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.


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 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.


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 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.