So much has happened since my last contribution to this site.
We finally got ensconced in our new ol’ cedar home on Camano Island…after a brief stint in Auburn…two major moves!
We have completed the major remodeling and are finally down to the regular remodeling. This was all precipitated on the impending arrival of our first grandson.
He arrived on St. Paddy’s Day, under a full moon. Daughter Carrie and S.O. Daniel became the proud parents of Jaden Michael Brian Laurie, 9 lbs/4 oz. Yep, a big baby!
Carrie invited me to witness the birth…which I did from a modest perch on the side. It was magnificent…his first breath…his cry…his neophyte mother nursing him…tears from the grandparents…watching their baby have a baby.
Jayden has rocked our world! Becoming a grandfather, I must say, is better than I could have imagined. I have seen the future and it is him! And, for the first time in a quarter of a century, there are three generations of my family alive at the same time. A sobering thought.
I am glad they are living with us…I get to see and experiences the day-to-day changes I haven’t witnessed since his mother was born.
I have assumed the role of manny…I feed…play with…console…and tend to the little prince as needed. I have even learned to change a boy’s diaper…a skill requiring exceptional reflexes…though he did send a line drive my way I misplayed into wet jeans.
I bore the shit out of everyone I can with pictures…on Facebook and in person. The cell phone is the greatest invention for doting grandparent photo display since the expanding wallet compartments.
I know he is intelligent. How do I know? He was only a few weeks old when…as I attempted to feed him he…well check out his middle finger!
That’s my boy!
Joe Teehan, host of Bellingham, WA’s progressive “The Joe Show”, graciously invited me to play some songs and talk about “We Do The Work.” We were joined via telephone by Rich Austin, co-founder/host of “We Do The Work.”
Thanks again, Joe!
“We Do The Work!” is a weekly labor-oriented radio show originating on KSVR-91.7 FM, Skagit Valley Community Radio, Mt. Vernon, WA.*^ The show was founded by Rich Austin, Ken Winkes, and Janet McKinney. Austin and Winkes alternate as hosts and commentators while McKinney serves as technical director and guru.
Guests have included labor leaders/organizers,educators, socialjustice advocates, elected officials, and a plethora of others. Rich and Ken have commented on numerous issues relevant to working people locally, nationally, and globally. They are always well-informed, factual, and passionate about their subjects.
The show now airs Tuesdays at 4:30 on KSVR inSkagit County and is covered in other stations in Washington, Michigan, and Massachusetts. It is also streamed live online (www.ksvr.org) and in archives http://www.skagitdemocrats.org/?page_id=246
I have appeared twice on the show, once solo and once with one of my political and music co-conspirator, Mike Dumovich.
Well, Ken and Rich are taking sabbaticals to attend to union matters and other flights of fancy. They have asked Mike and me to fill in during their absences. We should be in the host chairs some time in March. Fortunately, Janet will remain to provide adult supervision.
Meanwhile, we have begun recording interviews and other features that include poetry, music, and other performance art. By the time we are actually live, we’ll have so much pre-recorded stuff in the pipeline, neither of us will actually have to show up.
For more information and background:
* Mt. Vernon is the ancestral home of media vermin Glenn Beck, which makes doing the show so much sweeter.
^ Mt. Vernon is occasionally referred to, on the show, as Glennbeckistan, which is purely coincidental.
It’s been awhile since my last posting. Lots of life-changing events.
2013 has gone to wherever old years go…it was an emotional one.
We moved twice…finally settling on Camano Island, about an hour northwest of Seattle, overlooking Port Susan Bay and the Cascade Mountains. We lost two pets, my dog, Kelly, and our favorite cat, Milo. Gordo, Milo’s formerly introverted brother, and our sole remaining cat, has come out of his shell and grown into the role of family cat. We are proud of him.
Biggest news is our daughter,Carrie, expecting our first grandchild this March. She and sweetie, Daniel, made the move with us to Camano and I have already been primed for “mannyhood.”
Amid all the mishagos I have made some headway on my long-awaited by me) third cd. I have had the fortune to tap the talents of my friend, Greg Deer, to work on the musical arrangements…such as they are… and Greg will be playing the main guitar parts. He has also been coaching me on singing and has had the audacity to insist I not chew gum at the same time. Hmmm.
Also, am slowly getting back to public performing. Somehow, through miscommunication, I missed a scheduled gig at SoulFood Books in Redmond a week ago…not a great start to a New Year. One date I will be sure to keep is this Saturday night at The Black Dog in Snoqualmie where my special guests will be the fantastic duo of Mike Antone and Camelia Jade. Greg, hopefully, will be joining me because we need the practice prior to hitting the studio.
