Monday, September 28, 2009

Sour Grapes

Well that's the last time I grow heirloom plants. What a disastrous year. Rot before they're ripe, cracked crowns, yellowing and dying leaves, flesh-eating alien zombie robots from outer space and the future. You name it.

But boy the few I had (and by few I'd say probably 10 bushels) were delicious.

But next year, if I have time, depending where I am, it's a more traditional, hardy variety. Maybe Better Boy, or Beefsteak. I'll do them from seed again, absolutely. But these finicky heirlooms are so not my bag.

Fall arrived down here yesterday. Absolutely gorgeous day. I was stuck inside all day watching football and golf. This really has to be the last weekend I blow off. I've got way too much to do, either way. Roll Tide, though. Er, Go Bucks.

If you haven't seen it, check out Bottle Shock. Bill Pullman is probably one of the worst working actors we currently have to suffer through. But it's based on a true story, and Alan Rickman is physically incapable of being bad in a movie. Plus, it's about wine, and the sublime nobility of growing food. Grapes in this case.

(But if you're in a bad mood or down for any reason, stay away from The Soloist. Very good movie, but it's pretty tough. Is it just me, or is Robert Downey Jr. in the top 5 best working actors category? Jamie Foxx was incredible.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blind Melon's "Change", A Perfect Song

I was having a great though all-too-brief conversation with Keifus at his blog (visit often) about this song. Here's the video. (Weird, I know. Imagine that.) I wasn't sure how to format/present this post, so I think I'll do it in bullet points. I miss that bit.

-It only has 3 chords. Keifus and I got into a knock down drag out fight about the fact that technically one could assert that it actually has 5 chords, if you count the open A9 and the Asus. While Keifus is ultimately correct, if you're gonna nitpick, most guitar players would agree that A, A9 and Asus are generally considered 1 chord. The reasoning behind this, if I'm not mistaken, is that the sus and 9 version of the chord, used the way Hoon does in this song, are more melodically driven than chord driven. (Note: It wasn't much of a knock down drag out fight, as you might imagine. More like: "Oh. Good point.")

-There are 2 things instrumentally about this song that, were either omitted, would render the song imperfect.

1.) The addition of the mandolin part (which, ironically I suppose, really underscores the Asus/A9 beautifully)

2.) The bass player plays a double bass

I don't suspect it's a double bass because of the video. It has to be. Note the tone and timbre of the bass sound. Reminds me of this. (That's the end vamp from Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover". Go to about 2 minutes into the video. And yes, they're playing it in 7/4 time.)

-As much as we would like it to be sometimes, life isn't a movie. But if mine were (which it is), this would be the soundtrack to this particular act of my life-movie.

-There are 2 things which every perfect song has to have in order to be perfect: melancholy and joyfulness. This song has them in spades. (And clubs.)

-The cited lyrics quote the second verse as ending this way:

"But I know we all can't stay here forever

So I want to write my words on the face of today

And then they'll paint it."

But I swear, since I first heard this song way back in '94, that he sings:

"Before they paint it."

I think I'm right. But it is odd because that particular quote is on his gravestone. So I might be wrong.

-The entry of the slide guitar and the drums after the 1st verse is highly reminiscent of The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes". Though the drummer doesn't drop from 4 stories on the kick drum the way Moon did, the effect is similar. Further, I wish the guitar solo after verse 2 had used the same slide guitar. More perfect.

-Blind Melon, I thought, was always a departure from the grunge sound, consciously. They were kind of a jam band, which, I think, accounts for the utter funkiness of the bass lines, and the drummer's freewheeling play between the snare and cymbal bell off the beat toward the end of the guitar solo. Really great stuff.

-If I live in Iowa this time next year, today I'd have driven up to grampa's secret river/pond/lake stash in Minnesota (if I could find it) and fish for bullhead.

-I'll admit that the lyrics verge on the trite side, but because they just walk to the edge and yet don't jump, and the fact that they're delivered with an honest and almost innocent earnestness, I'll let them pass. (Read somewhere that the 1st line of the song came to Shannon after he woke up on his mom's couch after a 3-day coke binge.)

The late '80s and early '90s were good years for me. Having a renaissance of truly great rock --- Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, among others -- that's just ham gravy on the mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Modest Proposal

I hope I'm not sounding too... self-righteous. To be sure, I know of no bigger hypocrite than yours truly. I'm just thinking out loud.

1.) You must grow your own vegetables, or know personally who grows/cans them.

