One More Adirondack WinterWilly on PEI

By the autumn of 1975 I was thinking of ways to stay on Islesboro for the winter. Unfortunately, my mother was really sick, so I headed back to Holland Patent, NY (HP) to spend time with her.

I returned to the family home to find the door locked and no one around. Having no key, I moved on to spend the night at my brothers, “den of iniquity”, as my dad would call it. The following day my family had returned and I found that my sister had filled my room with plants of every description. She called it her “plant room”.

You Can’t Go Home Again

My mother really loved music. She liked Carl Perkins’, “Blue Suede Shoes”, Johnny Cash, and everything Elvis (The King). She had a National, electric, slide guitar which I now have (check out my song, “Montana in the Spring”).

We spent many afternoons, talking about life, guitars, and rock & roll songs. Or, I would visit, “around supper time with dirty laundry”, but I was too “late nights and wild” for living at home…

Dr. Coolie Takes Us In

Cool winds and the fire of autumn leaves, signaled the return of Joe and Thon from the Island. With them back, I wanted us to start taking gigs together, as soon as possible. Sharing a house in the country, where everyone was obsessed with music, just made sense to me.

There were four of us, looking for a place to stay Thon, Joe, myself, and a high school friend named Dan Axt. Heading off into the countryside, we found an old house, next to Doc Coolie’s sawmill, that mostly, fit the bill. The bill being low rent and few neighbors.

It sat on a crossroad between to roads headed north. Across the road, the landscape was pastures, leading to forests that faded into hills. Perfect for the likes of us…

This palace, near the pasture would become known as, “The Hotel Debris”.


“…Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, …”

Dan Axt, a great harmonica player had been one of my musical mentors in high school. He knew the details and the history of blues musicians, and specifically how to blow Blues harp. He had his own bedroom at the Hotel Debris.

Thon Christiana, a singer-guitar player, was imbued with some common sense and conscience, which could be hard to find in guitar players during the 1970’s. He,wound up with a bedroom which included a walk-in closet!

There being only two bedrooms in this lovely abode, we were faced with a dilemma. Joe and I had standards, of a sort, and weren’t going to spend the winter sleeping on couches. To make this work, we would have to adapt.

Heat, Shmeat…

Joe is a great musician and often my first call, for most any music project. He often, in life, “walks to the sound of his own drum”. By way of adapting, he opted for the solution with the most room but least heat (no heat) and moved into the unfinished, attic.

Remsen can be cold in the winter! No one would admit it, but some mornings we would start to worry if Joe didn’t come stumbling down those attic stairs, in a timely fashion. There would be this clomping around with some choice muttering, the door to the attic would fly open and there would stand this creature with ice hanging from his head. His religious upbringing would become apparent as he yelled, “Jesus, it’s cold… Coffee!” So, begins the day.

Make Room For Willy

The Hotel Debris is where I began, what would become a theme, or maybe a crazy subplot for me, I can sleep in closets. I realized that Thon didn’t need that walk-in for his t-shirts and jeans and with a blanket over the door way, it could be kinda cozy, in a cave-like sorta way.

I don’t know if it was the attraction of splitting the rent, four ways instead of three, or my general musical acumen that made it possible but I took up residence in Thon’s closet. I think they were all just used to having me around…

Looking Forward

We had a cat, we called “Numbnuts” that I think came with the place. After a short while, I got a bed for that closet. Within hours, Numbnuts came in and left me a stinky surprise, on my pillow. Maybe he thought the closet needed ambiance. Maybe it was the name we gave him…

The expenses for living in a closet tend to be low, so while everyone else went off in the morning to work, I would stay home with the cat. Most mornings I would, light a smoke, start the fire, then start the coffee, in that order. Numbnuts would lay under the wood stove while I drank coffee and played guitar, through the morning. On nice days, I could daydream out on the front porch, next to the wood pile, and look north, to the Adirondack foothills…

Finn at the stairs~~~


Let me know if you remember the 1970’s.

Did you share rooms with friends, when you started out?

Please, leave a comment below and help me keep the conversation going!

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