Sunday, August 21, 2016

I've got the music in me

Music is something I need to survive. Maybe not physically, but mentally for sure. I need to hear it and hum it and feel it. It is nearly constant inside my head even if it is far in the background. Almost like a soundtrack. Sometimes I don't recognize the tunes because they probably don't exist, but mostly it seems familiar.

When I was about 10 years old and in 4th grade I started learning to play trombone and was in school bands for the next six years. I wasn't the best or the worst trombone player in the band, but I enjoyed it mostly. When I was playing in Junior High School we had a band director that always pushed us to compete for a higher chair in our section. I moved up a notch or two, but was never going to make first chair, first trombone (there were third, second, and first trombones and a couple of chairs in each). I was okay with that as I enjoyed playing. The director still pushed us anyway when he wasn't busy yelling at the band for other things. I started to resent all the pressure and yelling and it took the enjoyment out of it for me. I hated to disappoint my parents, but eventually I just couldn't take it anymore and quit.

Fortunately, I had taken up guitar a couple of years earlier with a $30 Sears Silvertone acoustic guitar. It wasn't much of a guitar, but I slowly taught myself a few things with the aid of a couple of Mel Bay guitar books. After I quit trombone I still had a way to make some pretty sounds. The guitar started to fall apart, but my father could see I had a real interest in continuing to play. Even though he occasionally said, as do many parents, "How can you listen to that crap?" he still encouraged me to play. At least he didn't say, "Stop making that racket."

In 1966 he took me too the local musical instrument store and let me pick out the guitar I wanted. I had to have a twelve string because that's what the Byrds and some other folk rock bands played. I had to choose between the Gibson and the Framus. I played both and the Framus sounded better to my ear. They were within $10 of each other in price.

Here it is today.

I loved that guitar and kept learning more stuff, usually playing by ear while listening to the radio. Eventually I could play along with a fair amount of popular songs. I took the guitar to college where I met my best friend Mark who also played. We played together, even in front of audiences (where I am never comfortable) and usually just for ourselves until Mark died in 1995.

When Mark and I were roommates back in the late 70s I went with him to the Homestead Pickin' Parlor where we often shopped for records, music, and instrument accessories. He had saved his money and bought a new 1974 Martin 000-28 which was a sweet sounding guitar. When Eric Clapton went acoustic many years later that was the exact year and model he recorded with. Mark was way ahead of Clapton.

Mark played that guitar for our wedding when the Cooker and I got married and again at another close friend's wedding. When he died he left it to me and I have loved and played and cared for it ever since. I played it at a friend's wedding a few years ago to keep going with the tradition. It needs a new pickguard which I will get for it when I ever get to the Twin Cities again. There is a highly respected luthier there who will do the replacement. 

I have a few more guitars, but these two will never leave my possession. While neither is of great monetary value I am a much more sentimental guy than I ought to be and will have them until I die or thereabouts. I need to figure out who to leave them to when the day comes, but until then I still have to keep playing.

The quality of my playing is a lot like the trombone. I'll never be really good, but I'm good enough for me and I still enjoy the hell out of playing. I doubt that will ever change.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Grand Portage

The Powwow and Rendezvous is going on at Grand Portage and Over The Waterfall (the band I play in) got to play for the public in the afternoon and the reenactors in the evening. Dancing is encouraged and one of our long time callers and sometimes musician, Barb, called the evening dances for kids and adults. It was on the lawn of the of the fort while we played from the porch. I wish I would have taken more pictures, but other people did and I will post them as soon as I get them.

The kind folks at the National Monument gave us tickets to go out and see the tall ship Mist of Avalon out of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. It will be one of the ships sailing to Duluth next weekend for the Tall Ships festival.
Because the bay at Grand Portage is shallow we were shuttled out to the ship for  a closer view. The Coast Guard, however, decided the general public should not board due to safety concerns. While you see some brave kids swimming in the warmer bay the deeper water is very cold. I would personally be happy to risk my safety, but I'm not the one stuck with scooping out clumsy tourists.

The Voyageurs were regularly canoeing out to the ship with their packs of fur gained from the winter's trapping activities, re-enacting the trade that was going on in the late 1700's.

Here is the some of the voyageur encampment that can be seen from the lake. Must have been well over one hundred tents.

It was a misty, moisty day with a few light showers, but in the end it cleared up for the evening dance opening with a rainbow over the bay and later illuminated by candle lanterns reminiscent of the time. We, the band, were also in period clothing provided for us if we didn't have our own. I always seem to have troubles with the provided pants, however. They always seem to have strange button configurations that take me a while to figure out which is really annoying when I have to pee, but with practice I get pretty good at it by the end of the day. Hopefully, I will have more pictures soon.

