Various carvings

•July 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here are a few carvings I’ve done. Forgive the less-than-stellar photos.

Cross/circle/direction pendant

I made this pendant for myself a couple of years ago, and recently I made it reversible by carving the other side. This is made from a green soapstone from the banks of the Savannah River/Clarks Hill Lake in northeast Georgia, and mica is used in the negative spaces created by the cross and circle.

A simple pipe

Made for a friend. He recently broke the end of the stem, so I cut it flush, enlarged the hole, and added a cane stem. This is very similar to the greenish variety of soapstone, but this material has more inclusions, which are striking when finely polished.

Butterfly pendant

I’d forgotten I made this until a friend recently sent me some pictures of it. Made before I started polishing.

A falcon pipe

Made for a friend out of the green soapstone I like so much. With a cane stem.

Spoonbill duck platform pipe.

This is a pipe that I carved for a friend in the likeness of a small ceramic duck found at the Middle Woodland Leake site in northwest Georgia. When I was just about through carving it (but prior to polishing/finishing), the pipe unfortunately broke along a natural fault, so that it sheared diagonally through the body. I used superglue to reattach it, but did not continue working on it due to frustration. After a few years, I picked it back up and decided to finish despite the break. The break is clearly visible in the photo below, as are several natural fault lines paralleling it.

The break

In the picture below on the left is a pipe carved to resemble a kapucha toli stick with a ball. The laces are emphasized as a four directional symbol. While there is no scale, the hole in the bowl is about the diameter of a quarter. I made this for the UGA Toli team in honor of the Flying Rats’ 20th Anniversary a few years ago.

The disk on the right is a copy of an early team shirt logo, designed by illustrator/graphic designer Jason Edwards. Check his work here. I made this for team founder Greg Keyes.

Toli stick pipe and Southern Cult Toli player disc

Below is a pipe I recently made, again out of the green soapstone I like so much. I love the lines of this pipe and may have to keep it for myself.


underside of pipe

Not sure why I did this, but here’s a representation of my finger.

my finger


Vic Chesnutt 1964-2009

•January 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

died on Christmas day, 2009. He has been on my mind alot. During my freshman year in 1988-89, I used to watch Vic at the old 40 Watt Club (where the Caledonia now is) every Tuesday night. I most often went by myself, although ocassionally I’d put forth enough effort to get someone else to go see him as well. He was mesmerizing, often wasted, sitting up there in a wheelchair with an acoustic guitar, hand in a claw-hammer type clutch, playing uneven guitar. Bitter, sarcastic, cynical, yet hope drips between the lines (e.g.). That’s what I really loved about Vic – extremely and overtly pessimistic yet implicitly optimistic.

Ever since I learned of him, I felt a strong connection to his music. He played in the La-Di-Da’s with the brother of a friend from my hometown, not too far from his home town. I met him once in Athens through this connection that freshman year. Don’t remember much beyond being outside at some old house in the country in a gravel driveway.

His music was incomparable. Essentially, he chronicles his will to live. And its grown over the years. I have followed the transition from perennially hopelessness to reticent optimism. He seemed to have gone from suicidal to happy, or somewhat happy. The irony of Flirted With You All My Life created a few months before he took his life is obvious – i really don’t want to mention that song but there is no way around it. This is the way I remember him.

South French Broads – April 29, 2009 @ Caledonia Lounge, Athens, GA

•May 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One of my best friends, Alex, plays in a band from Asheville, N.C. called South French Broads. I met Alex while in college at UGA from 1988-1993. In addition to becoming a great friend, we played music together, alot. He is one of those people who has music oozing from his soul, itching to turn anything into an instrument, as he often did. I just played guitar and occasionally banjo, but he played bass, guitar, harmonica, and percussion, including pots and pans, congos, and other things. We played a lot of blues and pretty heavy rock stuff, both with ourselves and sometimes with other people. We had a short-lived band with Spencer Frye but we never played out in a club, and there were several others that we would jam with, but nothing serious. We never really tried hard to get in shape enough to play in front of an audience – at best we would have impromptu jams at parties. (I’ve often regretted not trying harder at music while in Athens so that I could’ve at least played in a club a few times).

Alex has been playing in South French Broads for several years now, and I had yet to see them. It’s a two-piece, with him on bass, harmonica, slide whistle, and vocal, and Radix on drums, vocals, and other sounds. They sometimes incorporate recorded sounds into their music.They were the opening band in a bill that also included Jeff the Brotherhood and Ham1 at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens,  so my wife and I went. Athough I’ve heard of it for a while, I had never been to the Caledonia Lounge. However, the Caledonia is located behind the 40 Watt Club where the old 40 Watt used to be – at least this was the 2nd location of it, as I remember hearing people talk about the original location. Probably about halfway through my stint in Athens, they moved to the current location.

