Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sacle Bleu!

So we got back from New Orleans tonight. Pretty awesome city.

Walking down Bourbon Street was kind of like being in that intolerable tourist drag in Niagara, we found plenty of cool spots elsewhere.

We checked out the Aquarium first and while they did have jellyfish, it was disappointing to learn that they had no Octopus....

Afterwards I had what was possibly not only the best Jambalaya ever, but a front runner for best dish ever. Check out Coop's if you head to New Orleans.

Later in the night we ventured outside downtown to catch the Rebirth Brass Band at The Maple Leaf. B-a-d-a-s-s. It was like seeing a Slavic Soul Party show at Gooski's but with exponentially more energy and talent. Crazy. Good stuff.

Hopefully the only time I'll resort to playing on the 'Master Card' to sum up a night:
Cover charge: $12
3 Whiskey and Cokes: $14
Heading into the bathroom and hearing the crowd of thick necked jocks in there start chanting "Steelers!...Steelers!...Steelers!" out of nowhere, saying that you are from Pittsburgh and having them just about pee themselves in excitement and being forced to pose for pictures with them while accepting free drinks as they bellow "STEELERS!": Priceless.

We walked allllll over the place in New Orleans and ate like kings (and drank like them too). It ended up being me Steve and Nathan ho made the trip out. I picked up a new thumb ring, had my cards read for the first time (I tried my best to not smirk as the lady was not only way off, but dropped the cards while shuffling), and took lots of pictures.

The cemetery we visited was incredible. Everything is above ground so it's just a labyrinth of tombs and mausoleums. The cemetery only stayed open until 3pm. Reason being: There are all sorts of places for people to hide, mug, and kill you. That sort of thing apparently happens a lot. A whole lot.

We're going to be back around New Orleans in November and I plan on going again. This time we'll hit up the more hidden away local bars and really get to know some of the people. That was the only drag of the trip was that we didn't really meet and hang out with any locals.

All of my pics from the trip are HERE.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Great Scott!

So the good news is I backed up in to my spot perfectly on the first try....well actually on my first attempt I backed up spot over where I was supposed to. But I nailed it the second time. Annnnd, we're on a lot where im parked pretty uphill so I've gotten really good at super-balancing my trailer and driving up on levels....

....anyway, that went well.

But, this is me when I have my power cable all ready to hook into the show power station:

Only I couldn't find the right picture. Imagine that's the shot near the end of the first installment where he realizes he's about 5ft short of cable. Only in my case, there was no tree involved....I was just 5ft short of reaching the box. I got bailed out though but realize 100ft of cable plus whatever I have in my RV (25ft?) just ain't gonna cut it.

No water hook up yet. Leaving for New Orleans tomorrow morning and coming back late Wed.

That's all for now.

Fly by night, away from here....

So, I know I've slacked for a couple days but there's not that much new to report.

The only place to go in Odessa for any form of nightlife was a Graham Central Station. For you Pittsburgh folk just think Matrix but with like 7 rooms and much creepier people. There was the Cowboy Room, the hump club room, a Latin room, karaoke room, a faux strip club room with girls on the bar, and the Miami room (no music and pool tables). It was this so-called Miami room that was advertised as having an 80s nite. I figured the Texas take on such a thing would be worth checking out.....

.....but apparently the website just hadn't been updated and there was no 80s nite to be found. The club itself was more or less intolerable as far as music goes. And in Texas (at least from what I saw) singing Karaoke means you get the added bonus of two annoying "MC's" with mics that stay on the stage with you. One was a scantily clad woman sporting an impressive muffin top with atrocious vocal chords. The other was a massive Grimace looking dude in tight ill-fitting pajamas. One of their favorite things to so was to grab one of the "instruments" on the wall (real guitars with no strings) and strum along with the songs they butchered.

We did meet two awesome shot girls sympathetic to our quest for an 80s nite (turned out one of them was the promotions person who hadn't updated the website). It was encouraging though that there were people who both had self-esteem and created art who existed in that town of drunken Bubbas.

There were two dudes who both looked like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons dressed all in black, walking around with tons of beads and a huge camera draped around the one dude's neck. Totally creepy. Not quite as creepy as the plethora of 40+ dumpy cowboys gyrating on and slobbering all over the 18 year old girls (all ages club) that were happy just to have some sort of attention. Pheeeuuwww.

When we left GCS, we were treated to one of most insane, scary, and hilarious scenes thus far on the trip: A couple hundred pickups filled with drunken rednecks and drunken Mexicans all trying to fly out the parking lot at the same time. The billion cops that were in the place were nowhere to be found as people were jumping curbs and smacking into one another. It was like Redneck Mad Max or something.

Needless to say I am very happy to almost be out of Texas. I'm ready for some Cajun Country.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dancing to the Pipes of Pan

The whole 'movie theater thing' happened again last night but to a lesser degree. It wasn't quite as odd coming out of the theater, piling into Justin's truck, and heading back to the lot.

I'm starting to become better friends with a lot of the people in the show which is awesome. It totally helped that last night Justin's radio was tuned to his and Wendy's fave satellite station that was playing The Police, Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, and all the other nifty stuff I'm into. I think I scored some points playing name that tune.

It was me Marty and Lena, Justin and Wendy, and Vas. We went to Chilli's first and it was the first time I was ever the only American at the table. Just to review Marty and Lena are from Finland and do the Crossbow/Cloud Swing acts respectively, Justin is the Australian (his character is French in the show) bike expert, and Vas is the Russian "clown" (when he's not harassing the band during the show trying to get us to screw up).

