A Perfect Waste of Time

by Alexis Harte

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about

A 1968 Gibson ES-335

I stopped keeping a journal years ago. These albums (6 now!) have become a substitute: a place to log snapshots, stories, and observations I’ve made along the way.

The 5 years since my last record, 6 Spoons of Honey, have been a wild ride. The journal entry would start with a long slow-mo fall down a steep staircase that left me with a broken transverse process and a severely herniated L5-S1, unable to hold up my then infant son.

In the hazy Oxy aftermath, I bought a sweat-burnished cherry-red 1968 Gibson ES-335. It was the classic reckless bout of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) that always accompanies feelings of self-pity. The only reason I could afford such a pedigreed guitar was its cracked headstock joint. But the repair was perfect, a beautiful, clean incision. No longer a collector’s item, it’s what’s known as a player’s guitar. Any guitarist will know what I mean.

That guitar and I bonded over our shared age (I too was built in ‘68) and our broken spines. Looking back, I guess we kind of gave each other our purposes back. All of the non-acoustic songs on this record were written on that ES-335, and it is all over the whole record.

“The scar on my back was a note she wrote—still have to make plans”

Two Rivers

I grew up next to Live Oak Creek in Berkeley and used to explore it after school. My pals and I even had an Adventurers Club, admission to which was earned through a solo trek underground in the tunnel beneath the city block. I can always flash back to the reverb-y black, the cold slimy walls, the rumble of old volvos, VWs, and mopars on the street above.

In my 20s, I trained in ecology and spent a few years between the U.S. and the Brazilian Amazon, where I explored a much bigger river. But the truth is, it will always remain a total mystery to me. The Amazon—its lore, its traditions—is not part of my memory.


I found my home over the last two decades, and settled back into my old neighborhood. Now my son (and my daughter before him) and I play in that same Berkeley creek after I pick him up from the same elementary school I went to (Oxford men, both of us). The story of me crashing my bike down a gully into the creek, emerging bloody and wailing, is part of his mythology of the place. We are slowly building traditions and memories here.

A Perfect Waste of Time is a 5-year journal entry for a long trip home. It’s about reconciling the desire to travel widely with the thrill of knowing a place well, no matter how provincial it may sometimes feel. The mysteries are still there, dark tunnels under the street. I’m reveling in the exoticism of the familiar. I hope you can hear that in this record.

“We travel so far, we fly by plane. But we never leave ourselves behind in the end.”

credits

released October 20, 2016

(1) engineered and mixed by Jonathan D. Wiesler at Decibelle Recording, San Francisco, CA (decibellerecording.com), produced by Jonathan D. Wiesler and Alexis Harte.

(2–10) engineered and mixed by Jon Evans at Brick Hill Studios, Orleans, MA (jonevansmusic.com), co-produced by Jon Evans and Alexis Harte.

(11) mixed by Jonathan D. Wiesler, engineered and produced by Alexis Harte.

Mastered by Piper Payne at Coast Mastering (coastmastering.com).

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about

Alexis Harte San Francisco, California

Alexis Harte's studio releases have received critical acclaim both in the US and abroad. In addition to sharing bills with Taj Mahal, Cat Power, Ritchie Havens, Dar Wiliams and more, he has placed dozens of tracks in television shows and several films.
In a parallel and oft intertwined career, Alexis has led diverse environmental efforts from urban/community forestry to climate change education
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Track Name: Heads or Tails
Heads or Tails

On any given day, there’s a chance of rain
another meteor, just missed again
The earth might shake, seas breach the walls
and what were the odds, we even made it here at all?

Like a penny you fell, from out of the blue
all reason betrayed, when I opened my hands and found you...