My political and music hero, Mike Dumovich and I have been asked to serve as fill-in hosts on the KSVR-FM (Skagit Valley) “We Do the Work” weekly radio show. Founders and hosts Rich Austin and Ken Winkes, will be off for a month or so attending to union and other business. We tape the first show this Friday…our first interview: Rich Austin, Ken Winkes, and co-founder/engineer, Janet McKinney. The topic: Why in hell would you entrust your precious show to the likes of Dumovich and me? Broadcast dates will be announced.
It’s good to be back!
Move over, Reggie Jackson; meet the new Mr. October!
What a great honor!
I am the “member of the month” for the Musicians Association of Seattle (local 76-493, AFM) for 10/13.
As a young folkie back in “the day,” union and labor rights seemed a settled issue. Social activism at the time was largely centered on civil rights and the Vietnam War which pretty much merged into the overall march toward social justice…which seemed to be progressing quite nicely, thank you!
Now, here in the future things don’t look so good. The wheels have come off and the engine is sputtering. Civil rights are being curtailed by massive waves of voter suppression. We have developed a full scale war economy and the Empire soldiers on. The labor movement has been assaulted with malice unseen since the 1930’s. Union membership is low…with, by no coincidence here, dramatic reductions in standards of living throughout the country.
I took up the union banner by organizing two Seattle-based benefit concerts to raise funds and awareness for the Wisconsin recall elections. One of our guest speakers was then Rep. Jay Inslee, our current governor. Another speaker was Mark Lowry, president of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, who had earlier recruited me perform at the group’s first annual Labor Day picnic. My friends and I have been there each year since. Mark is transit driver in the northwest corner of our state, president of his ATU and my labor mentor.
Since that time I have worn the union label, joining AFM in 2011. performing at various labor and social justice events. Most recently I organized two concerts for the berry pickers up in Skagit County who are waging a courageous fight for dignity and fair pay with Sakuma Bros. Farms…who refuse to negotiate in good faith, employing various and sundry intimidation techniques to stall the process.
Motter Snell, president of my local (76-493, AFM), concerned that the right-to-work forces were concentrating there efforts to undo our tradition of labor progress, going back to the famous Wobbly Spokane actions of 100 years ago, asked me to create a song as a response. , “Right To Work Is Wrong” was recorded at Audio Logic, a union studio in Seattle, and is currently posted on the website at
Brain Trust: Mark Lowry, pres., NWCLC, Michele Stelovich, Sec’y-Treas.
For the third year in a row, Greg Deer, Mike Dumovich, and Greg Deer celebrated our new tradition by performing at the Northwest Central Labor Council’s annual Labor Day picnic. Coincidentally, it was the 3rd annual such event…so we were proud to have become part of the tradition.
Mark Lowry, president of NWCLC is one of my personal heroes and mentor in the fight for workers’ rights. It was Mark, who originally extended the invitation to perform two years ago, when I was just learning the state of the labor movement and the overwhelming obstacles facing it. After that phone conversation…I was all in. So were the boys…Mike, Greg, and JW.
Angelic Guillen, Chicana poet y mi hermana
U.S. Reps. Del Benes and Larsen shared thoughts and spoke about working issues and, of course, the deepening crisis of Syria.
This year was particularly sweet as there was representation and presentations by the Sakuma Bros. farm workers along with their friends and supporters from Community to Community Development.
Ramon, democratically elected president of farmworkers’ negotiating council (left) along with C2C’s Rosalinda and Edgar,
Several were from the worker-elected negotiating committee who shared information on working conditions, wages, the status of negotiations, and localized boycotts. Their fellow guests at the picnic, representing most union locals dug into their pockets and contributed generously to the fund.
Once again, I was proud to be a union man in solidarity with my brothers and my sisters.
Viva La Picnic!
On August 23, musicians, poets, and actors gathered at Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro in Bellingham from as far south as Auburn to raise much needed money for the Sakuma Bros. Farms berry pickers and Community to Community Development. They included my regular buds, Greg Deer, JW McClure, and Mike Dumovich along with the Prozac Mountain Boys, Chicana poet, Angelica Guillen, actors Maristela Diaz and Fernando Calavo, and the wonderful Patricia Mazuela and Abel Rocha of Sin Fronteras. The event was emceed by Bellingham’s KBAI Progressive Radio host, Joe Teehan.
Emcee Joe Teehan
C2C Executive Director, Rosalinda Guillen introduced and translated for several of the workers who told their stories of wage -theft, abuse, unsanitary conditions, and other mistreatment at the hands of the growers. For most of the audience, it was their first inkling of the conditions the workers were facing and the courage it took to stand up to fight it.
Sin Frontera’s Patricia Mazuela and Abel Rocha
When the tally was finalized, nearly $1600 dollars had been collected.
