Every Road Has Its Bumps

A lot of you who follow me know about our recent breakdown in Boulder, Colorado. As an activist, I felt somewhat shamed by the backlash that followed, the insinuations that I didn’t have my priorities straight, and that asking for assistance for an expensive repair bill was the wrong approach (when that is precisely the reason crowdfunding platforms were launched!), and I let myself listen to the voices.

Never listen to the voices.

Yesterday brought me back into sharp focus. A couple we have been trying to reach out to shared with us the fact that they were trying very hard to keep their family intact, living in a tent while the two year long housing wait list prevents them from being safely housed, and being unable to wash their kids’ clothes at regular intervals. They had gotten tokens from the day center, but two tokens doesn’t go very far for a month for a family of six. And this was creating problems with DHS.

I won’t go in to the specifics of their situation, because one thing I have learned is that we can rationalize away from helping ANYONE if we try hard enough. Maybe they’re addicted, maybe they’re a felon, maybe they don’t put out as much effort as we think they should. All of those reasons can lead us to continue onward to Jerusalem and leave that bleeding and beaten soul lying in the ditch.

ALL of those reasons, if we follow the Galilean, if we “Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” as the trite Christian anthem attests, are wrong. Our duty is to that bleeding and beaten soul, not to our rationalizations.

Yesterday reminded me of what I am doing. Only a precious few understand. I am serving in an unfunded ministry, to reach out to those who have turned away from traditional ministers because of the judgment and and shallowness that they have found. It is an impossible ministry, because I will never have esteem, I will never have money, and I will never have the things that our culture tells us we must. But my understanding of my faith as it is, is that it is about sacrifice and servanthood, not about safety orĀ  security.

And so I shall continue, as continue I must. Because this is one story; there are millions more. And I cannot reach them all. But I can continue walking in the footsteps of Tom Joad, in the footsteps of my savior, and in the ministry to which I am called.

And I will. Regardless the cost.

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Broke Down in Boulder

After the season in Santa Fe, after the other buskers had left, we headed to Boulder. It was a long drive through the middle of the state, involving two multiple mile backups as people were returning from Labor Day weekend. I had mulled stopping in Ludlow, but we took the route that was 80 miles shorter, which unfortunately took us significantly longer.

We arrived in time for me to do a single set of about an hour on Pearl Street, netting us a little money but not much., We had to find a hotel room, which do not come cheap in this area; dive motels were wanting $90 a night or more.

So the next morning we got up with the intention of finding a campground. We drove to the first one, then went to check out the second. Two miles up the 14% grade, the car overheated. We limped it down the mountain and to a garage where it is being looked at. At the very least, there is an obstruction in the coolant hoses. It could be much, much worse.

For those interested in our journey, we need mechanical repairs to get back to Tahlequah. We are still planning to journey to Tucson, we just may need to roll out a little early. You can help by contributing at THIS link

There and Back Again, Part 2

…and now, the voyage home. We met a lot of interesting people in and around Santa Fe, but what would be the fun of launching ALL of the spoilers at this juncture? My game plan is to share the stories along the way so that you don’t need to read the sometimes mundane details of our staying at home and searching the river for cans.

Upon our heading home, we scheduled to play the open mic at a favorite locale of ours, the Hotel Eklund, where two of my three oldest worked their first paying job, and four of our family members (Amy and the three oldest girls) worked for some time. The owners are wonderful people, keeping a Northeastern New Mexico landmark alive and well.

Upon getting there, we were saddened to learn that some friends of ours are dealing with leukemia in one of their children, an energetic six year old with one of the brightest smiles you can ever imagine. It definitely makes you take pause when you see someone struggling with that, and we have been happy to see that reports so far have been encouraging.

Our next stop was Enid, Oklahoma, my hometown, where I had initially intended to busk, and have been trying hard to lobby to get a playing space at the local coffeeshop (anyone with any connections in that regard would be welcome to intervene). Other obligations kept us from getting that done, though, as our intent was to make it to Independence, or near Independence, early enough to get a motel room for two nights.

