Sunday, July 27, 2008


zig, joanie (dear friend) and i munching on falafel and chips when approached a man, blitzed. beer oozed from pores as he sat outside with us at our table. his words were savagely slurred by booze. save a few hostile exceptions, our time playing down at pioneer square has yielded kind and comfortable interactions, mutual respect.

this man made us all a little uncomfortable.

i played chords as the man (nameless) spoke of his troubles. the attached song "thinking about drinking" resulted. he spoke, stooped over a plate of falafel zig had passed across the table.

"thinking about drinking because of you" & "can you see me now" were two reoccurring phrases. we played, sang, the man made a couple of lewd comments directed towards joanie about a tongue bath, then he left to collect the things he had left on the side of the street.

"hard to see someone at that stage of alcoholism" zig said later as we walked to the pergola. too true.


i think we've been fortunate that the vast majority of our interactions with people at pioneer square have been good ones. there is a lot of pain, a lot of drinking, and a certain lawlessness in the occidental park area. we've heard that the police don't even bother to patrol the park after dark.

.methamphetamines, liquor, cocaine.

our friends in the area encourage us to stay the hell out of occidental park after 10pm. "it's dangerous, you don't want to go out there now," surf-naked dean advised. true true. people get hurt.

sometimes i wonder if we truly take this work seriously, paying the people enough respect. can we (two white men with well paying jobs and undergraduate degrees) empathize with some of these people who have had far harder, far darker histories? i think our working understanding of our time at pioneer square at this time is we relate through the great equalizer - music.

we write songs, we collaborate on songs, we're honest with those that we work with. we don't steal, we appropriate, we ask permission, we're respectful. we don't want to be fakes, we don't want to carry on the tradition of the privileged harvesting the soul from the undeserved.

but we are cannibalizing - " thinking about drinkin' " arose from the slurpage of someone's pain not my own. i've had trouble drinking, or have trouble not drinking. i've been to meetings, collected coins, and read with a sponsor from the big book, but i've dove to to the level of the nameless man. it makes me wonder what drags a body so low.

~ and then, how can we help?
~ and then, where comes the urge to help?

is this sincere?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red Rock

Red Rock, a Native woman from Montana, shakes a Subway cup full of change. She looks put together, like she has a place to stay, but she's living off the streets. Her eyes seem to wander in her skull and she wears a crooked smile that comes easy. A spirit full of love. She hugs the guy we've been playing with, a well worn fellow who looks like he just got off a 3 year stint from the fishing boats and spent the next 6 months on the pavement. He speaks like a pirate, but the words barely make it through his beard and out his mouth. Food stains his shirt and there are leftovers in his beard. He's not a mean drunk at all, you can see his soft heart underneath the rags and the mumblings. Red Rock embraces pirate jim and, seeing our guitars, she says she has a song. We welcome it. She starts into "Call On Granny" and Noah and I fumble to fit chords underneath the melody, but it proves natural. In moments we're pulling out the recorder. Noah exhibits the kind of trust and bravado that makes me weep with joy, handing pirate Jim the recorder and showing him how to use it. Listening back, you can hear his dizzy hand wavering in the middle of our circle, capturing Red Rock's song.

We just call on Granny in the middle of the storm,
she points out the rainbow in the evening's burly warmth.
Between the rainbow sprites and the silly old elves
there wasn't much to hide
and the love on the ranch grows deep and wide.

The rainbow began in the back of our farming home
and ended in our fields of golden grain,
but when that pot of gold just didn't show
at the end of the pouring rain
we learned how to love and live with pain.

Granny died of years of heartache and a stroke
left us a farm and ranch and cellar that is broke.
We sold the ranch to a neighbor
who appreciates what we have,
but we still call on Granny when things are bad.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Give It To Me Rusty is a musical collaboration with Seattle's downtown homeless population. Since 2008, Noah Dassel and Aaron Zuege have adapted the stories of the homeless they meet face to face on the streets of Seattle.

Give It To Me Rusty began when Dassel and Zuege needed a convenient place to play music after meeting in the summer of 2008. Occidental Park was the midpoint of their work locations and they decided to meet at the trolley stop to work on songs together. Things developed quicly and the curious passersbys, many folks living on the streets, soon began to offer their own lyrics and life stories. The jam sessions began to develop into a project.

People had their own lyrics, and the duo was happy to cobble together accompanying chords. The first was "Lost Train" by Jim, a 60-something visiting seattle from colorado for a new ALS treatment. "i don't really need detox, i just go to meet the people" he said while he and a friend waited for the drunk wagon. Jim then went into pitching brutal black and white imagery about life, death, and and the battle of the train losing it's tracks.
visit t
"how do you lose a train on the tracks
you're always thinking about going
to something you left back home,
to something you left back home..."

"i shot a man and went to prison
for sixteen years.
what did i learn?
i really can't say."

On the next visit to the benches of the Square, Jim's pal, Dean, approached wearing a surf naked shirt and drinkin a tall boy. He was in remarkably better condition than our first meeting and a song emerged..."Give It To Me Rusty", about being a woman's secondhand man.

listen to the birthing of the song here: