I did two things this weekend that I have never done before.

1. Saw Merle Haggard live. I know, I know, you think of Merle Haggard and you probably think it’s the music that only overweight, 65 year old truck drivers listen to anymore. Wrong. Merle Haggard is probably more punk rock than anything on your local alternative radio stations these days. I am a longtime fan, in fact, so it was really a treat to be able to finally see him perform and he didn’t disappoint. He might be balding, gray and the same age as that truck driver I mentioned, but that voice is still as crisp and gold as ever. He only played about 45 minutes as he was opening for Bob Dylan, but I did get to hear most of the chestnuts (Mama Tried, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, Hungry Eyes, etc). Noticably absent from the setlist was Sing Me Back Home (probably my fave Hag tune) and The Old Man From The Mountain, another one I really love. Despite the omissions, great & solid stuff.

I had seen Dylan a couple of times in years past and both times I was blown away, especially by his band. This was much of the same. I had to go back and look at the source for most of the songs on his setlist last night and it seemed the majority came from the John Wesley Harding album, including the absolutely rollicking opener, called “Drifter’s Escape,” a song I had really never heard. Last night’s show leaned more towards the rock side of things, which I definitely appreciate. However, I had heard Dylan was doing more country-fied numbers this time around, which I would have been very interested in seeing, since the previous Dylan shows I had seen were also on the rocking end. So when we got there and saw the various instruments set aside (mandolin, banjo, etc), I thought we’d get some Nashville Skyline type stuff. Not to be. That’s okay, I suppose. I mean, how can you be disappointed by a Dylan show? Pretty difficult. It’s like trying to choose between Marlene Dietrich or Elizabeth Taylor in their prime.

2. I swung an axe. Part of our weekend activity was to remove two fairly large shrubs from the front of our house. Most of the work on our house thus far has been of the indoor variety and we’re starting to think more about the outside now. There’s isn’t much we can do about the positively hideous light green color of our house yet, but there is something we could do about the two ridiculous cone-shaped spruce in our front yard – chop ’em down. There would be two benefits to getting rid of these – one is not having to see the damn things anymore and other is that the snake who lived in one of them would now be facing eviction. Never having swung an axe brought about my first problem – I don’t have an axe. I borrowed my neighbor’s axe and after removing some of the lower branches on large spruce cone #1, began chopping away, feeling mightly powerful and manly. I hadn’t swung the thing more than 9 or 10 times (and made slight headway) before my neighbor approached, asked me how I was doing, and then suggested “why don’t we just use this?” I looked up and saw him holding the holy grail. A chain saw. Literally 45 seconds later, both cones had been felled. Hooray for dangerous, automated cutting chains!

You cannot, however, use a chain saw to dig up the giant root ball for each. So I spent the next hour-and-a-half fighting that. But it was a beautiful day, so it’s cool. Steph and I have both remarked several times how nice it is “to have the cones gone.”