Independence was, as usual, a blast. This is an amazing small town, and I would encourage anyone to visit it. On Saturday, we played the Farmer’s Market after several members of the Uppercut Boxing Club, a club run by a gentleman who has won numerous awards for his work, that offers much more than boxing; he mentors, tutors, and encourages these kids to develop their talents. It is much like a small Boys and Girls Club, only locally run. If you do run through Independence, please stop in and say hi and tell ’em Tim Joad sent you!

Saturday night featured an outdoor movie, “Moana”, which the kids enjoyed immensely. It was all put on free by the community, and included games and a Cessna cockpit for the kids to sit in and explore.

We caught “Camp Sunday” at the First Christian Church, and enjoyed fellowship with them, learning about their “Open Arms” meal on Tuesdays, which is much like the meals offered in Tahlequah. These are grassroots solutions to poverty, and encouraging signs that there are still parts of the church functioning as they should.

We headed home by an unknown route, through the towns of Oswego and Chetopa (and a short detour through Centralia, OK, though there really was nothing to see there! But at least we’ve marked it off our list.)

We made it home at a decent hour Sunday night, with enough time to hook the stove back up and prepare a good hot meal. The road is nice, but it’s also good to have a place to call home.

There And Back Again, Part 1

Last night we returned from the longest road trip I’ve undertaken in awhile. 22 days. From here to Okemah, Oklahoma, and on to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Independence Kansas, and back again.

We started with WoodyFest in Okemah, Oklahoma, our annual pilgrimage. It was the 20th anniversary of the festival, and did not disappoint. I met a young muralist there, George Alexander, who painted a wonderful mural in Okemah (this post won’t be for pictures — I have so much to unpack, those will be coming later), and captured the spirit of the community wonderfully in his visual display. If you’re driving through on I-40, it is worth the slight detour.

From then we went up to Santa Fe. We spent the night on the way out in San Jon, New Mexico, a small town east of Tucumcari on I-40 that has a free overnight camping site. I met a young family who also travelled through the free sites, and took a short walkabout of the town, snapping pictures of this old Route 66 standard.

From there we headed west. I stopped in Cline’s Corners, and picked a nice busking spot. I played for about 1/2 hours, and made a few bucks before a fellow traveller came through and alerted me to the fact that my presence had upset a patron so badly she was calling the cops and demanding my arrest. I honestly didn’t know old Johnny Horton tunes were considered that controversial!

But I didn’t want to poison the pitch, so I decided it would be wisest to clear the area before any authorities made their presence known, and I exited, giving the traveller a bottle of ice cold water for his troubles.

I made it up to Santa Fe in time to play the plaza in the afternoon, and returned that night to play a bit more. Up by our campground, we saw another camper who had stacked some rocks at his campsite, but he seemed content with his solitude, so I let it be.

A few days later, I was talking with some young folks from Austin who were travelling through to Austin, and they mentioned him. They call him the Mudman, and he is a local artist who spends a good deal of time up in the mountains. We trekked with him to a labyrinth he had helped construct, and spent some time enjoying the company of our small, ragtag group of free campsite campers.

You will be hearing more about the Mudman. It’s one of the items I must get unpacked. That is one reason this is specifically noted as a part 1.

The one thing we were admittedly ill prepared to face was the 40 something nighttime lows there at 9500 feet. We hiked and crossed the 10,000 foot mark once, and intend to do it again, but time for such things is always less than we hope, and eventually we had o move on.

I will spend Part 2 talking a bit more about the path home.

The Santa Fe Trail

We just finished a very exhausting, yet decently successful, WoodyFest. Our festival started, as it often does, on Saturday night. I was able to get a little bit of picking in Saturday and Sunday, took off Monday for Enid, 3 miles away, and some work waiting there. Back into Enid, a smidge of picking, then off again Tuesday overnight, which lasted until 7 AM and involved a 3 hour drive back. So Wednesday night, I was tired, but back to sorts.

I was gifted a ticket to the Jimmy LaFave tribute, which I accepted. I am glad I did; it was beautifully done and a loving tribute from folks that knew Jimmy quite well. But it also meant going into the official festival sleep deprived, where I would stay through Sunday. Thursday meant selling CD’s at the Brick, which was repeated on Friday and Saturday. I was initially supposed to have other obligations on the main stage, but those fell through as I could not get anyone to assist me with the project, and could not donate anymore without leaving my family shorthanded.