We saw the new Batman and I have to say it was flippin' awesome. I'm torn over Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger for best Joker. Gooood stuff. Too bad Christian Bale can't live up to his character in real life.

I don't get the entire day off today. We're having a full band rehearsal at 3 since Matt (keys/loops/sound effects) isn't going to be here for the shows. Should be interesting. In my first two weeks with the show I've had to play on Rodeo dirt and now re-learn a lot of the show to suit being down one keyboardist. At least it levels the playing field and no one can really give me shit if I screw up during the show.

There's one "club" here that supposedly has an "80s" room in it so Brian and I are going to check it out tonight. I'm keeping my expectations low as to not be disappointed.

Oh yeah, and Brian and I took a detour and went to Stonehenge yesterday: Yes, as in Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell; Where the banshees live and they do live well.....

There's a couple pools close by as well so it may be time to show of my incredible farmer's tan.

Another update coming the next time I make it down to this little cafe since we have 1995 Internet speeds on the lot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This is what Silence Looks Like

Odessa, TX.

And yes that is a local replication of Stonehenge. There's that and this wi-fi cafe I found attached to Odessa College (which looks like a high school). That's about it.

And as far as my Verizon internets coverage goes:

"Can you hear me now?"

"What?! I can't hear you ya durn fool! I'm in freakin' Odessa, TX!"

Good times.

Not too much else to report. I feel like a real official RV'r now that I've used the sewage hose for the first time upon leaving Waco. I think I was more nervous and scared about that than the first time I sat behind the drum kit for the show.

Steve and I banged out the drive from Waco to Odessa in record time. It doesn't seem right that we find a 6hr drive as a nice break.... We've got another 12 hour drive ahead of us to get to Lafayette next week. Trying to get there as soon as I can since the plan is to hit up New Orleans early Tuesday and come back Wed night.

Oh and I learned more lessons in Waco:

Never leave your camera laying around a Russian Clown and Finnish Cross Bow dude when they've been drinking as you run back to your trailer real quick. That's all that needs to be said......

I already had my oil changed and tires rotated earlier today. That was the one goal for the week. I should take up knitting or something.

Brian and I are going to take a trip to the Odessa Stonehenge here in a bit so I'll post a few pics then.

I still haven't gotten word from any of you fools when you're coming to see me. So step it up! I don't want to wait until Halloween to see yinz gois.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm a Pepper....

Well I'm starting to get the show internalized. The show last night went rather well. No starting wrong loops or being on the wrong patch. These freakin' wiener dogs are starting to get on my nerves though. The way that act works is like this:

Diana gives a command for them to jump over these little bridges, right? I take my cue off watching her arm or wrist or whatever. This way I can line up the sound effect with their theory. A lot of the time just one dog will jump or they'll jump late or early or whatever. It's more or less impossible to line things up exactly. Oh well, it's probably a good thing if the dogs are the only part of the show I haven't gotten under control yet...

..well that and the Russian acrobats. I'm not big on drum fills. I like to play within the groove and throw in little things here and there. But with that act I need to be filling while they're flipping and jumping all over the place. So far, I've more or less sounded like a dude who comes into the music store and sits down at the kit and wanks around at full volume to make sure everyone knows he's a drummer....ugh. Hopefully that will get better with time.

The whole double kick pedal is throwing me a bit as well. I've found that for the really fast stuff I can burn out some Dave Lombardo lite 16th's. The only place double kick is written into the part is for the Cloud Swing. The tempo is waaay chill and I never realized how much harder it is to play double bass 16th's at a slower tempo. Right now when I try to catch that part it sounds like a 6th grader playing Alex Van Halen's 'Hot for Teacher' bass drum part. Yeehaw.

I'm still not quite sure what I think about Texas. If I would've went to Austin I'm sure my opinion would be much higher. Right now it's just bad drivers and screwy roads.

80% of the dudes in Texas have the exact same Bobby Hill haircut too. It's scary. I was never a fan of that show but after seeing Texas in person it's a fairly accurate representation of what it's like down here.

We ship out to Odessa Sunday (or as the people in Austin call it: "Slow-Deth-a". Can't wait haha. I think the highlight of the city is the whole 'Friday Night Lights' thing. I've never seen the show and can't really call myself a big football dude so I'm sure I'll fit right in.

I've gotten to sign autographs though during the pre-show meet and greet stuff. I suddenly realized that I don't have an 'autograph' that I use. I've never had to give one before. Another thing to work on.

Yesterday I checked out the Dr. Pepper museum which was kind of fun. Tons of old bottles/cans/machines. I snapped a couple shots: I finally made a Flickr account

After that was Heritage Homestead. It's this 500 acre spread of land where these people live work and make everything. They're kind of like the Amish only they have cars and electricity. But there's a Pottery School, Woodworking School, Metal Forging School and all sorts of other stuff. They can cook their asses off too. Sweet Potato Jalapeno soup was killer and the bread was stellar as well.

Not too much else to report. Brian and I had a rather amusing night on the town in Waco. Not much diversity here. It was kind of like the South Side. Lots of douchebag dudes with too much hair gel, orange tans, and popped collars. I anticipate more of the same in Odessa. It seems it may be a good town to find some bingo hall and mingle with some locals. We'll see. I want to avoid a "Where we come from we got Steers and Queers and you ain't got no horns, boy" situation.