SFB flyer

Walking up to and into the Caledonia Lounge brought back a flood of memories from my time in Athens. I spent many, many hours back then in this old 40 Watt Club watching incredible, and often less so, bands and musicians. I used to see Vic Chesnutt here every Tuesday night of my freshman year; I would go see Todd McBride play solo and with his band Dashboard Saviors (actually, I ran into Todd this very evening downtown); just a few other bands that come into  mind that I remember seeing there include Fugazi, Roosevelt, R.E.M., and Billy James. (I really wish I could remember all of the acts I saw there – another regret I have is not keeping a list of the bands that I have seen during my life, along with some notes from each). The place is very small, a single rectangular room with the stage at one end of the room and the bar and bathrooms at the other – I would guess that the room measures 15′ wide by 60′ long. It is a great place to see a show.

Apart from Alex playing on this stage where I had seen so many great shows, I was really excited to see him play as he has a very unconventional style of playing bass, and a quirky and lively personality that permeates his song structures. As a bassist, Alex likes to play repeating melodic pairs or trios of ascending and/or descending notes in quick time. I recognized many of the song structures that Alex had originally developed and modified from when we played together years ago, and I couldn’t help but smile and play along in my head. Relatively early in the show, I thought how Alex had found a perfect partner – Radix – for his music; I always felt that I simply could not come up with guitar parts that synced with his bass lines, as I have never been a particularly fast nor technical guitarist. Radix sings, plays drums, or scats to many of these faster bass lines, creating a wonderful complement that fits very well. Alex also sings, something that he did not do when we played together. And his harmonica – something I’ve always loved. Man, he blows that harp with all abandon, very bluesy but totally original.

The South French Broad’s music is generally fast-paced, with a lot of time changes. The singing mostly complements the music rather than being a focus in itself. Typically short songs, very punkish, very high energy. At times during their set, I thought of the Minutemen, Frank Zappa, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Roosevelt. I was impressed with the tightness of their show, for a two-piece band has very little to hide any mistakes behind. Seeing Alex up on that stage, I had this sense of living history, of destiny, of things that have been and should be.

Archaeology of my brain (a muddy unit): Story 1

•May 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

So I’ve had a few interesting experiences as an archaeologist over the years. Here’s one:

Sometime in the late 1990s, I was surveying an area that was to become the Georgia Club, a golf course located near Statham in Barrow County, Georgia. I was with Ryan, a great guy who I enjoyed working with that I’ve recently gotten back in touch with. We were staying in Athens, having a good time there at night of course. We used my Mazda 4×4 truck as the field truck, for which I got reimbursed for mileage. It was a good truck, never got it stuck.

The project area was nice in a few areas, either open pasture or open mature hardwoods. But there was also quite a bit of very thick nasty vegetation – briars, privet, and cane – that we were required to go through. (I must say I’ve seen worse – the Stuckey Tract – which is another story). But we did find a few interesting prehistoric sites for our efforts.  Oh, and we had some good companions for much of the survey – the local barn/yard dogs, particularly one. I can’t remember her name (?Maggie?), but I bet Ryan would. They would follow us around for a while, playing, disappear for a while, and reappear from the opposite direction later. I’ve often wished I could be a dog now and then for a few days, with a good master, free to roam wherever whenever.

So one day we make our way on our transects through this thick floodplain/lower slope area out toward a paved road. I come out first, and a small truck passes by slowly and either backs up or turns around – can’t remember which – and pulls up next to me, as I am standing on the grassed right of way. The passenger – a big fat guy a not too much younger than me at the time (~28) – asked what I was doing, and I told him an archaeological survey but no other details. I could tell they were local (tag, I think). And that he was very suspicious of me, obvious by his hostile manner and questions. The driver was a relatively small guy from what I remember – but I do remember thinking I should contend with the big guy if it came to it, since Ryan was similar in size to the driver.

After I wouldn’t really give him much details (we are often obliged, and in many cases required, to keep the clients’ project  details confidential) or engage him due to his aggressiveness, he said “that’s a fucked up job, ain’t it”? Wow! I replied something along the lines of “no more than any other job”, and I believe Ryan had come out by this time. I generally give people the benefit of doubt, and can get along with most anyone, but at that, I said to myself, fuck this asshole, no more of you, so into the woods we went, with me probably saying to them that we have to get back to work.

So we start on our way in and find a nice little ridge end spur to dig a shovel test, probably about 30 meters in from the right of way/treeline. The truck had left. We of course found some prehistoric artifacts – flakes I think – in the shovel test and were in the process of recording this site when we hear a couple of vehicles pull up. Doors open and shut, people start talking loudly to each other. Ryan and I immediately become quiet; you can’t quite see out, but you get glimpses of gleaming, dark movement against the bright sunlight along the roadside.

