zenhabits: How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling

http://zenhabits.net/productive-and-smiling/

How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mary Jaksch of Goodlife ZEN.

Do you want to be more productive? Maybe you do, but I’m sure you don’t want to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy – which happens to many super-productive people. But there is good news:

You can be insanely productive – and still smell the freesias, savor a Pinot Noir, or enjoy a languid hug.

A few weeks ago Leo Babauta said to me, “Mary – you’re one of the most productive people I know. And you still keep smiling and seem so relaxed. How do you do it?”

Most stuff I’ve read about productivity is about doing things differently. Like getting up at 4 a.m. each morning, or drinking eight liters of water a day, or keeping a notebook under the pillow. Sorry, folks – I don’t do any of those things.

High productivity isn’t about doing, it’s about being.

If you want to be highly productive – and still enjoy life – you need to look at how you live, and how you use your mind. Check out the following five suggestions: 

  1. Make peace within.
    Most people live in a constant state of inner conflict and suffer from a barrage of negative thoughts that sabotage productivity.

     

    Here’s a scenario: Imagine that your car has landed in a ditch. A group of helpers gather, attach ropes and start to pull the car out. Unfortunately, they’re not all pulling in the same direction. Some try to pull the car toward the road, whereas others try to pull it deeper into the ditch. It’s absurd.

    That’s exactly what happens when we’re divided within: everything is a struggle, nothing much happens, and it’s frustrating. But what if your mind, body, and soul are all aligned?

    When our energy is aligned, we are in a state of flow.

    When we’re at peace within, and immersed in the task at hand – without negative thoughts sabotaging our productivity – action becomes effortless. We’re able to achieve much more in less time. And with more enjoyment.

    Tip: Wear an elastic wristband. Whenever you notice negative thoughts, change your wristband to the other arm. This will help you to create and maintain peace within.

  2. Go to your edge. Regularly.
    Most people use only a fraction of their capacity and try to save personal energy. For example, we’re tempted to rest when we feel tired in order to recover our zest for life. Wrong move! The more energy you spend, the more you have.

     

    Tiredness can signal many things. If you’re healthy, it may mean that you are bored, frustrated, lack movement, or need more oxygen. Or maybe conflict within has sapped your energy. It’s important to go to your limits regularly. Take up running, martial arts, swimming, or other activities – there are many way to exercise vigorously.

    Tip: If you feel exhausted or lethargic, go for a brisk walk in order to rev up your energy and restore your spirit.

  3. Take action.
    Most people aren’t productive because they don’t take action. They have dreams and even plans – but they don’t follow through. Negative thoughts can derail action. It may be that you have doubts about your ability, or that you listen to others who doubt you.

     

    Tip: Look at what you would like to achieve and ask yourself, “What is the smallest step in the direction of my dreams that I can take right now?” Then take that baby step. Now.

  4. Do what you love.
    Think about how you spend your time. Do you enjoy your work, or is it a grind? I’ve changed my life, and what I’m passionate about has now become my work: I teach my Zen students, and also work together with Leo to mentor bloggers in the A-list Blogger Club .

     

    A few days ago my partner David knocked at the door of the little cabin in the garden where I work:

    “Mary,” he said, “ do you realize it’s 10 o’clock at night – and you’re still working?”
    “I’m not working!” I shot back. “I’m enjoying myself!”

    Yes, when the boundary between work and play gets blurred, you may actually work more – but it feels like you’re just having fun.

    Tip: Follow your dreams – even if it’s only for ten minutes a day.

  5. Love what you do.
    We can’t always do what we love. But we are free to love what we do. From a Zen perspective, there is a way to turn even the dullest chore into pleasurable activity through mindfulness.When we pay tender regard to our present experience – letting go of all thoughts and judgments – even the most mundane action can become pleasurable. Mindfulness doesn’t mean watching yourself, it means being fully present, moment by moment.

     

    Tip: In order to become mindful, notice sensations of the moment. What sounds can you hear? How are your feet connected with the ground? What does your skin feel like?

Finally, a key question you need to ask …

If you want to be productive and still enjoy life, there is a key question you need to answer: why be productive?

I mean, why not just chill out on the couch, eat potato crisps, and watch TV reruns? That might be fine. But what about the oblong box we’re all going to end up in?

I remind myself every morning that life is short and mine may be over by nightfall. That gives me the the desire to taste and enjoy each moment. It also adds a measure of calm urgency because I want to leave a mark upon the world. Do you?

If so, mindful productivity will help you create a life that offers both pleasure and productivity. You’ll achieve more, and you’ll still keep smiling. That smile will light up not only your own life, but also the lives of those around you.

You don’t have to be a super-hero. Simply make peace within and live each moment fully. That’s all.

Mary Jaksch is a Zen Master and blogger. Head over to Goodlife Zen for more of her articles. And visit the A-List Blogger Club.

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zenhabits: How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling

http://zenhabits.net/productive-and-smiling/

How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mary Jaksch of Goodlife ZEN.

Do you want to be more productive? Maybe you do, but I’m sure you don’t want to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy – which happens to many super-productive people. But there is good news:

You can be insanely productive – and still smell the freesias, savor a Pinot Noir, or enjoy a languid hug.

A few weeks ago Leo Babauta said to me, “Mary – you’re one of the most productive people I know. And you still keep smiling and seem so relaxed. How do you do it?”

Most stuff I’ve read about productivity is about doing things differently. Like getting up at 4 a.m. each morning, or drinking eight liters of water a day, or keeping a notebook under the pillow. Sorry, folks – I don’t do any of those things.

High productivity isn’t about doing, it’s about being.

If you want to be highly productive – and still enjoy life – you need to look at how you live, and how you use your mind. Check out the following five suggestions: 

  1. Make peace within.
    Most people live in a constant state of inner conflict and suffer from a barrage of negative thoughts that sabotage productivity.

     

    Here’s a scenario: Imagine that your car has landed in a ditch. A group of helpers gather, attach ropes and start to pull the car out. Unfortunately, they’re not all pulling in the same direction. Some try to pull the car toward the road, whereas others try to pull it deeper into the ditch. It’s absurd.

    That’s exactly what happens when we’re divided within: everything is a struggle, nothing much happens, and it’s frustrating. But what if your mind, body, and soul are all aligned?

    When our energy is aligned, we are in a state of flow.

    When we’re at peace within, and immersed in the task at hand – without negative thoughts sabotaging our productivity – action becomes effortless. We’re able to achieve much more in less time. And with more enjoyment.

    Tip: Wear an elastic wristband. Whenever you notice negative thoughts, change your wristband to the other arm. This will help you to create and maintain peace within.

  2. Go to your edge. Regularly.
    Most people use only a fraction of their capacity and try to save personal energy. For example, we’re tempted to rest when we feel tired in order to recover our zest for life. Wrong move! The more energy you spend, the more you have.

     

    Tiredness can signal many things. If you’re healthy, it may mean that you are bored, frustrated, lack movement, or need more oxygen. Or maybe conflict within has sapped your energy. It’s important to go to your limits regularly. Take up running, martial arts, swimming, or other activities – there are many way to exercise vigorously.

    Tip: If you feel exhausted or lethargic, go for a brisk walk in order to rev up your energy and restore your spirit.

  3. Take action.
    Most people aren’t productive because they don’t take action. They have dreams and even plans – but they don’t follow through. Negative thoughts can derail action. It may be that you have doubts about your ability, or that you listen to others who doubt you.

     

    Tip: Look at what you would like to achieve and ask yourself, “What is the smallest step in the direction of my dreams that I can take right now?” Then take that baby step. Now.

  4. Do what you love.
    Think about how you spend your time. Do you enjoy your work, or is it a grind? I’ve changed my life, and what I’m passionate about has now become my work: I teach my Zen students, and also work together with Leo to mentor bloggers in the A-list Blogger Club .

