Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sarasota, FL

I have come to the conclusion that Georgia by far has the greatest rest areas in the country. Not only did it not reek of pee like the one in Alabama, this place had a lounge, nice couches, and free Wifi. Go Georgia.

Anyway, we made it to Sarasota without any major issues and settled right at the Robarts Sports Arena. With an entire week to kill you think I would've sketched out some sort of plan and tried to see lots of cool stuff. Not quite the case. I've been having a good time thus far, but it's been largely improvisatory with regards to what I've gotten into.

I got my hurrr did at a neat little salon on Tuesday and had a cool convo with the dude who cut my hair. He's a bass player/DJ from Chicago and he kind of gave me the low-down on the scene (or complete lack thereof) in Sarasota. Just down the street from the salon was a great little spot called the Sarasota Olive Oil Company. I found out that there having a show there that night. Kind of an 'invite open mic' with a ton of local acoustic acts. I guess it was the first time they were trying something like that out and they had a really good crowd. It seemed like the beginning of a somewhat large scale effort to get a scene going. No one really blew me away save this girl Harper with a gorgeous voice and some Mandolin skills and her dude Toby.

Since I was there by myself among everyone else who knew each other I had to step it up and initiate some conversation. I approached a cool looking girl and dude and started talking with them. Miranda plays with this group Villanova Junction (who gets to open for a Motley Crue tribute band this Saturday haha) and her dude Scott freelances doing 3D modeling and animation work. They were super rad. One of the highlights of the evening was when the Paddy Wagon rolled up and the officer leaned out the window and asked everyone "Did any of you see a man in a hospital gown run by here? He's a mental patient that's running loose. If you see him, don't give him any beer." Awesome. I met a few other performers and called it an early night.

Wednesday I met someone at the Whole Foods Cafe and while we were talking a group of biker kids had assembled around this one bike that was locked up. Eventually, a cop rolled up. After overhearing the conversation for a while it seems that the bike belonged to one of the dudes and had recently been stolen. The sad part is that whoever stole the bike obviously didn't steal it to ride it. He probably sold to someone else who bought it without realizing it was stolen. Now that poor kid is going to come out eventually to find that "his" bike was stolen. It would've been entertaining to stick around and see if they ended up calling the police as well. Oh well. Later, I grabbed sushi and hung out and jammed with one of the guitarists from the Tuesday night show.

Thursday was much more eventful. I spent a good 3 hours checking out the Ringling Estate, Art Museum, and Circus Museum. Ringling was quite the art collector and had tons of museum worthy pieces. Nothing modern or anything but still pretty cool. There were two special exhibits. One Japanese themed and one Egyptian.

Art Museum/Estate Pics


After the art museum, it was off to tour the Ringling Estate and Gardens. Bad-ass. There were tons and tons of these awesome Banyard trees all over the place and this huge flower garden.



The estate itself was rather impressive as well. That was all well and good, but the main thing I was interested in was the Circus Museum...and I wasn't disappointed.

There's not much detail to go into but all the exhibits were totally rad....especially the miniature circus which took up an entire floor and was the most intricately crafted....thing....I have ever seen.



It was really fun to be in a museum dedicated to what I do now.

Circus Museum Pics



Later on, I met up with Kathryn's sister Stephanie who lives down here. Every Thursday her and a few of her friends meet at the one dudes house for a percussion/meditative jam session....I guess it could've been considered a drum circle but I hesitate to use that term as it conjures up a mass of rhythm-less hippies and college dorks flailing away on djembes making the "look us mannnn...we're realllly groooooovinn'" face. P-U. These people were the real deal. There were different Udus, a kind of Bata drum with a Tabla head on one end (this was given to me to play), a log drum, lots of Tar Frame Drums, this instrument that was like an accordion, only it was set up and looked like a tiny piano....not sure what it was called, and Stephanie and a couple others sang. It was really really amazing to improvise and create these....pieces...with these people. I got there at 7:30 and before I knew it, it was 10:00. The whole circle was just really tuned in with each other and things swelled, climaxed, and released beautifully together. A couple of us really dug into create these amazing cross rhythms and killer killer groves with hypnotic drones coming from the accordion/piano and the voices. It felt great to actually create something again with musicians. I'm hoping to sit in with them again on our return trip to Sarasota after the string of (RIDICULOUS) shows in West Palm.

After the session was over, I headed back down to the Olive Oil Company to hear Miranda spin. She has a great collection of 60s Psychedelia. Brian (the dude who cut my hair), Scott, and some other people I had met were there as well. It really didn't feel far from getting together with some friends in Pittsburgh....don't get me wrong...NOTHING compares with hanging with friends back home, but it was nice to be in the company of awesome people.

The night ended there around 12:30 and I met up with Scott and Miranda at this place called the Cabana Inn where Thursday night Karaoke was in full swing. The bar was the huge dive and the clientele was like picking up Gooskis and the Brillobox, shaking them like a hipsterpunk snow globe, and dumping the contents into this bar. People dig their karaoke out here ha.

I met a really cool girl who was friends with Scott and Miranda and keep with the trend of my miraculous luck.....she was moving to Boston the next morning....of course, haha. T'was an amazing day regardless. Now I'm at a different coffeeshop downtown trying to figure out what to do with my night. Prospects look rather slim but I'm sure something will pop up.

Woot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Charlottesville, VA

So there are two well known people that made their home in Charlottesville, VA. One who everyone should know about.....and one that most people probably do know about.



and



I tried not to think too hard about the results if I surveyed 100 people asking them "What famous person do you know who is associated with Charlottesville?" being terrified of what the results may be.

That said, Charlottesville was a pretty cool town.

As previously mentioned, we were not allowed to arrive on the lot until 7am Tuesday since Neil Diamond had played the night before.

This particular lot provided me with the most interesting parking experience to date (well....parking experiences of a non-near disastrous nature anyway).

Robbie's bus was parked against a downward slope in front of and perpendicular to one row of trailers. To back into my spot, I had to pull almost alongside him and attempt to back my trailer (to the left) in between two others with little to no maneuvering room. It's amazing how what appears to be physically impossible can actually be accomplished with minimal maneuvering. I tucked it right in the spot and felt rather pleased with myself. I'm sure it looked like this.

We didn't really venture out until Wednesday when we went to check out the downtown pedestrian mall which housed a respectable number of coffeeshops, cool shops, and good restaurants.

We met two girls outside a Gelato shop who seemed cool. Turned out one of the gals was a photographer and we made plans to hang out. Unfortunately scheduling conflicts arose and it didn't happen. Her portfolio site is still worth checking out though.

The weather was shitty and cold most nights so from Tuesday-Thursday night I watched the super-duper extended extra long LOTR trilogy since I hadn't seen them since the theater. Uber rockstar, I know......

A highlight of the trip was an excursion to Monticello. Really really fascinating and highly recommended to any TJ fans. There was no photography allowed inside the house but I think there's a virtual tour on the website.

PICS

Friday, B and I ventured out to scope out the bar scene. We went into one place and I ordered the usual Manhattan. The bartender kind of looked at me in disbelief, then excitedly grabbed the only (as he explained while serving it) cocktail glass they had in the place...not a good sign. The upstairs was filled with people and the only thing we could conclude from the crowd was that Dave Matthew's demon seed had somehow seeped into the water and created a legion of stereotypical versions of "that Dave Matthews cover band dumb-ass college dude". Only these creatures were bred to perfection....kind of like Douchebag Uruk-kai.....

Quickly realizing we would have nil success at meeting anyone interesting, we retreated to a bar down the street which looked much more promising.

The unfortunate twist was the fact that while the place was very long.....it was only wide enough to accommodate booths on either side, and a extremely narrow walkway leading to the back.....and the place was packed. We managed to squeeze back to the bar but from there we were stuck. After what seemed like an eternity of stuckness, we joined a table of seemingly cool people.

I sat next to a very short....rather plump Asian girl who was sitting next to some dude. B was on the opposite side of the table. General conversation ensued and eventually the "so how old are you guys?" question crept up.

"Well I just turned 29"

....no sooner had the "ine" of "nine" left my lips when the oompa loompa next to me who had asked blurted out:

"EW!!"

Uh.....what? She was 23. And not that I was even remotely interested in her but C'MON!. Seriously?

She then broke into.

"Uh, this is like a college town....most of the people here are like undergrads....you should be settled down by now...not like out at bars and stuff".

Uhhh.....what? While there were soooooo many retorts I could have laid on this....unfortunate looking young lady, I just laughed it off. I think it pissed B off more than it did me.

Unaffected, we ducked out and manage to spy a booth that was opening. Two other gals saw the same opening, and since they had three and it was the two of us, it made perfect sense to share the booth. Finally...potential real conversation.

The two that hung around we're super cool....and pretty hot too. One Asian girl, and one from Turkey. They had just come from spending alllll day in the library and alternated between hanging out and talking...and getting up to dance fervently around the bar. The pulled off what they referred to as "the worst dance move ever" and I was able to catch it on video:



Apparently earlier, there was an impromptu Flashmob rave in the library that we had missed out on.

