Usual Rubbish

Theme park.

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That’s it, Lincoln. I’m tired of your get-rich-quick schemes. They always end up with trouble. Like that “Civil War” idea you had once. How did THAT turn out?

Damn, I’ll tell you … sometimes I feel like a walking suggestion box. Every time I turn a corner in this cavernous abandoned hammer mill, someone starts pitching ideas to me about what we can do to generate income, filthy lucre, serious bank. Capitalists! All they ever think about is their money. What about MY money? When the hell is someone going to build an economic theory around THAT? If I hear one more hare-brained scheme about starting a theme park based on the history of hammer manufacturing in North America, I’m going to move to another kind of abandoned mill entirely.

That said, this place really would lend itself to being a kind of theme park. They could do a kind of Gaslight Village or something equally fourth-rate – the vintage is about right, construction wise. Or it could be a life-scale model of an early 20th Century factory town, with plastic manikins and some kind of conveyor belt ride that drops you into a vat of molten nickel. (And it would only cost a nickel!) They could have a whole separate section in the courtyard called “Strike Land” where you can walk in circles holding signs that say, “Day’s Work For A Day’s Pay” and “Enough is Enough”. Then half-trained actors dressed as Pinkertons file in and beat the crap out of you. Hey … it’s educational!

Well, maybe NOT like gaslight village.Of course, why should we limit ourselves to the most obvious options? Hell, you could do anything in this barn. Just hang a sign over the front door that reads “Lost in Space Land” and you’ve got a theme park fit for the Robinson Family. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) could take tickets at the door, and Anti-Lincoln could pose as Professor John Robinson, so long as people aren’t expecting the stubble-bearded military dude in the current reboot. So what if John looks like Lincoln? He was modeled on Kennedy … isn’t that close enough?

There I go. Will you just look at me? I’m doing the very thing I admonished my colleagues not to do. I guess now THEY’LL have to find another kind of mill.

Usual Rubbish

Old stock.

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Damn, I always forget how big this place is. Who the hell knew all this junk was in here? I didn’t. Maybe Mitch knew, but he’s in Sao Paolo, noodling around with deadly lasers and the like.

Hi, everyone. Yeah, we’re stumbling upon all kinds of trash/treasure, now that the local realtors have us on our toes. They held an open house here last Sunday, for chrissake. What’s next? Shooting an episode of House Hunters in the courtyard? I mean … is anyone going to want to open a store in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill?

Anyway, back to our find. There’s this little room on the east side of the building. We pulled the lock off with a crowbar and found all these old hammer handles. It looked like Lester Maddox’s closet. (Ask your mother.) That got me thinking: If we could sell the handles, we could pay rent on this place. Then I realized how stupid that idea is. Now, well … I’m fresh out of ideas on how to stay in this squat house without opening a boutique of some kind. Maybe we can get Mitch Macaphee to make decorative candles in his lab. (Preferably the kind that don’t explode.)

Looks like this side of the mill needs a lttle TLCWe could sell old stock out of said boutique. We’ve got hammer handles. There’s also a bunch of old music lying around in various forms. We could sell CDs, but since we only have three full-length releases and a couple of EPs, that would make us a bit like the Scotch Boutique on 70s era Saturday Night Live. (Ask YouTube … or your mother.) I keep digging up old recordings from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. If people still recorded on cassettes, we could just tape over the tabs and sell those. (Ask your … oh, never mind.)

Okay, so we’re lousy capitalists. What’s new? When I come up with something you’re likely to pay money for, I’ll let you know.

Speaking of old stock, we just dropped another installment of our occasional Ned Trek podcast. It’s another Ned episode knifed out of THIS IS BIG GREEN from a couple of years back – Ned Trek 25: Not The Children One, Please!

Usual Rubbish

Monetizing sloth.

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Leave me alone, Charles. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep? It’s obvious, for chrissake … I just called you Charles, and I don’t even know anyone by that name. So I must be effing sleeping, right? Charles?

Oh, hi. Fell asleep in my cozy broom closet. We are still in our highly restricted corners of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill as local venture capitalists eye the joint from stem to stern to see if it has any potential to make them serious bank. (I think there are more opportunities in the stem than in the stern, but I’ll let them find that out for themselves.) It’s like they have glass heads; I can see them picturing some knitting basket of a store, maybe a Hickory Farms … if such a thing still exists. (I remember stealing samples there as a kid. Strange, because I wasn’t even hungry … still, it was a good find.)

So, yeah … they’ll probably sweep us out of here like yesterday’s floor scum in a few months. Unless, that is, we come up with some cash … or Mitch Macaphee comes up with some kind of diabolical invention that will hold them at bay. Maybe a time-warp generator. Maybe a force field. (Even a little, teensy-weensy force field would help.) Maybe a great invisible ruler we can use to whack the invisible hand of the marketplace. Just throwing out a few ideas here. Are you listening, Mitch? Mitch??

