Destination Unknown

I struggle with fear.  A lot. Last year I gave up fear for Lent.  Somehow or other it crept back in. Lent is so overrated.

I try to live a hopeful life.  Maybe to combat the fear – a sort of self preservation.  Somedays I’m better at it than others.

Today seems to be a better day.

It occured to me this morning that the recipes for fear and hope share a common ingredient: The Unknown.

The new album that so many of you have bought and downloaded (many thanks) is finally getting it’s long overdue St. Paul CD release show tonight.

The new business Micah and I started, Brake Bread, is going smashingly.  Today marks our third week of deliveries.

Music and bread are ripe with unknowns.

Hope I choose the right recipe.

Till then, here’s one of my favorite songs by my vocal coach:

Posted: March 19th, 2014
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Clean Up Your Crap

I’m spending the morning in piles of paper.  I really love organization.  I really hate paperwork.  I would rather write songs and bake bread but this is all part of it.  To make it easier I’m listening to great music (Lucinda Williams live at the Fillmore) and throwing as much paper as possible into the recycling so that I don’t have to deal with it again in the future.  Less crap = More fun.

A couple things I won’t throw away.  I’ve got a pile of scraps of paper where I’ve written down quotes from books or heard spoken.  So here are a few that keep me going, get me out of bed, inspire me, console me, what have you.

“Acedia is a danger to anyone whose work requires great concentration and discipline yet is considered by many to be of little practical value.” Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me

“The fastest way to do things you don’t think you can be done is to surround yourself with people already doing them.” Scott Dinsmore

Love, peace, and revolution,

Nate.

Posted: February 26th, 2014
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That Thing You Said On Twitter Really Ticked Me Off.

I quit using facebook last November.  I still have a Nate Houge page so that I can keep the Nate Houge Propaganda machine rolling, but as far as a personal page?  Adios.  Why?  Everyone was always so shiny happy and successful on FB that I went around feeling like I’d never add up.  It depressed me.  So I quit it.  Do I miss the cat pictures?  Of course.  (Not really.  Cats are dumb.) (And readership plummets.)

But, since we all need a time sucking divergence in life, I’m still on Twitter.  @housewithag, to be exact.  I have found and others have confirmed that Twitter seems to carry less baggage.  Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to use it properly, but whatevs, it’s working for me.

Except for when someone says something stupid.  Which happens.  And 140 characters is never enough to set them straight.  So I fume.

But I’ve also got a blog.  Which is like a bad diary that 12 of you read and lets my mom feel like she’s still part of my life.  (BTW, Happy belated B-day Mom!)

So with this blog I will now respond to some dude’s tweet that went kinda like this:

“Stop getting your theology from christian authors and musicians and look to the Bible and the church”

I replied, “Worst advice ever.” But what I wanted to add was:  Are you freakin’ nutz?  Nobody should limit their sources when it comes to understanding God.  Yes, the Bible should inform your thelology, duh.  And yes, you’re going to learn stuff about God at church, again, duh.  But guess what else?  Those authors and musicians (by which I’m assuming you include songwriters)?  They have something to say too.  And not just the Christian ones.  You should be getting your theology from the Atheist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim etc… writers too.  I’m not saying that you should necessarily believe what they believe, but I am saying that what they have to say is valid in shaping your own understanding of God.  Or more importantly, in God’s revealing God’s self to you.
And this will come as no surprise, God is going to shape your theology thru other disciplines too.  My theology is shaped by the arts, by VW mechanics, by ninjas, by children, by old farts, by skater documentaries, by surf magazines, by night skiing and by idiot tweets that get me all pissy about limiting God – to name  a few sources.  Stop limiting God.  Incarnation happens.
Theology done in a vaccuum keeps God in a vaccuum.

I feel better now.  Thank you.

Character Count: 2425

Posted: February 19th, 2014
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Shade – New Song

This song was funded by my Patrons at Patreon. It’s a song written about grief and grieving. I wrote it at a time when a number of my couple friends were mourning miscarriages and dealing with the pain of either keeping it quiet and having nowhere to mourn the loss, or sharing it publicly and dealing with everybody’s well intentioned but nearly always worthless and often hurtful take on the situation. (Next time you have a hankering for bad theology try posting something death related for all your christian friends on fakebook. They generally say everything – including Praise the Lord – except the one thing you generally want to hear, which in my case would be: That sucks. I’ll drop off chocolate and whiskey.) The hospital imagery comes from my own experience of spending days at and near the hospital when my father in law died several years back. A lot of uncomfortable hours doing puzzles with strangers and extended family.