As always, click to embiggen.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pictures of Summer

I've been taking my  camera for walks around the farm and around the neighborhood at the height of summer. It has been a fairly wet year so things are growing well and staying pretty green. One  of the best trades for manure I ever received was last year. Perennials for poop was amazing. Here are a couple.

There is a short road behind the house that accesses some properties, most of which are for sale, but not in high demand, yet. It makes for a nice short walk unless I go off on the spur trails we cut in about twenty years ago when we were still the owners. No wildlife showed up, but a bear  (a small one) left us a sign. So you see the bear often poops in the road and not in the forest. Here is the road and the poop.

There are various plants to see along this road and some are edible.
The lupines have gone to seed.
But the raspberries are still available.
Here is a current bush which can also be seen near civilization.
The Cooker and I took a walk on the Superior Hiking Trail just down the road from the farm. Our intent was to look for chanterelles and lobster mushrooms. We found lots of fungi, but not what we were looking for. We did see this stuff, though.

This is the first Indian pipe I have seen this year. We came to a power line crossing and someone was watching us.
Click to embiggen and look at the center of the picture along the edge of the trees on the right and see if you can see her.

Someone here is looking for food or maybe considering a home.
And there are still some blueberries to be eaten! Look closely!

More evidence of our neighborhood bears. I saw a number of ant hills opened up and there are some other species of critters and birds that will take advantage of a destroyed ant hill.
One of the rare sightings are these tracks. They are cat tracks, but not your house cat type. These are three or four inches across and are likely from a bobcat. They were at least a day old and had been walked over, but these two remained visible.

  You have to look closely.

I stopped by a friend's house for a little while to talk about an upcoming trip he and some friends are making to Europe in about a month. There are six people going, with bicycles, for a six week trip starting in the Czech Republic. How cool is that? This is right near where he lives and what he will be coming back to.

Click on the second one and find the sailboats.

Meanwhile, back on the farm there is work to be done. Time to mow the pastures to keep the woods from encroaching. Some years I don't mow, but I always have to do the edges to keep the trees out. If the fields are full of grasses I will mow them and they will reseed themselves. If there are a lot of wildflowers in bloom I will mostly leave them alone for the bees and other pollinators. A lot of it is timing and conditions and every year things are a little different. Here is my lawn mower.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A little about Otto

It has been 10 years since the old man died and I still miss him. Although I resented him for leaving me an orphan I do my best to understand. He was always there for me and then, all of a sudden, he wasn't. Fortunately, my brother was with me so I didn't have an overwhelming feeling of being alone.

We rarely argued, but once in a while we would. At least he would listen to me even if he thought I was wrong. My opinion had some value and he always seemed to take the time to listen.
Here he was on a relaxing weekend at the beach. He must have finished the cottage because he didn't take gobs of leisure time to do nothing. That's my brother absorbing sunlight on the blanket in about 1964.

He came from nothing and did pretty well in life. He was smart and industrious, but always kind and considerate. Once in a while he would run out of patience, but not very often. He was a textile chemist at DuPont and a dye expert. At the time of his retirement he supervised about 200 people in the laboratory.
He would get back to Norway (and occasionally Iceland and Denmark) to visit family every few years. Both his younger brothers died before he did and one while he was visiting. He kept going back to visit their families and some of his old friends and more distant relatives, but after his brothers were gone he was always a bit sad. He was a terrific correspondent and always sent birthday cards and letters to just about everyone he knew. After I left home for college I usually got at least a letter a week and never went more than two weeks without one for the rest of his life.
Here he is in Norway after going out fishing with his youngest brother.
The big one is a cod.

Here's one from Thanksgiving about 1963 or so.
He didn't do all the cooking, but he did a lot of it. He made the usual American fare, but I looked forward to the special Norwegian foods he would make.  One of my favorites was raspeballer which is a potato dumpling and goes by many other names. He baked Christmas cookies annually and would always send me some packed in a coffee can. I would eat those and get lost in a childhood dream-state. Then there were the Norwegian pancakes which are basically crepes. It is what you put in or on them that customizes them to your taste. They were one of the last things he made for me.
My cravings for goat cheese, pickled herring, sardines, flatbread, and cardamom cookies continue to this day. At least my local grocery store carries most of that.

Although he played French Horn in bands as a young man he was also a good singer and often sang in church choirs. He always encouraged my brother and I in our musical endeavors. I played trombone in the school bands for about six years but the band conductor was such an asshole that I gave it up. I wanted to try guitar and he bought me a cheap one from Sears just to test the waters.  I liked to try rock and roll and started playing by ear until I could play along with a few things on radio. Although, like most parents, he occasionally said, "How can you listen to that crap?"  The Sears guitar was a piece of shit, but gave me a start. It fell apart after a couple of years and in 1966 he bought me a Framus twelve string that I still play fifty years later. I think I'll grab a beer from the fridge and go play it for a while.

