Last night I stumbled upon a show called Joe Pera Talks With You and became an instant fan. The show is a take on those awful and pretentious Postcards From Nebraska they used to do on CBS Sunday Morning – and maybe a touch of Garrison Keillor. . . or maybe this is what would have happened if Garrison Keillor had any talent.

I loved the entire first season (every episode is free to watch on Adult Swim) – but Episode 6: Joe Pera Reads You The Church Announcements is my favorite. I have lived much this episode:

  • Discovering a song on the radio.
  • Calling the station and begging to play the song again.
  • Bothering other stations trying to hear the song again.
  • Listening to the song over and over again.
  • Inviting the pizza guy in to listen to the song.
  • Leading the congregation in the song even if it isn’t appropriate.
  • And on and on and on and on. . .

Season two of Joe Pera Talks With You was announced yesterday. I can’t wait.

Ten Years Later

On August 25, 2009 I was able to truly hear my music for the first time.

It was a life-changing moment, and ten years later the changes are still happening.

I can’t wait to hear what happens next.

Just This Banjo

Patrick in high school with his Dobro banjo.
Patrick as a teenager – right around the time many events in Just This Banjo take place.

My upcoming book, Just This Banjo, is almost finished. There are still a million things to finish, but the book itself is just about written.

Work has been impeded a bit by my health. The pain of peripheral neuropathy can be so overwhelming that it can send a potentially productive day down a dead end street. On some days the pain is so bad I just can’t think.

In spite of bad pain days, we are pages away from the final draft. Once that is finished we have to format the work and get it ready for release.

As a treat, here are the first couple of pages of the latest draft: Sneak Peek: Just This Banjo.

Next week I have some long days of medical tests and appointments in preparation for surgery to install a neurostimulation device on my spine to help manage my neuropathy pain. For the rest of this week into next week I will be putting The Daily Frail on hold so that I can finish up the last bits of writing and complete Just This Banjo.

Private lessons will continue as scheduled

If you have any questions about Just This Banjo, The Daily Frail, private instruction or electric banjos, call (410) 968-3873.

Six Gun Memories

When I was around seven years old, my parents drove to Florida to visit an old friend who happened to be a Seminole County Deputy Sheriff.

I could go on for ages about the trip and Deputy Jack. It was like visiting Buford T. Justice at home.

Deputy Jack took us to some of the tourist attractions, but there was one location he really wanted us to see: Six Gun Territory.

If you don’t know, Six Gun Territory was an old west theme park. They had stunt performers doing shootouts and amusement rides. It was good clean violent historically inaccurate American fun that would be shut down in ten seconds today.

When we arrived at Six Gun Territory, the place was closed.This is where I learned an important lesson: in Florida, things don’t close for deputy sheriffs. A few words with a flash of the badge from our friend Jack and the park opened up just for us. The stuntmen did a private show for us with a bank robbery and shootout. Then we got to go on any ride we wanted for as long as we wanted.

Imagine being seven years old and being told you can go on any ride you want – for as long as you want – with no waiting in line. It was awesome. We felt like royalty.

In a lot of ways, it was better than Disney World.

Today the Orlando Sentinel ran a story on Six Gun Territory. It made me smile to remember the fake gunfight and the smell of the blanks going off. The way Jack hitched his belt before flashing his badge and the way we had the whole park to ourselves.

Whatever happened to the staged gunfights and carnage at Six Gun Territory?

In Outrage We Trust

I refrain from talking about politics in works, so I was perplexed reading this comment on today’s Daily Dojo:

Walt Whitman was a marxist and antithetical to american norms and virtues. Love your musical musings and videos, but please lose the political tangent you seem to embrace.

A pissed off Internet twit

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is one of those books that was so new, so different, so brilliant on its publication that it continues to resonate with people and scare the hell out of shallow and stupid people.

Antithetical to american norms and virtues? Really?

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing

Poetry, and art in general can act as a sort of Rorschach test in that the reader will see the bugbears or angels of their psyche reflected in the words. If you see gay marxists in my work I would be willing to bet you see them in your cornflakes or the wood grain of your desk.

Part of this nonsense stems from the fact that America has become a land where everybody is outraged over something stupid.

“This person said something I don’t like. I am outraged!”

“Well I am outraged that you are outraged!”

“Oh yeah? Well I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage!”

“I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage over your outrage!”

“I see your outrage, outrage, outrage, outrage and raise you even more outrage!”

“This is outrageous! I am outraged!”

