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Saturday, January 17, 2009


We've lost Andrew Wyeth, the great man himself and one of my biggest heroes.

Say what you will about his art (and Goddess knows, much has been said) he was an indisputable American icon. Even folks who gag at the thought of his "populist illustrations" know Christina's World and the "Helga" paintings.

My own artist father very much admired the work of all the Wyeths, and I was brought up with books and posters of his art all around me. They were discussed and debated and, in my case, dreamed about, for many years. After all this time, his work has been as much of an influence on me as most of the music I love.

I don't feel the way I felt when George Harrison died. I couldn't even conceive of a world without Harrison, and I was utterly crushed for a few days. But I knew I'd read Wyeth tributes someday. Wyeth lived a long, full, life, and the obituaries say he died peacefully in his sleep.

I've been working in a nursing home for the last two weeks, and who knows when I'll be able to get back to my real work - music, writing, and art - full time. Hell, I may be painting walls there for years, the way things are going. I try to be strong, but being around a lot of decay is getting to me, and the stench of stale piss seems to cling and follow me home every night. I worked in a nursing home when I was a kid, and I hardly thought about it, even though my job then was much more directly connected to the old residents. But now I'm forty-three and the sights and sounds and smells of slow death are all around me, and hard to shake when I flee at the end of my shift. I'll take falling off a cliff or being hit by lightning or almost any option other than the ignoble decline of shitting myself to death in a lonely room at the Taos Living Center. Maybe I'll get to go like Wyeth.

I never met him of course, but I loved him. He was strong. He was a true hero. Wyeth was never afraid of decay and painted beautiful images of decay all his life, and now he's gone back to the earth, "...the bone structure beneath the landscape..." he so yearned for. I imagine him beneath the weeds and snow, grinning at the gothic beauty of it all and impishly haunting the hills of Chadd's Ford. Life goes on, and I don't know what else there is to say. I've opened his books to my favorite paintings and laid them out to contemplate, and put on Barber's Adagio For Strings, and I guess all I can do now is go wash the dishes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What A Long... Strange... oh, you know....

It's been a long, strange year, 2008. I'm delighted to have shared last year with all you BanjoSnakers... I put myself out there, too: I played 100 gigs in 2008! ONE HUNDRED! HOLY CRAP! Thank you all so much for your attention and interest and support this past year, and there are plenty of projects in the works from Ars Banjosnake House for 2009... in fact, I don't know how I'm gonna keep up with all of 'em!

But 2009's also gonna be another weird one... apparently, things are about to get ugly economically, and I'm just hoping we can all hold it together and not shoot each other in the streets over old cans of dog food if things turn really rough. Kim and I are doing fine in the long run, as we invested wisely when I sold my house early in the year. Despite that, and despite those 100 gigs, on a day-to-day-bill-paying basis we're pretty broke. For the first time in 20 years I'm gonna get a straight job. I'm wondering how I'll feel about losing control over my own time, but I'm pretty zen about it so far... I'll be painting the walls in Taos' nursing home, and I think the work will be easy and zen-ish in itself, and I tend to like being around those old folks. Kim and I have solid savings, it's true, but we'd like to use those bucks to add on to the house or something, and don't want to just sit around and live off 'em like pampered pussies. I posted a blog earlier in the year called "How Much Coin Does A Man Need" that provoked all kinds of snarky comments and well, y'all are getting your revenge... time for me to work like a real human.

Lots of good things happened, and I'm thrilled to have experienced them: I got married to a great lady that I constantly delight in, and we honeymooned in Ireland for a couple of blissful, whiskey-soaked weeks. Great stuff. As I mentioned, I sold my beloved but somewhat elegantly-decaying old hacienda and moved in with Kim. I've missed my adobe compound, but not even close to what I thought I would. Playing those 100 gigs was sometimes trying, but usually fun and sure as hell beats cleaning toilets for a living, even at worst. I got my first colonoscopy... really odd to see my insides on a TV screen! And we went to the polls and elected a black man to be president of the U. S. of A! Damn straight! Made me proud to wake up on my native soil once more, I'll tell ya.

But even with fantastic highs that I wouldn't have missed for anything, the day-to-day life of 2008 was often a gray drudgery, and reading over my diary I often noted depression, or that I felt bad physically. Life is a challenge, both personally and collectively. That's just the way it is, and I'd better get used to it.

Towards the end of 2008, with excitement and hope about Obama in the air mixed with fear and loathing of the endless war and the economic meltdown, I saw a few comparisons of the times with the sixties, so I read a few books about the decade of my birth and now I think: these times aren't anything like the sixties!

I am very fond of the art, the music, and the social changes that the sixties brought this country and the world, but I actually believe we might be on the brink of far greater change and shining times than we saw in the sixties.... I've got my own personal fear and loathing, but I really think we might turn things around over the next few years. I'm not sure what I'll contribute to the hoped-for change; I don't know if the hoped-for change will benefit myself and my loved ones, if it happens at all; and even though it may all crumble to the ground like twigs and ashes, I 'm happy that optimism seems viable again.

I'm not altogether happy with this post, and that in itself reflects to me the confusion of this past year. It's always about hopes and fears, folks, and so tempting to start psychotheraputically listing all my perceived failures and "new year's resolutions" (guffaw) and dumping that load of shit on y'all. But what the hell would that do except exhaust you and effectivly prevent you reading this blog for months? Perhaps the operative quote for 2008 is that from The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight when he hisses "...whatever doesn't kill you makes you... stranger." In the aftermath of one crazy, pissed, happy, busy, lazy, confused-as-shit year with its sky-highs and subterranean-lows and lots of fog in between, I'll take that as a legacy worth hanging on to, or at least keeping in the back of our minds. Thanks for sharing the ride with me, and stay tuned... there's lots more art and writing and deep-fried, golden-brown folk-n-roll... and strangeness! to come!

Happy New Year, y'all...

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