14th Street Artist Community – Old North, St. Louis, Missouri – St. Louis Jazz: A Musical Legacy Show, March 7th Opening

This afternoon I got the chance to wander around the commercial district in Old North St. Louis and came across the 14th Street Artist Community. The artists there very graciously allowed me to wander around one of their gallery spaces as they prepared for an upcoming show, St. Louis Jazz: A Musical Legacy opening on March 7th. I was honored to meet William Burton, Jr. and his two sons, who are also burgeoning artists. The detail on William’s wood burned works of art are truly amazing. It was also sweet to hear him sing the praises of Vernon Smith, who he is pictured standing behind below. Vernon Smith is responsible for the large wooden stylized cello piece. Also, I was immediately drawn to the the striking paintings of Robert Ketchens, including the one of Scott Joplin below. These artists and others will be part of the upcoming show, which I hope to attend. It was such a cool experience to see a father and sons making art together amidst an even larger community of artists.

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Death of a Field Mouse II – A Pageant of Beauty in a Sad War of Attrition, with a Reflection by C.S. Lewis

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Just under a month ago, when I began my war on the mice, I wrote this poem describing my conflicted emotions at having to finish killing a mouse that had been maimed by a trap I had set. After weeks of very little success with the traps, at least on my part, I have rather reluctantly gone another ancient route to eliminate pests, the route of poison. I do not know how you feel about such things, I myself am again conflicted, but the mice were really getting out of hand, even chewing up the very candle in these images which had heads of wheat decoratively pressed into its base and was located in the living room, far away from the admittedly messy kitchen. At any rate, when I found this little fellow on the stairs, despite my antagonism at the presence of him* and his kin in the house, I was once again taken by the beauty of these creatures. A nearby wilting poinsettia leaf and a candle made for great accessories to accentuate his perfection. I imagine it as scene that might have come straight out a Redwall novel by Brian Jacques.

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My own affinity for the beauty of mice, though, comes not from Brian Jacques but rather from C.S. Lewis. His noble mouse Reepicheep is one of my favorite Narnians. More salient to the current discussion, though, is this passage from That Hideous Strength, in which the character Ransom, who has been to a new Eden and taken on Adamic and Christ-like characteristics by living there and suffering to maintain it’s “un-Fallenness,” demonstrates what life might be like in a less violent, more properly ordered world, as he calls for some mice to clean up the crumbs from his lunch. I look forward to such a world.

“Now, Mrs. Studdock,” said the Director, “you shall see a diversion. But you must be perfectly still.” With these words he took from his pocket a little silver whistle and blew a note on it. And Jane sat still till the room became filled with silence like a solid thing and there was first a scratching and then a rustling and presently she saw three plump mice working their passage across what was to them the thick undergrowth of the carpet, nosing this way and that so that if their course had been drawn it would have resembled that of a winding river, until they were so close that she could see the palpitation of their noses. In spite of what she said she did not really care for mice in the neighborhood of her feet and it was with an effort that she sat still. Thanks to this effort she saw mice for the first time as a really are – not as creeping things but as dainty quadrupeds, almost, when they sat up, like tiny kangaroos, with sensitive kid-gloved forepaws and transparent ears. With quick inaudible movements they ranged to and fro till not a crumb was left on the floor. Then the blew a second time on his whistle and with a sudden whisk of tails all three of them were racing for home and in a few seconds had disappeared behind the coal box. The Director looked at her with laughter in his eyes. …
“There,” he said, “a very simple adjustment. Humans want crumbs removed; mice are anxious to remove them. It ought never to have been a cause of war.”

*I actually have no real idea if he was actually a “he.”

The Avett Brothers Jam for Three Nights in St. Louis…And Still Have the Energy to be the Nicest Guys in Target

This past Thursday night the Avett Brothers began a three night concert series in the beautifully restored Peabody Opera House and I was able to attend with three of my very best friends. We were going to celebrate Kyle’s birthday and Dave had very generously bought tickets for us all. What a gift. It was an energetic evening of rock and roots, an evening of emotions both quiet and raucous, all worn upon on plaid sleeves, on stage and in the seats. We were a little ways away but the every word and chord carried clearly up to where we were.

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I must confess that I am a relatively new fan of the band, but The Carpenter spent a good many months spinning in my car’s CD player, was given to my brother and rotated on Spotify by me for a long while. And after this concert I have plans to delve into all the albums I have not heard as yet. They have a lot to say that is worth hearing about the joy and challenges of life, about the struggle. Indeed I said to my friends that I feel that if the Book of Ecclesiastes or King Solomon were to have a house band, the Avett Brother’s just might fit the bill.

On Sunday night I had just left Target and was headed over to Kyle’s house to finish off the birthday weekend with even more friends and dessert. While I waited for some folks to pass to go into the store, I checked out the demographic make-up of the group and thought to myself, “Hey, they must be Wash U students…No, wait a minute, that is the Avett Brothers and Joe Kwon and a friend!” I parked the car and and rummaged around for a pen and something to write on, and my hat and a big fat magic marker presented themselves as an ideal and creative solution.

I caught up with Scott Avett and Joe in electronics and tried as best I could to gauge whether they would be too tired to humor me, but how does one judge these things anyway, so I just politely asked. And, yes, literally, they turned out to be the nicest guys in Target. The electronics guy was pretty nice, too, and took this picture.

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And so I learned first hand that they had played different sets each night with about only 5 songs overlapping and that it was pretty much a three night party in the Lou, which they are planning to replicate a couple of other places this summer. Scott was so cool and made conversation and asked me if I was a long time St. Louisan, told me I should come out to Red Rocks to see them again, and signed my hat for my friend Kyle, as did Joe Kwon and Seth, who I tracked down in Housewares, while the friend he was with very kindly held his coffee. I am a bit clueless and did not pay very close attention to the friend or else I may have felt inclined to get her signature, too, but that was not really what I was after, in any case, and had the good sense not to ask for a picture.

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In the aftermath of such mind-whirring events, you think of things that you wished you might have asked or said, such as expressing appreciation for a particular song or taking the time to talk more to the awesome cellist Joe about his playing or asking if you could come shoot one of their concerts (kidding) 🙂 (kind of), but all in all the encounter pretty much hit the sweet spot and was the perfect bookend to an Avett Brother’s birthday weekend. What a gift, indeed, that I was able to both receive and to give.

I could not be happier to be able to give up this one hat from my collection for this reason, and will be just as happy to hunt in the thrift stores for another one like it.

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