“Wait. . . what are we outraged over? I lost track.”

“I am outraged that you forgot the cause of this outrage!”

“Really? Well, I’m going to be on The View talking about how outraged I am! Jim Carrey is going to do a painting and everything!”

“Oh, big deal! Fox News is going to have me on talking about how your outrage is destroying America!”

Any topic on any given day

It’s like a critical mass of lunacy. Who’s On First circa 2019. Everybody is pissed off about something, acting as if being outraged – or simply disagreeing with something – is a mortal wound.

I keep politics and religion out of my work. If you see a tangent other than my usual, “Love the world and share!” my advice would be to find yourself another music teacher.


Patrick and his Dobro 33D

Social Security and the IRS think I am dead.

I was not going to argue this, but Dear Old Dad argued that it could complicate things down the road. So, albeit reluctantly, we are taking steps to remedy the situation . . . but I have to admit that I am enjoying my status as a zombie.

My health after the harrowing Suboxone withdrawal has been steadily improving. Lately I find myself battling my old foe peripheral neuropathy, but I have a good neurologist on the case. Last week on a scale of 1 to 10 – with pain being the worst pain I ever experienced – I was at around 23. Crying time.

Today I am between 7 and 8. So it is improving bit by bit.

There is a lot going on here musically. The Daily Frail is still happening over on Patreon. A few folks are either unnerved or just plain angered by the fact that I am breaking away from using tab. Somebody pointed out that my very popular books used tab and I replied that the books were written long ago and even Picasso was prone to painting over old works to create something new.

Tab never helped me with the guitar, and I used it so rarely with the banjo that I practically had to relearn how to use tab when I wrote my first web-based workshops. On plain paper tab was a useful way to help people visualize the left and right hand mechanics – but we are living in 2019 and the printed page is going the way of the rotary phone. We don’t need to cling to old methods that never really worked. This should be a time of innovation and discovery!

So I am getting myself mentally, physically and musically ready for something new. For the banjo I find myself thinking back to the way I used the teaching methods employed by my karate instructors. There was nothing written in the dojo. I was expected to pay attention, internalize what was presented and then put it into action.

When I was learning music I only met my teachers briefly. Some encounters lasted a few minutes but I left with enough to work on for months. Given my progress over the years it’s safe to say this approach works. My challenge now is to create the same sort of environment on the Internet.

So a new banjo method is on the way. My friend Dobro Libre will be doing similar with the guitar to take some of the workload off of me.

A lot of this new teaching method will fly in the face of a lot of the material out there now – including my old workshops. This is inevitable because change always generate conflict and controversy. The momentary angst will not bother me because I am looking at a larger timeline. Forget somebody being pissy today and look fifty years down the road or beyond.

When I met Tiny back in the 1980’s the fiddler’s picnics in Pennsylvania were filled to capacity. Every time I go back there are less musicians. We lost something at some point. The same happened to karate, going from tough training to a weird sort of day care where seven-year old kids get back belts without throwing a punch.

Keep an eye on for updates on the new lessons, the book in progress and some other cool things we have in the works. I would share more details, but that would spoil the fun.

Right now I am off to do a bit of yard work and then scare the neighbors by practicing Modern Arnis on the heavy bag. Nice to know I can still throw a punch and make an even heavier blow with my sticks. I hope Ed Parker and Remy Presas will be watching my comeback!

Stay tuned!

God bless,

The Cat Ate My Laptop!

So last night my neuropathy was going crazy and I was in agony. I passed the hours listening to music and assuring myself that the only way things could get worse was if I accidentally set myself on fire.

This was a mistake. Things always get worse.

To prove this. Pooka decided to latch on the the cable of my cheap headphones. The headphones do not work well for me, but at this time I have no way to hook my bone anchored hearing aids to the laptop.

I tried to get Pooka to let go before she chewed through the cable, but she decided to run for it. In the process she dragged my laptop off of the bed where it came crashing to the floor. The hard drive is toast. Sigh.

Without laptop cables to entertain herself with, Pooka spent the rest of the night attacking my feet. Neuropathy pain is the worst – but when a seventeen pound tortoiseshell calico sinks her teeth and claws into a neuropathic big toe . . . well that’s just hideously painful.

Not sure if I will replace the laptop. Being able to work in bed is a bit of a big deal when I am in a lot of pain, but Pooka is such a crazy cat that I am not sure what to do. Giving up on Pooka is not an option – I don’t have that many friends left!