2 shows today. Unless something fun falls into my lap I'll probably just get the trailer ready and cleaned up so I can be hitched up before the 2:00 show tomorrow. Odessa's only a six hour drive so Steve and I will knock it out on Sunday. That will I'll have M-R to experience the wonders of Odessa.

And just to drop another not so subtle's the tour schedule: Road Trip!

Come visit me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birthday Luau

Today was awesome.

I skipped taking the truck in after realizing the next jump is only 600 miles or so.

I found a cool coffeeshop a few miles away and hung out there for a while before heading in to set up the drums.

This evening was a joint birthday party for a few people on the show. We had a luau in the ring. I have to admit this place is starting to feel more and more like home.

Pics from the bash are here or here.

The arena usually houses rodeos so we are playing on a dirt floor. Totally glamorous. I had planned on heading out into town and checking out a couple of the recommended bars but I'm beat. The plan now is to watch some AD and crash out. There's a few places I want to check out before soundcheck tomorrow.

That's all for now.

Another alone on an everyday night

OK so picking up kinda sorta where I left off....I need to be better organized with posting as I tend forget what I've already talked about.

All in all, AZ was quite enjoyable. I met an awesome new friend. She's a photographer/promoter/massage therapist. It was good to discover that rad people can exist in any town. I wish we would have had more time to hang out. She's a blogger as well and as it turns out, we both have good taste in blog templates.

I watched the for the last show on Sunday (Justin's final performance). We went back to In-and-out burger after the show so Panda Steve and I didn't shove of until later in the evening.

The amount of sky visible in AZ is just out of control. It was awesome to see the storm we were going to run into hovering in the distance. And the clouds out there are def like nothing I've ever seen in the burgh.

I've been digging on some old live Captain Melba tracks on these drives. I must say the one version of 'Little Sunflower' that we got all crazy layered with really set a great mood for the torrents of rain we plowed right into. The only thing left to deal with while driving my rig is some ice. Can't wait.

I'm trying to remember everything in the right order here but things are a bit fuzzy since it was such a blur. I need to use my digital voice recorder to keep the thoughts in my head straight and capture them as they happen.

So yeah, AZ was dark and way rainy for most of the time. We stopped at a Loves in Gallup. And when we almost got run down it felt like that one Mitch Hedberg bit:

"I played golf, I'm not good at golf, I never got good at it. I never got a hole in one, but I did hit a guy in one. And that's way more satisfying. You're supposed to yell "fore." But I was too busy mumbling, "there ain't no way that's gonna hit him.""

We saw the pickup scream into the lot and speed right towards us. You're supposed to yell "Holy shit!" and jump out of the way but I was too busy mumbling "There ain't no way that's gonna hit us".

Luckily Mr. Fleeing Mexican Man realized that hitting us and then crashing would probably end his high speed chase so he served by us and missed my new truck still sitting at the pump by an inch or too.

The funny thing is, if these stations didn't enforce that freakin' "$75.00 minimum" on a single fuel transaction, I wouldn't have had to open three separate transactions and run inside each time for the receipt since the pump printer was broken.

"And THAT'S why you always use the trucker side to fill up your tank!" as J. Walter Weatherman would say....

Crashing in the Wal-Mart was fine as we had lots of RV company.

One of the coolest things about the drive the next day was both passing The Ringling Brothers Semis and thinking "Hey, that's me!" and passing other people from the show in their RV's.

Other highlights included finding a rusty old AM country station to play once I hit Texas, finding an 80s station around Lubbock and rocking out to Berlin, Billy Idol, and Foreigner before I lost signal, and arriving on the lot.

No matter what time you roll in someone comes over to either tell you where to park and/or help you park. It really wasn't that hard. We have regular campground hookups here. I was able to back it up in the almost pitch black and get everything hooked up and leveled.

Robbie, Vas, and Jeff were hanging when Steve and I rolled in so we joined the crew after our trailers were set. It's such a cool thing right after arriving in the middle to hang out and unwind from the drive. Marty rolled in soon after Steve and I and joined the crew. T'was a good night.

---------------morning after----------------

I got the trailer repaired as best I could late this morning. The 2" clamps really came in handy for spots where it was impossible to get the siding back where it belonged.

Steve and went on a quest to find a new double kick pedal, do laundry, and get some groceries.

I found a listing for 'Drums and More' only a couple miles away which sounds perfect, right?

Well...we roll through the ghetto of Waco to this abandoned looking building. There's the remains of a Liquor store in the front and a little sign that says 'Drums and More in back". So I take a little stroll and there's this teeny little sign leading to a small door....which is locked. Great. I took a picture but the camera battery is dead so that'll be forthcoming.

I get back in the truck so we can try somewhere else when this older dude with a big beard and not many teeth kind saunters by the truck. He's where a drum shirt so I figured 'what the hell...'

I get out, wave, and walk up to the guy. I ask if he knows about the drum shop and explain my need for a double kick pedal. So in the exact Texas accent you would imagine some who looks the way he did would have he said:

"We moved across the street. See that old grey house with the green car in the drive? It's back there. Pull on over and I'll meet'cha there. We got some kick pedals"


So Steve pulls to there curb and gets my instructions that if I'm not out in 20 minutes to either call the Calvary or get a samurai sword and pull some Bruce Willis Pulp Fiction shit.

