Monday, April 05, 2004


Sorry, folks. This week you'll have to survive on this post and another one on Thursday. Today I leave for three more days of research on the marginalia in the personal library of Wisconsin's world-class poet, Lorine Niedecker. I'll be back here on Thursday. Mary and I will leave on Thursday night or early Friday morning for a long weekend in Columbus, Ohio, with her brother and our niece.

I've got a busy couple of months coming up, which means that some weeks I won't be posting every day, and some weeks I won't be posting at all. You can measure your loss by taking a look at The Middlewesterner's Schedule. (That's a little joke, heh-heh.)



The Hot Club of San Francisco was at the Weidner Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, yesterday, 2:00 p.m. We went with friends who already had their tickets. I walked up to the window at the ticket office and said "I need two tickets to the Hot Cafe." At least they thought I was funny.

The group consists of Paul Mehling on melody guitar, Olivier Manchon on violin, Ari Munkres on bass, and Josh Workman & Dave Ricketts on rhythm guitars. Mehling fronts the group and said their mission, insofar as a group of musicians can have a mission, is to preserve the memory of guitarist Django Reinhardt, his brand of "gypsy jazz," and the repertoire of Reinhardt's group, the Hot Club of France.

What a lovely afternoon. The audience ranged from old "Deadheads" to blue-haired ladies with fox-skin stoles. The music was hot, truly a conversation among instruments - between guitar and fiddle, between lead instruments and rhythm section. You could close your eyes and be transported to a stuffy club in Paris, the 1920s, the whole century busted wide open ahead of you.

The Weidner Center is a large complex, but I think those five musicians lifted it off the ground several times.

The fellows deserved a far larger audience than the audience they had. It was a "small, intimate group," as we say in the poetry business. I suppose the marketing of "gypsy jazz" suffers the same as marketing of poetry does, being of special interest and somewhat esoteric, and only those who need it take the trouble to find it. The rest of the world goes on doing whatever the rest of the world does, while we have some few minutes to indulge our passions. Some of us need only salt on meat and potatoes, and some of us need so much more.

Even as great as The Hot Club of San Francisco was, I have to confess, I will stand by my notion that music is like sex, in that it is so much more fun to do than to watch. See the Hot Club when they are in your area, and play some music yourself when they are not.



Lorianne at Hoarded Ordinaries defends her dissertation today. If you've visited her blog, you already know that she has spent the past month finishing up her version of a project she named "Bill." Lorianne, when you walk into the room, just remember that you know more about your subject than anyone in the world!

Tonio at has put his blog through some changes. Stop by to see the new look.

Bartender Kathleen at ~ Unsettled ~ writes a rant, er, I mean an "Open Letter to My Customers" for her April 4th post. It's a good reminder for us when we start to take our bartenders and waitstaff for granted.



(501 W. Third #12, Smith Center, KS 66967)

"A week or so ago," Ivan writes, "I was going to a place where there were going to be several people. So when I got there I noticed a parking spot by the front door. So I says to myself, self, I said, why not leave that spot for some old person. When I went into the meting I discovered that I was the oldest one there and the youngest one there had parked closest to the front door. That's it - no more Mister Nice Guy for me."

"Ol Bennie Smith has got the right idea," Ivan says. "Bennie said they used to have a neighbor lady that when she vacuumed she always went over the same spot seven times. Bennie says when he vacuums if he gets the cracker crumbs and the potato chips that is good enough for him."

"And it was Dick Stroup," Ivan indicates, "who identified a couple of high school girls when they came into the Second Cup last Friday morning. I asked Dick who those two girls were and Dick said, 'One of them is what's her name and the other is a friend of hers.'"

"I'm getting my order in early," Ivan writes. "If you have any home-grown tomatoes to give away, look no further. I can't remember ever having too many."


APRIL 3, 1998

Am I so a like farmer because my father was a farmer? I am stamped by the farm experience, certainly, but I left the farm. It was too hard a life for me.

Are the farmers hereabout farmers because their fathers were? There are not many, I think, who choose farming without having grown up in it. On the other hand, there may be middle western farmers trapped in the bodies of California surf boys, California surf boys trapped in the bodies of middle western farmers. I know - that's not likely; but admit that it's possible.

Certainly I am stamped indelibly by the farm experience. Look at my poetry, at my prose. See the concerns in my writing. Feel the rhythms. A special kind of mark is not unique to the farm experience - it is the result of any relatively differentiated experience. We are branded as different, all those of us who have not grown up in generic, white-bread America.

This morning the drive to work is empty: I am in it, I am mindful, I am quiet. Silence, too, is a feature of the landscape, of this drive today, of life, and it should be included. Here it is, some of it.

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