Archive for July, 2009

“Farmer John” to visit Cornell

July 28, 2009

I’m in the process of lining up visitors for the next year at Cornell and I’m happy to say that I’ve just lined up a visit from John Peterson, the founder of Angelic Organics and the subject of the film “The Real Dirt on Farmer John.” If you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend it. John grew up on a family farm in northern Illinois. After his father died, he took over the farm and in the 1960s (after being introduced to a world of artists at Beloit College) worked to make it an arts community as well as a farm. Like so many, though, his farm succumbed to the decline in small farms in the 1980s. He sold off almost all of the land and machinery and traveled and wrote. He later returned to the farm to give it another try, only to find his conservative neighbors didn’t want him there because he had the gall to be “different.” He was accused of being a satanist, a drug runner, a deviant etc and the farm went into decline again. But John persevered. With persuasion from people in Chicago who were hungry for organic foods and some connection with the source of their food, John turned the farm into a Community Sponsored Agriculture farm and it is now one of the largest CSAs in the country, providing healthy food to over 1,400 families,  with an impressive learning center and farmer training and biodynamics education program as well. It’s a great story of community as well as a great story of individual perserverance and dedication to a life of farming and connection with the earth on John’s part. Details of John’s visit are not set yet, other than a visit to my Amerian Nature Writers class, but I will update this when it is all set.  He will be on campus on September 11, and I think this will be an evening not to miss. In the meantime, check out the Angelic Organics website and/or watch the documentary (it’s depressing at times, but in the end it will give you hope about our future).


The Last Lonely Eagle

July 24, 2009

Over the last year,  it has really felt like the Street Parade is an obituaries page as we’ve lost so many great ones lately. Well, the Street Parade is deeply saddened to announce the loss of the original psychedelic cosmic cowboy John “Marmaduke” Dawson. Dawson formed the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1969 with a pedal steel-playing Jerry Garcia and helped pen many of the Grateful Dead’s songs with Robert Hunter. The original NRPS album with Garcia, Phil Lesh, Dave Nelson and David Torbert and Mickey Hart is an all-time classic. The band toured for many years in the early 70s with the Grateful Dead in incredibly long shows billed as “An Evening with the Grateful Dead.” Steel guitar genius Buddy Cage eventually took over duties from Garcia and the band went on to record a series of nine albums over the next six years, the best of which include Powerglide, Gypsy Cowboy, and The Adventures of Panama Red.

Dawson had been in ill health with stomach cancer for many years and had moved to Mexico where he passed away peacefully yesterday.

It’s difficult to find footage from the old days, but here’s some fairly fuzzy footage of the band in 72 doing “Truck Driving Man.” Just a taste of what the band was about, but as always you can go to the vintage self-titled album.

John “Marmaduke” Dawson 1945-2009
“The Last Lonely Eagle”


Pizza on the Grill

July 15, 2009

In my last post, I mentioned my friend John had visited over the 4th of July. John is the master of pizza on the grill. Many a grilled pizza at parties in Minneapolis. I hadn’t done any pizza on the grill this summer yet and his visit got me thinking about them so I cooked some up the other night. Now John does individual pizzas. I’ve gotten pretty good at these (but still not like the master!), but what I’ve always wanted to work on was a full-sized pizza. To do this on your backyard grill presents a range of challenges. The consistency of the dough to transfer well onto the grill is key and the temperature of the coals is crucial. I’ve had some bad disasters over the years working (and some minor successes as well) toward my goal. I’d say this last round means I’ve finally figured out the nuances of the larger pizza on the grill as it came out just as I’ve envisioned them all these years. Here’s to more pizza soon!


And, oh yeah, a late Happy Bastille Day to all–now go out and drink some french wine!

