on our way to exchange our tickets for wristbands and enter the festival campgrounds.  We did get to hear a brass band play for us in the parking lot while we waited, and it sounded lovely out on the open prairie, which is what a lot of Bird's Hill Park has, including where we pitch our camp.

Here's a pic of the band:

     We entered the festival campground parking area and ended up parking just around where the road bends, and then got our cart out, put our first load on it, and started trudging to one of the trailheads where we assumed our camp would be near.  On the way we luckily ran into Wolfgang, who was one of the advance party, and he told us where our spot was.  We found it without any difficulty and then I went back for another load while Erin remained to set things up after we settled on a spot for our tent.   By the time I had returned with more stuff Erin with some help had already gotten the tent started. 
     By then, Dave and Elizabeth had arrived and Erin and Dave took the cart to haul Dave's gear in while I finished setting our tent up.  It was a very nice morning weather-wise too; cool with a light breeze and partly cloudy.  We did have just a light shower for about five minutes, but it felt good and five minutes after it ended everything was dry again.  After a few hours we had most everything set up except for a 10'x20' car port that hadn't arrived yet.  In the meantime, Elizabeth had brought some salmon salad and bread to make sandwiches with as well as juice to drink, so we had a nice bite to eat and got to relax for a while before the car port arrived with Karen and John, and while I went for one last load they had it up and were staking it down by the time I made it back.  So under our very own shade we sat down and had some cool drinks.  Ahh.

     Since there was no Wednesday night music this year (as there had been from 2009 to 2014), it was possible for Dave and Erin to make a run to the grocery store for food and such for the next five days, while I stayed put.  I had blown up our new used air mattress that Erin found at a garage sale, but when I laid on it an hour later it had lost air, so I gave Dave a call and told Erin to get another air mattress while they were out. 
     I then just relaxed, got my guitar out and practiced and played with Wolfgang while we all lounged around in the shade structure.  I also made a firewood run to the camp store and by the time Erin and Dave were back (with a new air mattress too) we were ready to enjoy a nice fire that Wolf started and enjoy sharing some music and time together.  It was nice to have Wednesday night back again to enjoy some Baggiecon time in the festival campground.  It was actually pretty quiet again this year compared to the wilder years I'd known before that, which was a welcome change.  It turned out to be cool night (48F) and thankfully the new mattress worked just fine and we had a good night's sleep.

Here's a pic showing Zone1A, and you can see our shade structure along the horizon and I can just make out our tent too:

     Thursday morning was quite cool with a temperature just below 50F, but eventually it warmed into the low 80s and there was a nice breeze, well, actually, a bit of south wind with gusts over 30mph.  We'd tied down all the Baggiecon tents securely but I did have to deal with a window pole on our tent that had previously been repaired but had broken again.  I kinda, sorta fixed it for awhile at least.  Meanwhile, I noted some nearby first-time folk fest campers who were finding out about the consequences of not staking down your tent.  Whee!  I first made some instant coffee for me to sip while I found the Baggiecon coffee pot and started it brewing on our camp stove, so by the time John and others were getting up there was coffee hot and ready to drink.  Since there was no music until the evening, we had the day free to wander the festival campground. 
     Erin and I went off together and since we'd recently been tent shopping and had bought a new tent for Dave Clement before the folk fest (which he liked and said was nice and airy compared to his previous tent) we took advantage of one of the largest exhibitions of tents in Canada and did some window shopping.  Boy, are there a lot of different kinds of tents, and it was actually good it was windy so we could get an idea of how well various designs coped with wind.  This is important since Erin and I are on our fifth tent in fifteen years, thanks to the winds that blow.  I was surprised at how well some of the Coleman insta-tents held up to the wind and the barrel tent designs were pretty sturdy too, although I'd heard barrel tents weren't so good at handling wind.  We had a good time asking people about how they liked their tents too and some even gave us permission to look inside as well.
     Of course we also had fun seeing all the things people were doing in various campsites.  There was a tattoo parlor (using ink with stamps), a bowling alley with glow-in-the-dark pins, a painting gallery, as well as some food trucks and a charging station for phones that was doing a brisk business, and more.  There was one site that had a barber's chair in it where they were offering to color hair with chalk, and after we saw how it was done Erin decided she wanted to add a few highlights to her platinum curls.  While that was being done, Erin was asked if she'd like to hear some singing, and she said sure, and then an impromptu barber shop quartet stood behind her and started singing "For The Longest Time" and I also joined in.  Erin had a great big smile on her face, and later said it was like being surrounded by sound.  Then with red, white and blue highlights on, she was offered some blue 'barbercide' from a vase with a comb in it, but since Erin couldn't do it because of her allergies, I got to enjoy a drink instead.  I think it tasted like Aqua Velva...   ;^)

Here's a photo of the quartet seranading another customer:

     By mid-afternoon after we made it back to camp from our tour of tents,  I was hungry and I fixed myself some PB&J sandwiches to eat and had some juice to drink.  I was a bit surprised that Shaun and Sarah hadn't arrived yet along with the premium shower gear, but thankfully I'd brought our small battery-powered shower pump so there was at least a way to wash up that didn't require standing under freezing water at one of the outdoor campground showers.  Polly did come rolling into camp though and stashed her gear in the kitchen tent.  I made a water run so we'd have water for taking showers as well as drinking and washing up (there are water taps all over the campground, but no one really know where the water lines feeding them are, so watch where you dig) and then took a shower myself, and after drying off kicked back for awhile with the guitar under the shade structure and played for an hour or so while enjoying a beer.  Or maybe two beers.  I wasn't keeping track.