Seriously: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_BgOlpy2ZY Not bad at all.

Unfortunately again, their Saturday night was to be spent studying so no dice on hanging again. Even worse, a party was planned for Sunday with all sorts of cool people, but I'd be well on my way from Charlottesville to Sarasota. Such wonderous luck :).

All in all though, Charlottesville was a good time.

One of the other highlights came after one of the shows. Robbie came in to the dressing and said "Jeremy, there's some old guy wearing a Zildjian jacket back by the sound booth that wants to talk to you. He said 'Neil Peart ain't got NUTTHIN' on that boy!'".

So I went out to the sound board and sure enough this dude wearing said jacket and a big grey mustache was hanging around with his wife and little daughter. I've never been good at taking compliments but was determined to be grateful and not say anything to the effect of: "Yeah but did you here when this part fell apart and when I screwed up THAT part" like I always do.

He was super nice. He said their seats didn't allow them to see me at all and his wife asked:

"So do they just have a drum machine then?"
"I think so, but it's too varied and there's too much 'feel' to be preprogrammed. I'm not sure though"

Wow. That made me feel pretty good. He then said "Man, I've been playing drums here for 30 years and I ain't ever heard nothing like you. People say Neil Peart's good but he ain't never heard you play." Obviously the guy hasn't heard that many drummers but it was still really nice of him to say.

He capped the conversation by kind of starting at me for a second then saying:

"Awwwwww.....giiimmmmeeee a huuggggg!"

::super bear hug::

Wow....again. T'was a new experience for sure.

Regardless, I still wasn't looking forward to the 14 hour drive to Sarasota.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Little Rock, AR

Little wasn't a bad city considering it was in Arkansas. The arena we played at was pretty nice and the architectural landscape drew eerie similarities to Pittsburgh. We played on the North shore....where there were two arena/stadiums, a Science Center, a submarine docked in the water, an nice apartment complex providing commuters close access to downtown, and a series of 6 bridges connecting to downtown. Weird.

There was a Flying Saucer in Little Rock so I got re-live some Memphis memories of great beer and the most amazing pretzels ever served.

Other than that, nothing exciting really happened (see why I haven't been updating?)

From Little rock, we had a nice 900 mile drive to Charlottesville, VA where we weren't allowed on the lot until Tuesday morning thanks to the Neil Diamond concert.

We made from Little Rock to Knoxville, TN on the first night and stayed in Flying J parking lot.

The only campground choices were a KOA 3.5 hours before Charlottesville and one that was 45minutes past Charlotesville. We settled on the former. It ended up being me, Steve, Robbie, and Jason who all ended up at the same campground. I have to admit it was nice to stay somewhere where there was no loud hum of a generator or idling diesel trucks like at a Flying J.

The bad thing was they didn't have water at the campground so we used our fresh water stash and the septic system was busted so there was no dumping....unless we wanted to be subject to a black water geyser. Robbie's buddy who had played both bass and drums on previous tours came and hung out at the campground so that was cool.

Off to Charlottesville, VA.....

Alexandria, LA

Alexandria came and went. I went grocery shopping, hung out at home with a couple new friends, and played the show. The air conditioning in the arena caught fire...or it was one of the dressing rooms or something so that was interesting. It was also all general admission seating which I haven't experienced yet. I was disappointed that no fights broke out over seats

Woot. Little Rock was next.....

Houma & New Orleans

After Bossier city, it was time for a trip deep into the Bayou....Houma, Louisiana. 60 miles South of New Orleans.

Houma was interesting insomuch as a lot of the house we're pseudo shack-like structures up on stilts. The main streets were separated by these tiny bridges that crossed over the swamp.

There really isn't much of a bustling "downtown" as a good majority of the residents make their living much like relatives of previous generations. They are shrimpers, trappers oyster and fishermen. I also found out Houma is where the 'Swamp Thing' series is based....which is pretty rad.



We found one bar that served as home for our time there: Monterey's (I think that's what is was called). Great international beer list and less clubby douchebaggery than many of the other (many as in 3) places in the two blocks that made up downtown.

We hung out there the night before I took off to New Orleans for my birthday.

------------

New Orleans

Despite an overwhelming response from Couchsurfing.com, no potential hosts were going to be in New Orleans the day I was there....that whole 'Thanksgiving' thing I guess. With that option shot down, I booked a bed at the India House Hostel, which I would recommend to anyone passing through NOLA. I briefly spoke with this Indian dude staying there then started the 2 mile walk to the Quarter.

The first place I struck out for upon arrival was Coop's Place, home of the best Jambalaya in existence.

As soon as I walked in, some started calling my name. It was my new Indian friend who had coincidentally ended up there as well.

We shared a table and starting talking. He was on his first visit ever to the states making his way to Florida to see (I think) his brother's family who he had not seen in 20 years if I remember correctly.

New Orleans is a great place to land if it's your fist time in States. We got on the topic of my job I walked away with a great recommendation for both a movie and book to check out. The movie was a great Indian Film called Mera Naam Joker. It's one of those films that a director pours all he has (emotionally, allegorically, and financially) only to have it flop at the box office. The film took 6 years to make and nearly put Raj Kapoor, the director, into bankruptcy. I'm currently trying to find the full version somewhere.

When I explained to him how we traveled and approximately how many people are directly involved with the show, he drew the comparison to 'The Tipping Point' where one idea discussed is how once a population tops 150, you start to see more corruption, crime, and generally breakdown of society. It seems that we are currently traveling with the perfect number to create an ideal society.

My friend was very well versed in the realm of mathematics and finance and I got his seal of approval for my plan with this tour regarding investment and payoff. So that made me feel yet again like I'm doing the right thing.

After wandering around the quarter buying myself a few birthday gifts (Among them a new wallet! No more George Castanza!) I heading downtown to meet Nathan and his friends at a brewery/restaurant. The brewmaster had rolled out something new so it was free sample night. And 'free sample' we did quite well.

After hanging there for a bit, we were off to Frenchman street, which unlike Bourbon Street, has real bars the locals will visit devoid of trashed 19 year olds and green beer that comes in long plastic tubes.

We checked out this sushi bar and had some amazing sake and sashimi. One dude walked by us and heading down the street and after a second I realized it was Stanton Moore, a favorite drummer of mine.

I was able to catch him outside and we chatted for a while. Turns out 15 years earlier he had sat in playing percussion when the the Circus rolled through town (back when they would hire local musicians in each town they visited). It was pretty cool. For the first time I was able to have a peer style discussion with a musician I was really into instead of the typical fanboy (duh...you play real good...duh) talk that I used to find myself in after shows. That again made me feel good about what I'm doing.

After THAT, it was off to the Maple Leaf to see the Rebirth Brass Band again and they rocked it even harder than the first time I saw them. Nathan was crashing with his friend a few blocks away so instead of stumbling to a train car and maybe finding my way back to the hostel, I just crashed on his couch. The next day (complete with a pristine hangover), I decided it would do me good to walk the 3.5 miles back to the hostel. Ha....oops. It was interesting to walk past a lot of buildings that were still trashed from the hurricane. Seeing that stuff up close and in person really hits a lot harder then watching recycled news reels.

I gathered my things and headed back to Houma.

I met an awesome woman who kind of ran things at the building we were playing at and was in charge of the Arts Council in Houma. Hopefully paths will cross again.

Steve and I decided to stay over Sunday night so we could watch the Steeler game. Turned out to be a good decision since we found out we couldn't park at the arena in Alexandria until the next day. A lot of people had to turn around and come back to Houma. Apparently the place was run by some 80 year dude who wouldn't sell tickets online (box office only) and didn't use email (just fax). Very nice.

Onto Alexandria.....the hopefully last time we are in a city for one show only.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Things and Stuff

So I have next week off. I promise to do some major updating here. It's not that I haven't had the time, I just haven't been very motivated to update. This will be remedied soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Entertainment on the Lot

The rest of the drive was no problem. Sure, Louisiana has some shitty highways, but it felt good to be back in what is becoming one of my favorite states.

We're back on a nice flat parking lot and I think I broke my own personal record for backing myself into a space, unhitching, and setting up the trailer. A much welcome change from the debacle in Pikeville.

There's not a whole lot of cool things to check out here but it'll be good to take a week off since I'm hoping to spend a few days in New Orleans next week around my birthday.

The plan today was to head out and explore a bit to see what was here. However, as we were setting up our water today, Kat came over and let us know that if we weren't busy this afternoon there was going to be a little show:

Big Mitko the Bulgarian is known for dragging things....namely two Semi Trucks across a parking lot in Texas.

Today, he wants to pull a fully loaded semi with trailer (about 56,000 lbs or something).

Just him, a harness, and a rope. Strongman competition style. 3pm today.