Heads I love you, tails I love you too
you can call it in the air

In this Milky Way, I’d say the odds are good
someone’s staring back, from their clearing in the woods
But that's a guessing game, from my point of view
and I won’t play dice, when it comes to me and you

Heads I love you, tails I love you too

It’s a Summer’s day, kids run and play
but daddy’s down, ambulance on the way
Guess the glass was tipped, the sand ran through
so I will not waste, the little time I get with you

Heads I love you, tails I love you too
Track Name: Downgraded
Downgraded

Pluto taught me not to take anything for granted
you might wake and find that you’re no longer a planet
Though you haven’t changed who you are,
still orbit the same star

Someone can still decide you've been downgraded

When it hits the shore, hits like a hurricane
but after a while... settles into rain
Though you haven't changed who you are,
still carry the same scars

Someone can still decide you’ve been downgraded
Track Name: Waiting to be Found
Waiting to Be Found

I crouch in the dusty darkness
I listen for your footsteps to fall
but there's nothing at all

I blend with the coats in the hallway
you’re saying olly-oxen-free
You stopped looking for me
that’s too bad

I was waiting to be found

I open a conversation, always start with something small
try a temporary diversion...starting to feel like Fall
One day I'll show you all
but for now

I'm just waiting to be found

This house has grown awful quiet
all the kids I guess they’ve up and they’ve gone
Guess they've all moved along
except for me

Still waiting to be found

I open a conversation, always start with something small
try a temporary diversion, starting to feel like Fall
One day I'll show you all
but for now

I'm just waiting to be found
Track Name: Carry Our Clouds
We Carry Our Clouds

Little black-eyed Lazy Susan
knew damn well she was losing
Couldn’t keep her down
she skipped town like a stone on the water

Your head’s down, your hands in your pockets
thoughts rising like bottle rockets
Summer’s heat, the skies got hazy
flowers blooming loud and crazy

We carry our clouds from town to town
then wonder why the rain comes pouring down our blue sky

I put on my shoes, and stepped outside
turned around with traveler’s eyes
And as the familiar became strange
I realized I didn’t know my neighbor’s name

We travel so far, we fly by plane
but we never leave ourselves behind in the end
We carry our clouds from town to town
and wonder why the rain comes pouring down our blue sky

Foolin around by the dock
hands spin madly round the clock
you took that little sunfish out on a dare

When the waves that crashed over your bow
turned from fresh to salt water somehow
you’re in the deep sea

We carry our clouds from town to town
and wonder why the rain comes pouring down our blue sky

Hey Susan, are you homeward bound?
I really want to show you all the things I’ve found

The sweetest plums on the red, red trees
and a river still flows under Berryman Street
Track Name: No Wrong Way Home
No Wrong Way Home

I hope your dreams, don't feel small
and when the wind begins to rise, I hope your mast stands straight and tall
These are fragile times, we blur the lines
in the unlikeliest of places, we all find a little grace
…and there's no wrong way home

One winter coat, two wild eyes
all the unspoken love that you're carrying inside
These ain't the calmest days, but you like it that way
won't you rest a while in the storm’s peaceful eye?

It ain't where you been, but where you're going to
it's not where you're from, but where you belong
….and there's no wrong way home

The spiraled shell, the golden mean
you see you’re just the sum of those who've been
down this road before…you were expecting more?
It won’t hurt to rest a while…the soft shoulder by your side
...and there’s no wrong way home

I didn’t choose you, you didn’t chose me
for the briefest, flashing moment, kept each other company
Then we’re on our own, wheeling restless bones
and I’ll see you by and by … two unlikely butterflies

It ain't where you been, but where you're going to
it's not where you're from, but where you belong
...and there's no wrong way home

We go 0 to 9, never reaching 10
because we turn ourselves over and start it all again
I guess I’m still a child guess I’ll never learn…
part of me still likes to watch an odometer turn
...and there’s no wrong way home

One blue-green world, round as a pearl
doesn't matter which road you take, you’ll wind up in the same place
Thats not philosophy, its geometry
and if things don’t look the same, well it’s only you who’ve changed

It ain't where you been, but where you're going to
it's not where you're from, but where you belong
...and there's no wrong way home

So I hope your plans accounted for rain
I hope you stashed a few dreams where you might find them once again
These are the best of days, it never feels that way
it’s only in the rearview mirror, these things become clearer
...and there’s no wrong way home

One braid for laughter, one for fear
I tied ‘em both together, cuz it was always windy here
And don’t take this wrong, but I never knew
were you watching over me, or I was watching over you..?