Gracias a todos!
Additional benefits will be held throughout the Puget Sound region. Check out C2C’s website for further details. You may also donate directly through the website, http://www.foodjustice.org
My friend, José Carrillo and I drove up Bellingham last Thursday morning where I was to be a guest on Joe Teehan’s “Joe Show” on KBAI AM 930. José, just a few days removed from his 81st birthday, is an actor, poet, musician, and newly-ordained Universal Church of Life minister who recently performed his first nuptials. I met José via the cultural world of The Couth Buzzard in Seattle and we have been friends ever since. It is through him that I became involved with the Latino community in both the art and social justice worlds.
Joe Teehan broadcasts an hour of sanity per day from the same building that spews the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck (Skagit Valley boy who made bad). His local show is sandwiched neatly between the syndicated Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann programs. Joe is, as the saying goes, a good head. And a great audience. He laughed in all the right places. We chatted about the creative process, social issues, and the efficacy of the liquid bandage I had used to enclose a deep cut I had made to my right index finger that only hurt when I picked.
Meanwhile, other pickers are on strike.
The berry pickers at Sakuma Farms in Skagit County are embroiled in a bitter huelga.
They are striking over wages that when factored into the number of hours they work per week…around 50…average out to about $7.00 per hour, well below the state’s minimum wage.
They are striking because they are crammed into living quarters designed to house a fraction of their numbers, causing both adults and children to alternate sleeping on floors, when floor space is available. They are striking for dignity…for respect.
Strikers listening to update from negotiators
José and I then headed back south, to meet our friend Angelica Guillen at El Campo, the site of the strike negotiations near Bow, WA…which neither of us ever heard of. We arrived amid the latest update on the progress of the talks. Apparently, as Angelica translated, sufficient community support had been provided the workers, in the manner of proposed boycotts, that the owners had agreed to negotiate in good faith and the workers were ready to return to work the followingday
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the third member of our company…my dog, Murphy, Actually, Murphy is technically my wife’s dog as he is too small, cute, and fluffy to suffer a macho guy like me. As soon as some of the children of the workers got a glimpse of Murphy, my dance card was filled for the day. From then on, I spent not a single moment with an adult the remainder of our visit.
The kids wanted to know everything about Murphy; was he friendly? Did he like to fetch? What does he like to eat? They asked if the could walk him…I handed over the end of the leash to one…then another…and another.
It mattered not who was actually driving, passengers began boarding the Murphy bus and soon all were scooting around the grounds, a flurry of brown-skinned boys and girls seemingly being pulled along by a white ball of lint attached by a blue leash. They were tireless. Murphy was tireless. I wasn’t…and pretty soon it was time to go. But not until the kids and Murphy assembled for a group portrait.
As I write this, the workers are still on strike. Their representatives are negotiating wages, accommodations, sanitation…all the things that only collective action can achieve. Action not only by the workers and their representatives but, as we have learned, the community as a whole through direct financial support and donations of food and water, but through boycotts and threats of boycotts. We, as a community must decide that poverty wages and cramming workers and their families into insufficient housing is not acceptable. These workers are not looking to decrease their workload…they work hard and will continue to work hard…all they ask for is a liveable wage and equitable living conditions. They deserve no less. Neither do their kids.
I got a birthday wish!
At Rosalie Sorrels 80th birthday bash, I got to meet Rosalie.
My wife, Mary, our dog Murphy, and I made the 500 mile from Seattle to Boise in 9 hours…taking a well-deserved long weekend from selling our house and looking for a new one. We checked into the Motel 6 near the airport. I asked the clerk if any discounts were available and she said, “I would offer you the senior rate, if you were over 60.” And I heard Boise was supposed to be a tough town.
What’s more, as guests of the establishment, we were entitled to a 15% discount at the nearby Denny’s. Yes, we were finally living the dream. Yes, we had dinner and breakfast at Denny’s. There were actually a few items we could eat between our combined vegetarian, lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, high protein, low-carb diets…each with 15% off…the senior menu!
So, fully-sated, we headed up the 30 miles to Grimes Creek and Rosalie’s wilderness world, a log home built by her grandfather, off a dirt road roughly between Boise and nowhere. Being the first day of the three-day weekend, we were among the first to arrive…being greeted by a committee of people and dogs. Murphy, the self-appointed emperor of Marymoor Dog Park, was immediately initiated into the pack and from that point on was only sporadically visible, checking in occasionally to assure himself we were still around.
We were escorted into the cabin where we were introduced to Rosalie, looking older and frailer than I had imagined but also alert, charming and beautiful. We chatted briefly and returned to the great outdoors so she could talk to other visitor. Most of the guests were staying on the land either in RV’s or in tents. Considering the weather was well below normal…downright chilly, actually, the Motel 6 was a warm and welcome homestead we were looking forward to returning to.