I really love this song. I think it’s beautiful and when I first wrote it I couldn’t sing through it without stopping to cry. There are few things harder than watching friends suffer and being incapable of doing anything more than being present. What’s more, this recording features my friend and neighbor Erin DeBoer-Moran. She showed up and figured out how to play a piano part that fit my make believe chords in open D tuning. And those harmonies. I love this song all the more for her additions. Plus, I got to use my Cascade Fatheads to mic our upright kindofintune piano.

 

Here’s a sample from the chorus:

To hear the entire song click here and join my awesome Patrons. For $1 you get to stream the entire song and for $3 you can stream and download it. Patrons are what make it possible for me to give these songs away down the road… (So yeah, if you wait long enough this song will be available for free.)
Shade
w/m Nate Houge (c)2012 Lutefist
Nate Houge – Guitar, Vocals
Erin DeBoer-Moran – Piano, Vocals.
These have been the worst days
full of doubt; questioning why
say you got some good news
But I don’t need your laughter, I need someone to cry
In the shade of God, there is hope
but for now, I need to fall apart
I read every word that you wrote
In these words, you hold my broken heart
All the waiting rooms
fluorescent lights, bad magazines
picture life together
and even through the tears, there is love in every seen
All this life has given
memories, hold them so close
death may be a season
but no one wants to say goodbye to the ones we love the most

 

Posted: February 12th, 2014
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Human.

I’m listening to Damien Jurado’s new album as I write. I’ve been listening to it a lot. It’s fanatastic and you should buy it. You should also buy a time machine and go back to last Friday and go see Damien with me at the Turf Club. Then on Sunday you could come to church with me and listen to Matt Arthur and Don Bratlander sing their songs and old gospel hymns. And then you could head over to Shamrock’s on Monday night and listen to amazing stories interspersed with songs by Communist Daughter. That’s what you could do if you bought a time machine.  (That and zing people with all those witty comebacks you thought of hours after the fact.)

All three of these artists/bands are terrific in their own way. They’re three of my current favorites and that I got to see them all over the course of four days is pretty flippin’ amazing.

I love live music. I love live albums. I love the risk involved in turning off the digital fixery and laying it all on the line.

I can pinpoint in each of these three performances where the artist broke through to the audience, and each break through occurred when the artist was most vulnerable/obviously human.

Damien Jurado – His connection was about 2/3rds of the way through when he opened himself up to the questions and answers. You could ask him anything. And he might answer it. Or he might shrug. Or he might make fun of you.

Matt Arthur – Matt is blind. He stops and sways when he swings and at one point had rotated till his body was facing away from the people. His sideman, Don, reached over between songs and rotated him around to face the group once again. “We have to do that a couple times during each show.”

Communist Daughter – This was a storytelling event held every few months at Shamrock’s, put on by Humble Walk. This month the stories were pretty heavy. They usually are. Loss, divorce, abandonment… And Communist Daughter’s music isn’t exactly light hearted either. Which made it a perfect match. And then half way through a song Johnny forgot the words. Not just fumbling and carrying on, but music stop, come to a halt, no words. It broke all kinds of tension, let a bit of release into the room, and as soon as Molly whispered them into his ear there were smiles, laughter, and the song started back up.

All three performances were amazing and professional, but the human and vulnerable moments… That was the space that let the rest of us in. That’s where we connected with the performers and with each other. It’s a gift to be human.

 

Posted: February 5th, 2014
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If I Had A Hammer… I’d Bake Bread