Check back for the video.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Sweet Home' My Ass

Pikeville, KY to Bossier City, LA: 900 miles. Not the longest jaunt on the tour thus far but certainly one of the more 'let's just get this over with ones'.

We stopped for the night at some random Rest Area somewhere in Alabama. It smells like pee. Everywhere.

And apparently we haven't traveled far enough South to escape the frigid night air. Looks like a repeat of our arrival in Springfield, MA will be in order tonight.

I have to admit I kind of liked Pikeville. We played the only arena for at least 100 miles. The crowds were strong and responsive. The Circus is a Big Ticket Item for these folks. Not much (anything) in the way of night life though. There was 'a' bar in town. As in one singular tiny bar.

The landscape was quite impressive considering they had to basically plow through a mountain to make the city.

I visited the Dils Cemetery which houses the graves of some of the McCoy's. Yup...THOSE McCoy's.

PICTURES


Bossier City should be fun. Larry owes us a BBQ outside his trailer for always being late. And think there's a collective birthday party for a lot of the show kids at Chuck E Cheese. Woot.

Off to bed I suppose. It will be much colder out in the trailer but it least it won't smell like pee.

Night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Striving for Chillaxination

The after effects from last night's incident are lingering. I'd like to blame my pseudo-odd behavior today on that....but I'm not sure dropping my trailer is totally to blame.

The obvious solution was eloquently stated in a text message from a good friend:

"Yeah sounds like you need to chillax bro!"

Truer words were never spoken.

I'm not used to being in print. I'm not used to revealing myself at all. Ever since it went to press I've been super paranoid and nervous that I said/did something wrong with regards to the article although I know that's not the case. It's not a plea for reassurance/fishing for compliments....it's just....a complex I guess haha.

I dunno. It's similar to the way I used to be after almost every gig I played with any given band (I think I wrote about this in an earlier post so forgive the repeat).

"Hey great show!"

"Yeah but the one tune was too fast. I screwed this part off. We really didn't play well at all...blah blah blah blah"

"Um....well I thought it was good so....."

I don't know if it's residual perfectionism or just plain paranoia.

So apologies to anyone I've annoyed/inconvenienced with my ramblings on. The trailer drop thing just really put me on edge. I'm starting to realize just how lucky I was.

Cheers again to Aaron for writing such a great article and to Chris for having an interest in the story. I miss not being able to pick up a CP every week. Seriously, have you BEEN to Pikeville, KY? It's pretty from a scenic standpoint.....but there ain't much here to do.

Ok. Feeling slightly calmer. T'would be much easier with a certain Queen of Hearts around....


Anyway, the truck goes in for its 15000 mile check up tomorrow after our 10:30am show. It seems like a lifetime ago when I watched the odometer hit 1000 miles.


Taking this gig was such a good decision.

Never a dull moment, right?

The first vehicle that was "officially" mine to drive was a dark blue 1985 Ford Ranger stick shift that had belonged to my Grandpa on my Mom's side before he passed. I have memories of riding alongside him both grossed out by the Styrofoam cup full of Mail Pouch Tobacco spit but also comforted by it since I associated the smell with him.

The cup was removed before I took ownership but hints of the scent still lingered which while should be gross I found rather pleasant.

Even if it did gross me out, I didn't mind, I finally had the freedom to drive to school instead of taking the bus. Obviously I was on top of the world. During the winter months the defroster would clear the entire windshield except for the driver's side. I spent many frigid mornings driving to school Ace Ventura style with my head out the window so I could see the road.

The time eventually came to sell the truck which was at that point worth less than the cost of maintenance.

One weekend my parents were preparing for a trip to Ohio to see family. I had taken the truck to the high school to stop by the band room and pick up some music. One way to enter is through the student parking lot. Just passed the crest of the lot you had to turn right which put you in front of the little island separating some of the spots from the drive. The road then curved left up a hill which brought you to the band room entrance. I pulled half up on the sidewalk, turned on the 4-ways, threw it in gear (first instead of reverse for some unknown reason) and went inside. About 30ft behind the truck was a fence that ended where the sidewalk became the drive.

I was inside the school no more than 3 minutes to grab whatever chart I needed to pick up. When I came back out, something caught my eye.

"Who the hell would be backing their truck down the drive towards the student parking lot" I started to ask myself.

I got as far a "truck" in that thought before I realized the person backing their truck down the drive also had a blue 1985 Ford Ranger with their 4-ways on. An instant after that thought entered my head, I realized no one was in the driver's seat and I was looking at my truck flying backwards down the hill heading straight for a Mercedes parked just over the little island.

Sprinting down the hill yelling at a teacher in the lot to watch out the truck hit and jumped the island Dukes of Hazzard style and somehow shifted to the right (from my perspective) just enough to miss the Mercedes.

"Well that was close" I thought as I continued to yell.

Then I noticed there were only a couple cars parked in the rest of the lot. Beyond the lot was a little hill that ran into the road where the entrance was. Beyond that was another steeper hill. Just beyond that was a baseball field where the girls softball team was practicing directly in the path of my wayward truck.

There was one beat up old car in the lot parked in a spot just before the hill leading to the hill leading to a soon-to-be-very-surprised Girls Softball Team.

Somehow the truck managed to align itself with the old junker and just SMASHED right into the side of it. It totaled the other car but the truck only received very minor damage to the tailgate. Some serious shit would have went down had that car not been parked there.

I first called my parents and the police to report the incident.

The owner of the car and his dad arrived before the cop.

The dad simply said "well, we were trying to get rid of this thing anyway. You probably did us a favor."

The cop showed up and in his Cop-ly fashion went to the dad for the story. When I tried to interject he both cut me off and did the whole "are you looking for trouble blah blah." Total douche.

Anyway, insurance took care of everything and I was able to drive the truck home. My parents were able to still head into Ohio.

Even if the truck did slip out of gear on its own the fence was right behind it. It's hard to believe it turned itself off the sidewalk and then straightened itself back up to start it's jaunt down the hill. We were convinced it was just my Grandpa protesting sending us the message of "This truck lived in the family, it dies in the family. No one else is getting this thing".

......
Flash forward some 10 odd years.

On the drive from Pittsburgh to Pikeville, I listened to several installments of the 'Stuff You Should Know' podcast. Cool stuff. Highly recommended. One theme they constantly arrive at time and time again intentionally or not is the whole "Fight or Flight" deal when you're faced with some kind of danger.

Once it dawned on me what was happening with the truck, that response kicked in hardcore for me. After the ordeal I was shaking for quite a long time.

So...getting to the point after a long winded lead-up:

We arrived around 11:40 and scoped out where to park. After finding two spots, I backed the trailer into my spot. The ground here slopes downhill to the left so I had to drive up on my levelers. Two for the base, one in the middle on top. That didn't quite cut it. Could still be a little more level. So, it was two for the base, and two high in the middle. I pulled forward and managed to roll up on them. Perfectly level. Awesome.

I chocked the wheels on the other side, dropped the front legs, opened the tailgate, and prepared to un-hitch. Totally routine.

The latch would come out as is sometimes the case. This is solved by putting the truck in reverse and nudging it back (still hitched) very very slightly and the arm should come smoothly out. It did.

The one sound that you never ever ever want to hear after completing that step is . c-c-c-c-C-C-C-C-R-R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E-E-A-A-A-A-K-K-K-K-KABOOOOOOMMMMMMSSSSMMMHASHGRINDBANG!!!!!!!!!!!

The sound got as far as c-c-c-c-c-c- before I knew what was coming and re-lived the possessed truck episode from my past over again only this time exponentially worse. The trailer legs slipped off the wood and SLAMMMED into the ground. Since I was on a hill only one leg was on the ground holding the trailer up. The tires had slipped off the levelers and the other side wheel backed right over the wheel chocks.

I slipped a piece of wood under the leg hanging in the air and lowered the legs to stabilize the trailer. The tailgate was still up but somehow the way the trailer fell there's just one teeny nick in it. My only guess is that driving up on the levers twisted the hitch just enough so that while the trailer was level, it was hitched to the truck which wasn't. I still can't figure out how it happened.

I owe Steve a few beers for making him stand out there with me as I hitched back up and unhitched again still in shock of what happened. It took forever when usually I get it on the first try.

I re-rolled up on the levels, this time two for the base and only ONE in the middle. I can deal with a slightly slanted trailer. It's a milder version of the 'Mystery Spot' in Santa Cruz, CA.

I had to take a break before lowering the rear stabilizers, hooking up power, etc. as my hands were shaking so bad I couldn't keep the flashlight focused on anything.

By far one of the scariest experiences I've had to date. I'm still a little bit shaken. But I'm sitting here typing this from the kitchen table with power plugged in and slides out so it seems everything is in order.

I was quite looking forward to sleep after the trip but something tells me with the excitement of the City Paper cover story coming out today combined with this whole.....episode.....I'll be up for a while yet.