A potential buyer visits.Oh, damn … that’s right. Mitch is off to Sao Paolo to attend the bi-annual convention of the International Society for the Purveyors of Mad Science (or ISPMS). I believe they’re giving him some sort of badge this year. (Not sure what it’s for, but it suspiciously glows in the dark.) In any case, we can’t rely on Mitch to keep the capitalist wolf pack at bay here at our besieged hammer mill squat house. We could have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) go out there and try to reason with the developers, but that would just make them laugh and point. We could coax Anti-Lincoln (perhaps with the promise of bourbon) to give one of his famous presidential addresses from the mill’s parapet, but again … pointing and laughing would ensue. (He’s not good.)

Thankfully, it’s a weekend, and I have the option of staying in my broom closet, strumming my unplugged guitar, while the realtor does walk-throughs. “What’s that sound?” the punters will ask, and the realtor will say, “Just the wind in the willows.”

Usual Rubbish

Five gets you ten.

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Remember those ridiculous glasses with the tiny black lenses? Sure you do. And those dumb ass purple sneakers. They were super easy to find because no one besides me wanted to wear them. (Oh, and you could find them in a dark room. I think they were radioactive.)

No, we haven’t converted this into some kind of retro fashion blog. Far from it! We’re just playing a game that’s gotten kind of popular around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. It’s called Five and Ten. You guess what the other players were doing five years ago, then ten years ago, then fifteen, and so on. Every time you guess correctly, you get five points. The person with the most points by the time everyone has walked away in anger is the winner – they then have to go to the local strip mall and open a Five and Ten store. (The game’s a little too complicated, in my humble opinion.)

I’m actually no fun to play against in this game, because if you ask me what I was doing five years ago, I would have to say that it’s very much the same thing I’m doing right now. Same sort of thing with ten years ago. Now if you say twenty or thirty, I have intelligible answers to that. Twenty? We were working on our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I was starting to think about doing this blog. Okay, so that’s MOSTLY like today. No points on that one.

Huh. Old Ben beat me to it.Thirty years ago, I was working for Donald Trump. (Or “Drumph,” in the original Norwegian – Trump’s family comes from that part of Norway that’s called “Germany”.) Well, I was a contractor for him in a sense, playing in a band that performed at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. I’m not certain, but I think around this time of year in 1988 I was playing the last of three month-long engagements we had at Trump Plaza, in one of the casino-side lounges, playing pretty horrible covers. My big song on that gig was Benny King’s “Stand By Me”. (The front person for that group was a singer named Joanna Lee.) At the end of that particular run, I got fired for losing my voice. (Not by Drumph, but by our manager, though admittedly I wasn’t very well liked in that establishment. Attitudinal issues, I believe.)

You can read all about my exploits as a low-flying road musician by dropping me a message via the comments form and asking me to tell you all about it. How easy is that? Now excuse me – I have to go open another Five and Dime.

Usual Rubbish

Pull!

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That thing shouldn’t be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mitch. I don’t want the mayor to send us nasty letters again. Five letters in one week is enough for any abandoned mill-squatter.

Oh, hi. I’m pretending to have just noticed you, looking at the blog post I wrote days ago. (What a giveaway!) We’re having personnel issues again here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, high in the hill country of Central New York, far from the beaten path. It’s my own fault for taking on a mad science advisor. Sure, he helps us get to Neptune and other distant worlds. Sure, he bends time like Superman bends steel bars (i.e. with his bare hands). But the utility ends where the madness begins, and let me tell you something, friends – Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is as crazy as Jeremy Shaw’s proverbial shithouse rat.

What’s the source of the current eviction order? Well, Mitch heard an internet rumor that a certain Chinese Space Station – the Tiangong 1 – has been sputtering in a decaying orbit for the past few years, neglected by its owners, causing a threat to navigation high above the Earth’s surface. He is now taking it upon himself to defend planet Earth by shooting the sucker out of the sky. Bet you can’t guess how. No, not with a rocket. Nope, not a deadly Edward Teller-style laser. No, not an electron lasso (is that even a thing?). Give up? Me too. I don’t freaking know.

Frankly, this seems a little dicey.All I can tell you, honestly, is that this project has consumed Mitch and our courtyard at the same time. He’s spent the last week building a big howitzer-like monstrosity with a barrel that’s got to be 80 feet long and a control panel with gauges, levers, flashing lights, electrical arcs, and steam whistles. (I think those are just for laughs, frankly.) Mitch refers to the device as his Positron Howitzer, though what that means I cannot tell you. But from what I’ve seen he can zero in on that sputtering space station and plant some kind of projectile in its side in a way that has the potential to ruin its whole day.