You can’t help but be saddened by the news of Pete Seeger’s death. You don’t even have to like his music to like that guy. I myself do like his music. I think he was punk rock. Or maybe I think punk rock is folk. Either hitherto hee-haw way he was a heckuva guy.I love his way of getting things done. By song, by deed, by honesty. He risked his life to sing his songs at times. Inspiration. Makes you wanna hammer in the morning.
Long time friend and collaborator Micah Taylor and I are embarking on a new venture on Wednesday. It’s called Brake Bread. It’s a bike delivery bakery. We bake it, We baguette, We bike it. We have two trial weeks of delivery and then we evaluate if this is really possible.
And of course it’s possible. It’s a move towards being local and sustainable and all that crunchy granola who-haw (not to be confused with hee-haw) hipster hippy co-op friendly lingo we like to throw around and occasionally act upon.
We have to figure out pricing. That’s not nearly as straightforward as one might think. Keep in mind: I hate money and dealing with it. I like to make money and spend it. (See how this might confuse some?) Not to mention one of the key components of sustainability: You gotta sustain it.
And let us not forget, that as awesome as the bread may be (and I think way awesome) we’re not just selling bread we’re selling a story.
I think it’s like field of dreams. I think people will support Brake Bread that don’t even live within biking distance. I think they will because they like the idea of two guys baking bread and delivering it to their neighborhood. Doing things slow. Meeting the neighbors. Getting to know people and making connections between maker and the taker.
Part of this theory is that I’ve been realizing more and more that we’re not bound by the stories we’re told to live out as much as we are set free by the stories we choose to live out.
I want to live out a story where I do things I love with the people I love. (For me the starting point is recognizing that I am loved.)
I want to do things simply. Corny? Maybe, but I can’t find much fault in being simple.
Because as it turns out I’ve got a hammer. And a bell. And a song.
Not to mention a bike and 50 pounds of flour.So… do you want to be a part of it?


Posted: January 29th, 2014
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Exploding Outhouse Meditation.

outhouse

As you may know I live in MN. It gets cold here this time of year. On Tuesday the high was around 8 I believe. I have a lot of odds and ends gigs right now trying to scrape together whatever scraps there are for scraping. Its not that bad as it turns out. One of my gigs involves working with my wife. It’s great. She has an office now. It’s a couple miles away… maybe 3, but not far. We had a meeting and she had the car (the one that works in winter) so I biked there. I just ordered studded tires but they haven’t arrived yet. I’ve found that low tire pressure helps on the ice. I bundled upon bundled. Bonus – she works by a golf course with groomed cross country ski trails. So I strapped my skis (a gift from Bill) on to my bike so as to follow up my meeting with some time on the trails.
Like most of MN I have mild depression. It sucks, but it’s manageable. One of the keys to keeping myself sunny-side up is exercise. For many years that has been running. But my right knee always bugged me. I switched to some of those no-rise barefoot style shoes and after breaking them in – or rather my calves – I was able to up my mileage pain free. They don’t work for everyone, they worked for me though and so there’s that. On Thanksgiving day I ran a trail half marathon with my Dad. At mile 10 I bruised a bone on the sole of my foot landing on a random shrub stump on the trail. It hurt but at mile 10 most of my body did so I just kept truckin’ Turns out I couldn’t run on it for a month. I was able to keep swimming and doing workout videos – which we all know is the pinnacle of awesome. I kept happy. My friend Jim got skinny skis and the glide on the trail was perfect for my foot so I did that. Then while loading a sled on top of our car after Christmas I slipped from the door frame and cracked/bruise/busted a rib. It hurt. It hurt to sit. Or bend. Or lay down, or cough or sneeze or just about anything. I still went out skiing a couple times. That didn’t help it. And sledding made it worse. And I couldn’t swim ’cause how it affected my right arm. It still hurts now but not nearly as bad. I can almost sleep on my right side again. Celebrate the small things.
All that to say it’s hard some days to stay positive. I’m grateful that it’s healed to the point that I can bike around town and ski and all that stuff.
My Grandpa died right before Thanksgiving. He was 106. His name was Art. I’ve been thinking about him and life a lot. I’m 36. I’ve got another 70 years to be me. I might as well get used to me.
Minnesota is an incredibly active state. You can put up with the cold or you can embrace it. The winters I embrace it I’m less likely to end up in counseling. It’s also so creative here. But you get that in a lot of cold places. Iceland has great music festivals and amazing bands. And people dress for the weather.
Depression is a great source for creativity too as long as you don’t go cutting off your ear or sticking your head in an oven.
My grandpa made little knick knack things in his retirement. Norwegian weather rocks. That sort of thing. He did it in the days before pintrest. Heck, he was retired before the internet came out. He also remembers the first time he saw an airplane. I’ve got a little interview with him from a few years back. I’ve been looking at it on my desk thinking I should type it up for all the internet to see. But maybe it should just stay on my desk.
I strapped my ski’s to my bike as I said and I headed to the meeting. And after the meeting I headed to the golf course. There was one lady getting in her car and I had the bike parking all too myself. Halfway ’round I saw an older man with pants stuffed into red hiking socks and a purple bandana around his neck. We smiled and chatted and he skied off the course, I’m assuming in the direction of his home.
I have some of my Grandpa’s knick knacks around the house. A bird house hanging in our living room, a clothespin rigged up to smash a quarter – it’s a quarter pounder of course. And my favorite is the exploding outhouse. It’s a beauty. I’ve been making a few of those myself. I’ve made seven. My goal is to make 20 by the end of the month. I’ll sell them just like my Grandpa did. $20 and you can have one of your very own. Or maybe I’ll just keep them.
When you sing Taize songs the key is to sing past the point of boredom and it becomes a meditaton.
After four outhouses it gets a little boring. I think at 10 or 12 I’ll move into meditation.
I’m grateful that I live in a place that’s within biking distance of skiing. I’m grateful that I can hodge podge a living that allows for exploding outhouses.
And all the creativity of this cold cold neck of the woods. As I work through these outhouses I’m writing songs and recording demos. I’m getting more small pay big fun gigs with Welaware. Next Wednesday I’m baking 20 loaves of bread and delivering them by bicycle with my friend Micah.
Another friend and his wife are expecting their first kid. The ultimate creative maneuver.
So it’s all dark and gloomy and that will always be but there are glimpses of life and you get to ride your bike and the winter can’t say no. And your body will fail you but you still find a way to move inside or out. And depression is real and no lie a killer and I’m surrounded by people that see all these sides of me and still love me even when I get grumpy about exercise or line up my french fries to create a little order or don’t get up in time to sit in front of my happy light. And I love them too. And I love it when they tell me to lie down and read a magazine. Or how after a long day with a bike ride, a ski, and another bike ride a friend calls you up to go night skiing. And so you go for it. And you have a great time in zero degree weather laughing as the snot freezes to your balaclava and you lose site of the trail when the clouds cover the moon. The cold and the dark aren’t going away but that doesn’t mean they’re winning. Even if I did arrive by car.