     

    A few days ago my partner David knocked at the door of the little cabin in the garden where I work:

    “Mary,” he said, “ do you realize it’s 10 o’clock at night – and you’re still working?”
    “I’m not working!” I shot back. “I’m enjoying myself!”

    Yes, when the boundary between work and play gets blurred, you may actually work more – but it feels like you’re just having fun.

    Tip: Follow your dreams – even if it’s only for ten minutes a day.

  5. Love what you do.
    We can’t always do what we love. But we are free to love what we do. From a Zen perspective, there is a way to turn even the dullest chore into pleasurable activity through mindfulness.When we pay tender regard to our present experience – letting go of all thoughts and judgments – even the most mundane action can become pleasurable. Mindfulness doesn’t mean watching yourself, it means being fully present, moment by moment.

     

    Tip: In order to become mindful, notice sensations of the moment. What sounds can you hear? How are your feet connected with the ground? What does your skin feel like?

Finally, a key question you need to ask …

If you want to be productive and still enjoy life, there is a key question you need to answer: why be productive?

I mean, why not just chill out on the couch, eat potato crisps, and watch TV reruns? That might be fine. But what about the oblong box we’re all going to end up in?

I remind myself every morning that life is short and mine may be over by nightfall. That gives me the the desire to taste and enjoy each moment. It also adds a measure of calm urgency because I want to leave a mark upon the world. Do you?

If so, mindful productivity will help you create a life that offers both pleasure and productivity. You’ll achieve more, and you’ll still keep smiling. That smile will light up not only your own life, but also the lives of those around you.

You don’t have to be a super-hero. Simply make peace within and live each moment fully. That’s all.

Mary Jaksch is a Zen Master and blogger. Head over to Goodlife Zen for more of her articles. And visit the A-List Blogger Club.

Stupefaction: The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart

http://theworldsamess.blogspot.com/2010/07/artist-formerly-known-as-captain.h…

The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart

Here’s a nice little flick for the weekend – The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart – a great BBC documentary from 1997, narrated by John Peel, featuring the good Captain, Frank Zappa, Ry Cooder and others. Playlisted in 6 parts. Dig it.

smash9grab | May 02, 2008

Great BBC documentary from 1997, narrated by John Peel, featuring Beefheart himself, Frank Zappa, Ry Cooder and More!

 

Evan Johns: The Return of the H-Bomb/Gonna Get A New One on Facebook

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/13451/the-return-of-the-h-bomb#

The Return of the H-BombHe survived Texas, blindness, and a few near-death experiences. Now, rock wild man and wayward son Evan Johns is back where he started.

Evan Johns is singing his guts out—what’s left of ’em, anyway. He’s shouting one of his originals, an ode to heartbreak, longing, and the unbearable pain of separation:

Sweet young thing with four hairy legs

When I pack my bags, she whines and begs:

‘Please don’t go, Daddy—Please don’t go

Please don’t go—You always go.’

It’s about his dog, Jelly Roll Etta. Back in ’91 when he wrote the song, Johns was living down in Texas but spent most of his time on the road with his band, the H-Bombs. Every time he left to go on tour, his half-black Lab/half-malamut would howl the blues, just as Johns is doing now in his notoriously ragged voice, closer to a dying hound’s lament than any human utterance.

Johns’ pale, gaunt face is all twisted up, and his eyes are clenched shut. “You Always Go” isn’t some novelty tune performed with an ironic wink; it’s pathos, pure and simple. The sad song is made sadder because Jelly Roll Etta is a thousand miles away—Johns had to leave her behind with friends down in Austin after he decided to come back home to Washington. Even worse, a bout with cancer last year cost her a leg, so there isn’t a creature—and certainly no person—alive that needs Johns as badly as Jelly Roll Etta. Who knows if he’ll ever see his 14-year-old dog again, the faithful friend who kept him warm on winter nights and guided him through his blindness, the boon companion he holds far more dear than either of his ex-wives?

Johns crams his sadness about abandoned love into a guitar solo that lets you feel what he feels. Then he ends the tune with a hoarse mea culpa to his beloved mutt that could serve as the motto for his rambling life:

I don’t mean no harm—

But I always gotta go.

The crowd of two dozen packing the Sunset Grille in Annandale hollers its approval. But as the applause dies down, a dissenter at the bar makes her presence known. She doesn’t give a damn about Evan Johns or his dog, and she lets everybody know it. She’s a regular at the Northern Virginia beer joint; its soused, lowlife ambience, with enthusiastic bathroom graffiti like “BE A SMOOTER, EAT SOME COOTER!” brings to mind an Elizabethan tavern disguised as a redneck sports bar. It’s chock-full of grillbillies, as they’re known. They rule this place as if it were their own living room, which it no doubt resembles with its beer-ad decor, indoor lawn furniture, and back den dedicated to darts and mating.

The loudest grillbilly is fuming because things aren’t going her way tonight. She came to the Grille to hear Bill Kirchen, the local guitar wizard (of Commander Cody fame) who plays a gig here every Thursday night. But Kirchen, who just signed yet another record deal, had to go on the road, so Johns filled in at the last moment. Now he’s probably wishing he hadn’t.

Swaying on her bar stool, the grillbilly shakes a wilted rose and hurls insults, mostly her pet putdown: “You goddamn motherfucker!” With her frizzy bottle-blond hair teased a thousand ways, she’s a blow-dried Medusa who’s drunk as a goat. But Johns has endured worse, many times over: George Thorogood goons have pelted him with arena trash; he’s been spit on by punks in Finland. The years barnstorming with his band—along with a steady diet of domestic beer—make him look 41 going on 60, not so much grizzled as permanently pickled. Even the forgiving bar light can’t hide the miles and mistakes etched on his pasty face. He looks like hell but he can still play, whether the grillbilly wants to admit it or not.

Unlike Kirchen’s good-time, boy-howdy roots rock, Johns’ music is a brutal, often ugly racket that reflects his ever-changing moods, and tonight he’s cranky. The band’s amps are turned up way too loud for a place this small, and the disgruntled grillbilly takes the deafening clamor as a personal insult. She won’t let up, but she has met her match in Johns, probably the only person here drunker than she. From the stage, he baits her in his carny’s rasp, pulling a few of his funny faces and tipping his baseball cap to the crowd.

“Don’t forget about that tip jug,” he drawls, pointing to the empty beer pitcher at the edge of the stage. “We got to feed the puppies and the kittens, and there might be some babies on the way.”

“Don’t forget to play some goddamn music!” bellows a male grillbilly. He is stoked by the woman’s ranting and irritated by the shameless call for money.

Taken aback at first, Johns recovers and flashes the wise-ass grin that has rescued him from tight spots all his life. “Awwwww—Okaaaaayyyyyy,” he says. “I think we need a Christmas song.”

Ever the entertainer, he eases into an old, obscure R&B number, “Please Mr. Santa Claus,” the title track from his acclaimed Christmas album, but it does nothing to cheer up the woman. She’s had enough of this foolishness—holiday tunes in August?—and she starts pressing the issue. “Play the Beatles’ ‘You-Gonna-Lose-Dat-Gurl,'” she slurs, “or you can kiss my ass.”

To Johns’ way of thinking, her request isn’t just silly, it’s rank blasphemy. All his career, he has refused to perform cover songs by British (or any other overseas) groups. He snubs all “foreign music.”

For the most part, he plays strictly Evan Johns music—nothing else will do—but that’s not what the woman wants to hear. Their ongoing feud further sours an evening that began poorly, after the grillbillies told Evan to turn down the volume during the first set. He ignored them and kept on playing.