The lot here in Pikeville, KY is know for being very unpleasant. We are on all dirt and grass so If it rains hard, this place will turn into Elbonia (as in nothing but mud). If you leave your cables/hoses on the ground they will sink into said mud. If it gets really cold overnight, said mud will freeze leaving said cables stuck in the ground. I've heard stories of people with shovels digging out their cables before leaving for the next city.

:knocks on wood:

Oh, and Steve informed me that there's a goddamn rooster that will crow at the crack of dawn every day.

The main tourist attraction here from what I can gather is a cemetery where a lot of the actual Hatfields and McCoys are buried. Woot.

G'night.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No really, I am on tour, I swear!

Of course, that may not be obvious since I've been back home to visit like six times already. It's not my fault we tour the Northeast sometimes! I promise though you Pittsburgh people won't see me again for a while after tomorrow night.

The City Paper story comes out this week and I'm really hoping I only sound like a moderately incompetent ass. I've never really been interviewed nor written about so I wasn't quite sure how to handle it. Whatever, I'm sure people will just be looking at my fun socks anyway.

Hopefully hanging with the usual crew at the usual place tomorrow. I'm extra excited to see one person in particluar I haven't been able to see on my last several visits. Damn conflicting Tour Schedules!

G'night.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Catch Up: The Short-Short Version

MINISTER
Okay. Here we go, the short-short version. (to LONE STARR} Do you?

LS
Yes.

MINISTER
Do you?

VESPA
Yes.

MINISTER
Good. You're married. Kiss her.

---------

That's the way I'm attempting (and probably failing) to handle this round of catch up: The short-short version. Remember to use my voice recorded while traveling is a new priority. It's tough keeping all the memories and details of transpired events fresh in my mind.

The recollection is there but the essence of the emotions/humor of the past moments have faded a bit and hasn't been coming across quite as sharp in print.

Anyway......

PITTSBURGH VISIT

So after leaving Portland (and avoiding sideswiping any more campground trees) the show was off to Binghamton, NY (the one time home of David Sedaris). Steve and I arrived in the wee hours in the morning, unhitched, caught a few hours sleep, and headed home to Pittsburgh. Before this tour, the thought "Well, we're only 6 hours away from home....let's do it" would've never crossed my mind.

While hanging out in Monroeville browsing through the CP listings, I caught myself in the midst of a cartoonish double take. I figured I had read something wrong but sure enough The Slip was playing Club Cafe the Tuesday I was in town. Seriously, there's a weensy bit of history with that band (a ten year history of countless road trips including a train ride to California and drive down the coast following their tour). I hadn't seen them play in at least 3 years. I first caught them at CMU in 1998.

They were backing this young "blues" artist Sonya Kitchell. Although it wasn't going to be Slip material per say, I figured it was worth checking out. I mean, what were the chances they were in town the same night I was back home?

T'was a very interesting night. Brad Barr (vox/guitar for The Slip) did a solo set to open the night. Very cool stuff. I think AJ may have gotten a few ideas for how to approach his solo stuff when it debuts.

The Slip definitely wasn't the best choice for a backing band as they are just too good. Soyna was OK, but nothing special at all. It's never good when your backing band blows you away even though they're not trying to.

I re-lived the past 10 years of my life during that performance which was both nostalgic, cheesy, re-assuring, and educational all at once.

It seemed our career paths have ended up coinciding somewhat musically speaking ('somewhat' meaning our respective musical evolutions were similar but The Slip were successful at it all along).

What really hit was my current gig situation compared with theirs. They weren't playing their own material but:

1. They were still playing with each other
2. They music was still pretty good
3. They were making bank. (as was evident by the huge tour bus that rolled up at the end of the night in lieu of the little "Slip Van" I've always seen them crammed into.

It made me feel OK with what I'm doing. I'm not playing my own band material (my parts are my own though) but:

1. I'm making music with Steve
2. The music's not that bad
3. I'm making bank (finally, ha)

Successful visit.

---------------------

BINGHAMTON, NY

So all the nightlife in Binghamton is condensed into about 2 blocks. The place is dead in the daytime and a drunken overly aggressive madhouse at night. Brian and I were treated to fights in the street both nights (observing, not participating).

FIGHT 1: Overweight Bald Bull minus the mustache (who ended up being an usher at the arena, haha) vs. Big Drunk Black Man who kept molesting a mentally retarded girl in the club and was being "thrown out" by the other dude.

Winner: Bald Bull represented. Holy crap. The instant BDBM grabbed for his face, OBB just pulled his hood over his head and went to town looking extremely bored.

:smash smash smash:
"Let go of my shirt and I'll let you go"
:smash smash smash:
"Let go of my shirt and I'll let you go"
(repeat)

Eventually the dude got the hint and was released. And of course, there was the anticipated "pretend I just didn't get my ass handed to me and act like I'm letting him get off easy" song and dance. Very amusing.


Wasn't fast enough to get a picture but Brian and I re-enacted it:





FIGHT 2: Battle Royale with 3 heavier set drunk girls. Need I say more
Winner: All of us in the street who were treated to the spectacle.

I also met a very cool girl (of course with a boyfriend...gah) and her friends. We rocked an 80s night with yet another light up dance floor.

-------------------------
PITTSBURGH/JOHNSTOWN

From Binghamton, the show moved to Johnstown, PA for a one night stand. Steve and I decided to not drive our trailers there (since the lot was going to be way shitty) and went back home again.

I really wish I would've shot some footage from the first time I tried backing my trailer into my parents driveway just to compare it with backing in that night upon arrival. Ha! Rather substantial difference to say the least.

My dad and grandma came to Johnstown to see the show:



-----------------------------
PITTSBUGH/HUNTINGTON, WV/PIITSBURGH

While in Johnstown Steve and I concurred that it would make more sense to leave our trailers at home and just get split a hotel room for the Huntington shows. Two bonuses here: 1. When arrived in Huntington, the lot was so tight it would've been damn near impossible to squeeze us in. 2. We were able to gain an extra day home in Pittsburgh.

There's something about Tuesday nights in Pittsburgh. First The Slip before Binghamtom, and this time around my former bandmates in Thee Adora were playing at Brillobox. Again, what are the odds, right?

I decided not to forewarn them and just showed up. Good times. They may tell you otherwise, but they rocked it out. I've never experienced hearing drum parts I had written played back at me with the new dude's (Ethan) definitive stamp on them. It was pretty cool.

PICS (1st 7)

HUNTINGTON:

So Huntington....well, this sums up Huntington:



That is all.

PITTSBURGH again:
More hanging out as per usual: PICS (last 8)

Fun fun.

------------------

SYRACUSE, NY

Ummm.....I had awesome sushi at one of those rotating Sushi Bars and made a couple new friends.

-----------------

BETHLEHEM, PA

Ummm....I got new glasses (after much deliberation) and went to Sheetz.

-----------------

ERIE, PA

*Too much to write about. Best told in pictures:

*after much (actually very little) persuasion, I'll devote a couple entries to the Shenanigan-ing that transpired.

AJ and Sproul Visit/Rockband Party


Pittsburgh Ladies Visit/Halloween



Mom and Dad visit the Circus


-----------------

SPRINGFIELD, MA

So far: Springfield sucks (except for the Dr. Suess Memorial Sculpture Garden), Northampton and Amherst both rock.

Possibly more to come....

So that's it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Portland Part II

So after getting the lappy fixed I was set to meet up with a gal who had offered to give a 'Portland Tour'.

The agreed upon destination was a coffee shop, 'Coffee by Design'. She told me what the cross streets were but since I'm a GPS slave, I just plugged the Coffee Shop into the system without regard to checking street names. The thing I didn't account for was that even though it was a local coffee shop, there were two locations.

I waited outside for a good bit. After some correspondence I realized I was at the wrong coffeeshop. Off to a good start.

We met in this city square halfway between the two locations. I was informed our location was known for serving as a venue for impromptu jam sessions with homeless dudes and hipster kids in the middle of the night.

Oh, and they have those goddamn "homeless" punk/hippies playing hackey sack, smelling like a viking diaper, and demanding change from everyone. Not dissimilar to the ones Oakland and the South Side. Pheeuuu.

We wound our way through Old Port which I learned is great spot for fun on Saturday nights. The combination of hilly cobblestone roads and sufficiently wasted girls in ridiculous high heels provides instant entertainment.

I did get one picture of some water since it was Portland and all. Seemed to be the appropriate thing to do. I did not, however, find any fishermen wearing big raincoats with gray beards smoking pipes which was disappointing.

The main goal of the evening was to end up at this one venue for an event titled 'The Clash Of The Titans'.

The concept is this: Starting in July-ish a weekly "Clash" is held between two bands. Sometimes it's most of the members of one local band with an extra person or two; Sometimes a meshing of members of various bands.