Thanks Otto. You were everything I could have wanted in a father.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trump and (is?) Cancer

I will be fine, but they took a silver dollar sized piece out of my scalp. The downside of being fair-skinned and blue eyed. We'll try and let it heal on it's own or graft if necessary, but I won't be gorgeous for a few months. The voices in my head have shut up as they seem to know I will go in there after them if they aren't careful. Here is the look I will be sporting for at least a few weeks. I made it kind of Cheeto colored to see what it must be like for you-know-who.

I had a small deja vu experience this morning. This vision of Charlton Heston (when he was still a liberal) came to me. What happened to him in the original Planet of the Apes movie and his revelation of the truth of his circumstances comes in the closing moments of the film. It reminds me so much of what could happen if Trump, now the darling of the Republican Party, actually gets elected.
I can't believe that was all the way back in '67 (the Summer of Love) that this movie came out. Back then it seemed like a lot of films tried to have a lesson on the state of affairs in the country or in the world. There are apparently a lot of Americans that didn't learn anything from our previous mistakes. Maybe the mistakes weren't big enough.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's Always Something

If it isn't one thing it's another.

Here are the basics on skin cancers:
  • The vast majority of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cells carcinomas. While malignant, these are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. They may be locally disfiguring if not treated early.
  • A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas. Malignant melanoma is a highly aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body. These cancers may be fatal if not treated early. 
I have talked with two friends that had the other kinds just to get an idea of the fun involved. Lucky me, I have basal cell carcinoma that is going to be dealt with this week. At least I get to go to (that bastion of Northern Minnesota culture) Duluth for treatment. Then I'll be pretty again. Since it is on my forehead I'll ask the doctor to feel free to go deeper and let out any evil spirits that might be lurking in my brain. Especially if he hears the same voices I do from in there.

A technique called Mohs surgery will be used. I'll let you look it up if you really want to know. It says in the little brochure they sent me, "Mohs surgery also is indicated for cancers located in areas such as the nose, ears, eyelids, lips, hairline, hands, feet, and genitals, in which maximal preservation of healthy tissue is critical for cosmetic or functional purposes."

It turns out mine is near where my hairline USED to be and therefore is only cosmetic and not functional as I no longer have a functioning hairline. Genitals and eyelids sound a bit scary or at least more concerning.

This is about the only part of White Privilege that is not a plus. We are what we are by accident of birth and I have followed in my father's footsteps pretty faithfully. At least in terms of health all the crappy stuff has now happened and I should have fairly smooth sailing from here on out as long as the repairs hold up. I don't have a written warranty on any of this stuff, but I should at least recognize if anything starts to fail.

Being a man and one with a certain amount of Scandinavian heritage I would normally be expected to ignore symptoms, aches, pains, lesions, etc., and just tough it out. It used to be easy when I was immortal (that is really close to immoral), but now that I realize that I CAN actually be killed quite easily I have begun to take a different approach. While life isn't always the proverbial bowl of cherries, it is, so far, better than the alternative. I'll let you know if that changes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Grand Marais Art Festival

I knew the Arts Festival was underway when I walked downtown yesterday and caught a whiff of Patchouli oil in the air. Nothing says "art" like the scent of Patchouli. There were about 80 exhibitionists, or exhibitors as they often call themselves. Since I actually know about a handful of the folks showing their various items I thought it would be fun to look over the whole thing. There was a good crowd and a lot of actual talent among the participants. At least a whole lot more talent than I can muster up on an inspirational day. Click the pics to embiggen.

 I think the fire hydrant is not a sculpture, but an actual hydrant!
 The woman in the light blue dress should probably take a break from her beer guzzling. Unless that is not a beer belly and she is pregnant in which case she should also not be drinking beer.

The harbor was also a nice place to be and adjacent to the festival for that cooling off effect that one needs on a warm day. No one threw any art into the lake (but what a great concept!) out of frustration or disgust. There was music, and sailing, and even rock skipping by someone wearing a coon skin hat.

There was a lot of really cool stuff people have made and the atmosphere was festive without being nutso like a state fair.

Our local Art Colony has presented this show for 26 years now and have a pretty good idea how to do it. There are lots of special and hands-on exhibits and demonstrations for all ages.

One of my favorite artists is my friend Elise. She is at this show as a fiber artist specializing in wool felting. Everything from wearables (slippers, hats, mittens, vests, scarves, etc,) to woolly scrubs, finger puppets, hand puppets, cat beds, potholders, and more. She also teaches some of these things, along with wool sock repairs by felting, at North House Folk School. She is a pretty handy friend in a climate as cold as this.

I also get to run into friends I don't get to see very often and do a little catching up. People watching is always fun, as well. I am not much of a portrait photographer, but once in a while I get a nice shot of some friend, acquaintance, or total stranger. In this case the latter, but her face says a lot. I think she is inspired and will grow up to make a successful and well known artist. I can see it in her eyes.