Now, between songs Johns starts arguing with his brother Mike, the bass player for tonight’s gig. Their smoldering anger short-circuits the faltering show. Like true Southern gentleman, the brothers move their discussion out to the parking lot, where Mike flicks a Salem Light from Evan’s mouth and knocks off his brand-new “Monticello” cap, a souvenir from a recent pilgrimage to Jefferson’s bachelor pad down in Charlottesville.

For nearly an hour afterward Johns is nowhere to be found, and the grillbillies demand some entertainment as if they’re paying customers, even though there’s no cover charge and the tip jug is empty. Mike Johns and the remaining band members finally take the stage, and kick in on a Beatles song. The boys play a few more desultory numbers—without Evan’s bullshit and brilliance, the trio is just another mediocre bar band—before packing it in early for the night.

Johns’ desertion is the talk of the Grille, and he’s got his share of sympathizers. That’s the thing about Evan Johns: He can annoy the hell out of you, and you swear you never want to see the obnoxious bastard ever again, but the minute he’s gone, you already miss him.

Even on the night he stiffs, Johns can do no wrong for some. One fan shakes his head in awe and says, “Evan’s one of the best ever.”

Pounding the bar with the now-tattered rose, the grillbilly delivers her own judgment: “He’s a common, candy-ass son of a bitch.” Then she calls for another beer. “I don’t ever want to see him again.”

But she probably will. Whether she likes it or not, Evan Johns is back in town.

Earlier this summer, Johns rolled into Washington on a Greyhound bus, a long-belated homecoming that could be the last pit stop in a crash-and-burn career.

Upon his ignoble arrival, he had a long, gray, scraggly beard and a soiled Texas Longhorn cap that he ditched because it stank so bad after the three-day trip from Austin. He resembled a veteran coming back from a war, but more like a ghost than a conquering hero. “When I first showed up, I looked like Stonewall Jackson,” says Johns, cackling. “Everybody said, ‘Man, you look 100 years old,’ and I said, ‘Well, you ain’t seen me in 15 years.'”

Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Johns was one of the hottest guitarists around D.C.—or anywhere else, for that matter. As a teen he played with Washington guitar legend Danny Gatton, who was more of a father/older brother figure than a musical influence. He toured Europe with Billy Hancock and rockabilly singer Tex Rubinowitz. After stints in several now-hallowed groups, including backing the mellow Starland Vocal Band (incredible as that sounds) and fronting the Good Humor Band, he started the H-Bombs with bass player Michael Maye. The band’s first record, a self-produced EP of Johns originals, is a classic of raw rockabilly; it now fetches hundreds of dollars at record shows.

From the start, Johns stood out from the horde of Telecaster-slingers on Washington’s fertile music scene, which had spawned greats like Link Wray and Roy Buchanan. He was a singular guitarist known for dirty, distorted licks and a stubborn disdain for clichés, but he was also an organist, a crazed singer, and an accomplished songwriter—and, most of all, an authentic rock ‘n’ roll wild man with personality to burn. “We were huge fans,” says country singer Kelly Willis, then an Annandale high-schooler smitten by the H-Bombs. “We’d go see him wherever he was playing, and he played everywhere. It was like watching a god up there—just his facial expressions alone were worth the price of admission. We were crazy about them all. That’s what we wanted to be, and they made it look so easy.”

All the on- and offstage histrionics wouldn’t have amounted to squat if Johns hadn’t been a bona fide guitar hero. He is casually eloquent, squeezing noise out of his Tele in ways that have nothing to do with roadhouse picking and grinning. He solos against himself, setting up riffs that he backfills with musical quotes, jokes, and hiccups that build until you find yourself laughing in spite of yourself. Over a beer, Johns is a witty guy. On a guitar, he is smarter and even funnier, Lenny Bruce and Henny Youngman and a hundred other inspired notions wrapped up in one big noisy sound.

By ’84, Johns’ reputation had spread beyond the D.C. area, and he got a call from the LeRoi Brothers, a Texas band that boasted a major-label contract but needed a lead guitarist. He moved to Austin and after barely two years with the LeRoi Brothers launched a new version of the H-Bombs, bringing down boyhood buddy Ivan Brown on bass and Mark Korpi from Manassas on guitar; it was the beginning of a migration of Washington-area musicians to the thriving Austin scene. In ’87, Willis came to town to boost her own fledgling career. “Evan was a real big help to us,” says Willis, who still lives in Austin.

“We got our first gig in town because of him—he

let us open up for him. Plus, he was giving all the guys in the band lessons on guitar, so he really helped us so much.”

In those days, Johns was riding high, and Austin embraced him as the crazy adopted son from the Old Dominion, the supreme eccentric in a town full of weirdoes, as famous for his heroic beer-guzzling as for his guitar playing. He was one of the featured guest stars on a Grammy-nominated compilation, Trash, Twang and Thunder: Big Guitars From Texas. The H-Bombs released a well-received album and toured North America and Europe year-round. They didn’t sell many records, but the hyperbolic critical praise heaped on Johns bordered on the absurd, gushing from such disparate sources as Time and Newsweek and underground outlaws like Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

A rabid fan of the H-Bombs’ first EP, Biafra caught the band at a D.C. show on the eve of the infamous Rock Against Reagan concert on the Mall in ’83. “I’d never heard anything like that in my life,” says Biafra, who once described Johns’ music in liner notes that bear repeating: “Those four songs on the 10 inch [EP] were just cat tails at the edge of the swamp; there was rock-a-billy alright and Link Wray sweet darkness, too. A little Tex-Mex here, garage power there, all whipped into a witch’s brew of spitfire guitar and Evan’s trademark vocal growl. This is the real stuff.”

The king of hardcore and the maniac rocker may seem an odd match, but they were soon pen pals, with Biafra sending Dead Kennedys singles and Butthole Surfer records, and an appreciative Johns mailing back batches of goodies. “So, in this package came his rehab bracelet, a check from BMI for something like 16 cents, ‘Take the whole thing!’ written on it, and some other stuff,” laughs Biafra in his familiar snicker. “It was at that point when we began to know each other as people and see ourselves as kindred spirits rather than fans of each other from afar.”

The two unrepentant misfits have championed each other ever since, and Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label still carries Rollin’ Through the Night, which many consider Johns’ finest moment on record. Biafra notes that his friend’s loyalty is beyond reproach; during the Frankenchrist controversy, when Biafra went on trial for obscenity charges, Johns stood by him. “Evan was one of the most supportive people from any part of the music community,” says Biafra.

“Some people who should have known better, who were in more-political-than-thou hardcore punk bands, said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re just after publicity,’ but I didn’t have to explain to Evan whose publicity stunt it really was. He’d grown up around enough fundamentalist Christians and he was deeply angered by the whole thing….That’s one of the reasons he’s one of my dearest friends, ’cause there’s no one else like him. Evan’s a national treasure.” (As for Johns, he says simply, “Jello’s a straight-shooter, and I guess he knows I’ve got a screw loose. I trust him emphatically.”)

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the H-Bombs enjoyed a decent run, including a multirecord deal with Rykodisc. They recorded three albums for Ryko, including one produced by former E Street Band bass player Garry Tallent; all featured Johns’ original songs and revealed him as a multi-instrumentalist: He played steel guitar, organ, mandolin, saxophone, clavinet, and autoharp, among others. The discs didn’t sell diddly, of course, but they continued to garner a resounding chorus of critical praise. If positive reviews were worth money, Johns could buy his own brewery.

The band slogged it out on the road nearly nonstop across North America and Europe, where Johns is hailed as an authentic American original. The H-Bombs paused for the occasional Texas backyard blowout, like one shindig at a Dallas country club that netted the band $5,000 and a request to play a Fats Domino song from a jitterbugging party guest named H. Ross Perot. (“He’s a great dancer,” recalls Evan. “All the girls were taller than him, but he was still in the lead.”)