The Portland scene is similar to Pittsburgh insomuch that it's totally incestuous. These Clash shows conjured up memories of the Halloween shows that used to happen in Pittsburgh where bands would dress up and perform as some other band. I seem to remember having the homemade 'Donnie Darko Jet Engine' on my porch for the better part of a year.....

A 'Clash' one week may be The Who vs. Led Zep......or The Cars vs. Blondie.....stuff like that. The one we were trying to get to was the grand finale of the season: Prince vs. Michael Jackson. The shows are generally well attended but never really sell out completely......except for this one. The line was wrapped around the block in both directions. Instead of announcing that the show was officially sold out, they just kept everyone in line and let one person come in for ever person that left the venue. Gah.

After about half an hour into waiting, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we most definitely were not getting into the show. Total drag. But the whole 'Clash' concept is a really great one that I think Pittsburgh should adopt. Spice things up a bit.

We ended up at the local "Hipster bar" since we were denied any Princination. I met a couple inebriated Portland breakdancers and the DJ spun both Rush and Steely Dan at one point which was pretty rad even if it was just to be ironic......

The only drag about Portland bars is that they shut down at 1am. Our little party migrated back to my "tour guide's" apartment; a pretty sweet pad. And in my typical fashion, I managed to misread the parking signs that stated 'No Parking between 11pm and 6am' for trash collection or something. There were other cars parked there so I thought I was good, but upon leaving I discovered we were all rewarded with parking tickets for our oversight. Portland does have a first offense forgiveness policy for out of state plates for certain violations. Unfortunately I did not fall under that umbrella. A fun night regardless.

That Friday we ended up at an 80s night at this little dive bar whose name escapes me. Being an 80s night snob, I was a bit skeptical. All my fears were laid to rest though when I saw the entire ceiling was lined with tons of old tin lunch boxes strung out light Christmas lights. And there was a freaking light up dance floor. For real.



They installed a light up dance floor for 80s night. Flippin' awesome. About half of the crowd came dressed in costume too. The dread of the 3 show Saturday that was mere hours in the future melted away after a few drinks and some flailing about. Not a bad end to the week.

In retrospect I most definitely should have taken a ton more pictures than I did especially since I pretty much covered the entire city walking. Oh well. Portland is a pretty sweet town and I'm hoping to return soon and check out some of the local music scene.

Portland Pics here

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Catching up: Portland Part I

The trip to Portland through the Vermont mountains not only saved us a good bit of driving time, it also provided us with a very scenic landscape. As usual though, the sky opened at one point and spat down it's rainy fury upon us. Nothing nearly as bad as I've already experienced in various other parts of the country but this was no picnic by any stretch of the imagination.

We arrived at our pitch black campground slightly before 10pm. The older lady at the gate handed me a teeny map and pointed out where my site was, gestured in the general direction of the road, and bid me adieu.

Considering this was a campground with lots and lots of RVs coming and going, you would think they would light/design it so driving wouldn't be reminiscent of driving through a pitch black Detroit. Such was not the case.

I of course managed to blow right past my campsite. Again, it's pitch black with little tiny painted wooden signs marking the individual campsites.

I followed Steve to his spot and helped him get his trailer parked. He hopped in with me to return the favor with my spot. Proving the people running the campground obviously hated RV'ers, they had strategically placed freaking barrels in the middle of every "intersection". They also made sure that the tree enveloped roads were jusssssst wide enough to fit your rig through. A margin of error of maybe a foot or two on either side.

We get to the "intersection" where I had the option of turning right to get to my campsite instead of going straight and looping the whole way around. I wasn't thrilled to attempt the tight turn with so many ominous lanky trees everywhere but Steve seemed confident that there was plenty of room.

All was going well until I misjudged how much room I had on my left (I had more than I thought). The extra space I had on my left was obviously subtracted from my right. The road was kind slanted and riddled with tree roots. My awning totally started making out with a tree on my right hand side. Exactly what I was hoping for after a 5-6 hour drive late at night in a dark ass campground.

Steve gets out and we determine that no matter what I'm going to have to scape something to get unstuck. After a good bit of Austin Powers maneuvering and a few "Oh crap, I meant turn your wheels the other way" from Steve, I eventually was able to get back on track. It was totally my fault for misjudging how much space to leave on my left. The awing is scraped and cracked in one spot but it's not going to fall off and I never used it anyway. It could've been much worse.

So we get to my spot and I pull in, unhitch and setup. Only then do I notice that I pulled in so the water dump station is on the opposite side of where I empty my tanks. Brilliant. This wouldn't have been such a big issue if it weren't for the fact that *ok this is the gross part so skip ahead if you'd like* my septic tank somehow was almost filled to capacity which meant one of two things:

1. I had some sort of dreadful plumbing problem that I really really realllllly never wanted to deal with. or

2. The septic dudes had managed to skip right over me in Glens Falls because they could sense how much I hated their town.

It was far too late and way too dark to try to pull out, turn around, and come in from the other way. The problem was solved without any uber grossness. Sorry to disappoint.

The campground was quite scenic in the daylight with a large lake and plenty of trails through the woods that provided a great jogging route.

Eventually Steve and I headed into town to grab some seafood.

We ended up next to a window where there was a guy in a lobster suit trying to steer people in the joint next to us. He kept doing this "pope hand thing" at everyone who passed by.



After lunch we heading into South Portland in search of the Apple Store that had just opened. I bought my lappy right before joining the tour and already the battery was fried. I'd unplug it from charging and it would immediately go to "reserve battery power" and then promptly shut off. I know Apple batteries are notorious for....well just being complete crap but that's a bit redonkulous.

So, based on my experience, here's the way getting something repaired at the Apple store works.

- Walk into Apple store
- Be accosted by ever sales person on the floor despite the fact that they see everyone else accosting you.
- Tell one of them that you just here to get a battery replaced
- Stare in disbelief when the sales person at the computer kiosk by the "Genius Bar"....yes they really call it that says to you "Well....our next opening is in about two hours or you can make an appointment for tomorrow".

Ok seriously, I know people generally have unhealthy relationships with their macs and all but there is no need to be required to schedule an appointment like it's a child going to the doctor's. C'mon!

So whatever, I schedule my "appointment" for the next day and we head back to the campground.

I make it in to my appointment the next day to find out they were about 20 minutes behind. It really was like taking my mac to the doctor's.

So being as patient as possible, I explain to my bearded mac user man that I just need a new battery. After going through an exhaustive diagnostics and some contemplative beard scratching, he comes to the conclusion that "you need a new battery" DING DING DING we have a winner!

The punchline cam an instant later: "Ok, well let me go see if we have any batteries in the back"

Ummm....what? I looked around to make sure I was actually in a Apple Store and not, I don't know......Payless Footwear or something.

Maybe I was out of line assuming that the Apple Store would actually carry Apple batteries.

Luckily for me (and for him as well) they had a battery in stock.

And the last thing you do when leaving the Apple store after obviously having just gotten something repair is to be accosted yet again by every sales person one final time.

Yeesh.

More to come in Portland Part II.........

Catch Up Part III: Glens Falls, NY

So yeah, about the flattering picture of Mr. Glens Falls himself, Hacksaw Jim Duggan.......that pretty much sums up the town.

We powered through the drive with no major problems and rolled in around 8 or 9ish. I experienced my first "complete shit lot" that was to be home for the next few days. I was reassured however that the Glens Falls lot was not the worst they've experienced. We wear by no means "Cheeellllin' at the Holiday Eeeeeennnnn" however. There were two separate lots that were very long but not very wide at all. Steve and I have smaller trailers and were able to back in longways next to each other so we got off easy. We all had to park our trucks down the street a ways since there was only room for the trailers on the lot.

Arriving on the lot, I experienced my first feeling of "I really really don't want to be back here". The whole vibe and energy had changed and everything had taken on a much darker tone. I'm not sure if it was the weather, the lot, Gelns Falls, or what but It seemed to be affecting everyone. Moods were darker and there was this lingering tension in the air that left me uncomfortable. I'm not really sure how to put it into words but it wasn't fun.

The wonderous sight, smell, and sound of the Glens Falls paper mill greeted us every morning. As an added bonus, we were all parked right next to a shady section of town. Case in point: two obvious Fulbright Scholars attempted to steal the Negrey's stroller from underneath their trailer....when it was still light out. Seriously, a stroller. I mean, I'm sure these were the kind of guys who probably had the 16 year old girlfriend with the 2 year old daughter but still....

Two other Viking Diapers approached Nathan, Steve, and I while we were hooking up our water asking "d'yew know if they need any workers here? So you guys just hang out here or what?". Gah. very comforting, right?

The highlight of the Glens Falls experience was this small jazz bar right up the street from the arena. How one of the two bars in the downtown area ended up being a decent jazz bar, I have no idea. Anyway, there was a quartet playing when we went in and on their break I asked if it was an open session. It wasn't technically, but the fact that I actually wanted to sit in seemed to excite them. I don't think that happens too often there, haha. I was able to convince Steve to walk up and sit in as well. We burned through 'Footprints' and 'Well You Needn't" and as far as I could tell, earned the approval of both bar and band. That lifted the mood slightly but I was still way anxious to get the hell out of Glens Falls.