     Meanwhile we were hearing far-off sounds from the festival site as sound-checks were being made, and eventually it was time to head off for the evening show.  Both Erin and I were very eager to hear an old favorite, Steeleye Span with Maddy Prior, so we all gathered together and walked over.  We set up the usual back baggie (i.e. tarp) for Dave and others and stayed there for a bit during the first band's set.  Then when they were done, Erin and I took our chairs and headed up to find a place we could sit up front and we found a good spot - usually one or two people can always find some space up front to sit, but no more than that.  Then we settled down, shared some nibbles, and enjoyed their set, which was all too short.  Maddy Prior's voice still sounds amazingly beautiful and the band was tight and both punchy and graceful in their playing.   A superb set, indeed.
     After that, the Duluth-based band Trampled By Turtles took the stage and performed a very high-energy set, perhaps a little too high, especially as the main stage speaker volume was duly turned up, along with the increased number of subwoofers that lined the front of the stage platform.  You could literally feel the bass, and while it was clean, it unfortunately muddied the overall sound.  I joke about the "Deaf Sound-Techs Union", but seriously, the company that's been running things at the fest, SoundArt, really should know better.
     The tweeners after that were the Birds of Chicago, who were very good and then Erin decided to take off back to the campsite while I stayed around a bit to listen to Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, who were fun and danceable to the dancing crowd's delight.  I hung around for about half their set and then decided to head back to camp myself.  We enjoyed another fire and some sang some songs but also noticed the main stage sound level from where we were camping, a half-mile away.  At least the ambient noise in festival camping wasn't contributing much, so it wasn't a big deal, thankfully.

     Friday after getting up and making coffee we were greeted by the wood truck, from which we'd ordered a rack of wood the day before, and wow, was it a lot of wood.  We got it as the price of $9 for just a bundle of firewood made paying $60 for a rack worth it.  Wolfgang was industrious and started stacking all the wood and then covered it with a big tarp, and we had a wall of firewood handy for the rest of the fest.  Polly arrived around 9am with a #1 tarp ticket in hand, which she gave me and since I'd showered late yesterday I could relax a little while longer before heading down at 9:45am to get in line to enter the fest grounds and do the morning tarp shuffle.  I found a nice spot up front on the left, but there was one neighbor who started putting their tarp down over ours, and I kindly, but firmly, asked them not to encroach on our space, as I was only using a 6'x8' tarp instead of up to a 8'x10' one, which is the maximum allowed under the rules.

Here's a pic I found online that has me standing next to our tarp, partially obscured behind the couple in the foreground:

     After that, I headed for the Little Stage in the Forest, where I found Polly holding a spot for me and we waited for Erin to join us to hear Leonard Sumner.  Just as he was stepping on stage Erin arrived, whew.  Sumner's a native Canadian (Anishinaabe) who does "rez poetry" (call it rap) and also played guitar and sang his songs, and he did a good, solid set that included him expounding on his experiences that was really pretty mature and thoughtful.  He was joined by a drummer and bassist too who did a fine job too.  I think Sumner is a good bet to be back next year.
     During the intermission while the next performer was getting ready on the Little Stage, Erin and I took a quick stroll over to the Spruce Hollow stage to hear a bit of the "Delusions of Banjer" workshop there, and heard some terrific banjo playing by Blind Boy Paxton for a few minutes before returning to the Little Stage to hear the weirdest performer of the festival,  Rushad Eggleston.  He's a cellist who we last heard as a member of the band Crooked Still, and now as a solo act he was free to be even crazier than he was with them, and I swear, he doesn't write lyrics as much as just open up a stream of free association.  "Purple spatulas on parade" was a line that became my in-joke with Erin for the rest of the fest.  Eggleston also roamed around the audience with his cello quite adroitly, given the uneven ground.

     Erin and I then headed over to the Green Ash stage and as we were exiting the woods we noticed it was getting pretty warm, in fact, darn hot in the midday sun.  (The high for the day was 89F.)  We'd gone over early in order to score a good spot for a 2:30pm workshop that included Steeleye Span, but given the heat we decided to sit behind the stage tent where it was shady and you could hear the stage monitors at least, so we enjoyed some tunes from the "Wicked & Weird" workshop that included Kurt Vile, who I was interested in hearing a bit of.  There was a nice breeze so under the shade of the trees it was fairly comfortable and we relaxed there for about 40 minutes, and when the workshop ended at 2pm we got up and headed for the front of the stage and managed to find a shady spot behind the sound booth where we sat and held a spot for Dave Clement, who was going to join us there after he and Elizabeth got back from a swim in the nearby lake.
     While we waited as the usual sound check was taking place on stage, I had a nice conversation with another person who was also from the Twin Cities and had been coming to the folk fest for almost thirty years.  For all the talk about the fest needing to appeal to a younger crowd, there are quite a few lifers that do keep coming, and I hope that's not taken for granted by the organizers.  Erin and I kept a lookout for Dave and Elizabeth and we were getting a little concerned, but just as the workshop's MC was introducing everyone we spotted them and I got up to help them find our spot and we were all set.
     The MC for the workshop (titled "Folk Baroque") was Robyn Hitchcock, who was delightfully droll and while not a great singer (Erin said he sang flat) he did sing some fun songs that helped leaven the mix of the other two bands, Steeleye Span and RURA, a celtic band from Scotland.  It was a great, great set of folk rock from Steeleye Span and jigs from RURA and humor from Hitchcock, and there was some fine jamming too.  Only thing more we could have asked was for Steeleye Span to do "All Around My Hat" after Dave requested it.  The workshop was an hour and fifteen minutes long, but we would have gladly stayed for more.
      After the encore (of course there was an encore!) Erin and Dave wanted to get something to eat and I wanted a break but also wanted a shower, so I headed back to camp for a bit, although I was tempted to go hear Kurt Vile's solo concert.  There's so much going on that missing some things just can't be helped.  Back in camp I took a quick shower and changed clothes, and then lounged in the shade structure and chatted with Karen and John, and later Lana who was taking it easy in the heat herself.  Shaun and Sarah also had arrived after a delayed start from home and were hauling gear in from their car.  I had a bit to eat and a nice cold beer before heading back to the fest site for the first Main Stage act of the night.