Good Stuff for the 4th

July 8, 2009

MB had friday off work and then she took a vacation day on Monday, so we had a nice four-day weekend together. Friday was a kind of putzy day, painted a bathroom that really needed painting, got the last of the plants in the ground that we’ve been trying to plant for a month or so, drank some good beer (Left Hand Warrior IPA, semi-sweet but a pretty good hop bite at the end) and went out to dinner.

Saturday, our good friends John and Hilary from Minneapolis came to town for the night.  It’s always great to see them. The day was oddly rainy and kind of cool for the 4th of July but it was just right for us. We thought about going down to the I.C. jazz fest but decided we’d rather cook out and hang out with a good bottle of wine (or two) and talk. The weather cleared and it was a beautiful summer evening. Kebobs on the grill with cous-cous, a nice bottle of Chateauneuf-du-pape that John brought, lemon cake and berries, and good conversation late into the evening. Fireworks surrounded us but all at a distance, some lights arcing above the trees, but mostly flashes and lots of noise. Really a perfect 4th for us.

Sunday morning we went for a nice hike on the Sac and Fox trail with J & H, some pretty good birding considering how dense the foliage is now (and John taught me the Common Yellowthroat’s song so that now I can recognize it). After J&H headed up to Minneapolis, MB and I headed down to the Jazz fest. We saw just a bit of Chris Potter. It sounded good, but it was a little more dissonant than we were in the mood for at that point. But the combo of Bill Frisell followed by Dave Holland was brilliant all around.

I have been a long time Frisell fan. Now he’s not exactly what I’d call energizing music (for that, see upcoming comments about Dave Holland or last year’s fest with Bonerama and Medeski, Martin, and Wood). The music is rather hypnotic. It was really perfect for a hot summer afternoon with the sun setting behind him as he worked his loops, and echoes, and delays to sublime effect, circling around themes and teasing them out, easing in to strains of Americana classics and dissolving into some molten psychedelia and back out. As much as I’m a fan of Frisell, though, what really made this show was the cornet of Ron Miles. His sound was absolutely crystalline and fit in with Frisell’s guitar work brilliantly, at times the two of them melding into one distinct sound, at times perfectly complementing and counterpointing.Their version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” was stunning, fresh and innovative while still carrying the emotional depth of Cooke’s original. As I say, it’s not jump out of your seats music, it’s much more about subtlety and sonic textures and landscapes. Really a lovely, lovely set. Here’s a video I found of Bill with Ron Miles. They didn’t have the sax with them, and this drummer is different (but Tony Scheer was on bass), but I wanted a video that caught Frisell and Miles, so enjoy:

Dave Holland I was not as familiar with. Certainly I know him from his famous work on bass with Miles Davis from the Bitches Brew era and know his name quite well, but I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the end, I think that made it an even better show for me. His band is simply stellar: Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Chris Potter on saxophone, Steve Nelson on Vibes, and Nate Smith on drums. Like Frisell’s set, this was also about exploring sonic landscapes, and they covered a wide range of textures and emotions, all of them were driven by Holland’s stunning basswork. But unlike Frisell, this music was at times jump out of your seats music. They received many long standing ovations throughout the show as the band played with an unbridled passion and energy. Each member of the band is an incredible soloist, but what really moved me was the ensemble work. When all went together, the musical textures created an amazing tapestry of sounds that would almost feel as if it were going to explode, that it would be impossible to pull back together but just at the edge of real chaos Holland would pull them back in.  “Secret Garden” highlighted some great improv solos and numbers like “Lucky Seven” and “Easy Did It” really highlighted the ensemble work. A great, great show. Here’s a clip of “Easy Did It” from last fall, unfortunately a very short clip and they’re really just getting rolling as it ends, but a bit of a sense of what the quintet sound is:

Then, finally, for Monday MB and I went biking along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. A perfect sunny, warm, breezy day. We got back and made barbecued tempeh on the grill, put it in sandwiches with roasted poblanos and another really nice evening. As I said, the perfect long weekend for us. And we hope you enjoyed your holiday as well.