Matt wants me to dispatch Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to City Hall with some kind of peace offering – donuts or potato soup, something like that. I don’t know. Those official threats are the only personal letters I receive anymore … I’m a little reluctant to let them go.

Usual Rubbish

Carry that weight.

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What the hell. You mean I can’t just stack the bricks like building blocks? I have to cement them together … with real cement? Jesus, this is harder than I thought. Maybe I’ll do the ditch-digging instead. That sounds easy.

Oh, hi. Just having a little tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte with my vocational guidance counselor. Sure, I know what you’re thinking – I’m a little long in the tooth to start a new trade, right? Well, if tooth length had anything to do with it, I might try dentistry. No, this is just another of those exercises Big Green runs through from time to time when we’re trying to find our asses with both hands. It’s kind of an experiment in anarcho-syndicalism, but don’t tell the magistrate – it’s only the 10th and we’ve got a dozen demerits already this month.

As you know, Big Green is not a company, not a partnership, not a corporation … not even a non-profit (though we certainly have the financial means to be a non-profit … meaning we don’t make any profit). We are a musical collective, all for one and one for all. So by necessity, we have to share the burden of work that no one particularly likes to do. You know, work that SHOULD be done by a ROBOT if we HAD such a convenience …. MARVIN. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) decided to take a week in the Seychelles. I didn’t know he had the shekels for that little junket, but apparently he’s been saving up.

Is that REALLY how it's done?Okay, so we live in this crumbling hammer mill, see? And it’s mostly made out of bricks and mortar, see? In fact its hey-day was in the 1930s and 40s, when people ended most of their sentences with “see”, see? Nyah. Well, it needs some patching done here and there, and well … I was last pick, just like with the basketball teams in gym class. So it was off to the brickyard to get some of their wares, then back here to start patching, only to return to the brickyard because I forgot to buy cement, then got all the way back before realizing that the bags of concrete I bought were dry powder, not some kind of play-dough like substance. THAT’s when I started thinking about digging those ditches.

Well, there’ s a lot a man like me can do. But most of it involves sleeping. Zzzzzzzzz…..

Usual Rubbish

Song listlessness.

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Did you look in the silo? Okay. How about the forge room? No? Then take a look, for crying out loud. Not a moment to spare.

Well, I am proud of myself. It took all weekend, but I pulled together an exhaustive list of all of the songs Big Green has ever written, from our very first days to the present. Yes, I left out the future, but two out of three isn’t bad. Besides, predicting the future is hard. Don’t know if you noticed. That’s why we leave it to people like Kreskin … and Criswell. (You remember Criswell, right? Criswell predicts!)

Trouble is (and there is always trouble here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) Now that I’ve completed the list, I … well … can’t find it. I would describe it to you, but you probably won’t find it either … unless you have a gift of prophecy, again, like Criswell. Well, I don’t have a mentalist here at the mill. Though it’s fair to say that most of our entourage are mental, in the colloquial sense. My only resource in situations such as this is Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who most assuredly does not have a gift of prophecy, but he does possess some of the finer qualities of a bloodhound when it comes to finding lost things.

Amazing!How do you sniff out a list? Not sure. He took a look around the courtyard. No luck. He did turn up some promising papers in the forge room, but alas, they were forgeries. Another twelve hours of exhaustive search and I will resort to recreating the list from scratch. That part’s easy. Just start from “Sweet Treason” and work your way forward. (That original recording of Sweet Treason is a little scratchy, come to think of it.)

Why am I undertaking this seemingly pointless task? Well … not sure. When you’ve got a lot of songs and even more time on your hands, you try to find ways of busying yourself. Maybe when I finish the list, I’ll just sit in my room and play our entire canon from beginning to end. Probably about 300 songs, but that’s a wild guess.

Oh, excuse me. MARVIN? DID YOU TRY MITCH’S LAB? BE SURE TO WEAR YOUR BLAST SHIELD!

Usual Rubbish

Hiatus be damned.

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Yes, I know the phone is ringing. Just let it ring, for crying out loud. Don’t people know we’re on vacation? Jesus Christ on a bike, try to take a week off around this joint! What? Oh … okay. It’s the neighbor’s phone. Stupid neighbors!

Hey, out there. You caught us taking a brief hiatus between the nothings that we have going on. (You can tell I’m on vacation because I say “hey” when I mean “hi” … though that might also make me an NPR correspondent.) Everybody needs a little down time. We tend to have a little more than most people. In fact, you could argue that Big Green is a bit like a downtime reservoir. People come here to waste time; that’s what makes the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill such a regional treasure. (And one man’s trash, well … you know the rest.) That’s understandable – sometimes taking a hiatus can be heavy lifting. That’s how people end up with hiatal hernias. (I’m just going to leave that right there.)