     I rendezvoused with Erin, Dave, Elizabeth and Kat at the back baggie just before 6pm, and after talking with them for a bit went up to the front baggie (i.e. tarp) and sat with Polly and listened to the first act of the night, Dustbowl Revival, an octet from Los Angeles that played old-time music in a new-timey way, and they were hugely entertaining.  The first tweener, Dan Champagne, did some phenomenal solo guitar playing next.  The next act up, Shakey Graves, was o.k. but not as great.  The next tweeners, Les Soeurs Boulay, two sisters from Quebec as you might guess, were wonderful singers and I made a mental note to hear them again later.  Then it was Jason Isbell, who had a good band, is a good singer, and writes great songs too.  But every single one of them was a downer, and there's only so much of that one can take.  I felt like tossing some Prozac up on stage.  Then when it was time for the next act, Matt Anderson, a good blues singer, my mood was such that I wanted to head back to camp and have a beer, then sit around the fire and have some fun playing guitar and singing.  It had been a hot day, but the night was wonderfully balmy and we were all in our t-shirts and shorts long past midnight, and there was enough of a breeze that mosquitoes weren't a problem at all.  It was also nice to be able to keep tossing wood on the fire instead of nursing it, thanks to our ample supply.  Dave, Wolfgang and I played and Lana joined us to sing, until Dave decided to bag it since it had been a long hot day and he needed get some sleep, and soon after I bagged it too.

     Saturday dawned nice and warm again, but still with enough breeze to make it comfy in the shade, where I spent a fair amount of time during the folk fest.  That, and being sure to use sunscreen daily kept me from getting sunburned, unlike plenty of other people I saw in the campground.  I do tan nicely enough, but it's not fun trying to sleep when burned.
     I did the usual tarp shuffle at 10:15am (after getting another #1 ticket from Polly) and while Erin was at another workshop I went to the Bur Oak stage for the "World on a String" workshop that included RURA and BardeFou from Quebec and Sondorgo, a band from Hungary.  I have to say I didn't miss Erin as all three bands were great and jammed together too.  Sondorgo was especially good, fast, tight and gave a bravura performance, but the other musicians had fun joining in as well.  Here's some photos I took from the front row, first of BardeFou and then Sondorgo and RURA:

      Erin and I had agreed to meet at the Shady Grove stage at 1pm to hear Birds of Chicago perform, and I got there first and found a spot to watch for Erin from and... she found another spot to watch for me from.  Luckily, Erin got up and happened to see me a few songs into the set, and she moved to where I was since there was just enough shade for the two of us.  We were sitting next a staked off area in the shrubs and Erin saw there was a paper wasp nest in the undergrowth, which was obviously the reason why it was being protected.  It wasn't easy to see, but there were wasps coming and going from it too.  But we left them alone and so did they and we enjoyed the show.  It kind of epitomizes the folk fest ethic of live and let live, as I'm sure at another festival the nest would have been eradicated out of fear of someone being stung, and invoking the dread L word, liability.

     After that, we didn't have a strong preference about what to do next so we drifted back over to the rear of the Green Ash stage where we could listen to the "Nobody Loves Me but My Mother" blues workshop and while we were there I also started reading a book by Michael Perry of short essays he'd written for a radio show (Tent Show Radio) he hosted, and it was excellent reading to go with the music, short and sweet, funny and poignant too.  We finished up some gorp while resting in the shade and decided we'd both go over to hear what sounded like an interesting workshop of a performance of an entire album by The Band, Stage Fright.
     Given that shade was in high demand on another hot day, we headed over early to the Big Bluestem stage to claim some and we were lucky enough to find a decent spot.  It was off to the far right of the stage but you could hear well enough if not see anything, and Erin settled in herself for some reading while I got some water from a nearby tap.  Then the show started, featuring Robyn Hitchcock with the band The Sadies, and they did a really fine job of making something that might otherwise be boring very interesting and fun.  Hitchcock handled the introduction chores for each song on the album and was informative while also cracking the audience up with his off-beat humor.  Hitchcock's voice was actually a good match for the material as well, with help from members of The Sadies singing as well, and The Sadies did a great job of getting the feel of The Band's sound down.  They ripped through the entire album in what seemed like no time at all, and came back for two encores, the first being a song from their next project, a similar treatment of The Byrd's 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the song being one of Gram Parsons' from it that has me hoping they'll be back in Winnipeg next year.  Then the did Bob Dylan's song Maggie's Farm which had the crowd rockin' on it's feet.  Well, not Erin's as she elected to stay seated while I walked over to stand and hear the last few numbers myself.  Another great set.