There were two final events/observations that solidified my opinion of Hacksawland:

1. After the last show when I was walking out to my trailer, two arena workers were moving something or other and the conversation I overheard as I walked by went something like this:

WT1: So they have tigers in there?
WT2: Yep, like two of 'em I think (there are six for the record). They were white ones too.
WT1: Oh yeah?
WT2: Yeah, :snortle snortle: I heard the 'Black Panthers' were pissed off about the 'White Tigers' getting all the work and were going to riot :snortle snortle:
WT1: Hyuk hyuk hyuk

I did hear that Glens Falls is somewhat of a residual KKK stronghold so I guess that makes sense.

2. Steve and I went out to find diesel for my truck. The station we pulled into had the gas pumps in the front and diesel pumps in the back. I went in to pay and...well I couldn't find an appropriate picture but hopefully this description will suffice:

There was that one Beavis and Butthead episode where they snuck into a Nudist Colony, right? The episode closes with someone interviewing them as old men about their lives . Butthead is this super fat, bald, moderately toothless version of himself and Beavis is the scrawny half toothless counterpart.

The two dudes working in this gas station had to have been the inspiration for those characters.

As I paid, I let 'Butthead' know one of the diesel pumps was broken.

Butthead: Uhhhhhh....Diesel pump?

Me: Yeah, that one right over there ::point::

Butthead: (Jeopardy theme plays as a get a blank stare in return....like the cowboys in the Horse Theives Ren and Stimpy Episode) then eventually: Ohhhhhh.....I get it now. Gas pumps are in the front and diesel pumps are in the back!

Beavis: You jist now figgerin' that out? You dumb or somethin'...

Butthead: Shut up! This ain't my regular store. I've only been here eight hours.

I managed to slip out as the argument progressed.

The next stop was a mini mart to get some water. More of the same, not worth getting into.

It was like we were in the "South" North or something.

I was very happy once we were hitched up and heading to Portland via Vermont.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Playing Catch Up Part II: Pittsburgh, PA

Something I forgot to mention about my Duluth experience was the fact that one of the clamps on my city water connection apparently got messed up a little while ago and had expunged enough water into the under carriage of the trailer that it leaked through and soaked part of my carpet from underneath. I drained the fresh water supply in case that's where the leak was and also had to cut a slit in this undercarriage bag-type thing that had filled up with water to let it drain out.

Not cool. I was able to determine with some help from Justin that it was in fact just a clamp and nothing more serious than that. Regardless, it needed repaired ASAP unless I wanted to just live off my fresh water tank and pump. Luckily, Pittsburgh was more or less on the way to Glens Falls and we had planned on stopping in town for a couple days before heading there anyway.

We drove straight through from Duluth to Pittsburgh and I dropped the rig off at the RV Dealer at about 2am, packed some things into the truck, and headed home.

The usual suspects made themselves available during my visit. I was finally able to frequent my favorite restaurant, La Filipiniana in Lawrenceville. Cleo and I sat in the outside garden and played catch up and as always, a stop at Your Inner Vagabond for a double Turkish Coffee was in order.

I met up with Sproul and Aaron at Brillobox later on that night for drinks. I had been trying to meet up with my friend Laurie from college who I hadn't seen since like 2000. It hadn't been working out as planned but I happened to look up at one point and she and a friend had walked through the door for "one last drink". We were able to catch up for a while, get sloppy, and hit up Ritters Diner after the bar kicked us all out.

Low key night at Gooski's with Sproulman the next night which allowed for catching up without distractions.

I picked up the RV at the dealer the next morning and they confirmed that it was just a clamp. Probably could have repaired it myself but I did get a free RV wash out of it. What I didn't get however was the undercarriage repair I had asked for (currently held together by a bunch of C Clamps). Once again, not all that impressed with Valero's RV. Another issue is that fact that my trailer registration still hasn't shown up...but that's another story.

All and all a successful Pittsburgh visit.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Playing Catch Up: Duluth, Georgia

Ok so I've been really awful about keeping this thing current and have been sufficiently scolded for my shortcomings. This is my attempt at redemption.

We have Duluth, GA, Pittsburgh, PA, Glens Falls, NY, and Portland, ME to catch up on.

DULUTH, GA

After a rather enjoyable (to say the least....) final night in Bowling Green, Steve and I were up early to shove off for Duluth, GA. My one regret was not exploring the river and rock formations tucked away in the wood of the campground. Oh well, a rock's a rock when you're looking at someone else's pictures, right?

Ollie took me up on my offer of a ride to Duluth which helped the drive go by much quicker. We covered a broad range of conversational whatnots and bounced our backgrounds and philosophical hubub back and forth for a while.

At one point Steve totally left me hanging as he exited for fuel an hour and a half outside of Duluth (Duluth is about 20 mins outside of downtown Atlanta). Ollie and I got off at the next stop to get fuel and wait for Steve. I learned yet again that conversation and driving can yield retrospectively amusing results. Case in point, we exited and pulled up to the off ramp intersection to make a left hand turn. I checked both ways and proceeded out into the intersection.

At first, I was a bit perplexed by the look on Ollie's face until he said "Uh, you know you just went through a red light, right?". Oops.

Anyway, whatever. We managed to time our drive perfectly so that we would be right outside Atlanta in the midsts of their horrific Rush Hour. Brilliant. Atlanta on-ramps (which occur every freaking half mile it seemed) are two lanes. There is a traffic light for each lane that alternates between yellow and red at 2 second intervals. I suppose so every one takes there turn and "merges politely".

The arena we played at in Duluth brand spanking new and part of this ginormous freaking complex. It was nearly a mile of winding roads and parking lots from the entrance to behind the arena. Parking was a bit tight but tolerable.

I can't remember if we opened on a Thursday or a Friday. Whatever day it was, Nicole Feld (the show's Producer), visited along with the VP of Circus Operations to see how things were going.

It was a packed house and the band freaking rocked it. I'm pretty confident my job is safe for the time being.

One highlight of Duluth was meeting up with my friend Jen from high school. We were marching band dorks together and hadn't really kept in touch in the 10 years since high school. The management threw the show a BBQ party Saturday night to say 'thanks' for being patient when we were running away from Gustav post Biloxi and then had to go back to Jackson from Memphis for the shows. It was a swell time.

There was this extra trailer on the lot which belonged to these dudes from a 'drumming circus' or something....I never got the whole story. They looked like a cross between Dragon Ball Z characters and Rufio from Hook.



+




Jen represented appropriately the next day at the show sporting a Steelers Jersey.

That night I met up an awesome songwriter, Measly, for my last night in town. We sampled each other's music and once again Chalk Outline Party got a legit and sincere two thumbs up. Her friend was seeing some dude who just moved there from Pittsburgh. As I found out, he also has a thing about constantly talking up Pittsburgh....so it's not just me.

After a fun night, I was more or less a Zombie the next morning for our 10:30am......yeah.....10:30AM Monday morning show. WTF? Anyway, we got through it and packed up for our 1000 mile + jaunt to Glens Falls, NY which any good child of the 80s would know as the hometown of Hacksaw Jim Duggan.



Hoooooooooooooooooooo!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Punch Party!

Punch Party? Punch Party.

Yet another night that makes me realize joining this tour was a good decision.

These people rock.

So after several foiled attempts at actually having the punch party, I was skeptical that it was actually going to come off last night.

It did and exceeded any expectation I may have had.

I learned rather quickly how ridiculous it was for me to feel that maybe I was going overboard with my Purple Rain punch and Prince costume. These punches/costumes/concepts were true works of art, haha.

Bringing the guitar along was a good call.

Once I get a chance to edit down the remaining videos they will most definitely be posted. Best jam session ever, haha.

PUNCH PARTY Pics and Vids

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Backtracking to Memphis

So tonight is the big Punch Party; a Gold Unit tradition five years running.

The basic premise is this: The band "hosts" the party which just means we set the date/time/location, nominate and elect the 5 judges, and decorate.

Then, anyone who wants to enter a punch (alcoholic of course) to be judged signs up. The categories are: Best Taste, Worst Taste, Most Alcoholic, Best Presentation, and Best Overall.

There are some on this show ::cough cough keyboardplayers cough cough:: that take this event very seriously and try to pull out all the stops.

I'm trying to cover the fact that I've never made a punch before by going all out with presentation (not necessarily of the punch itself).

Anyway.....while the punch is chilling in the fridge, I'll write about Memphis since I never got around to it.

After narrowly (like seriously.....nar-row-ly) escaping the wrath of Gustav, we made it to Memphis.

I learned 3 things during my stay:

1. There are more annoying beggars in that city than anywhere else I've ever been.
2. Beale Street is comparable to Bourbon St insomuch that it's a tourist trap that all of the locals avoid.
3. Circus people know how to celebrate a birthday.