But the drinking and constant touring—almost exclusively in vans and cheap motels—wore everybody out, Johns most of all. He continued to check into, and out of, rehab clinics after the grueling tours, and H-Bombs came and went with alarming frequency. There have been as many as 50 band members, by Evan’s own guess. Former H-Bombs say their leader’s round-the-clock craziness was corrosive in the tight confines of a traveling rock band.

Mojo Nixon went on a package tour with Johns of the great northwest in the late ’80s; he recalls that two members of the entourage jumped ship before they even hit Canada: “The one boy, the second guitarist, had just joined AA, and he goes on tour with Evan like it’s some kind of test, like Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days. The other kid, the road manager, he just walked out of the club one night crying, just walking toward the bus station.”

It became obvious that Johns’ stage antics were no act; he was living it 24 hours a day. “Even [the late] Country Dick Montana [of the Beat Farmers] would go home and take a couple days off,” says Nixon. “But Evan don’t ever stop—a case of Busch a day done paved the way.”

One night, at a club called the Town Pump in Vancouver, Nixon saw Johns perform a feat he’d never witnessed before: “Me and Evan were talking shit, and he’s going on about some one-legged girl in Houston that came up to him, and then blaaaaahhhhhh. He wasn’t like, ‘I puked, excuse me,’ or anything; the shit just shot into the corner and laid there, and Evan just kept on talking like nothing happened.”

His digestive system wasn’t the only thing going to hell; Johns was steadily losing his eyesight to cataracts. “My pupils were all white,” he recalls. “I looked like a monster and I was blind as a bat.” On a tour of Scandinavia, where his popularity has never waned, his vision was so impaired that he had to ask the H-Bombs to describe what the groupies sitting on his lap looked like. He stumbled on an Amsterdam street and was hit by a bicyclist, injuring his shoulder and hip. Even after his recovery, he was relegated to playing shows from a chair, like some blind and crippled old bluesman (which his ravaged voice increasingly resembles). Rumors filtered back from Austin that Johns was near death—not the first time for that sort of speculation.

In ’93, he had surgery repairing his cataracts, but his career was in the toilet. He had two busted marriages to show for his troubles, and now there was only his dog, Jelly Roll Etta. Then last year, she got sick. He finally decided that his time in Austin was over. “I’m a bird,” he says. “I couldn’t be down there squaloring in a drought. I had to move where the water is. Everybody in Austin thinks I’m Joe Guitar, and nobody ever listened to the fucking songs. I’m a singer-songwriter, but I couldn’t get an audience in that regard. Down there, singer-songwriters don’t play lead guitar and crank it up.”

Johns blames bad management, among other things, for his professional misfortunes. All the usual suspects, shady lawyers and corrupt record execs, get a turn during his tirade about what went wrong. “The worst fucking lawyer had the last name of Dickman,” he brays ominously. “What does that tell you?”

It’s no surprise to come across folks who will tell you that Johns shares much of the blame for his ignominy. Joe Lee, owner of Joe’s Record Paradise in Wheaton, managed him early in his career, before his move to Texas; Lee recalls an exasperating experience that he wants no part of again. “Evan’s fine as long as you don’t have to depend upon him for anything and you don’t lend him any money,” says Lee, who also managed Washington wild-man rockers Butch Willis and the late Root Boy Slim, who were not exactly choir boys.

“At one point, he did have a future—he was really a talent both in the writing and playing,” says Lee, who admits he hasn’t seen Johns in years but has heard all the horror stories. “As for the singing, I tend to think he’s the Ethel Merman of rockabilly—it works on some shit, and on other shit it doesn’t.”

Biafra says his friend’s destructive drinking has helped sabotage his career, yet he can’t resist adding mischievously, “Evan’s led a helluva lot more straight and narrow life than Leadbelly.”

“He had all the chops to be the next John Fogerty and possibly more,” says Biafra, a staunch fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival since he was a kid. “Of course, Fogerty was never that good of a guitar player, not an Evan-level master stylist.”

According to Biafra, Johns often falls prey to a “Danny Gattonesque bitterness about his lack of success,” referring to the D.C. guitarist who shot himself two years ago. More than anything, it is this morbid predilection for self-pity that keeps holding him back. “He’s got to keep in mind that no rehab center in the world’s gonna stop him from feeling sorry for himself,” says Biafra. “He has to do that himself, and the strength to do that is in his songs and his guitar. He needs to focus on the positive, which he still has a lot of.”

It’s past 1 a.m. and, as usual, Evan Johns has another story to tell and a new song to sing. He sits on a couch in an Arlington brick duplex, cradling an acoustic guitar and a can of Budweiser, the latest in an endless succession of what he affectionately calls “barley pops.” But he has to keep quiet so as not to disturb his housemate Melannie Kassoff, a childhood friend who’s been hosting him since his arrival in Washington. She’s a nurse and has to go to work in a few hours.

Johns has just returned from a vacation up in northwest Canada, where he learned about a mythical sea monster known as Ogopogo that haunts a lake in British Columbia. The story intrigued him, and he got to concocting a scenario. Ogopogo is swimming around and happens to peep into a yacht passing by and sees something that catches his fancy on the cabin TV: a documentary about the Loch Ness Monster. Naturally, he realizes Nessie is his sweetheart. It’s the nugget of Johns’ latest song, one of hundreds he has written over the years.

Strumming the guitar and softly croaking out the nascent tune, Johns sounds like a backwoods folksinger you’d hear on some scratchy old 78. When the song stops midway, he explains, “I’ll only guarantee you this—it’ll be no longer than three minutes. That’s what I do, tell the story and get out. It’s like a comic strip.”

Offstage and even without his guitar, Johns remains a born entertainer and a mesmerizing storyteller. He can be funny as hell, as when he recalls some interviews he did while touring abroad during the Cold War: the head H-Bomb grilled as a political figure. “They’d ask questions like, ‘Eeev-ahn Johns, how do you feel about nuclear disarmament?'” he intones in a dead-on imitation of an earnest Swedish journalist. “So I said, ‘I believe in H-bombs. There’s three: bass, drums, and gee-tar.” He claims that the band’s name has prevented him from appearing in Japan and Australia. “In certain quarters of the world, the name ruffles some feathers, and I don’t blame ’em. War’s a terrible thing,” he says. (In fact, Johns took the moniker from an obscure postwar blues singer, H-Bomb Ferguson, who was known for performing in a spangled jumpsuit and waist-length fright-wig.)

Johns can go on for hours about his road adventures, about how the H-Bombs would roll into town in a ’63 Plymouth Valiant, all the tires painted white and “Rocket Fuel Only” spray-painted on the side. About how he and the H-Bombs loved to “trunk surf” when the car was going 70 mph.

A great deal of Johns’ charm lies in his voice, an aberration of nature that differs from his singing only in volume. Through the years, critics have groped to describe the sound, conjuring Howlin’ Wolf, W.C. Fields, Johnny Cash, Edward G. Robinson, and Popeye, among a cast of other rogues. Joe Sasfy probably got closest to the truth in his liner notes for the H-Bombs’ first record back in ’80: “A redneck frog with too-tight jeans and laryngitis.”

But Johns is more than simply an old-school vulgarian hooked on playing the clown. Beyond the banter and antics, he is a thoughtful, even sensitive, person with a lot on his mind: “He’s one of the most talented human beings I’ve met in music,” says Keith John (no relation), the original H-Bomb drummer, who has accompanied Johns several times this summer at the Sunset Grille. “He’s truly an original, thought-provoking person. He can say something that’ll just make you laugh for years.”