     By then I was pretty hot and thirsty, and since the first two Main Stage acts of the evening weren't something I just had to hear, I headed back to camp leaving Erin to the back baggie for the time being.  A nice warm shower was had, too warm actually.  I should have mixed in some cooler water first.  But a couple of cold beers afterwards helped, and I sat and talked with other Baggiecon stragglers under the shade structure for an hour or so.  A little after 7pm it was time to head back down because after 8pm Arlo Guthrie was on and Erin and I were definitely going up to the front baggie to hear him on what was being billed as the 50th Anniversary Tour of Alice's Restaurant.  I found Erin at the back baggie with Dave Clement and others, and we went on up for Arlo.
     I'd chatted briefly with a couple who were talking about pickles on the way to the fest site earlier, and just before Arlo and band were taking the stage there were pickles being tossed out into the audience from stage right, which was fun and thankfully injury-free.  Of course Arlo's first number was about motorcycles and pickles, naturally.  After a few numbers and a bit of stage patter, Arlo got around to telling the story about Alice's restaurant and the littering, the draft board, the sixteen 8 by 10 glossy pictures, and of course it never gets old and Arlo is as gifted a gabber as ever.  Of course there was an encore and Arlo did his father's song "This Land Is Your Land" to the tune of Canadian geography and had thousands on their feet joining him in singing it too.  Best moment of the fest, and darn it, there should be more crowds singing in my humble opinion.
     The next act up was a quiet guitarist and singer, Jose Gonzales, who I'd not heard of but evidently many in the audience around me were familiar with him.  He was a good guitarist and had a pleasant voice, but there wasn't much charisma and after Arlo, well, it came across a little flat emotionally.  That sure changed when the next tweener turned out to be Rushad Eggleston, who was of course wild and crazy, possibly a little TOO crazy, but he went over well.  By then Erin and I were ready to head back to camp so we skipped the last act of the night on Main Stage and packed it in.

     Back at camp though you could hear the Main Stage loud and clear, and when Karen got her iPhone out to check the decible level it was around 81 decibels, which is normal conversational level.  Maybe they might want to consider dialing the volume back from 10 to 8 next year, but probably what we'll get is it being turned up to 11.  Thankfully the festival camping area was actually not loud.  No trap drums, no yelling, just the sound of singing and picking mostly.  Erin said it was definitely more like the old days in the 1990s before it got wild in the early 2000s for a decade or so.  The hot day had turned into a beautifully warm night with just the right amount of breeze and we had plenty of firewood to burn, so we were up late playing and singing around the fire, and we were joined first by a friend of Dave's, who was also named Dave, who played a concertina and was the leader of one of the bands Dave Clement has been playing in lately.  He was wonderful and it was nice to have another instrument in the mix.  We also had a guitarist wander in and join the circle and he played a few of his own songs for us and they were moody but nice.
      By 1:30am things broke up as Dave needed his rest and Erin did too, but I stayed up a while longer burning more wood and reading more from my Michael Perry book before turning in myself.  I was half-hoping for some northern lights but didn't see any, but I tracked a few satellites at least and that was nice.  A wonderful day, all in all.

     Sunday it was deja vu all over again with another #1 tarp ticket and another 10:15am tarp run, but one fun thing was getting to hear the brass band play for us while the crowd was waiting for the gates to the festival grounds to open.  Erin wasn't with me as she and Lana wanted to spend some time together going around to see all the art installations that were scattered around the festival site before it got too hot.  That was a good thing, because Sunday was the hottest day of the festival, hitting 90F, but at least there was a good breeze that helped keep it from being unbearable.  I was happy that Dave and Elizabeth were going swimming every morning, since Dave doesn't tolerate such heat well.
     That left me free to go hear one of the Main Stage tweeners I'd liked earlier, Les Soeurs Boulay, a sisters duo from Quebec, at the Bur Oak stage.  I was there early enough to find a spot in the shade in the very front row and settled down with a big bottle of water for the show.  They did speak in English to introduce themselves and talk about their songs, but every song they performed was in French, and every one was lovely.  Their voices and harmonizing were beautiful and they played guitar, ukulele, a kick drum and a few other instruments as well and accompanied themselves quite well.  And they were, umm, very pleasant to look at too, as you can see for yourself.