The major event of the stay was going out for Jeff's birthday with about 20 show people.

Our first stop was B.B. King's. Unfortunately, it ended up being just as bad as I had imagined (minus the awesome company mind you). $5 cover (whatever no big deal) but the lady at the register gave me my change and held back a dollar, held it up and asked "for me? for me? for me? for me?". Ummmm...what? It was obvious she was going to stand there with my dollar until I gave her permission to drop it in her tip jar. Yeah, a tip jar for the woman collecting the cover at the door.

I ordered a double Jack and Coke and learned too late that I had made a mistake. I'm used to the Pittsburgh version where a double Jack and Coke is twice as strong and don't cost no doggone $14.00. Lame.

The band was pretty good. I had foolishly mentioned to Justin that if I could hold my own playing the blues that I would like to sit in (keep in mind this was not an open session). No sooner had I mentioned this then Justin said "Ok well you're playing tonight."

"Uh no, I really don't want to sit in"

"Yes you're sitting in. I'll be right back"

The band was on break so he was off talking to all of them trying to convince them to let me come sit in. Seriously, I had no desire to sit in with a bunch of real blues musicians and make everyone including myself uncomfortable. But he wouldn't let it go. Asking over and over, talking to every single band member.

A couple other show people caught wind of what was happening and joined in trying to get me to play. I'm all for sitting in places where I'm comfortable. This was NOT one of those places. When the band took the stage for the next set Justin told me "OK it took a lot of convincing but they are probably going to call you down to play".

Great.

So, I left and went across the street. When I came back out our whole crew had decided to move to another bar. Phew. Crisis averted.

We ended up at Coyote Ugly. Yeehaw.

We were the only ones in the bar and there was only one bartender.

It ended up being a great time though with the crew we had out. We had drunk Ollie (hi-laaar-ious) providing commentary to the show on the TV. It was that dude that travels around the world and eats disgusting local food. T'was MST3K worthy.

There was one of those punching bag arcade games where you (obviously) punch it and it gives you a score of manliness or something. Things were going fine until Robbie stepped up to the plate. He wound up, charged forward, and completely whiffed nearly falling to the ground. To his credit he did hit it on the second try and scored....well....it registered anyway.

Eventually a Russian dance party ensued which I was able to take a quick video of before the bouncer came over and gruffly informed me of their 'no video' policy.

The acrobats of course eventually started stacking on each other and the ICG's ended up posing in the bathtub thing.

Donnie scored big outside the bar. Some drunken bum and his trashy buddy approached him with a plastic bag and said:

"Doan even say nuttin' til you see what's in this bag"

Uh, what?

Turns out to be a pair of shoes.

"These are $200 shoes man, how much you give me? How much you give me?"

Donnie made an offer of $5.

"$5?!?! These are $200 shoes...blahblahbalhblah"

"$5"

::dramatic pause:: "Damn. Ok man gimmie the five bucks"

"Oh, I only I have $4 actually"

It's worth at least $20 to have the opportunity to pay $4 for a pair of shoes a dirty bum is selling out of a bag in Memphis

After closing out CU, we meandered down the street and found a bar open until 3. I bailed and went home but a couple people kept the party going.

I didn't experience the aftermath first hand, but apparently Jeff had quite an adventure later that night involving a lack of clothing, losing balance, an open trailer door, a set of trailer stairs, and the pavement.

Total Rockstar birthday.

So that was Memphis. I went to the Rock and Soul museum which was OK and I got satisfy my need to visit Wolf River Harbor and be a good Jeff Buckley fan.

It was a bit morbid but rather funny with my GPS announced "Arriving at Jeff Buckley on right" since that's what I named the location. Good stuff.

It is freaking pouring here in Bloomington. But it feels sooooo good to be back in the North with cooler temperatures. I don't know if it's just the air or maybe the trees but you can just tell when you're back in the North. Feels good.

Bloomington report coming including what I'll be able to remember of the Punch Party.

j

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Southern man don't need me around anyhow? Thank Jeebus.

So I know I haven't properly written about Memphis yet but this....interesting night out in Jackson freaking Mississippi is still fresh in my mind so it wins. Memphis was more 'fun camaraderie' type stuff so it can wait in lieu of bass ackwards Southern duh-hyuck-derp-ness.

Well I guess it didn't start that way. The crowds here have been just great. Near capacity crowds every night and super responsive. No complaints there.

But tonight Brian and I decided we needed to experience the Jackson first hand. We started at this Irish Pub called Fenians which was actually quite good. Nothing really to report there. We probably should have stayed put.

We moved on to the "main drag" which is hidden back in a bunch of awkward one-way streets and shady industrial buildings. We were going to try the "Fire Club" in spite of the musical equivalent of a diarrhea tsunami pouring out through the doors into the night. We had snatched our ID's back from the doorman before he had even finished saying "$15 Cover". This is the same Cletus looking deliverance extra John Deer Stockholder that gave me this nugget advice the previous night when I asked what else there was to do in Jackson:

"Well....'round the corner dere's our sister club..........::lowers voice ominously:: but a lot of blacks go in there. It's more of a black club. ::hint hint wink wink knowwhattimean knowwhattimean::"

Riiiiiiight. I keep forgetting we are in the heart of active KKK territory.

Anyway, we jumped across the street to 'Hal and Mal's' where there was an aging guitarist with a band trying to pull off a crappy imitation of John Scofield. It would've been almost tolerable until they broke into a "version" of 'Purple Haze". Apparently to cover that song you don't really need to know any of the words. Just say 'Purple Haze' at the beginning of a few mumbled phrases and cap it off with a " S'cuse me while I kiss this guy" and you're golden.

Next.....

Martin's..... After much coaxing from the doorman how this was the hippest spot in town and how they had this amaaaaaazing funk band with tonnnnns of people inside, we coughed up the $7 cover and headed in.

Gah. It was like combining Gooskis, Belvedere's, and Dee's minus everything cool about those spots, mixed with a giant pile of elephant dung and some tiger piss. That was Martin's.

A good way to judge that a funk band is going to be atrocious: more than half of the band are skinny white dudes with long hair wearing reeedonnkulous sunglasses. Add a drunk ass hippie dufus behind the mixing board twiddling knobs at random like he's playing some modular synth, factor in the fact that he is oblivious to the fact that he's blaring all mid range frequency that would be considered unbearably loud in a room twice as big, and top it off with the drummer wearing those stupid shades, a retarded white boy gangsta cabbie hat and using nothing but shoulders to play with and sporting the "I'm such a bad ass" puckered lip face and you'll maybe almost empathize with the pain we were experiencing. These fools were in dire need of a headbutt apiece.

We headed back out to the dark dingy (but non-aurally painful) part of the bar. Some drunk ass rail thin hippie who looked like a cross between the singer form System of a Down and Weird Al from the 'Amish Paradise' video leaned back on the rain and almost fell onto our table. Brian said something like "wow that dude almost fell on us" which is apparently considered a severely offensive statement in 'drunk ass hick hippie-ese'. The dude struggled to turn around and then kinda sorta almost flipped us off. After some mumbling and hand gestures we determined he was demanding to know how we thought the rest of the football season would pan put if we were so smart.

At some point we had convinced him we were Canadian which brought on this onslaught: "Fucking Cannucks....Fuck Canada!!" ::mumble mumble:: ::stumble stumble::. This whole scene went on for aboot ten minutes with us laughing our asses off and playing along.

We tried to go listen to the band one last time and were treated to something that aimed for Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" territory,but failed miserably. Instead of a guitar quoting "Jamie's Crying" they broke into kindasorta part of the riff from "Iron Man" with the one dude rapping worse than Snow over top of it. The other guys in the band did the arms crossed, puckered lip, head nod thing almost in time like they were part of the anti-drug troupe that came to your Junior High Schools and rapped about how cool it was to not smoke, drink, or do drugs.

There were a few cute girls there but after all of that we just had to leave.

Now I know not everyone is like this in the South.....just the people I encountered.

If I ever ever hear any of you Pittsburgh people complain about anything in that city, you'll have a headbutt waiting for you upon my return.

Good Grief.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Barbershop Raga

So within the last 14hrs I've:
- left Pittsburgh
- arrived in Gulfport, MS mere hours before the airport was shut down to prep for Gustav
- rescued my trailer (thankfully the arena lot wasn't locked shut so we got in
- found diesel fuel on the third try (lots of places where out of everything)
- hit the road
- arrived in Memphis
- parked
- plugged in
- had a beer and hung out for a bit

More detailed entry to come tomorrow. Just wanted to let those who were wondering: Yes I am alive and still have my house.

2 things that are on my list this week:

Re-enact the Graceland scene from Spinal Tap

Visit Wolf River Harbor.

Gnight from Memphis.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

So alone...SOOO A-L-O-N-N-N-E!