Tonight, Johns is describing the joy he feels at returning to his native state. “This is my dirt,” he says. “I don’t know how many people I’ve told in the last 14 years that I’m not a Texan.” It was a spring visit that clinched his resolve to relocate to Virginia for good. “I sort of came here to test the water, and the laurels were blooming and the rhododendrons and the azaleas and everything was just apeshit—it just hit me how much I missed all that, ’cause I’m really into flowers and Texas didn’t have any of that stuff.”

He rhapsodizes about the squirrels and birds and other local “critters” as well. He admits that Washington has changed dramatically in his absence, “[but] there’s still the same three problems everybody was complaining about when I left in ’84: the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Lorton Reformatory, and Mayor Marion Barry.”

Downing his nearly full Budweiser in one gulp, he lopes to the back door in the kitchen, open to the drone of crickets. He crushes the can and tosses it into a barrel brimming with empties in the darkness outside. The fact that Evan Johns recycles ranks as one of the most important victories for the environmental movement thus far.

Popping another Bud, he lets out a damn near operatic belch, followed by a no less musical sort of echo-burp, an even lower, remarkably sustained utterance emanating from some bottomless well inside him. “So that’s what was troubling me,” he cracks. He never messes with wine or liquor, save for the occasional shot of whiskey at a show. “It ain’t my palate,” he says. (“If you’re gonna drink during all your waking hours,” he later elaborates, “I strongly recommend beer alone.”) Indeed, Johns gives new meaning to the term “beer man.” As Mojo Nixon puts it, “I believe that beer ain’t really drinking—but in Evan’s case, it is.”

Notwithstanding the azaleas and the dirt—and a wrecked career—some long-standing ties to some friends and family helped pull Johns back to Virginia. His former bandmate, Michael Maye, who spurred Johns to start the H-Bombs, is stricken with cancer. And Johns’ parents are both elderly and ailing as well. His father, who suffered a stroke a few years ago, lives in northwest Washington; his mother resides in Shepherdstown in her native West Virginia.

Yet Johns has by no means enjoyed some sort of Waltons homecoming. Even though two siblings are in Northern Virginia, he is staying with a friend he hasn’t seen for years. Johns and Kassoff met in elementary school in McLean (“We were always sweet on each other,” he says), and she attended his first concert, a disastrous fifth-grade performance in which he forgot to plug in his electric guitar. A music fanatic in her own right, Kassoff was the one who dragged the underage Johns to a Georgetown bar to see Gatton play for the first time.

When Johns returned to Washington in June, he called Kassoff out of the blue; the last time they had met was more than a decade ago, when he was drying out in an Arlington hospital. As it turns out, hers was one of the few phone numbers in his black book without an answering machine on the end of the line. They chatted and she realized that, despite his good-natured ribbing about riding “the couch circuit” once again, he desperately needed a place to stay for a while. “It had been so long since I’d heard any news from him, I thought he was dead,” admits Kassoff, a striking woman with a massive mane of coal-black hair. “I always liked Evan and I still do,” she says. “He’s been great to have around, because I was going through a lonely time. I’ve gotten as much from him as he’s gotten from me.”

This summer, the two have rekindled the friendship they had as kids. Johns took her to one of his favorite Virginia shrines, Monticello (“That’s a nice crib,” he says), because Kassoff had never been before. Former H-Bombs report that while on the road Johns was obsessed with two nonmusical activities: shooting bottle rockets from the band’s speeding van (expertly aiming the fireworks to come down and explode on the windshield) and visiting seemingly every historical site in the country, from the Baseball Hall of Fame to Bonnie and Clyde’s grave to the cave where abolitionist John Brown sheltered runaway slaves.

Growing up near Dead Run Creek, Johns often stumbled onto Civil War relics, and he caught not only the history bug but wanderlust, too. At 13, he ran away from a messed-up home to hitchhike across the country, which he traversed a dozen times during his teen years in the early ’70s. He has preserved some of his road adventures in a manuscript called 20,000 Words, co-written with an Austin author. He hopes to publish it along with an accompanying CD, 20 Songs. It’s one of many projects he’s cooking up; another is a song-cycle of children’s tunes featuring a character called Toby the Turtle.

In the meantime, Johns is a musician without a record contract and barely a dime to his name. Though he has appeared on nearly 100 records (from obscure groups like Gay Sportscasters and Billy Bacon & the Forbidden Pigs to chart-toppers like Timbuk 3), he has made relatively few on his own, so he can’t much depend on royalty checks rolling in. There is a little good news, though: Freedom Records in Austin has just reissued an H-Bombs release from ’86 that has long been out of print; there are also tapes of the Good Humor Band finally seeing the light of day after all these years.

But Johns wants to focus on his new songs, a batch of more than two dozen he’s written since relocating here. He says he doesn’t want to play his old songs anymore; he’s still gunning for the hit he never had. “I’m in the middle-aged void. I’m not gonna jump into Spandex, and I’m not one of these old guys, either. I’m not out here rehashing anything; this is all new. You can’t go on the oldies circuit if you never had a hit—that’s the only thing I’ve never done. The medium today is film—if I could get one of my songs in a movie: That’s how you do it.”

On the subject of other people’s music, Johns is a man of strong opinions and stubbornly old-fashioned. He doesn’t listen to current music at all, and he deems Brian Wilson the greatest composer of the 20th century. Judy Garland remains his favorite singer: “No one has ever done better than ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.'” (Kassoff says Johns identifies with Garland’s pained heart.) He declares a holy triumvirate of the “nicest people in the business”: Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and B.B. King.

For someone just this side of down and out, Johns remains a remarkably cheerful person, counting his blessings, thanking “Mel,” and praising his homeland: “If it hadn’t been for that godawful war, Vu-ginia would still be the biggest state in the Union.”

Since returning to the area, Johns has faced down some unpleasant specters of the past, embodied in the violent, premature deaths of Gatton and Buchanan. It’s a tired old cliché by now—the doomed D.C. guitar legends, unheralded while alive and damned to posthumous notoriety. But some fret that Johns’ turn is coming. “I’ve even had people come up and say, ‘Are you next? Are you gonna do like them?'” he says. He shrugs off worry, claiming he has cheated death so often he’s an old pro by now. “I’ve almost died many times,” he says. “I was in a coma for 48 hours in Martinsburg, W.Va., drying out. They didn’t think I was going to make it….They wouldn’t let me out to go to Danny’s funeral.”

His near-death experiences don’t seem to weigh heavy on his mind—he’s concerned about more pressing matters, such as the plight of Jelly Roll Etta. “That’s the only real failure in my life,” he says of his decision to leave her behind in Texas. “I promised her she wouldn’t have to live like I’ve had to.”

He has vowed to bring her to D.C. someday. In the meantime, he is focusing on jump-starting his career again, no easy task in an industry awash with techno and alternative pap; it was hard enough to survive in the ’80s, when “roots music” (a term he shuns but has always been saddled with) was at least commercially viable. Now, though, he doesn’t even have the basics. He needs a manager; he needs a new record out. More than anything, he needs to get a new version of the H-Bombs to recapture his former glory and take Washington by storm again.

A few days after the sibling-rivalry fiasco, Evan Johns is back at the Sunset Grille, ready to give it another shot. He’s made amends with older brother Mike, who says all is forgiven: “You gotta understand, Evan has never done anything but music; from the age of 16, he’s never had another job.” A lithographer by trade, Mike is thrilled to perform with his brother onstage. At 44, he’s finally getting a chance—even if it’s only temporary—to be an H-Bomb.

Evan knows he’s got to get back in the groove, and it isn’t going to happen as long he sits home all day downing beer and watching the History Channel. “He’s like a boxer who’s been out of training here in town for a while,” says Dave Chappelle, a veteran local guitarist who helped line up Tuesday-night gigs for Evan at the Grille. This summer, the group has also performed at other local places, including Jaxx, the Springfield venue for dinosaur rock acts, and Twist & Shout in Bethesda, where roots rock still rules.