This was one of the best festival lineups I have seen. The only question I have is why weren’t more people there? Top quality entertainment at a bargain price. Sure, the July heat may be a factor, but it didn’t stop them at one point, shouldn’t stop them now.

At any rate, those who missed it missed a great festival, and I hope to see some of you next year.

I had work in Fort Smith the following day, then in Spiro, Oklahoma, so we actually headed back through Okemah to do our laundry, which we had been unable to do through the week.

From there it was on to Enid, where my friend Romy Owen and her collaborator, Adam Lanman, were presenting their project, “Under Her Wings Was the Universe” for city funding.

What took place was honestly something out of Footloose.Ministers were decrying the project as a religious installation and an affront to their Christian faith, and even went so far as to call her a pagan and accuse her of trying to summon her deceased mother through the project. It was awful, and frankly why I am less and less enamored of the church these days. Because even the more moderate “evangelical” pastors are not decrying these hateful slanderers from the pulpit. Make no mistake, my faith is as it always is, but I don’t have to worship with people like this to be fulfilled.

We are now awaiting the sunrise in a WalMart parking lot; will be driving to Santa Fe tomorrow. I am hoping busking goes well, though because we do need the income.

West Bound and Down

A few years ago, we were the first campers into Okemah. Given my penchant for early morning departures, that would have been a possibility this year, but I didn’t see a whole lot productive in getting there that early, and this year promises to be a busy year, volunteering during the day and working a labor booth at night. The labor booth probably won’t be a huge problem, as we aren’t selling anything, but still, it does commit me to the mainstage fairly late.

We got up this morning to load up for the trip. Because of the extended nature, we had to pack the cookstove, and, while writing this it occurred to me that we forgot to pack the propane tank. As the French say, merde!

We did get the car loaded down, and I covered up an open crate of cereal with a trash bag to protect against the rain, but didn’t cover up our gazebo, which is in a cardboard box, so now it is soaked to the gills and we’ll need to find another mode of conveyance for it. Double merde.

But here we are, packed and waiting for lunch, after which we will continue the voyage. We’re planning on heading to OKC tomorrow and maybe the Round Barn in Arcadia (or a Connie Johnson for Governor event; we’ll see whether I choose work or play).

If you’re heading to Okemah I will bee easy to spot. At the Brick during the day, the labor booth at night. I am not currently going to post up the crowdfunding, but encourage you to discuss it if you see me.

See you in Okemah!

If I Had to Do It Over…

This is the point where I give fledgling advice to other fledgling artists. Because, really, we all have to help each other out.

It has been just over two months since the official release of my CD, an so far I’ve netted a decent amount of CD sales for the promotion I have been able to put in, several gigs booked, a lukewarm review that I will pass on sharing with you because, while it contains several very helpful points of constructive criticism that I can use going forward, and is an accurate review to my thinking, it does not contain the kinds of points that sell CDs, and many moments of anxiety that leave me thinking what did I just do?

The first thing I wold advise is square away your cover art beforehand. Know the layouts you will need and just how many pictures. For me I needed 5 total; 1 for the CD, front and back covers, and two inside. That was not what I had planned on. Nor were the specs for the artwork. I owe big thanks to a couple of friends for helping clear that up in a short time window. It is NOT, however, a scenario I wish to repeat.

The next thing I would advise is make sure you budget for adequate studio time. I feel that I should have prepared a bigger budget to give myself time to work through the fact that I had never been in a studio before. I like the finished project, but am well aware we could have done so much more had I given myself the time to do so. As I am already contemplating my next CD, this is something I am giving due consideration.

When you get your budget upfront, I would crowdfund. I didn’t, and I believe that was a mistake. Not only can you build buzz for the project, you can increase your chances of not having to do it on too short a budget.

There are more things I have learned and am learning. This is not easy, by a long shot. But I believe the above pointers can definitely help get you started right.

And hey, if you want to hear the CD, you can find it anywhere you buy great music. Look for “Tim Joad” in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and other great places that sell music!