The "Drum Store" is this dude's basement. There's random heads, drums, and some hardware strewn about. Nothing is in any kind of box. We go into the second room and he motions to a corner where a few random kick pedals are laying. His name is 'Art'. And he was awesome.

"We ain't got any double kick pedals but these are all for sale.....expect this one (he grabs an old looking pedal and holds it).

I explain again that I don't need a double kick pedal but I appreciate him showing me his store (he was very nice).

"Well how about these drums? They're and old set of Slingerlands (yeah from about 1988). You interested in them?"

I again explain what I need.

"Well lemme right down our phone number for ye in case you need some sticks or something"

He hands me a green piece of paper whose header reads "Northern and NYE Printing and Office Supplies" on which he's written his name, "Drums and More" and the phone number.

I figured if anyone knew of any venues that exist in Waco it would be this guy so I ask him.

"Oh yeah, we got Treff's. Are you off tomorrow night? We got us a good jam band down there (he rattles of who each of the members plays for) called the 'Kick Ass Assassins'. They're real good."

"And My band is playing this Saturday at Ace's Bar and Grill. We have a funny video on our myspace you should watch. It's me playing 'Wipeout' blindfolded (he mimed what it looked like....only since he didn't have a blindfold there he just shut his eyes really tight and flailed around)."

I thanked him again and after letting him know that 'no, I'm sorry, I can't get you a pass to come see the circus', we left.

That's the only Music Store in Waco, folks. I called about 5 other numbers in the vicinity and they were all either disconnected or were now something completely different. Yeah, buddy.

The laundromat was a laundromat. They did have Ms. Pacman with the speed chip so I rocked that for a bit and they had on of those vintage machines where you put in a quarter, the plastic chicken rotates and makes what probably sounded like a chicken noise 30years ago when the machine was new and an egg pops out of the chute containing a prize.

I'm the proud owner of a tiny pink high-heel erases with glitter in it. I think I'm going to try to find on of those machines in every town we hit and label the eggs with what city they're from.

Anyway, we went and ate some awesome Mexican food, hit up Wal-Mart for a couple things, and rolled back here.

I'm taking Tobias in for his first oil change tomorrow morning early.

So yeah, that's about it. I had thought of so profound things to write about on the drive down here....but since I didn't archive them somehow right away, they're gone....I'll try to be more prepared the next time I have thoughts.....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hooked up and un-hitched

We made it to Waco after a lonnnng day of driving. Shifting forward two hours didn't help anything.

We're on a pseudo campground outside the arena. I successfully back the trailer up to the fence leveled out and unhitched (with help from Steve). I know I keep promising a real post but I'm beyond beat at this point tonight.

Lots on the agenda tomorrow too.

- Fix trailer undercarriage
- Truck in for an oil change
- Find a music store and buy another new kick pedal that won't fall apart
- laundrination

Steve and I were supposed to take a trip into Austin tomorrow but that may not happen. Normally we would have all of Wed for such a trip but I have to setup the equipment a day early since I've never done it on my own just to make sure everything is there and works.

I'll probably practice the show a couple times after that then we're having a joint birthday superbash in the ring tomorrow evening.

The Austin prospects are looking grim.

I shall try to make time for a proper post/picture upload session tomorrow.

Here's a quick one of my before my first performance:

Here's one group shot from Justin's (old drummer) farewell gathering:

I'm out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Prescott Valley recap coming soon

.....not tonight though. We (Panda Steve) and I are in the Wal Mart lot in Gallup, NM for the night. We were monsooned on for most of the drive here. Then we were nearly run down in a Love's parking lot by a Mexican in a beat up pickup fleeing from La Policia.....

I was hoping to trek on for a while but it's prob for the best that we stopped for the night.

A proper recap of all the Prescott Valley happenings forthcoming after I'm settled into Waco.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh, and your silly law....

Things that will make my second show this evening better:

1. Not having my bass drum pedal fall apart in the middle of the dog act.
2. Not hitting the crash cymbal that starts a loop when the announce the winner of the elephant painting.
3. Not missing the cue to start the loop of the finale.

More later.

Last night was a lot of fun. Cheers to new friends.

Drum Roll Please....

I play the 3pm and 7pm shows today. Wish me luck. Bigger entry to come.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nothing like a good Arizona rain.....

Usually you go see a movie for a temporary escape, come out, and head back to your neighborhood. We saw WALL-E tonight and for a while I kinda forgot where I was and what I was going to go "home" to. Stranger in a strange land indeed.

The movie was superb though. Highly recommended. Lots of subtleties and very well put together. I won't get into a whole review or anything but definitely go see it.

Our daily thunderstorm started early afternoon out here and is still going strong. It doesn't feel like the concept of Arizona I had in my head. There's a whole rainy/monsoon season in the Southern part of the state I was told. Apparently cacti can only survive if there's a rainy season to compliment the dry season.

I was able to touch base with a friend I worked with in Pittsburgh at the Non-Profit Life Sciences company. He's in Scottsdale and may swing up this way to check out the show. I've failed thus far in my goal to get out into the "city" and make new friends. Learning this show needs to come first though so I'll still have a job in the next city to reconcile this town's failure haha.

I'm spending most of my time organizing things in the trailer and getting as much operational/maintenance understanding under my belt as I can. So if I've been out of touch one on one with a lot of you, that will change once I get a few shows under my belt.