Posted: January 22nd, 2014
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Hey Bike Tour – Day 5

Day 5 – Rochester, People of Hope &  Northfield, The Chapel

Up at 6am. 34 degrees and drizzly. 5 miles to People of Hope Lutheran Church where I was to lead music at two services before biking 60 miles to Northfield for the big rock and roll ending to the Hey That’s My Bike Tour.

Got to the church and was warmly welcomed. Of course after the last 5 miles in the cold wet dark any welcome had the odds of being warm. I held on to a cup of coffee for awhile until I could feel my fingers again. Set up my merchandise, sound checked, looked through the power point that was set up, reminded myself that some people are gooder with technology than I am and gave thanks, and then helped carry some pumpkins in for the Great Pumpkin Giveaway!

About a year ago I met up with my buddy Richard in a town south of Rochester for a little mentoring, guidance, encouragement, and all that other stuff interdependent artists like myself require. Before heading back to St. Paul Richard said, “Hey, my dad wants to fill up your tank with gas.”

“?”

“He gave me a gas card for this station so that whenever we’re passing through we can fill up the tank. It works for friends too.”

“!”

And so Richard’s dad filled up my tank. My 16 gallon Vanagon tank with prices at three-something a gallon.

Well it turns out Richard’s folks go to People of Hope. And I met them. And I said, “You filled up my tank with gas a year ago!”

He of course, having never met me, was a bit confused. So I explained the situation. And then he had the best reaction ever. “I did?” His eyes got big and his smile got bigger. “OH! That’s great!” and he laughed the most delightful overjoyed laugh. It was a eureka moment. His hair brained scheme to keep random artist strangers on the road was working! He had successfully thwarted the powers of failure. He did it! In the best possible way. He couldn’t have been happier.

I want to be like that.

I felt incredibly at home at People of Hope. Just shy of taking my shoes off and leaving my socks in the middle of the floor comfortable. Great people, great vibe, oatmeal raisin cookies… All good.

After church I gave kids rides around the parking lot on the back of my bike. I charged them $1. Not really.

It was about noon. I had 6 ½ hrs. to travel 60 miles. I may not have mentioned it but my thighs had not stopped burning since Winona. My legs were shot. The forecast was rain. I called my friend Erica with the minivan. I took her up on an earlier offer. She dropped me off in Kenyon. She cut my travel down to 22 miles. Hallelujah.

I limped into Northfield around 4. In the rain. Alone. Tired. Oscillating between defeated and triumphant. Into the Blue Moon for coffee. Noticed someone (George the Intern I later learned) had put up a poster for that night’s show. Then I noticed he had put up more than one. About 16 more than one. I was surrounded. By me. As if I hadn’t had enough of me already this week. A lesser man would’ve cried. No comment.