2.) You must kill what you eat, or know personally who killed it.

3.) You must process your own beef/chicken/pork, or know personally who processed it.

3a.) You must milk your own cow, make your own butter, cheese, cream, or know personally who milked/made it. Newsflash! Making cheese isn't that hard.

4.) You must go fishing more a lot. (MANDATORY!!!)

5.) That whole seasonal/regional eating thing that people are so crazy about but don't do.

I love oranges, grapefruit and lemonade. It wouldn't be much of a drive for me here in Bama, but I'm not sure Keifus would be pleased with the cost of mail order citrus fruit.

Eating seasonally can be a drag, for obvious reasons. But it's critical.

Unrealistic? Sure. Draconian? Probably. Necessary?

Let's ask ourselves in 50 years, unless we've devolved into flesh-eating robot zombies from outer space.

Better yet, let's ask our grandkids.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Work Ethic? What Work Ethic?

There's a great article in this month's Esquire that seems appropriate to some of the things I feel myself going through. Stephen Marche basically claims that modern American work culture has evolved such that we work more so we can... work more. That innovation leads to more free time, free time we can use to... have less free time.

Anyways, Marche says it much better than I can.

Oh, and it's been raining down here nearly non-stop since Friday night. Very dreary. It's not helping.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Buffalo." "Titonka." "Titonka." "Buffalo."

The Titonka property won't go away from my heart. And it's gotten over 25% cheaper over the last 6 weeks.

Hog holding stations. How bad can that get?

(Answer: Really bad.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, again: My dad spent his entire youth trying to get off the farm, and I'm trying my entire middle age to get on one. What does Morpheus say? It would seem fate is not without a sense of irony?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Plan B?

Jesse, Julie and Al got back late Sunday evening. Jess called me. He said everything went just great. The cemetery was rough on Julie because mom and dad lie right next to Eldin and Verna.

My cousin, Barry, told Jess I was thinking of moving up there. He said there was a house for sale next to him, in Stilson, that I could get for a song. My other cousin, Chris, said that no members of our side of the family are allowed in Stilson, Iowa. Everybody laughed hysterically.

So, living in town on very little acreage? Could still have a tomato orchard and, my newest vegetable garden invention, a "sweet corn shed".

There's a house in Burt that I could possibly get for what I might get when I sell my piano. Mom and dad are buried in the Burt cemetery. It's said that there are more people in the cemetery than live in Burt.

I could visit them everyday.

It's all so very scary and sad, but are they trying to tell me something? I ask them what I'm supposed to do every night when I'm sitting outside gazing at dying plants sipping on a Miller Highlife. And I listen. I listen intently.

Dad: What am I supposed to do?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fried Hamburgers

It was 1986. I had just graduated from high school. In late Spring/early Summer, dad and I drove to Iowa for a family reunion. Just the two of us headed to Lone Rock.

When we got there, my cousin Wes showed up. He was in the middle of a cross-country motorcycle trip from California. He was starving, so grandma, my dad's mom, fried him up some hamburgers in one of her ancient caste-iron skillet.

It may indeed be the case that nothing burps like bacon, but I think it's pretty hard to top the smell of browning ground beef. It should be characterized as an endorphin.

Grandma died Wednesday afternoon. She was 98 years old. She would tell you that she had 90 real good years, 5 pretty good years, and 2 not-so-good years.

Born Verna Bates, she was a remarkable woman. She and her husband, Eldin, never had much. They didn't even own the land they farmed because Eldin's dad, Lemuel, son of Edward, was tight. They were essentially tenant farmers. Only if they were too sick to work did they go to the doctor, and paid him what he charged in cash right there. I suppose it was a much different time. People were tougher, more resilient, thrifty, proud. Resigned, I suppose you might even say, in their stoic way.

I blame the ever-vain baby-boomers.

Dad saw to it that they both were taken care of. It was nothing short of his duty, and he did it gladly because of all they had given him growing up, not least of which was a chance at a college education.

Verna Bates. Buried a baby boy. Buried her husband. Buried her youngest. Buried a son-in-law. Buried a daughter-in-law. May she rest in everlasting peace.

Thanks for the post. Sounds like something similar to what's happening in some Minnesota communities.

(I can't go. It's not that I'm busy. It's that I'm emotionally unequipped to deal with another trip to Iowa. It took everything I had to drive up there for mom. My sister understands, but I don't think my oldest brother will. I guess he'll just have to be mad at me. Which is fine, because I've been mad at me for quite some time.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

By James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.