     After such sweetness, I was in the mood for something a little different, and headed over to the Shady Grove stage, which was also nicely shady, to hear the "I Get a Kick Out of You" workshop which was fun and a bit irreverent, a nice counterpoint to the previous set.  After it ended, I found Erin and Dave and we had a bit of time together before Erin and Dave went off to hear RURA do a concert at the Snowberry stage, and because I'd seen RURA already I headed over to Green Ash for the "California Dreamin'" workshop there at 2:30pm.   It was supposed to have included Jenny Lewis from Cali, but her flight to Winnipeg had been delayed so the band Dustbowl Revival, being from Los Angeles, filled in and frankly I liked them better as they added a lot of variety to what was a fairly singer-songwriter heavy workshop.  Not that I minded, since Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes was there by himself and I really enjoyed hearing him play solo, and the host, Steve Poltz, was delightfully funny both in his songs and his stage patter.  The sun was scortching but the music was mellow, well, except when Dustbowl Revivial was playing that is.
     I considered going to hear Robyn Hitchcock's solo concert after that, but it had been very hot and since I had heard him already I decided to go back to camp, clean up and relax a bit, and then come back down to the Main Stage at 6pm when Dawes, a band I've liked a lot for some years, was scheduled to play.  By then it was also starting to cloud up, and you know what that means on a hot prairie afternoon.  But for now at least, it was still sunny and hot.
     I met up with Erin again and we and Polly went up to the front baggie for Dawes.  But man, the sound was REALLY cranked up now and after about two minutes of the opening number Erin said it was too loud for her and she was heading back to the back baggie.  I wasn't happy about it either, but I stayed and heard a really much more rock-sounding set from Dawes, a real change from their early days as a more folk-rock sounding band and more rocky than when I'd heard them at the folk fest back in 2011.  But they were tight and their singing and playing was good, and the addition of another guitarist worked well.  I noticed something written on the new guitarist's guitar strap and was able to make it out as spelling "BETTS" and after a minute it occurred to me that hey, he did resemble Dicky Betts of the famed Allman Brothers Band.  I found out later that sure enough, it was Dicky's son.  He was a very tasteful and fluid player and added a lot to the band.

     After Dawes, Jenny Lewis was up and while she performed a very nice set and her band was quite good, I didn't really connect with her songs.  In the meantime I noted dark clouds building on the southern horizon while the south wind blew, and things were beginning to look ominous.  By the end of Lewis' set I looked at Polly who was also with me on the front baggie and said that maybe we should go, even though that would mean missing the last act of the night, Wilco, who I had wanted to hear.  But when you see this, I knew what was coming and that it was time to pack it in.

     While we were pulling the tarp up and walking out, we did get to hear the last tweener of the fest, Steve Poltz, do his thing and he was hilarious to listen to as we started making our way back to camp.  We weren't the only ones, but many were staying, hoping that the storm would miss the fest as it did on Saturday when we'd had a light shower during Arlo Guthrie's show.  Polly and I made it back to camp after about fifteen minutes and just as we got there it started raining and blowing hard.  I went to pull some of our gear into our tent from where it had been lying under the vestibule and after getting it in noticed how hard it was blowing and thought it would be wise to stay inside and support the windward side of the tent and, as it turned out, mop up some water that was blowing in and seeping through a seam.  (We HAD seam sealer we were going to put on earlier, but did we?  Nooo.)  After about fifteen minutes or so of this, it did start to relent a bit and I dashed over to the shade structure to join the rest of the Baggiecon crew, and we went ahead and sand our traditional closing song, Ripple, and then Karen and John took all the fruit they could find, put it in a big bowl, and dumped the better part of a fifth of Screetch (a.k.a. booze) in it and it was pretty good.
     After about an hour or so it did stop raining and pretty soon we had a nice bonny fire going and we did a bit more singing before turning in.  We'd heard by then from other campers coming back that after Wilco had played only three songs the storm had hit and it was bad enough that they just closed the fest immediately, which was a bummer but stuff happens.  I was up for a little longer burning a few more pieces of wood in the fire and wishing it wasn't all over, more so than usual.  Despite the heat and the closing storm, I'd had a great time and I think almost everyone else this year did too.

     There was more rain overnight so everything was wet when we woke up Monday morning, but by 9am the sun came out and with the help of a light north wind it dried up quickly and we were able to pack everything away dry, and we headed out of the park just before 1pm after saying our goodbyes.  We made a stop on the way back to the Bhigg House at a Tim Horton's for lunch with Dave and Elizabeth, and then when we got back Elizabeth, Dave and I spent some time sorting gear out and putting it away in the garage while Erin did laundry and then we all pretty much crashed out for the rest of the afternoon.
     The usual Dead Mouse party on Monday night was a quiet affair this year as only Erin and I were staying over an extra day in Winnipeg this year, so we ended up ordering pizza for dinner, and Wolfgang dropped by to join us.  After we finished eating around 9pm I suggested we play 10,000 (a dice game) and everyone liked that idea, and after a long end game Erin eventually hit the magic number after Elizabeth almost won after coming from behind at the very end.
      Donna Teed and Terry Salt dropped by to chat also and they invited us to have a quick visit at their home on the southern outskirts of Winnipeg, so we went and had a nice time seeing their very pretty house, including a big back yard that Donna said our dogs could play in when we visit again.   Then they took us back to the Bhigg House and we finally went to bed as we were pretty tired out after six days of fun under the hot summer sun.
      A few extraneous notes: Erin and I ended up getting several CDs from Dustbowl Revival, Les Soeurs Boulay, Steve Poltz, Steeleye Span, and more as the festival music store put a lot of older CDs on clearance this year.  So we had our fair share of merch, although we didn't get any t-shirts or mugs this year.  We'd done some shopping in the Hand-Made Village this year but we didn't indulge ourselves.  I was lucky enough to get a free beer thanks to Polly finding a beer tent ticket lying on the ground that she gave to me, and I had a nice IPA with some chickpea curry that was delicious.  The food overall at the fest is pretty tasty and good for you too, mostly, although I still miss the dragon bowls at Mondragon.