I did talk to SYR and Sproul a few minutes ago which was good. Sproul's big Thee Adora debut was tonight and things were rockin' as expected. That'll be the biggest change is not being able to play any "shows". But I'm keeping my focus down the road a bit and as the necessary things are taken care of I know I'll find a way to remedy that problem.

Last night was fun. I hung out with Robbie (Conductor), Vas (the "clown"), and Pete (I think he's concession's?) outside Robbie's bus. In a way it's just like any other neighborhood. I haven't had a chance to really hang out with a lot of the people here (the rain certainly didn't help things today) but know that will take care of itself in time.

I should go over the show once more tonight but have a feeling that's not going to happen. There are CDs to organize and transfer to the I-Touch. Not having a CD player in the truck is a total drag.....but it gives me something to occupy my time (transferring all my CDs to the I-Touch that is).

Waco is a 1200 mile drive from Prescott Valley. I think I'm going to follow Steve for this first one. We'll knock it out Sunday and Monday. The Waco "lot" is a campground so we can get there as early as we want and we'll have the power/water hookups right there.

I'll get our P.O. box from HR tomorrow and post that in case any of you are in a letter writing mood. The digital stuff is cool but I think another good 'time occupier' is going to be writing people actual letters.

More tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Yay reality!

The fridge works! Easy fix.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I was in bed by 9:30 last night but it was definitely for the best. Got up around 6:30 this morning and went out for a run. Perfect weather, perfect backdrop. We're at about 5,000ft elevation I think so the weather doesn't get unbearably hot. Helluva storm came through for about an hour earlier this afternoon. I was told to expect about one of those a day this time of year out here.

I haven't adjusted to the quiet yet. I keep expecting the symphony of idling diesel engines to fire up at any minute.

Drove my dad to the Phoenix airport for his first flight in 15yrs. He did very well as I got the "I'm still alive" call from Pittsburgh a little while ago.

Things have hit home for sure now. I'm on my own so to speak in a town that is already asleep. It's hard to accept that hopping in the truck and being at either a coffee shop, bar, or a friends' house in 5 minutes is now an impossibility. I may take a walk down to the Marathons (huge custom built 5th wheel trailers) to see who's around. I may take a walk by myself somewhere as well....I have the time.

I need to stay focused and occupied from this point on. There aren't any rehearsals I need to be at. There's still plenty of Arrested Development to watch but it won't be the same now.....until Erie anyway.

The Digital Voice recorder I bought isn't Mac compatible so I'll need to figure out something there.

Send me reports of Pittsburgh happenings though! I want to keep as much as a connection as possible back home. Hearing from you all is always cool.

What else.....I hit up this huge Thrift Store today...3 separate buildings with stuff outside in between them. Scored some shirts, pair of kicks and a couple belts.

The writing things just isn't happening for me tonight so I'm going to call it. I make my big debut on Saturday so I'll give a full report on that.

Off to the Marathons....


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Kingdom for a cold fridge.......

The drive today was a breeze. Nothing new to report.

Prescott Valley is a nice little town if a little lacking in cool places to visit. The lot we're on is huge compared to what I experienced in Tuplelo, MS.

I learned how to plug into the show power (thanks to Carlos and Kat for being totally rad) and hooked up my water hoses.

The only issue is that my fridge hasn't gotten cold. Yeah, minor detail right? The freezer works but not the fridge....... The manual lists about 10 'troubleshooting' procedures that make no sense to me. So much for the 'we test and detail everything on your trailer before you take it' promise from Valero's. I saw a couple RV parts and sales places but not sure if there was a service part. There's no way I'll have time to deal with this crap this wee. Gah. I still have a bit of work to do to be totally confident for my first performance on Saturday. There's no rehearsal of any kind...I'm just 'on'. No room for any kind of screw-ups. If they promised that everything worked perfectly.....then it should freaking work perfectly!

Ok, this isn't a emo whining from me.

My Dad and I went to In and Out burger which you can only do in a few cities in the country so that was cool. T'was good but nothing stellar. Said 'hi' to a few my show neighbors and hung out with Panda Steve for a bit. Was planning on doing my cooking for the week but without a working fridge I'm holding off.....I need to check the perishables in the freezer to make sure they don't a'splode.

Oh, and I made sure to not leave my shoes outside since there are tarantulas and scorpions milling about.

No picture posting tonight. I'm totally beat. I need to run through the show once and call it an earrrly night. We're in Mountain time, but in one of the spots where they shun Daylight Savings so it's still early but feels late. I need a night off.

Taking my Dad to the airport tomorrow. Time is already starting to zip by.

Here's to waking up to a cold fridge......

Just set me fre-e-e-e-e..Home Sweet Home

I'm home.....for this week anyway.

the house

the backyard

More complete post tonight. Miss you all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Entry 4: Amarillo, TX to Winslow, AZ

A day hasn't gone by yet without some sort of new experience or adventure. I mean, they're things that may seem trite to anyone who has experienced something similar....and I'll more than likely look back on these first entries in a year and think exactly the same thing.....but for now anyway, they're interesting.

The rest of Texas was OK. I think once I drive from Prescott Valley to Waco where my "official" first week is I'll have either a higher or lower opinion of the place. I didn't get to see enough of it to decide one way or the other. We only went through the top panhandle but checking out new types of moo cows I haven't seen in person was fun.