Someone yells “hey, come out of there!” or something similar a few times, perhaps a “we know you’re in there” – just things folks yell when they want to get someone to come out of somewhere. You could see a person come to the edge of the treeline, sticking his head into some slight opening among the briars, privet, shrubs, and trees, peering hard into this thick understory of the disturbed Georgia Piedmont. Me and Ryan were kneeling down by then, being still, watching them – I was pretty sure they couldn’t quite see us, but were by then whispering to each other that it was time to get the hell out of this place. Can’t speak for Ryan, but by this point, the movie Deliverance had crossed my mind.

We had parked the truck off a rutted old dirt road that had required me to use 4-wheel drive; the dirt road led to the paved road a little ways up from where the men were, out of eyesight from what I remember. I calculated the bearing that we would need to take to the truck, and we hightailed it through the briars and thickness straight there – don’t remember exactly how long it took us, but I think 10-15 minutes. We got in the truck, were backing up, and next thing I see as I looked through the back window was a human head emerging into view, attached to a person hanging on to the railing behind the cab of a flatbed truck coming up that washed-out red clay road, with two people in the front. Now this shit is way too much like Deliverance! I quickly chose the the flight option rather than the fight option, as I didn’t relish the thought of getting out to confront these crazy motherfuckers. So I stepped on the gas and went the opposite way from the paved road, as they blocked that path. I wasn’t familiar  with the dirt road for very far as it went out of our project area. So these guys are right on my tail, and naturally I start going faster and faster, 35-40-45-50 along this little dirt road through the woods, and they stay on my tail, .

When we come to a fork, I yell “which way” to Ryan, and he yells right or left. We were moving pretty fast, while the truck was right behind us. I don’t remember how long we were driving, just a few minutes or so I think, when we came around a bend to see a huge fallen tree blocking the road. At that spot, the dirt road was cut probably 15-20 feet below the surrounding ground level, with the sides sloping down to the road at approximately 45 degrees or so.  The tree extended from the top of the road cut on one side to several feet below the top of the cut on the other; the road itself was entirely blocked by branches of the tree, with no passage whatsoever. So, I tried to go up the bank and around the top of the tree. I did fairly well  getting up, but there just wasn’t enough room to get around it and it may have been too steep anyway.

So we back/roll back down the slope to the road, where the truck is waiting for us. Of course, my mind was racing with thoughts about fighting, survival, and other dark things. I look around the truck cab for some sort of weapon, but have only my 1.5 liter aluminum Sigg water bottle, probably half full. That’ll do better than nothing, as it would probably knock someone out with a well-placed shot. I don’t quite remember what Ryan said, but I do know he was nervous like me. I may have said to him “ok, you ready?”. So we get out, and walk back towards their truck. I may have even opened the camper to get out a shovel, not sure.

However, a man gets out of the passenger side of the truck, and immediately I notice something shiny on his chest and that he is wearing a brown uniform – it’s a sheriff! Wow, what? I believe he asked if we have any weapons, and we say no. I don’t remember if he had drawn his gun, but I don’t think so. He then asked us what we were doing, and I told him. He was pretty dubious and not overly friendly. The two other guys who had confronted us at the road were by by then standing against their truck. I was in shock, and relieved, that this was a sheriff, but I was also pissed that those two idiots had instigated all of this. I think it was the fat one who then said that they had “a pretty good neighborhood watch around here”. They also said something about people growing marijuana, and that they thought that’s what we were up to. After this, they led us out as we followed them along some dirt roads to come up through the backyard of what seemed to be one of the guys house; from there we got to a paved road. Once on the road, we passed one or two sheriffs, one of them near the dirt road where we were originally parked.

For the next week or two, I seriously considered going to the sheriff’s office to file a formal complaint against this sheriff or writing a letter to the local newspaper detailing our experience with the county’s finest. When we were digging in the woods and they were at the road yelling in to us, not once did he ever state that he was a policeman or part of law enforcement. How were we to know that the two original idiots had come back with a cop? We both thought they had come back with some friends to increase their odds. I also wondered if they had something growing somewhere in these woods  themselves, and thus the reaction. However, I had a very strong feeling that complaining to the good old boys about one of their good old boys would not do much good. And I really didn’t want to waste my time with it, as it could have truly been an honest mistake on his part. But sometimes I think I should have followed up on it. Regardless, it was quite an interesting experience.

Flying insects & pollen

•April 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment
pollen-covered fly

pollen-covered fly



a nice photo

•January 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

found this while looking through some (relatively) old photos today.

dance lessons

dance lessons

taken december 2006 at small ampitheater along the Columbus Riverwalk.