Naturally, the guitars came out and we formed a song circle. Rosalie came out on the arm of her daughter and joined the circle, as an observer. As the dogs continued to scramble helter-skelter here there and everywhere, conversation turned canine. Naturally, when my next turn came around I did “Life Goes Better With a Dog!” Rosalie seemed visibly pleased which visibly pleased me. Other original and “cover” songs followed but all I could think of was…what other song can I do that will impress Rosalie Sorrels? When eyes turned back to me I was still undecided…hobo stuff? Road-weary stuff? Rage against the machine? Somehow, when I opened my mouth, “I’m Gonna Marry GE!” tumbled out. The one song I have the most difficulty in remembering…so many lines…and rhymes…and I was doing it for Rosalie Sorrels! I guess Saint Woody, the patron saint of folksingers was working that day because I made it through without missing a beat…and when I looked up, saw Rosalie laughing in all the right places.
Okay, so Rosalie returned to the house and we were invited to visit the natural hot springs near Idaho City, some 20 minutes north. We shared a great bath with some wonderful folks and went out to dinner in the vintage western Idaho City where I had the tallest hunk of banana cream pie I had ever seen. Even after I had passed it around for the table to sample it was mountainous and intimidating but I conquered…rather a dubious achievement considering my commitment to avoid sugar and carbs…but it was Rosalie’s birthday weekend when calories didn’t count.
We returned to the party. Rosalie had already retired so, we sat around in dueling song circles until late when Mary had to gather up a reluctant dog and husband and lead us back to Boise and the Motel 6. It was difficult to leave knowing that there would be two additional days of music and people and dogs…while we faced a nine hour trip back to Seattle the next day followed by a full day of house hunting after that.
So, was it worth the 1100 miles and all that quality time in the car, two empty-nesters and their dog?
I can answer that in two words: Rosalie Sorrels.
See you next year, Rosalie!
Kelly died today.
She was, near as we could tell, around 13.
The official diagnosis was a splenetic tumor.
Toward the end she could barely stand up…and even lay down. I had to help her down the stairs and carry her back up…and she wasn’t a little dog.
Kelly was with me at my most recent performance…a Songwriters in Seattle showcase at the Couth Buzzard. When I took my place to sing, she struggled to her feet from the table where we had been sitting and joined me. She lay down at my feet and heard, once again, how she had, shortly after we selected her from the pound, inspired me to write and perform songs again. My first new song was, appropriately, “Life Goes Better With a Dog!”
She sat patiently through the entire set, waiting for the finale…the second song I wrote for her, “She’s a Good Ol’ Dog.” It chronicled her aging and deteriorating condition.
“I see her getting older
There’s things she just can’t do
She takes the stairs now one-by-one
Instead of two by two…”
She was an adult dog when we got her. My daughter found her sharing a cell in the back of the pound with a fellow inmate. We took her to the play area and put her through her paces. She aced the audition…fetching…coming…sitting…etc…most of which she conveniently forgot how to do after we took her home.
She had a variety of health issues including chronic yeast growths in her ears and privates. I regularly had to flush the ears and apply ointment to all infected areas. Her baths required medicated shampoo, which had to remain on her at least 10 minutes before rinsing. It was the time she would invariably exact her revenge for the indignity by shaking off the soap and water all in my direction. Her favorite part came after the rinsing and another vigorous shaking…when I would swaddle her in the towels and vainly attempt to dry her. That took the better half of the day and lots of sunshine…in Seattle!
In addition to the family, Kelly had Murphy, my wife’s little fluffy white fellow-pound refugee. Murphy was much younger and, being a little fluffy thing, more energetic. He compelled Kelly to play…he kept her young…until she was suddenly old. This morning, as the time for the vet appointment was passing, Murphy did not eat. Not even a piece of apple. He can hear an apple being sliced in the next county and be underfoot begging quicker’n you can say “Yo, Rinny!” Not today.
So, today, we took Kelly to a new vet, for a second opinion. After his examination he basically confirmed the original diagnosis. The splenetic tumor, with internal bleeding. Our choice was to take her home…and watch her get progressively worse…with painful complications, or let her go. We were with her until the end. The vet sedated her before administering the final injection. So, she really did just go to sleep. She was at peace.
The tears are flowing even as I write this.
I miss my dog
“She’s a good ol’ dog
She’s a good ol’ dog
When she’s with me I never feel alone
She’s a good ol’ dog
She’s a good ol’ dog
Best damn friend I think I’ve ever known.
She’s a good ol’ dog…”