New Mexico was great as expected. I remember being somewhat let down a few years back when I was returning to Pittsburgh from California by train. The view we got then was severely lacking 'lines of majesty'.

Not the case today. It was flippin' awesome. Mesas and colors and things and stuff. Yeah, only the best descriptions in this blog.

I was thinking to myself as we drove through: "Where's all this crazy wind I was warned about?". That was of course answered later on in the day.

My dad requested a Mc D's stop (I kept my mouth shut about 'Fast Food Nation') so we got off in Gallup, NM. No sooner had we parked the rig that this Mexican dude was at my door greeting me in broken English.

"oh where are you from, where are you going, wow it's hot out here (actually it was overcast with a breeze)...." etc etc. Then the "Oh can you help me out? No? Maybe a sandwich?" Etc etc. I kind of brushed it off but then in the bathroom both my dad and got corned by another dude with the same story. We blew him off and sat down. Within 5 minutes the dude was back at our table asking for handouts again....... I politely said "No, I have nothing for you" and then ignored him. My dad followed suit. After a few minutes of just standing there staring at us he muttered a bit, gave a 'to hell with you' gesture with his hand and shuffled away. The same thing happened to me in the city of course, but this was kind of Culture Shock for me and I was a bit bothered. That's just how it is out here I guess...more on this later actually.

So after driving a bit, the awesome scenery worked its magic and all was well again. New Mexico did give me a little taste of Pittsburgh though, At least 20% of the time we were driving we were stuck in a narrow one lane construction zone with little work actually being done.

We were about 40mins from the final destination for the evening when I said to my dad: "Hey check out that little dust storm up ahead on the right" (It looked like a mini tornado maybe 12'-13' high...maybe 10' in diameter. I'm not sure what the proper term for the thing is). So yeah, I'm checking it out, we get closer then BAM! Middle of the road tornado thing plows right into us, tossed into the left lane (thankfully no cars), fisssshhhtalllle.....unnnstabbllleeee......then it was cool. Had we hit it even a few feet more in the middle I'm sure parts of the trailer, truck, and possibly us would've graced the landscape. Holy crap. Maybe this is normal but it was new for me. I felt like Jules in that scene in Pulp Fiction.....and I guess I am kinda 'wandering the Earth' now so I guess I can get away with putting 'Bad MF" on my wallet.

It almost looked like this but a little smaller:

Oh yeah....then we hit a second one. The left lane was clear so I drifted over into it like a dumbass (you see, when you see something like that approaching from your right.....the dumbest thing to do is move yourself to the left since that'll keep you aligned right with it.) Oops. We survived that one too.

A lot went through my head at that point. Thank MC 900ft our destination was right around the corner.

Btw...I'm getting a little better at backing the rig up....but not any better at avoiding panhandlers. As soon as we got out and leveled the trailer, I noticed two Native American dudes chilling in some brush just beyond the edge of the lot. I got the whole "We got in a car crash, they towed our vehicle over there, the lady is in the hospital for not wearing a safety restraint, the highway patrol told us it was dangerous to hitchhike at night, can you help us? All we have is this Gatorade". A 12 pack of Gatorade nonetheless. I could've pushed it and asked to see his license and stuff but just politely declined and they shuffled on their way. Then some lady ran over to us and tried to sell us a vase. It was actually pretty cool but would've been destroyed flopping around in the trailer.

So now I'm in the Flying J in Winslow, AZ typing. Short drive tomorrow and I'll be on the lot (hopefully with someone there to hook me up with power).

I'm going to run through the show again tonight as I am for sure going to play two of the shows in Prescott. I've only gone through it with a regular drum setup. I'll have to play it only Justin's weird setup where the hi hat is in the middle of the toms and the ride cymbal is always a hi-hat sample. Oh well.

I'll try to report from the lot tomorrow if I have interwebs.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Entry 3: Oklahoma and Texas

I tried to post this last night....Apparently everything is bigger in Texas except for their Wi-Fi network. So here is last night's entry:

Today started normal enough.....

Got up, went into the Flying J for breakfast (after some funny looks I was finally able to order 2 hard boiled eggs, dry wheat toast, and a fruit cup haha) and headed down the road ready to tackle "Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain".

Oh yeah, Oklahoma sells big beef jerky:

The first adventure for the day happened during and after a fill-up. My dad found a 'Love's' (Kinda like a crappy Sheetz) down the way using the GPS so we set a course. Turns out it was a Love's "Country Store" and not a "Travel Center". So it was a tiny gas station with one diesel pump. I was able to squeeze my way in without too much trouble.....

The dude at the pump across from us asked in a nearly incomprehensible accent: "Y'all goin' on a treeep?" Feeling that a sarcastic response to point out the obvious reason I was hauling a massive 5th wheel trailer could leave me dead in the middle of Oklahoma, I played nice. From what I could translate, he had just been doing 150 in his car and got pulled over then got off without a ticket.....maybe...or something. He was friendly so I can't rag too hard on the guy.

Annnnyway. Getting out of the Loves to head back the way we came proved impossible. The right turn was far to sharp and there was a stupid median in the way. So we headed left in search of a place to turn around. We ended up on a side road where my dad "thought he saw a factory" that we could use. What we found was an underpass that was pretty much the exact height of my trailer. Not wanting to chance it, I got to practice my 3 point turn skills with the trailer. And of course as soon as I started maneuvering, the once dead quite street had a line of 5 cars on either side giving me the death stare. I was able to nail it on the second attempt so yay me. We will now clarify which kind of a Loves we are pulling into. Good grief.