I'm sitting in the Pittsburgh airport 2 days early waiting to fly to Gulfport to rescue my hopefully non-broken into truck and trailer. The plan was to hitch up as soon as we got there and split for Jackson, MS.

The updated plan is now to push on to Memphis. The show evacuated Biloxi on Friday to head to Jackson but now all of New Orleans is heading to the arena to wait out the storm. So the show gets to hang in Memphis for a couple days. Sweet.

So now I get to fly into Memphis, Catch the connecting flight to Gulfport, grab the trailer, and drive back up to Memphis.

Goodbye Pittsburgh. You are already missed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New pics posted

Pittsburgh pics from the past couple days HERE. I'm to beat to write about it right now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My spite has a first name, it's G-U-S-T-A-V

They are evacuating the Biloxi lot Friday at 2pm. Steve and I get to cut our week off short and fly back early. Thanks, Gustav......Prick.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Things I've learned today......

1. Robin is even more awesome than I remember from High School.
2. Udipi Cafe still has the best Indian Food ever.
3. It's been too long since I've gone running judging how I feel now after my jaunt this morning. Ugh.
4. Hurricane Gustav is supposed to hit Biloxi Monday morning and they are going to possibly evacuate the entire lot.
5. I was smart to leave my truck and trailer keys with the conductor.

Pittsburgh Highlights (Mon/Tues)

So anyway Monday night:

I met up with Cleo at her pad and we hopped over to Gina and Scott's to hang for a bit. After that, it was off to the Shadow Lounge since Courtney was celebrating her birthday and Interval (Howie Alexander, Paul Thompson, and James Johnson III for those who don't know but should) was hosting the weekly open session. Perfect combination of friends and music. I kept wanting to whip out the camera and take pictures of everything and film some of the crazy ass shit James, Paul, and Howie were throwing down on stage. Not wanting to seem like a tourist in my own town means there's not much documentation of the night. Justin Bechak and Mark Ignatius were both there which was a great added bonus since I hadn't seen them in a while.

Although it feels great to be back here, it's definitely different. I don't feel grounded here at all anymore (yeah yeah I know it hasn't been that long yet but still....). So that's the short "this is all I feel like writing cause I'm lazy" version of Monday. An even lazier synopsis of Tuesday right here:

Tuesday:

I met up with a different crew at D's Six Packs and Dogs for Justin's birthday. Sarah York Rubin was in the house so all was well with the world.

Another bonus surprise was running into a couple people I had gone to Duquesne with who I haven't seen in probably 5 years or so.

Justin got a call from Ralph who was at Shadow Lounge so we decided to head down there and do a few tunes for the open mic.......which seemed like a good idea.

I don't know if it was over zealousness at playing "real" original music again or what but I played like a retarded 8th grader up there. Granted the kit su-u-u-u-ucked but that's no excuse. Oh well. We may still push for a show in Eire around Halloween when the tour is up there.

Jocelyn met me at the Lounge and we eventually went back and hung out with Cleo for a bit at the Zell pad. I miss that gal.

I'm off to IUP later to hang with my bro after I meet up with a friend from high school who just happens to be visiting home this week as well. Good timing all around thus far.

80s bowling is on for tomorrow night followed by a evening split between The Big Throwback at Brillo and 80s nite at Belvedere's. Viper's Soul Club party is Friday night so there are plenty of chances to expunge all this dance repression that's built up being in mostly shit cities with no good music for the last month.

Picturination

it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

There is much to write that encompasses a wide ass range of emotions. And for that reason I may not write much about it if anything at all. I'm not at the point of serving personal innerworkings up on a platter for all the interwebs to digest quite yet.

I did just stop at Sheetz for an MTO though and that felt like home. And Sammy groggily greeted me at the door upon my arrival. He may not be cut out for circus performing but he's still a baddd ass wiener dog.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Home is where the Yinz is

So I just woke up after crashing a bit in Monroeville at my parents house. Fay was rocking the trailers just like Eduardo had tried to so that combined with the anticipation of coming home didn't lead to much sleep. Our flight left Biloxi at 6:30 this morning and we only had a 30min layover in Memphis so once again I was unable to go visit Wolf River Harbor and acknowledge the loss of a great songwriter/performer 11 years ago. Forget about Elvis.

Elizabeth met us at the airport and it felt a bit odd driving through the city on the way to Monroeville. It's only been about a month and a half but I felt like a tourist. I'm excited to catch up with everyone and am trying to plan things out properly to achieve the maximum amount of visitage in the time allotted.

Plenty of pictures to be posted soon I'm sure.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

...

The Gulf of Mexico and Biloxi Casinos are all fine and good.....but I can't wait to be back in Pittsburgh next week....

Monday, August 18, 2008

When it rains, it pours. (yuk yuk yuk)

So I'm in an RV park w/Steve....in Hidalgo.....in the middle of the biggest rainstorm this part of Texas has seen in a lonnnnnng time.

But I digress. We'll back up about 12hrs.

Around 10 this morning Steve talked to the service tech working on his truck. He said they were still waiting for some gaskets but the truck would be done and ready to pick up sometime in the afternoon.

There were a few show people who had stayed the night on the lot but one by one they packed up and left until it was just Steve and I. Keep in mind that show power had been pulled the night before so the generator could head to Biloxi. Luckily, it had begun to rain during the night and was shaping up to be an overcast day so it wasn't going to be lava hot like it had been all week.

We went out to lunch, ran a few errands and came back to the lot around 4 so Steve could call the guy to find out the truck status. This guy had given him his cell number so he could be reached at any time. The first time he called, he was told the guy was "busy". When called again about 45minutes later no one picked up. It was time to pay the dealership a visit.

T'was a good thing because we were informed that the guy had quit/been fired the day before and hadn't transferred responsibility of informing Steve of the truck's status to anyone else. At that point they said worst case scenario, the truck would be done by 5pm.......tomorrow.

We don't open until Thursday in Biloxi so we'll still be able to get there in time but still.......

But that's merely where the story begins boys and girls. You see by the time we left the dealership it had begun to p-o-u-r down rain. This wouldn't have been a huge deal if we were staying on the lot another night. We figured for safety and peace of mind it would be best to stay at an RV park for the night.

So, in the torrential downpour that ensued we first hooked up Steve's hitch to my truck and hooked up his travel trailer. Unfortunately since my rear suspension isn't as high as Steve's the trailer would've basically been dragging on the ground had we pulled out. He took shelter under the lip of my 5th wheel and adjusted the hitch. After that we were good to go.......

Hidalgo doesn't get all that much rain. Recently however they gotten much more than their average amount. So when this freaking tsunami hit, there was already so much water in the ground that there wasn't any more room for this excess water to be absorbed. So it just stayed put all over the road. Like crazy deep! We got the RV park just fine, backed Steve's trailer in, un-hitched it, and jumped back in my truck to go fetch my 5th Wheel.

After another soaking whilst hooking everything up we were back on the road crossing even deeper reservoirs of water collected in the middle of the road. There were cops all over the highway and it seemed every 5th person or so had not quite understood the laws of physics regarding driving during a flash flood warning. Luckily we arrived in one piece at the RV park and I backed my trailer into its spot. The owner had warned me that there was only a 50amp hook-up. No problem, I had the correct adapter. He had shown me two spots back to back that I could pull into so naturally I chose the easier one.

Turns out that 50amp power supply he had mentioned was one the complete opposite end of the OTHER spot next to me. I found this only after doubling up the amount of wood I use to lower my front jacks onto and trying to devise a way to prevent my wheel chocks from floating away. The rain was incidental at this point since I was 'cannonball off the high dive' wet anyway.

Steve came over and we went through every possibility of cable combination trying to figure how to get me some power. It started to look like the only option was to head to Wal-Mart and buy an extension. At the last minute though we found that there was a 20amp plug-in in the circuit box. Steve just so happened to have an adapter and extension cord that would take my 30amp cable down to 20amp and reach the circuit box. I would just have to make sure I didn't run the air and microwave at the same time. Sweet.

After two or three trips back and forth pushing the reset button and flipping the breaker, I had me some power. So I dried off for the umphteenth time and gave my Mom a call to touch base. I decided I'd try to conserve power as not to blow the circuit and raised the thermostat until it clicked off. As soon as it clicked off, I (like a genius) fired it back up for some reason.....and blew the circuit. After one more trip out into the freezing (did I mention the rain was freaking FREEZING....yeah, we're basically IN Mexico in the middle of August and it feels like Pittsburgh in March...go figure) rain to reset things, the drama for the day ended (knock on wood). I gave my mom a call to give the 'all clear' while trying to dry out a bit.



This week off in Pittsburgh is coming at just the right time.

We brought all of this on ourselves though when we joked that we had had our fill of Adven.....er.....the A-word.

From now we only reference that word by calling it the 'A-Word' or referring to this picture:



G'night from freaking Hidalgo. Traveling in Texas is like dividing by zero.