“I woke up this morning, and none of the news was good/And death machines were rumbling across the ground where Jesus stood/And the man on TV told me it had always been that way/ And there was nothin’ anyone could do or say…” -Steve Earle, Jerusalem

I’ve been listening to Steve Earle a lot lately. Earle and the late, great Graham Parsons are the two artists responsible for tuning me in to country music. Before that I thought country was just twangy stuff for hillbillies. Parsons died young. A victim of too much excess, he succumbed in a motel room in the Joshua Tree Desert. While he was with us, Graham wrote and recorded some great songs, shone a light on the stellar vocalist Emmy Lou Harris, and served as a conduit between traditional country and rock and roll music, heavily influencing the Rolling Stones, among others. You can clearly hear Parsons’ voice, filtered through Keith Richards, in songs like “Wild Horses,” and “Dead Flowers.”

That’s one of my favorite aspects of art, writing, and music­—the way a thread winds its way through, leading directly or indirectly from one artist to the next, how it winds from the schism, from the birth of the word, up to this moment right now. Art creates that sense of connectivity that we naturally crave. It takes us back into the past and moves us forward at the same time. In my opinion, art is about the best we can do as human beings, zipping through space on this spinning rock.

RIP Coffee Cat

Sad update on our petite geriatric black cat, Coffee: she passed away a few days ago. I thought she was making a comeback, but I suppose she was too far gone by the time I found her on the street. We only had her with us for a couple of weeks, just long enough to break our hearts. I’m glad she could spend the last of her days resting in relative comfort.

Toil and Strife

It’s a crazy life. One day it picks you up and exalts you, the next you’re crying in the gutter. I’ve been writing this column now for who knows how long, a long while. I don’t always understand why I write it. It doesn’t always flow, as I’m sure many of you have noticed. Occasionally it is a breeze; more often than not it is toil. I question the self-indulgence of basically putting out a glorified journal every week, and I often wonder if anyone is getting anything out of it. Then I have a conversation with a reader, like I did the other night at the Maltese, which makes it all feel worthwhile. It’s when I get to make that connection and share some of this nutty thing that, for lack of a better word, we call humanity, that the why becomes clear. So thanks, Joey. You made my week; and thanks to all of you who are reading this now. I am truly honored.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.