That was just the appetizer though......

So we're cruisin' back down the road and I got to experience some hardcore Oklahoma cross-wind (I'd been warned that OK wasn't the worst of it). Whether or not that had anything to do with the next surprise I'm not sure.

My dad happened to notice we had some of the plastic that wraps from the side of the trailer and connects underneath was floppin' away in the wind. Although probably not the best idea to pull immediately off onto the shoulder of I-40 with cars and trucks zipping by, that's what we did. This is what the problem looked like:

So yeah, not good. We were able to use the bungee cords I had in the trailer to keep it temporarily stabilized. We got back on the road and as if by some divine hand, a chorus of angels resounded as the familiar Blue and White sign appeared after cresting the hill:Wal-Mart.

Yeah buddy.

So we went in and bought the tools we had decided the previous day we didn't need to buy. What had happened was the plastic covering was ripped from the rusty bolts on the undercarriage. We got some washers, a basic tool kit and some WD -40. I hosed down the rusty screws and was able to get them out. Put on a washer and re-screwed everything back through the plastic covering. Held pretty well but there's a bit more work to do. Maybe tomorrow morning before we pull out.
Yeah that's really me doing something mechanical..

We felt like badasses afterwards

So yeah, I felt even more like a different person after that. I've changed my own oil before and put front brakes on the Subie with close supervision from my ex's dad.....but that's it.

Two good things came out of it. I got a little intimate with Lawrence Long (the trailer) and my dad and I had a cool bonding/funny incident thing. Maybe it was the rush of working on the trailer but he got Rather Dashing with my camera and started snapping away (and the candy bar he bought that had melted ended up in the air conditioning vent so it would 'unmelt quicker'). He scored some good 'Mac and Me' windmill shots (would be pictures but the interwebs here is too slow).

Annnd we saw a billboard advertising: A "Spiritual experience beyond compare" "Come see the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere". For real. Thanks Texas. Heeerrre it is:

Inspiration for the Mark Griffin's stage name? "MC 900ft Jesus"? Possibly.

The drive was awesome. I've never driven through that part of the country and seeing that much sky and that many clouds was just....well huge. I don't know, if you've driven around there you know what I'm saying. Cool stuff.

The only drag about the drive....and Oklahoma in general....was that at least once every hour and a half we spotted a dead dog on the side of the road.....and one Armadillo. Only in that state though.....

T'was a good day. We're at the Flying J on the Eastern edge of Amarillo, TX for the night parked on the trucker side. It feels like I'm in the middle of Maximum Overdrive or something with all this idling. Tomorrow we tackle New Mexico which I'm sure will be even more amazing.

The I-Pod battery died during the drive and I'm pretty confident driving my rig so I had some time to wander in my head. I can't seem to make the reality of what I'm doing sink in. I think maybe I'm prolonging it since I haven't called anyone to talk on the phone (mainly because I don't like talking on the phone). But I know if I hear some voices or start looking at photos from my last few nights in town. it'll really sink in that I'm not there anymore....Well shit, it just did a little bit. I miss you guys a lot.

I dunno, I don't think my friends could have gotten any more awesome than they were when I left so I guess I went out like the Police. Only I promise when I return to the burgh it won't be some shitty 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' '86 remix.



Entry 2: Indianapolis IN to Joplin, MO

So today was somewhat of a blur. I acquired a neighbor in the Flying J lot while typing last night's entry.

Their rig made me feel kind of teeny. They were very nice older couple all decked out in Harley gear head to toe. Their 5th wheel (a 'Raptor' nonetheless which obviously beats 'Cougar'....definitely Gob's 'paper' to Michael's 'rock') was a Toy Hauler so they had two cycles in the back awaiting deployment. They confirmed that the 'holy shit we're going to die effect' we experienced on the road earlier that day wasn't the truck. The pavement was just grooved funny and we caught the rhythm between truck and trailer wheels at the right speed to make it pull an "all your transmission are belong to us" joke. The couple was on their way from their home state of Arkansas to an undisclosed location in PA.

We left Indianapolis and faithfully followed the GPS which insisted we head through St. Louis instead of hopping on the by-pass. That was all fine and good until it decided "oh yeah btw, hop over a lane and get off at this exit in 500ft......" Needless to say we heard the word "Recalculating" more than a few times over the next 5 minutes. We got a picture of the Arch though. Woot!

Our next destination was the Wal-Mart parking lot in Ozark, MO where we planned to take advantage of the 'park overnight' offer. Whoever designed the 'RV' section of the lot assumed that making the spots perpendicular to an uphill slant made for easy leveling. Probably some trucker designed it as a form of passive aggressive revenge for RV's having the gall to fill up diesel at the Trucker stations since the pumps operate twice as fast.....

.....On that note, I was warned to prepare myself for some good 'ole intimidation and harassment from truckers while filling up. So far I've lucked out. They've just been pulling their shit on the highway inching over on me and flying past probably guffaw-ing farting and spitting chew at the same time.....they stereotype me....I'll stereotype them thank you very much (no offense to my Uncle and Cousin who are actually cool Truck drivers). Great way to learn control though!