The dilemma for Johns is fairly obvious. Though he remains a cult star in far-flung parts of the world, from Austin to Amsterdam, he’s mostly an unknown quantity in his own hometown. Those local fans who do remember him from his heyday here are as old as he is now; most are raising families and have little time to go out and “Do the Dootz” until last call.

For the unconverted, though, Johns may very well seem as strange and archaic as Uncle Dave Macon and his medicine show. Times have changed, and he’s still playing the same music he’s always played. Typically, the bands that can afford to do that are strictly on reunion duty. Johns made the mistake of never quitting.

Even so, the orneriness of his music, the very quality that keeps Johns exiled from the mainstream, may prove attractive to fans of Wilco, Son Volt, and the other acts known as No Depression and alternative country. “There’s a chunk of young people being turned on by the type of music Evan plays,” says Mark Gretzchel, who runs the Twist & Shout. “He’s as much part of the No Depression thing as anyone. That hard-edged, roots-oriented approach that they’re trying to do—Evan’s already there. They have to catch up to him.”

If they want to catch him, they’ll have to reach back pretty far. Lounging before the first set at one of the Grille’s plastic lawn tables, Johns smiles and points to his most prized possession, a small gray box perched on the stage. It looks like a relic from a bygone era, but it works just fine. It’s a vintage 1964 Fender Twin Reverb Deluxe 22-watt amplifier; he snagged it for $140 nearly two decades ago. He claims all his magic comes from that unlikely source. “I can make any guitar sound good through Mr. Wrong,” he says, calling it by its pet name. He doesn’t fool with any modern gimmicks, because “God’s own amp” has never let him down.

From the first song, it’s clear that Johns is on tonight, even though there’s just a handful of grillbillies in the bar. For a guitar hero, he’s remarkably restrained in his playing; he never takes a gratuitous solo and he makes every note count, even when he’s scraping the mike stand across the neck. One moment he’s caressing his Telecaster like a pet cat; the next, he’s choking the poor thing to death. The whole thing’s as loud as a train wreck, but this time no one says a word about turning anything down.

Watching him detonate on the tiny stage, you’re reminded of Mojo Nixon’s pronouncement: “Records are really just turd polish: Real rock ‘n’ roll happens live, and Evan is the real hillbilly psychotic rock ‘n’ roll screaming madman.” It is one of those performances that rattle you, that make you believe that the Sunset Grille is the only place you’d want to be that night.

By the second set, the place is filling up, and Johns is enjoying himself, even harmonizing with Mike on choruses. He unveils a brand-new tune, “Hale-Bopp Boogie,” which is a scorching rockabilly number, a sort of “Wreck of the Old ’97” disaster-song take on the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. But in this version, the story has a new ending: Before the comet disappears from the night sky, some whales off the California coast get beamed up to the comet’s glowing tail and travel to the next astral plane. His goofball sound effects on guitar mimic the whales’ banter, and he tells the whole story in three minutes flat.

After the middle set, several people bolt for the door, but not before filling the tip jar at John’s feet. Out in the parking lot, a bald, gray-bearded man explains that he has to work early in the morning. He doesn’t look like your average grillbilly, that’s for sure. He was a fan of the H-Bombs back in the early ’80s, when he first moved to D.C. Earlier that day, he’d found out that Johns was playing in Virginia, so he drove all the way from Capitol Hill to catch the early part of the show. He says he’s going on the Internet to post the good news: Evan Johns is back.

For the final hour, Johns is joined onstage by former H-Bomb Jon Coombs on bass, and it’s a marvel to see and hear the fireworks on display. Except for his menthol-frayed vocals, Johns plays as he did in the days of yore, with every gesture coming as second nature but still inspired. As he screams into the mike and attacks his guitar, he conjures the same guardian Spirit of the Undead that keeps Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Richards from passing over to the other side. Even as he wins that battle, though, by now he’s playing for about eight customers, including the bartender.

“I’ve had bigger bands than this,” he rasps, surveying the measly crowd with a smile. It doesn’t come off as bitter, just his gruff way of thanking the few who stayed.

“Evan’s the most naturally talented musician I’ve ever played with,” says Coombs after the show. “I’ve seen him dog it, but when he really wants to turn it on, you ain’t never seen nothin’ like it.” Like many former H-Bombs, Coombs is making a decent living in the music biz. “I’m just playing society stuff with a big band, and I’ve also got a side group that does New Orleans. We stink it up a bit, but I make a helluva lot more money doing this. I’m 38, so there’s gotta be some dough in it.” His days in the H-Bombs are in the past: “We had a good time, but that’s a tough life.”

Later, as the bar empties out, Johns heads to his table, where Kassoff gives him a warm smile. He settles in a heap in his seat.

“I’m going to get some hungry young punks, and we’re going to get it done,” he announces, counting out the crumpled bills in the tip jug. “I need to get me a regular combo.”

The bartender flicks on the overhead lights, and in the harsh glare Johns seems old and tired—and fragile. Under his cap, his face is drawn and haggard, and his legs appear spindly beneath his beer gut. The night onstage has really tuckered him out, and even his bright red Chuck Taylor high-tops can’t hide the harsh truth: Time isn’t on his side anymore.

“Hey Jonny, remember that show down in Roanoke?” asks Johns.

Coombs laughs and tells him to refresh his memory.

Then Johns flashes that demented, radiant grin of his, and sheds a decade or so right before your eyes, and gets busy on another story.CP

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery.

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Evan-Johns-Gonna-Get-A-New-One/113319198720182

Evan Johns: Gonna Get A New One

Evan Johns ~ An American Original is alive and picking in Austin, TX: sober, recovering and in pursuit of a life saving liver transplant. Join the community dedicated to Evan’s intent that he’s “Gonna Get A New One.”

Description:
This page is intended to build a community around Evan and his caregivers and to bring awareness, insight and support to Evan’s pursuit of a new liver. It is a place to post news of Evan’s progress, and the planning of future fundraising efforts (an Austin area benefit is already in the works) and to generate positive, proactive ideas. It is not a place to rant or rave. It is a place to raise energy and activity around a cause. So, however you harness your energy ~ be it music, word, song, poetry, prose, magic, prayer, what-have-you, feel free to share that here.

This page is created and monitored by Kristen Anderson, not Evan Johns. Direct addresses from Evan will be noted in posting. 

Evan Johns ~ An American Original is alive and picking in Austin, TX: sober, recovering and in pursuit of a life saving liver transplant. Join the community dedicated to Evan’s intent that he’s “Gonna Get A New One.”

This just in from Jungle Bruce (Sheehan) via Jeff (Hickoids, Gay Sportscasters, et al) Smith ~ a benefit date is confirmed for Saturday, November 13th at Roadhouse Rags. Stay tuned for more details as they erupt . . .

RoadHouse Rags

Roadhouse Rags is located at 1600 Fortview on the West bound feeder road of Ben White/290w/71w in lovely South Austin. Owners Kelli Archer & Clay Connell. Dressing Austin musicians in great vintage clothes…

The Daily Undertaker: The Shrouds of Kinkaraco: A Conversation with Esmerelda Kent

http://www.dailyundertaker.com/2010/07/shrouds-of-kinkaraco-conversation-with…

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2010

The Shrouds of Kinkaraco: A Conversation with Esmerelda Kent

Named after Tibetan Buddhist Deities, Kinkara, special protectors of the Charnal Grounds, KINKARACOäGreen Burial Products produces biodegradable burial shrouds, cremation shrouds, and other ceremonial funeral products. Founded in 2005 by Esmerelda Kent, the company is ‘devoted to the sacred in preserving our Earth’s natural resources’. Ms. Kent has graciously agreed to share a conversation with The Daily Undertaker.

Esmerelda Kent
Business Week 2008 photo by Eric Millette

Pat McNally: You advocate for survivors to take a greater role in participating in the physical and symbolic tasks of bringing their loved ones to their places of rest. Obviously a shroud is different from a casket in many ways, but what is the difference experientially between placing, carrying and burying a person in a shroud rather than a casket or coffin?

Esmerelda Kent: A shroud is soft and shows the actual outline of the human form unlike a casket. You are never unaware of what is taking place and that the shroud contains a human body. This “awareness” keeps the experience more authentic, spiritually conscious and real which some people want.
Our shrouds are sometimes used by the family to prepare a body and then to remove the body from the home. In some cases the families participate in the actual washing (with our KINKARACO Green BurialWashä and shrouding the loved one there at home and have the funeral director pick the body up after a home service.
However in most cases the funeral home washes and shrouds the body . Most actual green burials do not have viewings. The ceremony takes place graveside often with the family participating in the lowering and covering of the grave. The shrouds have handles for carrying and straps for lowering when used alone without a casket that are unfurled slowly to place the shroud in the grave.

Pat McNally: There is long history of shrouds in many traditions, as you point out on your website. These shrouds were generally long strips of cloth, wound around the deceased.
The design of your shrouds is more complex. Would you explain the ideas behind the features incorporated into your designs?

Esmerelda Kent: With shrouds not being a traditional part of burial practice in America the latter half of the 20th Century, wrapping a shroud is unfamiliar to most funeral homes outside of the Muslim or Jewish Faith. When I began working in a green cemetery in 2004 we first used blankets, quilts and cloths given to us by the family to act as “shrouds” or long yardage of biodegradable natural fabric. They looked unattractive and were very difficult to lower into a grave on casket straps so we often had to hand the body down into the grave with the help of grounds crew. Our shroud design actually came to me “in the field” so to speak from this experience that incorporated all I knew was needed –the lowering straps attached to the shroud with a wooden “spine” sewn into the back for more stability as well as handles for lifting and carrying. This is what we call the Endfinity älowering device or Back #1 for green burial without a casket. Back #2 has no straps or wood, just natural woven handles for cremation or placement inside of a casket . The shrouds replace clothing and are so much easier than dressing corpses in street clothes.

Other features include Herbal linings of Lavender, Rose petals or White Sage.

The shroud of Jesus Christ contained the herbal substances of Myrrh resin and Aloes wood .

We also offer the Heart Pocketäwhich is a pocket on the face cloth piece that rests on the heart and holds prayers, photos, poems, etc. for both burial and cremation.

The VERSAILLES silk shroud from the MORT COUTURE tm collection

Pat McNally: There are a lot of products in the marketplace these days for people interested in more natural funeral services, but many consumers may not be aware of all their options. What can funeral directors, craftspeople and other providers do to make families aware of their options without overwhelming them with the sheer volume of possibilities.

Esmerelda Kent: The first thing a funeral home can do is eliminate unpractical unnecessary gimmicky products that are conceived by people who have never done funeral service and that would never work in a funeral home setting. I saw a “coffin” recently shaped like an egg for people to be buried in the fetal position. When I explained that the person would have to be practically hog tied at the moment of death to fit in it they understood that good industrial design has to serve function.
At the same time one of the biggest mistakes in my opinion that funeral homes have been making after the initial recession in 2009 is gathering information about new products and waiting until a family comes in asking for it without investing in new products.

Our products are new. People are not going to ask for them. They need to see, feel and smell them! A picture and vague description will not sell new products. There is a complacency to change, fear of spending money and an arrogance, that as we all know many funeral homes now regret having initially ignored the cremation demand and the slow industry response to that phenomena. Offering green options is the same thing. Funeral homes need to be pro-active. They need to support PRACTICAL sustainable products. Many feel importing caskets fromChina and Europe is hardly “green” coming across oceans, across the country on trucks, and find nice woodworkers locally to build fine simple caskets. Others don’t care.

Funeral homes who want to promote green options need to commit to new “green” products and carry them in stock. Our solution is providing a simple Intro Pac containing 1 burial shroud, 1 cremation shroud, 2 bottles of Green Burial Wash and a LOOK BOOK. Funeral homes that purchase this package do much better than those who keep information about our products “on file”.

A Kinkaraco Shroud used on HBO’s Six Feet Under, 2005

Pat McNally: What kind of relationships do you have with funeral service providers, and how do you think these relationships can improve to better serve families?

Esmerelda Kent: I have to say I love our funeral homes. I take a lot of time responding to every inquiry we receive on the internet from the funeral homes and make sure they understand the value of our products. Often there is a young (often female) “internal champion” in the funeral home who convinces the owner to provide these new products. It is one of the joys of my life that I am able to be “in touch” with so many states across the country selling these products.

There are so many smart, funny, kind and wonderful funeral directors out there. I vouch for my funeral homes. It is part of our business model to stimulate local American business so when individual customers get in touch with us online we inform them of the nearest funeral home reseller of our products and send them to our friends there. That way we keep an ongoing relationship with the funeral home and the customer can go see and feel the products in person and meet our friend the funeral director.

The ‘PURELIGHT’ Shroud

Pat McNally: Your web site provides a list of green cemeteries throughout the country. Many parts of the country are not currently served by a green cemetery, and those interested in a green burial may be understandably reluctant to bury out of their area. Do you have any advice for people in this situation?

Esmerelda Kent: First off let me explain that all of our products are green but they can be used for any type of funeral service- not just green burial but burial within a casket, cremation and removal from home and hospital. Believe it or not people have purchased herbal shrouds and put their embalmed relatives in them inside metal caskets in traditional cemeteries!

What people do with our products is none of my business.

That said, many new green areas are opening up in traditional cemeteries around the country everyday. I can’t keep up with it and there are at least twice as many green cemeteries now than are reflected on our website.

Many small cemeteries do not require vaults. Many traditional cemeteries will let you place a cement vault upside down over the shrouded body touching the earth or just a liner with no top or bottom. Many people are turning acreage into green cemeteries and people call me about how to do this regularly. This is a state by state issue of course and the Green Burial Council and Memorial Ecosystems are the most experienced in how to do this.

This is consumer driven. Where there is a will there is a way.

Ask for what you want and don’t take “NO” for an answer!

Pat McNally: Some in the funeral industry claim that green options are something that generates a lot of press and interest, but are seldom actually selected by families. How would you respond to this thought?

Esmerelda Kent: I think the funeral industry’s expectations are too high. I think some funeral homes are looking for a savior to get them back to the “good ol’ days” of huge profits.

Green burial is not going to save the funeral industry.
It’s going to bring the funeral industry into the sustainable 21st century.

The press regarding Green Burial began back in 2000. The funeral industry didn’t take note ‘til 2008 and become interested in earnest for the most part until 2009.

This is new. It takes time.

I see green burial as secular people having the same options as Muslim families or Jewish families. People who have lived natural lives, eating organic food deserve to be “composted” if they so desire. This is just another option. It is not the big solution. It is a more common sense solution that more and more baby boomers will choose along with ever growing cremation.

Pat McNally: Your site encourages and gives advice on ceremonial washing of the deceased. This is another practice that has a long history in most if not all cultures. What do we have to gain from returning to this practice?

Esmerelda Kent: It is beautiful. It is ceremonial. It is spiritual. It is ablution. It is non-invasive and it smells nice! The family often gets involved with this process when loved ones pass away at home in hospice. It is a great ceremony of care and closure. It is intuitively female in nature.