     Tuesday morning after getting up and having some coffee then packing our bags for the trip home, Erin and I along with Dave and Elizabeth went to Bernstein's Deli on Corydon Avenue, which has become our go-to place for our last breakfast in Winnipeg after the fest now that Doxy's is gone.  Donna also dropped by to see us there too, and then we went back to the Bhigg House one last time before leaving town.  Hugs.
      The stop at the border went quickly enough, although there was some confusion about my car, which their database said was licensed in Minnesota.  Well, it used to be up to last December, but when I bought it I then retitled it in Wisconsin.  Thankfully I had my car's registration papers in the glove box so everything was sorted out.  I was a bit surprised when the U.S. Customs agent while asking us a few questions mentioned that I had been a truck driver, and I did say I had been one - but didn't add that it was back in the 1970s.  Obviously, they have it in their file on me now.  Welcome back to the Panopticon, er, good ol' U.S. of A., citizen!
     The rest of the drive back home was uneventful and we enjoyed listening to some of the CD's we bought at the fest, and I did like the Les Soeurs Boulay CD very much and so did Erin, who wound up sleeping for a couple of hours between Fargo and St. Cloud.  We made it back as the sun was setting and the dogs and the cat were very happy to see us again, and the dogs were glad that we kept coming back in the house each time we went out to the car to get a load to carry back inside. Eight human days is like 56 in dog days, so they were very lonely, even with visits twice a day from our dog sitter.

      And that's The End.  Here's one for the dragonflies, who blessed us all again this year.

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Grandparents’ Generation

by Faith Shearin

They are taking so many things with them:
their sewing machines and fine china,

their ability to fold a newspaper
with one hand and swat a fly.

They are taking their rotary telephones,
and fat televisions, and knitting needles,

their cast iron frying pans, and Tupperware.
They are packing away the picnics

and perambulators, the wagons
and church socials. They are wrapped in

lipstick and big band music, dressed
in recipes. Buried with them: bathtubs

with feet, front porches, dogs without leashes.
These are the people who raised me

and now I am left behind in
a world without paper letters,

a place where the phone
has grown as eager as a weed.

I am going to miss their attics,
their ordinary coffee, their chicken

fried in lard. I would give anything
to be ten again, up late with them

in that cottage by the river, buying
Marvin Gardens and passing go,

collecting two hundred dollars.

Monday, April 27, 2015


(for one who has died)
by Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015)

You go from us
into a new becoming;
we rejoice for you and wish you an easy journey
into the Light.
The winds will speak to us of you,
the waters will mention your name;
snow and rain and fog,
first light and last light,
all will remind us that you had
a certain way of being
that was dear to us.
You go back to the land you came from
and on beyond.
We will watch for you,
from Time to Time.

--  A belated rest in peace to you, Suzette.  I'm grateful for the times I met you, and for your stories and poetry. --

Monday, April 20, 2015


by Tony Hoagland

I was feeling pretty religious
standing on the bridge in my winter coat
looking down at the gray water:
the sharp little waves dusted with snow,
fish in their tin armor.

That’s what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
goes dead calm

and the minor roadside flowers
pronounce their quiet colors,
and the red dirt of the hillside glows.

She played the flute, he played the fiddle
and the moon came up over the barn.
Then he didn’t get the job, —
or her father died before she told him
that one, most important thing—

and everything got still.

It was February or October
It was July
I remember it so clear
You don’t have to pursue anything ever again
It’s over
You’re free
You’re unemployed

You just have to stand there
looking out on the water
in your trench coat of solitude
with your scarf of resignation
lifting in the wind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Minicon 50

Where Fun and More Great Music Than You Could Imagine Were Had

Over Easter weekend Minicon celebrated it's 50th convention and a great time for all was had, mostly.  I only wish I'd have gotten to more panels, parties, and games, but what I did get to was plenty of fun.  This year I finally threw a party of my own at Minicon for those of us who go to the Winnipeg Folk Festival every July since 1987, and it was great to get so many people who have been going over the years together and also talk about it with those who haven't been.

I arrived at the hotel in the early evening on Thursday after spending hours both packing for the party and my own stuff.  I drove my own car as Erin had to stay home until Friday to take care of some of her dog training business and finish packing herself, so I had the room to myself and contemplated taking a nap after I'd reserved a couple of panels for Erin in the art show.  But I ran into Gregg Parmentier and Brian and Ange Anderson and we all decided to go have dinner at a nearby Fuddrucker's, where we had big burgers and talked for a couple of hours.  Then it was back to the hotel and after some socializing in the consuite I got a text message from John Gamble saying his train was about to arrive in St. Paul at the Union Depot there, so I drove over to pick him up and take him back to the hotel and he also settled in to our room and we both stayed up for another couple of hours before turning in around 1am.  No sense staying up all night the first night, and I knew I'd need my rest.