All tangents aside (Ha! Get used to 'em!), we decided to bag Wal Mart and planned to head down the road an extra hour and a half to the next Flying J (not just for marching band stops anymore, right Gina?).

We met my parents' old Kansas friends (they lived out there from '75 up until about when I was born) who had taken a trip to Branson (Kind of like Nashville meets Niagara Falls Tourist Hell). Since we were already parked at the Wal Mart they came out our way and we had our reunion at the Subway in the Wal-Mart. It was an enjoyable visit since the last time I saw them (17yrs ago) my conversations mainly consisted of "I think the Ultimate Warrior is Better than Hulk.....but not as cool as The Undertaker" while sporting a fanny pack and feathery mullet.

The hour and a half drive from there to the Flying J was pretty sweet. There was this one small cluster of clouds off to the left was constantly spewing all sorts of lightning everywhere. On the right side of the highway, the sky was perfectly clear and hanging on to twilight. On top of that, people were setting off fireworks along the side of the highway and off in the distance ahead of us. Coupled with hearing some old band stories from my dad, it made for a great ride.

I can feel myself changing and becoming quickly acclimated to the road. I'm turning into one of those 'truck pride' people (insert Tim Allen's 'Toolman Grunt'). I know more about a diesel engine and how to take care of it than I had ever thought possible. There's something powerful about sitting high up hauling something behind you.

I'm also realizing that I was probably a pretty shitty driver no matter how courteous I thought I was being after dealing with peons zipping both around and in front of me, then darting off an exit ramp or slowing down immediately. Now that I realize how long it takes to slow one of these rigs down and how bad it is to have to use the brakes to stop quickly, I'll never drive a car the same again.

See? I'm getting all RV snobby and separating myself from 'normal' drivers haha.

I'm a little concerned that my Nostalgia gland hasn't kicked in yet. I had a great crew of people I felt very close to back home. I'm hoping it's just my concentrating on not dying on the highway that is keeping my mind occupied

Anyhoo, when we got to this Flying J, we didn't notice any RV spots. So after "Austin Powers"-ing for a bit to get turned around we realized that they had setup the Fireworks tent right over the RV spots and there was a car with people just hanging out on their car parked right at the edge of the RV spot. Once they left, I straightened out and leveled. That was an adventure in and of itself as we weren't balanced left to right and I didn't think to bring various thicknesses of wood. Metal needs to hit wood at the same time with regards to the jacks from what I was told. But it'll do for the night. We're going to chill in Amarillo tomorrow.

And lemme know if this crap is way long winded and lame. I've never blogged before.....

But I think my feelings on blogging are starting to parallel my feelings on being an RV'er......

More tomorrow.....

Friday, July 4, 2008

Entry 1: Pittsburgh to Indianapolis

Well, it's official. I'm no longer a Pittsburgh resident.

I don't think things will really hit until Prescott Valley when I rejoin the new family..... The shock of actually loading all my stuff into the trailer, hitching up, and pulling out hasn't worn off yet so it doesn't feel like a reality.

The 5th wheel trailer tows surprisingly well and navigating tight construction zones with Semis beside me was no problem.

We may have hit a mechanical snag though. When we were on an uphill grade on concrete parts of the highway the rig would violently shake front to real scary like..... The curious thing is once we hit asphalt on the same hill, it went away instantly. Weird. We're going to get it on the road and hope that it was just some weird road thing. There's a monstrous 5th wheel parked behind me here at the Flying J in Indianapolis (where the waitress made fun of my dad and I for just ordering English Muffins out of guilt for using their booth power outlet) and they appear to be driving a Ford Super Duty as well. Hopefully they can shed some light. I was hoping with a new vehicle I would break the eternal curse of the Chalk Outline Party Subaru road trips..... So yeah, please send my truck (Tobias maybe?) good vibes so he behaves. It's a freakin' '08? I mean....C'mon!

But yeah, we're taking it slow on the road to break in the rig. ETA is Late Tuesday morning/early afternoon in Prescott. We were planning on hitting a huge Classic Car dealership for my dad tomorrow but we left Monroeville a lot later than planned. I'm bummed we have to skip that. It was right on the way.

We are meeting a few of his old Kansas friends who will be in a city right on our way so that will.

Oh yeah, I had my first RV conversation with the dude parked in front of me here. He came right over with a "she's a beaut, is she new?" haha. I'm in a new club I think like it or not.... Turns out he's a traveling Electrician from Iowa on his way to somewhere here in Indiana. He was a talker.....but in a good way. I got advice on which route we should take (brought out the Atlas and all) and heard about how he wants to learn to play piano and was wondering if 50 was too late to start.

All in all not a bad trip thus far. Spent most of the drive trying to find empty frequencies on the radio to tune my i-pod FM transmitter thingie into. Yeah, my beefy truck doesn't even have a CD player. Hindsight is more than 20/20 now that I know more than I ever thought about diesel engines and what they will leave out of a 'basic package' truck.....I must have explained a dozen times what I needed the truck for and how much time I would spend in it.....Sales guy was too busy drooling all over himself in anticipation of selling a truck to mention that I wasn't getting a CD player. If you're in the market for a Ford anytime soon.....don't go to Day Ford in Monroeville.....

I miss all my awesome friends and family already. I still have work to do learning this show but wanted to at least get a 'first entry' in.

Hopefully the writing will improve with time.....I'm going to have a lot of it on my hands.

Until tomorrow.....