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.