Friday morning I got up and after having some coffee in the room went off to the Green Room to look for Karen who had told me she was bringing some photos of hers to share at the Baggiecon party.  I talked to Becca for a bit there and asked about serving instant tea for my party, and she said, no to that.  But thankfully another person said she'd recommend a simple mix of cranberry juice and ginger ale for a quickie punch, and that sounded reasonable, so it was off to buy some party supplies at a nearby Lund's grocery store, where they had just what I needed.  I still was waiting on Erin to arrive as she had more party supplies and a 10'x10' EZ-Up canopy to be used for the party too, and I was getting a bit worried after not being able to reach her on the phone when I did connect with her just as she was arriving at the hotel around 5:30pm, right as John and I were finishing up a quick dinner at the Burger King next to the hotel.  So there was enough time for the party setup, thankfully.

We got back and Erin and I started getting things ready for the party, which mostly constituted putting up the EZ-Up and hanging lights from it like we do at the folk fest, and then putting out all the photos and other memorabilia like folk fest programs and Baggiecon programs from past years.  That took about two hours, and then we put out some food and drink (inside a seven gallon water container like we use in camp) and a nifty fake fire pit to have a circle around.  Then, ready for a rest, I got out my guitar and sat down to relax.  Since there was a big reunion concert by Cats Laughing that started at 9pm, there wasn't a crowd for awhile, but soon enough there were people who came by to talk with about the folk fest and of course some Baggieconners from years past also stopped by.  Here's a few pictures of our party setup out in the courtyard:

The Baggiecon Camp, including spiffy faux firepit
Becca toasting a faux marshmallow over the 'fire'
 After Cats Laughing were done, more people came by, some with guitars and drums in hand, and we started to play some music.  Here's a few photos of the circle:

Just like old times out on the prairie, almost
It was a great time
 Unfortunately, the party being in the courtyard area proved to be a problem when the circle got bigger, as the accoustics weren't good and the musicians couldn't hear one another well.  So eventually the circle broke up and the musicians made for another room where it was quieter.  Sadly, I couldn't join them as I needed to take care of clean up and putting things away, which took about an hour or so.  Thankfully I didn't have to take down the EZ-Up until morning, so when I was done I had time to check out a few more parties and ended up in John Garner's karaoke party and sang a couple of songs before heading for bed around 1:30pm.  I crashed and slept soundly, thanks to the hotel beds being quite decent for a change.  (Erin liked the beds too.)

Saturday morning I took my time getting up and got some grub in the consuite & coffee, and then after waking up more put the rest of the party gear away.  Then after grabbing a bite to eat in the consuite, I crashed for a couple of hours back in the room.  Then I roused myself after 3:30pm and went to hear some music, and heard Nate Bucklin and his band play a terrific set, although they were missing their lead singer due to an accident involving one of her children (who was not injured badly, thankfully).  Nate had some new songs that were very good, and he also sang some of the best of his old ones.  All the musicians backing him up were great too, and Nate's guitar playing was as sharp as ever.  Erin later was given four new CDs of Nate's from Jeff Schalles, who produced them, and we're looking forward to listening to them.

After Nate's set was over there was a break for dinner, and Erin, John and I went over for a meal at a Chili's restaurant across the freeway from the hotel, and I was happy to be served a nice meal that was also not too long, so we were able to get back to the hotel in time for the next concert, by the Tooles, a band formed from some former members of Tramps and Hawkers and the addition of Amy McNally, a great fiddler from Chicago.  They've recently formed but sounded very tight and they were having a blast playing up there on stage, and there was plenty of banter as well as an open bottle of whiskey, which was reopened a few times during the set too.

The Tooles foolin' around havin' fun
After that, it was Dave Clement's turn and he also had Amy McNally playing along with him on fiddle and his set while more lower-key than the Tooles was just as high-energy, if a little more sober.  One thing that always pleasantly surprises me when Dave performs on stage is just how good he is at filling in between songs with stories and patter.  I'd never heard his full story about his home town of Port Dover, Ontario being the actual scene for Stan Rogers' song "Tiny Fish For Japan" which made Stan's powerful song even more evocative.  He's very good at pacing his set too and he has the knack for knowing just which song should come next.  When Dave ended his set with "Ripple" and mentioned that song's long history with Baggiecon and Minicon over the years, Erin and I held hands and kind of teared up a bit.

Dave and Amy
Then Adam Stemple, this year's Musician GoH, was next up.  Adam is a terrific guitar player and he was in fine form and having fun.  He started out solo and then began inviting others onstage with him, including John Sjogren and Lojo Russo, and it didn't take long before things got raucous, well it didn't take any time at all really.  I should add that throughout all these performances there were lots and lots of microphones and cables being moved around and while it did sometimes result in bad connections and feedback, the soundboard runners did a great job working through what was a very chaotic sequence of events.  There was a LOT of equipment and instruments up on the stage!

Lojo, John and Adam
When Adam was done it was Teresa Chandler's turn.  Teresa is a fine blues singer and guitarist and she can lay it down with more conviction than most.  Not that she didn't have lots of fun too, but this was the set for those who like their music tender but not too sweet.  Teresa also was accompanied by a drummer who was also singing backup and someone I should have mentioned earlier, who was playing bass and backup guitar for anyone who needed it, and never missed a beat.  Adam Stemple also came up to play some nice licks on guitar as well.  Chas Somdahl, who was in charge of music at Minicon again this year, later said this was the best year that he'd ever put together, and there have been a *lot* of good years for music at Minicon.