It ain't where you been, but where you're going to
it's not where you're from, but where you belong
...and there's no wrong way home
Track Name: Seven Lively Sins
“7 Lively Sins”

There’s be no saints, without some sinners
no good losers, without some bad winners

You can have your love, you can have your trust
just gimme greed, envy, and lust
with 4 more, waiting in line

So many sins....So little time

There’d be no you, there’d be no me
no one was born of chastity.

You can have your faith, your humility
I’ve got pride, wrath, and gluttony
We'll stay in bed, til the sun climbs high

So many sins, so little time

You see the church, I see the steeple
you open the door, see the little people
You can have your prayers and your bended knees
I'm going to do just what I please..
Because it’s over in the blink of an eye

So many sins, so little time
Track Name: Dustaway
Dustaway

Once we made plans
but only for one day
....kept the dust away

I still feel the feel of the sea in my throat
with sticks on the sand I wrote, a note:

We’ve got plans

Take one mis-step
a steep flight of stairs
And you could lose 5 years
to anger, pain and tears

I still feel the feel of the tube in my throat
the scar on my back was a note, she wrote:
still have to make plans
Track Name: Grown
Grown

Felt the tug on my sleeve, being pulled straight from the rat race
can still your fingers, tracing lines down my face

You said, “I can't believe they'd make you sit there in that room
when that big ole clock is ticking and the world's in sweet bloom”

We felt the pull of the sea, and it tugged us all down under
didn't mind drowning in this perfect of sense of wonder
I never thought you'd miss me, no I never did assume
while your heart was beating loud and your world was in sweet bloom

They’ll be grey days, but you’ll find your way
and If the road looks long, my how you’ve grown
It all happened so randomly, like someone spun a wheel that paired you with me
and we're alive on the same summer day

But one day that same wheel will carry you away

My you've grown
Track Name: IYAWYSTYA (Leo's Song)
IYAWYSTYA (Leo’s Song)

It might look like a schoolyard, but it’s a map of the world
and all of the countries are little boys and girls

Who patrol the playground, their borders defined
who say woe to the traveller, with no allegiance aligned

...but you'll be fine
if you are who you say that you are

When you get a little older, they're gonna put you on a graph
and if you’re an outlier, rest assured they’re gonna laugh

And you may find yourself dancing, quite all alone
or you might attract a little cluster of your very own

...and you’ll be fine
if you are who you say that you are

Might be a classroom, a greenroom, a courtroom, or a field
if you find your voice is shaking, keep your resolution steeled

As you gather your courage, your wit, and your fire
may you voice stay steady, as recite your lines

...you'll be fine
if you are who you say that you are
Track Name: The Lucky Ones
The Lucky Ones

Work our hands all day, neath the hot copper sun
not just for what we gain, but for what we become

We become, the lucky ones

Now my hammer has awoken, and my nails they run and hide
the need to work, to build a home, will not be denied

Still they called us, the lucky ones

And we built this house against all odds, with sweat, blood, and pluck
and found that our good fortune had little to do with luck

And we built ourselves a great ship, tied two kites to the rails
with a mast so straight and tall, the wind couldn't help but fill the sails

And we sailed out, like the lucky ones
Track Name: Halfway
Halfway

When I'm halfway into your heart, you have to let me know
so I don't make my worst mistake, turn around and let you go

Send me a postcard, though you live so close
add just a few... too many Xs and Os

And if I should lose my way
give up, or go astray
Please let me know
that I’m halfway there

It won't take too much, for my love to coax
laugh a bit too long at the worst of my jokes
Ask me a favor and ask no one else
shoot me that look, I’ve been dying to see

...Like a tall glass of water at mile 13

I want to stay in this race, I want to pick up my pace
so please let me know.. that I'm halfway there