The ‘AFRICAN MUDCLOTH ‘ Shroud

Pat McNally: Many in funeral service, even those who advocate for increased family participation, dismiss home funeral ideas, saying that American families just cannot handle the realities of dealing hands on with the dead. We are told that viewing the body is an important step in accepting the reality of death, but that the reality of actually moving, or caring for our dead is too much for us. What are your thoughts on survivors addressing the physical realities of death?

Esmerelda Kent: I personally chose to have both my children at home in the bedroom.
In order to do this my husband and I studied and did extensive preparation and were completely aware of the reality of what we were in for.

Home childbirth is certainly not for everyone just as home funerals are not for everyone. Birth and Death are the most intense human experiences we have. It’s messy.

I have seen people get in way over their heads when a “Home Funeral” is more of an intellectual theory and political exercise and they do not have proper professionally trained help.

I have personally sold shrouds to people where they were not prepared and things did not go well. This is a great frustration to myself and funeral directors involved.

Home funerals are amazingly meaningful rich experiences when people are prepared and they are done right.

I am constantly advocating for funeral homes to offer a “Home Funeral Package” or “Ala Carte home funeral services” such as listing charges for just transportation, just filing paperwork, etc. Many people would like the help if they thought the funeral director would do just what they need help with. Not everyone wants to drive Mom to the cemetery in the back of the SUV!

The biggest thing right now is for funeral homes to be HUMBLE and do whatever people want that’s legal. Add more options, be flexible and most of all listen & learn from your customers.

The ‘Varanasi’ Shroud

Pat McNally: What effect would you hope that your work and products would have on the ways we think about and participate in caring for our dead?

Esmerelda Kent: Families have said to me:

” Your shrouds are like wedding gowns!”

“Your shroud turned the tragedy of my brother’s death into something sacred.”

“When my daughter died of breast cancer at 39 and I wrapped her in your shroud I felt she was protected.”

It is my personal desire to be of some small service to humankind while I am living.

I believe in ceremony and in honoring the life of a human being. Nothing is more tragic to me than a direct burial or cremation with no one in attendance.

KINKARACOägreen burial products exists to help offer 100% natural ,beautiful, caring, spiritually conceived ancient and sacred products to families to be able to participate in the death of loved ones. At the same time we are offering NEW, easy to use, simple (it is our goal to replace dressing corpses!) low cost , attractive funeral products for funeral homes that take up very little space.

So far it has been a positive meaningful experience for myself, the families , and the funeral homes and I am very grateful.

Pat McNally: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us!

For more information on Kinkaraco shrouds and other products, as well as some “how-to”s and information on the history of shrouds, please visit the Kinkaraco website, and the April 2008 American Cemetery article .

POSTED BY PATRICK MCNALLY

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What If Matt Simmons Is Right?

http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/07/what-if-hes-right.html

What If He’s Right?

       Just when America was celebrating the provisional end of BP’s Macondo oil blowout, and getting back to important issues like Kim Kardashian’s body-suit collection, along comes Matthew Simmons with a rather strange and alarming outcry on doings in the Gulf of Mexico that contradicts the mood of renewed festivity, as well as just about every shred of reportage from any media outlet, mainstream or otherwise.
     Matt Simmons Houston-based company has been the leading investment bank to the US oil industry for a long time, financing exploration and drilling in places like the Gulf of Mexico. Simmons, 68, recently retired from day-to-day management of the company. For much of the decade he has been what may be described as a peak oil activist. His 2005 book, Twilight in the Desert, warned the public that Saudi Arabia’s oil production had reached its limits and, more generally, that an oil-dependent world was entering a zone of serious trouble over its primary resource. He took this aggressive stance despite risking the ire of the people he did business with. 
        Matt Simmons is a sober individual and a very nice man (I’ve met him twice over the years), a button-downed corporate executive who’s been around the oil business for forty years. His knowledge is deep and comprehensive.  From the beginning of the BP Macondo blowout incident in April, he’s taken the far out position that the well-bore is fatally compromised and that BP has been consistently lying about their operations to stop the flow of oil. Perhaps most radically, Simmons claims that an oil “gusher” is pouring into the Gulf some distance from the drilling site itself.
       Last week, Simmons came on Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC financial show, but he did a longer interview over at the King World News website. (click here forERIC KING’S INTERVIEW WITH SIMMONS). Simmons’s current warning about the situation focuses on the gigantic “lake” of crude oil that is pooling under great pressure 4000 to 5000 feet down in the “basement” of the Gulf’s waters.  More particularly, he is concerned that a tropical storm will bring this oil up – as tropical storms and hurricanes usually do with deeper cold water – and with it clouds of methane gas that will move toward the Gulf shore and kill a lot of people. (I really don’t know the science on this and welcome any reader to correct me, but I suppose that the oil “lake” deep under the Gulf waters contains a lot of methane gas dissolved at pressure, and that as the oil rises toward the ocean’s surface, and lower pressures, the gas will bubble out of solution.)
       Simmons makes two additional points that are pretty radical: he says that several states along the Gulf ought to begin systematic evacuations in counties along the shore now. From his experience in Houston with Hurricane Rita (2005), he says a last-minute evacuation is bound to be a disaster — the highways jammed hopelessly, drivers ran out of gas, and then the gas stations ran out of gas. Based on where the nation’s collective state-of-mind is these days, I can’t imagine that any Gulf state governor or mayor will heed this warning and begin preparing an evacuation now. (The practical problems are obvious for householders but what if it really is a matter of life and death?)
        Secondly, Simmons maintains – as he has from near the beginning of the blowout – that the US military should take over operations from BP and ought to set off a “small” nuclear device down in the well-bore to fuse the rock into glass and seal the site permanently. Simmons says, based on his experience growing up in Utah near the government’s underground nuclear testing sites in neighboring Nevada, where scores of very large atomic bombs were set off for years with no measurable consequences above ground, that a small nuclear explosion down in the Macondo well is unlikely to have any effect above the undersea rock surface. I have no idea, personally if this is true.
     Matt Simmons is taking a position so “out there” that even the radical peak oil websiteTHEOILDRUM.COM won’t comment on his remarks (at least not as of early Monday morning July 19). I don’t know how to evaluate Simmons’s contentions myself, except to say that I don’t believe Simmons is a nut, or that he’s lost his marbles. We also must suppose that someone in his position is able to talk with an awful lot of the best people in the oil industry.  Simmons has put his reputation on the line. A lot of bystanders and commentators are treating him as a fool.  Simmons himself is painfully aware of his lonely stance and seems, in his public appearances, to be a very regretful messenger.
       In the past twenty-four hours, BP has reported some possible leaks coming out of the seabed some distance from the well-bore. Nobody has been able to confirm yet exactly what is happening down there.  One other thing Simmons said is that BP should be barred from the media airwaves since, he says, they have lied consistently in order to cover up their criminal negligence and culpability. The company itself cannot be saved because the claims against it are much greater than the value of its assets – but the people running the company could be sent to jail, so the incentive to keep lying remains high.
       Jesse at the JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN website makes an excellent point that if Matt Simmons is correct, and it turns out that the US government has been played by BP, then remaining public trust in the competence and legitimacy of government could evaporate. This is not a happy thing to contemplate at a time when the state of the nation and its economy are so fragile. What follows could make the current political situation seem like little more than, well, than a tea party, compared to the politics-to-come.
        Readers here at Clusterfuck Nation are probably well aware of my past declarations of being allergic to conspiracy theories and crazy ideas generally. I’m not really equipped to evaluate Matt Simmons’s warnings about the exact nature of the Macondo blowout and what might happen in the months ahead. But I am confident, having met the guy and corresponded with him and read his books, that he is a straight shooter. I’m sure that he is sincere in proclaiming his extreme discomfort with the position he’s taken.  Listen and decide for yourselves. (SIMMONS INTERVIEW WITH ERIC KING)