Teresa and Adam
Last up for the night was Riverfolk, featuring Chas and Becca Leathers (sadly, I missed her husband Graham's performance earlier, as well as Chesire Moon's) along with Amy again on fiddle and other musicians too, including a guest harmonica player who had a bandolier full of harmonicas wrapped around her who was a revelation to me.  (I've recently been fooling around on a simple C scale harmonica myself and found it's not as easy as it looks to play one, at least well.)  As always, they were great and by the time they were finished (including a couple of encores) it was past midnight and despite having been listening to music for hours it had all been so good I was still up for more.

Riverfolk and friends
So after a trip to the consuite for some late-night munchies and a glass of beer from the bar, it was off to find the room where the musician's circle was being held, which turned out to be over in the north tower of the hotel.  It was big enough to accommodate all the musicians and those who wanted to hear them, but it was _very_ warm as a result and there were no windows in the room to open either.  So I had the inspiration to open the double doors to the north tower atrium that helped keep things from getting any warmer at least, and thankfully there were no noise complaints, at least none I heard about anyway.  So yay me.  Many of the performers from earlier in the evening were there and were joined by as many other filkers, and while the circle was big it wasn't too big so it didn't take long for everyone's turn to come back around.  There was one song that Dave Stagner played about Wisconsin that was just falling-down funny (really, I did actually fall to the floor in front of him l was laughing so hard) that naturally he wrote himself.  I definitely have to remember to invite Dave to our next music party at our home coming up in May.

Late-night music circle on Saturday
Then as the circle finally was breaking up around 4am Sunday morning I accompanied Dave Clement back to his room, took a quick walk around one more time around the cabana area and turned in.  At some point I'd also had more fun singing karaoke in John Garner's party with Brian and Ange, but frankly I don't remember quite when, probably while I was out getting food in the consuite after Riverfolk had finished.

For once I managed to sleep past 8am in the room and got about five hours sleep, I think.  Erin was pretty bushed too, but got enough sleep herself and so did John.  I have to say that not having the dogs with us this year was a Good Thing when it came to getting sleep, given how late we were staying up having fun.  (We'd decided to leave our puppies at home this year since we were throwing the Baggiecon party and needed a cabana room, where pets were not allowed.)  I foraged in the consuite for bagels and coffee and when Erin was up and dressed we headed up to the Dealer's Room and did some shopping there.  We bought books from Greg Ketter at his Dreamhaven table and then browsed for some items and bought some notebooks and models and I bought a MidAmericon II t-shirt to wear there next year.  I wish Phil Kaveney had been there selling his rare and unique books too, but sadly he's not been coming to Minicon for the past few years.

A Dealer's Room tableau
I went to a few panels after that, both on scientific topics including a great one by Bill Higgins on the progress of the mission to visit the asteriods Vesta and Ceres and that there were some intriguing phenomena being observed about Ceres, particularly some very bright spots that weren't at all expected.  Because of a projector not being in the room at the beginning Bill had to start without any AV to work with, but after one was brought in everything was fine and because it was the last panel in the room for the day Bill could go late and those of us who could stay were happy to hear more.

I wandered back to the room after that around 3:30pm, and soon after Dave Clement came in and Erin, John, Dave and I had fun just playing some music together.  Erin always like singing with Dave and I heard from John that he'd been meeting regularly to sing too, and both he and Erin ended up looking up lyrics to songs on the internet to sing.  A little after 6pm Dave headed back to his room with Erin and I spend a little time hauling some party gear out to the minivan.

Dave, Erin and John in our room
Later in the early evening we three headed up to Dave Clement's room and visited with him and his wife Elizabeth and our friend Donna, who was attending her first convention ever.  (Earlier that weekend Donna, Elizabeth and Erin went shopping at the nearby Mall of America and got a lot of exercise according to Erin.)  Dave was feeling pretty low-energy at that point and didn't come back down with us to listen to the music at the Dead Dog in the consuite (the next day we learned Dave was sick and pretty much missed the rest of the convention, which was a rotten thing to have happen).

As it turned out, Erin and John wanted to play some games and I joined them for a game of Wizard out in the courtyard area where all the gaming tables (with games on them too) were set up.  I was on the verge of winning when one of my opponents, Brother John, bid five on the very last hand to beat me by one trick.  Well played, sir, well played.  Then I left Erin and John to play some more and went to the Dead Dog and spend another couple of hours there listening to songs, including a few by Steve Brust which were hilarious, especially the one Adam Stemple requested he play that mentioned "Jane Yolen's castle", before turning in for the night sometime around 1:30pm, I think.

The last of the gamers on Sunday

Becca having an uncomfortable moment with Adam for some reason...
Monday morning Erin had to leave early to train dogs back in Wisconsin, but John and I went over to the Mall of America ourselves to have a look around, with the highlight being the Swiss Army Knife store, where we found a workbench where you could have your own custom knife assembled.  AWESOME.  I want one for me now on my next birthday for sure.  we had lunch at a Bubba Gump restaurant, bought some cheese (including some interesting peppermint Monterrey Jack that was really nice) and some games before heading out and back home to Wisconsin where John stayed with us for the night, and we played a few games of Pandemic before collapsing for the night.  Then I took him back to St. Paul the next morning to catch the train to Chicago, and that was the end of my Minicon weekend.  Whew.

That's all folks...  filks...  fans...  until next year.