First Micah showed up. Spirits lifted we went out for pizza. Then Graham and Tim joined us. Michael Morris showed up along with Geroge The Intern and we loaded the gear up a lot of stairs. These legs were acutely aware of said stairs. Micah had picked up my electric gear the week before and it was super fun plugging in and being loud.  Ending the tour with the full band Welaware experience ruled.

It was another quality over quantity night but the folks who did come included people who’s opinion matters so much to me I couldn’t have been happier to play for them. Including but not limited to: Jodi Houge, Matt Marohl, Rachel Kurtz, Erin DeBoer-Moran, and Michael Morris. Wowzers.

The show was great. This is our second show with Tim on bass and he kills it. Graham kept my tempo in check… or did the best he could with what he had… Micah brought the noise. And broke a pickup while mastering the art of adjusting pedals with the face of a telecaster. It was glorious.

We packed up. I threw everything (including bike) into the back of Jodi’s pickup. We got home.

I slept and slept and slept.

Quite possibly the greatest tour of my career.

Posted: November 12th, 2013
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Hey Bike Tour – Day 4

Day 4 – Rochester – The Salon

Today’s ride was great only because parts were so not how I had hoped. I’m already lugging slowly on a long bike with all my gear, I was not expecting the google maps to send me down gravel roads. But they did. Not my first choice for this kind of ride, but as it turns out pretty fun. And the dust? Not bad at all thanks to the near freezing rain.

So that was exciting.

I got to Rochester, or Roch – as the locals should call it, and met up with my friend Jason. We locked my bike up at his work and went out for a late lunch. I had a huge bean burrito. It started pouring outside. I happily got in his car after lunch and we drove to his home, hung with Erica and the kids, I cleaned up my act, the rain subsided, I went and set up at the Salon.

The Salon is an all volunteer run endeavor.  As it turned out, from 6-7  I was the only volunteer there. Volunteer organizations can be a bit trusting. I called Jodi and told her the great news that I was now in charge of an art space in downtown Rochester. She was thrilled.

Great folks came out to the concert. A few I knew, a few of their friends, and a few that read about it in the paper and gave it a shot. I’m glad they did. There was also a youngster there that loves my song “Monkey Dance” off the kung fu princess album. Though I haven’t performed it for awhile, no worries. She accepted my invitation and led the group in the Monkey Dance. Pretty much made my night. That and the after concert black ale (s) with Jason and Erica.

Posted: November 12th, 2013
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Hey Bike Tour – Day 3

flat tire

You never regret going on a bike ride.
This is what I told my wife when I got home from the post office and bank today in a light drizzle and a recent drop in temperature. And this is true about my recent bike tour as well.

My friend Richard called me today to check in on the recent tour and I realized that I had only blogged about the first two days. Assuming you all check my website daily I’m guessing you were quite certain and I had met an untimely end on a back road of Minnesota. It seems the only plausible explanation for why I hadn’t blogged day 3,4, and 5.
As it turns out I did not die but am very much alive. I just got kind of tired. I’ve now written up the last few days and will post them one day at a time complete with an insight/observation blog at the end. Here goes something.
DAY 3 – Winona – Acoustic Cafe
The ride from from Wabasha to Winona was short and beautiful. It would’ve been shorter had I not got another flat tire. Again it was on the rear wheel which is akin to taking everything out of the trunk of your car to get to the spare. Luckily I got it right next too a beautiful park. I think it was in Goodview. So I had a snack, laid down on a park bench for awhile, and patched it up. Onward to Winona. I got to the Acoustic Cafe mid afternoon and stashed my stuff in a corner. I took care of work stuff- wrote a set list, deposited a couple checks at the bank, and sent off a CD order that I had been carrying with me since St. Paul.  Then I headed over to Adventure Cycle & Ski and looked into some tire options. The folks there were great and I spent everything I had made in tips so far on a new tire (hard case, puncture resistant) and leg warmers. For some dumb reason I had only brought bike shorts and these nifty things covered the rest of my legs which I was very grateful for the next two days.
I ate a huge vegi burrito.
I played to a small crowd.
Patty, who I sold my lap steel to a couple of weeks ago in St. Paul, happened to be playing with Jack Klatt down the street, saw me, and waved. We talked. Small world.
I had a great time.
The guys working at Acoustic were super great. People came and went as is the norm for most coffee shop gigs, but everyone that came listened. The tips were good, I sold a few CD’s, and at the end of the night I got to stay with a friend’s parents who put my bike on their bike rack and took great care of me. I woke up to french toast and eggs. ’nuff said.

 

Posted: October 30th, 2013
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