Do not disturbOkay, so … when you’re on vacation, you end up doing a bunch of stuff you don’t ordinarily have time for. For me, that usually involves surfing the web, and in my idle wanderings a stumbled across another Big Green. No, I don’t mean another BAND called Big Green – lord knows, there are at least one or two of those. This is a nutrition advocacy organization that works out of Detroit. Which means they are actually doing something USEFUL with our name, which is more than I can say for us. They’re helping to feed people; we’re wasting time with stuff like this. Case closed.

I haven’t told our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee about the other Big Green because I don’t want him to start doing what he always does, which is stew on something until smoke comes out of his ears. He sees threats everywhere, including the forge room at the mill, which mostly contains broken down machines and iron filings. When he wanders through there at night, he sees silhouetted in the darkness the hunched profiles of creatures he either invented or destroyed during his long, evil career. I can see how that might be unnerving, especially when you misplace your anti-depressant tabs the morning before. (We encourage Mitch to take his Paxil regularly. It’s a kind of self-defense.)

Well, that’s what we did on OUR winter vacation. And you?

Usual Rubbish

Unwrapping.

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I got socks this year. Lots of socks. And a few discarded ties. Plus some bricks from the courtyard. No, they weren’t loose – the mansized tuber just pulled them out of the courtyard and gave them to me. Yeah, I put them back. Now that’s a holiday to remember.

Well, I don’t know what kind of a Christmas YOU had, but here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York, we had a rousing celebration that quite nearly woke the dead. No, it wasn’t well attended, but Marvin (my personal robot assistant) cranked up the stereo and started playing random sides from Sun Ra to Fountains of Wayne. It was Christmas in crazytown, and it didn’t go unnoticed by our neighbors, who (I feel compelled to say) were … ahem … a bit LACKING this year in the HOLIDAY SPIRIT. (You heard!)

Then there were random fireworks. Now, I hate to be a spoil sport, but I don’t like hearing explosions late at night. It makes me jump, and my mind goes straight to some imagined mishap in Mitch Macaphee’s lab. It took a moment to recall that he’s out of town this week, but the downside risk of having a mad science laboratory in your basement does tend to put you on alert. He was Keep it DOWN!muttering something about a “planet buster” last week. Sometimes that’s just idle rambling, but you can never be too sure. Look at what happened to the planet Zorchon. (Yeah, that’s right – there IS no planet Zorchon, sure …. not NOW.)

So, hey … there’s a lot to unwrap with the kind of holidays we have around here. People tend to save up their resentments and hard feelings all year, then let them loose on their relatives around the yuletide dinner table. That’s not what happens at the Cheney Hammer Mill, but only because we don’t have a dinner table. We typically sit around this old cable spool we found in the middle of the road one time when we were driving back from a gig at Middlebury College in the 1990s. It makes a fair table … not a HOLIDAY table, per se, but a fair platform for dishes, cutlery, etc. Then there are the boxes we sit on – can’t remember where we found those. Talk about festive!

Anyway, we survived it. Hope you survived yours.

Usual Rubbish

Social obscurity.

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Yeah, I’m back. Did you miss me? Didn’t notice I was gone? Okay, then. (Sigh…) Not for nothing that Big Green was once described as one of the most obscure bands out there. We are freaking invisible – just ask the people standing behind us, all of whom you can see clearly, because … again … we’re freaking invisible.

But just because we’re invisible, that doesn’t mean we’re inaudible. That old adage about children being “best seen and not heard” doesn’t apply here, as we are not children, and we are not quiet. Nay, we are LOUD. Well, loud-ISH, and occasionally louder than that. Exhibit A: our song Jesus Has A Known Mind, which we’ve featured a couple of times on our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. That’s loud, if you turn up the volume. Try it next time you play the podcast. Or put your iPod bluetooth speaker in the middle of a cavernous room, then crank it up to 11. That should be the advisory on all of our albums. That and “avoid using heavy machinery”. (Not because it’s dangerous, but because it is hard.)

Get out! We’re not only musically obscure, Big Green is also socially obscure, I’m proud-ish to say. We’re the only band I can think of who, when moving into an abandoned hammer mill, draws pointed comments of “there goes the neighborhood” from across the brickyard. Fact is, we’re not even good enough to live in a condemned building. But we don’t let THAT stop us. No, sir … and thanks to the ingenuity of our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee (just back from MonsterCom, an annual gathering of like-minded crazy doctors in Madagascar), none of those local hostiles can get within thirty feet of our front door without being stopped by an impenetrable force field. (At least I’m told that it’s there. Either that, or no one wants anything to do with us. Which is more likely? You decide, my friends.)

The happy by-product of our unpopularity is that we are able to work without fear of interruption on whatever it is we’re producing at any given time. (Currently, it’s the Ned Trek Christmas Pageant.) And with the help of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who’s helping us with the editing, we have a shot at finishing this sucker before the holiday … so that we can share it with … well … whoever listens to us. (Note: the podcast is invisible as well.)